Kevin W. Bounds

Pastor and Writer

JESUS USES EMPTY VESSELS:

A SERMON ON THE CALL OF THE DISCIPLES IN LUKE 5:1-11

           By Kevin W. Bounds


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Introduction

DETOUR

The year was 1920. The scene was the examining board for selecting missionaries. Standing before the board was a young man named Oswald Smith. One dream dominated his heart. He wanted to be a missionary. Over and over again, he prayed, “Lord, I want to go as a missionary for you. Open a door of service for me.” Now, at last, his prayer would be answered. When the examination was over, the board turned Oswald Smith down. He did not meet their qualifications. He failed the test. Oswald Smith had set his direction, but now life gave him a detour. What would he do? As Oswald Smith prayed, God planted another idea in his heart. If he could not go as a missionary, he would build a church which could send out missionaries. And that is what he did. Oswald Smith pastored The People’s Church in Toronto, Canada, which sent out more missionaries than any other church at that time. Oswald Smith brought God into the situation, and God transformed his detour into a main thoroughfare of service. [1]

Brian L. Harbour, Rising Above the Crowd.

 Empty Nets (vv. 1-2)

  1. Jesus uses seemingly empty experiences to advance his purposes.
  2. Jesus was continuing his itinerant preaching ministry. At this point, Jesus was proclaiming the gospel to those around the lake of Gennesaret. (1)
  3. In a day without megaphones, microphones, or public address systems, the crowd inched closer and closer to hear the words of the grace that flowed from the Messiah’s mouth. In my imagination, I can see Christ being pushed to the water’s edge as the crowd thronged him. To the point, that he begins to look around to find a boat to put some distance between him and the mass of people. This was a common practice of teachers in this day because this would produce an amphitheater-like effect.
  4. Remember God uses circumstances to advance his purposes. In this case, he used nets that returned empty from the night before.
  5. In verse 2, Luke records that the boats were empty because the fisherman “were washing their nets. As the story develops, Luke records this ship is Simon’s and that they had “toiled all night” (v. 5) and had nothing to show for it.
  6. However, the disciples would not have been in the position they were to hear Christ teaching on the shoreline, had they caught fish the night before because they more than likely would have gone to the market to sell their catch. This also means that the boats would not have been in a position to be used by Christ either. Thus, meaning some in the crowd would not have been able to hear the message.
  7. I am certain Simon (Peter) and the other disciples were discouraged after coming back from fishing empty handed. But had they not experienced the seemingly empty experience in the night, they would have missed out on an encounter with Jesus in the morning.
  8. “… weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. Psalm 30:5 (KJV)
  9. You may be experiencing a season of seemingly empty toil in your life, but God may be positioning you for a miraculous encounter.
  10. Joseph may have wondered many times what God was up to. And Moses’ forty years on the backside of the desert probably felt like a season of barrenness. But God was positioning them with purpose. He was directing their destiny despite the drought.
  11. Jesus used the empty nets to prepare the boat to be ready for launch!

Empty Boats (vv. 3-7)

  1. Notice in verse 3, Jesus uses the empty boat to bring Simon (Peter) a little closer to him. At first, the fisherman was washing his nets in failure. However, this failure set him up to get closer to the one that has never known defeat.
  2. After being in the boat for a while, Jesus commanded Simon (Peter) to “…launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” (4)
  3. Simon (Peter) would not have been able to launch out if the He would not have been in the empty boat that had been prepared for this very moment.
  4. In verse 5, although he may have thought it was an exercise in futility, Simon (Peter) used faith by making his statement. He stated, “nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.”
  5. You may not understand what God is trying to accomplish but just follow his commands. The results will be astounding.
  6. The haul of fish was overwhelming. Neither the nets or the boats were empty now! Their fullness came when it was the appropriate time.

