As we close out week four (I can’t believe it’s already been four weeks in this study of Luke!) I want to stay within the same moment we were at on Tuesday. Jesus just met Simon for the first time, and if you remember this led to a miraculous moment. After taking Jesus out on his boat so Jesus could speak to a gathered crowd on the shore, Simon then listens to Jesus and tries to fish one more time even though they’d just had a complete failure of a night fishing. The result was a miraculous catch of fish. And that’s where we’re gonna jump back in.
Luke 5:8-11 When Simon Peter realized what had happened, he fell to his knees before Jesus and said, “Oh, Lord, please leave me—I’m such a sinful man.” 9 For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught, as were the others with him. 10 His partners, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were also amazed. Jesus replied to Simon, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.
There’s something very important in this that I think we need to really take a moment to recognize. Simon and those with him had just listened to Jesus preach. I don’t think there’s any reason why I can’t confidently say that Jesus had to have been the greatest preacher and teacher of all time. So they just heard a message from the greatest preacher of all time, YET, the Bible doesn’t make any mention of Jesus’ words drawing Simon and others into following him. It was the miraculous catch of fish that did it. “For he was awestruck by the number of fish they had caught”.
This is so important for us to understand. Anyone can speak beautifully. The person with the ugliest heart in the world could give a speech that would bring people to tears and end in a standing ovation. Words alone are not enough. It’s what we do and how we live that is the ultimate evidence of God in our lives, not what we say. There is a heartbreakingly large amount of confessing Christians who say they follow Jesus with their words and then who follow the world and sin with their lives.
So are words meaningless? Was that sermon that Jesus preached that day no good or inconsequential? Absolutely not. But words that matter most come after the deeds, not before. What would Simon, James, and John have said to Jesus had he tried to make them “fishers of men” without first showing them a display that he walked in a power greater than any of them had ever seen? There would’ve been no reason for them to take that claim seriously, but through Jesus’ actions, they’d seen evidence that he was operating with a power that went beyond the natural. That power drew them in, and it gave weight to Jesus’ words. The words that came AFTER the miraculous catch suddenly meant a lot to them, whereas the Bible gives no indication that the men were particularly moved by the sermon that came before it.
I’m mainly looking at how this applies to each of us, but I want to side note here for a second about how this applies to pastors and teachers. Because I don’t want to give the impression that we shouldn’t respect preachers and teachers. BUT, I would say that it’s biblical to test what they have to say.
1 John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.
We test them by comparing what they say to the Bible, through prayer, and yes, by learning what we can about their deeds. If I hear a pastor I like or read a great quote that I like, I learn what I can about the person. Does it look like their life lines up with their words? If so, then I begin to put more trust in what they say. If not, then I generally remove myself from hearing them.
Okay, but how does this manifest for US in our daily lives? It’s simple. Our lives are our true testimony. Until our lives reflect the heart of God, then our words on spiritual matters carry very little weight. My brother is very dear to me, so I hope he doesn’t mind the story I’m about to tell. But for a large portion of our adult lives, neither of us were really following Jesus fully. A few times a year, my brother would take his family to a new church and would really get into a good groove with God, only to fall back from it a few months later. He’s always looked out for me, so during these times of spiritual reawakening he’d call me and encourage me to get back on track with Jesus, to join them at church, etc. BUT, I learned the pattern pretty fast. And sure enough, a few months would go by, and he’d be back to where he’d been before, not passionately following Jesus.
When my brother would call me up a few months later and tell me about this new great church, about how much good it’ll do for me to come, about how he wants to see me get back to passionately following Jesus, his words would fall on deaf ears. I was polite about it, but I’d sit back and just wait. And several times I was proved right. He fell off again. So when he one day called and told me about this great church and how he was really serious about rededicating himself to Jesus this time, I listened, said it sounded nice, and never once gave any credibility to his words or any consideration to his invitation to come to the church. His deeds didn’t lend any power to his words on this particular subject at this particular time in life.
But a few months went by, and this time he didn’t fall off, and he didn’t stop going to church. My brother who I knew so well was starting to change for the better. He was doing things that he’d never done before, like meeting people within the church and forging relationships with them, going to extracurricular church services and activities. This went on for about a year. And so the next time that he reached out to me and said he wanted to pray with me and talk to me about coming to this church, guess what, I listened. I gave weight to his words because there was proof in his deeds that something was happening here, that some greater power was at play, that my brother was serious this time.
This moment in Luke shows us that it was even true of Jesus. For our words to truly resonate with people, they need to be preceded by appropriate deeds. For me to win you over as my skateboarding student, my best bet would be to first show you all of my sick skills on the skateboard. Then you’d listen up when I asked “wanna learn how to do this trick?” We as Christians need to be able to speak powerful, Bible-inspired words to those around us, but those words are going to continue to fall flat unless we are also leading powerful, Bible-inspired lives. And if you wanna say “but Aaron, Jesus did a miracle to get Simon’s attention, and I can’t do miracles”, I’ll say this to you. First, yes you can, but that’s the subject for a different blog. But, think about this. In this day and age, the miracle is joy. The miracle is contentness, it’s peace, it’s living a truly selfless life. We don’t have to produce a miracle catch of fish, all we have to do is be able to weather the day to day of life with a genuine smile, to treat those around us with a selfless love, and I promise you they’re going to feel like they’re seeing a miracle. When you live that type of life, you won’t even have to go tell them anything, they will come up to you and ask where your joy comes from, why you treat people so well.
We need to make sure that we’re not just talking at people and beating them down with words. Words alone aren’t going to win anyone over. Jesus used words AND deeds. Simon and the other fishermen may not have gotten much out of that first sermon they heard, but I guarantee you that they paid close attention to everything Jesus said after that day, because they saw firsthand he was something special. We carry within us the same power that Jesus did, so there’s no reason why we can’t live out the same method that he did of letting deed lend power to word so we can lead people to the beautiful truth of God’s love for them.
I love all of you. I know this ran a little long today but God was really speaking to me about this subject. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up preaching a sermon one day about this exact subject, I feel so strongly that this is something the Lord really wants us all to get.
I hope you all have a fantastic weekend! If you’d like prayer for anything or if you’d like to just talk, my email is always open to you at firstname.lastname@example.org. See you all on Monday!