Fishers Of Men

“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.  And He said to them ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’  Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.”——Matthew 4:18-20

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Over the past while I have been giving more thought about Jesus telling Peter and Andrew to follow Him and that He would make them “fishers of men”.  Most will quickly read past this, as I have often done, and just chalk it up to Jesus telling them that they would not only be disciples but evangelists as well.  But on the subject of being “fishers of men”, it seems there is much more there than meets the eye.

Sharing our faith is a command for all believers.  I used to think that it was meant for those “gifted” in evangelism and those evangelism teams that were in the church.  But as I grew in my faith and understanding of the Bible, I began to see that sharing my faith, as unqualified as I may feel, wasn’t optional or even left to only those God has gifted more in this area.

When we begin to fully understand what Jesus has done for us on the cross, it motivates us to share this hope with others.  The fear of how people may respond or feeling ill-equipped seem to fade as we realize the great importance of telling people about Jesus.  This doesn’t mean that all the sudden we are great at sharing our faith, but it helps us to realize that, as with everything, evangelism takes practice as well.

So when Jesus told Peter and Andrew that He would make them “fishers of men”, I’m sure there were a lot more questions than answers.  They knew how to catch actual fish by profession, but now they were to take this concept to catching men; whatever that was going to mean.

Fishing is interesting.  To go fishing is something that we often think of as older guys going out with their dogs and spending time in God’s creation.  But fishing is much more than that.  Ask any fisherman.

Fishing takes preparation.  You need to prepare your fishing rod, tackle box, lures, and many other things.  Without getting these things organized, fishing is nearly impossible.

In order to begin fishing, you also need to scout a location; “where the fish are”.  Sometimes this is where you may have caught before or possibly where others said they have had success.  There are times when you also find you need to move to try and find a better spot.

Fishing also doesn’t always mean catching.  There are times when you may seem to be doing everything right and the fish just aren’t biting.  So you change lures, bait, locations, or try anything else you can possibly think of to try to get a catch.  Sometimes you go home without any fish, but are still grateful for the opportunity.  There is something about fishing that keeps fishermen going back time and time again.

I say all of this because it has had me thinking a lot more about Jesus’ words telling the disciples that He would make them “fishers of men”.  Fishing isn’t easy.  Neither is evangelism.  But it is necessary.

Before we can share our faith, we must begin preparing.  We must find ourselves praying for opportunities and for our friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers that don’t know the Lord.  It is critical that we are praying for people because we know that it is God that draws people to Himself. (John 6:44)

In our preparation, we also don’t think we need to have a ironed out presentation or a “stump speech”, but rather simply tell people about what God has done in our lives and why it is critical they put their faith in Jesus as well.  The message stays the same, but how we share with each person may be different based upon our relationship and conversation.  This doesn’t need to scare us, but helps us to know that there is no formula for evangelism.

As we share our faith, it doesn’t ever really seem to go as we have pictured or planned for in our minds.  This is also good and keeps us relying on the Lord.  We must remember that we aren’t the ones doing the work in people’s salvation, but that we are only the messengers.  God is the one who is the Author and Perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2).  Therefore, we just have to be faithful in pointing people to Jesus.

And just as with fishing, sometimes people will put their faith in Jesus, other times they won’t.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the times when you go home empty-handed.  In evangelism, this can be equally or even more discouraging than not catching physical fish.  We put a lot of blame on ourselves for things we could have done differently, spoken more clearly and articulately, or shared about Jesus more thoroughly.  But the more we share our faith the better we will get.  This doesn’t always equate to being more successful, but gaining more confidence to be able to convey faith and salvation in a better way.

It is also helpful to know that our success can’t be solely defined by the numbers of people that may or may not put their faith in Jesus.  Our hope is that we will find people who do put their faith in the Lord, but it is good to know there might be times, or even seasons, that we may not see this result.  This doesn’t mean that we aren’t sharing our faith well, but just means that we gotta keep on sharing.  Sometimes it may mean reflecting on how each of us can improve in sharing our faith or the things we may have missed.  But one thing we must keep in perspective is that our obedience in sharing our faith is what matters and that the results must be left to the Lord.

