Drop Your Nets

(Preached at Alger First UMC on 1/25/2015)

Scripture: Mark 1:14-20

Well today, we are continuing our emphasis on discipleship. What did we talk about last week? We talked about God calling Samuel’s name, how God calls our name, and how God is calling us to take the next step forward in discipleship, and we talked about some of the opportunities here in this church to take that next step forward-Sunday school, reading the Lectionary Scriptures for next week, coming to Bible study on Sunday nights, stuff like that, right?

So this week, we’ll continue this focus by talking about the content of Jesus’ call to us and what our response is-What is Jesus saying and how are we going to respond?

So we start with our passage from Mark. It says that when Jesus came into the region of Galilee, he began proclaiming the good news, or the gospel, of God’s kingdom. He says “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” That’s the content of Jesus’ call. This was probably the tagline of every sermon that Jesus preached. You know how in your bulletins you have the core message of my sermon every week? This was Jesus’ core message-The time has come, the Kingdom of God is coming, repent and believe. That’s really all he said. So if we’re talking about the content of Jesus’ call, then that’s it. Let’s go home.

But really, I think there’s some unpacking to do here. We want to know what Jesus was really saying, right? And we want to know this so that we can respond, right? So for us to understand what Jesus is really saying here in this call, we’ve got to dig in deep here. Jesus’ message all centers around two words here. “Repent” and “Believe.” Repent and believe. We’ve all heard those words a lot, right? Those are familiar to us, right? And that’s great. But I think we’ve redefined those words, we’ve added our own definitions and when we do that, we make Jesus say things that Jesus didn’t really mean. Does that make sense? So let’s dig in here and see what Jesus actually said.

So Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is here.” The time for the Kingdom of God is ripe, it’s ready for you to grasp. It’s time for God to act, all of Creation is about to be redeemed by a mighty act of God and God’s Kingdom is about to enter the scene. And Jesus says that for you to be a part of this kingdom, two things have to happen. This is not saying that you have to do something to earn your way into heaven, but a couple things do have to happen to you. The first thing is repentance. The Greek word translated as “repent” is (slowly) Metanoeo. Can you say that with me? Metanoeo.

In most places that it’s used, it’s translated as repent, and we have a problem here because this word has lost a lot of meaning over time-it means something different now than what Jesus meant back then. When we hear “repent of your sins,” a lot of people, maybe some of you, think that it really just means that we have to feel bad for our sins, we have to feel sorry for when we’ve done something wrong. We have to feel sad that we have been bad, if we have sinned or disobeyed. And we think that if we feel that way, then we will be saved. But I don’t think that’s really what Jesus means here in the text for today. I don’t think the Gospel message can be summed up by saying “Feel really, really bad and really, really sad for all of the bad things you’ve done, and you will be saved.”

In the Greek world outside of the early church, the word metanoeo meant simply to change your mind, not that profound of a meaning. But in the early church, the word took on a much more profound meaning. To Metanoeo means to change yourself, to turn your whole life around, to change your hearts and lives. If you’re driving south down 235 and you see God driving north, to metanoeo means to turn a 180 and follow God north.

This really makes sense to me because why does it matter that you feel regret and remorse and sorrow for all of the bad things that you’ve done if your actions don’t change so you don’t do those bad things again? When you were a little kid, did any of you ever break something in your house and have your mom get really mad at you for it? Do you think she wanted you to do that again? No! But do you think she would have cared if you felt really, really bad and really, really sorry for breaking whatever it was if you just turned around and broke something else? No! She doesn’t want you to break anything ever again because for you to grow up into a functioning human adult who contributes to society, you cannot be going around breaking things, feeling really sad about breaking them, and then break more things.

So with this word, metanoeo, Jesus is telling us to not just feel sad whenever we do something bad, but to enter into a life where we don’t do those things anymore. He’s telling us that to enter the Kingdom of God, our core self must completely change, we have turn a 180 in our lives.

Now, some people might go in the other direction with this. Some people might think that to repent means that you can’t let yourself do anything bad ever again. Some people might reduce Jesus words to saying that we have to work hard enough and behave ourselves enough to enter the Kingdom of God. And I’m telling you now-that’s the opposite of the Gospel. Not only that, it’s impossible. You can’t do it, so don’t even try. And it’s not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is telling us to metanoeo, to repent, to acknowledge the areas that we fall short, that we are imperfect, that we are broken, and bring that all before God and say “Here I am. I can’t do this on my own. I can’t change myself, I can’t make myself behave. So you change me. YOU change me.” That’s what it means to repent.

