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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord's Day Morning, July 5, 2015

“And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

A friend and I went to the Baptist World Alliance. It met at the Convention Center years ago. We came in a little late. We were looking for a seat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a tall figure dressed in black appeared behind me. I turned around and saw Richard Wurmbrand. He said, “Come with me.” My friend and I went with him immediately. When we were outside he whispered to us what he wanted us to do. In the next few minutes I went through one of the most dangerous and exciting events in my life – which I will tell you about at another time.

Jesus came for Peter and Andrew in much the same way Pastor Wurmbrand came for me and my friend. They had heard about Jesus, but they had never met Him. They knew He had healed people, but they didn’t know who He was. He stepped out of the shadows and said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” As with Pastor Wurmbrand, there was a sternness in His face. There was strength in His voice. Something inside them said, “I’d better follow Him.” I’m sure they had no idea what He meant by, “I will make you fishers of men.” But they knew what He meant when He said, “Follow me.” They immediately left their fish nets and followed Him. In that moment they had become disciples of Jesus. It was as simple as that! The Greek word translated “disciple” means more than a learner. W. E. Vine says that it indicates “thought accompanied by endeavor...hence it denotes one who follows one’s teaching [and example].” Jesus said to Peter and Andrew, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Our purpose is to do what Jesus did. Our purpose is not just to get you to come to church once a week. If you only come to church once a week you will never become a disciple of Jesus. If you only come to church once a week all you will have is “a form of godliness” (II Timothy 3:5). You will be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (II Timothy 3:7). We are calling you to come on Sunday evening as well. We are calling you to come to prayer meeting and evangelism on Saturday evening also. We are calling you to go out on evangelism, two by two, with other people in the church. We are calling you to come with us and become soul winners. That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Fishers of men means soul winners. We are calling you to come all the way into the church. We are calling you to come and help us bring in other unsaved young people to hear the Gospel and come to the party after the services on Sunday. Jesus said,

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23).

That is what it means to be a “fisher of men” (and women).

Yes, it will cost you something. Peter and Andrew “left their nets, and followed him” (Matthew 4:20). Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book that has influenced many. It is called, The Cost of Discipleship. He was hanged by the neck by the Nazis for his preaching a few days before the Allies liberated Germany. He was only 39 years old! It costs something to follow Jesus and learn from His example. You may have to rearrange your work or school so you will have time to be with us Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Saturday evening. It will cost you something to become a follower of Jesus and learn from Him. It will take time and effort to go out with us and help us bring others to hear the preaching and attend the birthday party.

Somebody might say, “You’re making it too hard! Nobody will come that way!” Well, in a way you’re right. But you forgot what Jesus said about that. Jesus said,

“Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14).

Jesus also said, “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Without going into the deep meaning of that verse, it is enough here to say that many people are called to discipleship and salvation, but only a few of them will enter the “strait gate.” This was true of the disciples of Jesus. When he said something they didn’t agree with, “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66). Judas was one of the twelve main disciples, and he betrayed Christ. Jesus never made it easy for anyone to be His follower. He said, “He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). Again, Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). He never made it easy to follow Him as a disciple. If He had made it easy the early Christians would all have given up when they were persecuted. They would never have been able to go through the trials and hardships they went through.

Those who follow the Devil are often wiser about this than modern evangelical Christians. Jesus said, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke 16:8). Dr. Thomas Hale said, “Christians often are not their dealings with others...Christians should be as wise and shrewd in getting spiritual benefit as the worldly man is in getting worldly benefit” (Thomas Hale, M.D., The Applied New Testament Commentary, Kingsway Publications, 1996, p. 337; note on Luke 16:8).

Making religion easy doesn’t bring young people into the church. Making religion hard doesn’t keep them out. That is an important lesson most evangelicals haven’t figured out. Millennials are young people between the ages of about 15 and 30. Based on a study by the Pew Research Center, young people of that age group are rapidly leaving the churches. A CNN report based on the Pew research said, “Millennials Leaving Church in Droves, Study Finds.” It said, “Almost every major branch of Christianity in the United States has lost a significant number of members, Pew found, mainly because millennials are leaving...More than one-third of millennials now say they are not affiliated with any faith, up 10 percentage points since 2007. The [eagerness with which they leave their churches] surprises even seasoned experts. ‘The pace at which they’ve continued to [leave] is really astounding,’” said a member of the Pew organization. The report then said, “Many young Christians seemed bored by church, the study said, ‘pointing to youth ministers as particularly ineffective.’” The study ended by saying, “Christianity in the United States hasn’t done a good job of engaging serious Christian reflection with young people, in ways that would be relevant to their lives” (“Millennials Leaving Church in Droves, Study Finds,” by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor, May 14, 2015).