Something else to realize is that we also don’t know the impact our sharing of Jesus may have down the road.  We may not see a person that we have shared Jesus with put their faith in Him at that moment, but could have a major impact as they reflect back later.  That is why it is important to continue to remember to try to make the most of every opportunity; for we don’t know how God may use that to lead them to faith. (Colossians 4:5)

Being “fishers of men” can be intimidating.  Sharing our faith can be something that we can neglect because we don’t feel we are able to do well or just simply want others to do it for us.  But sharing our faith is important for us all to learn and grow in doing.  Both in seeming failures and successes, we must find ourselves taking the steps to be telling people about Jesus.  We have the greatest of hope to share with all the world, it is more of a question of if we will obey God’s command to truly be “fishers of men”.

Hyper Grace, Antinomianism, And The Gospel

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.  For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”——Jude 1:3-4

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Radical.  Scandalous.  Messy.  Outrageous.  Relentless.  Extravagant.  Inexhaustible.

These are some of the terms that those in the Hyper Grace movement often use to describe God’s grace.  Over the past few years I have noticed a great increase of those active in the Hyper Grace movement.  To simply define “Hyper Grace”, it is an extreme focus on God’s grace to the detriment of many other important and foundation doctrines of Biblical faith.  Those that are promoting Hyper Grace often embrace the term openly.  They believe that grace can only be hyper because Hyper Grace is all that there is.  But there is a big difference between truly understanding God’s abundant grace versus what the Hyper Grace proponents really mean.

I’ve been really reluctant to write this post.  Not because it isn’t of great importance, but because of the difficulty in trying to keep something of this magnitude short and concise, but also informative.  In no way is this blog post meant to even begin to touch on the greater depth of the subject of Hyper Grace, Antinomianism, and the Gospel, but rather some of my observations over the past few years.

If you haven’t heard of Hyper Grace, I’m sure you have most likely seen the signs of it.  At the root of the Hyper Grace movement seems to be a conflict over Justification and Sanctification.  Justification, for those that aren’t familiar with that term, is the point in which a person is made right before God and forgiven of their sins by their faith in Jesus through His death and resurrection.  Sanctification, is the ongoing work of God in a person’s life that leads them into greater faith and obedience; resulting in becoming more like Christ.  As you can see, these are two critical elements of understanding the Gospel and true salvation.  How someone views both Justification and Sanctification can dramatically change the way one views faith.

In my observations, the Hyper Grace movement focuses almost exclusively on Justification.  They whole heartedly believe that we are saved by grace and faith alone.  At this I give total agreement.  There is no way in which we can ever think we can do enough good works to earn salvation, but are saved only by our faith in Jesus’ sinless sacrifice done on our behalf.  Where it seems the trouble begins for those in the Hyper Grace camp is that they seem to confuse Justification and Sanctification as essentially being one and the same.  Hyper grace proponents seem to believe that because of Jesus’ “finished work” on the cross, there is no need for willful active obedience on our part.  Although they won’t claim that sin is acceptable, they seem to believe that our sin no longer has any bearing on our lives; outside of the possible consequences of sin.  Therefore, Justification ends up being the most critical, whereas, Sanctification is merely a passive result of God’s work in a believer’s life.  No need to be concerned sin, but assured that all sins past, present, and future are paid for; no matter if there is any tangible repentance leading to obedience as a result.

Those that criticize the Hyper Grace movement tend to be labelled as “legalists”.  What is meant by this is that those who exhort people to actually live out their faith in obedience are seen as more concerned about following “rules” than focusing on what Jesus has done for them.  This description of calling those who stand for repentance and obedience, “legalists”, is no where near the truth of what we find in Scripture of true legalists.  Legalists in Scripture were more concerned about following man-made traditions, ceremonies, and rituals than actually walking in obedience to God.  Those that are earnestly calling people to faith and obedience are not “legalists”, like the Hyper Grace proponents like to accuse them, but rather are those standing for Biblical Truth.

The second part of the equation that comes into play with those in the Hyper Grace movement is, Antinomianism.

