In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? Psalm 56:4
Now we need to learn why He is the answer so we can start to build a net of faith. Why? Because, like real fish, people can be elusive and slippery. We cannot just jump in and grab them; we need a way, and that way is His Way. We need a net in which to catch fish. Unlike a real fishing net, ours does not catch a fish by force, but shows the fish why the net is better, why it is the answer. Christ is the answer! That is why we accepted Him¾because He first came to us. When we have nets and know how to use them, we are better able to be used by the Spirit to explain Jesus to others. Most people are afraid to share their faith because they do not know what to say or how to say it. What to say is determined from the building of our net; the character gained will help make us ready to say it with love and care.
A net is a large, open-mesh fabric made from a small diameter rope which is knotted and laid in a looped crisscross pattern so that it intersects with itself, forming one- to two-inch rounds or squares. The net is held up and in place by buoys or floats that are then dragged by larger ropes. The makeup of the mesh pattern allow for holes for the water, as well as fish that are not ready and things that are too small to go through it so the proper size fish can be caught. The net can be a few feet wide and several feet long so it can be dragged through the water while not being impeded by it. Without the holes, the water would stop it like a giant brake, and the fish could just swim above or below it and none would be caught. By having holes, the net can be moved through the water, and the fish can be caught.
In application, our faith and ministry efforts are like a working fishing net. Our lives are interwoven with that of others by God as we crisscross with them in life. We are held up by and in Christ who acts as a buoy of support maintaining our assurance, purpose, and direction. We then meet people who help us grow, people who confront and oppose us, and even people who hurt us. These are the people Christ has called us to catch for Him and who, in return, will unknowingly challenge us to move forward in our faith. We build our net from our growth in Christ, our Bible reading, our learning, our fellowship, and the challenges from other Christians. This all connects and combines with the experiences of life. When our net is formed, we will be able to follow Him out of our obedience, and mentor in a multigenerational lifestyle, caring for the total person. Our faith net will flow through the rough waters of doubt, conflict, strife, fear, and stress, and not be impeded by them. This will move us from complacent Christian lives to purposeful Christian lives. This will move us from just playing church to really being a church. This will be a net that moves and catches people for Him versus a net that is rotten by neglect or woven so tightly by bad experiences and fear that it cannot move.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
In our American churches, our nets are usually woven too tightly because we are so busy; we have no time for personal growth. We only see personal needs and expectations and not the opportunities and call Jesus gives. The fish just swim around us, and we are too preoccupied in our boats of desires and busyness to see the ocean of opportunities around us. Hence, the average Christian just goes to church to pew-sit, never venturing into the life God has for him or her, never being forthright to others about his or her faith. As a result, our faith becomes stingy, callous, and sterile. The net just lies there-tangled-and we are unable to pick up the junk to clean it, repair it, and put it back to use. Fortunately for us, we have His Spirit to direct and empower us, but it is still up to us to allow His work to move us and not let our nets rot because of fear.
Decision and Presumption
As you go, preach this message: "The kingdom of heaven is near." Matthew 10:7
A lot of Christians have the false presumption that discipling means we should make people like us or have them conform to our specific church, denomination, or system of belief. Some think the me in "follow me" refers to I and not Him, Christ as Lord. But, that is not what discipleship or "follow me" is about. Rather, it is about helping facilitate the spiritual growth of others. It is about being empowered by the Spirit to hook people up to Christ. It is like being plugged into His current of electricity. We are never to make disciples in our image, alike as who we are, or how we think, feel, or act, but like Christ. Christian means to be Christ-like, not self-like or Bob-like or Joan-like, nor is it meant to be a particular denomination or theological position. It is all about doing our best in resembling Christ. We are to become His disciples by our faith, by His work in us! We are then to be discipled by someone. This is not just learning about the faith as a new Christian; it is a life-long commitment to grow in Him through His Word, through our personal devotions, through fellowship, through worship, and by learning all we can, then applying what we have learned. This helps form us as the people of God. We are to disciple others so they can, in turn, disciple others. Thus, Christianity is by faith, it is communal, it is continual, and it is shared. It is a community endeavor. A lot of Christians just will not do this. Perhaps they are too individualistic-too self-absorbed in their own lives to give a thought to God or others. Perhaps, they think, once I made that prayer and I am set free, so I do not need to do anything else. And, yes, they are, if it is real and in Christ. But, what good it is to be a pew-sitter yet do nothing with what Christ gave and called us to?
