“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Matthew 28:16-20
It’s sad when you think about it. If you are a Christian you have received so many blessings that you cannot count them even if you had eternity to do so. Your cup runs over and over to the point that it could fill the deepest basin (Psalm 23:5). Each day the Lord goes with you. Think about that for a moment. You are never truly alone anymore. You have God’s love and approval through his son Jesus.
Now Jesus follows you like your own shadow.
Why is any of this sad? It’s sad because you have these things…but many other people do not. You have forgiveness. You are shown mercy. You are disciplined, loved, guided and watched over always. The fruits of the Spirit are yours. You have been given such a light load to carry (Matthew 11:30). You are protected. You are God’s child. All that God has to offer is yours all because of your brother, Jesus, because of the suffering he endured.
God celebrates you. God has an extraordinary plan for your life. You; that unfortunate person out in the world. All of your wickedness and selfishness and God not only forgives you he accepts you. He will always accept you because you have believed in his son.
The Lord hears your prayers when they are sincere. He knows your suffering. Jesus offers you strength, peace and hope. In the howls of pain that echo through the stretching blackness…there are God’s servants. They have swallowed the Spirit and now they burn like restless flames with the intent to dispel the shroud of night.
With Jesus by your side you are nothing less than a warrior and a prize beyond comparison. All because of Jesus’ blood you are now marked for glory.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20
Be glad by all means! Let joy ripple through your spirit and being (Philippians 4:4), but remember those who have nothing. Even what little they have will be taken from them (Mark 4:25). Ponder this, dear one. Your heart beats in your chest and your lungs inflate with air and you know you are alive. You have a limited number of days. It may seem like passive information…oh yes of course everyone dies and da da da…but you know not the day it all ends.
You will die and see God in all his glory with his son enthroned by his right hand (Mark 16:19, 1 Peter 3:22). Truly you should not fear death. Only one thing should be feared and that is the one who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28).
You know how often the Bible tells us not to be afraid? Do not worry (Matthew 6:34), cast away all your anxieties on God (1 Peter 5:7), trust in God (Psalm 56:4). I’ve only listed a mere three verses…but the words of the long-dead urge you to trust God and thus his son as well.
Maybe you’ve been with Christ for a while. Maybe you’ve only been recently introduced. But could you imagine your life without Jesus?
“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:8
Paul wasn’t kidding…when you sharpen your focus and see the world for what it is you should see how hollow, how empty, how poisonous it is. Underneath the surface the earth is dying. People are insane. Nothing mankind does makes any sense. The world is Alice’s Wonderland come to life. Madness is normalcy to us humans.
So I’ve covered many things, but now look again at the first verse I wrote. Jesus commanded his disciples to make more disciples, to spread the Good News! This isn’t the first time Jesus said something like this.
“‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’” Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:7
That command is still active and you and I are under its weight. We have work to do. Do you know how frustrating fishing can be? I mean real fishing with worms and lines and a boat out on the water. Sometimes you have tons of nibbles, but you don’t catch a single fish. Other times you may catch one or two. Still other times you may find your mind is elsewhere even when the fish are biting.
Now imagine fishing for people. Paul said the entire law can be summed up with “love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14). That’s what Jesus taught and encouraged. Love is it. That’s what will save us. God exercised the greatest expression of love by sending his son. Jesus showed the greatest expression of love by dying for us.
Do not ever be dismissive when you remember Jesus’s sacrifice. Do not forget how much he gave for us.
“You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.” Psalm 30:11-12
As children of God it should be impossible for you to remain silent about what God has done for you. God has saved your life! You did not try to save your life, but have given it up for Christ. In doing this your life has been saved (Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, Matthew 16:25). You now have eternal life.
So fishers of men…Christians must fish for people. How do you do that anyway?
I have seen a boy on my college campus fish for people. He did it alone too. There were no Christians to support him or encourage him. This boy had thrown a line into a pool full of fish who knew nothing about God. He may as well have been fishing for sharks. I’ll call him Seth.
River and I observed Seth with wide eyes like a pair of doe camouflaged in the trees. He did not notice us whatsoever. We were just more students in the café. A blur of colors and features in his peripheral vision. We watched as Seth approached other students sitting at tables. These students were total strangers to him. It was obvious by the tense body language and expressions of confusion on their faces as Seth asked if he could sit with them.
