Fishers of Men (Mark Sermon 4)
January 30, 2022 | Andy Davis
External Journey, Evangelism, Missions
Mark 1:17 is a message from the Holy Spirit to us to move us, provoke us, challenge us, equip us to become fishers of men - evangelizing the lost.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
Well, take your Bible and turn to Mark chapter 1. And, today we're going to zero in on just one verse. It's not common for me to do this, to preach an entire sermon on one verse, but we're going to zero in on verse 17. Last week, we walked through the whole section that you just heard Dave read, but we're going to zero in on verse 17, in which Jesus says, "Come follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." And as I do, I want to give you my sense of the context. I've been here since October of 1998. So in my 22nd year, there is no church I would rather pastor than this church. It's a delight to be in this church. I love this church. This is a healthy church. There is such a joy that we all have of benefiting from one another's spiritual gifts, benefiting from the grace that's at work in each other's lives, to have that rich fellowship that we have, and to enjoy the excellent worship music that we just had. So good. And then the friendships that we make in our home fellowships, all of these things are a delight.
But, friends, we are surrounded every day, in this community, in this part of the world, by people who are perishing in their sins. And I believe that this church should do more about that than we're doing. I yearn to see more baptisms in this church, in which the people stand in this baptistery and they testify along this basic pattern. "I was lost. I met a member of this church, and now I'm here today, to testify to my faith in Christ." That basic pattern. I yearn to see lots of those. Don't you? I mean, aren't those times when we get those baptisms, aren't they incredible? The joy that's involved in being part of this eternal work that God is doing, that we actually are co-laborers with Almighty God in building an eternal kingdom, there is nothing like that. The joy is incredible.
And I want to be part of that. I want to be part of that joy, that the Father says he shows in the presence of angels over one sinner, whoever repents, he just throws a heavenly feast of joy. "Come celebrate with me because what was lost is now found." And he's actually committed to us the ministry and the message of reconciliation. We have an eternally consequential work to do. And I don't want us, at First Baptist Durham, I don't want us to be complacent. I don't want us to stay within that comfort zone, of being in a healthy church, surrounded by good Christian people and just being happy with that. And so there's a delight there, but there's also a fear for me, as a pastor, that we're going to have to give Christ an account for failure as well as for success. And I just don't want our church to fail. I don't want our church to have to give him an account for numerous gospel opportunities that he went ahead of us and prepared, and we missed it because we were self-focused.
So I want to zero in on this one text, "To follow me, come follow me, and I'll make you to become fishers of men." I consider this providential, that we're here now, in this time, in the history of our church, that we get to talk about this now. Now first, I want to give a clear caveat to all of you. Some of you just know the truth about me, but I know almost nothing about fishing. I mean, really, I think in my entire life, I've caught one fish. It was a sun fish in a little pond across the street in Massachusetts. It was not impressive. And no one took a picture of it. So I've never enjoyed, when it comes to fishing, either the process of fishing or the product of fishing. I mean, what do you get after all that work? You get a fish. It's just not impressive to me. I don't like seafood. I'm not going to eat it.
Now some of you, however, are hugely into fishing. So I'm a little intimidated by you. I'm going into uncharted waters, so to speak. Sorry about that. Some of you have been out in the open sea. You've done big game fishing—tuna, marlin, swordfish, something like that. Others of you do more of that freshwater fishing where you go out in those shiny sleek boats. And, you fish for freshwater bass or something like that. Others of you, now this is an art form, is that trout fishing with fly fishing, where you tie, you spend like six hours tying a knot that looks like a fly. And apparently, trout are incredibly intelligent. They can tell the difference, so you got to do a good job tying that fly. And then you just get this rhythm going with your wrists. And you kind of just lay the line down just on the surface of the water and the trout strikes and you land a trout. I know nothing about any of that, right? That's just not my area of expertise.
But the men that Jesus was calling, in the text that Dave just read, they were professional fishermen. It's what they did, all the time. Now their manner of fishing was using nets, and, apparently, they were kind of circular nets with weights that they would throw out into the Sea of Galilee. And the weights would sink down and someone would dive down and tie them off at the bottom, and then they'd pull up the nets. And this is how they were fishing. And so, he's using a language that they would've understood. he's using basically a daily life parable, perhaps. And he's inviting them into his training school to teach them how to do a different kind of fishing, a fishing with a far greater eternal consequence. "Come follow me and I'll make you to become fishers of men."
