While other religious leaders draw their disciples with promises of nirvana or paradise Jesus drew His followers with a call to action. A call to partner with Him in gathering the lost and the broken people of the world.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 ESV
Fishing for fish provided the potential disciples with food, money and a respectable place in society. It even provided a trade they could pass down to their children, an important point in a family based societal structure.
Fishing for men… offered none of these benefits. In fact, it stripped all of these benefits away. For these men following Jesus meant leaving their income, their family, their position in society and the business they could have passed on to their children.
“And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Luke 9:58
Since the first disciples, the call to leave all and follow gone out to millions of people throughout the earth. Men and women from every continent and class have made the seemingly irrational decision become followers of Jesus.
Surprisingly the decision to follow Jesus rarely culminates in the fulfilled promise of becoming “fishers of men.” After giving up all they have do people find a Jesus who is unwilling to fulfill His end of the bargain? Does Jesus fail to follow through? Is He a bait and switch salesman only interested in getting what He wants without honoring his promises?
“God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Numbers 23:19
As a Bible believing Christian we know Jesus cannot lie which leads us to seek an answer for the unfulfilled promise somewhere else. For most of us the “somewhere else” is the aluminum backed piece of glass we call a mirror.
Why do we give up the apparent pleasures of sin and self-will to follow Jesus but stop short of walking in the fulfillment of His promise to make us “fishers of men”?
I see three basic reasons.
First, our selfishness takes us off course before we reach the finish line. It’s one thing to give up sinful activities which we often find bringing destruction into our lives. It’s a completely different thing to put to ourselves in the uncomfortable position of talking to others about something we often feel they don’t want to hear about.
The removal of destructive sin brings peace. The prospect of sharing our faith with an uninterested person brings anxiety. The first gives us something we want, while the second appears to take it away and so we shrink back. This simple fact exposes our true priority in coming to Jesus. Many of us come to Jesus only for self and not for others.
Matthew 22:36-40 New International Version (NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
While it is true Jesus invites us to come to Him for salvation, according to God’s word the two other reasons we should be coming to Him are both focused outward rather than inward.
The first reason flows toward Him and the second toward our neighbors.
For many, the answer to the discomfort of becoming fishers of men is to simply “live as a witness”. This term means we can simply live a good life - shine our light - and hope someone finally asks us why we’re so special. When and if they ask we’ll take the opportunity to mention our faith and hopefully they’ll invite themselves to church and hopefully the message will be amazing and they’ll get saved.
Unfortunately, the gospel isn’t spread through social osmosis. It’s spread through speaking the good news of the gospel with real words to real people.
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. “ Romans 10:14-17
These verses plainly show us God’s call for us to be vocal witnesses to our neighbors and the world around us.
This verse puts a sharper point on our role of being vocal witnesses, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” James 4:17
Wow, is it really sin to stay silent?
Yes, if we know God is calling us to speak out and we choose not to do it - we are walking in sin. Even worse, it may actually be evidence we are not even saved.
“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” 1 John 1:6-10
If we are true followers of Jesus the Word says His Spirit comes to live in our hearts.
“Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself,” 1 Corinthians 6:19
If He is truly living in our hearts it will be proven by our vocal witness. How can I be so sure of this statement? Because the Bible clearly tells us our words come from the overflow of what is in our hearts.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45
Being a vocal witness is not only a witness of who Jesus is. Being a vocal witness is also a witness that we are truly born again followers of Jesus Christ.
“But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:18
One cannot objectively read the Bible without coming to the conclusion that true followers of Jesus are vocal witnesses, they are active fishers of men.
True followers are willing to give up their social comfort for the sake of sharing the good news of Jesus with the people He has put in the pathway of their life journey.
If we are to be true followers we must embrace our calling to be fishers of men throughout the willful act of vocal witnessing.
Praise God we do not have to do this alone or in our own strength! He cares about the people of Austin and has sent the Holy Spirit here to give us boldly bring the gospel.
Jesus knew of our proclivity for comfort. He knew it would be easier for us to follow than to imitate and had a plan to help us.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
The Holy Spirit has been sent into the earth to fulfill Jesus promise of making us fishers of men. It is through His empowerment that we can overcome sin and become vocal witnesses for the good news of Jesus death and resurrection.
Being a vocal witness doesn’t depend on our own ability, personality or boldness. Becoming a vocal is about depending less on ourselves and more on the Holy Spirit whom Jesus has sent to help us win the lost to Jesus in Austin, Texas.
The most powerful tool we can exercise in becoming vocal witnesses is the power of choice. We must choose to start our days in communion with the Holy Spirit through personal devotions. It is in our devotional times that we submit ourselves to His leading, ask for direction and commit to following His leading.
Presence powers purpose. When we make the consistent choice to abide in Him and follow His lead we will bear much fruit right here in Austin, Texas.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” John 15:4-5