The Savior Who Forgives

Steve Viars April 7, 2007 John 21:1-19

 

- This morning if I asked you to begin our time by picturing your favorite breakfast, what would come to your mind?...

 - perhaps you just have simple tastes...so cereal is your breakfast of choice...there’s nothing wrong with that...

- but if it’s your “favorite breakfast”...hopefully we can do better than that...

- how about these guys?...can you just see that big pad of butter starting to melt?...and on the screen, that thing has to be 4 inches wide...

- maybe you’re more of a cinnamon roll person...nothing wrong with that...

- would you like to see one of those up close and personal?...

- by the way, I hope you had your breakfast this morning...

- now, you might say...I’m a straight up bacon and eggs kind of person...

- we’ve got one of those too...

- with some sausage thrown in there too to help you with that problem of your cholesterol being too low...

- now, have I hit the basics?...have we covered everybody’s favorite breakfast?...

- of course not...we’re not anywhere close to a person’s breakfast of choice, especially on Easter morning...

- because this morning, we’d all agree, would we not, that a person’s favorite breakfast would be...

...or maybe this...

...or this...

- I would like to suggest to you this morning that for one man in the Bible, these last 3 pictures would have reminded him of the best breakfast He ever had...not necessarily because of how it tasted (though I am sure it was delicious), but because of who prepared it, and what it represented...

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible to John chapter 21?...[page 90 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- our church’s theme this year is Reaching New Heights...

- we’ve chosen that because we see this as a crucial and exciting time in the history of our church...

- the community center is within weeks now of being finished...this week they were sanding the new hardwood in the gym...that is a very good sign...

- we’ve applied for all the permits for Vision of Hope, our ministry for at-risk girls struggling with unplanned pregnancies, drug/alcohol abuse, eating disorders and self-harm...and although a lot of details need to come together, we’ve planned a ground-breaking ceremony for April 26th...

- everything is right on schedule for the beginning of our new seminary to provide training for people who desire to serve the Lord in full time ministry...

- all of this flows out of a desire to serve the Lord more effectively in the days ahead by meeting the needs of those around us...we sincerely want to reach new heights...

- during this Easter season, we’ve been concentrating on Reaching New Heights in Our Love for the Savior.

- we recognize that busyness and activity is meaningless unless it is built on a growing love for Christ, and a sincere love for people...

- we agree with the apostle Paul when he said...1 Corinthians 13:1 - If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

- so for the last several weeks we have been studying through John chapters 18-21 and thinking about the last days of Jesus Christ...events which certainly should motivate us to grow in our love for Him...

- chapter 18 began with the story of Judas, so we organized our thoughts around the concept of The Savior Who Was Betrayed...

- then there’s the sad story of Peter, so we thought about The Savior Who Was Denied.

- Chapter 18 ended with details about The Savior Who Was Rejected.

-  in chapter 19, the wicked treatment of Christ intensifies...so we focused on The Savior Who Was Mocked.

 - last Sunday we thought about one of the most hideous words in the English language or any language...the word “crucified”...thinking about The Savior Who Died...

- for those of you who have been there for all of these messages, you know that this has been a challenging study in many ways...while these passages motivate us to love Christ more supremely...at the same time they are deeply disturbing...

- but thank the Lord the story didn’t end with Christ’s death...because by time we get to John 21, Christ has arisen...and He’s appeared to several groups of people...and the promises and prophecies of the OT that were at times obscure and hard to understand now come together with incredible and breathtaking clarity...

- but a few crucial questions remain...like “what happens to Peter”...

- after his colossal failures both in the Garden and at the trials...what happens to him?...

- the answer is...its time for breakfast...

- read John 21:1-19

- this past month it was important for us to think about the Savior who was betrayed, and was denied, and was rejected, and was mocked, and who died...

- but thank the Lord now we can talk about...The Savior Who Forgives...

- John 21 is a marvelous passage of Scripture not only because its a great story though it is surely that...but it is especially important because it contains crucial truth for people who want to grow in their relationship with the Lord...who are serious about reaching new heights...

- let’s spend the rest of our time thinking about...Three lessons from the restoration of Peter.

I. Sometimes you Have to Come to the End of Yourself before You See the Need for Forgiveness.

- events never occur in a vacuum...Peter would not have been ready for this kind of interchange...and this kind of advancement, were it not for what had already occurred...

- please think for a minute about...

A. Putting this breakfast in context.

- if you are new to studying the Bible, you may not know that Peter’s former occupation was that of a commercial fisherman...in fact that was true of many of the disciples...

- when Christ called Peter, it was in a similar situation, where he had been out fishing and caught nothing...

- you read about this in Luke 5 which tells us that they had been fishing at night and now were cleaning their nets and Jesus had been teaching a group of people at the seashore...but the crowd became so large that Jesus asked Peter to take him out in the boat so he could teach the people from there...

- so Peter did, and then Christ told him to go out to the deep water and let out your nets for a catch...