Now, just before Jesus left the surface of the Earth and went up to heaven, where he will stay until the second coming of Christ, just before he left, he gave in each of the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and then also in the book of Acts, a version of what's generally known as the Great Commission, commanding the church that he left behind to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Spirit, and to teach them to obey everything that Christ has commanded, and that he would be with them, empowering them and enabling them to be witnesses. All four Gospels and the book of Acts. So the questions in front of us, as we look at verse 17, for us to stand under this verse as though he's talking to us and we would hear him say, "Come follow me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." So how do we do that?
I. First, Follow Christ
And the first step is to follow Christ. "Come follow me," and Jesus said, "and I'll make you to become fishers of men." Jesus is walking beside the Sea of Galilee, as we've said. Peter as Simon and his brother, Andrew, were casting their nets into the lake. Further on, you've got James and John. They're brothers there. All four of them professional fishermen. And Jesus wanted them to become fishers of men. Now essential to their training, as fishers of men, was first be with him. To "Come follow me, be with me." Everything that we're going to see in the Gospel of Mark, if God gives us time to continue through this whole incredible Gospel, 16 chapters, will help us and prepare us to be also what Jesus was, a fisher of men.
All of Jesus' healings show his overwhelming compassion for the miseries of our sinful human race. All of Jesus' teachings were, in some sense, ultimately focused on the salvation of souls from sin. All of Jesus' encounters give us some pattern that we can follow. He is our role model in saving souls. He is our mentor in saving souls. He's our teacher and our coach and our trainer and our commanding officer in saving souls. He is the general who leads from the front in saving souls. He is the shepherd who sends out his sheep as among ravenous wolves to save souls. And he's not the hireling that runs away at the sight of the wolf. But he goes out in front and he's willing to lay down his life for the sheep, that they would be so saved.
"All of Jesus' healings show his overwhelming compassion for the miseries of our sinful human race. All of Jesus' teachings were, in some sense, ultimately focused on the salvation of souls from sin."
And so he's saying, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." And he says, "I will make you to become fishers of men." Not all the translations keep the word become, but it's in there. It's in the Greek. It's in the ESV. And that is, it's a strong statement. "I will make you to become what you are not." So they have to first realize, first and foremost, their own deficiency. This is a key spiritual principle in the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." For us, just to be honest and say, "God, I'm not a fisher of men. I really am not. I'm not an evangelist. I don't really lead people to Christ. It's not something I'm doing, God. I'm just not winning lost people." He knows. So zero in on that word become, "I will make you become something you are not." He has that power to do that. And that was true of these four. Simon and Andrew, James and John were not fishers of men at that point.
And as the story unfolds, as the Gospels unfold, you see this more and more. They're really not on the same page with him. A clear example of this is in John chapter 4. Take a minute and go over to John 4, if you would. Put your finger here in Mark 1:17 and we'll come back to it. But, if you look at John chapter 4, Jesus is going up, after his Judean ministry, at the beginning of his ministry there, and it says he had to go through Samaria. Well, Jews did everything they could to not go through Samaria. Why did Jesus have to go through Samaria? Well, he had an evangelistic encounter there that had been set up by Almighty God with a Samaritan woman. The disciples separate from Jesus and go into the Samaritan village to buy food, buy provisions. Meanwhile, Jesus has this incredible conversation with a Samaritan woman at the well. It's a paradigm example of evangelism. It's one of the greatest in the Bible. So, if you want to know how to become a fisher of men, look at Jesus' technique with the Samaritan woman.
He begins, first, he strikes up a conversation, and he starts talking to her. And she's shocked. She didn't expect him to say anything. It's kind of awkward. Jewish man, she's a Samaritan woman who didn't expect anything. And he spoke to her and asked her for a drink, and she's surprised. And then, Jesus says, in John 4:10, if you look at it, I've called this before, when it comes to being fisher of men, this is a lure with four hooks on it. All right? A lure with four hooks. It's one statement he makes. And it's very provocative, and it's very fascinating. So one basic lesson on evangelism is be interesting. Draw people in to conversation. And so he says to her this, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is who speaks to you, you would've asked him and he would've given you living water." She's never heard anything like that in all her life. What in the world?
