Mark 1:16-20 “Let’s Go Fishing!”

Posted on August 21, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Thursday, August 21, 2008– Here are the notes to a Sunday morning sermon from 9 years ago. The text is so rich I have done 3 sermons from these verses.

Mark 1:16-20  “Let’s Go Fishing!”  29 August 1999 AM





I. Fishing and the Kingdom

II. Disciples into Fishermen

            1) Discipleship 2) Jesus changes us into fishermen

III. Fishing for Souls

            1) Personal Integrity 2) Preparation 3) Pray 4) Practice 5) Persevere




Introduction: How many fishermen and fisherwomen do we have here? Do you enjoy fishing? I have been fishing many times but I am not a fisherman by any means, but I know enough about it to know it is certainly enjoyable, relaxing, but to do it well requires a little bit of study, dedication and practice. For those on the gulf or ocean shores who fish for a living, it is work, hard work. I wonder if commercial fishermen ever go fishing for fun? One of the funniest fishing stories I have ever participated was when I was fishing with my neighbor as a child. We had a whole stringer of Bluegill Perch and we were getting ready to leave and come back home with our catch when my friend accidentally let go of the stringer full of Perch and we watched it swim off into the pond. Not only did we feel stupid for letting our whole day’s catch escape, but I really felt bad for the fish; I wondered what they did, if they suffered and died or somehow managed to survive and thrive attached to that stringer of metal hooks.

            When we see this story of Jesus calling these four men, professional fishers, to be fishers of men we automatically think it is an interesting play on words. This morning we shall see it is more than that! We will also be challenged this morning to examine our lives in light of scripture to see if we have been truly fishing or just drowning worms, spiritually speaking. What does it take to be a biblical “Fisher of Men”? How do we fish for souls? What can you do to help those who do fish if you yourself are not going to fish?


I. Fishing and the Kingdom.

            Mark places the first two sayings of Jesus only two verses apart; there is a definite link between Jesus saying, “The Kingdom of God is near” and “I will make you fishers of men”. Those two sayings are linked in the middle with “Repent and believe the Good News!” What is the relationship between fishing for men and the coming of the Kingdom of God?

            As is so often the case, if you really want to understand the New Testament, if you want to know the significance of what Jesus said, you have to read the Old Testament, the Bible that Jesus read. So much of what Jesus and the apostles said or wrote is referring to an Old Testament text that we frequently miss some of the richness of the gospel by denying its Old Testament roots.

            Jesus is not merely referring to the men’s vocation and making a joke. Jesus is referring to some Old Testament texts that use a fishing motif in relation to the judgment of God upon people. Look at Jeremiah 16:16-18 “But now I will send for many fishermen, declares the LORD, and they will catch them. After that I will send for many hunters, and they will hunt them down on every mountain and hill and from the crevices of the rocks. My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes. I will repay them double for their wickedness and their sin, because they have defiled my land…” The fishermen in this prophecy are to pluck the rebellious people of God out like fish in a pond; this is judgment day.

            Look at Amos 4:2 “The Sovereign LORD has sworn by his holiness; The time will surely come when you will be taken away with hooks, the last of you with fishhooks.” This prophecy was of the Assyrian Captivity for northern Israel in 722BC and can even refer to the appearance of the captives being led off into captivity chained together, like fish on a stringer; and even the cruel practice of literally hooking people together with large hooks through their flesh.

            There are some other references to fishing and fishhooks in the OT but you get the idea now. So what was Jesus referring to when he called his disciples Fishers of Men? I believe that there is a good side and a bad side to this being fishers of men. The Gospel is a double edged sword, Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword…” The coming of the Kingdom is both a sign of grace (to those who repent and believe) and a sign of judgment (to those who reject the good news). To be a fisher of men is to bring judgment upon those who reject God’s grace and refuse to repent or believe. To be a fisher of men is to pluck the repentant fish out of the waters of judgment; those who don’t take the bait of the gospel stay in the waters of judgment to their own destruction. The men who stay in the waters of judgment are taking the bait of Satan, swallowing the lies of the devil hook, line and sinker.

            This is a solemn teaching that came home to me personally this week. I have been witnessing to a certain group of folks who are religious but do not know Jesus. They are convinced that their man-made religion is better than the pure Gospel. As I was conversing with them about their faith I suddenly realized that their false gods were demons in disguise and that as they reject the pure Gospel of grace that I witness of, they take unto themselves the very judgment of God. The task of witnessing is a double edged sword; as we make people aware of the gospel, they become responsible for what they have heard. To reject it is to reject Christ and bring condemnation upon their own souls. Yes, the coming of the Kingdom brings peace, but a sword as well Matthew 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

            Folks, witnessing is not a game; proclaiming the gospel is not kid’s play, it is life or death, judgment or grace, eternal life or eternal death. To be a fisher of men is a solemn yet joyful task, a heavy undertaking.