- you just hear Peter saying...typical preacher—thinks he knows everything about everything---you don’t fish at this time of day, you don’t fish in the deep water...this is going to be an utter waste of time...

- but just to humor the Lord, he did it...do you remember what happened?...

- Luke 5:6-7 - When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink.

- do you remember how Peter responded to that?...Luke 5:8 - But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

- Do you remember what Jesus said?...

- Luke 5:10 - Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.

- that was a common phrase in that day...but the point was, the things I’ve just been teaching on the seashore...you are now going to part of the team to give that truth to others...to feed them with the Word just as I have done...

- and do you remember how they responded...

- Luke 5:11 - When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

- they burned their bridges not because there was anything wrong with being a commercial fisherman, but Christ had clearly called them to something else...

- it was no accident that Jesus’ breakfast of choice was...fish.

- there are other aspects of the context that play into this story...

- in the Upper room when Jesus explained to the disciples that they would all forsake Him—they would all fall away...

- Peter said...though the rest of these will fall away, I will not...

- it wasn’t long after that Peter fell asleep in the Garden when Christ asked him to stay awake and pray with Him...

- then he failed in the Garden by becoming enraged and cutting off the ear of one of the soldiers...

- then of course he denied the Lord three times...

- and even after the resurrection...when he saw the empty tomb, Scripture reports Peter still, at that time, did not believe...

- when the first women arrived at the tomb, they were told by an angel to give a message to the disciples...meet the Lord at the Sea of Galilee...but they didn’t go...

- then Jesus Himself told them to get up to the Sea of Galilee...and they finally did it...and guess what, Jesus isn’t there...so what does Peter say?...I’m going fishing!

- now one of the questions that is often discussed about this part of the story is...

B. Was Peter wrong for going fishing?

- and please keep in mind---this wasn’t sport fishing...they weren’t on vacation, passion the time so they went to get a few walleye...

- they had nets...they were returning, in one way or another to their former life and occupation...

- and I think we have to acknowledge...the text doesn’t say for sure that they were wrong to go fishing...but we do know this...

1.  Christ's original call involved Peter leaving his nets and becoming a fisher of men.

- he is certainly not fulfilling the call he’s been given...

- and why not?...we don’t know for sure...but there is this huge issue hanging over him...he failed, miserably (can anybody here relate to that?)...so what happens now?...that question remains to be answered...

- another observation we could make is...

2.  There is no hint of prayer, study, or consideration of God's will.

- this appears to be another example of Peter making an impulsive decision.

…enough of this guilt, enough of this uncertainty, enough of this messing up…I'm outa here, and anyone who wants to come can come.

- a third strong reason to believe Peter's action were displeasing to God was…

3.  Their approach wasn't working very well.

- verse 3 tolls a bell that too many fishermen have heard too often…

- they toiled all night, and they caught nothing.

- and I'm not saying that if you're living for God, you'll always catch fish…or that things will always go your way…

- but there's clearly a contrast in this passage between receiving God's blessings and not receiving God's blessings…

- and at this point of the story…they are certainly in the "not" category.

- and of course that was pointed out by Jesus calling out to them from shore, and the NASB is probably right when it translates his words as a statement---"Children, you don't have any fish, do you…."

- now, does anybody here think that all of this happened by accident?...

- what an unusual coincidence---professional fisherman didn’t catch a thing back in Luke 5 when they were first called to follow Christ...and now on this particular night they didn’t catch anything either...dumb luck...

- what’s the principle?

C. Emptiness is often the vehicle God uses to draw people to Himself.

- that is why God has built cause and effect into His world...

- Galatians 6:7 - Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.

- Proverbs 13:15 - ...the way of transgressors is hard.

- why?...to help us see our need for forgiveness...

- God designed human beings to experience and enjoy a personal relationship with Him.

- as intimate and life sustaining as a vine and its branches.

- but sin separates us from that…it takes us off track…we're fooled into believing we're stronger than we really are, and smarter than we really are, and more self-sufficient than we really are.

- Psalm 127:1-2 – Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.  It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.

- sometimes the most gracious thing God can do for you is to not allow your steps away from Him and Hid will to work...

- Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?...

- this gets at a significant aspect of our ministry philosophy to our community...just be ready with the compassion and trust of Christ when somebody’s net is empty...

- Do you remember right at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry...He was asked to read a particular passage from the OT...and He selected Isa. 61:1...

- Luke 4:18-19 – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.

- do you remember what happened next?...He sat down, and then said...”today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”...

- Jesus is in the business of helping people who come to the place of realizing that their nets are really empty...

II. God Stands Ready to Show You His Power to Forgive.

- Now I realize that somebody might say...Happy Easter to you too, PV...I came here for some encouragement and you just reminded me how empty things can be....

- wait a minute...please keep this in mind...their nets did not stay empty...not by a long shot...and the principle is...