So she deconstructs it. And she ends up going through each of the four points in different ways in their ensuing conversation. First of all, "What is the gift of God? What does that mean? And who are you? What's so special about you? You don't look special. So why should I be so impressed with who it is that's speaking to me? And thirdly, why should I ask you for anything? You have nothing. You don't have a rope. You don't have a bucket. You don't have anything. So how could you give me anything? And finally, what in the world is living water?" And so she's drawn into this conversation. And by the time they get done, she is 100% convinced that he is the Messiah, the Promised One sent from God. And she leaves her water jar there and runs into the Samaritan village. And by a few things she says, the entire village comes out to meet Jesus.
Now meanwhile, the disciples. Oh, here we go. What were they doing? Well, they were buying food. Mission accomplished. Good job. They come back with food. And they say, "Alright, we're here. Let's eat." I wonder what those food buying opportunities were like for them. Like, "What are we doing here? We're in Samaria. We're buying food from Samaritans. Can we just get this done and get out of here?" But they come back and they say to Jesus, "Rabbi, eat something." And he says, "I have food to eat you know nothing about." And in my exegesis and understanding that statement, I stick in an extra word in there—"apparently." So it sounds like this to me, "I have food to eat that you apparently know nothing about."
Oh, could someone have brought him food? Oh, no. "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and finish his work. That's my food." Then he said this, "Do you not say four months more and then comes the harvest? I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields. They're ripe for harvest. Even now the harvest is going on." And that woman brought that whole Samaritan village in, and they ended up believing in Christ.
Now, I've been convicted by that passage for a long time. I've thought, "How many such empty trips have I made to the supermarket, or my workplace setting or all kinds of things, where God had set up some evangelistic opportunities and I just missed it?" So when it says, "Follow me, and I'll make you become fishers of men," so go back to Mark 1:17, that word become, just be honest, be honest, and say, "Lord, would you make me be something I'm not? I am like the disciples. I don't care about souls. I want to be a fisher of men, but that's what I'm not."
Now, before we go on in this whole topic, I think, in order to be a fisher of men, you need to be certain first that Christ has landed you, that you have been caught by Christ's gospel, that you're a Christian, that your sins are forgiven, that you have trusted in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. You can't be a fisher of men unless you yourself have been caught by Christ's Gospel. So be certain that you are born again. And then if you are, then you can come to him and say, "Would you make me like you are? Would you make me like yourself? Make me passionate for souls. Give me, Lord, the same passion for souls you have. Make me single-minded in this matter." Jesus was single-minded. He had to go through Samaria because there's a woman there, and through her, there's a whole village of Samaritans that he wants to save. That's the way Jesus was.
Remember that occasion with Zacchaeus, where he is going along and Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector. And he's a short man, remember? And so he climbs up in the sycamore fig tree to get a better view of Jesus. And Jesus stops below the tree and looks up and says, "Come down, Zacchaeus, for I must eat at your house today." There's a must. There's an obligation. "We're going to have a meal together, Zacchaeus." And He ends up leading him to faith in Christ. He ends up saving him. And Jesus said, in Luke 19:9-10, he said, "Today, salvation has come to this house, for the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." Is that why you have come to every place you come to, to seek and to save? You should. Every encounter, to seek and to save, to seek and to save. That's what Jesus came to do. Luke 19:10, purpose statement.
What about us? Do we have anything like the same passion for the lost? I truly believe the central lack in my heart, and it may be yours as well, is a lack of genuine love for and compassion for lost people in their lostness, a sense of brokenness over what is going on in their lives because of their sins, a sense of weeping over it and grieving over it. I naturally don't have that feeling. I would say that's true of all of us. Naturally, apart from Christ, we don't really care that sin is shredding the lives of the people around us. It's ruining them from the inside out. It's corrupting them. It's destroying their marriages. It's destroying their family life. It's destroying them through addictions, hidden addictions, or even open addictions. We don't care like we should. So, only as we follow Christ will we be fishers of men.
