John 21:15-17 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
If you can answer affirmatively to these questions say “amen.” Do you love God? Do you love to be in church with God’s people? Do you love to worship Him? Do you love the support you feel in times of trouble? Do you love the things we get to do together as a church? Don’t answer out loud to this last question. Just think about it. Do you love the mission God has called us to?
Loving God is a natural outgrowth of our relationship with Him. As we grow in our walk with Him and in our understanding of how much HE loves US we naturally reciprocate with love for Him. Loving coming to church is understandable. It is pleasant to be here. This is a fun place. The atmosphere is accepting and warm. We have created friendships which have caused us to genuinely love one another. The things we get to do as a church are easy to love. Who doesn’t love potlucks, picnics, fellowships, Bible studies, and service projects? When we are doing them together we feel good about our church, ourselves, and our collective efforts. It’s easy to love belonging to a cause greater than yourself that is making a positive difference in the lives of other people. But loving the MISSION? That’s a loaded question; one that if we were honest, I am not sure how we would answer it. What does it mean to LOVE the Mission of God?
In the John 21 text we read that love for God is tied to loving and doing His mission. Peter had failed Jesus, denying he even knew Him when Jesus was in His most desperate time of need. John 21 is about reinstating Peter, forgiving Peter, giving Peter a clean start. It’s interesting that Jesus defined the reinstating, the clean start as a re-enlistment to the mission. “Do you love me?” “Do the mission.” “Feed my sheep.” “Make disciples.” “Tell the Good News about the Resurrection.” Jesus didn’t say, “Get back to the Temple to pray.” He didn’t say, “Get back to worshipping me.” He didn’t say, “Go back and huddle with the disciples.” He said, “If you love me, get back on mission.”
Listen, an extreme love for God will result in an extreme love for the mission of God. You can’t keep someone who loves God passionately from doing His work. If you have ever been in love with someone you will recall that you were willing to go to extremes. When they asked you to do something it was a pleasure. You were happy to oblige. It made you happy to make them happy. It wasn’t a burden to take an extra step, to alter some plans, or to sacrifice something because you were committed to the mission of carrying out their desires.
Where is that passion? Where is that commitment? Where is that drive? Where is that desire for the mission of God? When was the last time you thought, “Oh no you’re not keeping me from witnessing” or “I don’t care how long it takes! I will pursue spiritual conversation after spiritual conversation until my friend surrenders to Jesus?” Is the Gospel to you like waving a red flag in front of a bull? Do you find yourself not being able to help it, but you just have to talk about Jesus every day all the time? Are you in love with the mission of God?
Last weekend, the kids and I flew down to FL to be with Thom. He had driven down and had just finished a 3 day conference. To get the cheap flights we had to be willing to get in late. We arrived at our hotel at 1 a.m. on Friday night/Saturday morning. The agenda for Saturday? Sea World! We had been looking forward to this trip for weeks. I should just tell you our family is addicted to theme parks. We LOVE them! My heart had been set on the full theme park experience for a long time. We scurried to bed and at 2 a.m. I started throwing up. I NEVER get sick! I wasn’t just sick. I was SICK! I threw up at least 7 times between 2 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. So let me summarize. I had worked half a day Friday, flown with the kids to Orlando via Washington D.C., got in at 1 a.m. and puked all night. J For about 15 minutes that morning I contemplated letting my family go to Sea World without me, but realizing we only had two days together before my conference started and remembering how spectacular Shamu was, I put one foot on the floor at a time and announced, “I’m going with you.” Thom just shook his head!
I couldn’t NOT go! I LOVE theme parks, and I LOVE time with my family, and I was willing to drag myself there, literally drag myself, in order to experience the park with them. By 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon I could walk no further. First Aid came to get me, and I took an hour’s nap in the triage area of the medical facility at Sea World. After that hour, I was back out to explore the park. My condition didn’t keep me from the mission of exploring Sea World with my family.