The twelve disciples spent three years of their lives following, learning, listening, observing, practicing, and experiencing life directly alongside Jesus. Then, they carried that learning and experience to the world, first as a rehearsal, then as a lifestyle. It all boils down to a decision. Will we make our faith real and impacting, relinquishing our pride, allowing ourselves to learn and grow, and, in turn, teaching others? Let us make sure our impact comes from a life transformed and carried out to the people around us. Let us follow Christ!
Do you realize it is purely by His acceptance of us that we are saved in the first place? The Disciples were directly called and empowered by Jesus, just as we are today. We are given such incredible gifts and opportunities, which are not of our doing or earning. There is nothing that we can add to our salvation, such as good works or clean living, but we can and should respond to it. Justification means that God's righteousness is covering us, protecting us from His wrath and punishment much like a blanket. It is like getting a speeding ticket, going to court, and having the judge declare you innocent, even though you were speeding. To God, you are clean, covered by what Christ has done for you. This creates our reconciliation to God. We were in perfect relationship to Him before the Fall, and now we are again in harmony. Because of justification, we can take great comfort and assurance in Christ. But, our response to what He has given does not happen overnight. Our faith has grace attached to it, but we also have responsibility with it. We will make mistakes and have setbacks, but He is there for us, carrying us through. Allow Him to do so. Do not have presumption; rather, pursue your decision.
How to Make Our Nets
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8
The book of Romans gives us a lot of good information about how to make our nets. The Romans 1:16-17 passage is the nuts and bolts of Paul's epistle, where, in one sentence, Paul sums up his letter and his life. Paul lived his life, not in theory, but in the fact that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and shows us the only way of justification. Paul was totally surrendered and poured out to God with gratitude and indebtedness that infused and permeated all that he was and did. Our faith and trust in Christ must infuse us in like manner so that all that we do is a reflection of Christ working in us. If not, all we have is a religion and a philosophy-not righteousness and impacting personal faith. As Christians, we are to live out our faith with passion and conviction, not being ashamed of who we are in Christ. This will keep our net strong and useful-undaunted by rot or wear.
Paul calls this, power. It refers to the life-changing power of the Word of God-the Gospel-and of the Spirit to totally transform us as He did with Paul. Only this power can remove our stubborn nature that bonds us to sin and refuses His grace. We cannot receive His grace without the power that intervenes and removes our bond of sin (Romans 5:6; 8:5-9). That power is Salvation; it is by the work of Christ alone, through the Holy Spirit. We can see this passage like the buoy for a fishing net, as holding the top supporting part of our net of faith. This is the support from which the rest of the net hangs. It is like a foundation and a support. Without this aspect of relying on the power of the Spirit, we cannot build our net; our faith will be shallow and of no impacting effect upon us or others around us. With the Holy Spirit, this becomes the faith that is based on knowledge-given to us by God.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? James 2:14
The next rung for our net is the aspect of faith that is trust. This trust is not just simple trust, and neither is it blind trust because we know the One who is leading. We know God and He gives us the material to build our faith and life. We will then be able to trust what is not seen and believe our God!
Now you can start to see your net forming, as every aspect of faith is built on faith, and nothing else; this is the cornerstone of the Gospel. This means we are to trust God and His promises and provisions. In Habakkuk we read that those who survive the Judgment do so because of their faith in God. Faith, in the Old Testament, meant to pledge one's life on the assertions that God gives (Joshua. 24:15; Habakkuk 2:4).
We are responsible for our net, to make it and to care for it. This is our response to faith, the exercising of godly living, and exercising, out of our faith, trust and obedience in whatever we face. This transpires when we obey the Holy Spirit and submit to His precepts and will. Not our will! Our response is not to look at our situation but rather, to look to God. God desires and deserves our whole-hearted loyalty, allegiance, trust, obedience, and devotion; so, what is stopping you?
Devout Jews in Paul's time would spend many hours a day in prayer-as many dedicated Christians do today. Even the Pharisees would memorize vast amounts of Scripture and spend hours in prayer to prove their piety. Unfortunately for them, they did not really understand it nor did they apply it. But, they did model for us the importance of knowing Scripture and being in prayer.
Why do we do this? Have you realized that your debt of sin has been cleared, your sin has been covered, and your dread has been replaced with wonder and eternity? Then, how has that affected your life? Do you obey His call and precepts? Does your transformed life impact others around you? Do you "get it" that everything you are comes about because Christ is in you? If not, why? What is in the way? Are you willing to get on your knees to seek His face and His righteousness for your life so your life can really be transformed and renewed and all those around you can know it without your having to say a word? Without His work, you have nothing but debt and sin. The thanksgiving of faith comes from who Christ is and what He has done for you.