Even a casual glimpse at the headlines will confirm the continued descent of our society into immorality. Violence, illicit drugs, abortion, and the continued assault on the family are not only common place but are being actively sought as acceptable behavior by vast numbers of the public. Politicians are running to their defense, and legislation is following. The decline is steep. It is real, and it will continue.
Revelation 1:1 tells us that these, “things must come to pass.” John doesn’t say that it might come to pass or even that it should come to pass but that it must. The Lord Jesus will return, and we are more likely to experience that return than any generation before us. If you’re reading this then you’ve likely spent a considerable amount of time and money preparing for any of a number of TEOTWAWKI scenarios. Whatever that end may be, I can tell you one thing for sure; there’s only one thing that will matter when the end comes, and that is whether or not you know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
So, as you prepare your home for whatever may come, I pray you’ll prepare your heart as well, and while you’re at it, equip yourself to bring as many with you into the kingdom as possible. You may not be able to feed your neighbors or provide for them in an emergency, but you can help in securing their eternal destiny. Nothing could be more valuable!
Fishing For Men
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” – John 15:16
“Because I said so.” – My dad
As a child, one of my least favorite phrases was “because I said so.” My dad would tell me to mow the grass. When I’d ask why, the answer was always, “Because I said so.” It is no coincidence that this phrase sits no better with me in adulthood than it did as a child.
When confronted with the task of evangelism, many Christians basically ask, “Why should I?” The answer is quite simple, “Because God said so.” As in our childhood, we grumble, unhappy that we have to do something we don’t want to do and begrudgingly go about the task, or worse yet, we don’t do it at all. Our grumbling is displeasing to the Father in both cases.
Recently as I read through the book of Matthew, something jumped out at me that I had never seen before. I had read this particular passage many times before, but I never fully understood it until that moment. In Matthew 4, Jesus is calling His disciples for the first time. He set about the task of choosing the men whom He would call friends and that He would teach and disciple throughout the rest of His life.
The very first words He ever spoke to them were, “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” It’s so simple; I can’t believe I didn’t see it earlier. He didn’t say, “Come, follow me and I’ll make you a good person,” or “Come, follow me and I’ll teach you how to be religious.” He basically said come, follow me, and I’ll teach you how to be an evangelist.
In this context, this verse has three important parts. The first part contains the words, “Come, follow me.” Jesus has never asked us to do anything without His assistance or example. The word “follow” literally means, to go after or proceed behind. Jesus spent His life sharing Himself with people. As we become like Him, it should be our pursuit to be like Him in every way, specifically in sharing Him with people.
The second phrase is, “and I will make you.” Jesus isn’t saying that He will force us to do this but rather He will craft us to do this. He is implying that He will show us how to do it if we submit ourselves to His good and perfect will. Our life’s pursuit is to become like Him and glorify Him. However, on our own, we are incapable of any good. It is only through the redeeming power of the shed blood of Jesus Christ that we are filled with the Holy Spirit and begin the process of sanctification. Thorough our submission to His will, we can be formed into the person that He created us to be. Whether you like it or not, evangelism is part of the character He is creating in you.
The final part of this verse, “fishers of men,” uses an interesting analogy to the situation in which the disciples found themselves. Fishing was an integral part of my childhood. I spent many evenings and weekends fishing with my dad and grandpa. We lived on the water for several years and even went fishing on vacations. Our family fished a lot. From an early age, I was taught that in order to be a good fisherman, several things were required. First, you have to be patient. You are not going to catch a fish on every cast. Second, you have to be smarter than the fish. Third, you are going to get dirty. Fourth, you are not always going to catch the fish you are fishing for. Fifth, always be ready; you never know when the fish are going to bite. And finally, it is always more fun to fish with a friend.
Having majored in marketing in college and having spent many years in the business world, I’ve taken several courses on public speaking. In each of those courses, the instructors will tell you the basics of giving a good speech or presentation. Here are the three basic keys to getting your point across:
1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
2. Tell them.
3. Tell them what you told them.
We’ve already discussed the first thing that Jesus told his disciples. It is significant that the very first words Jesus ever speaks to His disciple’s concerns evangelism. Let’s look at how He, “tells them what He told them.”
