August 18, 2019 I'd Rather Be Fishing

I’d Rather Be Fishing

 

Scripture reading: Matthew 4:17-22

 

 

Have you seen this bumper sticker on cars? “I’d Rather Be Fishing.” I appreciate that sticker. I’m not a fisherman. I only went fishing twice in my whole life. When I was eight or nine our neighbor took us fishing at a local sinkhole. We caught something. I don’t know what it was. Then, in my 20’s, I went on a hiking and camping trip with two of my good friends and we fished at an isolated lake at the top of a mountain. We caught these ugly, tiny fish – only about 8 inches long. But they were quite good to eat!

 

Even though I don’t fish I like that bumper sticker because it expresses a person’s passion about something they love to do. I’ve also seen a sticker that says, “I’d Rather Be at the Gym.” I relate to that one!

 

According to Matthew, the very first word from the mouth of Jesus when he began to preach was, “Repent.” This was the message of John the Baptist. This was the message of Jesus. And, this was the message of the apostles after our Lord’s ascension. Therefore, this must be our message to the lost.

 

The kingdom was at hand when Jesus was here. The kingdom is God’s ruling, or God’s reign. It came when Jesus came, especially when he rose from the dead and breathed his Spirit into his chosen ones, thus creating his church. When the church is living the way it is called to live then the kingdom of God is realized. The kingdom is here now, although it is hidden from the eyes of the world. Of course, the kingdom will come in its fullness when Jesus returns. When he returns he will establish his kingdom on earth in a more visible and complete way. The kingdom to come will be glorious!

 

But the verses following verse 17 show that our Lord desired Peter, Andrew, James, and John to bring people into the kingdom. By birth, people are born into the kingdom of darkness and the disciples of Jesus are to call them into the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13; Acts 26:18). Are you a disciple of Jesus? Then this is your calling. It is your calling not to merely think about it. It is your calling not to merely wish it were so. It is your calling to take the fish out of the ocean – the world – and get them into the boat – the kingdom of the Lord Jesus – the church! Your calling is to do it. We must go beyond thinking and wishing to doing.

 

Jesus walks by the Sea of Galilee and sees Peter and John. This is not the first time they see one another. Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. He heard John say that Jesus was the Lamb of God, meaning that he was the sacrifice for our sins and the Messiah. He tells his brother, Peter, that they have found the Messiah and Peter met Jesus already(John 1:35-42). Thus, when Jesus sees them here and tells them to follow him they know him to be the One promised by God. They have heard his teachings. They leave their nets and begin following Jesus. They give up everything to follow him. He tells them, “I will make you fishers of men.”

 

Then a short while later he sees James and John and calls them in the same manner. They leave their father in the boat and follow Jesus.

 

Jesus is still calling people. When he calls he still says, “I will make you fishers of men.” Peter, Andrew, James, and John became fishers of men. Have you?

 

When Jesus brings about the new birth in a person, that is to say, when a person becomes a follower of Christ, he calls them all to be fishers of men. Donald Grey Barnhouse said:

 

The moment a man becomes aware that he has been made alive in Christ, there is the urge to let someone else know about it. That urge is as natural as the cry of the newborn infant. When no such desire to witness occurs, there may be a serious question as to whether a stillbirth has taken place instead of the birth of a living, healthy babe in Christ.1

 

We all need to witness, that means to confess audibly  - with your mouth - who Jesus is. Since you know who he is and that he has saved you, you can be a witness to what he has done for you.

 

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.2

 

Have you confessed Jesus to others? When did you last do it? “Pastor, I did it when I was baptized.” Well, good. When was that? “Oh, about 20 years ago.” Jesus is not talking about your confession that He is your Lord and Savior when you were baptized! He is referring to your daily life! 

 

Whether you confess him and how often you confess him will be taken into account when we are judged. Not being judged for eternal life, but being judged for our faithfulness. It is true that we must confess Him as Lord and Savior in order to receive the gift of eternal life. That is done with sincerity once at our baptism. But that is not the context of this verse. Starting at the very first verse of chapter 10 Jesus is teaching his own disciples. He is telling them what will happen when they confess him before men. They can expect two things: being ignored (“not received”; 10:14) and being persecuted (vss. 16 through 25).

 

So, when our Lord is talking about confessing to men he refers to our calling to be fishing for men.

 

If you wish to be confessed by Jesus to the Father3 then you ought to be confessing Jesus before men. When did you last do so?

 

I think that, everyone who knows their condition before a holy God and that they deserve hell and then are saved, they are then so grateful that they have a desire to share that good news with others, as Barnhouse has stated. What often happens, though, is that after a year or two that desire wanes and we get caught up in the mundane things of life. We need to be reminded of our calling to be fishermen!

 

So, we see that we must be out fishing because Jesus called us to do so. And, we must be out fishing because what we have said about Jesus to others will come up at the Judgment. Again, not regarding eternal life, but as a measure of our faithfulness and the matter of rewards in the next age.

