¡°LIFE CHANGLING OPPORTUNITY¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: Matthew 4:17-22 October 12, 2014.
a) Changed life in modern days: In 1983, Steve Job, then president of the not so famous Apple computer company, asked his friend John Sculley, then president of the famous Pepsi Cola Bottling Company, a question: ¡°Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water?¡± Sculley accepted the call, got on board with Job, and helped to push the Apple name as the leading brand of information system in the next 20 years. No one may argue that the information technology in communication Apple has brought to the world is not what Pepsi could compare or compete. The acceptance of a challenge John Sculley had done not just changed his life for the better, but countless people around the world were also benefited from his decision.
b) Changed life in ancient time: The scripture passage today shows us a good story about changed life in Jesus time. At the beginning of earthly ministry of Jesus, he extended an invitation to four ordinary fishermen to give up their ordinary life and business, catching and selling fish, raising their families for the rest of their life. Jesus asked them to join him to embark on something much bigger, more important with lasting value: to become fishers of man or soul. When these four ordinary men accepted the challenge, they began the journey of a life changing ministry, not just their own lives, but the lives of all human race around the world from the day of Jesus to eternity. There isn't anything wrong for being fishermen, but why not answer a higher call, follow a challenge to do something much better like saving millions of souls.
Let's look at the steps of the life changing call from Jesus:
1) THE CALL TO CHANGE: ¡°From that time on Jesus began to preach: ¡°Repent, the kingdom of heaven is near.¡± (4:17)
a) It is a call to repentance: The call to repentance is the first words of Jesus message as he began his preaching ministry. To ¡°repent¡± means to ¡°change course¡± in whatever you are doing or wherever you are going because you are on the wrong course. The biggest problem faced by today's world, both believers and unbelievers is people DO NOT see they are on the wrong course of life. For the unbelievers, their wrong course of life is living with-out God, without hope and without eternal life. For believers, their wrong course is they are not following God's call to live their life for God, to fulfill the purpose God has in their lives. Therefore, we all have to repent, to change and to take a U-turn back to the course God has called us to live.
b) It is a call of urgency: ¡°The kingdom of heaven is near.¡± In the time of Jesus during the occupation of the Roman Empire, the Jewish people were in desperate situation both in political, religious and social injustice. They were praying, hoping and looking for the coming of a Messiah so they may see the nation of Israel to receive justice and glory. But Jesus preached a different message: the message they needed, not they wanted, and that message is God is coming back for judgment, and he is coming back very soon like near. Too many people, Christians included, they think they still have plenty of time to do their things, to enjoy their life, they have no need to worry about God and his judgment. This idea of ¡°I have plenty of time¡± is vividly described in James 4:13-16: I have plans to do business, to make money, to enjoy life. But James said, ¡°You even do not know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.¡±
The call to repent and change is urgent because your time may be near to what God has allocated for you. Repent and be ready to change.
2) THE CALL FOR COMMON PEOPLE: ¡°Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brother, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen... Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James, son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father, Zebedee, preparing their net.¡± (4:18-21)
a) God calls the ordinary: In contrast to calls of the world which usually are for the elite, the best, the special and the few, God calls the ordinary, those who are our family, friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, to become the best of his army of the gospel. It is never our quality that makes us uniquely suitable, it is the grace and wisdom of God to call and use the most common people to achieve the extraordinary. Never ever look down yourself that you are just too common, nothing special. You are exactly the kind God can use.
b) God calls to change course: In both cases, all four men were busy doing what they need to do for their living as fishermen: fixing and throwing their net for fishing. Being fishermen is nothing ignoble. Every profession, every job, making a living in honest way is respectable. But God has something lot more important, more noble, more urgent and more lasting: Become fishers of man. Just a Steve Job challenged John Sculley: Are you going to spend the rest of your life selling sugar water? Jesus is challenging you: Are you going to spend the rest of your life doing what you are doing? Jesus has something for you that you can't imagine how good it is for yourself and for all others. It is not what you can do for God, but what God can do with your life.
