Opening Prayer: Father, help me to see past the deadness of religious ritual and see the new life you have for me.
Alive!"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, has He made alive together with Him, having forgiven all your sins." Colossians 2:13
A friend of mine was ordained a few years ago. At his ordination ceremony, different men of God stood and brought insight from Scripture. Their words -- intended as exhortation and encouragement for both Ed and the congregation -- frequently touched on the theme of the new life that we have as believers in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel.
One pastor related the story in Matthew chapter 4, verse 11:And He said unto them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
This pastor emphasized the personal nature of our Lord's invitation. Jesus called them (and calls us) to an intimate, personal relationship with Him. Furthermore, the relationship is meant to be widely inclusive. He calls us to be so in love with Him that we draw others to enter into a similar relationship.
A related passage, Luke chapter 5, verses 4-10, paints the picture with more detail:4 Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." 5 And Simon answering said unto Him, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net." 6 And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net was breaking. 7 And they beckoned unto their partners in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees... And Jesus said unto Simon, "Fear not; from now on, you will catch men."
Several points leap off the page here. First, the Lord sometimes asks us to do things that don't make sense. The disciples KNEW there were no fish nearby. But Jesus enabled a harvest.
But if Jesus wanted the disciples to catch fish, why wouldn't it have been simpler to let them have a haul the night before?
The issue wasn't the fish. Jesus was demonstrating that He has the power and desire to bless men and women who act in obedience to His word. A command to do something that appears silly often means that God wants to do an unusual work.
A second point is that obedience, in faith, produces results that can't possibly be explained in terms of our own skill and power. Simon Peter had fished all his life, and KNEW that only the power of God could yield such a catch.
Third, Jesus immediately linked this miracle to evangelism. He sends us to share the Good News of the Risen Messiah with people that really DON'T want to be bothered. And somehow, He enables our sharing -- foolish and weak though it may be -- and He enables the listeners to discover the joy of that new life in Jesus.
Does the word "zogreo" mean anything to you?I didn't think so. But the fourth point hinges on it. Jesus told the disciples (and us) that we should "catch men." The Greek word for "catch" is "zogreo" -- literally to catch ALIVE. It's related to our English words "zoo" and "zoology."
Our Lord commands us to gather men, women and children to Him -- ALIVE! So if you see a Church building filled with dead-looking folks it makes you wonder: Were they alive when they were caught, or did they get clubbed to death after they got there?
There's another oddity here, in light of Ephesians 2:55 Even when we were dead in sins, He made us alive together with Christ, (by whose grace we are saved).
Before we were "caught" by the Gospel of Jesus, the Messiah, we were dead. We did not have eternal life. We were under the death sentence brought on by sin, and no amount of religious works can lift that sentence. But when we are "born again" through faith in the completed work of Jesus, the Messiah, we receive the gift of eternal life.
Therefore the very act of being "caught" (by the Gospel) is a life-giving procedure. If we really "get" the Gospel message, bow our hearts before the Lord Jesus and accept His plan for our lives, we will have eternal life.
So why DO some church congegations look dead?
One possibility is that they've never been "caught." Any fool can perform outward religious rituals. And many fools do just that, every Sunday.
A second possibility is that the people have been caught alive, but haven't been properly led and fed on the Scriptures. They haven't sought a face-to-face relationship with Jesus, the Bread of Life. They haven't exercised any faith in the Lord who loves them.
There's a third possibility: plain old sin. Sin feeds our old nature, which is selfish, angry, lustful, and disobedient. Sin can stunt the growth of our new lives in Christ.
One of the pastors at the ordination ceremony spoke in a similar vein. He encouraged us to learn from Paul's letter to the Romans, chapter 6 verses 5-11:5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection; 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; 7 for he that hath died is justified from sin. 8 But if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him; 9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death no more hath dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died unto sin once: but the life that He liveth, He liveth unto God. 11 Even so reckon ye also yourselves to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus.
Isn't that a paradox?
Yes, it is. But think of sin as being like an allergy. Whenever I visit my best friend's house, I have an allergic reaction to his cat -- unless I take an allergy pill. The allergy pill makes me cat proof. My eyes and sinuses are dead to the irritating influence of cat fur. Likewise, if we choose to feed our new nature and resist the old nature, we can be deadened to the poisonous lure of sin.
The key is choosing to be dead TO sin, immune to its lure. God doesn't force us to do this. But we miss out on the pure joy of life if we choose to be deadened BY sin, poisoned by its artificial flavoring and coloring. Big difference.
So what are you telling us, teacher?
Choose life. Choose to be ALIVE in Christ, saved by His redeeming sacrifice, walking in His light.
If you have any questions about how to do this, send me your question by e-mail. I'll send you a personal reply as quickly as possible.
Closing Prayer: Lord, send Your Holy Spirit to live in my heart and make me ALIVE in you. I pray this in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus, the Messiah of Israel. Amen.