 

Did you ever collect anything? People collect all kinds of things: stamps, autographs, baseball cards, football cards, comics, coins. Wealthy people even collect silver, gold, and cars. I collect Doc Savage books. He is a fictional character created back in the 1930’s.  Doc is a moral paragon and his stories are full of adventure. The author of Doc Savage was from Missouri, northcentral. Whatever you collect, there is a difference between gathering your collection together and scattering it. We can imagine a vindictive boyfriend or girlfriend taking their beau’s collection of whatever and tossing the items out the window, scattering them along the highway so that would not be found. With physical objects there is a difference between gathering and scattering.

 

But hear what our Lord said about the matter of gathering those into his kingdom:

 

30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 4

 

I believe the first part of this statement applies to those who have never come to the Lord for salvation. If a person lives a seemingly upright life but never serves the Lord Jesus Himself then they are actually against him. There is no middle ground. There is no such thing as neutral territory in the battle for the minds and hearts of people.

 

I think the second half of this statement applies to everyone, lost and found, but it has particular application to those who follow him; because the lost do not even seek to gather others to the Lord.

 

“Whoever does not gather with me scatters!” This is a momentous statement! Jesus is saying that unless you are actively gathering with him, you are actually scattering! How is that so? I will tell you: I don’t know. But, I do know that it is true because Jesus said it. Maybe it is because the gathering is so important that, when we fail to do it, our lack of obedience gives the devil and his demons more opportunities to deter others from coming to Christ. But, whatever the reason, if we are not gathering then we are scattering. I tell you, Matthew 12:30 troubles me. It troubles me because I know that I am not as faithful as I ought to be in gathering. It makes me a little scared. I hope it makes you concerned, too. This is why Jesus said it. To get you concerned!

 

Are you gathering? Whom have you gathered?

 

Last week we looked at the Parable of the Sower and we focused upon the main message of the parable. We saw that it was really about the soils. Let’s look at it again and consider the sower.

 

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”  (Mt 13:3–9 ESV)

 

I would like us to remember two things about this parable (but don’t forget what you learned last week!). First, remember that the good soil produces a crop. Hear our Lord’s explanation:

 

 As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”  (Mt 13:23)

 

Notice that the good soil, the true believer, bears fruit. What is the fruit? It is the same crop that is growing in the parable. What is growing? People! The plants represent people! The soil represents their hearts. The fruit that the good soil produces is other people who hear the word and respond!

 

May I ask, where is your fruit? There is such a thing as the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, and peace, among other character qualities (Gal. 5:22-23). Those qualities are fruit. But that is not the fruit in this parable. In the parable fruit is people!

 

The second thing I would like you to remember is that we need sowers. Every follower of the Lord Jesus is a sower. It is not that they need to be a sower. They are already sowers. The only question is if they are doing what they are called to do or whether they are sleeping on the job, like the guards of Jeffery Epstein.

 

Are you sowing or are you sleeping?

 

I recently purchased the 50Th Anniversary CD of the album The Sower by the All Saved Freak Band. They were a late 60’s/early 70’s Christian Folk Band. You do know, don’t you, that the best music for quite some time came out in the late 60’s and early 70’s? The title song of that album was the The Sower. [play]

 

So, here are some of the lyrics:

 

Behold a sower went forth to sow bearing precious seed
in his hand
Hoping on hope that he might see it grow.
Knowing that the harvest might well come before the
bloom
He runs on his way there's no time to be goin' slow.


Hurry, take what you've got, do with it what you can
'Cause the good God in heaven needs a sower in the
land.

 

The good God in heaven needs a sower in the land! Will you answer your calling? If you will…

 

Hurry, take what you’ve got and do with it what you can!

 

Sowing and fishing are just illustrations of what we are to be doing, not what we are only to be thinking and wishing.

 

  • We must be fishing because Jesus called us to do it.
  • We must be fishing because whether we did will come up at the Judgment.
  • We must be gathering because if we are not, we are scattering.
  • We must be sowing because sowing is the fruit of good hearts.

 

Jesus needs fishermen and sowers (same thing). Hurry, take what you’ve got and do with it what you can! I’d rather be fishing. Knowing what is at stake, wouldn’t you?

 

Footnotes:

[1] Quoted by Milton Jones, Discipling: The Multiplying Ministry (Star Bible & Tract Corp., Ft Worth, TX; 1985) p 30.

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Mt 10:32). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[3] Whether this confession by Jesus will take place at the Judgment Seat of Christ or at the Great White Throne is not clear. The judgment by Jesus of his own saints when he returns to the earth is by him, but this does not necessarily mean that the Father is absent. Could it be that Jesus is the Judge but that the Father is with him during the judgment so that it is a judgment in harmony with one another?

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 12:30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.