I slept well Saturday night! We stayed with Don and Helen Painter, church members from TVCOG who are snow-birding there. We got up, went to church with them, and then changed to head to Busch Gardens. We had only been in the car for a half hour when I told Thom to pull over. You guessed it. It was a repeat performance of the previous day. Turning around wasn’t an option. I only had another day with my family before my conference started and I LOVE theme parks, especially ones with great roller coasters. We were pushing on. I puked, rode a coaster, puked, rode a coaster, puked and rode a coaster. I’m going to say most people in my condition would have been home in bed, but my LOVE for those experiences gave me an internal desire (though it was probably crazy) to do whatever it took to follow the plan to conquer Sea World and Busch Gardens. How I felt was irrelevant because of my commitment to the mission I had embraced in my heart. That is an extreme love for theme parks, don’t you think? Let’s look together at Luke 5 where we see Jesus outlining that loving Him involves an extreme commitment to the Mission of God which is for us to win the world to Christ and help people become disciples who follow after Jesus.
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, 2 he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
Let me show you a few things as they pertain to an extreme love for the Mission of God.
Loving God’s mission means we go when we don’t feel like going.
Have you ever had the experience of say making dinner, cleaning everything up, and then having someone say, “Can I have something to eat?” You’ve just put everything away, cleaned up and shifted your mind to what is next. Maybe a minute to relax before you set yourself to what needs to be collected in order to get to the practice or game on time. But because someone has made a request, you get out everything you have just put away in order to feed them.
Jesus told Peter to put his nets out in verse 4. I can just hear Peter with his hands on his hips say, “Seriously? Umm, Jesus, we just cleaned everything up.” Verse 2 tells us that they had already cleaned their nets. They were done for the day. They had already hauled everything in. They had worked all night, and Peter said they had worked hard. They were tired. They had shifted their mindset. Fishing was done. Family time was ahead. Relaxing was ahead. Food was ahead. The last thing they wanted to do was get back into the boat.
I didn’t feel like walking two huge amusement parks in 85 degree weather with a stomach virus. I felt like being in bed. No one would have faulted me for staying in bed and passing on the adventure, of course, but my heart had been set on experiencing the parks with my family. What you set your heart on can become a motivator when you don’t feel like doing what you need to do or want to do.
After Jesus made the request of Peter, Peter responded to Jesus and his opening word was telling when it came to seeing where his heart was. He called Jesus, “Master.” “Master, because You are the One asking me to get back out there, I will do it.” Loving God extremely means recognizing Him as the Master of our lives. When we let God be our Master, we have an ongoing motivation to the mission regardless of how we feel.
You’ve all been there. You’re tired. You’ve had a long day. You have been looking forward to taking a break, kicking back, or doing something mindless when all of the sudden a text, a call, or a FB message pops up with someone asking if they can talk to you. I’m not saying you should never say “Now isn’t a good time,” but if you are walking with the Spirit, you know when God is giving you an assignment and you have to push through your fatigue and change your mindset even though you had already “signed off for the day.”
Loving God’s mission means we go where we don’t feel like going.
Night fishing was very common on the Sea of Galilee. Fishing was usually best during the night while the fish were active and feeding closer to the surface where their nets could more easily trap them. It’s daytime now. Going into the deep meant a lot of effort, effort they weren’t sure they had. Rowing out into the deep was going to take a lot of energy. The winds are always stronger out in the deep. I am sure Peter was thinking, “Lord, if you want to do a miracle, couldn’t you just pull it off here on the shoreline?” “Do we really have to invest the effort ourselves to go out into the deep when we are already exhausted?” Do we really have to “go there?”
Beth Moore tells the story about being in the airport and the terminal was packed. She was reading her Bible as she was traveling somewhere to speak. All of a sudden, she saw that the eyes of a whole row of people were staring at the same thing. She finally saw out of her peripheral vision a flight attendant pushing a man in a wheelchair. When she got a good look at him she saw he was extremely elderly. His gray hair was down to the middle of his back. His pants were too big for him. He was clean but disheveled. Still, his odd appearance commanded the attention of the entire area.