It stands to reason that the last thing you tell someone is what they are going to remember most. At the end of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus has already been crucified, has come back to life, and is now speaking to His disciples for the last time. Thomas has seen the wounds, Christ’s deity is confirmed, and He is giving them some final instructions before He returns to heaven for the last time before the glorious appearing. In His final words to His disciples in Matthew 28:19, Jesus says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
This passage has been a bastion of evangelists and missionaries for centuries. They are the parting words of our Lord and Savior. We hang on them, recite them, and, for most Christians, completely ignore them. Why is it different with evangelism? We see what God has to say about keeping his commands in John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” Are you walking in obedience to His commands? Or are you hiding behind weak excuses like, “Evangelism isn’t my gift.”
In large part, we are hindered by fear. Baptism and communion take place in the friendly confines of your church, among like-minded people. Evangelism takes place on the front lines of the battle. In all honesty, I’m fearful every time I share the gospel. I fear my own inadequacies and limitations. I fear rejection. I think sometimes I am standing in fear of the presence of the Lord, and I’m not alone. I’ve always been amazed at people’s reactions in the Scriptures and to the presence of heavenly beings. Have you noticed the first words out of the angel’s mouths most of the time they appear? “Don’t be afraid!” It’s the most commonly given command in scripture. Yet we continue to hide in fear. Adam hid from God. Elijah hid from Jezebel. Moses’ mother hid him in a basket. When we walk in obedience to the commands that God has given us to make Him known, we don’t walk alone. We walk hand in hand with the God of the universe, and that can be comforting, exhilarating, and scary all at the same time.
The normally brash Peter was scared before he got out of the boat and then got scared again when he saw the wind. He must have been thinking “Remind me again why I am doing this.” We often need reminding as well.
Around the time our oldest son was born I would often leave the house when it was time for him to sleep. My wife was convinced that the smallest of noises would wake him, and so I was typically banned to the backyard. After several backyard projects, I decided to go to the golf course. Normally I would go with friends, but I was off work on this particular day and ended up playing with another guy that was out by himself.
We were having a nice time from the start. He was a little old guy, who looked like he played five times a week and thought about it the other two days. He didn’t hit it very far, but he hit straight as an arrow. We made our way to the first green, and, of course, his ball was closer to the hole than mine. He picked up his ball, and I putted. Two putts later it was his turn. Instead, he simply walked off the green. I was a little puzzled but let it go and moved on. After a few holes of the same behavior, it was killing me and I had to ask.
“Okay, Joe,” I said a little perturbed but mostly curious, “You’re scoring a whole lot better than me, but I could probably make a game of it if you would putt.” Joe chuckled and said, “Why would I want to screw up a perfectly good round of golf by putting?” And that was that. Joe didn’t want to putt, because he wasn’t any good at it. He had simply eliminated the part of his game that he didn’t like or wasn’t good at it. He was content to simply do the things he liked to do. It didn’t concern him that he wasn’t playing the game the way it was supposed to be played. He was playing for his own enjoyment, not mine or anyone else’s.
I know a lot of Joes. They sit beside me at church, at work, and sometimes even in my chair. They are the ones that are playing by their own rules, content to do only the comfortable parts and happy to stick with what is easy for them. Why screw up a perfectly good Christian walk by evangelizing? I’m not any good at it. I don’t enjoy it. Someone else is surely better at it than I am. It’s not my gift. Let them do it.
It’s time I let you in on a little secret: you have to putt. You don’t get a choice. If you are truly living a life committed to God, He sets the rules. I couldn’t putt for Joe and no one else can evangelize for you. Your round is incomplete if you don’t putt. It is unfinished. Your scorecard is false.
Here’s the real kicker, and those of you who play golf will understand. There’s more joy in sinking a putt than in any other part of golf. Maybe you hit the ball a mile off the tee, but until you drop that thirty foot putt for birdie it doesn’t count. Few joys rival that of leading someone to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as the putt is critical in golf, evangelism is a critical component in our spiritual life.
It is so important to God that his Son used His first and last words to His disciples to say that we need to be an evangelist for the cause of Christ. He said He would set the example, and He did. He said He will show us how, and He will. But yet, we still grumble. Children, all you need to know is that you should do it because He said so.