When You Tell Jesus To Go Away

Occasionally, I teach a Bible Study at my church. Yesterday, I taught from Luke 5:1-11. This is the story of Jesus telling Peter and other would be disciples to, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” If you have read this before, you know that once the disciples did this, the load of fish that they caught was so great they needed help just to get the fish to shore.

https://farm4.staticflickr.com/3263/3211225569_fbb9fc6f61_o.jpg

What struck me about this passage and how it relates to Growing Up is Peter’s initial response to Jesus after Jesus told him to “put out into deep water.” Peter said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

Peter’s response was reluctant, skeptical, and downright doubtful. He was really telling Jesus that Jesus didn’t know what he was talking about and that nothing is going to change. Peter gave Jesus a courtesy response with little expectation of anything significant happening.

By the end of the story, Peter is so ashamed at himself and his lack of faith that he falls to Jesus’ knees and tells Jesus to “go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

Is Jesus talking to you? Is he asking you to go deep? Are you being asked to put down your net one more time even though it feels as if you have already done it a 100 times with little result?

You need to have more confidence than Peter. Read scripture, pray, meditate, worship, speak that word to a friend, and listen to God once again.

Let down that net and see the abundant catch that only Jesus can provide.

What Your Spiritual Practices Might Be Missing

Sometimes I am at fault on this blog by making spiritual formation about what we do. I talk much about spiritual disciplines such as solitude, prayer, meditation, and scripture reading. But the reality is that these are just tools that we use to grow closer to God. A lumberjack would never say that his goal is to use a chainsaw but to cut down a tree. In the same way, a Christian would never say the goal is to prayer. No, the goal is to talk to God and to communicate what is in your heart. God is the one that does all of the real work, we are just called to use our tools (spiritual disciplines) properly.

One of the strangest miracles in the Gospels for me is not Jesus walking on the water but Peter walking on the water. The miracle had nothing to do with Peter, except his own willingness to give it a try and trust Jesus, but had everything to do with Jesus. Peter requested to walk on the water and all Jesus says is, “come.” Jesus has miracles waiting for us and all we have to do is “come”. And we “come” through our practices of spiritual devotion. Jesus does the rest.

A Guide To Dying To Self

In my life, a challenge, among many, is selfishness. I like things done in a particular way – mine. I often manipulate situations so that my preferences will override others. I am subtle and passive aggressive about it but I am as guilty of selfishness as an outspoken narcissist. God has changed me over the years to see more of his will in contrast to my own. And I have had enough experiences with God’s will to start to recognize my “maximum fulfillment” is found within it. But it is a slow process. Philosophers argue “if there is any such thing as a selfless act?” I wouldn’t know the philosophy maxims that would help answer this question but from my experience, selflessness is very rare.

What can be done about this constant tendency toward self? Well, there isn’t a whole lot that we, as individuals do. God has to do the bulk of the work. One thing that might help is to understand the progression of love in God’s kingdom. First, God loves us (John 3:16). Second, we love God. And third, we love others through God (1 John 4:10). With this progression we see that all love starts with God and is only fulfilled through his power. We can’t even properly love ourselves without help from God so how would we think about loving others in a way that is sacrificing and selfless without God showing us how.

Are you trying to love others without having a proper love of God? Do you have trouble understanding the level of love that God has for you? Try this exercise. Read John 21:15-17 and meditate on Jesus’ question of Peter, “Do you love me?” Think about how you would answer this question and your response to Jesus’ command to Peter to “care for my sheep.” Who is it that you need to “feed?”, to care for?, and to love? Ask God, he will give you an answer and you can start to “get over yourself.”

Why Christian Spiritual Growth Matters.

Sometimes I wonder if what I am doing on this blog and in classes I teach on discipleship is mistaken. I ask myself if I am being too focused on self and am encouraging people to abandon global pursuits for personal pursuits that potentially have little meaning. Is my emphasis on personal spiritual growth just a Christian version of the self-help obsession that has overtaken our country? But yesterday I realized something when reading some of Eugene Peterson’s book Traveling Light.

Peterson was trying to point out that the gospel, or good news, that Paul talked about in Galatians has both a global meaning and a personal meaning. In other words, when it is all said and done, we still must deal with ourselves. All of our friends and family may come to know Christ, and great political peace arrive around the world, and poverty come to an end in the third world, yet we are still left with ourselves and the status of our own heart.

David may have experienced great success as a King and military leader but he still had to deal with the condition of his heart and his tendency for distraction and lust. Moses was absolutely no good for his people if he did not have a deep connection with God. ┬áPeter was ready to fight off Jesus’ accusers with a sword but when it really got serious he was done in by a little girl (John 18: 16-17). If we ignore the personal side of our faith then we have to ignore the majority of the New Testament. Jesus goes to great lengths in the Sermon on the Mount to paint a picture of what a disciple of his looks like. I can’t ignore this fact because it doesn’t fit the bill for an action oriented, go-go-go, Evangelical culture.

So, I am encouraged that trying to become more like Christ is an essential part of my faith and that trying to help others into Christlikeness is worth every bit of time and energy that God has given me. Have you neglected your spiritual growth for other faith pursuits? Have you downgraded pursuing Christlikeness because it seems too self-focused? Work through these issues by asking God to show you an effective balance between growth and going and between action and contemplation. Lets find this balance together “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).”