3) THE CALL FOR ACTION: (4:19)
a) Jesus calls us to come: ¡°Come¡± is a verb, a word of action. To listen, to ponder, to consider, to understand and many other words about the mindset may be important, but without the result of action, they are nothing. There are people who were moved by reading the Bible, listening to Christian music, listen to great sermons of revival and challenge, but they never materialize to actions, and all means little or nothing. When Jesus calls, he wants you to come. He wants you to change from an outsider to an insider, from someone just listen and feeling good to someone step forward to be in his team.
b) Jesus calls us to follow: I can write a separate sermon on ¡°follow me.¡± To follow Jesus means so many things: from learning from him to doing things for him; from supporting his mission to involving doing his mission. Jesus is more than a great teacher who knows how to teach us great and important things. He is a doer of God's work and he expects us to do God's work like him. To follow Jesus is to be like Jesus in our mindset, our thoughts and our value and goals of life. To follow Jesus is to be like Jesus.
4) THE CALL FOR CHANGE: ¡°Jesus said: I will make you fishers of men.¡± (4:19b)
a) The call demands change of value: We all understand that being fishers of men is symbolic for fishers of souls of men. How much can you place a price on a soul compare to what we may make in this world. To most people, the immediate value of life is to be able to find a job, make some income, take care of family and have a comfortable life. If Peter, James, John and Andrew chose to do just that, we may not have the gospels in the Bible, nor the spread of the message of salvation all around the world that hundreds of millions of souls are now in the kingdom of God. These men will remain anonymous no one will know them in what they have done to benefit the human race. They didn't choose to change for anything glamor nor fame, but because of their choice, they became heroes in Christian history. It is the value of life we hold that leads us to make choices. What is your value and what is your choice?
b) The call demands change of job: Just as the call of Steve Job to John Sculley was a call to change his job from selling sugar water to developing technology, from satisfying the thirst of the body to satisfying the thirst of the mind. Jesus calls us to focus on the value of what we are doing for ourselves and our family to meet our everyday needs to something far more important and lasting. Being fishers of fish is good, but to be fishers of men is much much better. Throughout the 2,000 years of Christian history, God had called countless people to give up their job, their comfortable life, their career future and may be their success in this world. God has something far greater for them: to become fishers of men. Do you know there is something bigger than your job, your income, your business and your goal for money or fame or status. God wants you to change of mind and change of job, change the goal of your present pursuit.
5) THE CALL DEMANDS RESPONSE: ¡°At once, they left their nets and followed him...Immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.¡± (4:20, 22) There are two important steps in their response:
a) The response is decisive: The Bible uses two words to describe the actions they took and the way they responded. ¡°At once¡± and ¡°immediately¡± both are words of decisive nature. They didn't have to deliberate, to think it over, to ask for opinions of others nor to do research of the possible and potential risk of following Jesus. I am not trying to dismiss the value of all those steps to find out the truth, what I am saying is: When they felt the call of God, they did not hesitate to respond, to accept and to follow. Too many people have too much worry, hesitation, unknown questions or answers to hold them back from answering the call of God. If you hear the call of God, just answer it and leave everything else to God for he will take care of them for you.
b) The response is sacrificial: See what they did to accept the call of change? They left behind the trade of their life and their family, their father, and other members of their family. Fishing was their lifeline to support their family. By leaving their boat and net, they were giving up their lifeline of support and that is a tremendous sacrifice of faith. Following Jesus, accepting his call to change always involves faith and sacrifice. You never know where your support may come and if it is sufficient to meet your needs. You also sacrifice your sense of security: you lost control of your future and place it in the hands of Jesus that takes a lot of faith to do that. But Jesus has promised us this: ¡°Whoever finds life will lose it, And whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.¡± (Matt 10:39) No one who has faith in Jesus will lose the support of his life, never.
APPLICATIONS OF TRUTH:
a) Are you ready to make a change? Have you had enough in this world? Do you feel there is an urge for a change in your heart? Do you want to make a difference for God and your future? Do you hear the call of God in you? No need to hesitate, no need to think it over, take that decisive step to follow the Lord. He wants to remake your life for the better for you, for him and for the world. Answer his call now. Tell God: ¡°Here I am. Send me.¡± (Isaiah 6:8)
b) The small steps you may take: For many months, I have been praying for commitment from our church to launch an outreach program to save souls by people open their homes, invite nonbelievers to their homes to hold a short but effective way of outreaching of lost people. This program designed and promoted by Billy Graham is effective and relatively uncomplicated but need people to open their homes and receive a simple training to do that. I like to ask our Mission/Outreach Committee to revitalize this program to start in our church to save souls of our family, friends and colleagues. I want to see you participate in this as a first step to answer the call of God for a change.