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Got any fish?

John 21 recalls a story for us from the lives of the early followers of Jesus. It is a monumental time. They are still very much in the middle of self-imposed lockdown. As far as the Jewish authorities are concerned, they were members of a Jewish sect intent on bringing the Temple and the Torah into disrepute. Their leader, the latest in a long line of would-be messiahs, had just been killed for daring to claim to be not only the promised saviour of Israel, but even God!

Then 3 days after His death, something insane happened. Stories began to emerge about Jesus being alive. The disciples had watched Him die, and seen the body buried. Then Jesus appeared to them. They were eye-witnesses to the most incredible event in human history.

However, the chapter opens with the disciples on the shores of Galilee, far from Jerusalem. Simon Peter, the fisherman, decided he just wanted to some alone time; to just get into a boat, do a little fishing and maybe clear his head. He had seen Jesus often do this. Get away from the others for a while. He wouldn't have to manage the facade and pretend he was super-positive. He could just be alone, with God. Silence and solitude. No talking, just alone on a boat, casting his nets and listening to the waves as they lapped against the sides of the boat, creating space to think and for God to speak into.

I remember a similar moment, many years ago. It was a spring morning in 1989, and 6am found me sitting in a boat in the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, looking out over the water in silence, as the sun came up. It was a beautiful, serene moment, waiting for the small-mouth bass to bite. I think that was maybe what Peter had been after.

But, as soon as the others heard his idea (v3), a few of them wanted to tag along. I wonder what Peter thought as 7 of them set out to fish? We don’t know how long they’d been out, but John tells us that come the early morning, they had caught nothing.

Then they hear a voice call from the shore, "You got any fish, lads?" "No," they replied. "Throw your nets over on the other side of the boat and you'll get some," the man suggested.

Despite being too far out to see it was Jesus that was calling them, and probably being exhausted, they did as He said. Before they knew it, their nets were bursting at the weight of all the fish. Jesus asked them to bring some of the fish, but when they arrived to where Jesus was, He already had a fire going and had fish and bread on it.

As I read this, I was struck by how this is such a beautiful picture of our walk with Jesus.

They were failing completely to catch anything, but as soon as they 'did what Jesus said,' they found His provision for them was more than enough.

We can lose sight of this simple truth so easily. When we allow our lives to be controlled by something other than the words of Jesus, living as Christians can become very complicated. I remember growing up in a town where the swings in the playgrounds were chained up by the local council on a Sundays. Others, like church organisations place so many requirements on us. Jesus knew people like that. They had Him killed, because He challenged their stranglehold on how people could come to God. Then again, on the other side of things, we have others who think the answers lie with the latest trends sweeping the Church.

But the simplicity of the Gospel is that Jesus proclaimed "The Kingdom of the heavens is at hand..." It was to be found in Him and only Him. Jesus asked us to obey Him, if we wanted to be His disciples. The word 'disciple' can be a confusing word, because it's meaning has gotten blurred over the years. A word we know today that is a better fit for the original meaning is "apprentice," or "follower." Someone who 'followed' a teacher spent time with him and learned not only his teaching, but also how to model his or her life on that of their teacher.

Jesus was showing His followers that in the midst of trying to do things their own way, they need to continue to be led by His words to them. They needed to "abide" (or stay close) to Him, to spend time with Him, and be guided by His words to them.

Jesus not only provided for them, but He also provided a way for them to growth, by allowing them to participate "with Him" in the provision of the meal.

Now, don't get me wrong. We don't 'help' in any way in our salvation. That is by "grace alone." As Dallas Willard used to say,

"Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning."

In 2 Peter 1:2-11, Peter tells us that it is...

"...through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord" that grace and peace are multiplied in our lives, and again in (v3) he said...

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence..." (ESV)

And as we read on, we see that in (v5, 10) Peter used the greek work "spoude" which is often translated as "diligence" or "to make every effort" to encourage us to not just cruise through life on autopilot, but to actively participate with the work that Jesus is wanting to do in our lives.

It is the simplest thing we can do, yet it is the most difficult, because we always feel like we have to somehow "earn" the love of God.

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge..." 1 Peter 2:5 (ESV)

"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." 1 Peter 2:10 (ESV)

Peter isn't talking about making sure we are saved here. That has been paid for in full, by the death of Jesus on the cross, but instead, he is talking about making sure that our daily walk with Jesus reflects that fact. An old word we used when i was growing up in church was "sanctification." Its the idea that as we partner with Jesus in our daily lives, listening to and being obediant to His words, we will find He is changing us, through the work of the Holy Spirit who now lives in us since the very moment we accepted Jesus as our Lord.

This post is a little longer than the previous ones. To be honest, this has just been perculating for a couple of week in my soul. I've really felt the Lord Jesus wanted me to share this, knowing that the right person will see it and be blessed by it.

I've seen the damage that religion can do to people and want to be able to help others who might be battling with acceptance. Maybe feeling they will never measure up or be good enough. Or perhaps that God could never forgive you for the things you've done.

If that's you, then you're in good company because none of us will ever measure up. I recently had someone tell me that they were a better person that I was. To be honest, it didn't annoy me as much as sadden me, because when one twig measures itself against another twig, instead of the oak tree, something is kinda wrong with their point of reference.

We are all the same in God's eyes and He doesn't care what you have done compared to someone else who might want to rub your nose in your failures. All He asks you to do is be "with Him, learning to be like Him." Spend time with Him. Read His word and get to know Jesus. Stay with Him, and "learn" of Him. Walk with Jesus and learn what it means to be his "apprentice." One day at a time. You'll be amazed how God will bless you as you partner with Him through life.

Grace and Peace,

The With Jesus Life.


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