|FISHERS OF MEN
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 5, 2000
I encourage you to take your Bibles and open with me to Mark 1:16-20. We are continuing in our series of messages looking at the early ministry of Jesus Christ. This morning we’re focused on Jesus’ calling of His disciples. Please follow along as I read.
Mark 1:16-20: “As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.”
Reading this passage - there is a tremendous sense of mission and urgency in the call of Jesus Christ. Jesus calls to Simon and Andrew and immediately they follow Him. Immediately Jesus calls to James and John and they follow Him. It is crucial that we understand the mission and the urgency of what is being said here - and what to do about it.
One of the great tragedies in the church today - in churches all across America - one of the great tragedies is that people in the church do not understand the mission of the church.
If we were to survey people in the church - even in our church - and ask them what they felt the primary mission of the church is, we might get a variety of answers. Some might suggest to us that the mission of the church is fellowship - a gathering place for God’s people - a center of activity for the Armenian community. Some would suggest that the church is called to share God’s love - to meet the physical needs of those around us. Some might say that the mission of the church is to teach the Bible - to move us and our children towards maturity in Christ. Others might say that worship and praising God are important.
All of these are important. But none of them and not all of them in combination are the mission of the church or why we’re here. None of them expresses the mission and urgency and calling of the disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
So, what is the mission of the church? God so loves the people of the world that He sacrificed Himself on the cross so that our sins might be forgiven - so that we can personally know God today and forever. This is why Jesus came. It was His ministry and mission.
As His church - this is our mission - to win men and women to the Savior - to share with them the Gospel. So that as they come to know Jesus and trust Him as their Savior - their sins will be forgiven - they will be transformed from the death and darkness of this world to the life and light of God.
Our Armenian Evangelical forefathers understood this - they stated their mission very clearly. Article 12 from the 1846 Armenian Evangelical Confession of Faith says this: “I believe that the Gospel is the chief instrument appointed by Christ for the conversion of men and for the edification of his people, and that it is the duty of His Church to carry into effect the Savior’s command, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.’”
There is tremendous urgency to our mission because people - apart from Jesus Christ - are living in a dying world - and the only future they’ll know is the torment of hell and eternal separation from God. Its important that we hear the urgency in the call of Jesus Christ. The time has come - the ministry has begun - follow me.
With this urgency in mind - we want to be very clear that we understand how to follow Jesus - how to become fishers of men.
Someone has said, “There’s a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore like an idiot.”
A priest who had spent a fruitless day fishing picked out three large fish in the market. “Before you wrap them,” he said to the store manager, “toss them to me, one by one. That way I’ll be able to tell the archbishop I caught them and I’ll be speaking the truth.”
In the words of Jesus and the actions of the disciples there are three important truths about fishing for mankind that we need to focus on:
1. THE DISCIPLES FOLLOWED JESUS - They left everything behind and followed after Him
Our Armenian Evangelical forefathers - who were vital members of the Apostolic Church - were willing to leave everything to follow Jesus - regardless of the cost - even expulsion from their families - their church - their nation. They gave 100% of everything they were to the accomplishing of God’s ministry through them - to sharing the Gospel with others.
On July 1, 1846 they organized the first Armenian Evangelical Church with 40 members and 1,000 adherents to the evangelical movement. By 1914 - 68 years later - just before the genocide - there were 137 churches with a combined membership of close to 14,000, and almost 51,000 adherents. They were very successful.
Bdv. Antranig Bedikian - in a pamphlet entitled - “The Rise of the Evangelical Movement Among Armenians,” writes this: “Organization, the scheduling of church activities, doctrines, liturgy, etc. cannot maintain the integrity and continuity of the Evangelical church. It is the life of the individual Evangelical Armenian that determines whether or not the church will continue as a vital institution. Let me read that last sentence one more time. It is the life of the individual - our own personal commitment and sacrifice - giving everything - that determines whether or not the church will continue as a vital institution” - whether or not we’ll be able to reach mankind with the Gospel.
I recently read an illustration about a group of people preparing for an ascent to the top of Mount Blanc in France in the Swiss Alps. On the evening before the climb, a French guide outlined the prerequisite for success. He said this, "You will only reach the top by taking just the necessary equipment for climbing and leaving behind all unnecessary accessories. It's a difficult climb."
A young Englishman disagreed. In the morning he showed up with a brightly colored blanket, some large pieces of cheese, a bottle of wine, a couple of cameras and several lenses hanging around his neck. And also some bars of chocolate.
The guide said, "You'll never make it with that. You can only take the bare necessities to make the climb." But the Englishman was very stubborn and he set off on his own ahead of the group just to prove to them that he could do it.
The group then followed under the direction of the guide with just the bare necessities. On the way up toward the summit they began to notice certain things left along the trail. First a brightly colored blanket, then some pieces of cheese, a bottle of wine, camera equipment and some chocolate bars. Finally, at the summit, they found the Englishman who had left everything behind in the process of going up.
We’re so tempted to say to Jesus, “I know why the Father sent You into the world to win the lost. I know why You send me into the world to win lost. But You don't understand, I can make it with all my accessories. I need all of this.”
Family - finances - position - pride - Jesus said - with urgency, “Follow Me...” What are we hanging onto that keeps us from following Jesus 100%?
