Lord Jesus, You have said, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.” [Luke 16:10] In these Words you teach us that you desire that our conduct within our earthly lives should reflect our higher and greater heavenly calling that you have given to us within the holy waters of our baptism. Help us O Lord, so that we will not turn away from the truth that the mirror of your Word shows us, which we will now hear. If we discover Your word condemns us, save us and prevent us from trying to save ourselves! Help us to remember that we should judge ourselves now in your Word, so that You will not have to condemn us later. By Your Holy Spirit teach us to regret the misery of our sinfulness now so that we may rejoice in the blessed gift of a new and forgiven life in eternity. Help us to humble ourselves here so we might be exalted there. Help us to weep here so that we may laugh there. So now we ask O Lord that You make Your word a taste of life for each of us. Make it medicine for the sick, strength for the weak, and a cover for the strong. Hear us, O Jesus, for the sake of Your holy, saving name. Amen.
Here’s a question that you may have been asked by someone before, “Are you born again?”
How did you answer? If you’ve been baptized, the answer is of course a resounding “Yes!” But how can you answer so confidently? Now before you give an answer, let’s all of us remember that being “Born” or being “Born-Again,” is something that we played no part in. Life is always God’s to give and to take away. So keeping this in mind, I believe the question and the answer should point our hearts and minds towards the source of our “rebirth” and the instrument that was used.
The source of rebirth is God and the instrument or means of that rebirth is the Word of God, which is normally first given to a person through the sacrament of Holy Baptism; that is the place where you were washed and recreated through the Word of God, a place where you were made right with God through the cross and life blood of Jesus Christ; in short that is the place where God changed your home address from sinful earth to paradise restored, a place where you will eternally belong in a condition of peace with God and each other.
So that being said, where is your home?
In our gospel lesson this morning (Luke 5:1–11), we are dropped into the second calling of Peter, or the calling of his vocation. The first time Jesus called Peter was through the invitation of Peter’s brother Andrew (John 1:25-42). It was within this first calling that Peter already baptized by John the Baptist would have begun the life of a disciple; would have begun a journey in which the Master was daily teaching him that his true home was not to be found on earth but in heaven with Jesus simply because he continued to follow and trust Jesus.
When Jesus issued a call of discipleship, He simply said, “Follow me.” And from that point on, it was understood that if a person responded to the call of discipleship, they were required to follow Jesus who would be their Master and teach them in both Word and example.
The most important thing for a disciple of Jesus to do then was to follow Him and willfully come under His influence. So a disciple of Jesus then and now must learn from Him, and through this learning process, they would see and hear such amazing things that they otherwise would never have experienced. Today, Jesus Himself says to all of His disciples who have responded to His call, “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Something happens to a person once they become a disciple of Jesus; they are set free from the bondage of sin; or simply put, they are born again! This new birth, this transformation from being a citizen of the world to being a citizen of heaven happens because the Word of God brings the power of God, which is the only way to experience new birth and a change of mind. The disciples of Jesus who are willing to listen to Him and follow Him are continually welcomed to be His disciples. And while they follow and listen, they begin to understand the truth… God’s own truth. They listen because they have been born again… because they have a heavenly mind. So now, let’s discover…
How the Heavenly Minded Christian Fulfills his Earthly Calling.
Let’s look at Simon Peter and the excellence he demonstrates in living out his earthly calling. At the time of his calling he had been a Christian for almost a year, but since Christ hadn’t yet called him into the office of preaching, he not only remained in his calling as a fisherman, but he did it with a greater degree of excellence after he was “born again.” According to our gospel lesson, Jesus not only found Simon Peter working, washing his nets, but he was the kind of worker who could honestly say to Jesus: “Master, we have toiled all the night.” And now, when Christ asks him after a long night of work to sail out again, after the nets have been cleaned, he does not complain and try to make Jesus understand how tired he is, no instead, he obeys God’s call to work.
Here’s another thing we learn from the life of Simon Peter; we can learn that a born-again Christian displays a heavenly mind, not by despising and neglecting his earthly calling so that he has more time to concentrate on prayer and Bible study, but by embracing his earthly calling as the very thing that pleases God. Oh there are certainly many times that a “born again” Christian will and should seek times of relaxation and recreation, but not because they’re lazy or because they’re a lover of pleasure, but because they know that they’ll be more efficient and productive in their work if they are rested. For a born again Christian, every moment of life whether at work or play, is a gift from God and another opportunity to praise Him.