There you have it! You’ve heard me say it many times. Now the Pew Poll shows I was right! Young people are bored with church. They are leaving so fast it is “astounding.” Youth pastors are “particularly ineffective.” The churches in America haven’t given young people “serious Christianity.” What a message! It takes the Pew Research Center to tell us the truth! Our churches bore young people to death. They don’t offer serious Christianity. The young people are fed up. They are leaving at an “astounding” rate! Isn’t that what I’ve been saying for years? Isn’t it? Isn’t it? Isn’t it? And it doesn’t do any good to put on flashing lights and have the kids jump up and down to rock music. None of that has done any good at all!

Now, let’s contrast that with ISIS. The Washington Post, June 25, 2014 had this headline: “How ISIS and other Jihadists persuade thousands of Westerners to Fight Their War of Extremism.” The number of young people from the West who have joined ISIS is more than 3,000 and growing rapidly. “A lot are young, often teenagers...most are converts to Islam.” They “commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation.” It says, “ISIS deploys a savvy, unerring millennial social strategy that combines Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Mideast networks such as Dawn. The images are a mishmash of cats, guns, and surreal hashtags.”

Then the article said, “What’s the draw? Why are young people leaving the safety of a Western nation for militancy?” The article says these young people are “aimless and lacking a sense of identity and belonging.” They are “seeking a greater purpose and meaning in their lives.” They look at America as a decadent society of drugs, pornography and unbridled sex. Aren’t they right about that? They see our churches as boring and uninteresting. They long to do something to stop the sinful materialism of America and the West. One young American who joined ISIS said on Twitter, “Got these criminals today. [Another one] will be killed tomorrow. Can’t wait for that feeling when U just killed some!” They strap bombs on themselves and go forth in a holy war against our filthy and godless way of life in America. Who is going to stop them? – A Sunday School teacher? A church organist? The “youth pastor” in a Baptist church? You got it! They are winning – and we are losing. Why? Because their religion calls on them to sacrifice, even to die, to spread Islam – while our churches offer them a one-hour service which is totally boring – that’s why! That’s why! That’s why!

I am calling on you young people to become radical Christians! Yes, I want you to be a radical! Be a disciple! Be a radical for Jesus Christ and for the church of Almighty God! Do it! Do it! Do it! Isn’t it about time some preacher told our young people that? Take up your cross and follow Christ! Be a disciple! Be a soldier in the army of Christ! It’s number 2 on your song sheet. Sing it!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus going on before;
Christ the royal Master leads against the foe;
   Forward into battle, see His banners go.
Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
   With the cross of Jesus, going on before.
(“Onward, Christian Soldiers” by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).

They are not going to win, you know. Christianity may seem weak now, but the world has not yet seen our finest hour! Christ is coming. He will lead His army from the sky, and the kingdoms of this world shall become the Kingdom of our God and of His Christ! The battle may be long. At times it may seem hopeless. But our God is stronger than Satan. And our Christ is greater than the materialism of this dying country. Christ is alive! He’s alive! He’s alive! He has risen from the dead and He is coming again, to set up His holy Kingdom on earth! Their religion calls them to come and die. Christ calls you to come to Him and live! He said, “I give unto them eternal life!” (John 10:28).

I am calling on you this morning to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Come to church every Sunday morning and every Sunday night! Don’t let anything stop you! Come to pray with us and evangelize with us every Saturday night. For Jesus said,

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

“I will make you fishers of men.” Sing it with me!

I will make you fishers of men,
   Fishers of men, fishers of men,
I will make you fishers of men
   If you follow Me.
If you follow Me, If you follow Me,
   I will make you fishers of men
If you follow Me!
     (“I Will Make You Fishers of Men” by Harry D. Clarke, 1888-1957).

Christ died on the Cross to save you from sin and judgment and Hell. Christ rose physically from the dead to give you eternal life. I pray that you will trust Him and be born again.

I am calling you to become a radical Christian – and a real disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that some young person here this morning will come to Christ, be saved, and be His radical disciple. In His name, Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Mr. Abel Prudhomme: Mark 1:14-20.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“All For Jesus” (by Mary D. James, 1810-1883).