II. Disciples into Fishermen.

            1) Discipleship comes First. Before one is a fisher of men, one has to be a follower of Jesus first. Jesus calls people to himself, calls us to learn from him, to imitate him, to partake of him. To be a disciple is to be a learner, to be submissive to Christ in every area of life.

            So many people come to Christ for only fire insurance, to be just a nice moral and religious person. Many come to Jesus out of right motives but just get too comfortable and settled into an easy Christianity that has nice, godly habits, but is no longer vital, alive, and vigorous. To be a disciple is to study and apply the whole counsel of God’s word, to be intimately acquainted with God’s Word, Old and New Testaments. To be a disciple is to know more than Bible stories (which are where most people stop) it is to know and understand the doctrines, the teachings of Christ throughout Scripture. A disciple applies what he/she knows, doctrine affects your life as a disciple, ideas have consequences, and doctrine is practical. A disciple is involved in worship, corporately and privately, you just love to praise and worship and thank God.

            All too many who come to Christ stay in the crowd along with the 5000 who got fed that one day. They like to eat at the fellowships, they show up to hear the preacher once in a while (or even regularly), but they miss out on the deep stuff; they don’t have an appetite for the richer things of God.

            At work right now God has started 4 different Bible study groups. One is all mature believers, one has a mixture of mature and immature believers with maybe even one or two lost people in it; the one that we are starting tomorrow consists of folks who are lost and know it, and folks who years ago were active in church but have been out of it for a while. The fourth group is purely evangelistic, I am the only Christian in the group and the others are from a different world view and world religion entirely. But what most in these groups have in common is a hunger for the things of God, and interest in the Word of God. Some are well on their way to being disciples, others are just beginning this pilgrimage, but none of them are satisfied with where they are currently, they want more, they are sure God has more, they want more of Jesus. That is the necessary attitude to be a disciple.

            2) Jesus changes us from disciples to Fishers of Men. This takes discipleship up to the next level. Obviously the 12 Apostles had a peculiar calling as fishers of men to be the ones Jesus had as his special witnesses. But, we all fall under the Great Commission; we all have a calling to be Fishers of Men.

            Notice that Jesus says He will make you fishers of men. This is a miraculous transforming of your character, personality and soul into a person who fishes after men with the gospel of Jesus. Jesus, through his Holy Spirit who indwells every believer, and the Word of God, transforms every believer into a fisher of men. This is a work of God’s grace known as Sanctification. We are being made holy for Christ; we are being purified as his Bride. Part of their sanctification process includes being his witnesses.

            I was 8-9yrs old when I was graciously saved from sin by Christ, and I can testify that I became a witness of the gospel right away. I was witnessing as early as the third grade.

            3) Objections. Many people say that I can witness by my lifestyle but I just cannot speak to anybody about my faith. In my Bible study group with mature believers I asked them how many of them felt like they were trained and effective witnesses. Not a one of them! And these are all go getters, professionals with college degrees and many years of faithfulness in the church, raised in Baptist churches every one of them.

            Let me tell you that if you are able to talk to a lost friend about the price of eggs in the grocery store, if you can discuss the Rangers game with someone, then you can also witness about what Christ has done for you. The fact that you don’t, and about 95% of all Christians do not witness, ever, is a testimony of the weakness of our churches for generations. We have churned out members who are faithful to the organization of the church, faithful to the various programs and committees, but are not gospel fishers of men! That is a serious weakness of our discipleship efforts for the past 50 years. Members can sit and hear evangelistic messages preached every Sunday morning for decades and not be out there fishing for souls, and that is a disgrace to our Lord. It seems to me that our churches through the decades have hired preachers to do the fishing for us, while we sit comfortably in the pews and critique the preacher for not doing enough.

            The fact is that most Baptists I know are not fishers of men because of three main causes:  1) lack of adequate training; 2) sinful disobedience; and 3) fear, embarrassment, lack of confidence, etc. which is the result of the first two I mentioned.

            Jesus can change you from a pew sitter to a fisher of men if you surrender your pride, fear, apathy and ignorance. Now I am going to tell you how to fish for souls.


III. How To Fish For Souls

            This is the practical application part of the sermon. I used to always hate sermons like this when I was a kid because I felt bad because I did not feel like I ever witnessed enough; I always came out of these kinds of sermons feeling guilty. Here I am going to tell you how to take this sermon and run with it so that you can really change. I am really expecting God to change some of you into fishers of men by the way.

