“Our Permanent Halfway Spiritual Condition-lives of silent mediocrity!”

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May 262019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Our Permanent Halfway Spiritual Condition-lives of silent mediocrity!”  BY:  Ron Woodrum

  One of the greatest Christians I have ever met was Howard G. Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary. I was introduced to his ministry by my college room mate Dennis Suhling. Some of my most treasured moments were the times I got to sit under his ministry. The one thing that Dr. Hendricks, (known to his students as “prof” and his colleagues and friends as “Howie”), was to always strive for excellence and never settle for mediocrity. He saw mediocrity as the greatest blight on the contemporary Evangelical Church. He said, “I have never met a Christian who admitted that they intended to live a mediocre Christian life…but I have met a myriad of mediocre Christians!” One of the most influential prophets of my day, A.W. Tozer spoke to this issue in a very convicting way. He admitted, “Personally I have carried a heavy burden of sorrow for Evangelical Christians of our day who have somewhere in their past compromised with their heart’s longings and settled down to a lukewarm and mediocre kind of Christianity that is utterly unworthy of themselves and the Lord they claim to serve!” (That Incredible Christian). John Mason put Christian mediocrity in context when he said, “Mediocrity is a region bound on the North by compromise, on the South by indecision, on the East by past thinking, and on the West by lack of vision”. Eugene Petersen, (Author of the paraphrase The Message), sought to identify why Christians settle for such a low level of discipleship and maturity, he defines as mediocrity instead of excellence, when he writes “One aspect of the world that is harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once…our attention span has been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by the thirty-page abridgement. It is not difficult in out world to get a person interested in the message of the Gospel-but it is terrifically difficult to sustain that interest! Millions make a decision for Christ but there is a dreadful attrition rate…evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim…when it loses its novelty it goes on the garbage heap!” He feels that is why so many Christians find themselves in what A.W. Tozer called “Our permanent half-way spiritual condition”. Jen Sincero, making a play on Thoreau’s “‘lives of quiet desperation”, says “so many people live lives of silent mediocrity!” That is so true of the greater number of rank and file Christians in our churches today. Mediocrity is an attitude of the world that has permeated the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ! Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “most of the world’s wisdom is accepted by mediocre people to discourage them from ambitious attempts and console them in their mediocrity”. Eric Hoffer is even more confrontational. He warns “The real Antichrist is he who turns the wine of excellence into the water of mediocrity!” Andrew Carnegie agrees. “People who are unable to motivate themselves MUST be content with mediocrity”. Anne Rice warns us “the world doesn’t need anymore mediocrity”. We must affirm “neither does the Church!”. My favorite quote on this subject is Isaac D’Israel when he says, “It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity…I am never content sitting comfortable in a mediocrity chair!” Robert Baldwin sums up what our attitude should be…”I have a horror of not rising above mediocrity!”

How do we define mediocrity? Webster defines it as “the quality of being not very good”. The idea is inferred that we “settle for less than the best, or the good”. The etymology of the word says it all. It comes to English from the French and Latin. The root word is Latin and comes from “medius”-meaning “halfway” and “ocris”-meaning “mountain”. The idea is we settle for climbing halfway up the mountain instead expending all energies to scale the mountain to its summit and reach the top. That is the tragedy of mediocrity in the Christian ranks. Our Lord desires so much more for us, and we stop before we reach the top. We settle for so little when He wants us to experience the best. A.W. Tozer again hits the nail on the head! He writes “God is not honored by our arrested spiritual development-our permanent halfway spiritual condition. We all know that we honor God by going on to full maturity…but instead of following toward the heights, we bargained with the Lord like a street huckster…we bicker and bargain with God about his expectations for spiritual attainments”. Of course, we settle for far less. Worship-we only go halfway. Bible study-that is too much time and effort to “study to show ourselves approved rightly dividing the word of truth”. Praying? We never give Him the best time of the day-only leftovers-even if that! When it comes to witnessing and fishing for men…we fail to win one soul to Christ in a year…many of us in our entire Christian life. That is less that mediocrity. That is a crime!

James Russell Lowell, the great American poet spoke so eloquently on this subject. He wrote:


“Life is a leaf of paper white

Whereupon each one of us may write

His word or two, and then comes night.

