Has anyone ever called you winsome? Is the way you live, the words you speak, the attitudes of your heart, and the rhythms of your behavior such that it attracts people to the love of Jesus? Let’s talk about that.
In the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus comes to Simon and Andrew and says, “Follow me,” He also immediately invites them to be unafraid and join Him in fishing for people. Jesus calls all of His followers, all of His disciples, to join Him in fishing for people.
I’d love to take Jesus fishing with me; maybe for once in my life, I’d catch my limit! Ah, but that’s not what Jesus means. He’s talking about using your life and mine to draw people to the heart of God, to shine through us so that people understand the forgiving love of God that He offers us in the name of Jesus.
Did you hear the story about the man approaching the intersection in his pickup? The light turned yellow just in front of them. He did the right thing stopping at the crosswalk even though he could’ve beaten the red light but accelerating through the intersection. The woman who was tailgating behind him was furious and began honking her horn screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection dropping her cell phone and her makeup in the process. While still in mid- rant, she heard a tap on her window and she found herself looking into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her down to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photograph-ed, and placed in a holding cell. Several hours later, the policeman came back. “I’m very sorry for the mistake ma’am. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off that guy in front of you, cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ÔWhat Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ÔChoose life’ license plate holder, the ÔFollow Me to Sunday School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally I assumed you had stolen the car.”
Do you carry your love for Jesus outside the walls of your church? Do you live your faith authentically every day? God wants to use our lives to fish for people. The Apostle Paul said it this way, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold all things are become new. For God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting their trespasses against them” (II Cor. 5:17-18). So you are an ambassador for Christ, begging the world on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.
Why does God want to use our lives to fish for people? The first thing I want to say is because lost people matter to God. When I’m speaking about lost people, I’m not judging who is saved and who is not, who has eternal life and who doesn’t. But I mean men and women who live relationally far from their Father in heaven or who live as if God doesn’t exist. They may know about God, but they don’t know God relationally.
Sometimes lost people can be people whose lives lack direction or purpose or meaning. They haven’t yet understood the privilege of living by faith in the forgiving love of God our Father, or they have not yet professed to trust God or believe His promises are true for them. Some people are lost because they live in open rebellion, and their lives are often disillusioned and broken as a result.
Regardless of why or where or how people got to be where they are on their spiritual journey, their lives matter to God. God loves them and wants to share His life with them.
So if lost people matter to God, and Jesus invites us to not only following Him but also fish for people, why are we reluctant to carry our faith to others and share our love for Christ with them. Why don’t we reach out?
I confess to the one of the things I struggle with Ð a lack of love. I am ambivalent toward them. I simply don’t care. That is my sin. I am also sometimes afraid of what they might think of me or how they might respond. Some people doubt whether Jesus really can make a difference, or I might judge that God wouldn’t want them as part of His kingdom. Perhaps I think I’m too busy, or I’m too important to be bothered by them.
Whatever the problem, it needs to change and I need to ask Jesus to change my heart. Each of us has a distinctive personality and each of us is essential to show the love of Jesus to the world, to the people God brings into our lives. God promises He will use our language of faith, our witness to Christ, to draw people to Him. After all, the whole reason Jesus came was to reconcile all people, of all cultures and nations, to God.
Do you remember when Jesus was twelve, He became separated from His parents? When they found Him in the temple chatting with the religious leader, He said to them, “Didn’t you know I had to be doing my Father’s business?” At the end of John’s Gospel it says, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written so you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:30, 31).
Someone once defined faith as living in the conscious awareness of what is true, in the reveling in that awareness of the presence of a God who has all power. In that God I can trust. I knew a man once named Wilford Anderson. He loved all animals. He had several cats as pets in his house. He said, “Faith is the soul purring at the touch of God’s grace.” I like that. Faith is the purring of the soul at the touch of God’s grace.
This week I met a man in high management of Alumacraft boats made in St. Peter, Minnesota. Imagine if a man had a boat like a fancy Alumacraft, decked out with all the toys, the depth finder, the GPS. Imagine if he owned the best poles money could buy, the latest reels, the most beautiful tackle, and tackle boxes filled with lures of all kinds to catch whatever fish you were going after. Imagine if that person read everything he could on fishing. He watched Babe Winkleman, In-Fisherman, and all the shows that make you salivate at the thought of going out to catch fish. But imagine if that man Ð with the boat and the poles and all the knowledge Ð never left the dock.