II. Fish Who Delight to be Caught
Now, this parable, this analogy, what is simile, metaphor, whatever, "fisher of men," has its limitations. All parables have limitations. And this one does too. Ordinarily, it is disastrous for the fish to be caught. I mean, what happens to the fish? I mean, when the fishermen lands it, in some cases, they get a club and beat its brains in, and then they gut it and eat it. So, Jesus, is that what's going to happen to the fish we catch? No, actually, quite the opposite. They're already getting their brains bashed in, and they're getting gutted and eaten by sin. Jesus is coming to free them. He's coming to give them life and give it abundantly. These are fish who, in the end, will be delighted that they were caught. They're going to spend eternity celebrating that they were caught by the fisher of men. So it's just good for the fish to be caught.
III. Basic Fishing Technique
Now let's talk of about some basic fishing technique. Fundamentally, we need to understand what evangelism is. Evangelism is tied to the Greek word for the good news, euangelion, the good message, the good news. As Jesus said in Mark 1:15, "the good news of the kingdom." So what is the good news? Well, we, years ago, kind of outlined the gospel message in four main headings: God, Man, Christ, Response. If you're going to evangelize, you need to know the gospel. And these four headings are key. You got to say some things about God. You got to say some things about the human condition. You got to say some things about Christ. And you got to call the people to respond. That's what evangelism is.
So what are you going to say about God? Say that he's the Creator of all things, heaven and earth. He made all things. And as the Creator, he is a king. He rules over all things. This is his stuff because he made it. And as the king, he is able to be the law giver. He gives laws and rules by which his empire, his kingdom, should be run. And as the law giver, he is the judge. He evaluates his subjects to see whether they obey his laws or not. And the laws are the Ten Commandments, which we know. Or even easier, the two great commandments which, he has said, summarize all the law and the prophets. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." So that's the God section.
The man or humanity section is, we are created in the image of God to have a relationship with him, a love relationship with him, and be subjects of his kingdom. But we have violated the king's laws. We have broken the laws. And if you're going to evangelize, you need to know the law and do law work on the people and show them, so that they understand that they have sinned. For example, Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not murder.' But if you're even angry in your heart, you're in danger of the fire of hell. And you've heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But if you even lusted at a person, you've committed adultery in your heart and you're in danger of the fire of hell."
So you do law work. Talk about the two commandments saying, "Do you love God with every fiber of your being? Do you love your neighbor the way you love yourself?" And, in the end, I've had people say this again and again, "Well, you're expecting people to be perfect." No, I'm not. God is. "You must be perfect as your Heavenly Father's perfect." And wherein you're not, you have sinned and broken God's commandments. And that's our condition, we are under the judgment of God the King, and we couldn't save ourselves.
So thirdly, God sent his son, Jesus Christ. He was born of the Virgin. He was fully human, but he was also the Son of God. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, so he’s fully God, fully man. He lived a sinless life. He did amazing miracles. He taught amazing teachings. But most of all, he came to die on the cross in our place. He took the wrath of God and the judgment of God that we deserve on himself. On the cross, he died in our place, the death we deserve to die, so that he could give us a perfect righteousness in which we could stand on judgment day and survive. So you got three points, God, man, Christ. Now you got to call them to respond.
And there is no better call than right there on the same page you're looking at, look at Mark 1:15. "The time is at hand. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel." That's what you're calling them to do. They got to turn from their sins, acknowledge that they're sinners, turn from it, and believe the good news, this gospel message. Alright. So that's what this fishing is, that you are sharing that message in the power of the Holy Spirit, and calling on people to repent and believe.
Now what fishing isn't, is you don't need to land the fish. You don't have that power. To use another analogy, as he said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again." The landing of the fish into the boat or on the shore is that they're born again. They're made a new creature through the power of the Holy Spirit. You do not have that power. It's not your task. But our task is to proclaim this message, God, man, Christ, response, in the power of the Spirit and leave the results to God.
