I have a confession to make. Some of you probably think that my full time job is that of Pastoring and Preaching. Actually I have a confession to make: I must confess that I moonlight. I've never mentioned this to you before. Actually I do have another job. I... here I go. I am a part time FISHERMAN. I rather enjoy fishing. It is relaxing! A few of you have caught me in the act, but most of you have never seen me with my fishing tackle and my equipment out there fishing. I get quite a lot of pay from this activity, which is very rewarding. I have not tried to cover up my moonlighting, but today I feel I must be open. I must admit it and talk about it.
Jesus did the same thing that I do. Matthew 4:19-- "And he said unto them, follow me and I will make you fishers of men." That's the type of fishing I do. I rather enjoy this type of moonlighting. In fact, I regard it as part of my job, but some of you don't. Somebody said, "Well, you're not preaching today" several weeks ago. "You don't have anything to do." I must tell you that I have plenty to do. I enjoy giving Bible studies. I enjoy preparing other people for baptism. I enjoy putting people on the road that leads to eternal life. You need to be on that road! If you're not on that road, I want to help you get on that road.
Look at Matthew 13:47 in your Bible. This will be the focus of our study today. We're going to study four verses. Out of all the thousands of verses in the Bible, we're going to select four today as our study. Matthew 13: beginning with verse 47:- "Once again the kingdom of Heaven is like a NET that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish."
On the great sea of Galilee in Jesus day there were basically three methods of fishing.
1)-- The HOOK. You're familiar with that type of fishing. I hate to put the worm on the hook: I always feel for the worm. A fisherman would attach a sharp hook to a line, bait it and throw it into the water and catch one fish at a time. Jesus told Peter to use this method in Matthew 17:24-27. Some of us get our hooks into other's business.
2)--CASTING NET. A small one-man net--called an amphiblestron, is about 12 feet in diameter. This round net was carried over the fisherman's shoulder as he went out into the water and waded about hip-deep along the sea shore. As soon as his sharp eyes spotted a school of fish, he threw out the net directly over the top of the class. Weights around the edges of this GILL NET made it sink around the fish trapping them inside. The line strung around the edge was drawn and the edges were drawn together, thus trapping the fish inside.
3)--DRAGNET. SEINE NET . This was a very large heavy fine meshed net requiring the efforts of a LARGE TEAM of fishermen. One person would never go fishing with this kind of net. In fact some of the larger nets nets would surround one half a square mile of water. The net was like a two mile long volleyball net about 20-30' wide. On the top edge were floats and on the bottom edge were weights. Once in place this net formed a wall stretching from the surface of the water, very often, clear down to the bottom. Two boats would draw each end into a large circle from which nothing could escape. Then they would pull in this net, and it got tighter and tighter. You could catch up to 100,000 pounds of sea creatures can be caught with this finely meshed net. Anything and everything was captured. It took hours and hours to sort and empty this great load of seething, smelly, sea life that the net had captured.
The NET represents the Gospel preached or taught. Unlike the sharp HOOK or the snaring GILL NET, the dragnet doesn't harm the fish and does not cut up a persons throat. Fine meshed preaching, which is fine because it's Christ centered, does not injure or kill but safely DRAWS each person into the hands of Jesus the Master fisherman. That's what preaching is supposed to do. This is exactly what is happening with NET 96. This is one grand big thrust for Christ. NET 96 requires a very large TEAM effort. You are a part of that team. No Fish will be caught without the effective cooperation of each of us.
Now notice verse 47, again.-- "The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the sea..." What could the SEA represent? PEOPLE! The net will do no good unless it comes into contact with the people. The net is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel must be brought into contact with the people, the whole world of living persons, the NATIONS of the world. Jesus is saying that successful fishermen should cast out the gospel net into the whole world.
Notice the last half of MATTHEW 13:47-- "The Net was lowered down into the sea and caught all kinds of fish."
You have seen cartoons of someone out fishing and they hook a big one and it turns out to be an old rubber boot or a slimy plastic bottle. Jesus says here that the gospel NET gathers in every kind. All kinds will come to our meetings. We are a product of the NET ourselves. We are all kinds. So when they come in they are going to see all kinds.