Empty Men (vv. 8-11)

  1. Jesus used the empty nets and boats for his glory. However, what he desires is empty men and woman.
  2. In verse 8, after seeing the miracle, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees crying, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” This was the reason for all that had occurred up to this point.
  3. Notice Luke uses the name Simon up until this revelation in verse 8, where he adds the name Peter. This was the nickname Christ would late give him that meant a rock. Could this addition signify that the admission of spiritual emptiness means this the beginning of a transformation?
  4. In verse 10, Christ reveals what his plan and purpose for all the empty vessels that day. He says, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
  5. The disciples went from failures to fishers of men!

Conclusion

  1. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. Luke 5:11 (KJV)
  2. Often, I have looked at the final verse of the call story and marveled at the faith of these men. They leave everything to follow Christ. Although there is an element of this story that focuses on their faith, I believe it also reveals the faith Jesus had in them. He saw empty vessels he could use.
  3. You may be experiencing an empty season of failure, but Christ can use you. Get in the boat. Get alone with Jesus and allow him to transform you from the inside out.

 

[1] “Detour,” Brian L. Harbour, Rising Above the Crowd,  http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/d/detour.htm, accessed 19 Jan 2017.


 

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Considering the political and social climate in the United States and the cry of liberationists on every street corner, I found the following quote by biblical theologian Elmer A. Martens’ noteworthy. He writes,

The exodus event was a political event since it involved the escape of a people from Pharaoh, a political power. But the liberation pointed forward to a life with Yahweh, to a covenant community, to a life enriched by Yahweh. This goal of a religious and spiritual nature is crucial. Freedom in the exodus story points to a life under the lordship of Yahweh. Elimination of social injustice is important, but the liberation movement, if it is to be theologically underpinned, must ask, freedom for what? [emphasis added] If liberationist will appeal to the exodus event for justification of social and political action, then the whole of exodus must be kept in mind. Yoder put it well: “Exodus is not a paradigm for how all kinds of people with all kinds of values can attain all kinds of salvation.[i]

In a nutshell, before you can claim a biblical precedent for social or political action – which is vital – you must adhere to the full biblical model. One cannot pick and choose the portions that conveniently suit their agenda.

 

[i] Elmer A. Martens, God’s Design: A Focus on Old Testament Theology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1998), 66.

HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD:  THE CONTRIBUTION OF LEVITICUS

Introduction

            What can the third book of Moses contribute to modern Christian theology? Often, this Old Testament book with its restrictions on eating shellfish and the mixing of fabrics is overlooked because these practices seem odd – even obsolete – for today’s believer. However, this sometimes-neglected book contains rich principles for the Christian community concerning the concept of God’s holiness and how it should influence their lives. Kendell H. Easley writes, “Holiness throughout Scripture, but especially in Leviticus, is the first attribute of God.”[1] This main emphasis in Leviticus is twofold: the holiness of God and what God’s holiness requires of those people in relation to Him. Although it may be an oversimplification, the message of Leviticus is encapsulated in a single verse located in its eleventh chapter.  The author of the book records, “For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy” (NASB Lev 11:45).  By analyzing Israel’s call to holiness in this verse, an individual can witness that God’s holiness is the foundation of which those who are sovereignly called to relationship with Him are deemed holy. Thus they should live considering their connectedness to Him.

“…for I am holy.”

            First, to properly understand the concept of holiness presented in Leviticus, one must know the wellspring of holiness. In short, God’s holiness is the foundation of the sacredness of people, places, and things in Leviticus. It is the divine presence which sanctifies and sets apart the land, the children of Israel, and the various objects associated with Old Testament Tabernacle/Temple worship. Nevertheless, what does it mean that God is holy? In 2 Samuel, Hannah’s song of thanksgiving gives clues to the meaning of the holiness of God. The author of 1 Samuel writes, “There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God” (NASB 1 Sam 1:1). In this verse, God is celebrated for His complete uniqueness from all of the creation. Israel’s God is the quintessence of absolute perfection in every way. Easley writes, “It [holiness] refers to his glorious moral perfections as the One who is the standard of ethical purity.”[2] There is nothing, or no one comparable to God, and His holiness is the crux of this uniqueness.

Therefore, true biblical holiness is only found in relation to this all-perfect deity. God possesses the divine prerogative to demand sanctified actions or obedience. Based on His absolute perfection and uniqueness God issues instructions concerning the holiness of those called into relationship with Him. Some may argue the commands of God are a bit overreaching. However, He is the perfect Holy One and humanity is not. He is their source of being and salvation; not the other way around.