Antinomianism simply means “without law”.  What Hyper Grace proponents seem to do is take their liberty in Christ as a means of living without the need to follow Biblical commands.  In essence, because of Jesus’ “finished work”, we are no longer held accountable for sin and no longer need to feel the guilt or burden if we do fall into sin.  Many, if not all, in the Hyper Grace movement deny any charge of Antinomianism.  This is understandable because this is a serious charge.

What happens is that some in the Hyper Grace movement struggle so much with Justification that they use their beliefs as a means of assuring themselves and others of salvation without the fruit of any true repentance.  They often talk a big game about being “sinners saved by grace”, but some use this as a cover of not actually repenting of personal sin.  This is a serious problem of giving unrepentant sinners assurance of salvation without really having to come to grips with sin.  This is where the accusation of Antinomianism actually does seem to fit in a practical sense; even among those that fervently deny Antinomianism.

Those that preach Hyper Grace also often accuse others of not properly distinguishing between Law and Gospel.  They say that the Law in Scripture points to our sinfulness.  The Gospel is thus God’s cure, whereby those who believe in Jesus are promised salvation.  The Law is therefore powerless to overcome the penalty and bondage of sin, revealing our sinfulness.  The Gospel is thus the message of salvation to all who believe in the Lord Jesus (Acts 16:31).  No issue here.

But where the trouble arises in the area of distinguishing between Law and Gospel, goes back again to misunderstanding the distinction between Justification and Sanctification.  When a person puts their faith in Jesus, a person must not only recognize their sinfulness, but also repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:14-15).  Just because a person puts their faith in Jesus, may make them in right standing before the Lord, but doesn’t mean they still don’t have the need to continue to repent of remaining sin; as it seems those in the Hyper Grace movement don’t tend to deal with properly.

The Hyper Grace proponents tend to only see the Old Testament Law through the lens of revealing general sinfulness, but miss that the entire Old Testament continues to teach and instruct us in God’s Way and what obedience and righteousness looks like, with the understanding as believers, now living under the New Covenant.  In other words, although we are forgiven of sin through our faith in Jesus, it implies that we continue to turn away from sin to a growing faith and obedience to God.  This obedience, and ongoing Sanctification, is brought about through God’s work and conviction in the life of believers, but we still must humbly submit and continue to seek to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8).

Now don’t get me wrong, our Justification doesn’t depend on our Sanctification.  In other words, our salvation doesn’t depend on what level we attain in ultimately walking in obedience and putting to death the deeds of the flesh.  But there is also no excuse to continue to live in sin when paying the penalty for our sin is the exact reason for Jesus’ sacrifice.  Therefore, we are Justified by our faith in Jesus and are being Sanctified as the Lord brings about conviction; leading us to greater faith and obedience.  But what I observe among the Hyper Grace movement is that there is often a great lack of exhorting believers to obedience; even to the point where it is almost non-existent.  That is why most of their sermons, messages, books, and so on, focus more on what Jesus has done for us rather than truly making mature, fully devoted disciples of the Lord.

I’m aware that this blog post may be far deeper theologically than many of my other posts.  There may be a lot that some might not understand and may be way over the heads of others.  What I hope is that through this post you may begin to understand some of the things that are being promoted and the things we must be very careful to embrace, even be on guard against.  There are many popular pastors, teachers, and authors in the Hyper Grace movement that are gaining a growing following.  My suggestion is to spend some time researching Hyper Grace and Antinomianism to see how dangerous these things can be to faith and salvation in Jesus.  These Hyper Grace proponents can make a very convincing argument for what they believe and why others are wrong.  But when you start to understand their beliefs and get to the heart of what they are actually saying, it becomes even more clear of the threat to Biblical faith.  As always, you will begin to see their associations with others in the Hyper Grace movement as well as those oppose.  It is important to look at these associations because they help to reveal where people stand on these and other issues, as well as other serious errors that follow.  In other words, the people they surround themselves with and what crowds they run in uncover their true beliefs.

The true Gospel is at stake and there are many pitfalls that follow the Hyper Grace movement that should cause us all to pause and consider the consequences that are giving people a false assurance of salvation when people don’t really understand the true cost of repentance and discipleship.  God’s grace is truly amazing.  But we can’t take His grace for granted.  We must seek to recognize our sinfulness, continue to repent, and seek to walk in greater faith and obedience to the Lord.

