Please read Luke 5: 1-11 and then pray; “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening, ready and willing to hear and obey your call upon my life. Amen”
As we come today to open ourselves up to the many challenges and encouragements within the Word of God, we are going to be considering the idea of turning points, and especially how turning points are connected to the call of God upon our lives.
When we think about that theme of turning points, we may want to reflect upon turning points in our own lives, or turning points in the life of our nation or in the history of the world. We may for example talk with others about the key turning point during a major crisis like the 2nd World War, or the main turning point in the recent world-wide pandemic. Has Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, reached a turning point in his political career over party-gate? It appears to me that we have now reached a very significant turning point in the history and influence of the Covid pandemic. Some have referred to the vaccine rollout as being a crucial turning point, whilst others more recently have considered the advent of the Omicron variant as an important turning point. What do you think? What do you sense?
There are so many turning points in the bible and in salvation history. There is the turning point with regard to the flood in the early chapters of Genesis. There is the call of Abram to leave his country and the subsequent formation of a new nation through the renamed Abraham, through which all nations would be blessed. There is the towering event of the exodus and the liberation of the Israelites and the giving of the law – surely the greatest of all turning points in Israel’s history. The entrance into the promised land under Joshua’s leadership is obviously another massive turning point. The exile into Babylon is another, and the return from the exile 70 years later is yet another.
Then we come to the very great and monumental turning points in the NT era. There is the incarnation of the Son of God – God entering into the history of the world. What a turning point! Then, the reason the Son of God primarily came – his atoning death and his mighty resurrection – truly gigantic turning points in salvation history and indeed the entire history of world. The “third day” when Jesus rose from the dead and triumphed over the grave has been described by the great Puritan John Owen as “the day that death died.” What a day! What a turning point! Jesus defeated death itself and made possible and accessible the hope of everlasting life.
What you will often find in the bible is that turning points are very regularly connected with the call of God upon an individual’s life. In the OT, the calling of Abram, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David and many prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah stand out. In the NT, we could point to the call of John the Baptist, the disciples who became apostles, and the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. These were huge turning points and they involved God stepping in and calling particular individuals to his service.
Today we are going to be considering the great turning point in Simon Peter’s life – for this is what is brought to our attention in the 5th chapter of Luke. The calling of this fisherman to follow Jesus is undoubtedly a major turning point in the history of redemption and the history of the Church. On one notable occasion, Jesus declared to Peter; You are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my Church.
Luke’s gospel, like the other 3 gospels, is a very carefully crafted piece of work produced and inspired under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. There is deliberate order and content to this gospel, and Luke conducted meticulous research as he sought out all the relevant facts with regards to the life and ministry of Jesus, and the life and growth of the early Church. Don’t forget that for Luke, his gospel was volume 1, whereas Acts became his volume 2. It is important to remind ourselves what Luke writes in his short but ever so significant introduction in Chapter 1: 1-4. (Please read)
All the content of his gospel has been carefully investigated, considered and put together. The ordering of the material Luke chooses to include is very important. We begin with stories relating to the miraculous conceptions/births of John the Baptist and then Jesus himself. Then we have the rise of John and his ministry which included the baptism of the Son of God who he believed to be the Lamb of God. Then we have the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, and the beginnings of his ministry in Nazareth and Capernaum. In the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus sets out the manifesto for his ministry, quoting from Isaiah the prophet; then in Capernaum he begins to put that manifesto into practice as he heals and delivers people from darkness and proclaims the great gospel of the arrival of the kingdom of God.
And when we reach chapter 5, what becomes apparent is that Jesus has not come to do his work on his own. He has come to build a team, a team who will take over the work of the kingdom in the power of the Holy Spirit after he has died, risen and ascended back into heaven. And it is the calling out and the building up of this team that really begins in earnest in chapter 5. There is the calling of Simon Peter, which we are about to consider, but there is also the calling of Peter’s brother Andrew, the brothers James and John – and a little later the calling of Matthew (Levi) the tax collector. (Luke 5: 27-31). Jesus is calling forth and drawing out those who will become his A team, and those who have by chapter 6:12 f, formed a team of 12.
Now when Luke was writing his gospel, and indeed Acts, he was very interested in the history of certain key individuals in the Church – especially the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul. There were after all the two stand out spiritual giants in the early Church. Peter effectively became the leader of the 12 apostles, and so he was the one who stood up to preach on the day of Pentecost. Luke wanted to discover through his research, and then wanted to explain in his gospel, the key turning point in Simon Peter’s life. When precisely was it that Simon Peter took the decision to leave everything and follow Christ? When did that take place? How did that take place? Why did that take place? When was the turning point for Simon Peter? In Acts Luke will reveal that the key turning point for Paul came on the Damascus Road, but what about Peter the other great personality who also dominates the early chapters of Acts?
We have the answer to that in Luke 5: 1-11. It would not surprise me if Peter himself explained to Luke when and how and why he became a follower of Jesus. Luke was interested in eye-witness accounts and he know doubt got such an account when it came to this great turning point in Peter’s life.
You can almost imagine Peter recalling the day that his life dramatically changed through the powerful direct call of Jesus.
It all started on a day like many other days for me. I remember so well that we had experienced a really poor nights fishing – we caught virtually nothing. Just before we went home to rest, we took time, like we always did, to mend and clean the nets in readiness for our next fishing trip. I then remember the crowds gathering, large excited crowds of people flooding toward the edge of the Lake very near to where we were working. They were in pursuit of Jesus the Master, who my brother and I had previously met and were deeply impressed by. Quite suddenly a request came from the Master to allow him to step into my boat. I obliged. I was happy to help. The Master got into my boat, and we pushed out a little way from the shore, and he then began to address the great crowd with the Word of God from my humble boat. His words were amazing. Once he had finished teaching, I thought that would be it, that we would go home – but it wasn’t. Instead, he turned directly to me and said; Put into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch.
