Tuesday 7 August

Sam Allberry is speaking at the New Horizon evening celebrations from Monday to Thursday this week. Sam is a pastor and writer based in Maidenhead, UK, and a global speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. He is an editor and a writer for The Gospel Coalition and the author of a number books including Why Bother with Church? and the bestselling Is God Anti-Gay?  Here is a summary of his message from Tuesday evening.

Reading from Mark 1: 14-18

My prayer for myself and for you is that we would be re-introduced to Jesus. One of the dangers in the Christian life is that the good news becomes old news.

Mark’s Gospel is action-packed but Jesus didn’t just come to do miracles and to be the presence of God, He came with a message. He came with words that have utterly unique power.

One of the most stupid things to say to a child is, “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me!” Words have the capacity either to make life worth living or to utterly destroy us. We live in a world that God created by His words. Words have constructive power but can similarly be destructive.

Words matter. Some voices we incline towards and some voices we ignore. If the words of a loved one affect us deeply, how much more can the words of Jesus change our lives? We don’t actually know what Jesus sounded like. We don’t know if His voice was deep and resonant. We don’t know what accent He had. And yet His words can shape us more than any others.

Jesus’ words carry a unique message (v14 – 15) 

These are the first public words of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. v15 is Jesus’ press release and they are typical of Jesus. He is extraordinary because He is the most humble man who ever lived and yet He makes the most enormous claims about Himself.

Jesus is saying, “There is a particular shape to time. There is a time that has been anticipated and that time has now arrived.” The implication is that the time has come because He is here. He is saying, “I am what history has been leading to.” All the big-ticket items God said He was going to do in this universe will now happen because Jesus is here.

Jesus doesn’t just announce these things but He also calls for a response. Because the kingdom of heaven is at hand, then it is time to repent. The Gospel Jesus has come to share with us is going to transform our lives.

Jesus calls us to repent. The implication is not flattering. We need to turn around. He is NOT saying, “You are basically ok…” Jesus says that the whole direction of our lives needs to change.

In our local news, there was a story about a guy who had ended up driving on the wrong side of the motorway at night and clocked up two or three miles before someone managed to get him home safely. Because it was the middle of the night, there were no other cars on the road. If it had happened at rush hour, it would have been a more tragic story.

Jesus says, we are all driving the wrong way and we are about to meet the rush hour of God’s purposes coming in the opposite direction. Therefore, we need to turn around and repent. It is humbling but it is deeply affirming because it shows how precious we are to Him.

We don’t have good news without repentance. To say, “God loves you just the way you are” is only a half truth. That God loves us as we are is a sign of His grace. He doesn’t wait for us to be ready for Him. He doesn’t wait for us to be worthy of Him. But He loves us too much to leave us as we are now.

Repentance is not the pre-condition for the Gospel. (If I really repent, then God will love me.) It is not the condition for God’s love but the fruit of it! The Gospel says, enables us to repent.

We need to hear this message daily, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Whose voice are you prioritising over the voice of Jesus? As you wake up, which are the voices you instinctively incline your heart to? Do you reach for the phone? Do you turn on the radio? Or is our first instinct to yearn for the voice of Jesus? To start the day with His voice uppermost?

The words of Jesus call for a unique response (v16 -19)

Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  We were thinking last night that Christianity is about a person. It is not primarily a set of religious practices, moral choices, etc., it is devotion to Jesus.

When I think about my Christian life, I tend to think about my activity… am I going to church, am I reading my Bible, etc. All of these are great things but the more important questions are, “Do I love Jesus? Am I devoted to Him? Do I love Him more than I used to?”

Jesus calls His disciples to Himself but He also calls them to service.  A commitment to Jesus always goes together with a commitment to His mission. Some people try to follow Jesus without serving Him. Others try to serve Him without following Him. Too often we love what we do for Him more than we love Him. Jesus calls us to become fishers of men.

I’m not a fisherman. I like water. I like boats. But when it comes to flicking a long stick with a long string and hook – that gets tricky.  The one thing I do know is that fish don’t want to be caught! Fish don’t want to be fished and nor do people. But there is a very significant difference. What you are trying to do with the fish is in no way in the fish’s best interest! Even if you throw it back, it is traumatising.

But when it comes to the work of Jesus, it is different.  There is nothing better than to introduce someone to Jesus Christ.

Fishing seems to me to be a wonderful opportunity to sit by water and do nothing. It is not labour intensive. That tells me something about the kingdom of God.  Fishing is going to take time. Jesus says, “I will make you become fishers of men.” This is not something we are all intrinsically good at. There is no place for pride. We need Jesus to help us become fishers of men. If God uses us in any way to bring people to Jesus, it is because Jesus has done that.

But there is also no place for saying, “That is not for me.” All of us need Jesus to develop this work in us.  A sign that we follow Jesus is that we love His work and His mission.

Look at the response – v18 says “immediately they left their nets.” v19 says “immediately they left their father.” Jesus is not saying that we should abandon our responsibilities. The point He is making is that when we follow Him, we have a dramatic new allegiance. We don’t add Him to all our other commitments. He doesn’t call us to fit Him in somewhere. He is calling us to put Him first – before our work, our family, our security and so on. When it comes to Jesus, anything else that was once first should be, at best, a very distant second.

During the crusades, some of the solders held their swords above their heads when they were getting baptised.  It was as if to say they were giving themselves to Jesus but not their swords… not that part of their life.

I love to offer hospitality to people but I am not the tidiest of people. Ten minutes before my guests arrive, I gather all the mess I can find, shove it in the spare room and close the door. The whole house is available to my guests, except that one room. That works with guests but not with Jesus.

Jesus calls us to yield everything to Him. He asks for nothing less. He is worthy of nothing less.

If we had an iota of common sense, we would say, “Jesus, I need you in every area. Please come on in.” But we hold back. We don’t follow Him fully. We try to fit Him in.

These disciples followed Jesus immediately… there were no ifs or buts… there was no putting it off. As soon as they received the call, they obeyed it. If Jesus is putting His finger on something in your life, NOW is the time to respond. Whatever it is, NOW is the best time. Nothing will be better by you deferring obedience to what Jesus is asking of you.

One of the most dangerous habits we can get into it to delay obedience.  The longer we leave our response to Jesus, the harder it gets. The  fact that Jesus is calling us t, means that He is giving us the ability to come to Him. The danger is that if we take His invitation and say, “That doesn’t fit in just yet,” we may find that Jesus withdraws the capacity to respond and our hearts become hardened.

Discipleship is total and it is urgent. What could be better than having Jesus in control of our lives?

Whose voice are you prioritising over Jesus’? Whose voice are you letting control your life? Who are you giving power and authority to? Whose approval weighs more heavily on your consciousness than that of Jesus? Who do you want to obey and please more than Jesus?

Jesus words call for a unique response because He is unique. No one else has the right to ask of you what He is asking. You put anyone else in that place, it will not go well for you.

One of the things that is so beautiful about Jesus is that He knows us far better than we know ourselves. He is more committed to your ultimate joy that you are. We need to cherish His words! That is the same voice that spoke of a cross awaiting for Him in Jerusalem. It is the same voice that spoke of a ransom that would be paid for you. It is the same voice that spoke of the empty grave. It is the same voice that said, “Your sins are forgiven.” What voice could possibly matter more than His?