IV. Fishing Equipment
Now let's talk a little about our fishing equipment, fishing tackle. And common to all fishing tackle, that fishing equipment, is force. There's a force that the tackle puts on the fish, to take it out of its watery surroundings, and land it, put it on the boat, put it on the shore. There's a force to all fishing tackle. Now the central text for me, on this concept of force on the fish, is in John 6:44. Don't turn there, just listen. Jesus said, in John 6:44, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day."
Now that word, "draws," is a forceful word. It's used for a drag net, that fishermen draw through the water. They're pulling it strong through the water. It's also used for drawing a sword out of a scabbard. There's a force being put. Jesus said in John 6:44, "No one can come to me if the Father doesn't draw them, put a force on their souls." No one up and comes to Christ unaided. That never happens, ever. They have to be drawn by the invisible force of the Holy Spirit, of God through the Holy Spirit. He puts a force on their souls and he draws them. And we use the expression that they are coming to Christ. They're coming. It's not a geographical physical movement from point A to point Z. But they are coming spiritually to Christ. Jesus says that cannot happen unless the Father puts a force on you, draws you.
"No one up and comes to Christ unaided. That never happens, ever. They have to be drawn by the invisible force of the Holy Spirit, of God through the Holy Spirit. He puts a force on their souls and he draws them."
Now, that doctrine is commonly, by some theologians, called the doctrine of irresistible grace. Because again, in John 6:44, it says, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day," meaning you'll be saved. So when the Father puts his force on you, you're going to get saved. No one can say no. Do you not see the good news of that? We are going to fish, and we're going to land fish. It's going to work. Satan is such a liar in this. He's saying, "Ah, it's not going to work. Nobody's going to come," and so many do not come. But we're going to land some fish. Because when the Father puts his force on somebody, Jesus is going to raise him up from the dead on the last day. They're going to get saved.
And so, I don't like the term irresistible grace. It gives the picture of people being dragged kicking and screaming into the kingdom. Now I know C. S. Lewis was the most reluctant convert in all England. That was his problem. But he was a convert and he was delighted to come to Christ in the end. No one gets dragged kicking and screaming to Christ. They all want to come. And so I prefer, instead, the term effectual calling. It's more, it's better, effectual calling. So when God puts his force on a soul, it is effective. It's effective. It's like when he says, "Let there be light," there's light. God is powerful.
Now, we have some fishing tackle, though, by which we can put force on people's souls and bring them to Christ. So I want to zero in on four in particular. I could have called them the line, like a fishing line, but I'm going with net. So either way, net or line is okay. But there are four: the net of truth, the net of love, the net of fear, and the net of delight, these four. These four are powerful on people.
First of all, the net of truth. By this I mean biblical truth, Scripture. First and foremost, the scriptures of the gospel. When Paul says in Romans 1:16, "I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." The gospel truths, in the Scripture, put a force on people. They can't shake the truths they've heard. It weighs on them, and they think about it.
Think about Stephen, who was a tremendous evangelist, in Acts chapter 6, and he's reasoning and debating with some opponents. And it says in Acts 6:9-10, "These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke." So there's a powerful logic and reasoning and truth to the Scriptures, and it's irresistible. It's powerful. Same thing with the Apostle Paul. In Acts 17, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days, he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that Christ had to rise from the dead. And it was immediately effective. Some Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
So this is a powerful Word. The Scripture has converting power. When Peter, on the day of Pentecost, under the power of the Holy Spirit, preached a whole bunch of Old Testament prophecies predicting the resurrection of Christ and all that, and making the gospel plain, by these scriptural truths. It says in Acts 2:37, "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart," cut to the heart, "and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?'"
The Scriptures can stick in someone's mind and they can't shake them. I heard a story, from the 18th century, of a man who was a hundred years old. He was a healthy hundred year old farmer, in Colonial New England, around the time of George Whitfield, around the time of the Great Awakening, maybe around the year 1770. But he, at age a hundred, had not trusted Christ, but he's still healthy. He was sitting out in a field, under a tree, and he was thinking about his childhood, long life in his childhood. He went back to his boyhood years in Dartmouth, England, before he sailed for the New World, before he sailed for America.