As NET 96 is cast upon the vast waters of the earth every kind of fish will be brought into the church. As some of us seasoned saints look over the catch let's not become critical. Let's be thankful those fish are coming in! The idea that this church is a museum of perfect record breaking specimens all spotless without blemish, is all wrong. We're all attempting to grow more like Jesus, but some of have a long way to go. The net gathers every kind. Don't bad mouth the net. It did its job. The fish are placed into the boat. What is the boat? The ark of safety. The boat is the church.
Some fish will be undersize. Some could be rotten and unfit, or even dead. When you come to church you won't find perfection. "GOD is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34). Neither should we be prejudiced. Let's put our arms around them and try to show them Jesus Christ. Some of the old seasoned saints are still undersized. You will find about as much variety in the net as you will in the Tennessee Aquarium. In every Church you will find some---- Stinging Cat Fish, feeding on the bottom scum of life. We have some, probably. Hungry Sharks, picking on others. Perch-- about all they do is perch on their pew. Carp--- Harping about this and that, feeding on the bottom. BIG MOUTH-- A lot of these in many churches. SNAPPERS-- The critical folk, snapping out at this and that. NEEDLE FISH--needling the church, nit picking: they like to get in a little jab now and then. But there are good fish in the church: ANGEL FISH, angelic beautiful mature saints who love Jesus! GOLD FISH, good as gold! and a whole school of others!
Jesus receives all who come in and little by little those who surrender all to Him are transformed into a likeness of Christ. Remember that the bad fish can grow while they are within the aquarium. Don't jump ship. Just because you look around as see Judas, don't' you jump out. Stay within the influence of Jesus, stay in the influence of the church. Allow gospel preaching to do it's work. The Net brought you in, stay in. Allow others to stay. Pray that we all will grow into angel fish.
When NET 96 is pulled in we will see all kinds enter our doors. The good, the bad, the indifferent, the hungry. Let's accept them. Only the imagination can picture the unsightly creatures we snare along with the catch. Some could be weird amalgamation of the deep. Welcome them. Introduce them to Jesus.
Reflect on what Jesus said in this story: Where are the "saved" fish? They're inside the net, aren't they. They are not outside swimming around making fun or criticizing those that are on the inside of the net. Publishing mimeographed sheets, or cassette tapes, or anything else. Where are the saved fish? They're on the inside of the net. Stay inside the net where you belong.
MATTHEW 13:48 "When it was full, they drew it to shore, and sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away..."
Who are the 'THEY' that are doing this gathering into vessels? They are the angels. Matthew 13:39 makes that clear. The reapers are the angels. God's heavenly angels gather the Righteous into vessels. The angels also cast the wicked out. The separation is NOT our work. So when you see people come into church, you may say, "I don't know about that person." That's not our work, is it? Our work is not to separate. That is the work of God and His angels. We are fishers not sorters. Many of us want to be sorters. We are supposed to be fishers. Judgement is God's work.
The separation is the JUDGEMENT. That is God's work. The good are with the wicked until the Judgement. Notice something amazing here. Notice the --TIME-- when the separation takes place. MATTHEW 13:49 "This is how it will be at the END OF THE AGE." At the end of the world. Not in 1996. Not now. Not at Death! But at the end of the world.
The righteous are not separated from the wicked at DEATH and taken away to heaven. Have you ever heard a preacher preach people into heaven? If you read the Bible clearly here, this happens at the end of the world. That's when the separating is done. That's when they're place into the vessel where they cannot be removed. The wicked are not separated from the righteous at DEATH and cast into hell. They are cast out at the end of the world.
Look at verse 49 carefully: "This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked FROM THE RIGHTEOUS!" The wicked are severed from AMONG the righteous. So, it's very clear that the wicked and the righteous are together, aren't they? They are together. The wicked are severed from among the just. And at that time they receive their reward. Not until the END of the world.
