Luke 5:1-11 – Obedience doesn’t require understanding

Dear church,

“But at your word I will let down the nets.” – Luke 5:5

When you know Jesus has given you a command, the only thing you are responsible for is the obedience to that command. You aren’t responsible for knowing why the command was given. This can be hard for us. So often, we want to understand why a command was given – and where it might take us – before we obey. But this is not what parents accept from their children, nor is it what Jesus accepts from his disciples. 

Obey Christ the minute you hear him speak. It doesn’t matter what you know, even though you might be exceptionally skilled in some area where Jesus is speaking in your life. Peter knew fishing, but Jesus created the fish. Peter can be commended for putting aside his own knowledge and following the mysterious leading of God.

What is holding you back from following Jesus with this kind of simple intensity? Is it because you want to know all about the command before you will obey it? Are you waiting for the command to match your modern sensibilities before you will go?

Your mission today is to obey Christ’s voice, no matter how strange it may sound. Among the things you don’t know is where he might take you if you followed him as simply and purely as those first fishermen.


Reading Luke

Dear church,

Today, we are starting our reading of Luke’s Gospel – one chapter per day for the next 24 days. Read slowly and intentionally, letting the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts as you go.

I am going to take a break from blogging every day. Breaks are good! I’m going to take some unhurried time of my own with God as I read Luke, without the pressure of trying to churn out a blog post or two.

But I will blog occasionally during this Bible-reading plan. If nothing else, I will post something each Sunday. There may be posts on other days, as well. So subscribe to this blog in order to be notified about those posts and the other random ones I may publish.

My goal in writing is to help in your walk of discipleship. I’ve found in every chapter of Scripture, even in the strangest and most remote of passages, we can find instruction for our lives. How can we be more like Jesus? The Bible tells us over and over again just how to do this. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can live it out.

So please keep reading! I love you all.


Deuteronomy 34: The assurance of faith

Dear church,

“His eye was undimmed.” The faith of a disciple of Jesus Christ never fades. Even with his last breath, the disciple still is proclaiming the goodness and promises of God. He is content with what God gives him, and he is content with what God declines to give. 

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Moses had seen so much of God’s good plan for Israel. But he had not seen the people reach the finish line. He had not seen the climax of God’s work in Egypt and in the wilderness. He saw every mile of the Promised Land, but he never saw the people wade into the Jordan River, taking those final steps toward Canaan. After 40 long years, Moses remained as one “not having received the things promised” (Hebrews 11:13).

But his eye was “undimmed.” And so must be ours. We remain faithful to God even when disappointments and unfulfilled hopes bear down on us. Faith is knowing God is in control and his plan is good even when we can’t quite “see” all the way to the end of it. You will see sadness in life, and circumstances you wish were otherwise. The disciple of Jesus accepts these things and continues looking with hopeful expectation for the promises of God.


Deuteronomy 33: The blessing

Dear church,

At the end of Moses’ life, he could think of nothing other than the people of God. What could he say to convince them to bind themselves to their Redeemer? “There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help.”

If the people of Israel did not understand this, then all was lost. The 40 years of Moses’ leadership would mean nothing. The exodus, Mount Sinai, the wilderness miracles – all would fade from memory. Moses wanted to leave the people with a crystal clear understanding of the identity of God and his care for them. 

“The eternal God is your dwelling place.” Moses wanted them to dwell there, with God. The people were to find their refuge and protection in God himself. “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord.” Would they be happy? Would they live out their mission as God’s holy people in a dangerous and sinful land?

At stake was not just the future of Israel but the future of the whole world? The promise still stood: “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Moses surely remembered this, too. Would the people remain with God and be the blessing God promised they would be?

We understand the grace of God as we read these words of Moses. God continued to work miracles through an unfaithful people. Israel gave rise to the Messiah, the Savior of the world. God’s sovereign purposes cannot be thwarted.

But Moses’ passion is not unlike that of many spiritual leaders – from pastors to parents – who want nothing more than for those under their charge to draw closer to God. They understand true happiness comes only from Him. And they will preach that message until they are completely out of breath. 

Have you been listening? Are you still preaching?


Deuteronomy 32: The God of faithfulness

Dear church,

From the very beginning, God knew you. God knows everything, after all, and he most certainly knew all about you. And one of the things he most certainly knew about you from the very beginning was that you would be a sinner. 

