Date: August 22, 1999
Bible Text: Luke 5:3-9 | Roger Voegtlin
Series: Transcribed Sermons
Please turn in your Bibles to Luke chapter 5. Simon Peter learned something here that I wish every person in this auditorium could learn, and I don’t mean just learn as in storing facts. We can take facts and sit here and say, “I’ve learned something.” We can put facts into our minds, but I’d like for you to see what Simon Peter saw. When you see something, it becomes a part of you and it makes you move. It turns into action. The Bible says, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” And as I pray, I hope that you’ll pray and say, “God, let me see what Peter saw, that I might take a step forward in what I do for God.”
Luke chapter 5, beginning with verse 3 reads, “And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 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.” Jesus said, “Let down your nets,” and Peter said, “I’ll let down a net.” “And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were 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. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken.”
If you know the Bible, you realize that Simon Peter was one of the best men whom Jesus had while He was here on this earth. But Jesus knew that Simon needed to learn a real lesson if he was going to be truly useful, if he was going to be happy, if he was going to be successful. So Jesus said, “Simon, I’d like to use your boat.” You might think I’m stretching things, but if Simon Peter were the normal Christian of today, he would say, “No.” He would say, “I tithe, or I do this, or I do that; but I need that boat to make money. As soon as the sun comes up in the morning, I need to be in that boat and need to be fishing. If I’m not, I’m going to starve, and I won’t be able to pay my bills. Anything but my boat.”
I want to make a point at the beginning of the message; and that is, if we want God to bless us, we have to be willing to give him anything or everything. I have counseled so many people through the years who want God’s blessing. They want a good family, they want peace with God, they want to be a soulwinner. We could go on and on—they want to be used of God. But this morning I want you to understand that everyone must make a decision at a crossroad in life if they’re going to be really blessed of God, and that is, “Will I give everything to God?” I go through this sometimes—I have to honestly make a checklist. Would I give anything and everything to God? Everything has to be given over to Him, or we’ll never see His blessing. It’s as simple as that. We’ll never see His blessing.
I’ve dealt with people who will say, “Well, my ministry is going to be ‘giving’ as opposed to everything else. My business or my job requires all my time. I can’t work on the buses, or I can’t go soulwinning, or I can’t work on the buildings. Of course, a ministry like this needs money, so my ministry is going to be money as opposed to other things.” Let me say something clearly that has been brought to fact throughout the years. The guy whose ministry is “giving” as opposed to everything else will soon stop giving. You either give everything or you fall flat on your face. On the other hand, I’ve dealt with people who say, “I love the bus ministry, or I love soulwinning, and I’ll be out at work party and I’ll do all these things—I’ll do anything. But you know, I can’t give. You just don’t know my financial situation. I can’t give.” That person’s lack of faith in giving will soon spread. Your lack of faith will kill your ministry, and soon you’ll not be a soulwinner—you’ll be nothing. You either give it all or you’ll end up giving nothing. You’ll end up being completely backslidden. What a decision! It will dictate your future Christian life.
Now Peter gave his boat. And, of course, we know they pushed Christ out in that boat and he preached to the people for a while; but when He came back, Jesus looked at Peter and he thought, “You’ve learned a lesson. You gave me your little ship. Now I want to complete that lesson. You fished all night and you’ve taken nothing. I want you to take your nets,” (and I stress plural) “and I want you to put those nets out there in the sea exactly where I tell you.” Simon Peter half-heartedly believed God, and he took one net—he thought he would appease the Lord. That’s our problem so many times: we’re just going to appease the Lord. We’re going to do what He says, but we don’t really believe. Verse 5 says, “Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all night…” I can almost hear it in the tone or by the way he says it, “I’m an expert fisherman; I’ve done this all my life from a child up. This is my job. I’ve toiled all night, and we’ve taken nothing. “…nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
Oh, how many times we only half-heartedly believe God. That’s the problem with giving. If you’ve been saved very long at all, you know that Malachi chapter 3 verse 10 is such a wonderful verse. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house…” God says, “You bring the finances, the tithes, into My house that there will be meat in my house,” and then He says if you do that, “… prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Do you believe it, or don’t you believe it? God says, “You give, and I’ll open the windows of heaven to the place where I’ll pour out so many blessings that you cannot receive it.” Now I’m not preaching on giving, but I get excited about this. And you know, anybody who has really given throughout the years and has seen God’s blessing gets excited about it. You say, “I tithe.” I’m saying if you’d find out what God would have you to give, and if you’d believe this, you’d get excited! Our problem is we don’t trust God. Our problem is that we say, “Preacher, look at my budget—I can’t give.” It doesn’t matter what your budget looks like. It matters about what God wants us to give!