Now, repentance isn’t it, right? Jesus doesn’t stop there, does he? No, repentance isn’t the end of the road here. Jesus is saying that the God is about to enter the scene, and the true life that God has in store for us, not the broken life that we’ve been living, but the full life of God is ready for us to grasp and take hold of. And to step into this life, we must repent-lay our old life down before God, surrender it there, give it up. And with this repentance comes belief.

Now, I also have a bit of a problem with how we normally think of the word belief. I think we normally think of “belief” as an intellectual assent, kind of an agreement that something is factually true. The first couple lines of the Apostle’s Creed say “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth.” Do you believe that? What do you mean by belief there? Do you mean that you believe that that is factually true, that is a factually true statement? I’m certainly not saying that that’s wrong, I’m saying that belief is deeper than that.

See, in the Gospels, belief is attached to action. When the father of a boy who was possessed by a demon came to Jesus and said “If you can do anything help us!,” Jesus said that anything is possible for those who believe. The father said “I do believe, help my unbelief.” Believe that Jesus can cast the demon out, and it will happen.

Another time, a man named Jairus came to Jesus and said that his daughter was very sick and could Jesus help her? As Jesus was on the way, the daughter died and people were sent to tell Jesus to not bother coming, the girl was dead. Jesus said “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Then he brought the girl back to life. Believe, and the dead will be raised.

In Mark 11:23, Jesus says “I assure you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’-and doesn’t waver but believes that what is said will really happen-it will happen.” Believe, and the mountain will be thrown into the sea.

This is the type of belief that Jesus calls us to. Believe in a way that leads to action. Believe, and it will happen.

Repent and believe. That’s Jesus’ message That’s the call. That is what Jesus is calling out to us. The full life God has in store for you is near. Repent. Lay your old self down before God. And believe that God will bring you into this new, full life. How does God bring us into this new life? Through Jesus. Jesus is our gateway into God’s Kingdom. Jesus shows us how to live this new full life in God’s Kingdom. So Jesus says to all of us, “Follow me.”

That’s what he said to the disciples when he came up to them, right? These fishermen who’d probably all heard about Jesus and his core message, “Repent and believe the Gospel,” were just doing their daily work when Jesus came up to them. And Jesus said “Follow me.” That simple. But somehow, it made these fishermen drop their nets, their fishing lines, their tackle box, and leave their own dad in the boat and follow.

So the question now is how will you respond to this?We can’t ignore this message. So will you follow, or won’t you?

If we say yes, Christ will only lead us further into the Kingdom of God, further in repentance, and further in belief. If you say “Yes, I will follow,” Christ will be guiding you every step of the way, further and further into discipleship. Our lives will be redeemed. Our souls will be saved. And this world will be renewed. So my question to you is “Have you said yes? Are you following?” Every day, are you making that decision to follow? Every day, hour, minute, are you making that decision to follow Jesus?

Jesus would not have us do this work of following in discipleship on our own, that’s why Christ has given us the church so that we can learn how to follow Christ as part of church family. And we have a lot of opportunities through this church to take that next step forward in following Christ and doing it with your church family. Tonight we’ll be continuing the Sunday night Bible study and continuing to talk about the spiritual disciplines-things that you can do in your daily life that will allow God to change you. So take a step forward by coming to Bible study tonight at 6:30. We also have the Lectionary Scriptures for next week printed in the bulletin. I’ll be preaching on at least one of those Scriptures next week. So take a step forward in discipleship by reading those four Scriptures throughout this week and coming prepared to worship next week. Or you could join a Sunday School class and take that next step forward in community with your church family here. Just come to church an hour earlier, 9:00 on Sunday mornings.

Don’t want to do any of those? Maybe you could take that next step forward by finding someone around you who needs help-maybe they need a ride somewhere, or they need someone to watch their kids so they can run some errands, or just get out of the house for a while, maybe they just need a friend, maybe they’re going through some hard stuff and they just need someone to pray for them. Take the next step forward by showing love to those around you.

Repent and believe. That’s Jesus’ message That’s the call. That is what Jesus is calling out to us. The full life God has in store for you is near. Repent. Lay your old self down before God. And believe that God will bring you into this new, full life. How does God bring us into this new life? Through Jesus. Jesus is our gateway into God’s Kingdom. Jesus shows us how to live this new full life in God’s Kingdom. So Jesus says to all of us, “Follow me.”

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