Fishers of Men 5 Lessons in Sharing the Gospel.

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1 Fishers of Men 5 Lessons in Sharing the Gospel. By Darryl Eyb

2 Fishers of Men 5 Lessons in Sharing the Gospel. First Published 2015 Copyright Darryl Eyb Published by Bible Resources, Australia

3 Lesson 1 Fishers of Men 1 Lesson 2 From a Meeting at a Well 4 Lesson 3 Going in Pairs 7 Lesson 4 Lessons from Philip 10 Lesson 5 When in Rome 13

4 Fishers of Men Read: Matthew 4: This is such a well-known story. What are some of the things that stand out to you? Jesus calling of his first disciples is such a well-known story that it can be difficult to understand it in a new light. So often this event is taken as a story which, even though it helps us to see the world that Jesus lived in, does not tend to shape the way we understand our faith. When we allow the Bible story to come alive in us the story takes on new significance. The story is simple enough to understand. Jesus is walking along the water s edge of the Sea of Galilee. As he approaches two fishermen he stops and considers them. Maybe he has met them before, maybe not. Either way it doesn t change what he will say when he walks up to them and greets them. Follow me and I will make you fishers of men. The two men stop what they are doing and turn to follow Jesus. As he continues Jesus sees two more fishermen. Again, he tells them to follow him and once again they follow. What did it mean for these fishermen to follow Jesus? Did they understand what he meant when he said they would be fishers of men? The Biblical text doesn t expand on what it is that the fishermen were expecting. To them there is a transition from fishing for fish to fishing for men. Even though it is not elaborated on, transition moves them into something with much more significant results humanity. In a very real sense their task changes from pulling fish from the sea to pulling people from death to life. 1

5 How does seeing the disciples task changing from the mundane to the extraordinary help you to reimagine their calling? What are some of the lessons that you can learn from their actions here? 1. Following Jesus Means Catching His Vision When the first followers of Jesus left their nets on the shore, they effectively said goodbye to their previous life. For the disciples this was a literal event. They left behind their livelihood, which in the ancient world generally was following in their father s footsteps, to follow Jesus. I believe that this is a descriptive event rather than the norm of a follower of Christ. This is reflective of our society. There are some, like missionaries or those in full-time ministry, who often share a similar experience to the disciples, but most Christians continue in their existing work environment. The Bible does not draw a distinction between either situation but continues to remind followers of Christ that they are all priests of God. If we believe that followers of Jesus can truly be fishers of men in whatever situation they are in, what is it that changed for the disciples? For the disciples there was a change in the way they viewed the world. In following Jesus their actions clearly showed that they took their eyes off catching fish and turned them toward people. This is at the heart of Jesus ministry. The gospel writers go to lengths to show Jesus interest in people through miracles, showing mercy, forgiveness and ultimately his substitutionary death on the cross. In following Jesus the disciples caught this vision of people and ultimately gave their lives for it too. How do you see the heart of Jesus being evident in your life as a follower of him? What would help you to shift your vision from the fish of everyday life to Jesus vision of people? 2. Following Jesus Means Doing What He Does Jesus did not approach the fishermen on the shore and ask them to watch what he did. Instead he calls them to follow him. This is similar to what ancient rabbi s did. To the brightest and most highly regarded pupil a rabbi would offer the chance to follow, learn from and copy what he did. This is not merely the formation of a new rabbinic ministry but in a very real way the continuation of a rabbi s ministry after he has died. Jesus takes this model and redefines it. The disciples did not suddenly decide that they should become fishers of men, but it was Jesus who sought them. This means that a fisher of men starts with Jesus. It is not our initiative but his. And further, he does not look for the best and brightest but chooses the everyday worker and offers them the opportunity to be his follower. 2

6 So the initiative of being a disciple of Jesus originates with him. Look then at what they are expected to do. The work of the disciple is to follow, learn, copy and continue. As these fishermen follow Jesus they begin to know him relationally. As they learn and copy what he does the vision and mission of Jesus begins to grow within them. As they continue in Jesus mission they begin to show him to others. This is at the heart of what Jesus is calling them to when he asks them to become fishers of men. It starts with Jesus, is guided by Jesus and ultimately the results are up to him. This story has not changed. Jesus still calls people to follow him and become fishers of men. As followers of Christ we are continuing his story. How does knowing the centrality of Jesus help you to better understand what it means to be a fisher of men? 3. Being A Fisher Of Men Is Communal In the world that we live in today we have an inbuilt tendency to think in terms of the individual. This is not the case when Jesus called these fishermen to fish for men. On this occasion Jesus calls four people to follow, but we know there were another eight in close relationship with him and crowds that would also follow him from place to place. Even when Jesus gives his followers a practice run at what it means to be a fisher of men he does so in pairs (Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 10:1-11). It is helpful to remember that everyone has a role in fishing but it is ultimately God who catches the people. Hopefully this is something that is encouraging. We may be the one who shares our faith with someone, we may be the one who prays, we may be the one who shows mercy and kindness but none of these are less important because it is God who catches. What may be some practical steps that you can take to better understand what it means to be a fisher of men? What are some of the joys that you have seen when you have shared your faith with someone? What would make it easier for you to be able to share your faith? 3