Sometimes in the church, we’re like that. We hear all about it. We hear the messages calling us to be engaged in the mission of fishing for Jesus, of sharing with others why Jesus’ presence has transformed our lives with His grace, but we never take it beyond the doors of the church. We never speak of it to other people.
Paul said, “I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). Jesus has laid hold of our lives so that God can shine with the power of His loving spirit through the uniqueness of our personalities, so that others might be blessed in the knowledge of the grace of God.
Ed Marquart, a pastor who served for years in Seattle, Washington, once wrote a course called, “Witnesses for Christ.” One of the ways he suggested we share our faith with others has a threefold approach. First, we need to listen to other people’s story, hear about what matters to them, their life work, their family, and their circles of relationships.
Second, we need to be willing to share our story, to talk about what matters in life to us. What we believe, what we hold precious.
Third, having listened and shared about our own lives in the context of that relation-ship, we need to then share with them about Jesus and His story and why we have come to believe He is the Son of God, the Lord of Life, and the Savior of the world. Maybe you’ve heard this quote before: “People will never know or care about what you know until they know you care.” Maybe our best way to fish for people is to listen to them and compassionately love them without reservation.
The reconciling love of God that invites people to come back to Him is like a story I once heard about a young man who was soon to graduate from high school. He asked his dad for a brand-new Ford Mustang and begged him for months to receive that gift. The day of his graduation, his parents held a nice reception for him. On the table was a gift from his parents. He opened it and discovered a brand-new Bible. The young man became very angry. His face contorted in his disappointment and rage. He threw the Bible on the floor in front of all the guests, and stormed out of the house cursing his father. His parents never heard from him for years. They didn’t even know where he was. They searched for him for a long time, but he didn’t come home.
Years later when his father died, his mother used the legal authorities to locate their son and asked him to come home for his father’s funeral, which he did. In his bedroom where he had grown up, he found a box on the dresser with that new Bible, never used. In the pages in the leaflet front cover, he read the endearing words of pride and love his dad and mom had for him. Then, as he flitted through the pages of the Bible, a check fell out of the Gospel of John. It was made out to the Ford dealership in the exact amount of the sticker price of that Mustang he had longed for years before. The gift had been given to him all along, but he had been too angry and too selfish to receive it, and it had caused him to live a long period of his life alienated from his father and mother. He didn’t know the price had been paid in full.
Jesus asks us, who know and love Him and commit to be His followers, Fish for people so they would know that I have paid the price. Wherever they are and whatever they’ve done, the Father wants them to come home. His arms are open that He might embrace them and love them in a relationship shared into eternity. God needs you and me to fish for people.
Have you ever come home in the middle of winter and discovered the house was cold, plummeting toward freezing, and you know right away something is wrong with the furnace? You go down to the furnace and discover the pilot light is out, and you need to relight the pilot.
Sometimes our hearts can grow cold spiritually. If our hearts were like a furnace, maybe the pilot light has gone out, and we’ve lost the flame that burns to warm our heart for the purpose of sharing the love of God with others. We need to ask the Lord to remind us again that we, too, are forgiven all our sins. We are even forgiven our ambivalence or our lack of willingness to share about Him with others. Jesus says, I forgive you. Now come, help Me to fish for people. And His love again warms our heart and life.
A farmstead lies on the south side of the road in northern Iowa along Highway 18 between two small towns, Britt and Algona, Iowa. A sign along the road leading into the farmstead reads, The Apple Treat Farm. History folklore says Johnny Appleseed himself once planted a grove of apple trees there. For years it bore fruit and gave sweet apples to people all around. But as you drive down the two lane in the farmstead, now you see an old granary, a small stand of trees, and a line of beautifully planted pine trees. What you don’t see are apple trees. Somewhere along the line, all the apple trees died, and the farm that had been founded to give pleasure to people no longer offers what the sign said its purpose was.
Is it possible that you and I, who have come to believe in Jesus as our Savior and the Son of God, and who invite His Spirit to light up our lives, have somehow died to our central purpose? Do we no longer allow God to use our lives to reach others in His name, to fish for people? Still today Jesus asks us, Come follow me, and I will to shine My love through you to fish for people. Jesus is our fishing partner.