As Christians, we sometimes don’t want to talk about the notion of sin because we want everyone to feel good about themselves. We’re worried about our self-esteem, and we don’t want to be judgmental toward anyone else. But the fact of the matter is you are a sinner, and so am I. And God knew that from the very beginning. 

God told Moses, “For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give” (Deuteronomy 31:21). That is to say, God could see ahead into the future, and he knew what his people would do even before they set foot in the Promised Land. He knew they would sin and fall away from him. 

The fact God knew our sinful hearts before we even came to exist, or before we even committed one sin, makes the gospel of Jesus Christ all the more glorious. God knew we would sin against him. And God warned us we would do so. And yet we still did – in the face of that warning. This somehow makes the sin deeper and more malicious. 

But God still forgives. 

The law of God, written down by Moses, provides the warning. That is what the “Song of Moses” is, after all. It is a warning that the people would sin. It was a fair warning. 

It could be this is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote about how the law makes sin increase. The people had been warned. They knew the reality of sin. And they knew, from the law, they were inclined to sin and would sin. And Paul wrote, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass” (Romans 5:20). Sin gets worse when it is committed in the face of the law. And the law includes the very clear warning from God himself that God’s people will sin.

The law doesn’t make us sin, but it does make the sin worse. The apostle Paul also wrote, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. … It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure” (Romans 7:10-11, 13). When we are warned about sin and then sin anyway, we are committing acts that are “sinful beyond measure.”

And so the grace of God becomes all the greater. We have no excuse for our sins. The more we know, the more willful our sins become. God warns us we will sin. We hear the warning, and then we sin anyway. And then what is God to do?

The Father sent the Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross for our sins. He who knew no sin died for those who had much sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You might have noticed: The warning comes with a promise. God had told his people through Moses, “For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.” He lets us hit rock bottom. He waits to see when we finally will land. He will wait – “I will hide my face from them” ­– and he will let us try every method we can to save ourselves. 

He will let us look to our “gods” to see if they will provide salvation. “Where are their gods? … Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!” What are your “gods”?

And when all is lost, God is there. Yes, the warning comes with the promise: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal.”

Don’t you see how much God loves you? The better we understand our own ability to sin – the more honest we are with ourselves – the better we will understand and appreciate the grace of God in Jesus Christ. 

The apostle Paul also wrote, “Now the law came to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).

The call today is to get honest with yourself – perhaps for the very first time. Do you recognize yourself as a sinner, someone capable of turning a blind eye to what you know is right in order to do something for your own personal satisfaction? Do you understand how that describes your life and how that falls short of the way of God. His “work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”

We’ve fallen short. And we’ve fallen short knowing exactly what God expects of us. And yet, he loves us anyway. My prayer is the Holy Spirit will convict you of these truths today. Nothing will be the same for you after that happens. 


Deuteronomy 31: Singing the song

Dear church, 

Difficult times give rise to a healthy consideration of how we’ve been living our lives. We can’t help but consider how we have wound up in the dark corners of life. But we also ought to consider these same things in the good times.

The good times can be dangerous for our walk with God. The very blessings of God – in a material sense – can be a problem for us. “For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten are full and grown fat, they will turn …”

The material blessings of God would have little power to help his beloved “Jeshurun” – which means “upright” or “straight” – from straying from the pure worship of God.

I suppose it is no wonder, then, that God allows our lives to become difficult sometimes. He knows a life of ease can be a danger to our faith in Him. We can grow lazy and over-confident. The apostle Paul warned, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). 

But we do sometimes enter into seasons of material blessings. In those seasons, we must remember the “song.” Moses gave the people of Israel the song to keep them tethered to God. The song was to be a witness to God’s faithfulness to his people – and their own inclination to stray. 

Is there a song in your mouth today?


Deuteronomy 30: The return

Dear church,

When you feel as if you’ve been missing God and you feel a nagging pull on your life back toward him, don’t worry. Just go to Him and see what you’ve been missing. Go humbly, with a heart full of repentance.

There is something basic and essential to humans that drives us to do certain things, even when we cannot help it – or perhaps we don’t even see the need to help it. “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). One of the more visual and disgusting passages in Scripture leaves us hoping we don’t fit that description. 

But we will go back where we belong. Our ways, without the intervention of God, are set. We may stray for a moment, or several moments, but eventually we will return. 

However, the Christian always returns to God. In a certain sense, we simply cannot help but go back to him. Our heart is drawn in His direction.