7 From A Meeting at a Well Read: John 4: What are some of the things that stand out to you? What are some of the questions that you may have? The story of when Jesus meets a Samaritan woman at a well is one of the most well-known stories in the gospels. It is a two part story and undoubtedly the first part is the better known. Jesus has met a Samaritan woman at a well in Shechem and asks for a drink. His request for a drink may have been because he was thirsty but given the conversation that is to follow acts as a means of opening the conversation. The woman is out at an unusual time meaning that she has been ostracised from her community. For Jesus to talk to her is revolutionary since she is not Jewish, a woman and an outcast but Jesus shows compassion. Jesus doesn t downplay the woman s situation but calls attention to it in such a way that she is forced to come face to face with who this man was. The second part of the story is captured in verses and is really quite simply a description of how evangelism functioned in this particular situation. Jesus does not call this woman a fisher of men but none the less this story serves to inform us of what it looks like in today s world to fish for people. What are your initial ideas about what the passage may say to us regarding fishing for people? 4

8 1. Fishing for People Involves Speaking Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words is a quote that is attributed to Francis of Assisi. There is much to like about this quote especially when it is taken to make believers consider how their lives match with their confession of faith. There is the temptation for Christians to use this saying as an excuse for not preaching the gospel. The reality is that people only come to a saving relationship with God when they have heard the gospel. Our good lives are not enough. At some point those who fish for people must speak about what God has done. This principle is clear in the story of the Samaritan woman. In the narration of the account she does not have sufficient time for her life to demonstrate how the encounter that she had with Jesus has changed. In this story she simply tells what he has done. He knew everything about her. The Samaritans were waiting for a prophet to come. They only believed in the first five books of the Bible. This prophet, which John names as Messiah, would not be the political figure that the Jews were waiting but would be a teacher. The women has found her teacher who already knows everything about her. She cannot help but to tell others this news. Was this way of fishing effective? The people believe her, after all how could they possibly argue with her testimony. They manage to convince Jesus to stay with them and teach for two days. Imagine how extraordinary this is. The Jews hated the Samaritans. At best they thought of them as half-blood traitors, and yet Jesus stays. The message of who he is crosses all cultural boundaries. Have you ever shared your faith with someone? Share the story of how it went. 2. Fishing Involves Experiencing When the woman shared her story with those she knew people believed but that was not the end of the story. They wanted to hear Jesus for themselves. We don t know what it was that Jesus said to the Samaritan people while he stayed with them but we do know the result. It is one thing for Jesus to cross the cultural boundaries and minister to the Samaritans but it is equally extraordinary that they believe him. There is a progression that happens in the hearts of the people listening. Initially their belief in Jesus is based on what the woman has told them. This changes when they experience it for themselves. It may be easy to conclude that the experience of meeting Jesus has trumped the testimony of the woman especially as they say they no longer believe just because she told them. This is not the case though. Their new found experiential belief has simply built upon and confirmed what they had already heard. It is an acknowledgement that her testimony is true now that they are able to experience it themselves. So 5

9 when we are fishing for people it is important to have a realistic understanding of the value of personal testimony. It is important and opens the eyes of others, but it should always be working toward the appropriate end that is, inviting others to experience Jesus for themselves. It was not solely the woman s story that convinced other people but equally as they experienced Jesus at work. This should be something that all believers find comforting. When we share our story it does not have to be perfect or eloquent but simply our experience which calls others to experience Jesus for themselves. It was Celtic Christians who effectively awakened Britain to who Jesus was in the sixth century. Important to them was the way that they understood the cross. As the period from the cross grew longer there was a diminishing view on the importance of evangelism. Although still present in the sixth century it was somewhat in decline. What set the Celtic cross apart from that of the rest of Christianity was the inclusion of a circle. This circle reminded them that it was the whole world which Jesus had come to save. This is what the Samaritans had come to realise about Jesus. He was the Saviour of the world. He was not just a Saviour for the Jews but even for them. This preceded Jesus giving of the great commission and even in the book of Acts was not something that the first followers of Christ readily embraced. What was your experience of coming to call Jesus Saviour? Was it solely built around hearing the gospel preached or did you also need to experience it? Share your story with others. How has this study helped you to more fully understand what it means to fish for people? What are some of the practical things that you can apply to your life? 6

