“Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”
I made a bracelet for myself out of fishing swivels and I wear it 24/7. I am sure you are thinking, “Very classy Dave!” Yes, I agree, it is very classy. The swivels have started to rust from wearing it when I mow my lawn and sweating all over it. But I love it.
The bracelet is a daily reminder to me of Jesus’ promise to make a fisher of men out of me. If I say that I am His follower one of the things that will be true of me is that I am becoming a fisher of men. To greater and greater degrees in my life I will care about lost people and will take initiative to share the Gospel with them.
To be a follower of Jesus is to be a learner from Him. Clearly Jesus was a great Fisher of men and to learn from Him in that area will certainly result in improved fishing ability in me.
When a person first starts fly fishing they are horrible at it. They get their line caught in the trees or bushes or people standing behind them. They don’t let their fly drift properly. They don’t tie on the right fly. They get their line in a knot by poor casting. They are unable to read the water. They cannot put the fly where they want to put the fly. They are just horrible and it is very frustrating. They are great at scaring fish away and horrible at coaxing them to bite. I am very experienced at this stage of fly fishing.
But as a person practices and gets some coaching and sticks with it they can become quite an accomplished fly fisherperson.
When we first start fishing we are not good at it—we may even be horrible at it. We are great at scaring fish away and horrible at getting them to bite.
In Matthew 28:19, 20 Jesus explains the overarching principles of fishing for men. The elements are simple in some ways but very profound in other ways:
- Authority: Jesus has the right to tell us to do this and we have the right to do this and we are under orders to do this. Authority means being commanded. This is not optional for us. Fishers of men are under authority, under orders.
- Go: A core part about fishing for men and making disciples is going. Generally speaking a lost person will not come across the street to hear about Jesus. It is our mandate to go across the street and engage our neighbor, to go across the cultural barriers to engage others, and to go across the ocean to engage others. Fishers of men are goers.
- Make disciples: In cooperation with the Holy Spirit turn men and woman, boys and girls into thoroughgoing followers of Jesus. The “end product” of evangelism is not a saved person but a discipled person. Fishers of men strive to make men into serious followers of Jesus.
- Of all the peoples: Not some but all. Engage every individual and every people group. Do not judge who might respond or who might be in need. Do not weed anyone out. Just give the Gospel to all and let the Holy Spirit worry about them from there on. Fishers of men engage everyone.
- Baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: Baptism is an act of complete identification with Jesus. It is not important to salvation but it is vitally important to discipleship. Jesus places it as the first step after trusting in Christ. It is a galvanizing of our trust in Christ and our identity in Christ and our identity to follow Christ from here on out. Fishers of men have been baptized and also baptize others.
- Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you: Teach them to observe or to do. Teach them to obey. This is beyond knowledge to obedience, being a continual “doer of the Word.” Teach them to do everything Jesus commanded. Do not pick and choose. Just do it all. Fishers of men are obedient to all Jesus’ commands and they are also teachers of men to obey.
- I am with you always: When you are involved in Great Commission activity Jesus is always with you. Now to be sure He is with you always whether you are doing Great Commission work or wandering in the ditch of personal pleasure and promotion. However, Jesus gives the gift of His presence and peace and enabling in a special way when you are doing Great Commission work. Jesus has walked with countless people as they have gone across the street to engage their neighbor for Christ or gone across the ocean to engage a tribal person for Christ or stood before a firing squad for having engaged others for
Christ. Jesus presence is more important than my safety. Fishers of men are constantly aware of Jesus’ presence and taking courage in His presence.
I want to be a better follower of Jesus by being a better fisher of men. I don’t want to spend all my fishing time climbing up into trees attempting to save my expensive fly. And, I don’t have to. I can get better at this. This is important.