Second truth about fishing for men:
2. THE DISCIPLES ALLOWED JESUS TO MAKE THEM INTO FISHERMAN - they were willing to rely on Jesus
These disciples were simple Galilean fishermen - rough - unschooled men - governed by Jewish passions and prejudices - narrow in their outlook. Before they could become fishers of men, they would have to learn how to live in a way that relied upon the power of God working through them. Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
That's an encouraging thought, because it means that when Jesus calls us to a ministry - He assumes the responsibility to teach us everything we need to learn in order to fulfill that calling. And as we yield to Him - let go of all our accessories and follow Him - He will equip us and use us - what makes us uniquely us - to fulfill His calling.
Mark records what the disciples were doing at the moment Jesus called them. Peter and Andrew were casting their nets into the sea - that’s what they knew how to do and what their abilities were. Jesus teaches them to cast nets for men. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Andrew becomes the disciple who brings people to Jesus - even as he’s brought his brother Peter to Christ. In Acts chapter 2 - Peter becomes the great evangelist - on the day of Pentecost he preaches the gospel to three thousand people.
James and John were doing something else - they were mending their nets. This is their skill and ability. The Greek word for “mending” has the idea of equipping - preparing. Just as James and John were equipping their nets when Jesus called them - Jesus teaches them to mend nets as fishers of men. Later they would become teachers - equipping the saints.
When we make breakfast - we have a toaster and a waffle iron plugged into the wall socket. They draw power from the same source and yet they do different things.
So it is with God. He is our power to live the Christian life - to reveal Himself in us and through us whatever the demand of life may be. We’re all empowered by the same mighty One, but we lose nothing of the distinct flavor of our particular personality.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why am I an Armenian?” Or, someone could ask of themselves, “Why am I Russian?” or Chinese, or Greek...?
Why has God created us to be of the ethnic group we are? Why has God given us the individual personalities and abilities that He has - the opportunities and experiences that have shaped our lives? Why the social standing and education? Why has God given us these tremendous gifts?
Culture - ethnicity - ability - and experience - can be powerful tools to share the Gospel with others. In the Bible, we read how Jesus, Paul, and others used these to communicate the Gospel.
What we learn - by following Jesus - is how God uses all of these - by Hs power flowing through us. This is the bottom line: All power to live the Christian life comes not from us - doing our best to serve God - but from Him - granted to us moment by moment as the demand is made on us.
If we sense the urgency of Jesus’ call to follow Him - are we learning to rely on Him to work within us and through us - or are we serving Him under our own power and wisdom?
Third truth about fishing for men:
3. THE DISCIPLES BECAME FISHERS OF MEN - they learned to catch a different type of fish
Two Texans went to Minnesota one winter to do some ice fishing. After setting up their tent, they pulled the cord on their chain saw to cut a hole in the ice. Then they heard a mysterious voice from above saying, “There are no fish under the ice.”
“Is that You, God?” they asked in awe.
“No,” came the reply, “But I know that there are no fish under the ice. I’m the owner of this ice-skating rink.”
Sometimes I go out to Pacifica and walk on the pier and I watch the people fishing. To really fish a person has to have the the right equipment - and lots of it - bait, hooks, rods, sonar - stuff for every type of fish - and every type of condition. The right equipment for the type of fish we want to catch.
As a church - what type of fish are we trying to catch? What type of equipment do we need? Where do most people live their lives today and what will attract them to the Gospel.
We need to prayerfully share with each other - to help each other to understand the mission field that God has placed us in - and how He wants us to reach it. Between the generations - the backgrounds - from the different experiences we go through and the places God takes us to each week - we need to be talking with each other - praying together.
What are the concerns of the people you live and work with? How can we as a church reach them with the Gospel? What are you doing to share the Gospel with others? How can we support you in what you’re doing?
We need to learn how to fish - to know fish and what catches them today.
During the early days of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico, Cameron Townsend, the founder, had gone to Mexico to try to get permission from the Mexican government to translate the Bible into the languages of the Indian tribes.
The government was adamant that this would not take place. The official to which he had to appeal said to him, “As long as I am in this office, you will never be given permission. We don’t want the Bible in the Indian languages.” Townsend did everything he knew - went to every official he could find - had all his Christian friends praying that God would open this door. But it seemingly remained totally closed.
Finally he decided that he would give up pressing the issue, and he and his wife would go and live in a little, obscure Indian village - learn the language - minister to the people as best they could - and wait for God to move. So, the two of them - basically gave up everything they had - and went and lived in a tiny trailer in this village.
It wasn’t very long before Townsend noticed that the fountain in the center of the plaza produced clear spring water that it ran off down the hill and was wasted. He suggested that the Indians plant something in an area to which the water could easily be diverted, and make use of it. Soon they were growing twice as much food as before and their economy was booming. Townsend wrote this up in a little article and sent it to a Mexican paper he thought might be interested.
He didn’t know it, but that article found its way into the hands of the President of Mexico, Lazaro Cardeñas - who said, “What is this? An American, coming here to live in an Indian village, where we can’t even get our own people to live, and helping them this way? I must meet this man!”
He ordered his limousine and his attendants, and they drove to that little Indian village, where they parked at the plaza. It happened that Townsend was there and saw the car. He asked who it was, and was told it was the President of Mexico.
Cameron Townsend - who wasn’t one to miss an opportunity - went up to the car and introduced himself and, to his amazement, heard the President say, “You’re the man I’ve come to see!”
The President invited Townsend to come to Mexico City and tell about his work, and when he heard what it was, he said, “Of course! You can come to Mexico to translate the Bible into the Indian languages.” That began a friendship which continued throughout the lifetime of President Cardeñas. His power and authority were used by God all those years to open doors to Wycliffe translators throughout Mexico.
Only God can do things like that. Do we feel the urgency - to let go of everything - to allow God to work in us and through us - to learn from Him how to catch fish? Jesus says to us, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”