10 Going in Pairs Read: Mark 6:7-13. What are some of the things that stand out to you in this story? In this series there has been a focus on evangelism as a natural part of life. It would be easy to assume that there is a significant shift from this toward intentional evangelism in this story. Indeed this is true to a large extent given the situation but it still offers insight into evangelism in more general terms. It is important to remember the relationship between Jesus and the disciples. Theirs is a teacher pupil relationship. This is not quite the same as believers today. When we looked at Jesus calling them to follow him, you may remember the similarities that existed between this and disciples of rabbis. The disciples spent time with Jesus, watched what and how he did things and listened to him teaching. Although we know Jesus, we do not have the benefit of being able to observe him in the same way. In this passage Jesus is effectively telling them that it is their turn now. It s a bit like being an apprentice chef. You may have the best chef to learn from but at some point you need to cook something. By sending the disciples out Jesus is telling them that it s their turn now. This is what following him is like when he isn t physically present. What do you see as being similar between the disciples experiences and that of believers today? What are the differences? 7

11 1. Jesus Commission to Go Verses 7-9 lie at the heart of the disciples commissioning. Clearly that are being sent by Jesus, but it seems to be very extreme. They are to go with nothing except a walking stick. Frankly this is weird especially when we seek to understand it in today s terms. Nowadays when Christians venture into evangelism they first do their research. They find out what people are looking for; what the issues they are facing; where they gather. We may also look at how we can fundraise or think of programmes to run. These things are not bad at all but that are not what concerns Jesus. Without doubt he is concerned about the disciples food, what they would wear and money but that ultimately is not the point that he is making as he instructs them to go. Instead he is concerned about where they place their trust. What a valuable lesson to learn. Sharing the message of Jesus is not about working out every possible permutation that may arise and being ready for it but trusting that God is sufficient for every circumstance. To proclaim the Kingdom of God is to trust in God and obey what he says even in the face of doubt. Trusting is not a particularly easy thing to do. It raises questions for us and creates the tension of uncertainty. This would have probably been true for the disciples, but Jesus commissioning of them is reassuring. He has given them the authority of evil spirits. Jesus spiritual authority is something that Mark in particular is keen to show, but here it is important to note how this seems to operate. The disciples are not to go in their own power but Jesus. This may seem like a simple point but its broader implication is that there very going is an extension of Jesus ministry. He is keen to teach them that when they go as he has commanded them, it is almost as if Jesus is himself going. It can be difficult to proclaim the Kingdom of God. How does seeing it as an extension of Jesus ministry help you to go? In your experience how easy is it to trust God? What will make it easier to do so? 2. Don t Hold Things too Tightly It is all too easy for people to take things too seriously. Our society tends to emphasise the importance of everything whether it is the way that our favourite sporting team performs or what type of coffee we drink. This is contrary to Jesus message about sharing the Kingdom. We are to take seriously the task of sharing his message but not so seriously that we feel that we should argue with people. Jesus is clear. There will always be people who will reject you and the message you bear. Don t waste your efforts trying to convince people who don t want to be convinced. You are not responsible for how others react. Move away and keep sharing with those who will hear the message. Jesus does not use these word but his message is plain when he tells them to shake off the dust. In Jewish thought dust was significant. For this 8

12 culture dust helped to identify who you were. To be covered in someone s dust was to bear their image or mark. The phrase conjures up images of Jewish travellers literally shaking their clothes to remove the dust of non-jewish places when they re-entered Jewish territory. As they did this it was akin to declaring that that place and those people were in no way worthy to be considered to be part of God s people. As such for a Jewish person to shake off the dust is to declare judgement on that person. The gospel that Jesus sends out the disciples is very similar in this respect. On one hand it is something that give life but when it is rejected it is also something that brings judgement. Conversely when there are people who gratefully receive the gospel message the disciples are to stay. Presumably the purpose of this is to ensure that the message has been properly understood and established within people. It is almost as if here their hospitality is testifies for the genuineness of their belief and confirmed by the providing the very things that Jesus has instructed the disciples not to take. Share an experience that you have had when you have seen God provide your needs as you have shared the gospel, or when you have been the provider. 3. Watch What Happens Verse finishes the episode by showing the results of what happened. It seems fairly simple, but the disciples preached, drove out demons and healed people. There is something that should be seen in their message. They did not just tell people that God loved them but called them to repent. The message of love is a fairly easy one but is not the fullness of the gospel Jesus preached. Yes, God loves you but that love calls you to repent and turn to him. When we fail to include repentance as part of the gospel message we do not fully proclaim the gospel. The other aspects of what the disciples did involve the super natural. It is important to realise that these were the things they saw Jesus doing. They were not going out on their own. Secondly they were only effective because they were representing Jesus. Jesus had given them his authority and when they anointed someone for healing it was as if Jesus showed up. What do you believe that Jesus is challenging you to do from this study? Be practical. 9