Beth started to be drawn to him like she was supposed to witness to him in the packed terminal. She immediately started praying, “God, please don’t make me witness to him here. I’ll talk to him on the plane. Seat me next to him.” God spoke to her heart and said, “I’m not asking you to witness to him. I am asking you to brush his hair” to which she replied, “Lord, I’d rather witness to him!” She and God got into a wrestling match as Beth Moore quickly explained to God, “God, I don’t have a hairbrush!” “God, we are in the middle of the airport!” She didn’t feel like doing this mission in the middle of the airport with all eyes on her. This was deep water, even for a Bible teacher and soul winner like Beth Moore. Watch what happened.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U088JkiQeDQ (start watching from 4:26)
If you are in an extreme love relationship with God He will send you to places to do things the world will label as intrusive, dangerous and crazy. None of us ever learned that part of discipleship was giving hair makeovers in airports. That’s off the wall crazy, right?
Church, if we are going to learn to love the mission of God as a church, let me warn you it will involve more than passing out candy, more than setting up inflatables, more than bringing in cookies for VBS and more than handing someone a postcard invitation for church. I’m not minimizing any of the outreach we have done, but we have yet to get into the deep waters on our mission. I believe God is preparing us to go where we have never gone before, to reach as we have never reached before and to do acts of service in places that are awkward and uncomfortable until we are so in over our heads that we realize we are standing on Holy Ground or “swimming in Holy Water” because God has sent us to a place where only He can get the credit for the miracles that are about to take place.
People in extreme love with God are willing to get into deep waters at His command. And we see from this passage, that is where the greatest catch is! There are communities of people no one else is willing to reach. There are kinds of people that others won’t invest in. God wants us to get in deep, going not just to the manicured and mannered, but to the disheveled and dejected whether in a crowded airport or living under a bridge somewhere. God is calling us into deeper waters as evidence of our extreme love for Him. I see a big piece of that being the development of our insight classes that help people deal with life controlling issues. Our willingness to listen and support people who are ready to deal with their emotional and spiritual issues is going to take us to some deep waters. Are you ready to “go there” with me?
Loving God’s mission means embracing the challenges God’s miracles will bring. The disciples didn’t just go from catching nothing to catching a few fish a piece. They caught so many they had to have help hauling them all in and they needed not one but two boats to try to contain the fish. Their nets were breaking and both boats started to sink. Do you realize how many fish there had to be in order for two boats to start to sink? Remember, they were already tired. This was far more than any normal day’s catch, any normal week’s catch. It was going to take a long time to process the fish and get them where they needed to go. They were going to have to not only wash their nets, but mend them and who knows what kind of boat repairs were going to be needed. I wonder if they thought, “Jesus, we appreciate the miracle and all but could you be slightly less miraculous to make it a little easier for us to deal with?” “Could you just tone down the amount of fish for us to catch?”
What God has done here at this church and what He is doing is nothing less than a miracle. The numeric growth here has meant one boat hasn’t been enough. We had to start another service. There are times when the second service is still uncomfortably full and parking is scarce. Our youth are out of space on Wednesday nights, and we are going to have to go ahead and add on another garage in the next two months. We cannot tell them to quit growing until we get a building built on the Acres. When I tell people about how we are pressed for space the answer is always the same. “That’s a good problem to have.” It is for sure, but it is a challenge as we don’t want to see the growth slowed or stopped because of space issues. How will we meet the challenge? The disciples called to their partners for help. More people got involved in the process. It is going to take each one of us plus our friends, family and community partners, to come together to invest in this miracle God has given us.
Often with the miracle of God comes a need for long-term commitments, greater responsibility and deep sacrifice. Preliminary talks with Pray Construction indicate that what we hope to build on the Acres down the road will cost closer to 5 million than the 3 and a half we were hoping for. That’s a big price tag. That is deep water. But God is calling, nets are breaking and something has to happen so we can accommodate all of the fish God wants to put into our boat.
How extreme is your love for the mission of God? Do you have the relationship with Him that when He asks you to do something, your first response is, “Master?” Does your love for the mission compel you to go when you don’t feel like going? Does is compel you to go where you don’t feel like going? Even though God’s miracles often come with challenges and sacrificial price tags are you willing to say, “Bring it on, Lord?”
Do we love Him? We must “feed His sheep” . . . all of them. That’s a lot of meals. That’s a big commitment. That is extreme love.