Seth had a soft way about him. He moved delicately and quietly. He politely asked permission to sit and they always said yes. River and I never saw anyone reject Seth because at first they didn’t know what his intentions were.
Once Seth had taken his seat he would ask the students a question. River and I were close enough to hear most of the dialogue. He asked questions relating to life and death, good and evil. He followed up with scripture and explained who Jesus was. Seth talked about eternal life and why we needed it. He followed a form of philosophical discussion known as the Socratic Method. Question and answer.
River and I watched intently as Seth was rejected passionately by another student. The student gesticulated wildly and raised his voice in admonition. He didn’t want to hear any more about Jesus or Christianity. He was irritated and offended and his ears were closed. Seth eventually stood up and calmly left. River and I saw no anger in his body language nor did we hear vengeful remarks. No threat came out of his mouth. Seth only warned the students about their sin and then left them be.
The rejection had been noisy. Other students had turned to see what the commotion was. River and I watched Seth as he wandered away. We followed him and talked to him. We told him that we saw what he had done. We knew he was witnessing to people. Trying to teach them about Christianity and Jesus. We praised him and asked about him, but Seth’s eyes moved about nervously as if we weren’t uttering words but rather nonsensical noises. His mind was elsewhere.
A year earlier my other friend and I sat at a table and were working on some writing activities. I’ll just call her Sally Sparrow. The cyber lounge was practically empty, but a male student sat at the next table. We noticed another boy come in and he asked to sit with the other student who obliged to the offering. Both Sally’s ears and my ears pricked up when we started to notice the procession of dialogue being exchanged right next to us.
Sally wrote down on her notebook and pushed it toward me to read. She asked me something about the boy. I turned to get a better look and behold it was Seth; the same boy I would see almost a year later with River. He went through his list of careful questions. The student had been so embarrassed and did not know how to get Seth to leave him alone. The student shifted uncomfortably as Seth asked the student about eternal life. He asked the student if he thought his actions mattered on Earth. Eventually Seth left. After he did the student turned to Sally and I and said he didn’t know what to say to those kinds of people. Sally and I only looked at him.
It intrigues me…the idea of sitting down with an unbeliever and asking her a series of questions. Whether the person believes can only be discerned by God who looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Even if she never believes in Christ and never accepts the Word of God those questions force her to think about things. Not just any things, but important topics like life and death.
The world is expertly prepared to distract us from what really matters. It distracts us from God and from asking the big questions. It tells us to ignore our sin and the suffering we daily endure. The world wants us to be blind. The world wants us to drown.
One thing Seth told River and I was that he trained for that witnessing. He had prepared in advance to fish for people. Now I haven’t received formal instruction like Seth did, but I’d like for you and I to mull over a few possible questions. Maybe they’ll come up in a future conversation. My next post, “Catacombs,” will cover a set of questions and answers using the Socratic Method.
Until that time remember Seth’s actions. He trusted God and went forward to speak to strangers. He was rejected and persecuted. Because he suffered for Jesus he is blessed. He bears that name.
“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” 1 Peter 4:14-16
Humans stray from things that are unpleasant. We crave acceptance from our peers. Jesus asks us to go against the crowd. In this world we will be hated. In this world we will be persecuted. You have to give up all things to gain Christ. He is the far better reward. Isn’t it wild that you had to find something out of this world that makes sense?
“‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ (John 13:6) If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.’
‘They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ (Psalm 35:19, 69:4)’” John 15:18-25
Seth chose to be excluded and insulted for Christ. Even if those other students never believe in Jesus that boy gave them a chance. He planted a seed. Someone else could water that seed and maybe the Lord will make it grow (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
Learn from Seth’s actions. Tomorrow is not a guarantee and if we love Christ we have to be willing to suffer. In the end…do you really care what those people thought of you? Whether they approved of you or said good things about you? If the world is mad, which it is, do you want to be accepted by those who are also mad?
“For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” 1 John 2:16-17
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:28-32
“‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’” John 16:33
Seth was a lonely fisherman, but God saw what he did. And it mattered.