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Our problem is that we want to take care of our things first and take care of God later. We don’t trust God. I believe in God! And I believe that God can take care of me so much better than I can myself. People get things so mixed up. They look at a Christian and say, “Yeah, look at him, he can talk about it—he lives well. He does so good.” Have you ever thought that he does well because he does it God’s way? I’ve never seen a giving person whom God didn’t bless! The point I’m making is that you seek God, you do what God wants you to do, and He promises to open the windows of heaven to the place where you cannot even comprehend it. That’s a promise of God. I believe it as much as I’m breathing. It’s a way of life. But again, so many just kind of throw a net in, not believing, instead of just doing what God wants them to do.
It’s the same thing with the rearing of our children. So many times people will discipline them just to the point where they irritate them; they don’t go all the way. They don’t take time with their families for devotions, or they don’t spend time with their families to rear them the way they ought to. And listen, their kids turn out half good, half bad. Trust God! Do it God’s way—go all the way.
Peter caught so many fish his net brake. It was ripping. I get a kick out of this. He goes out there and says, “Okay, if you said it, I’ll do it.” He throws that net in, and “WOW!” All these fish jump in his net, the net’s breaking, and he yells to his partners. They bring the other boat over, and both boats are full. I don’t know what the boats looked like, but they were full enough that they had to go very carefully back to shore with the water lapping over the sides.
And Peter saw it. It finally hit him. You say, “What did he see?” That God is real. That it’s not just a religion, it’s not a theology. But that what Jesus taught was a fact—that God is God of heaven and the universe, and that we can trust Him and that we want to give our all. We want to do everything we possibly can. He said, “All I did was give Him my little boat. And he gave it back to me and showed me how to fish like no one has ever fished on this lake in history. This thing has finally got to me.” Again, look at verse 8, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Before he would follow like so many, dragging their feet. But when he saw this, he said, “I’m a sinner; I can’t even be in your sight!” We sometimes think we’re such good Christians. “Well I tithe, or I give 15%, or I come to work nights, or I do this, or I’m a Sunday School teacher—I really serve God.” When you see Him, you won’t think you do anything. He said, “I’m a sinful man; depart from me.” “For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken.”
My wife and I were talking about what kind of honeymoon people have who have been “shacked up” for years before. I bet they fight like crazy. But most don’t ever get married, they just shack up. You see, these guys with rings in their noses and their belly buttons and their eyelids—I don’t think they’ve seen it. But you know the preacher who is afraid to preach, “Thus saith the Lord,” who is “afraid of the people’s faces,” as the Bible uses the term, he hasn’t seen it either. Every decision is made on compromise. He hasn’t seen it. And neither has the church member who doesn’t “fill the gap” as it were. The church member who wouldn’t be out at work nights, the church member who doesn’t give, the church member who doesn’t go soulwinning, the church member who can miss church and think he’ll not be missed—he hasn’t seen it. You don’t live like that when you see it. When a church member looks around the world and sees the sin—the divorce, the child molesting, abortion, people soaking in sin—and then looks back at a church like this, he sees it is the remedy. This is where they can get saved. This is where they can grow in the Lord. When you see the opportunities to serve God, you get excited! It won’t be ho-hum. You’ll be excited.