MATTHEW 13:50 "The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace (HELL), where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." When does this take place? When will the angels do this? At the END of the world. That's when hell is. Hell is not burning today. Not at death. No one goes to the fires of hell at death but at the end of the world when the angels separate the bad fish from the good. All rewards, both good and bad, are passed out at the same time at the end of the world.
The FURNACE is hell. How do we know that? MALACHI 4:1---"Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a FURNACE. ALL the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble and that DAY that IS COMING (still future) will set them on fire, says the Lord Almighty. Not a root or a branch will be left of them." So all these Big Mouths, all these hammerheads, all these sharks and carp are going to be thrown into the furnace. That's where they will be. Nothing left of them. Who can live inside a hot blazing furnace? Like the furnace used in the process of cremation, the wicked will be totally burned up.
How much will be left? Nothing at all. The weeping and gnashing of teeth will last for a very brief moment until they succumb to the flames and are burned up. How do we know they are destroyed totally? Look at Malachi 4:3-- "You will trample down the wicked; they will be ASHES under the soles of your feet on the DAY when I do these things, says the Lord Almighty." He hasn't done them yet. But when He does, they will be reduced to ashes. Nothing left.
Some of you possibly heard me relate an experience sometime back, that I'm going to repeat now because it has to do with NET 96. Several years ago when my wife and I lived up in Hartford, Michigan. We were pastoring that church and our children were young. They said, "Daddy, can we have some fish?" And I said, "Sure." So we went and got a little five gallon aquarium, and we got six or eight gold fish and put them in there and some rock and different things and put them in there. We had a nice little gold-fish aquarium for our children. I went to a local fish store to get some food for them. Looking at all the fish there, I thought we needed some variety. I asked the man what he would recommend for variety in our aquarium. The man recommended a "Paradise fish". That sounded very appropriate to me for a minister to have Gold fish and Paradise fish. I bought his idea hook line and sinker. When I got home I put it in the tank where it immediately swam right down to the corner and hid behind some rocks. I thought, great! No problem! In a few days he got to feeling his oats and began to eat the nice tails off of our pretty gold fish. Next he rammed them in the side. Things were getting bad. This paradise fish had transformed my tranquil pleasant goldfish aquarium into a living hot place.
I wondered what was going on here. I tried several things. I tried spanking him with a long tinker toy stick. It seemed to slow him down some but soon he was as evil as ever. I realized this fish was not from paradise at all and he must be separated from the good fish. He was acting more like a shark. Not a bit heavenly. So the next time I walked by and saw him ram another gold fish I took action. With one quick judgmental thrust I reached in and caught him in my hand and threw him out where there was weeping. The gnashing of teeth was when our hungry cat found him a few minutes later.
I can understand God. Someday soon God's angels will reach in with one quick judgmental grasp sever the wicked from AMONG the righteous. The wicked will be destroyed. My paradise fish is now forever dead.
In the shaking time, the wicked are shaken out of the church, aren't they? Where are the righteous? They're still in. Soon God will place His people, who are covered by the free robe of righteousness of Jesus Christ, in a place of true safety. He's going to remove the wicked. JOHN 14:2-3--- "In my Fathers house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am there ye may be also."
Those who really love Jesus and serve Him will be taken to Heaven. All the gold fish, all the angel fish are going to be taken to heaven. Today make sure you are inside the net. Work to gather others into this net.
Notice that the gospel net won't catch the first fish until it is lowered into the water. The saving gospel must come into contact with the fish. Tonight NET 96 will be cast out into the sea of the world. Canada, USA, Inter America, into parts of South America, into Europe, Croatia. In Europe alone there will be 2000 crusades. 6 Million handbills have gone out in Germany alone. Net 96 will be in 43 countries of the world. It will take until November 9 for the large TEAM to close the net. You are the Team.
I hope you will join me in moonlighting. Let's all get out and work with the NET. Be a faithful fisherman for Jesus. The season for fishing is almost past. While we can, let us cast the net with a prayer in our heart and a smile on our face. God will fill his net. Soon Jesus will come and all fishing will be forever over. Let's drag our nets and not our feet.
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last updated 2/3/98 by Bob Beckett.