“…thus you shall be holy…”

            First, with the holiness of God in mind, this key verse reveals that God longs for fellowship with fallen humanity. The author writes, “For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God…” (NASB Lev 11:45). God’s holiness is communicable to those people and objects which encounter His divine presence. David P Wright observes, “…contact with something most holy communicates holiness (Exod. 29:37; 30:29; Lev 6:27; [Heb 6:20]).”[3] Thus, Israel’s holiness is in correlation to their connectedness to the foundational holiness of God

Secondly, although God demands wholehearted obedience to His holy decrees, Israel’s holiness is not dependent on her producing holiness by acts of obedience. Rather Israel’s action was to be tempered by the holiness they received by being associated with the Holy One. Terrance E Fretheim writes,

It is important to stress that Israel’ holiness is a reality; it is not something to be aimed at or striven for, or to be associated only with worship.  The call to be “holy” is a call to be true to the relationship in which the people already stand (be who you are). The fundamental way in which the people do justice to this relationship is in obeying the commandments, which for Leviticus means being faithful to God in worship and in life (see 19:2 and what follows).[4]

In other words, the obedience to the God’s command was to be a practical outworking of their relationship with their God. They were deemed holy because of His presence being among them. This communicable nature of holiness is the reason that temple utensils, land, cities, and people were considered sacred before God.

On the other hand, Israel could disrupt this holy relationship by failing to observe God’s commandments. Robert A Kugler writes, “…impurity seems to have been understood to cast the shadow of death over its bearers: the most severe experiences of impurity are the ones that would have been seen as the inappropriate loss of life-force from the individual.”[5] God’s reputation of holiness could be called into question by the nations surrounding Israel if the holiness code was not followed. God’s holiness demanded a holy set apart lifestyle on Israel’s behalf. This is the reason God implemented a sacrificial system to alleviate the wrath incurred by disobedience. This system of atonement would eventually be done away with by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. With these foundational principles concerning holiness in the book of Leviticus, attention needs to turn to the how they apply to New Testament believers.

Principles of Levitical Holiness for New Testament Believers

            First, although the Old Testament sacrificial system has been fulfilled and removed through Christ’s atoning work and the veil of separation was torn to symbolize access into the holy of holies (i.e. God’s presence), God has not lowered His standards. Rightly so, He still demands holiness unto the Lord. The Apostle Peter reiterates this command to holiness as he writes,

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” (NASB 1 Pet 1:13-16).

The communicable attributes of holiness are still relevant for those under the New Covenant even though the ancient cultic worship is obsolete. Modern day Christians are still deemed holy by their relation to the presence of God. The difference is that the presence of God indwells them under the New Covenant. Apostle Paul confirms this as he writes, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” (NASB 1 Cor 3:16-17). What was external ritual under the Old Testament has now been internalized in the New Testament.

How should the knowledge of God’s indwelling affect the attitudes and actions of Christians? Levitical offering, sacrifices, and feasts were all types shadows which pointed to the finished work of Christ. Paul confirms this with his statement in Romans. He writes, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (NASB Rom 15:4).  Understanding the principles put forth long ago in the book of Leviticus should motivate Christians to practically exercise what has been given to them with their new position in Christ. We should put away the works of the flesh, not because this makes us more holy, but rather because Christ’s presence has already made us holy before God the Father.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, the principles of holiness found in the often-overlooked book of Leviticus can give valuable insights into the concept of the holiness of God and how it pertains to His people. By examining a key verse of Leviticus 11:45, it becomes apparent the foundation for the holiness of God’s people is established by God’s very own holy presence. This communicable holiness should impact the manner in the way people perceive their standing with God, thus influencing their actions accordingly. In short, although the conditions of Leviticus were fulfilled in Christ, it is still Holiness unto the Lord.


[1] Kendell H. Easley, Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding the Bible, (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 200), 23.

[2] Ibid., 23.

