Jesus Calls Each of Us into His Kingdom!
Dear heavenly Father, You have called me into the Kingdom of Your dear Son, Jesus Christ. I have entered Your house this day, because I want to serve. Please instruct me with Your truths, uplift me with Your love, and assure me of Your abiding presence. Then with joy I will sing Your praises and proclaim Your gospel to everyone as You give me opportunity. It is in Jesus’ name that I pray. Amen.
Jonah preached the Word of God in Nineveh, the capital city of the proud and violent Assyrian Empire. He called upon the people to repent or experience the judgment of God. The people, including their leaders, did repent and God spared them His pending judgment.
Paul reminds us that this present world is passing away. While we live and function in this world, let us realize that it is not to be our ultimate home—heaven is to be that home! Consequently, we ought not become too attached!
Text: Mark 1:14-20
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” And as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.
In Christ Jesus, who calls us into His kingdom even as He did His apostles, dear fellow redeemed:
I would like to extend to all of you the greetings of Dimas and Blanca Vivanco together with those of Joe Peralta (one of our members who is also now living in Lima, Peru). They wish that all of you could be sharing the sunny, 80 degree weather they are enjoying, but since that is impossible they simply pray for your spiritual and physical well-being.
My dear friends, there is a danger that our concept of evangelism can become somewhat impersonal and detached from our everyday lives. We celebrate Mission Festivals twice each year. It is rather easy to begin to think, therefore, of evangelism as a subject for occasional consideration rather than as an everyday endeavor. We set a mission budgetary goal each year, as we will again tomorrow night at our voters’ meeting. It is relatively easy then for our concept of mission work to involve simply writing an occasional check to support unnamed missionaries sharing Christ with faceless masses in other parts of the world. This ought not to be!
Evangelism or mission work is to be an everyday part of each of our lives! Jesus calls us “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (cf. Mt. 5:13-14). When is salt not salt, and when is light not light? In our text today, Jesus called four men to be His disciples. He informed Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, who were all professional fishermen, that they would now become “fishers of men” proclaiming “the gospel of the kingdom of God!” My dear friends, JESUS CALLS EACH OF US INTO HIS KINGDOM! As we shall see from our text and from some individual examples it is a very personal call, and it is a very purpose-filled call!
Shortly after Jesus was baptized, John the Baptizer was imprisoned by King Herod. At that point Jesus, who was just beginning His public ministry, came back up to Galilee. We are told that He was “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.” What was the essence of His message? Mark summarizes His words in this way: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Jesus’ reference to the time being fulfilled simply meant that God had finally fulfilled His promise to send a Savior. Jesus was the Christ—the Messiah promised by God. He was the One to whom all authority would be given (cf. Mt. 28:18). He was the One who upon completing His redemptive work would be elevated to the right hand of God where He would rule over His Church and ultimately sit in judgment of the entire world (cf. Eph. 1:20-23). He, therefore, rightly called sinners to repentance—to both sorrow over and turn away from their sin. Jesus called upon them to believe the gospel message that God loved the world and had a deep desire to bestow everlasting life upon all who would believe in His Son (cf. Jn. 3:16). This was Jesus’ message—a message of love, of forgiveness, of healing, and of restoration. It was a message that God intended to entrust to those for whom it was intended. Individual saved sinners were to be privileged to share that message with others.
Consequently, Mark informs us that “as He walked by the Sea of Galilee. He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea.” They were professional fishermen, and they were hard at work. Jesus approached them and said, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Jesus’ call was a personal call. It was directed to these two specific brothers, and it would have very personal consequences. Decisions had to be made and sacrifices undergone. Jesus’ call was indeed personal, and it was effective. We are told: “They immediately left their nets and followed Him.” Mark then informs us that when Jesus had gone a little further down the shore of the Sea of Galilee, “He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets.” James and John were also professional fishermen. They were involved in a very successful family business begun by their father. Jesus called them to follow Him as well. This, too, was a very personal call, and it involved personal sacrifice—leaving behind their father and a successful business that employed quite a number of people, but we are told James and John “went after Him.”
My dear friends, JESUS CALLS EACH OF US INTO HIS KINGDOM! As in the case of these first four apostles, it is a very personal call! That call began for many of us before we were even aware of it, for Jesus called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9) at the time of our baptisms, when He created faith within our hearts. That faith was then nurtured within Christian homes, at church, and in school. For others of you that calling may well have come later in life, when the Lord led you to repentance over your sins and to believe in the gospel of forgiveness. True, our calls may not have been as dramatic and immediate as those of the apostles, but they are nonetheless personal calls to follow Jesus! This we are to do each day wherever the Lord happens to lead us.