Greatly begin! Though Thou have time

But for a line, be that sublime-



Mediocrity in the Christian life is a crime! It is turning the Wine of Excellence into the Water of low aim and mediocrity. It is only going halfway up the mountain. It is quitting too soon. It is sitting down in the comfy chair of little effort. The crime of living the silent life of mediocrity. Our Lord deserves so much more. The world deserves to see so much more of us. We deserve so much more for ourselves! Paul said, “this one thing I do, forgetting those things behind, I keep on reaching for the things that are before, I keep on pressing toward the mark of the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-16). Paul’s goal was anything but mediocrity. He aimed to “reach the top”. At the end of his life he could say-“I have fought the good fight…I have finished the course!” Anything but mediocrity. I recently heard Anne Graham Lott, daughter of Billy Graham, in her message on devotion and commitment refer to an African Christian who was martyred for his faith. He had written in his journal his determination to reach the top for Christ, by giving everything in his commitment to Jesus. This is what he wrote, “I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have the Holy Spirit’s power. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made-I am a Disciple of His. I won’t look back, let up, or slow down, back away or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low-living, sight-walking, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, worldly talking, cheap giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don’t have to be first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. I now live by faith, lean in His Presence, walk by patience, and am uplifted by prayer. My face is set. My gait is fast. My goal is heaven. My road is narrow. My way is rough. My companions are few, My Guide is reliable. My mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, hired away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the enemy, pander at the pool of popularity, OR MEANDER IN THE MAZE OF MEDIOCRITY! I won’t give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, preach till all know, and work until He stops me. And when He comes my banner will be clear!” THAT KIND OF CHRISTIANITY is the heights the Lord intends for us to aim for. We may not reach it. But aiming for anything less, and stopping half-way home is mediocrity! A common Christian crime! Don’t aim so low!

 Posted by at 1:30 pm

“The Christian Witness-Bears a Bull’s Eye for a Birthmark of the New Birth”.

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May 192019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “The Christian Witness-Bears a Bull’s Eye for a Birthmark of the New Birth”.  BY:  Ron Woodrum

  In his book, Waking the Dead, John Eldredge finds an historical parallel to the jealousy that the Devil has about Christ, and the believers who bear his image. This parallel is found in the jealousy that the Court Composer, Antonia Salieri, had of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Eldredge writes, “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a glorious man. An image bearer. You remember from your youth the song-‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’? Mozart wrote that melody when he was three years old! He composed his first symphony when he was twelve years old. Mozart’s music has endured, enchanting the world for centuries. He is probably played more often than any other classical composer. Yet this brilliant man died very young-we really do not know how or why. Impoverished, alone, his body was dumped into a common grave. In his 1984 movie, Amadeus, Peter Shaffer attempts to tell the tale of what happened to this musical genius, and the jealous rivalry and conflict that went on between Mozart and Salieri. It is a story of genius and jealousy, leading to murder. Shafer presents Salieri as a villain worthy of the devil himself. Salieri is a musician of lesser note. Once he discovers the greatness of Mozart, and sees how he is appreciated and loved by all, he is tormented by a jealousy that has only one goal-to destroy this music who is the Incarnation of God’s gift of music. He embodies what must have been Lucifer’s jealousy of God’s glory, which brought the angel to his ruin. There is a remarkable scene in the film. Mozart’s wife brings a sample of his music to Salieri, in hopes of getting her husband a job. She does not know that he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Glancing through the pages of Mozart’s portfolio, Salieri is captivated by the work of his rival’s hand. He asks Mrs. Mozart-‘are these originals?’ She responds, ‘yes-he never makes copies’. Salieri is amazed. ‘How can this be? There are no corrections of any kind. He writes his music down-a finished product-from his head-page after page-as if it is dictation…finished like no music is ever finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall. The sound I heard of him playing in the Archbishop’s palace was no accident. His music is the very voice of God…absolute beauty. It is miraculous!'” Eldredge then describes the defining scene of the movie. “(Salieri leaves the room sullen. He goes into his private chambers. He takes his crucifix down from the wall. He places it in the fire. Then Salieri addresses God and says, ‘From now on we are enemies. You and I! Because you have chosen for your Instrument this boastful, lustful, infantile boy…and give me only the ability to recognize this Incarnation! Because you are unjust…unfair…and unkind! I will block you. I swear it! I will hinder and harm Your gifted creature here on earth as far as I am able. [shaking his fist in the air]. I will ruin your Incarnation!” In Eldredge’s mind Salieri illustrates for every Christian, how Lucifer resents Jesus, and all who have embraced Him as their Savior. He especially feels that Satan has marked all Christians, who have made winning the lost their priority, and has declared an all-out war on them to destroy them and their attempt to follow their Lord in “seeking and saving those who are lost and perishing”.