[3] David P. Wright, “Holiness in Leviticus and Beyond: Differing Perspectives,” Interpretation 53, no. 4 (October 1999): 351-364, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 9, 2016), 352-353.

[4] Terrance E Fretheim, The Pentateuch, (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996), 134-135.

[5] Robert A. Kugler,  “Holiness, Purity, the Body, and Society: The Evidence for Theological Conflict in Leviticus,” Journal For The Study Of The ld Testament 22, no. 76 (December 1997): 3-27, ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 9, 2016), 14.




BIBLIOGRAPHY

Easley, Kendell H. Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding the Bible. Nashville, TN. Holman Bible Publishers.

Fretheim, Terrance E. The Pentateuch. Nashville, TN. Abingdon Press. 1996.

Kugler, Robert A. “Holiness, Purity, the Body, and Society: The Evidence for Theological Conflict in Leviticus.” Journal For The Study Of The Old Testament 22, no. 76 (December 1997): 3-27. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 9, 2016).

Wright, David P. “Holiness in Leviticus and Beyond: Differing Perspectives.” Interpretation 53, no. 4 (October 1999): 351-364. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed December 9, 2016).

Have you allowed your relationship with God to become a familiar routine? In this sermon, Kevin explains the dangers of familiarity as illustrated in Luke 4:14-30. Click “play” on the audio playing below to listen to this thought-provoking message from the pulpit of West Green Baptist Church. Would like a PowerPoint presentation of the sermon? Click Here Would you like a PDF of Kevin’s Sermon Manuscript? Click Here

Have you ever experienced doubts concerning the claims of Christ? In this sermon, Kevin explains the Christian claims concerning Christ’s divinity is not baseless, but rather logically sound. Click “play” on the audio playing below to listen to this thought-provoking message from the pulpit of West Green Baptist Church.

Would like a PowerPoint presentation of the sermon? Click Here

Would you like a PDF of Kevin’s Sermon Manuscript? Click Here


 

What should you resolve to do this new year? Find out by listening to the latest message from Kevin Bounds.

In this sermon, recorded at West Green Baptist Church, Kevin shares the one New Year’s resolutions which everyone needs to commit. Rejoice and make the most of the time you’re given!

 

 

 

 

This sermon originated from the pulpit of West Green Baptist Church in West Green, Georgia where Kevin Bounds serves as Senior Pastor on January 1, 2017.

 

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It’s been fifteen years…fifteen years today. December 16, 2001, will forever be a day etched in my memory. A momentous day of departure but a day of glorious reunion too. It was on this day dry cheeks – hardened by life – were soaked with tears of conviction. Today, fifteen years ago, everything changed for me.

“What hinders you from serving God?” cried the preacher. The dross of my sin started to rise to the surface for my conscience to witness. Lust… greed… selfishness…drugs…promiscuity, one by one they floated to the surface.  I could not bear to see myself with the light on, so I retreated to the darkness, but the light followed.  Fifteen years ago, I could not escape any longer.

In the dimness of my departing car, the light began to illuminate everything. I had run long enough. Exhausted by the futile attempts to evade the brilliance of the ever-increasing light, I surrendered. Hidden from sight behind a church sign which read “Providence,” I was urged to exit the gloom of my car and walk to the light of an altar. Fifteen years ago, I found my way home.

Humbled by beckoning grace, Jesus embraced me fifteen years ago, with tender forgiveness and mercy. Although I trampled His name through the mire of the world, He reminded me of His invitation I accepted as a young child. A child of the day had stayed too long in the land of night. I was His. He walked with me even though in the past I turned from Him. He never forsook me. Fifteen years ago, He reminded me of His abounding love.

Within fifteen revolutions of the sun, I have witnessed the glory of God in jungles, jails, sidewalks, and sanctuaries. I am so grateful for all the wonderful works I have witnessed. Each day is an adventure into God’s story of redemption. However, December 16, 2001, will always be a special day for me. The amazing thing is it can be for you too. What hinders you from serving God? Fifteen years ago, this question was answered for me with a divine passionate pursuit that ended in my total surrender. Today, fifteen years ago, everything changed for me.