September 4, 2011
Everyone deals with sharks. The question isn’t if, but when. To make it out of the water, we’ve got to know what to look for; we’ve got to identify the dangers before we face the attacks. But the truth is that there’s an even bigger threat in life than the sharks we face.
In this message, Ed Young shows us that there’s really only one way to stay shark smart. And he reminds us that it is only by relying fully on the grace of God that we can avoid becoming sharks ourselves.
Wow, it’s great to see everybody here this weekend, especially at all of our different environments. Downtown Dallas and Fort Worth, how are you guys doing? Plano, and also in Miami. I want to do also a big shout out to our worldwide television audience. Welcome to this time.
The Bible says in Matthew 4, these words. I will read out verses 18-20. Matthew 4:18-20. “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fisherman.
‘Come follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.”
Today, Twitter is huge and the big question is, how many followers do you have? In this context it’s not talking about a follow that’s hollow. Jesus is talking about truly following him. Jesus challenged these fanatical fisherman to be fanatical in another way. He said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
Fishers of Men. How do you learn to be a fisher of men? You learn to fish by fishing. You fish for men. You cast your nets for men. That’s the essence of why Jesus came, that’s the essence of his message. He fished for you and me. We have an opportunity to come into his family, to be caught by the good news, by the hook of the gospel. When we’re caught then Jesus says, “Hey, if you followed me, if you’re truly a fanatical follower, you, too, will fish.”
I fish a lot. I love fishing. I always kid around and say that fishing is a Biblical sport. In fact, it is. Jesus was living in Capernaum at the time and Capernaum was a place that was near water. He always seemed to be around water. He always seemed to be rubbing shoulders with fisherman. Most of the disciples were fisherman. Fisherman are visionary. Fisherman will face the elements. Fisherman are eternally optimistic. Fishermen fish. They identify with the fish. They think like a fish and that’s why they are fisherman. Christ challenges you and me, just like he challenged those ancient fisherman, to follow him and to fish.
When you fish, like I fish, if you really fish in the oceans sharks will show up. I’ll say it again. If you fish, sharks will show up.
Let me stop here and add something. This talk today is directed toward people who are true fanatical followers of Christ. It’s directed for people who have come into a personal relationship with Christ. I’m not talking about people who are religious, I’m talking about people who have a personal relationship. Now, if you have never established a personal relationship, listen very, very carefully. Because you need to know what Jesus was all about and is all about, but specifically I want to challenge myself and challenge every follower to fish. But when you fish, when you really cast those nets, when you really think about people who don’t know Christ personally, sharks will show up.
Now why can I say that? How can I say that? Think with me. The gospel is all about the blood of Jesus. We’re toast without the blood of Jesus. In the blood there’s life. Grace, forgiveness, mercy, is all about the blood of Jesus. He died on the cross for our sins and shed his precious blood for you and for me. When we preach the blood, when we teach the blood, when we live out the blood, the blood is attractive. It’s attractive because there’s a fragrance to it to people who don’t know Christ. Also it’s attractive to sharks. Sharks show up when there’s blood in the water.
Think with me to Jesus. Remember the sharks circling him? Wanting to tear him apart? You remember the fins slicing through the water? What did he do? He got away from the sharks. Many times he faced the sharks but now and then he got away from the sharks.
I think about Paul after his Damascus Road experience. He became a follower. Here was a guy who was persecuting the church. He was all about hating believers. Now, all of a sudden, something shifts in his life that never shifts back. He has this powerful pivot point in his life. They try to kill him, to tear him apart. Sharks showed up to attack him and he had to sneak away from Damascus. He got away from the sharks.
Time and time again we see people escaping from the sharks and we see people facing sharks. When you fish sharks will show up.
Something else. I’m talking about believers – sharks can keep us from catching the kind of fish we want to catch. You’re fishing, you want to catch a certain type of fish, right? We’re fishing, our lives should be about fishing. We’re fishing for men and women, people away from God. We understand that, we know that, we process that, we see it. That’s the message of Jesus. He started his ministry talking about fishing, he ended his ministry talking about fishing. It’s all about that. It’s about other things, but that’s the main thing. When you concentrate on fishing sometimes areas can be so shark-infested that they keep the kind of fish you want to catch away.
I’ve done that before. I’ve been fishing. I pulled up to an area and there are so many sharks circling the boat, so many sharks all around. Sharks are smart. They know that inevitably you’re gonna catch a fish, the fish will be thrashing and splashing, then they’ll eat the fish. So when I see that many sharks, I move. I move to another spot.
That’s what Jesus did. Too many sharks? He moved to another spot. That’s what the apostle Paul did. Too many sharks? He moved to another spot. Jesus one day tells the disciples if a city has too many fins in it, move to another spot. Sharks can keep us from catching the kind of fish that the Lord Jesus wants us to catch.