And at the age of 15, he had heard a sermon preached by an English Puritan pastor named John Flavel. And the text was 1 Corinthians 16:22, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. Come, Lord Jesus." One text. 85 years ago, and he's thinking about it and the sermon and the exposition. And Flavel, in that sermon, focused on the horror of dying apart from Christ, and facing the curse and the wrath of God. And sitting under that tree, 85 years later, this man, Luke Short, came to faith in Christ.
Now, I think it's best that they not wait 85 years. 85 years of not being a Christian is a long time to waste your life. But at least he came. I've been on the airplane, sharing the gospel. And I get done, and we're preparing to land. We're in that landing pattern. And we've had a good conversation, but the guy hasn't come to Christ yet. And I said to this man, I said, "I'm going to pray tonight, that you will not be able to sleep, and you'll be thinking about the scriptures we've talked about." Now I never find out. They never call that, "Oh, by the way, I wasn't able to sleep. And I came to Christ." Until heaven, I won't know. But I've prayed for that, "Keep them up, Lord. Keep them awake. Make them think about the scriptures that we've talked about." So that's the first, the force or the net of truth.
Secondly, the net of love, the net of love. Christian love is a powerful apologetic for the gospel. This world of sin is vicious in its wickedness, vicious. Titus 3:3-5 talks about this kind of viciousness. It says there, "At one time, we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy," listen to this phrase, "being hated and hating one another," being hated and hating one another. "But, when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us."
So, into this mass, this pit of viper world that Jesus came into, we were hating and hating each other, being hated and hating one another, and where we lived in malice and envy. And then the kindness and love of God appeared in Christ. Says in Hosea 11:4, "I led them with cords of human kindness." Think about that. Isn't that good for my fishing analogy? Cords of human kindness. So, wrap them up with cords of kindness and love, with ties of love. No one did this better than Jesus. No one ever loved the way this man loved. And his followers did the same. You remember Stephen at the end, when he's being stoned to death, and he's dying under their wrath and malice? Do you remember what he said? He said, "Lord, please do not hold this sin against them."
Now, if you're Saul of Tarsus in an unconverted state, and you watch that man die like that, that puts us, the Lord later said, goads into Saul's soul, pushing him to Christ. And so the church should be a community of love, first within ourselves, that we would be a loving community. You walk in here and you feel the love. You walk into a home fellowship and you feel that the people really actually love each other. Jesus said, "By this will all men know that you're my disciples, if you love one another." So that FBC would be a community of love, just because we love each other. But also, it has converting power. Because the people out there, they don't see love like this. They don't know what it's like to be loved like that. Tertullian, a Christian apologist, around the year AD 200, was talking about the effect of that love on lost people. And he said, "These unconverted Romans are watching us, and they're saying, 'Behold, how they love one another. Behold, how they love one another.'"
But then, secondly, the love we show to them in particular. Christians have led the way in felt needs ministries, in establishing hospitals and clinics and benevolent ministries all over the world, in the pattern of Jesus, meeting temporal needs, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for orphans and widows. It's just something that Christians have done all along. In the early Roman era, they would go and find babies that had been exposed. They used to just leave them under bridges. And they would pick them up and raise them as their own.
All the way to the orphanages established by George Müller and Charles Spurgeon in Victorian England, 19th century England. Or even in that same era, William and Catherine Booth, who ministered to the poorest of London in the early days of the Salvation Army, Christians have displayed sacrificial love. What is God? What needs is God leading our church to meet here in Durham that we're presently not meeting? There are some that we are, but what are some new ministries that God might be laying on your heart, or your heart, or your heart, someone's heart, that could meet a felt need for the purpose of leading lost people to Christ? The nets of love.
Thirdly, the net of fear. The net of fear. "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved." Fear of judgment, fear of wrath, leads people to Christ. They flee the wrath to come. They should be afraid. They should be more afraid of hell than they are. I think that we evangelists, we can fear death and hell on their behalf, because they're not afraid of it. Jesus talked more about hell than anyone that had ever lived before him. In Matthew 10:28, he said, "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." Yes, I tell you, fear him.
I was watching the movie Free Solo, about Alex Honnold. Have you seen this movie, where he's climbing the Yosemite rock face with no equipment, just his hands? And he's hanging by fingertips on the side of that rock, thousands of feet up in the air. And I know, from what I've read, that he's an atheist. I know that he's lost, while he's hanging by his fingers by the side on the Yosemite wall. So, I was watching that differently than just a watcher of the movie. It's like, "Do you understand what you're hanging over?"