Click Bait

You’ve got to see this.  Bet you’ve never seen something like this.  The 7 things that you haven’t ever heard.  Watch what these people do, it will amaze you.

We’ve all seen it.  Links to articles, videos, and other things that just beg for people’s attention.  And let’s be honest, each of us has probably clicked on a few.  It’s one of those, “Okay, you got me”, type moments.

These things are called “Click Bait”.  People give fancy headings that grab your attention and get you to go to whatever link.  Some end up being advertising.  Others, just ways to try to get you connected.

For ministries and churches, they have seemed to take advantage of the using this type of method as well.  Whether it be through social media or real world strategies, they seek the biggest audience they can acquire.

If you can come up with a catchy enough slogan, people will often check it out.  Ever get a marketing flier from a church??  Usually some invite to a new trendy sermon series’ or an event like Easter or Christmas, simply trying to attract people to their churches.  It is amazing the amount of money that is spent on these glossy, colorful postcards.  Oh, and don’t forget about the added cost of postage.

I remember sitting in some church and denomination meetings a while back, hearing people talk about how to get more people into churches.  It was unbelievable hearing about the ways people would come up with to try to do “outreach”.  Some even said, out loud, that the cost of the marketing and advertising would be offset if one or two families would join and begin to give financially to the church.  Really??  Is this really what churches and ministries have succumb to doing??  Do they even hear themselves??

The most recent trend for ministries and churches has been this “Pokemon Go” game.  Between pastors doing theme sermons and churches becoming hot spots, the way of churches has now become to be culturally relevant rather than actually speaking the Truth into our lost world.  Some argue that if you aren’t engaged with the things people are doing, then you aren’t effective in reaching people.  This just isn’t true.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that churches are no longer a place of declaring the Gospel and God’s Word to our world, but rather a bastion of the world.  Just look at the results.

People really can’t make the case that all these professing “Christians” are really walking in faith and obedience to the Lord.  If that were true, than people’s lives and what they were pursuing would be drastically different.  So what can we make of the people filling these so-called churches??

Between the “stellar” Seeker-Sensitive movement and the sheer shallowness of advertising, we can only conclude that these tactics and gimmicks are just that.  Gimmicks.  Although some may have the right motivations to begin with in seeking to connect with those that don’t know Jesus, the means don’t equate to the ends.  People are not truly being saved despite all the attempts to be more culturally relevant.

People are given assurance that they are “saved”, but by many buying into one time praying a “sinner’s prayer”, many are going down the path of destruction.  Most want a church that isn’t threatening to their sinful ways and who won’t call out those walking in sin.  This is not just unloving, but evil.  People are being giving false assurance in which they think that they can define Jesus how they want, but ends up resulting in their eternal separation from God in Hell.

Enough is enough.  It is time for true believers to wake up and make a stand.

The reality is that many don’t want to repent and believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).  They want to live their lives how they want and believe they will be saved.  This is incompatible and must end.  We must return to preaching the Gospel and declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

The scary part is that churches are so dependent upon the outward appearance of success that many have sold themselves to Satan’s schemes.  In order to “make it”, churches need people giving.  In order to have people giving, they need to have people.  In order for people, they need programs.  In order to have programs, they need to seek to fulfill people’s “felt needs”.  And round and round it goes.

Some might say I’m being to harsh and critical.  But I would challenge you to look at the people that are attending many of these churches today.  Do their lives really reflect the faith of those in Scripture??  Or do their lives look more like a sub-culture of the world??  I would suggest the latter.

The reason I write all of this is that my heart breaks for the people being led astray.  Whether people realize it or not, they are not being presented the Truth.  People are buying into a different gospel which is no Gospel at all (2 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:8).

As believers, pastors, and leaders, we have a great responsibility to be living out and proclaiming the Truth to people.  We can’t use worldly methods to simply gain an audience, let alone let people comfortably sit by thinking they are “saved” when in reality they are not.  Enough of the gimmicks.