            1) Personal Life- Are you presently living a holy sanctified life of obedience unto Christ for the glory of God? I am not saying are you perfect, none of us are. But is your life genuinely reflecting the abiding presence of Christ? Integrity is a must before you can be much of a witness. Let me tell you what God has done in my work place. The first thing is that I had to be good at what I was paid to do; I had to work with a positive attitude and do my job well, with a high degree of professionalism. People will not listen to your witness if they see you do not care about your work. Then you must also work with a degree of holiness, that is, not participating in the ungodliness that we are surrounded in. But we must also avoid the trap of being self righteous, holier than thou, and too heavenly minded to be of any earthly good. People must see that you are real, genuine, alive alert and glad to be here! You have to be friendly and concerned about the people around you, you must earn the right to be heard, and that took about the first year of my assignment.

            2) Prepare- Study your faith, and this is more than reading the Bible through every year, although that is certainly one good way of preparing. But if that is all you do, it is not enough! Study the doctrines of our Faith so that you can adequately explain what you believe and why you believe it to a non-believer. Keep in mind I am not talking about witnessing to total strangers, this is friendship evangelism. If you can discuss the latest Clinton scandal (Waco) you can discuss the atonement of our sins by Jesus dying upon the cross. Most Christians, most Baptists I know do not ever read a serious book about their faith. The folks in my Bible studies at work are now reading, and thoroughly enjoying it too! They are hungry! Are you hungry for learning more about the Faith so that you can witness, so that you can be a fisherman? There are lots of good books on how to witness; the SBC has several good programs for learning how to witness. I have a great video and cassette tape library along with my book library to help you study.

            3) Pray- pray first of all for a desire to grow in the faith! If you are sitting here now feeling like you are hopelessly behind, begin by praying for a heart to prepare, and then a heart to witness. Pray for a desire to share the gospel. If you have fears, pray for courage. If you say you just aren’t gifted in evangelism (guess what? i am not either) pray for a heart to witness anyway. Pray for God to take away your pride, apathy and every other obstacle that is preventing you from witnessing. Maybe you just aren’t around many people and those few you are around are already Christians. A big part of what I do at work is encouraging weak Christians, in between Christians and strong Christians. Speak about God stuff! Pray for whoever you are in contact with. Pray that God opens your eyes to the lost around you. Pray for specific lost people. One of the things that distress me greatly about prayer meeting is how few prayer requests there are for the lost. Pray for God to lay some soul upon your heart! Pray for a burden for souls who are lost and going to hell for all eternity. If you cannot find anybody in your circle to pray for, come to prayer meeting and i will give you the names of my lost friends to pray for (we only average 6-8 in prayer meeting anyway). Let me testify to the power of persistent prayer. My prayer partner at work, James, and I have been praying together daily for almost a year now. He came to me at first for some counseling but we also covenanted together to pray for our work place to experience revival. It took from Sept til May before God gave us our first Bible study, from May til August we have added 3 more! Witnessing to lost people is taking place because God is answering our prayers. Divine appointments are virtually a daily experience now. Pray! Pray! Pray!

            4) Practice, practice, practice! There is no substitute for just doing it! Begin by encouraging a Christian friend; start by talking about what the Lord is doing in your life. Talk about doctrine, pray together, and share your weaknesses and struggles. Then move into a friendship with a non-Christian. Find out what their likes and dislikes are. Become their friend for friendship’s sake, whether you ever witness to them or lead them to Christ or not. Do not use people so you can get a notch on your gospel gun! But at some point, as part of a normal conversation, ask about their spiritual background. Ask for their opinions on spiritual matters. You don’t have to share the whole gospel with them in the first conversation! Allow spiritual things to become a part of your normal talk and eventually you can share the gospel thoroughly with them. The important thing is to start! Practice practice practice!

            5) Persevere- this approach requires patience! Consistency and perseverance. Longsuffering even! Sometimes God moves quickly, but usually it takes a long time to adequately witness to people these days. They have lots of questions, not a few objections and misconceptions that will need some study on your part. The days of being able to share a quick Gospel tract with someone are almost gone! We have to be in this for the long haul!


Conclusion: Do you want to be a fisher of men? I am not asking anyone here to become a fulltime evangelist! I am asking you to be a disciple first, and then to pray about becoming a witness, and then doing it. Are you satisfied with where your Christian life is at this point in your life? The real question is this; Is your Lord satisfied with where you are today? Let’s go fishing!


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