I remember a guy who came from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He and his wife came to visit some friends, and they got saved here one Sunday morning. As we were dealing with them about baptism, we found out they weren’t married. So I married them that day. Well, you say, “There’s a waiting period for the license.” I married them that day, and they got their license later. And then after they got baptized, I was talking to them about the Holy Spirit who dwells within them now and how the Holy Spirit would guide them and direct them if they’d allow Him. And he said, “I think I know what you mean.” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “The Holy Spirit is guiding me to move down to Chesterton and be here in this church.” That guy saw something that day. He got saved, baptized, married, and made the decision to move here all in one day. He saw something. All of a sudden you wake up and you say. “Wow! This sin is killing me, it’s destroying my family. I see it!” My question is, do you still see it? That’s the sad thing. We make decisions and we say, “My life won’t be the same again ever,” but we don’t continue to see it.
The Halls were the first family saved through the church, and they were typical. I won’t tell all the stories on them, but I will talk about John’s drinking, etc. If you know John, you’ve got to argue with him about everything. They didn’t join the church for a few months, but they watched. I take it they knew we had no outside support. I didn’t have a job, but God took care of us. They watched. They saw God here in this work. Then they joined. And when the church was about 18 months old, we were building our first building and we were placing bonds. I don’t remember the figures, but I do know we had about ten family units in the church at that time. We were building a nice-sized building, and we were placing bonds to do it because the bank wouldn’t give us another loan. I know everybody was doing their best because I was personally sitting down with each one of those ten and saying, “Have you talked to Grandma and Grandpa, your neighbors, people at work?”
We got to the place where I think it was the last payment for the building itself. We had made a contract and said we were going to pay a certain amount. I don’t know about you, but when we said we were going to pay it, I felt we needed to. I got up and started preaching that Sunday night. We owed $18,000 that Tuesday. You have to be a preacher to understand this. Sometimes you say things you hadn’t planned to say. I got up and I got riled up. I remember that night—I got going and made the statement that, “If God can’t give us that $18,000, then we serve the wrong God.” I don’t know if it was in those words, but it was in that vein. “And if God doesn’t give us $18,000 by Tuesday, we’ll shut the doors down.” You get out of the pulpit when you say something like that and you say, “I wonder if I should have said that?” Now, I believed it, I believe that God can supply anything and that God would think we should pay on time. But I wondered if I should have said that.
We were starting our school that fall and I was leaving to recruit teachers. I remember I left on Monday and I waited until Tuesday to call Sharon. In fear and trembling I asked, “Did the $18,000 come in?” She said, “Yes, $19,500.” I remember when I came back, and it’s been a lot of years ago and I don’t remember the exact words, but I remember Mrs. Hall basically saying, “I saw it.” She knew we had contacted everybody. She knew we had no other contacts, but all of a sudden, people said, “Hey, I was supposed to get $500, can I get $2,000?” “I said I couldn’t get any, but could I get $1,000?” Just like that, God started sending that money in. Mrs. Hall was the bookkeeper for the bonds at that time, and I remember her saying, “It was unbelievable, the phone just started ringing!” Do you understand what I’m trying to explain? You see things like that.
There have been many times in this church where it seemed as though things exploded and God started blessing. We had hundreds and hundreds of people come out. You talk about the windows of heaven opening to the place where you can’t even contain the blessings. I remember going to John Hall and saying, “Will the building collapse?” We had hundreds of people meeting in the foyer out there. God just opened the windows of heaven. Do you understand the point I’m making? Have you ever seen it? And if you have seen it, do you still see it? We’re so forgetful sometimes. We just push it aside. Peter saw it. Because He is God and He is absolutely supreme and holy, Peter saw the holiness of God and he fell on his knees and said, “Depart from me, I’m a sinful man.” I say again, have you seen it?