Are you shark-smart? Are you shark-smart? You’re a fisherman. How do you learn how to fish? You fish. That’s how you learn how to fish, start fishing. Start casting. Start praying. Start talking. Start inviting. Sharks will show up. Some areas, though, are so sharky you gotta move.
And that’s one of the main things about sharks. Sharks are on the move all the time. They’re moving, they gotta move. They don’t move, they die.
“Well, Ed, sometimes sharks sleep. I’ve seen that on the Discovery Channel.” Yeah, they sleep. But the current is running through their gills.
Sharks are in churches. Sharks are in churches all over the world and they move from church to church to church, always moving. We’ve gotta move.
Now sometimes you see sharks and you just go, “OK, there are some sharks.” Because I would argue a healthy ecosystem is going to have some sharks. You don’t want to fish in an area where there are no sharks. But, you can’t fish in areas where you have too many sharks. When we fish, sharks show up. Sometimes sharks can keep us from catching the kind of fish that we should be catching. If you’re not seeing sharks, you’re not fishing. Some are like, “Ed, I don’t see any sharks. I don’t see any of these things. I don’t see a shark at all. I don’t see any fin. I don’t see a dark shape.” There’s no blood in the water. So if you’re not dealing with sharks, you’re not fishing.
Small sharks grow into big sharks. Sometimes you see a small shark and it’s like, no big deal. It’s a small shark. I can handle it. Small sharks have the same character qualities as the big ones. They’ve got teeth, they’ve got fins, they got skin. It’s easy to sort of skim over the small sharks. It’s easy to sort of deny that they’re there. It’s easy to say well, out of sight, out of mind. It’s just a small shark. I’ve got news for you, though. Sharks quickly grow from small to big. Are you dealing with the small sharks? Are you confronting the small sharks? Are you praying for real stuff to handle these small sharks.
You might be going, “Well, what kind of sharks are you talking about, Ed. This sounds a little bit weird. You’re telling me to be shark-smart, to be aware of the sharks, you’re telling me that Jesus has commanded me to fish and I should be all about fishing. I learn how to fish by fishing. What kinda sharks are you talking about, man? You talk in generalities, specifically, what kind of sharks are you talking about?” I’m talking about the bull shark.
Some of us deal with bull sharks. People who are just full of it, man. Full of bull. People that talk a big game, but they don’t live it out. People who sort of make you think they’re a part of it, that they support the body of Christ, that they’re really engaged, but in reality it’s a bunch of ….. They’re bull sharks. Full of bull.
Lemon sharks. You ever met a lemon shark? They’re sour, man. Negative. Pessimistic. “Oh that won’t work! I can’t believe we’re trying that! The music is too loud! I’m not sure about that short film. That’s not my favorite way for someone to communicate!” Sour, negative lemon sharks! Are you swimming with lemon sharks?
Nurse sharks. The classic enabler. The classic shark that doesn’t want to ruffle feathers. The classic shark that when other sharks are in a feeding frenzy, eating up this person or that person, eating up this leader or that leader, they just don’t really do anything. They’re just sort of there. Taking up space and taking up grace. Nurse sharks. Bottom-feeders. Their teeth aren’t that big, they’re just sort of there.
Hammerheads. You ever met a hammerhead shark? That stubborn person? “Oh I’m not gonna change! No, man! I want it the way it used to be! Because the way it used to be is the way it should be! No change, man, no change! We’re not gonna change anything, man! I don’t wanna change!”
Illus: A close friend of mine who is a pastor told me that he had the opportunity to see a young man five years ago commit his life to Christ. They fished for him, they used some creative ways to fish for him, he bowed the knee to Christ. And five years after he became a believer he walked up to my friend and he said, “I want you to know I’m leaving the church.”
My friend is like, “You’re leaving the church? You became a believer here, man! You met Christ here! You’ve been serving here! You’re leaving the church? May I ask why?”
And this hammerhead looked at him and said, “The church has changed too much. We just change too much.”
My friend said, “Wait a minute. We changed like crazy to reach you. You wouldn’t know Christ had we not gotten out of our comfort zone and changed, and yet you’re gonna stand there with your big hammerhead self and tell me you’re not willing to change for the next group?”
Hammerheads. I see them all over the world. God has given me an opportunity to travel the world and to speak to a lot of different leaders in a lot of different cultures, by God’s grace and mercy, only by the blood of Jesus. And one of the things I’ve noticed are all the people who are fishing and all the sharks who are attacking. What kind of sharks?
The great white shark! Some people are great white sharks. Ego and pride. They need to be needed. They gotta be a part of the in-crowd. It’s all about position, it’s all about that apex predator, man. The great white shark.
Great whites’ll kill ya. Nurse sharks can kill you. Bull sharks can kill you. Lemon sharks can kill you. Hammerheads can kill you. Here’s what so sinister, though, about sharks. If you’re not fishing you can’t identify sharks.