A. Success is often closer than you realize.

- Warren Wiersbe – “The difference between success and failure was the width of the ship.  We are never far from success when we permit Jesus to give the orders...”

- Jesus wasn’t there to simply remind them that life without Him didn’t work, He was there to offer than a better alternative...

- cast your net on the right side of the boat...

- John 21:6 – ...So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of the fish.

- verse 11 tells us that later, when they finally got them to land, they counted them and there were 153 great fish...

- that by the way is just another example of why we believe the Bible is true---there are so many details in Scripture...the exact number they counted...and you can tell fishermen were involved because they wanted everybody to understand that these were big fish...

- what’s the lesson?...

B. God loves to deal in abundance.

- and somebody might say...but you don’t understand how messed up my life is...

- or someone else might say---do you folks realize how dysfunctional this culture is and you are on purpose following a ministry philosophy that extends an open welcome to anybody from this community regardless of their past?...yes, and here’s why...

- Romans 5:20 - ...But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

- please don’t tell anybody later that we talked about fish this morning...

- we didn’t talk about a lot of fish, we talked about a lot of grace...God loves to deal in abundance...

- and abundant...strength...that’s why the apostle Paul says... Ephesians 3:20 - Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

- and abundant life...John 10:10 - “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

- God wanted Peter to understand that there was something far bigger in this picture than his failure...it was the marvelous grace of Christ...

- that is the beauty of the heinous price that had to be paid that we have studied the last 5 weeks...

- because when a bill is paid that completely, and that sufficiently---then there is plenty of grace to go around...

- now, please note this...

C. God allows you, and calls you, to do your part.

- they still had to cast their nets...they had to do what He said...

- and they had to haul the fish in...

- and isn’t it an amazing detail---that even though Jesus had the breakfast cooking when they got to the shore, He said in verse 11...

- John 21:10 - Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.”

- isn’t that fascinating?...it’s not like Jesus was embarrassed because He didn’t realize so many people were coming...

- what an incredible balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility...

- what does that have to do with the forgiveness process?...

1. If you are not yet a follower of Christ...you have to take a step toward Him...

- it is called repentance and faith....it is called admitting that your sin has separated you from Him...

- it’s called admitting that you need a Savior and a Lord...

- God stands ready to adopt you into His family, but you have to cast the net...[develop the gospel, exact steps to take...]

2. Christian friend...if in a particular situation you are need of forgiveness...

- perhaps you are displeasing God in some way...He’ll forgive you, but you have to do your part...

- you have to be willing to admit your sin to Him and the appropriate people...[Prov 28:13, I John 1:9]...

- you also have to be willing to work at what we studied last week...to put that to death...

- cf. story of Nell Hamm...

3. Then you have to do your part of getting the help you need to change in both the inner and outer man so that you can begin putting on new life in Him..

- now, you might say...well, God is not exactly filling people’s nets with fish in this day and age...

- true, but He can certainly evidence His power through forgiving/changing people...

- now, where does this story end?

III. Forgiven People Still have a Place in the Plan and Program of God.

- the tenderness in this passage is instructive...

- Come and dine Jesus says in verse 12...

- I agree with Warren Wiersbe who said…"How loving of Jesus to feed Peter before He dealt with his spiritual needs.  He gave Peter opportunity to dry off, get warm, satisfy his hunger, and enjoy personal fellowship.  This is a good example for us to follow as we care for God's people.  Certainly the spiritual is more important than the physical, but caring for the physical can prepare the way for spiritual ministry.  Our Lord does not so emphasize the soul that he neglects the body."

- this too goes at the very heart of our community based ministry strategy...

- after breakfast, Jesus and Peter have a conversation...

- what Peter did cannot be ignored...there has to be some kind of restoration...

- and so the Lord asks Him three times, Simon, do you love me?...

- I wonder why He asked Him three times?...because Peter denied Him three times...

- and you may know if you have studied this before that, though this conversation probably occurred in Aramaic, we have it recorded in Greek...

- and the Greek word Jesus uses in His first 2 questions is a form of agapa – sacrificial, committed love...

- Peter responds with phileo...friendship love, less intense but still important...

- also Jesus uses different words regarding ministry...tending His lambs, and tending His sheep...

- and we could make some observations about the differences...but let’s focus on the main emphasis...

- ultimately Peter had to come back to his first love...

- at their very core, Peter’s lapses had been because of a lack of love...

- and there wouldn’t be any future ministry of any kind that was effective unless it was built on a foundation of love for Christ...

- that’s why for the last 6 weeks we’ve been talking about reaching new heights in our love for the Savior...

- and friend, can I just ask you...how are doing regarding your love for Christ?...

- is there a significant place in your heart, and your life, and your schedule for Him?...

- and then he’s restored to ministry...feed my lambs, feed my sheep...

- thank God that His grace includes the opportunity of usefulness regardless of ones past...

- now, that doesn’t necessarily mean the ministry God has for forgiven people will be easy...

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video