- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2005

The following are excerpts from a sermon yesterday by Pastor Vernon Dean at Christian Assembly in Vienna, Va:

Jesus said, “Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

Years ago, I was listening to an evangelist who made the statement, “If you are not a fisher of men, you may not be following Jesus.” What a shocking statement. Could it be true? Was Jesus saying, if we are not fishing for men, if we are not seeking to draw men and women into the net of God’s salvation, we may not be following Jesus?

We read in Matthew 5:13-16 strong words that God has ordained that we as Christians are to be salt and light to this world. We are here to offer something very special that puts the “spice of life” and “light in a dark place” here on planet Earth. What an awesome challenge but wonderful opportunity.

I am intrigued by those words, “let your light so shine before men” (Matthew 5:15). This seems so clear that wherever we go, whatever we do, whatever we say, the light of God’s presence is to shine through us. That doesn’t mean we have to have the word “Jesus” in every sentence, nor does it mean we walk around with our hands folded in some posture of prayer. We should be the most happy and excited people on the face of the Earth.

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.”

This may be the most unpopular verse in Bible. Clever theologians can give you 1,000 reasons why it doesn’t mean what it says, but simple disciples drink it down, assuming Jesus knew what He was saying.

What does it mean? It’s an abandonment of all one’s rights, possessions, status, everything.

He did not say we should be willing to forsake all.

He did not say forsake a part. He did not say that there is a diluted form of discipleship available to those who dedicate a part of their life to Christ. He said, they cannot be My disciple.

Each of us stands responsible to God for what we do with this command to “forsake all.” We are all accountable for our own walk. We can’t blame our lack of willingness to follow God on our parents or siblings or anyone else.

We stand as individuals to answer God.

And God hasn’t called us to judge others’ “following” progress.

Many people know that old song of faith entitled “Onward Christian Soldiers.” It’s about a company of soldiers of the cross who will say, “Lord, I am ready to abandon all to follow You. I give You permission to use me as You choose. To send me where You desire. To mold me after Your image.”

Jesus said in Matthew 10:38 that “anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.”

Around 1940, some Christian people wanted to organize an evangelistic crusade in North Carolina. The pastors they talked to said it wouldn’t work and didn’t want to get involved. But they had a burden from God. They had a dream of serving God and letting their light shine. They had their crusade, and many responded to the invitation to give their lives to Jesus. There was a young boy there — who gave his heart to the Lord. His name was Billy Graham. He has now preached to hundreds of millions around the world. This all happened because a few people were obedient to follow Jesus.

God has called us to be the light, to give our lives for Him. We will not all become pastors or missionaries, but the call is no less urgent to each one who would follow Jesus. He calls us to be fishers of men and to let our light so shine that God receives all the glory. We at Christian Assembly here in Vienna are not a church of perfect people but rather brothers with the light of Jesus. We may not be able to reach them all, but one by one, we can make a difference.

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