In Deuteronomy 30, God’s people would be doubly blessed when they repented of their sins and came back to God. It was the “return to the Lord your God” that brought the blessing. And when they came back, God would circumcise their hearts – “so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

We probably make this idea more mysterious than it really is. Circumcision marked out the people of God. It was impossible not to know to whom they belonged. And it was a rite that someone else carried out for a person, and on a person. 

God circumcises hearts by his Holy Spirit (Romans 2:29). This circumcision is more concrete than even the fleshly circumcision of the old covenant. It moves us to love God more and more. The circumcision of our hearts results in action.

And so we go back, again and again, after our falling into sin. We return to the Lord our God. Our hearts are carved in such a way that we really can’t help it. 


Deuteronomy 29: Secret things

Dear church,

Some things belong to God and not to us. They’ve not been given to us, and so, in a sense, we are left in the dark to wonder. Are you comfortable enough in your faith in God to wonder – without becoming overly concerned about what you don’t know?

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” A Christian must be content with knowing there are some things he or she will not know about God and his ways – and perhaps even about his plan for creation and redemption. That is likely what Moses is referring to in this verse. God’s people would be in the dark for some time, until a great light shone in Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Isaiah 9:2).

The main point for Christians is not to dwell on the things we don’t know. Rather, the point is to lean into the things that have been revealed to us – namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. “But the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever.” And these things that are revealed are enough to save a person’s soul.

It is good to have questions, and it is good to seek answers to those questions, so long as we are doing so with open minds and hearts. But we must not forget the undeniable truth that God has shown us grace in the face of our sins through Jesus. God, out of his goodness, is bringing us into a new Promised Land and a new Sabbath rest. 

The angels must be paying attention as God reveals his plan for humanity bit by bit (1 Peter 1:12). The best thing we can do is focus our attention on the revelation of God, rather than the secret things that aren’t yet ours to know. 

This is a call for us to study the Bible well. 


Deuteronomy 28: Restlessness

Dear church,

It is possible to be ambitious and hungry for success and still have a quiet, resting heart. Not all restlessness is the bad kind. A disobedient Israel was destined to receive the bad kind of restlessness – the kind that screams out for some kind of peace but does not receive it. 

We might picture this better as hell itself. “And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul.”

How different from the promise all people are given in Jesus Christ. “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). He is the antidote to the bad and hopeless kind of restlessness. 

From the beginning of God’s creation to the end, rest has been the goal. The seventh-day Sabbath rest of God was broken by the sin of humanity. And we are aiming toward an eternal rest in Christ (Hebrews 4:1). 

Is your soul at rest? You might be a busy person, but that does not mean you need to lack the eternal kind of peace and rest that marks a mature Christian. 

The key to our eternal rest is our coming to Jesus in faith. His Holy Spirit then fills us and empowers us to keep his commandments. In the keeping of those commands, we find peace. 


Deuteronomy 27: The words of the law

Dear church,

We are saved by the grace of God. This can’t be more clear from Scripture (Ephesians 2:8-9). No good works on our part get us into the grace of God. But this does not mean we discount or ignore the commands of God. Far from it. Those commands are as important to us today as they ever were. 

God gave the people of Israel his grace and placed them in the Promised Land. “This day you have become the people of the Lord your God.” It wasn’t because they were more noble than other people – or because they were more spiritually minded. We’re not really sure why God chose Abraham and his offspring (Deuteronomy 7:6-8; Ezekiel 36:22).

All we can say is that God chose them, and God knows why he chose Israel. It was an act of grace that he chose them. 

But they were to live out the covenant with Him. And that meant keeping the commandments – to live out the character and ways of God. The people of Israel could not escape this demand by the God who gave them such grace. They had to live it out or face the curses.

And so they wrote out the law on the plaster that had been laid over the stones. Everyone could read it – a memorial to their duty to God. “Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.”

God does require we live holy lives as Christians. We are to be people of truth, who care for justice and who love our neighbors as ourselves. Everyone who has been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ must follow the commands of the new covenant. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Those who don’t keep the commandments of Christ are not part of the new covenant. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him. … Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (1 John 3:9-10).

The difference between us and the ancient Israelites is the Holy Spirit. Where is the law written today? It is written on the hearts of everyone who puts his or her faith in Christ (Jeremiah 31:31-33). “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

You can obey the commands of God because God empowers you to obey. We may call this grace upon grace (John 1:16).