In Revelation 4:8 we read, “And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 15:4 says something similar, “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only are holy: for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” Have you seen the holiness of God, or are you that type of Christian who will sit there and say, “Well, I’ll serve Him this much, but I won’t go any further. I think I’m serving Him enough.” You make such a mistake. I’m not saying everybody has to do everything, but I am saying you can’t draw lines before God. You’ve got to say, “God, what do you want me to do?” And you do everything that He wants you to do exactly the way He wants you to do it.
Is He holy? Samuel wrote in I Samuel 6:20, “…Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God?” Job penned in Job 15:15, “…the heavens are not clean in his sight.” Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:3, “…Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” Now I’m asking you, is He holy to you? Or is it just religion? That’s the problem. There are a lot of independent, fundamental Baptists who have become like the main-line denominations. Oh, they’ll come to church and they’ll give their tithes, and they’ll do this or that, but He’s not their God. He’s not holy. So many times people just treat Him like a spare tire. You have a problem? Call on God. He may graciously answer your prayer, but don’t expect much when you treat Him that way. Sometimes people treat Christianity like a factory job. You kind of plug along. You’re not going to be that way if He’s holy. If He’s holy, you’re honored and so happy to be able to serve Him. That’s the way it ought to be. He ought to be high and lifted up in His holiness.
Now let me bring home a point. Seeing Him as God and coming to that place where you cross the line and fall at His feet is the key to all that’s good for you. Everything. I mentioned your family. Do you see Him as holy? If so, your marriage will be run exactly the way He wants. You won’t be saying, “Well, you don’t know my wife,” or, “You don’t know our circumstances.” No, no. If you see Him as holy, you won’t be making excuses; it will be done the Bible way. The same thing can be said about anything else. Offerings. That’s why I always say, if everybody prays, and everybody asks God what He would have them give, we will be fine. Revival? Do you see Him as holy? You’ll see revival. You’ll see it, I guarantee you.
We can look at this idea in the realm of soulwinning. Now when I’m talking about soulwinning, I’m not talking about a pep rally. Some things that are called soulwinning today are the furthest from it. It’s just a prideful thing. I’m not talking about that. But I’m talking about someone who is empowered by God to be a soulwinner and he naturally wants to spread the gospel. The first prerequisite for being a soulwinner is giving everything you have to God. Peter was not a soulwinner until this point. But when you give your all, soulwinning comes naturally. In verse 10, “And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.” Until you give yourself to God—that means you give your job to God, your house to God, your bank account to God, your family to God—until you give yourself to God, you’ll not have that longing for souls. Now when you do give your all, you’ll want to see souls saved, you’ll pray for souls to be saved, you’ll pray for the church, the pastor, the bus ministry—you’ll be excited. You see, once you give yourself to God, everything will just fall right in place. But you won’t do it until you see God’s holiness and get your worldly affairs in order.
Turn with me to Luke 16:11. This is so clear. Jesus speaking here couldn’t be any more clear if you let it sink in, “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?” You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know that unrighteous mammon is money and things. That’s what so many say is so important in our lives. Now what are the true riches? Souls, the power of God, revival, your children growing up for God, a good marriage. And doesn’t it make sense? He is saying, “If I can’t trust you with a dirty old dollar bill that’s worth nothing, how am I going to trust you with the important things? Souls! How am I going to trust you?” It’s so clear. So many people foul up in this way, and they think money is just a part of it. No, it’s not. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” You’ve got to get your money His way. Let Him take care of you. I don’t know how I can say it any better. He will take care of you so much better than you can take care of yourself. Do you believe in God or don’t you?
It is so frustrating for me as a preacher to hear some people, especially new Christians say, “Oh, pray, Preacher, that I can get a job.” We pray, and you get a job. “Oh, pray, Preacher, I need a better car.” So we pray, and you get a better car, etc., etc. But you never take care of God. You’ll be begging for a junker the rest of your life until you believe in God, not religion! You take care of God, and He’ll take care of you for an eternity. You say, “I’m afraid the country is going to fall apart.” I believe with all my heart this country is going to fall apart. “Well, how is God going to take care of us?” I don’t know how God will take care of us, but He will take care of us.
