My friend Sarah had a fishing show. It was called, catchy enough, Hooked On Jesus. I was her pastor so it seemed right that she would invite me to be a guest on her show. We went out early one Thursday morning to Percy Priest Lake, two boats, Sarah, her husband Chris, and me in her massive, tricked out, bass boat, and the camera crew in the other boat. Now let me be clear, I like to fish but I am NOT a fisherman. I don’t know the intricacies of water temperature, rise of the moon, clarity of the water, and respective color of the bait. I can’t read the depth finder, see the contour of the lake bottom, measure the wind speed, and settle on just the right spot. My expertise is limited to, put on plastic worm, throw it in, reel it back, repeat. No fisherman here.
Chris and Sarah, on the other hand, know that stuff. They know Percy Priest Lake. So, they went across the lake to the perfect spot and set up ship, so to speak. Fisherman boat, camera boat, morning breeze, everything seemed good to me. I put on plastic worm, threw it in, and, to my chagrin, Sarah said, “Pastor, we always pray before we start. Will you pray for us?” Oh man, I’ve got a plastic worm in the water. The camera crew is watching. And I forgot to pray. Have you ever gone a restaurant with friends; you’re famished; the waitress sets the best hamburger in the world in front of you; you take a huge bite and someone says, “Let’s pray?” It felt a lot like that.
I started to pray my best “pastoral, before we fish” prayer. I guess I was reeling in the plastic worm without thinking. All of a sudden, WHAM, a fish hit the bait and nearly jerked the pole from my hand. What a dilemma. I am supposed to be spiritual. I’ve got what feels like the fish of a lifetime on. Sarah and Chris have their heads bowed and their eyes closed. AND THE CAMERA CREW IS FILMING THE WHOLE THING! I prayed a wonderful, deep, profound prayer. Don’t remember a word I said. Battled the fish the whole time. And ended with these words, “Amen, I got one.”
Of all the words of Jesus, perhaps the most often repeated but least lived out, is the little phrase found in Matthew 4:19. “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for men.” Most of us do not take seriously the call to follow. And we certainly do not spend our lives being “fishers of men.”
I started this little Bible study looking at the words of Jesus to try to get back to the very basics of the faith. I thought it would be an interesting little exercise for the fall. Maybe a tidbit or two would come up just before Simply Free, and it would give us something to talk about in the mornings before we started our day. I never really expected a big, life changing deal. I was just throwing in the plastic worm to see what happened, not to catch the fish of a lifetime. But here it is, right off the bat, first thing out of the boat. WHAM! Jesus says some stuff that you just can’t gloss over. Follow me. Catch men.
The ”follow me” part is difficult enough. I’m not sure I’m up for that. I signed up for “fire insurance.” Get me to heaven. Keep me out of the hot place. Don’t bother me much between now and then. But Jesus says, “This is not just about agreeing to some acceptable set of doctrines. This is about getting serious, altering the trajectory of your life, and following me.” In Luke 9, He makes it even more clear. “If any of you wants to be my follower you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) This following thing is pretty demanding. It smacks of sacrifice, surrender, submission. It seems to be about totally selling out, letting go of my plans and wishes, and taking on His.
In a little book my wife is reading, Painful Gifts, (I wonder if she had me in mind when she picked that up?). Dewey Greene says, “Being a follower has far-reaching spiritual implications. It means:
1.There is a leader….and I’m not Him.
- There is a way…and I do not know it.”
Following is an all-encompassing, life-changing decision. And it is not to be taken lightly.
Right off the bat Jesus has said three things to us. Pleasing God should be our focus. Reading His Word should be our pattern. And following Him should be our life. (I’m about ready to go back to a fun little study of John.)
Here’s one more kicker. Brian McLaren in “The Great Spiritual Migration,” says, “A friend of mine makes this point in a rather mathematical way. We hear Jesus say, “Follow me,’ eighty-seven times in the four Gospels. How many times does He say, Worship me? Zero. Name a religion after me? Zero. Recite a creed about me? Zero. Erect buildings in my honor? Zero. That’s not to say these things are wrong, but succeeding at them without actually forming followers of Christ is like climbing a ladder that’s leaning against the wrong building.”
The words of Jesus are not, join up, let’s hang out, be my buddy, let’s grab coffee. The words of Jesus are FOLLOW ME. And that seems to entail going after others and making followers of them. Fishers of men. Sounds a little bit like, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19) Following and fishing seem to go hand in hand.
We need to talk about this some more I think, but for today, here are some thoughts:
- God loves me with an everlasting love. What can I do today to love Him more dearly?
- Jesus calls me to a total life commitment. What can I do today to follow Him more nearly?
- Other people are depending on me to tell them about Jesus. Who can I engage today and to whom can I show Him more clearly?
That’s heavy stuff. Follow Him. Fish for men. Before you do…let’s pray.
How about tomorrow we look at that “follow me” passage in Luke 9:23-27?
Have a blessed day,