The Purpose of the Net

October 2, 2011

This is week two in this particular scripture.  We started last week looking at verses 11 and 12, how Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers had been given as a gift to the church for a purpose.  Ephesians 4:12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.   And we took most of our time looking at the word equip.  And explained how in the original language that word implied a restoration.  It was sometimes used to explain how a broken bone would be knit back together in the healing process, but there was another way this word was used.  In the book of Mark when the various apostles are being introduced we read this Mark 1:19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets.   The word that Mark uses here for “repairing” is the same word that is used by Paul when he talks about “equipping.” 
And the thought is fixing, mending, restoring. 
And so last week I spoke about how our lives were like fishing nets, that they came from the manufacturer whole, complete.  But they didn’t stay that way, as a result of doing what nets are supposed to do that nets often get broken, the mesh frays and sometimes they break.  In the same way our lives take a beating through the everyday wear and tear that comes with life. 
And there are other times that it’s not the little things that wear on nets, sometimes instead of small tears and frays happening to the net it will catch on something or twist the wrong way and all of a sudden the hole is that much bigger.  I told you last week how a fishing boat from Grand Manan ended up with a whale in its fishing net and the whale decided it didn’t want to be in the fishing net and so it left, resulting in a really big hole in the net. 
And maybe you’ve experienced a whale going through the net of your life, a death, a disease or some other devastation.  If that has happened to you then you don’t need me to explain it to you.
And then we talked about how nets couldn’t be left un-mended because the strain would make the holes bigger and the net weaker.  And there are no such things as self-mending nets, at least none that I’ve heard of.   And it’s the same with life, if we want to be all that God wants us to be we have to allow ourselves to be mended.  And I can’t do it for you, and you’ve already figured out that you can’t do it by yourself it’s going to have to be done with God’s help.
And then I spoke about how mended nets are like new again, they weren’t replaced but they were restored. And often times the repairs were stronger than the original net, because new twine had been used and they had been tied off by hand and not by machine.  
Of course the analogy here is that regardless of our past God can make us like new again.  In the Psalms David wrote   Psalm 51:7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.   And again in Psalm 103:12 He (God) has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.   And that is not as far as the east coast is from the west coast instead it is as far as the east is from the west.  Back in the Eighties Madonna had one of her first big hits with the song “Like a virgin” and it said “Like a virgin touched for the very first time.”   And while it’s not the intent of the song it is a pretty good analogy for the forgiveness of God.
And that brings us to the big question:  So what?  I mean, really isn’t that the question, that even if you don’t verbalize it, you ask yourself every time you hear a sermon preached?  It is for me, I want to know “How does this apply to me?” “What is the take home here?”
Mark 1:19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. Why were James and John mending their nets?  So they could use them again.  Nets are mended so they can be used for their intended purpose, so they can be nets.  And the purpose of a net is to catch things; fish, butterflies, golf balls and apparently legs.  I was looking for a video that showed how fishing nets were mended and if you put in the phrase “mending fish nets”  you get all kinds of interesting videos. 
So why does God mend the lives of Christ Followers?
Let’s go back to last week’s scripture again, Ephesians 4:11-12 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
So what is the work that God’s people are supposed to do?  And how does that work build up the church, the body of Christ?  Is it the things we do as Christians?  All the little tasks and minutia that is required to operate the church and make an impact on our community?  Is it my task to equip you so you can do the various things listed on the back of the blue form that you were handed when you came in this morning? 
Is that the work of God’s people?  The question “what is work and what is not work?’  has stymied us for thousands of years.
And while it doesn’t have much to do with this message I think this is a great quote by Calvin Coolidge who was the 30th American President, and while it doesn’t really apply to the message it is very relevant in light of the US economy  “When more and more people are thrown out of work, unemployment results.”
And so here it is, this is one of my deep thoughts so hang on, you might want to write it down so you don’t forget it.  You see, if the net is restored so it can do its work, what work does it do?  It fulfils its purpose and therefore the work of the net is being a net.
And so the purpose and therefore the work of God’s people is being God’s people.  Did you catch that?  The work of God’s people is being God’s people.  And what does that entail?  Well for that we need to move on to the next two verses.  Ephesians 4:13-14 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.
Now at first glance there appears to be three thoughts here as to what the work is that we are being prepared for.  So thought one is Ephesians 4:13 -14This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children.  And this is being mature in our Christian faith.  Thought two is in the middle Ephesians 4:13-14 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children.  So measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ, being like Christ or Christ like.   And then for many the third complete thought comes in Ephesians 4:14 . .  We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. That as a result of our maturity we won’t be blown about or tricked. 
Those aren’t three distinct thoughts but instead it is one thought which is simply expanded on and defined.  We mature in our Christian faith so that we can be more Christ Like and then because we are more Christ like we won’t be tossed and blown by every new teaching. 
There is a Process  We grow into our maturity.  Throughout the scriptures the analogy of our Christian life is that it begins with a new birth and then we grow in our faith and our knowledge.  Sometimes we expect instant maturity in ourselves or in others but that is never implied in the scripture, either in theory or practice.  Christ didn’t demand that the 12 have all the answers right away and He didn’t expect that they would have great faith from the get go.  They spent three years with Jesus and at the end of three years they still hadn’t gotten it right.  But somehow we have come to the conclusion that we should have Christian maturity instantaneously
When Paul tells the Christ Followers in Ephesus Then we will no longer be immature like children.  The implication is that there is a time that we are immature like children.  But the implication is also there that this is not the preferred state of our Christian life.  In the same way that we expect our children to grow up, and it concerns us when they don’t it is expected that we grow and mature in our Christian faith.
