15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep”.
John 21:15-17 (ESV)
We know with the story:
7 of Jesus’ Disciples had returned to their previous occupation of fishing (for real fish instead of men), had fished all night and caught nothing. A man (Jesus) on the shore and called out to them and told them to toss their net on the right side of the boat instead of the left, which had not resulted in a single minnow, much less any fish. They obeyed and had such a haul they couldn’t get all the fish into their boat.
Once ashore, the man who had called out to them already had a good breakfast going and invited them to join him. It was then that they recognized their Lord. After a hearty breakfast Jesus took the opportunity to Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Naturally Peter answered in the affirmative all three times, and even might have wondered why Jesus asked so many times! We are not told. We are given Jesus’ direction to Peter after each answer:
“Feed my lambs.”
“Tend my sheep.”
“Feed my sheep.”
You might say that Jesus told Peter to become a sheep herder! He told him to take care of sheep, young ones and older ones. Has that ever happened to you? Read a story many times and suddenly something literally jumps out at you?
First of all Jesus said “Feed MY sheep. Those needing care and nurture belong to Christ, not to Peter, not a particular group of believers, but to Jesus himself! Pastors, Sunday school teachers, Bible study leaders, you are to care for JESUS property! That knowledge should give you great pause, should it not?
Secondly, Jesus told Peter to “Feed my SHEEP, tending them and nurturing them to maturity. That should tell us in no uncertain terms the purpose of the church, Christ’s church, not yours. The mission of the church is the care and feeding of the sheep of God. Should ‘goats’ be invited and welcome in our churches? By all means! The main reason the church exists however, is for the ‘sheep of God’, not the’ goats of the world’.
I listened to one popular megachurch pastor tell his congregation one Sunday morning “This is the last Sunday this church is about YOU!” No kidding. While most of today’s so called ‘pastors’ won’t go quite that far, they ‘manage’ their churches with the same mindset, offering all sorts of ‘worldly’ enticements to make following Jesus a really cool/hip thing to do. But listen to what Jesus said to his disciples near the very end of his earthly ministry:
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)
The ‘world’ in Jesus’ time hated him and the world in our time will hate us when we stand for the true gospel that Christ came to save men from their sin, not to fulfill their wildest dreams.
Then we have the Apostle Paul who, by his own admission, preached nothing but Christ crucified for the sins of men:
“For we (gospel messengers) are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” (2 Cor: 15-16)
In other words, the aroma of Christ is sweet to the ‘sheep of God’ but that same aroma of Christ smells like death and destruction to the ‘goats of the world’.
So why do we do what we do? We try to make Christ and his gospel smell sweet to the stony hearted unbeliever to get them through the doors and then tell them that Christ died for their self-fulfillment rather than for their sin. After all, we know that if we start talking about sin the ‘bait and switch’ will be on and oh so obvious to the goats you lured through the church doors. Unless God is doing a supernatural ‘heart work’, they’re walking and they ain’t coming back any time soon!
What’s the answer to this mess? Whether it’s a church setting or personal evangelism, it’s really quite simple.
1. Pray that God open hearts to hear the true gospel.
2. Preach the true gospel.
3. Leave the ‘saving’ to God.