One of my favorite cartoonists is Gary Larson, who ran the Far Side in syndication from January 1, 1980 until he retired it on January 1, 1995. One of my favorite cartoons showed two deer standing near a wood. One of them has a large bulls-eye on its side. The other deer looks at it and responds, “Bummer of a birth-mark Hal!” Lol. John Eldredge is saying that any Christian who takes seriously the mandate of our Lord to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” has a new birth mark. It is a bulls-eye target. Satan has them in his cross-hairs! He, like Salieri, has declared all out war, with the intention of destroying them and any witness they might have. In his trilogy Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien has one of his characters, Théoden say-“I will not risk open war”. Aragon replies to him, “Open war is upon you, whether you risk it or not!” William Gurnall writes “It is the image of God reflected in you that so enrages hell; ot os tjos at which the demons hurl their mightiest weapons!” Thomas Cosmades reminds us-“Anyone one who witnesses to the Grace of God in Christ is undertaking direct assault against Satan’s dominion”. Satan will not let that happen without retaliation. John of the Cross told his followers-“The devil fears a soul united to God as he does God Himself”. Ambrose of Milan said that as Christians we are “athletes in preparation for a spiritual wrestling match-to the death!” Florence Nightingale said, “The Christian life is a hard fight, a wrestling with evil, hand to hand, foot to foot. Every inch of the way is disputed!” One of the very best books I have ever read on witnessing is by Mark Cahill. It is titled One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven. The book is filled with quotes of motivation on witnessing from the great Charles Haddon Spurgeon. The first quote sets the tone-“Every Christian is either a missionary, (a witness), or an imposter!” You can only imagine the rest! Edifying reading. As Christians we must go all out in these last days giving our lives and lips to sharing Jesus with those who need him while there is still time. When we do that, we must brace ourselves for an ALL OUT ASSAULT ON THE GOSPEL OF GRACE. Today’s message describes the methodology that Satan uses in that all out assault. He that hath ears-Let him hear what the Spirit says to those who Testify to the Gospel of Grace.