That following takes many different forms. When Dimas Vivanco first approached me about the possibility of beginning a Lutheran congregation in Lima, I told him that we had two problems, the first of which was that we had to my knowledge no Spanish-speaking missionaries, but I told him that if God wanted us to begin a congregation there He would provide a missionary. He has provided at this point Daniel Pfeiffer, who represented our congregation in Lima this past year and who will do so again this year. Who will take up that mantle in the future, we leave in the Lord’s hands, but we do know this: Jesus calls individuals personally into His kingdom by His grace through faith, and then He leads them to follow Him where He would have them go!
Yes, JESUS CALLS EACH OF US INTO HIS KINGDOM! It is a very personal call! It is also a very purpose-filled call! Jesus told His apostles that He would make them into “fishers of men.” That is an interesting analogy, isn’t it! The Bible tells us that our souls are precious to God (cf. Ps. 49:8) and that He “desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Think about that for a moment. People are different. They have different backgrounds and experiences; they have different interests and abilities; they have different personalities and temperaments. Consequently, just as a fisherman will vary his techniques to catch different fish, so we are called upon to analyze the people with whom we come into contact and seek to bring them the appropriate Word of God, which the Spirit can then use to call them into Christ’s kingdom. It requires some knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, even as fishermen must know their tackle. Some of us will be more effective with different people, even as some fishermen are better at deep-sea fishing than fly-fishing. That is why Jesus calls each of us into His kingdom to be fishers of men, for there are so many to catch! But in each instance our calls are purpose-filled, for we are attempting to win souls to Christ and gain for them the gift of eternal salvation!
Permit me to share two instances as illustrations from my recent trip to Peru. I want to tell you first about a man called Gregorio Marquez. Gregorio lives in South Lima on a dusty road near the Pacific Ocean. If you can imagine a short, approximately 55 year old, blunt and burly mechanic with strong, calloused hands, you have a good picture of Gregorio. Gregorio has eleven children, 40 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, all of whom live in the surrounding neighborhood. When we first arrived Dimas informed Gregorio that he wanted to introduce a Lutheran pastor to him. Gregorio informed us that he and his entire family were now attending a new Mormon mission and he was convinced that they were telling him the truth. They, after all, had living prophets like the recent Gordon Hinckley. He asked me who the big men were in our church. I told him that the big man in our church was Jesus Christ Himself, whose Word was the foundation of our faith (cf. Eph. 2:20). I pointed out to him that Jesus tells us in the Book of Revelation not to add or take away anything from that Word (cf. Rev. 22:18-19). I informed him that Jesus together with the apostles had all warned about false prophets arising, and that we were to “test the spirits” by comparing what they had to say to the Bible (cf. 1 Jn. 4:1). I pointed out that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the founders of the Mormon Church, had prophesied many things that had not come true. Gregorio argued, however, that the Mormons used the Bible and said that it forbid people from drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol, and that they were not supposed to smoke. I informed him that the Bible said nothing about coffee, tea, or smoking, and that it does not forbid drinking alcohol in moderation. I then presented a simple message of sin and grace, getting out the Spanish/English Bible I had brought along and having him read passages such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Colossians 2:9-10, which point out that we are saved by God’s grace alone through faith and that we are complete in Christ—that our salvation was not a matter of refraining from drinking coffee or by not smoking. He then challenged me regarding the tithe, for surely the Bible commanded everyone to give 10% of their income to the church. I shared with him the facts that in the Old Testament there was indeed a tithe, but that in the New Testament God simply called upon us to give generously, joyfully, and proportionally. I had him read several verses from 2 Corinthians 9. This went on for 2½ hours and in the end we were drinking Inca Cola and eating crackers together in the shade in front of his house. I left him the Bible and he asked how he and his 55 family members might hear more of what the Bible actually had to share as opposed to the man-made rules of the Mormon Church.
The second experience I would like to share was much less dramatic. Last Sunday evening Dimas and Blanca took me to see Blanca’s Uncle Julio. He is a man in his mid-80’s who is dying of cancer. He is a bachelor now being cared for by his sister, Victoria. I was led to his upstairs room. He was very thin and quite frail lying in a bed. A picture of Jesus hung above the bed. He had on a soccer shirt featuring a team from Brazil, while a soccer game was being broadcast on a TV in the corner. I sat down and took his hand and with the help of Dimas, who translated my words, I shared with him the comfort of John 14. I urged him not to let his heart be troubled as death approached, but rather to put his trust in Jesus. I spoke of the mansion Jesus was preparing for him and the promise that Jesus would come to take him home to heaven. I spoke in simple terms of sin and grace, of not trusting in one’s works, but rather relying completely on Christ. Afterward I shared more of these simple biblical truths with Victoria and her husband as we sat around their kitchen table.
My dear friends, JESUS CALLS EACH OF US INTO HIS KINGDOM! It is a very personal call! It is a very purpose-filled call! We are privileged to be part of the greatest rescue effort in all of history as we share a message that brings people out of death into life, and through death to eternal life! May we recognize the importance of our calling and embrace it with joy. Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!