13 Lessons from Philip Read: Acts 8: How do you share the gospel to people who are interested? So far in this study we have look at reasons why we should share our faith. We concluded that it was ultimately because Jesus is living within us and we are following what he does. Evangelism is not about campaigns or programs but is about God living within us. Second, we saw that sharing the gospel sooner or later means speaking and inviting others to experience who Jesus is. Next, we turned our attention to trusting Jesus and watching him work. The results are not dependant on us but are part of Jesus at work in people s lives. We get the privilege of being part of the story. In the next two studies we will look at how this works practically. This passage in Acts is such an interesting one. We don t know much about the Ethiopian except that he is a public servant, a eunuch and apparently come from worship. We are not told what his relationship with God is like but it would seem at best that he is interested in God but does not understand the things about him. Given the lack of specifics about the eunuch, maybe Luke s focus is more on Philip and what we can learn from him. 1. Listen (Acts 8:26-29) As we ve already discovered, sharing the message of Jesus is the natural result of following him. Philip is no exception to this rule. This whole encounter is because of his relationship with God. It is not as if Philip is simply going about his normal day when he runs into the Ethiopian. Verse 26 explicitly makes the point that he is there because he is listening to God. This is not an accidental meeting but something that has been set up 10

14 by God. Equally verse 29 connects Philip s approaching the Ethiopian is due to hearing the Spirit s voice. It is important when sharing the message of Jesus that we are listening. If nothing else this story teaches this. The entire encounter is because Philip has learnt to listen to God in the everyday parts of life. Listening is not enough. Did you notice what happened in the narrative? He moves beyond merely listening to observing. In a very real way he is listening with his eyes open. He is able to observe the man reading and notice that it is from Isaiah. Philip is a picture of a man who is in tune with God and what is going on around him. It is the dynamics of this relationship that brings a gospel opportunity. How attentive are you to hearing the Holy Spirit in your everyday life? Philip obeyed the voice of God. How true is this of you? 2. Take Gospel Action It is not enough for Philip to listen to God and observe, to be a fisher of men Philip had to take action. There is an urgency about it as he runs up to the chariot. Although this is not the point of Luke s account, consider the urgency of Jesus. His life and ministry is purposeful and ultimately always directed toward the cross. If Jesus mission was a matter of urgency, shouldn t that reflect in the lives of his followers? It sounds simple enough gospel followers take gospel actions but what does this mean? Every time believers share the message of Jesus will be different. If it is not then we are using a cookie cutter method of evangelism and it will not be effective. That said, there is a principle that Philip uses when he approaches the Ethiopian. He begins with where the man is at. Philip doesn t launch in with the message of Jesus but looks to start where the man is, Isaiah. Clearly the man is interested in God and it is this that directs Philip s approach. The simple offer to explain to the man what he is reading shows the Ethiopian that he is valuable. As he works through what Isaiah has written he is able to answer the man s questions and direct him toward. There is nothing worse than giving the gospel message without love. Share a story of when you have taken gospel actions. 3. Learn to Sacrifice It could be tempting to leave the study right there. It teaches us that when we are reaching out to those who have an interest in matters of 11