 Posted by at 1:23 pm


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May 122019


        I remember hearing Adrian Rogers, who passed away in November 2005, said in a sermon, “In the last days people will be deserting the Church like rats deserting a sinking ship!” He was basing it on what Paul said in I Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit expressly says, in the latter days many will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits, and doctrines of demons”.  Jesus, Himself inferred that, when He asked, “When the Son of Man Comes again, will He find faith, (people practicing their faith), on earth?” (Luke 18:8). Are we seeing the evidence of that? Since 2012 The Annual Church Profile of the Southern Baptist Convention denominationally wide has consistently shown that baptisms and Church membership and attendance are declining. Steve Gaines, Past President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Pastor of the Belleview Baptist Church of Cordova, (Memphis), Tennessee said, “we are not growing anywhere near a rate comparable to the population increase”. The SBC is not the only ones experiencing this decline. According to Pew Research “every major branch of Christianity has lost significant numbers-the biggest being the Catholics and the mainline Protestants”. Churches of all denominations are closing or consolidating in record numbers! According to Barna 73% of Americans say they are Christians, but only 31% feel Church attendance is important, and that explains why that same percent usually attend less than once a month! Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Kentucky says “this is a new age, a secular spirit of our age, with headwinds blowing right in our face!” Apologist Pastor Voddie Baucham, speaking at the G3 Conference last year, emphasizing the importance of the local Church, said “if we don’t understand the magnitude of the local Church, then what’s the difference between us and the Rotary Club? If all of this is entertainment then why bother? God has a plan. It is the local Church. It is Plan A. There is no Plan B!” As the experts try to explain the cause of the decline, we cannot wave the white flag of surrender! I think part of the problem lies in the quality of faith that marks the maturity of the believers, or the lack there of, that has caused them to be overwhelmed by the spirit of this secular age, and demonic winds of change blowing on the rank and file of our members. There is an interesting passage of Scripture that talks about this very issue. II Peter 2:7-8 says, “God delivered Righteous Lot, vexed by the conduct of those around him”. The word vex here is the word-“kataponeo“to completely wear down and exhaust by repeated involvement”. Then verse 8 says, “that righteous man, dwelling among them day after day, kept on vexing his righteous soul with their lawless deeds. The second word vex is “basanidzo“- “to buffet, to torment, to beat against, as waves crashing upon a shore!” The idea is a picture a structure standing on the shore, being battered by the waves and storm of the sea. Even if it survives, there is usually great damage sustained. Many times, the structure does not survive the battering! Think of a lighthouse, standing in the storm to guide lost ships in the storm and darkness, being battered by the winds and waves of the storm. That is the Lot Complex! That may be the cause of Christians departing the ranks of the Church in these last days. That may be the blight of our generation! Jesus also said, “In the last days, iniquity shall abound, and the love of many shall wax cold!” The word “wax cold” is “psucho” “to blow on with chilling air”. Listen to how Martin Vincent, the Greek scholar translates this verse-“the fervent love of many will be blighted of its spiritual energy by a malignant poisonous wind of evil”. The question we have to ask and answer is how do we insulate our rank and file to protect their faith from such a last day onslaught, to guarantee they will survive faithful to meet the Lord when He comes? Jesus was trying to prepare us to get ready for such an onslaught and build up a faith that can stand on the shores of this evil age, and withstand the day by day battering without a total eclipse of our faith. How do we do that?

Without offering a pat answer, I believe that the writer of Hebrews, in his great chapter on faith, pointed to the lives men and woman of faith, to show us how they withstood the challenges that battered them in their day, and yet ran their race victoriously. We cannot look at all he said to emulate from them, but I would like to point out three things he stated will fortify us against those diabolical winds that blow on us continuously in these last days. First of all, in the face of great evil, he points out that Abel was able to withstand the onslaught by his exemplary WORSHIP OF GOD. “By faith Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice (act of faithful worship) to God.” The word “offer” is “proskuneo” “act of worship”. “God therefore testified that he was a righteous man…and even after his death…his life keeps on speaking as an example to others”. The first ingredient to bring a strong faith is worship. Faithful worship. In these last days there is nothing more important. The Church has believed the devil’s demonic lie that worship is not all that important. Someone has said, “seven days without worship makes one weak!” That is an incontrovertible truth! If we neglect worship, we are setting ourselves up for failure in these last days! That is why the author of Hebrews exhorted “Stop forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the habit of some have become, in so much as you see the day approaching!” (Heb. 10:25). The very best definition of worship I have ever read is from William Temple. He says, “Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of our mind with His Truth; the purifying of our imagination with His beauty (perfection); the opening of our heart to His Love; the surrender of our will to His purpose-and all gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which we are capable”. A life that is fortified with that kind of daily experience will be able to stand strong in the face of the winds of evil. A.W. Tozer tells us that worship, that kind of worship is imperative and primary! He says, “We are to be worshippers first and workers second. We take a convert and immediately make a worker out of him. God never meant it to be so. God meant that a convert should first learn to be a worshipper, after that he can learn to be a worker. Then the work we do will have eternity in it. When we give God what He is worth, (all our love and all that we are), we become more of who He wants us to become…all the rest will follow. I am tired of being whipped into line, being urged to work harder, pray harder, give more, without being shown who Jesus is, and how much He deserves all of me, for giving me all of Him”. Maybe when we deprive our faith of worship, we find ourselves distracted from the very one that makes us invincible!

