Following is the manuscript Rev. KJ Norris wrote for Sunday, February 10, 2019. It is not an exact transcription of the audio file, but the intent and preacher are the same.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Today the Bible draws us into the stories of three very different people. Three people out living their lives in totally different ways.
But they have one thing in common: God meets them where they are. God forgives them. God calls them.
Let’s start with Isaiah. Did you catch the setting? Isaiah 1 starts with “In the year that King Uzziah died.” This story is told in a time of great political unrest. The king is dead, the way forward is unclear, and the great prophet Isaiah is where he should be. He is in the Temple. He’s praying for the people. He is looking for words to guide them, to comfort them. He is looking for guidance, for comfort for his own heart.
And while he is praying, God shows up.
There is this great heavenly scene (describe 6:1-4—Maybe a dream or a vision).
And what is Isaiah’s reaction?
See verse 5
- Confesses for himself
- Confesses for his people
- Recognizes the truth that only God is King
God does not say to him: Nah-you’re alright. Yes, Isaiah is a holy person by all the world’s standards. Yes, he is doing what he should be, spending time in prayer, caring for the people, following God with all that he is. And yet, God knows that what Isaiah says is true. Isaiah is not perfect. He may be holy by the world’s standards, but no one is holy by God’s standards. Not one. Isaiah knows that even though he’s been walking with God for as long as he can remember, he needs God’s forgiveness for all of us fall short of the glory of God.
And God provides a way out of his sin. He gives him this coal to touch his lips so that he might be forgiven for all the things he said and done that didn’t bring glory to God.
And then God sends him out to continue on the path he has been walking—refreshed and renewed for his work among the people.
So notice, God does three things: God meets Isaiah—right where Isaiah is, he forgives Isaiah, and he sends Isaiah out.
Let’s flip to 1 Corinthians and look at Paul.
Now Paul is summarizing his experience here for the church in Corinth. Remember, Paul founded that church, they know his story, so he doesn’t retell the whole thing here, Paul just gives us the highlights. If you want the whole story, you have to go to another book of the Bible. Anyone know where in the Scriptures we can follow Paul’s whole journey? (Acts) and specifically, you might want to read Acts 8 & 9 for this part.
You might remember this story. Paul, who like a lot of people in the Bible, goes by multiple names, Paul or you can call him Saul if you prefer. Paul thinks he is doing the right thing as a young Pharisee.
There are these zealots out there. They call themselves Christian. They are like Paul in that they were brought up on the Holy Scriptures. They worship in the Temple. They follow only one God. But these zealots, Paul thinks, are out to destroy the peace that the Pharisees have built.
Theses zealots, these Christians—as they call themselves, are claiming that the Messiah they’ve been waiting for has come. God’s Holy One. The one who will restore all things. And not only that, they are calling that this one, the Messiah who they call Jesus, died and then rose again.
Paul has to put a stop to this. He’s convinced that these zealots—these Christians—will destroy the world that he loves. So Paul persecutes these Christians. He goes after them. He finds petty reasons to have them thrown into prison and even oversees the stoning of a person named Stephan.
Now, we know, that these zealots, as Paul saw them, were the first people to know the Lord Jesus Christ. The person who was and is the One True Messiah. The one who did indeed come to change all things, restore all things back to God. We know that the people were telling the truth, Jesus did die and was raised from the dead.
In reality, Paul was a far as a person could ever be from God. He was completely working against God’s plan and purposes in the world. He wasn’t just running from God, he was denying God, calling God’s plan evil, abusing people who God was calling, and even overseeing their murder.
Paul was truly an enemy of God.
And yet, God showed up.
God breaks into Paul’s life at the very moment where Paul persecuting the church of God as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.
I won’t go through his whole story, again, if you want to read back through it sometime this week, you can find it in Acts 8 & 9, but God works a miracle in God’s life. God forgives Paul. He introduces him to the very people he has been persecuting and Paul’s life is forever changed. God gives Paul a completely new identity, one where instead of persecuting the church and living as an enemy of God, he becomes one of the greatest evangelists ever known.
So while Paul is an enemy of God, God meets him, God forgives him, and God sends Paul out.
And then we can look at Simon Peter. Notice, Peter in our story is not in the Temple like Isaiah. He’s not praying. He’s not actively seeking God.
But Peter is not like Paul either. Paul was actively working against God—persecuting the very work of God. Instead, Peter is just living his life. He’s out there fishing. He’s working to make money and take care of his family. We see in the chapter before this that his mother-in-law has been sick. Peter’s got a lot on his plate.
And after working all night long and having a really tough night where he didn’t catch much of anything, this preacher shows up and asks to use his boat.
Peter’s like: Okay, yeah. I’m guessing Peter seems the crowd gathered around Jesus and thinks: maybe someone will throw a couple of bucks my way since I’m helping this guy out. Or maybe he considers it payback for Jesus helping out his mother-in-law earlier. I’m not sure what is going through Peter’s mind, but anyway, Jesus gets into his boat and teaches the crowd.
And then Jesus asks him to do one more thing for him. Yes, he’s already cleaned his nets, he is done for the day, but Jesus asks him to put the net in anyway, creating a whole lot more work for Peter, and Peter does it.
And when he does, they catch so many fish they need two boats to haul them in.
Now, picture this for a second: your livelihood is catching and selling fish. And you just brought in the biggest haul of your life, more fish that you could ever dream of.
I don’t know about you, but I would be celebrating. You know that song by Christ Janson, “You know what they say, money can’t buy everything, but it can buy me a boat.”
Right, money can’t buy us happiness or long-life or family, but there is a lot Peter can do with that catch. That’s a lot of money—he could buy a new boat.
But that’s not Peter’s response. Instead, perhaps for the first time in his life Peter falls down on his knees, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinner.”
And what does God do? God forgives him. And God sends him out.
Who do you identify with today?
Can you relate to Isaiah’s story? (summarize)
Can you relate to Paul’s story? (summarize)
Can you relate to Peter? (summarize)
Friends, no matter where we are today, I submit to you that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. If God met Isaiah, forgave him, and called him. If God met Paul, forgave him, and called him. If God met Peter, forgave him, and called him. Then what do you think God does in our lives.
God Meets us. God forgives us. God calls us.