I fish a lot and over the years, over the decades of fishing I can spot a shark at a long distance away. Most people who are just starting to fish, they can’t really tell if it’s a shark or not. I can tell if it’s a shark or another kind of fish that I want to catch, just by its characteristics, just by the way it moves its tail, just by the way it swims and knifes through the water. I can tell if it’s a shark or not.
Jude 1:3-4 – “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men, whose condemnation (I’m talking about sharks) was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ, our only Sovereign and Lord.”
There are sharks amongst us! And if we’re not seeing clearly we think they’re dolphins. But they’re sharks! How do you know if they’re sharks? When blood’s in the water. How do you know if they’re sharks? Sharks are cannibalistic. How do you know if they’re sharks? Just by the way they swim.
Are you swimming with sharks or dolphin? As you’re fishing, as you’re casting, are you facing sharks? If you are, man, you’re fishing. If you’re not, you probably are not fishing.
T.S. Not only do we face sharks, we can become sharks. Not only can I face sharks, I can become a shark. You can become a shark as well.
“Ed, what are you talking about?” Again, I’m talking to believers. If you’re not a believer you can check this out, but I’m talking to believers. How can you become a shark? How can I become a shark? When you get over the grace of God you begin to attack the work of God.
You show me somebody who has gotten over the blood of Jesus and I’ll show you somebody who attacks. That is how I can become a shark. That is how you can become a shark. When we stop fishing, when we stop walking, and swimming, and leading, and pouring out the blood of Jesus, that is when we stop. We stop. We get over the grace of God. We get over the fact that once I was blind, now I can see. We get over the fact that I deserved Hell and now I’m saved by the mercy of God. We get over it! … and we become sharks. Bull sharks. Nurse sharks. Lemon sharks. Great whites. Hammerheads.
So if we’re going to reach the people, friends, that we need to reach we’ve gotta be shark-smart. We’ve gotta get the sharks out of here. We’ve gotta shark-proof our church, shark-proof our lives. Yeah, we’re gonna deal with a few, we’re going to deal with them, but if we have too many, I’m telling you, something’s wrong.
Too many people, in too many churches, live in denial and let the sharks swim, telling themselves they’re porpoises, telling themselves they’re dolphins, but in reality they’re sharks. You want to fish? You want to learn to fish? Fish! Keep fishing. You’ll understand the glorious gospel. You’ll be under the authority of the blood of Jesus. When we forget the grace of God we begin to attack the work of God. I mean, Fellowship Church, is it about the thrill of seeing someone come to Christ or is it about the kill? It’s about the thrill, man!
I want our church to be a dangerous church. I want Hell to tremble when Fellowship Church gets together every single weekend. That’s what I want. I want every demon to freak out when our feet hit the floor as we get up in the morning. That’s what I want. That’s what God wants. Are you fishing? Are you fishing? Followers fish!
One of the worst things that can happen is you have a fish on the line, it’s the fish of a lifetime. It’s like, oh man, this is great! <sound effect of reel burning out> All of a sudden, out of nowhere, you see a shark follow the fish on your line. The shark picks up the thrashing and splashing, the nervous water… WHOOMP! Eats the fish off of your line.
Illus: I have a friend of mine who is not a follower of Christ. This guy is way away from God. I’ve talked to him, prayed for him, and he told me a couple of months ago, he goes, “I want to attend Fellowship Church, one of your services. I really, really do.”
And then, he mentioned someone that he knows in this town that I know, that I thought was a dolphin but in reality this guy is a shark. And when he told me, “Hey, I just called this person (who is a shark) and we’ll come to Fellowship.”
I said to myself, “Oh crap.” I’ve got to keep this shark off of this guy who is away from the Lord. And this guy gives the vibe that he is a full-court follower of Christ, but he’s a card-carrying hypocrite, dressed up like a dolphin. We gotta be shark-smart. Shark-smart!
People come to Jesus, people get hooked with the gospel, keep them away from the sharks! Keep them away from the sharks! And at Fellowship Church I’m so excited that we’ve done that. We’re in the shark business, man. We’re in the fishing business primarily, but because we’re in the fishing business we’re in the shark business and we have regularly, for two decades, shark-proofed our church.
1 Peter 5:8 – “Watch out! Be alert! Self control. Your enemy (the shark) the devil prowls like a roaring lion (like a hungry great white shark) seeking someone to devour.”
Say it loud. Devour! That’s the enemy. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. That’s the enemy. He wants to steal fish from us. He wants to kill fish from us. He wants to destroy fish from us. Knowingly people are led this way and unknowingly. So the blood that once attracts can cause us to attack.
May we never get over being shark-smart. May we never get over fishing for men. May we never get over the thrill of fishing. Not catching, God does the catching, the fishing. The thrill of the pull. The thrill of seeing someone caught by the mercy and the grace of God. The thrill of someone being attracted by the blood of Jesus! The thrill of someone being cleansed! The thrill of someone being saved! The thrill of someone being rescued… the thrill, the thrill, the thrill, the thrill, the thrill, the thrill… of fishing for men!
Let’s pray together.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]