The second person of faith that is held up to us in Hebrews 11 is Enoch. It says-“Enoch walked with God”. Don’t rush over that statement of faith. The name Enoch-(Chanokh) means “dedicated”. Enoch was committed to walking daily in the presence of God, when everyone else was walking away, going their own way. That has become the habit of most Christians in this last day. Instead of rushing into the presence of God, when feeling the onslaught of the winds of evil from our generation, we let those winds beat us down, or blow us farther away from His presence. He is the Rock of our Stability. Every step you take in these evil days should be in close proximity with God. The further you stray from His presence the more of a sitting duck you become. Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of each evening. It was by His design. They learned of life from Him…not independently from Him. Walking with God moment by moment throughout all the experiences of our day is the only way to survive in these last days. We must start each day in His presence and we will soon learn to complete our days having walked with Him every step of the way. C.S. Lewis warned us that that must be done at the start of each day. He writes, “It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. The first job each morning consists of simply shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussing’s and fretting’s; coming in out of the wind!” (Mere Christianity). That is daily walking with God. That fortifies our faith for these last days! Enoch did it daily until the day he was raptured. What an example for us!

The third example of faith is Noah. Listen to what it says about him. “By faith, having been instructed by God, concerning things not seen, but soon to come, moved with reverential fear, built an ark of salvation”. (Heb. 11:7). II Peter 2:5 says that Noah proclaimed the righteousness of God, and the coming flood for 120 years. The word flood is the Greek word “kataklusmon”-cataclysm. In the last days before the flood, while the world continued on in their wicked rebellion against God, Noah worked every day building the ark of salvation according to the instructions of God. When asked what he was building he warned of the flood and pointed to the ark as the only way of salvation. He worked and witnessed daily to everyone who would listen. He did that faithfully for 120 years. The demonic spirit of the age prevailed. But Noah withstood the winds of the evil age till the day the flood came and took them all away in destruction. What an example of how we too can be strong in the faith in these last days. Noah withstood ridicule. He declared the truth though he could not prove it! His faith helped him work and witness and God kept him strong! He will do the same for us if we commit to that same activity as we see the day of His coming approaching. How do we keep our faith from lapsing in these last days? Worshipping God with a whole heart. Walking with God-Practicing His Presence. Working for Him-letting our lights shine in the darkness around us. Witnessing by “holding forth the Word of Life” to all that might have ears to hear. That kind of faith can withstand the frightful forceful winds of this evil age. That is the kind of faith that Jesus is looking to find in us when He returns again. Keep the faith! That kind of faith!

 Posted by at 1:13 pm

“Happy Unscrupulous Fishing: You Have a Divine License!”

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May 052019

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Happy Unscrupulous Fishing: You Have a Divine License!”  By:  Ron Woodrum

  Recently, my son Justin, reminded me that now that I am a Senior Citizen that I do not have to buy a fishing license any longer. What an exasperating feeling! One definite reason to get back into a habit that I have always enjoyed, but have not had much time to do it lately. I have always loved to fish. I have been an avid fisherman since Junior High days. I wish I could say that my Dad taught me how to fish. But actually, I only remember him taking our family fishing on one occasion, and I was quite small. There may have been more times than that, but not that I can recall. My older brother loved to fish. He was especially fond of going to pay lakes where you could catch some of the “big fish”, but he usually did not want a kid brother tagging along! My venture as a fisherman came when a new kid moved into our neighborhood. His name was Mike Phillips. Mike did not really like baseball, football, basketball, or tetherball. But he loved to fish. He talked me into joining him on a fishing trip to the neighboring Fairview Park in Decatur, Illinois, and we tried our luck at Dreamland Pond there. After that first day I was hooked! Dreamland was stocked with enough fish that they kept you busy with bites. Then we graduated to Steven’s Creek, a small tributary of the Sangamon River, that ran through Macon County. The real adventure then was to walk to Lake Decatur, and fish down by the Dam. We mostly fished with Zebco rods and reels, and fished on the bottom. I learned to catch all kinds of fish-bluegill; crappie; yellow belly catfish, an occasional channel cat; carp, and sucker fish. I learned how to concentrate on the end of that pole, be patient for the strikes, until you were sure this was the one where the fish took the bait. Moderate success kept me coming back for several years as a teenager. It was only after leaving for college, and entering into the pastorate, and working that it became more and more difficult to enjoy the hobby that I learned early on. But fishing can be a wonderful joyful past time.