In life maturity isn’t something that happens in isolation, we have parents and teachers to guide us along that path.  It is never expected that we will just “grow up” without any help. And that help ranges from basic behaviour, like brushing our teeth and wearing clean clothes to acquiring the knowledge we will need to function in this world.  Imagine not knowing how to read or write, not being able to do basic math or trying to function without at least a rudimentary grasp of human history.
If we are to grow up in our Christian faith we will need instruction as well.  Instructions on how to behave, what is appropriate and what is inappropriate behaviour for a Christ follower, and we need to get over the entire “Don’t judge me” thing. 
It is not judging when we tell our children to wash their hands after going to the bathroom and to brush their teeth and to be polite and to do their homework.  In the same breath it’s not judging when we tell new believers that Christ expects us to behave a certain way, and the bible spells that out for us.  And that happens in community.  The old adage “It takes a village to raise a child” is true in our Christian faith as well.  It takes a community to raise a Christian. 
We learn by watching others but in our life there is formal teaching as well and that hold true for us as Christians.  And that happens on Sunday morning, and it happens in small groups and it happens individually when we read about Christianity. 
And I’ve talked about this before, it’s not just reading anything, I firmly believe that we will gain the most wisdom from reading books.  For thousands of years wisdom has been passed down in books of one kind or another and it is no different today.  And I know there are folks who say “I read newspapers and magazines.”  That’s not the same, they are great for news and entertainment but that’s not where you find wisdom.  Can you remember the last time you were reading a periodical and had an eureka moment? 
And don’t even get me going on the “I read what I need online.”  That is like approaching a total stranger and asking for their advice, you have no idea what they know or don’t know, what their background is or for that matter who they are.
I am constantly amazed by people look for medical advice on the internet.  It was Mark Twain who said “Beware of health books. You might die of a misprint.”
We encourage children and teenagers to read all through their school years and if they don’t like reading or don’t enjoy reading we want them to have remedial help.  When does that change?  And why do people brag about not reading?  I hear people say “I haven’t read a book since I finished university.”  That is nothing to brag about. 
If you just don’t like reading or you struggle with it, consider audio books.  They are available from the library or you can purchase them and listen to them in your car or while you walk or work in the garden.  I love to read but there are some authors that I get the audio books and listen to them because it’s just easier for me.
We should know more about Christ and Christianity today than we did a year ago and we should know more next year than we know now.  Do we? It was J. Vernon McGee who said “We are not to act like a bunch of nitwits today.”
And the unity that is spoken of here is exactly that, unity, not uniformity but unity.  Because as long as we are individuals we are going to look at things differently.  And we aren’t going to agree on every doctrine and theology.   And that is all right, seriously it is.    Supposedly it was Augustine who said “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”  That’s not bad advice, what is it that is important to us as a church, what are the essentials?
In my life I have decided what is really important, the things that I will fight for in my faith are those things spelled out in the Apostles Creed. And what are those?  Glad you asked.
The Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord: Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.  The third day He arose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Church Universal the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.
So there are some essentials in there that make a church a Christian Church.  Belief in God and the divinity of Jesus Christ, in the Trinity, in the virgin birth of Christ, of his death and resurrection and the reality of heaven and hell. 
Along with a process There is a Purpose our Christian life would be meaningless unless we were striving toward something, and contrary to popular belief what we are striving toward is not heaven.   Ephesians 4:13This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.  What is the result of unity in our faith, knowledge of God’s son and maturity in the Lord?  It is so we will measure up to the complete standard of Christ.  So we will become Christ-like or like Christ. After all if we follow Christ it is expected that we will be like Christ.  Does that make sense?  And the only way we can know what Christ was like was by knowing his story, by reading the Gospels.  In a couple of weeks we are going to focus in on the Gospel of Mark and the story of Jesus that is told there.
You understand that the world thinks that being a Christ follower means that we become like Christ as well.  Read a couple of things this week that brought that home.  The first was an excerpt from the Colbert Report when Steve Colbert asked the question “If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
And then in relation to the debate over Capital Punishment in the States I saw this banner over an article I was reading “Who Would Jesus Execute?”  Makes you think doesn’t it?  Or at least it should. 
And so our purpose, what we are striving for as Christ Followers is to be like Christ, teaching as he taught, loving as he loved, getting angry over what angered him and yes Jesus did get angry. 
But we will never know him until we meet him and spend time with him.  And that goes back to the process or gaining knowledge about God and his son.
There is a Product So the process, which is to learn and mature leads us to our Purpose which is to become like Christ.  And because we have learnt about God, because we have become mature in our faith, because we seek to emulate Christ there is an end result. 
Listen to what Paul told the believers in Ephesus.  Ephesians 4:14 . . . We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth.   The product is stability in our Christian life. 
When we know what we believe and we know why we believe it.  When we have matured in our faith and become Christ like then we have set our roots deep and strong. 
Paul talks about two things that believers have to be leery of, the first is “New Teaching”.  It always strikes me as slightly suspicious when all of a sudden someone is all excited about a new work, or teaching or doctrine.  For some reason, after 2000 years of Christian history there is something new that had been missed by Augustine and Tertullian, Calvin, Luther and Wesley and a plethora of others.
And the other thing that Paul warns those early believer about were people who sought to trick them.  It is an interesting word that Paul uses here, it refers to someone who gambles with loaded dice.  And the picture is of someone who uses words like crooked dice, they look all right but they aren’t.  And the only defence for this is knowing what we are supposed to know. 
I read years ago that the way they trained people to be able to detect counterfeit bills wasn’t by schooling them in what fake bills looked and felt like, it was by teaching them what the real thing was supposed to feel like and look like.
The question is Can you tell the real thing when you see it?  And that will only happen when you know what you believe and why you believe it.