I felt this was a very strange request because we had laboured all night and caught nothing, and fishing at peak daytime hours was rarely done – if ever. But simply out of respect for the Master, I decided to do what he asked of me. There was something compelling about his words and his manner – and so we set out and soon came to deeper waters. We quickly let down the nets as instructed by the Master, and to our utter amazement and astonishment we caught what has to have been the greatest catch of fish we ever experienced as professional fishermen. Such was the size of the catch that I had to shout at the top of my voice to my partners James and John to come and help us. Even with the assistance of their strength and their boat, the catch was so enormous that pulling it in caused our boats to begin to sink.
When I saw this wonderful catch of fish and once again looked at the Master in amazement, I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the grace and power and sheer holiness of his presence. I fell upon my knees overcome by my own sinfulness and by his holiness and purity. I felt so unworthy to have him on my boat – and yet there he was right next to me. I was absolutely humbled by his presence and by what he had just done. It felt like I was in the presence of the divine. I was on my boat, but I was also on holy ground.
After we got back to the shore with this stupendous catch of fish – the Master spoke to me again. He said with reassurance in his voice; Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.
It was with those words and the invitation that followed, that the greatest catch of my life, became the last one. I knew I had to leave everything and follow the Master. I did. So did Andrew, James and John. We became Jesus’s first disciples. We began to learn from the Master how to catch men and women for the kingdom of God.
So, this was Simon Peter’s turning point. It was this incident with the miraculous catch of fish that changed everything for him. He heard the call of Christ and embraced it and began to follow. That encounter with Jesus who he sensed was supremely holy and powerful was the key moment for him.
The catch was astounding – Jesus was more astounding!
The catch took his breath away – Jesus took his breath away much more!
The catch was truly miraculous – Jesus was the miracle worker, the Holy One of God.
If that’s was Simon Peter’s turning point – when was yours? When did you turn and follow Jesus? When did you hear his voice calling you? Where were you? What were the circumstances? Have there been other important turning points along your personal journey at the side of Jesus? Peter was to experience other turning points in the future. These included; the transfiguration of Jesus; his denial of Jesus on the night of his Master’s arrest; his reinstatement by Jesus after the resurrection in the context of another miraculous catch of fish; (John 21) the day of Pentecost and his baptism with the Holy Spirit. So many turning points in Peter’s journey of faith and trials.
What about your call? What about your turning points? Could there be a turning point for you now? Could there be a turning point for you as the Church pursues LYCIG (Leading your Church into growth). Could there be a fresh call upon your life? Could God be asking you to respond and obey in a new, different and challenging way?
God calls people by name. He calls us personally – one at a time. He calls us to step through a narrow gate. Often these turning points and moments of personal calling in our lives come in a context where the word of God is being shared. On the day Simon Peter was called, Jesus had been teaching and expounding the word of God to the crowds. You and I can often be called by the voice of Christ through the Spirit as we sit and listen in a context where the word of God is being shared and explained.
This was true for me in terms of my initial call to follow Christ and to become a disciple. By the grace of God, I found myself as a teenager in a Church where the bible was loved, revered and preached. I heard the call of God to follow as clearly as the infant Samuel did. (1 Sam 3)
It was also true of me when God called me into the ministry and to preach. Whilst studying Paul’s letter to the Roman’s God issued me with another call. This time it was a call to preach came to me. The words Paul writes in Romans 1:16 hit me right between the eyes and at the very core of my heart. The call was clear and unmistakable, but still needed to be tested by experienced Christians.
It has been true on many other occasions since. God speaks and calls us through his word and in the context of preaching and teaching and sharing the word of life and truth.
Often turning points and occasions of personal calling can come to you as you realise you are in the very presence of the glory, holiness and majesty of God, as Isaiah did, and as Simon Peter did – again in a context of worship where you deeply sense God’s holy, powerful and mysterious presence. You feel so unworthy – but at the same time you know in your heart of hearts that God is calling you to say “yes” and to follow. He will call you and use you, weak as you are, unworthy as you are. He heals broken hearts and uses people with broken lives. He calls and uses cracked and broken vessels. God delights to work in and through wounded and weary people. His glory shines through all the cracks!
A call may come in the context of being overwhelmed by some glorious sight you witness in creation, or by a miracle of God’s grace, or through dramatic answer to prayer and a clear realisation of God intervening in your life and personal circumstances. It’s as if God is saying, “Now you seen me at work in your life – listen to my call upon your life.”
A call may come in the silence of the day or in the dead of night – as Christ whispers with his still small voice – “Rise up, and follow me”. And with such a call – there is inevitably a significant turning point in your life’s journey. You heard Christ calling in the night and from daylight you are a different person.
A call to a new work; a call to a new career; a call to use God-given gifts for the sake of His kingdom; a call to become a member of a particular Church at a particular point in your faith journey; a call to become part of a ministry team; a call to leave something significant behind and take some more significant up; a call to serve in a new way; a call to start a work for God; a call to surrender and give Jesus every part of your life.
Is it possible that through LYCIG, many people in this Church will hear calls from Christ, and will take up new challenges? Is it possible that 2022 could be a major turning point in the life, relevance and mission of this humble local Church? Will this be a time when you will be able to look back and see a turning point for you and for Christchurch? Listen out for voice of the Spirit in these critical days. Be ready and open for the powerful, holy, sacred call of Jesus who leads and heads His Church. Be ready, like Peter, to follow, to surrender, to learn from Christ as a humble servant of the Master.
Pray “Here I am Lord” – and see what happens.