15 spirituality then we need to listen and guide them toward God. These are good words for all followers of Jesus to put into practise but it is not quite the full picture of this story. This is no ordinary day for Philip. Right at the start of the passage Luke has made it clear that Philip s day is a sacrifice. He is where he is because God has sent him there. I don t know what Philip had planned for this day, but whatever it was he put it on hold. This kind of obedience is challenging for us because we have a tendency to be focussed on our own agenda. It is not bad to plan and structure your day but what we learn from Philip is a willingness to sacrifice his own plans because he has heard from God. This is what it means to give God first place in your life. Philip s sacrifice does not end there. It may be tempting to think that when Philip was riding in the chariot he was getting a free ride. It is not really the case. Just imagine that you have put your day on hold to obey God. Somewhere in the back of your mind is getting back to what you had planned. If like Philip, God has called you to go somewhere then you don t really want to go too far because the further you go, the longer it will take to get back. In accepting the man s chariot ride Philip get to share the gospel but it is taking him quickly away from the plans of his day. I have never been on a chariot but I imagine they travel quicker than walking. As the distance increases, the length of time it will take Philip to get back increases exponentially. His faithfulness has not only meant that his plans have been put on hold but it has cost him considerable time. Again what a challenge this type of radically following God is for us today. We are self-absorbed and focussed and are taught almost from infancy that time is money. In other words, if time is valuable, Philip s sharing the gospel of Jesus has required him to sacrifice. What are some of the things that you are prepared to sacrifice in order to share the good news of Jesus? Be really practical. How does this cost you? As followers of Jesus we are called to be his hands and feet in the world. Jesus hands and feet bore the nail scars of Calvary as he sacrificed for us to know him. What scars of sacrifice are you prepared to bear to make him known to others? 12

16 When in Rome Read: Acts 17: What are the differences between how Philip and Paul share the gospel with others? Last week we looked at the important things to remember when sharing your faith with those who are obviously interested. We emphasised the necessity of listening to the Holy Spirit, the need to act in ways that lead people to the gospel, and that sharing our faith is something we do with loving sacrifice as we mirror the nail-scarred hands and feet of Jesus. Today we shift our focus to sharing with those who have no knowledge of Christianity. What experiences do you have of people who don t know anything about Jesus or the Bible? What experiences have you had in sharing about spiritual things with them? 1. Start where People are At. When Paul begins his address in Athens, it is important to understand his starting point. Generally when Paul entered a city he would share the gospel first at the Synagogue, then with those who were interested and finally with the broader general public. This address fits into the third category. It takes place in a public setting. Remember what Philip did when sharing the gospel. He was able to move the Ethiopian through the prophecies of Isaiah to seeing Jesus as the fulfilment. Paul s approach is different here. The Athenian crowd are not interested in and do not know about Jewish Scriptures. These simply are not part of their lives, and so Paul does not begin there. 13

17 Paul understands the culture of the people he is ministering to and he is looking for what glimpses of the gospel he can find. In other words the big tool that Paul is using focusses on the connections between the people and the story of God. Last week we spoke about sharing faith in love as a way of showing the value of others. All too often Christians are accused of Bible bashing. This is when they force the gospel on people seemingly without any care. This is not what Paul is doing. He connects with them by using their own image of the UNKNOWN GOD and seeks to introduce them to this God. This has enormous implications for the way we share about Jesus today and how we can make connections between our culture and Christianity. What are the things in our culture that you can link to the Christian life, especially the gospel? 2. Focus on the Big Picture. Paul continues his cultural awareness as he shares the gospel. He doesn t get bogged down on issues such as God choosing the Jewish people, or the incarnation, or the particulars of the gospel message. Instead Paul s focus is on the big picture. This is so important for the Athenians because this is a God who is radically different from theirs. In ancient Greek culture there was a gluttony of different gods and all of these gods required humans to serve them. Their religion was one where people had to continually strive to make sure the gods were happy. Look at how Paul describes God. He does not need to be served because he is the very essence of everything. Indeed he is the only true God, the one who created and breathed life into all things. He has set himself apart to make himself known and reaches out to people. He has designed humanity to bear his mark and is infinitely more valuable than gold or silver, after all, these images are simply those created by people he himself created. Finally this is a God who holds people to account and, even though he is merciful, will judge people who refuse to believe in him. This is big picture language. What Paul is doing is painting the broad landscape of Christianity. He is telling the thrust is human history from God s perspective. How does Paul s big picture perspective change the way you might share about the good news of Jesus? 3. Never Undervalue the Result. Paul s evangelistic results are definitely mixed. There are some who simply reject what he is saying, others want to hear more, and others believe. 14

18 It would be easy to argue that his work in Athens was a failure. He was ultimately rejected by the council and forced on his way. Some have claimed this was because Paul departed from his normal message of Jesus and the cross for the bigger picture. To say that Paul s mission in Athens is a failure is not fair. It is all too easy to get caught up with numbers as a mark of success. The reality is that the Holy Spirit was at work when Paul spoke at Athens and people came to faith in Jesus. It is no less successful when 5 people come to faith than when 500 do. It can be easy to see our evangelistic efforts as failures when the results are not what we would like to see. What are some of the things that would help you to be able to see God at work when you share faith with others? 15

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