This image was first put in my mind by reading the historical circumstances of Jonathan Edward's sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," that he preached in Enfield, Connecticut, 1741. On the text, "In due time, their foot will slip." And he basically used the fact that the revival had passed Enfield by, and up to that point, most people hadn't been changed by it at all, to say, in a very kind of straight way, "It could be the gospels passing all of you by. And you're under the wrath of God, and you don't understand that you're basically walking on a rotten plank across the open pit of hell." And by the time he got done, the people were crying out, "What must I do to be saved?" They were in terror.
Now I know that it's not an easy ministry, that we would stimulate people to be afraid to die, stimulate people to be afraid of hell, but that's part of the job. That's part of the task. And it is one of the reasons it makes evangelism difficult to do. But you think about Pilgrim's Progress, and what was it that caused Christian to begin his pilgrimage? He realized, by reading in the book that he was reading, that he lived in a place called the City of Destruction and he didn't know it. And he knew that he has to get out of town. He's got to get out of the City of Destruction. So the net of fear.
And then, finally, the net of delight. Where did Christian flee to? Well, he fled to a place called the Celestial City. The Celestial City, heaven, is a beautiful place. You don't want to miss it. You don't want to miss it. And so the delights of heaven. One of his neighbors, Pliable, runs with him for a little while. I don't know if you remember this. And he says, "Well, tell me the beautiful place you're going. I've heard good things." He's like, "Well," Christian said, "there's an endless kingdom to be enjoyed and everlasting life to be given us, and that we may live in that kingdom forever. And there are crowns of glory to be given us, and garments that will make us shine like the sun in the sky. And there'll be no more crying nor sorrow, for he that is the owner of the place shall wipe all tears from our eyes." And Pliable says, "I'm in. I want to be part of that." It's the ultimate fear of missing out, friends. You don't want to miss this one.
But best of all, is the delight in being with Christ, being with Christ, just being with him. I remember, I was sharing the gospel with one individual, and we had been meeting multiple times, going carefully through the book of Romans. There was nothing more to say. We'd gotten through the whole thing. And I was talking to him about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. And it ends, remember, they're sitting with Jesus and they're sharing a meal. And he's talking to them about the kingdom and all that. And then he breaks bread and disappears from their eyes. And they said, "Were not our hearts burning within us when he opened the scriptures to us?" And this man that I'd been meeting with multiple times said to me, "I wish I had been there." I was like, "All right, stop. You can actually be there forever. What do you say?" "What do I do?" I said, "Ask Jesus to be your Savior." "Like how?" I said, "Ask him, now. Ask him, and he'll save you." And he did.
Delight. I want Christ. I want to be with Christ. And I want to be with him forever. And I want to be in that beautiful world. The net of delight. These are the four, these four powerful nets. John Bunyan himself, this is one of the great stories from church history, Bunyan himself was converted, in part, when he overheard the conversation of a couple of unnamed women. He was a tinker, which means he went from place to place, sharpening knives and repairing pots and pans. And he overheard some women. And this is what he said, "I thought they spoke as if joy did make them speak. And they spoke with such pleasantness of scripture language and with such appearance of grace in all they said, that they were to me as if they had found a new world." They didn't even know he was listening. They were just so filled with joy at what their life was going to be like in heaven. He's like, "I'm on the outside looking in. I want in."
So do you see these four nets? The net of truth, Scripture truth. The net of love, of cords of human kindness, showing people hospitality, meeting felt needs, doing ministries, the net of love. And the net of fear, that they would understand what will happen if they do not trust Christ, that they're under the wrath of God, and judgment is coming soon and they don't know when. And then the net of delight, the delights of heaven, but especially the delight of being with Jesus. Use that fishing tackle.
