Summary: A description of evangelism the first thing Jesus called His disciples to do, showing it priority, the power behind it and practical steps every church should take.
Annual Sermons: Vol. 12 Sermon 9
Bob Marcaurelle Mt. 4:18-20, Lk. 5:1-11
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LAUNCHING OUT INTO THE DEEP
This miracle is not about fishing - it is about evangelism - fishing for men, as Jesus put it (Mt. 4:19; Lk. 5:10). The church’s great commission is to preach the gospel in the pulpit and talk the gospel between Sundays so the Holy Spirit can win the people we witness to, to Christ (Mt. 28:18-20). The sad fact about churches entering the year 2000 is that we are not reaching out. What we call evangelism is really winning our own - the children of members and swapping sheep - taking in other church’s members. And in our text Jesus not only tells us that we are to be fishers (Mt. 4:19) and catchers (Lk. 5:10), but illustrates with His miracles how we are to do it. He gives several great principles of effective evangelism that the church must give itself to. Thank God, the Jesus who enlists also empowers.
I. MAKE EVANGELISM PRIMARY
Jesus had ministered with these Galilean fishermen for a year. They were, with many others, His disciples, but now they would become His apostles. This was their call to full time ministry - to leave their homes, their families and their fishing for fish ministry. And right at the beginning, in the context of fishing, Jesus set their priority for ministry. He said, “Come follow me. . .and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). He told Peter, “. . .from now on you will catch men” (Lk. 5:10).
We are to worship, to pray, teach, to fellowship, support missions and to minister to the needs of others, but most of all we are to evangelize the lost, to reach out with the gospel. Evangelism is why Jesus came. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Evangelism is why Jesus died on the cross. He said, “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” And John added, “He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die (Jn. 12:32, 33). Evangelism is why the Holy spirit came. Jesus told His church, “. . .you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses. . .to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
We look at the Word of God and see the priority of evangelism but we look at the church and see the poverty of evangelism. We do everything but this. What we do is good but when we substitute the good for the best, for the priority God has given us, the good actually becomes evil because it keeps us from doing our duty.
A church will never drift toward evangelism. It will always drift away from it. The internal demands of the church will cry out, will demand attention and will fill our schedules to the breaking point. Committees must meet, choir numbers must be rehearsed, the Sunday School must teach, worship services must be planned, sermons must be prepared, the sick must be prayed for and visited, world missions must be funded, children and youth and adults and seniors must be furnished Christian activities and fellowship. The unsaved man or woman or boy or girl will not reach out and demand our time and thus, all of us, including the ministerial staff, gives them almost none of our time. We must make the time and take the time. And we will never do this until we make reaching the lost the priority that God makes it.
II. HAVE FAITH IN GOD
These professional fishermen “worked hard all night” and caught nothing? (Lk. 5:5). Because God was showing them and us that we cannot win anyone to Christ. If we try our power, our personality, our wisdom - we will fail miserably. But what we cannot do, God can and will do. These fish were not caught, they were called by the Son of God. And don’t you love the faith of Simon Peter? There was a little doubt and pessimism in his response when Jesus said, “Put out into the deep water and let down the nets for a catch” (Lk. 5:5). But there was also a flicker of faith. He said, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Lk. 5:5).
And they caught so many fish that the nets almost broke, helpers had to be called in and the boats were so full that they almost sunk. That, my friends, is the power of God behind evangelism. And it requires men and women of faith, like Peter’s, who, in spite of pessimism and doubt, trusted Christ and obeyed. Oh, God, give us more like Simon Peter. Give us men of faith. Men who would plunge into hell itself simply because you asked it. There is no place for a pessimist in a revival. We don’t need any more men to tell us what won’t work, we need more who will say, “With God, all things are possible.”