Did you know that your spirituality is directly related to your finances? It is definitely. Peter saw it. Jesus said, “Now Peter, you’re going to be able to catch men. You’re going to be a soulwinner.” And praise God, with no classes from Dr. McNeilly, no soteriology or exegesis he got up to preach, and 3,000 people were saved. No quartet jitterbugs. People think they need these shows today. No, he got up and preached in the power of God, and 3,000 people were saved, baptized, and added to the church. Do you want to see God’s blessing? See His holiness. Peter is still seeing souls saved through his ministry. But he saw that he must give himself and his resources, and then God blesses.
Now, I don’t like to fish. I’m sorry, fishermen. All my life, my friends liked to fish, and I can remember going down to Lake Michigan and waiting for the sun to come up. They would go fishing, and I’d dive in the water. They’d get so mad, they would want to beat me with their fishing rods. I cannot stand still to fish. I just can’t. I took Jeff fishing one time for ten minutes down on our lake. I couldn’t stand it. But I’ll tell you what I’d like to do. I’d like to catch a bunch of big fish. You understand the difference? That’s why I don’t like to fish. I can’t catch them. But I’d love to go out and just catch fish until my arms got so sore I couldn’t pull any more in. Let me make a point. Jesus didn’t say, “I’m going to make you a fisher of men.” Jesus said, “You’re going to catch men.” If we see His holiness and we live the life that we ought to, we will catch men.
Look at verse 11 of our text passage in chapter 5, “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” When you see it, when you really see it, it will be so exciting and so thrilling that you’ll forsake all and follow Him. I’m afraid that we let Christianity get old. We get our eyes off of Him, we forget about His holiness. We need to fall in love with Him again. We need to see His holiness again. And when we do, it’s thrilling. We’ve seen where many times some girl lives in a beautiful home, and everything is guaranteed. Of course, she has delicious food put out for her at the table, and a closet full of clothes, and her own room. It’s just nice and so secure. Then she meets a guy at Fairhaven Baptist College, and she marries him. And she doesn’t even know if she’s going to eat the next day. The old efficiency apartment is so small that the rats have to be hunch-backed to run around. He makes maybe $250, and she has to go out and supplement it. Why does a girl leave the security of Dad, where everything is there and she knows it, and go and marry some knothead who has no security whatsoever. Why? It’s called love. And we don’t get shocked at that, do we? That’s kind of normal, isn’t it?
Listen to me. That’s the way it ought to be with Jesus. When we see Him in His holiness and we fall down in front of Him in love, we’ll forsake all, too. I’m not saying that you have to quit your job. I’m not saying that you have to sell your house. But you have to say, “It is God’s. If He wants it, He can have it. If He wants me to sell the house, I’ll sell it.”
When you see it, all else will fade into oblivion. You’ll be excited to be at the prayer meetings. When we preach on giving, you’ll say, “What can I do?” When we preach on revival, you’ll say, “I believe. I want to see revival spread throughout our church.” I don’t know what your problem is, but if your wife whines, it won’t stop you. Financial pressures won’t move you. Pressures of the job—whatever it is—you’ll cry out, “Holy, holy, holy.”
It’s amazing how many people say they believe in God, but they don’t want to put too many miles on their car or put too much gas in their car for Him. You haven’t seen Him. The people who use their family as an excuse never make it. The family that will adjust its timetable for God are the ones who make it. Sometimes I hear people say, “Oh, how this person sacrificed!” I hear that and I have to try and keep a straight face. How can you ever sacrifice for God? It’s impossible. I’ll give a pocketful of dirt and exchange it for a pocketful of diamonds any day. I’ve never given anything to God that He didn’t make it better. I’ve never done anything where God didn’t improve it.
Peter said, “I see it. I understand. I see your holiness and my sinfulness.” And Jesus said, “I think you do. I’m not just your Savior, I’m your Lord.” Do you understand the difference? Peter said, “I see it.” I wonder how many people here would say, “I see it. I want to give myself to God. I want to trust Him. Whatever He says to do, I’ll do.”