V. Finding the Fish
Now you may say, "Where are the fish? How am I going to find the fish?" Veteran fishermen among you will tell you, "Look, you can have the best equipment and you can be out there. You can go to the same place you’ve been before. You can have the expensive sonar thing that tells you definitely where the fish are, and you can still catch no fish." That happened twice to Peter. You know that? Peter went out and fished all night long and caught nothing. Twice. In Luke 5:5, "We’ve worked hard all night and haven't caught a thing." And then again in John 21:3, they went out, got into the boat, but that night, they caught nothing. Let me tell you something. Jesus knows where the fish are. And better than that, not only does he know where the fish are, he actually has secret power over their little fish brains, to make them make a strong left hand turn and swim into Peter's net. What in the world's going on with that? You remember what happened. He caught so many fish that the boat began to sink.
So they're swimming in the Sea of Galilee, just swimming, just living their fish lives. And then, suddenly, they turned and went right into the net. Jesus has the power to make the fish swim into these nets. He has that kind of power. Throughout church history, again and again, God, through the Holy Spirit has led his messengers to go to specific places and do specific ministries, because there are some unconverted people ready to come to Christ. In the Muslim world, you see this with dreams, where people have dreams, and they're told to go to a certain city and a man who will be wearing a red coat and have a certain hat. These kinds of things happen. And God sets up that occasion and they come to Christ.
But think about Philip. And an angel of the Lord appeared to him in Acts 8, and the angel told him where to go, "Go south to the road, the desert road, that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." So he goes down there, and what does he find? An Ethiopian eunuch who's reading the book of Isaiah the prophet, but doesn't understand. "Can you explain it to me?" Oh my goodness. Oh, God, give me an opportunity like that. If I can't land that fish, something's wrong with me. "I'm reading Isaiah 53, is the prophet talking about himself or someone else?" "Oh, God," pray that, say, "God, would you give me this week somebody who wants me to explain Isaiah 53 to them?" But that was orchestrated by God. He set it up. He brought Philip to where of the fish were.
And along with this, dear friends, we need a single-minded devotion to fishing. Single-minded devotion. Paul said in Acts 20:24, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, my only aim is to the finish race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." Single-minded. My life is for this purpose. We're distracted by so many things. We're into so many things that have no eternal consequence. Ask God to make you a fisher of men.
George Whitfield, who's one of the greatest evangelists in history, speaking before thousands of people, he also was into individual personal evangelism too. And he said, "God forbid that I should travel in a carriage or anywhere else, with anyone for a quarter of an hour and not speak to them about Christ." God forbid. If he gives me 15 minutes with somebody, I'm going to talk to him. D. L. Moody, another traveling evangelist, spoke to thousands of people, made a personal commitment to not go to bed every day if he had not spoken, individually and personally, to somebody about Christ. Many times, he was just about to go to bed and forgot. And he got up and went out in the street and found somebody to talk to. D. L. Moody.
VI. A Direct and Urgent Appeal
So I'm going to finish by making to you a direct and urgent appeal. I'm going to ask you to hear, in this text today, Mark 1:17, Christ calling on all of us to make us become what we have not been up to this point, fishers of men. That you would realize we have a tremendous opportunity here. Estimates show us that the Triangle region of North Carolina will double in population over the next 25 years. It's already just growing. You can see it. You can see the condominiums that are going up, the houses that are being built. These are commercial developers that think that people are going to pour into this area. Many of them, most of them, will be lost, will be unchurched. It's opportunity for us. It's an opportunity.
And for us, I think it begins with the power of the Holy Spirit that comes on us, in answer to prayer. "You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you'll be my witnesses." So I am calling on all of you, the elders are calling on all of you, to join us in prayer for four consecutive Wednesday evenings, from 6:30 to 7:30, or longer if the Holy Spirit wants us to stay longer. You'll know at the time. If you're there, you'll know we're supposed to stay. But for four weeks, to pray for evangelistic fruitfulness. It's going to start on February 23rd, and it's going to go through March 16th, from 6:30 to 7:30. We'll have childcare as we always do. That's a slot I usually teach the Bible in. We'll be right here in this sanctuary and we'll pray for an hour, for four weeks, for evangelistic fruit and power. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the time that we've had to study your word today. I pray that you would just do a supernatural work in us, to make us fishers of others, fishers of human beings, of people, that we can see the gospel work mightily in this Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. God, give us grace, give us fruit, give us power, give us a heart for the lost. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.