Here is another truth about heavenly-minded Christians: When others employ them, they can rely on them. Not only is there no better churchgoer than a heavenly minded Christian, but there is also no better employee or manager than a born-again Christian. In other words, this world will never find a more diligent, conscientious and faithful worker than a born-again Christian. The more heavenly minded a Christian is, the less ashamed they are of even the humblest dirty jobs, right down to the washing of filthy fishing nets or even the cleaning of toilets. A heavenly-minded Christian then works at whatever task is before them because God has said, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,” (Genesis 3:19) and “You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you.” [Psalm 128:2] Now don’t get me wrong, a born-again Christian should seek to find pleasure in their work, but it isn’t the reason they work; they work because they wish to please God.
And may I point out another important characteristic of a born-again Christian? No matter how faithful they are in their earthly vocation, they will never neglect their heavenly calling to gather around God’s Word and Sacraments. Simon-Peter worked all night, he was tired, but when Jesus asked to use his boat to preach the gospel, he dropped everything that distracted him and rowed out with Jesus so that Jesus could use his boat as a pulpit; so that he could hear the Word of God. How unfortunate today that so many use their employment as a reason to excuse themselves from gathering at church to hear their Lord speak words of forgiveness and strength. A born again Christian will never accept an earthly calling that would force them to give up attending God’s Divine service, even if it meant becoming wealthy.
The truth is, Christians with a heavenly mindset begin to think in a new way; they’ve discovered that even though their work in this world is necessary, work and care for their souls is even more important. They have discovered that there must be time for hearing and meditating upon God’s Word and receiving His Holy meal. They have also discovered that if God would allow them to become sick they would not be able to work, and then they would be forced to trust in His care for both their body and their soul. This is why the heavenly minded, born-again Christian is willing to suffer the threat of harm and loss in the things of this world so that they can hear and meditate on God’s powerful and transforming Word.
Now, let’s allow God to teach us…
How He has determined that we will become and remain born again, heavenly-minded Christians.
It’s God’s will that we discover and remain at both the cross of our Savior Jesus Christ and the most blessed font of salvation where we were baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is the only place that a sinful person of the world can become born again and remain a heavenly minded Christian. While there are many who claim the name of Christian, there are really only a blessed few who are truly born-again.
So how can we know that we really are born-again? By staying close to Jesus.
Let’s look again at Simon Peter in our Gospel reading. Peter became the heavenly-minded Christian that he was because he followed his master Jesus and allowed His Word to transform both his sinful heart and mind. We have heard that after Simon Peter brought in the great catch of fish with the help of his coworkers, he realized that He was in the presence of the almighty power of God as Jesus sat in his boat. When he properly understood who Jesus was, he trembled with fear, and “fell down at Jesus knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
These words of Simon Peter give us the key to understanding the mystery of a truly born-again, heavenly minded Christian. Peter’s new born again nature like ours, is founded upon a living and deep knowledge of our natural sinfulness and worthlessness before God. But it is also founded upon the great grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. Peter’s great fears were not found in loss of employment, physical illness nor disease, but in the spiritual sickness of his sinfulness and the eternal death it brings. But Peter knew where to bring his fear of sin; he threw himself at the feet of Jesus and begged for forgiveness and salvation.
Jesus would have us do the very same thing today. He would have us see the nature of our spiritual illness that is sin, and then accept by faith His sweet absolution; the truth that He desires that each of us would turn to His cross and receive forgiveness. You see, the cross of Jesus is the only place that God has promised and provided salvation for the world. And this work of salvation for the world is given to you personally in the water’s of your own baptism. There at the font, God has indeed promised you that you have been born again and given a heavenly mind.
Dear friends, it is only through the call of discipleship that we can receive the gift of salvation. It is only through the life, death, and the resurrection of Jesus that this sinful world can be made right with God. And in the waters of your own baptism, God has given you both a new life and a new home. Every day for you dear baptized and born-again Christians is a new day with Jesus as His disciple; another day to both follow and learn from the Master.
To follow Jesus doesn’t mean that you must give up a normal occupation, but it does mean that we should seriously begin seeking Jesus where He can be found, in His church, His Word, and His sacraments and even with us as we work and witness to both His presence and saving love for sinners. Therefore it is written concerning the first disciples at Jerusalem, that “they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.”
May God continue to move our hearts to do this very thing, in Jesus name… AMEN!