Henry David Thoreau reminded us that “men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after!” Robert Altman says, “You put a line in the water and you don’t know what is on the other end. Your imagination is under there!” John Buchan says, “The charm of fishing is that pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope”. Garrison Keillor quite pointedly reminded us ” Thank you dear God, for this good life. Forgive us if we do not love it enough. Thank you for the rain. Thank you for the chance to get up after only three hours of sleep to go fishing. I thank you now, because I won’t feel quite so thankful about it then, in the morning!” Steven Wright says, “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot!” I have done both! Haven’t you? But in spite of all of that-fishing has been something that has given me great satisfaction over the years, and I hope will again, not that I am a Senior Citizen! Lol.

That is why I find it intriguing that Jesus used fishing as a metaphor to describe winning the lost. It is a graphic metaphor for a very important subject. It is no small thing that four of his earliest disciples were chosen from the ranks of hearty fisherman that labored daily all over the Sea of Galilee. That metaphor conveys quite vividly important parallels to those who know even a little bit about the sport. When I was a teenager, feeling the call of God on my life to enter the ministry, the Pastor who had led me to Christ took me under his wings. I owe a lot to him for giving me opportunities to preach on youth Sundays, for recommending me to other Pastors to preach Youth Revivals, and for recommending me to the Church in Clinton, that I had the privilege of Pastoring at the ripe old age of 17. This year I am celebrating 50 years in ministry. Russell Pittman was the one God used mightily to lead me into such an honorable calling. I remember that Bro. Pittman belonged to a special group of Pastors. They called themselves the “Fishers of Men Fellowship”. It was a network of Pastors in Central Illinois who were dedicated to Soul-Winning, and in order to encourage each other, and the membership of their Churches, they had annual conferences on Soul-Winning on a rotating basis at each other’s Churches. These meetings were called “The Fishers of Men Fellowship Conferences”. I heard some of the best soul-winning preaching from Russell Pittman; Virgil Graham; Jerry McDaniel; Laverne Arndt; Gerald Thompson; and Mickey Hutchingson. They choose that term from Matthew 4:19. Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He saw Peter and Andrew, James and John fishing, and later cleaning their nets from a hard day’s work. Passing by, He challenged them to come and follow Him, and “He would make them to become Fishers of Men!” In Luke 5:10-11 Jesus challenged them again to “join Him in Catching Men”. The Greek word is “zogreo”- which should be translated-“catch men alive”. An invitation to join the Master and learn His technique. They took Him up on the challenge.

As we meditate on those passages, I want you to think with me about three things concerning that metaphor. The first thought is pretty much understood. The last two not so much! I hope it stretches your thinking, and broadens your perspective a bit. First of all, He likely choose that metaphor because of the apparent similarities that fishing for fish and fishing for men have between them. Fishermen must go to the location of the fish. Fish do not search for the Fishermen…just hoping to be caught! Fishermen need to know what fish they are seeking. Such knowledge lets you know their habits and habitats. Some like the deep. Others the shoreline. You need to know the bait that lures them. Some like Wheaties in a ball on a treble hook; others blood bait on a treble hook; many prefer a worm or a nightcrawler; Salt water fish prefer shrimp or cut-up pieces of squid. Bass seem to like the lures, especially a spinner with a plastic worm. It takes real skill to go fly fishing for Trout. Such knowledge is invaluable to the successful fishermen…and imperative for the Fisher of Men. A fisherman must have a desire to go at inconvenient times, and sometimes inconvenient locations to find the “best spots”. That is true of those who fish for men. There is never a convenient time, and usually never a convenient place. But we must go. Fishermen must be patient. You usually do not throw your line in and have a continuous experience of catching one fish after another. It also takes practice. You must develop strategy and skill…both in luring and landing the fish. I remember the first time Bonna and I took Justin and Josh fishing. Josh was a little young and found waiting for that first bite a little boring. Justin had a little more patience being a little older. Justin got the first bite. He pulled back to set the hook. Soon it appeared the fish had led him into a snag. He handed me his pole to get the snag loose. As I attempted to do that, the snag began to pull back! He and I together fought the fish, and landed a 12-pound catfish! Huge fish for his first catch! We have pictures of that trophy. Lol. These things find parallels to fishing for men. Jesus knew we would understand that much.

