Death by a Thousand Chihuahuas
Dr. Jim Denison
Do you live by a calendar and a clock, or a compass?
Some of us are governed by our calendars. We keep them at our desks, hang them on our walls, or carry them in our pockets. We record them with pencils or computers. And every day we do what they tell us to do.
They run our lives, with the help of our clocks. On the wall or our wrists, the clock tells us when to do what the calendar tells us to do.
I am as much a slave to my calendar and clock as anyone I know. But today I announce to you that I repent of their lordship over my life, and choose to live instead by a compass. And so should you.
There is only one “true north” in the Christian life. Only one purpose which will direct your life with unerring accuracy, which will guide you home every single time. We’re going to find it today.
On the first weekend of this new year we discovered God’s Kingdom purpose for his people. Now we’ll discover his Kingdom purpose for you. You’ll need to remember and live by this purpose, this “true north” every day this year. Or you’ll die the death of a thousand Chihuahuas.
Finding “true north”
Our text begins: “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew” (v. 18). Reading the text, we assume that this is their first meeting. But Matthew’s original readers knew this was far from true.
In January of AD 26, Jesus of Nazareth was baptized by John the Baptizer in the river Jordan. After his temptations in the wilderness, he returned to Bethany, the place of his baptism. There he first met these fishermen (John 1:28, 35-51).
John and Andrew were disciples of John the Baptist. The Baptizer pointed them to Jesus, and they began to follow him. Andrew brought his brother Simon to Jesus as well (1:42).
Jesus then called Philip to follow him. Philip was from Bethsaida, the same hometown as Andrew and Peter. Philip introduced Nathaniel to Jesus. And John introduced his brother James to him as well.
Now, the small entourage traveled from Judea back to their homeland of Galilee. Here Jesus turned the water to wine in the village of Cana (John 2:1-11). He stayed in Capernaum with this band of followers and his family (John 2:12). He and they traveled to Jerusalem for their first Passover together, March 21 of AD 27. Jesus met Nicodemus while in Jerusalem (John 3).
After John the Baptist was imprisoned, they traveled north to Galilee again. Jesus met the Samaritan woman on the way (John 4) and was welcomed back to Galilee (John 4:43-45). After this year together, the men returned to their homes and their work.
And so Simon Peter and Andrew, James and John knew Jesus. They have believed in him and followed him for a year. But not full-time, not with their lives and their futures, their all. Not until today.
Now Jesus begins his public preaching ministry in Galilee with the central theme of his life and work: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17).
And now he calls these men to join him in this work, permanently.
“Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), he says. “Come” is a command: “come here.”
“Follow” means “be full-time followers, pupils, disciples.” The construction is plural, showing that this is Jesus’ will for each and all of them.
“Me” shows that they will follow Jesus personally. Their loyalty will not be to a religion, an institution, a program, but a person. The Son of God himself.
For what purpose? “And I will make you fishers of men.” “Make” means to equip for a job, to give you all you need. “I will make you” shows that only Jesus can do this. And that he will—this is his promise.
“Fishers”—people who will catch something. What?
“Fishers of men”—all men. Not just Jews, but Gentiles. Not just men, but women. Everyone. The entire world. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). “Make disciples of all nations,” he commands us (Matthew 28:19). “You will be my witnesses to the uttermost parts of the earth,” he tells us (Acts 1:8).
Understand: these men knew Jesus. They had believed in him and followed him for a year. But they had not worked for him. They had not brought others to him. They had not given their lives to his service.
So he called them to be “fishers of men,” people who would bring other people into the Kingdom of God. People whose lives would influence other lives spiritually. People who would help other people follow Jesus.
And this would become the “true north” on the compass of their lives, the central purpose for which they would live, and die, and be rewarded in eternity.
Is this God’s call for your life and mine?
Why fish for men?
Yes. Jesus’ call to them became his charge to his entire church across all time. “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) was his Great Commission. “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts1:8) were his last words on earth. Spiritual fishing, helping people follow Jesus, was and is his purpose for every believer.
You are not really a businessman or woman, a homemaker or lawyer or teacher or doctor or student. You are a spiritual fisherman. Your school or home or business is simply the lake where God has put you, so you can catch the spiritual fish who swim there. So you can pray for them, be a spiritual example to them, encourage them, help them with their problems, invite them to worship, lead them to faith. That’s why you live in your boat, on your lake.