While walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-20 ESV)
Christ is risen!
I am not a fisherman, nor do I pretend to be one. I’ve tried, but it never worked for me. Out of a lifetime of maybe one hundred hours of fishing, I probably caught ten fish. That’s it!
Imagine these two disciples, Peter and his brother Andrew, preparing their nets for their fishing trade, and Jesus calls them, and they respond by dropping their nets and leaving everything behind, and they follow Jesus. Their lives would never be the same. Jesus goes fishing–fishing for men–fishing for disciples, and He nails it with these first two candidates! Do you see here the authoritative call of the Lord? He simply said, “Follow Me!” and they did. Oh, if making disciples of all nations was just that simple: “Come, follow Jesus!” and the masses of people would drop everything and follow!
But the Lord’s Word is still authoritative. His call is still power-packed. His Gospel message does its transforming work. The challenge for us–the church–is that we must remember that it is God who works through the Gospel proclamation. The Holy Spirit calls and enlightens people through the Gospel–drawing people to Jesus by working faith in their hearts as God wills. Conversion to the Christian faith is God’s mighty work. So, it is assuring to us to know this truth and that we do not have to convince someone into the faith by the use of our limited and often erring human reason.
How wonderful and what a great blessing it is when we see people brought into the Christian faith through the Gospel. This could be by the Word preached or shared or by Holy Baptism. God’s mighty work is accomplished in every soul that is brought to faith in Jesus Christ. Imagine, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2), Peter preached his sermon to the crowd in Jerusalem and three thousand souls were added that day to the Christian faith. God the Holy Spirit works powerfully through the Word! The same Word and Spirit is powerfully at work in you and in me!
Now when Jesus first called us to faith, His intent was never “catch and release.” Like: “I’ll keep you as My own for a time and then I will let you go back to where you came–back into the sea of unbelief–back into Satan’s turbulent and dark waters of contentment in the unholy trinity of sin, death, and evil. No, when Jesus caught us–when He drew us to Himself by His Word and water in Holy Baptism, He caught us for life–eternal life. And He promises us that He will keep us as His own by His powerful Means of Grace–His Word and sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Communion).
But there is a serious problem unfolding when members of a Christian congregation sever themselves from the lifeline to Christ, by neglecting or refraining from use of His Word and sacraments. This action stands as nothing else but that of jumping out of the safety net of Jesus’ catch and jumping back into the sea of unbelief and embracing the world and its evil ways. As sinners, we all have the capacity and even the tendency to do this–seeking our own release from Jesus’ catch. This is why daily repentance is called for and needed in each one of us. But let me be clear: intent on not assembling with fellow believers–not delighting in and hearing the Word preached–not longing for and receiving Christ’s Holy Supper is sin is tantamount to unbelief and is demanding to be released back to Satan and his evil empire. The sentiment of these actions is to say to Jesus: “You caught me by grace for your kingdom, to deliver me from sin, death, and the devil, to bless me with Your free gift of eternal life, but I no longer want any part of it!” Such apostasy in the faith is tragedy to the hilt! But where there is repentance, Christ forgives, by the power of His death on the cross and His mighty resurrection from the dead. And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.
So, let us encourage one another–boldly with Christ-like compassion. Let us encourage each other to come to worship and receive Christ’s gifts. The Lord Jesus and His Holy Spirit help us all!