But…there are Bible teachers that believe that Jesus did not only mean that fishing was the only professional metaphor He saw as illustrative of soul-winning. Some believe that He was inferring that whatever your profession and talent is-if you will follow Him, and dedicate your giftedness to the Lord, that He will transform and sanctify your profession too, as He did these fishermen. Whatever our giftedness in life is-given to Him-it can be used to further the Kingdom of God. After all, Levi-Matthew was a tax collector. He was a gifted businessman. He knew a lot of people. He knew a lot of other tax collectors, and had the gift of instructing them, and entertaining them at his home. After his conversion, his first act was to invite them all over for a party, and introduce them to the one who loved spending time with tax collectors and publicans. That might just be where Zachaeus first heard of Jesus. I remember hearing Stuart Briscoe preach a message entitled Ordinary People Make Wonderful Disciples. In the message he spoke of a woman that he met at a conference. He asked her what she did for a living. He wasn’t prepared for her answer. She told him-“I am a disciple of Jesus Christ…cleverly disguised as a school teacher”. He said, “for the first time I understood that Christ wanted us to be primarily disciples who extended the Kingdom of God…through whatever gifted profession He had placed us in. We were to grow where we were planted!” Many believe that is the message of the fishers of men metaphor. Think of your calling. Take inventory on your talent pool. Dedicate that to the Lord. He will sanctify it and use it to win others to Himself through you. That may be the message of Solomon when he said “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your heart”. (Eccles. 9:10). Or what the Apostle Paul meant when He told the Colossians “Whatever you do-do it heartily unto the Lord…serving Christ!” (Col. 3:23-24).

But then there is another thought to incorporate into this devotion. Many feel that Jesus had a particular Old Testament passage in mind when He invited these four anglers to come and join Him in His work. Many feel that He was referencing Jeremiah 16:16 which says “I am sending forth many fishers declares the LORD, and they will catch them” The context speaks of those who have spent their time pursuing idolatry will be caught in the nets of judgment. The “fishers of men” reference may be a double-edged sword. There will be those who will be caught in the nets, and belong to the LORD in His Kingdom. But those who dodge the net He throws out, will escape to their own destruction. In the Parable of the Dragnet, in Matthew 13:47-49, Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven was like casting a net into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind. When it was full it was time for the sorting of the fish…the good into containers, the bad were discarded. Some are caught in Gospel nets and swept into Eternal Life. Others caught up in their own destruction. The same Sun that melts the snow, hardens the clay. Paul said that our witness is a sweet-smelling savior, an aroma of life to those believing. But he also said our witness is an aroma of death, to those who reject the Gospel, and are in the process of perishing. The Gospels record Jesus, the Master Fisherman, drawing in Nichodemus, the Woman of Samaria, (The Bad Samaritan!), The Demoniac of Gadara, and many others in His gospel nets. It shows the “ones who got away too”. -The Rich Young Ruler; The Pharisee Praying in the Temple with the Publican; Herod; Pilate; Caiaphas; His nets flung from the cross even netted the Thief on the Cross; and the Centurions at the foot of the Cross. Never forget God, in His Sovereign work, casts His nets into the lives of those who are willing to be captured for Himself and Life. C.S. Lewis made this point so clear in his book Surprised By Joy. He answered a young atheist who had asked for his advice with these words-“A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful about his reading. There are traps everywhere-Bibles laid open, millions of surprises, as Herbert says, ‘God uses nets and stratagems in His dealings with us’ (a reference to George Herbert-poet and author of the 1600’s) and I might add is very unscrupulous in His use of them on us”. Lewis had been caught in God’s fishing nets, and called himself “he most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England”. Of course, his intellect and profession became a great vehicle for God to apologetically defend the Gospel through him, like few others. One lesson I learned from those Fisher of Men Conferences I attended as a young man is that winning the lost only occurs when God’s Spirit empowers us to cast the Gospel nets into lives He longs to capture. Without His presence and power, we would fare no better than the disciples who toiled all night and “caught nothing!”. Twice, in Luke 5 and John 21, Jesus illustrated with His touch and technique the haul will be so successful it nearly breaks the Gospel nets! Go ahead launch out into the deep. Cast out on the right side. Happy Unscrupulous fishing. You have a Divine license.

 Posted by at 12:57 pm