SALMON-THE “GOOD” FISH
LESSON TEXT: Proverbs 21:2; Matthew 7:22-23; Luke 16:15; Matthew 3:9; Acts 7:51; Acts 10:1-4; 44-45; 18:24-26; Isaiah 65:5; Mark 9:38-42.
“And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts l8:26).
LESSON AIM: To find the best approaches for winning good members of other churches.
Teaching Material: Magni-Vu Picture CC; on left side of picture place words “Self-Righteous,” “Tradition” and “Stubborn”; on the right side place words “Leading of the Spirit” and “Explain the Way More Perfectly.”
HIGHLY SOUGHT FISH
(Place Magni-Vu Picture CC on board).
The salmon are some of the world’s most widely known and most highly sought food and game fishes. Despite a gradual and serious decline in the supply caused by the construction of dams, pollution and insectides, salmon continue to form fisheries whose combined recreational and commercial value in North America is termed in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Because of their tremendous value, more scientific work has been done on this group than any other fishes. Salmon have inspired some of the best authors to produce the finest of angling literature.
The pink flesh of the salmon is lauded by gourmets as food “fit for a king.” And tackle dealers, with no feelings of guilt, prominently display rafts of salmon flies-beginning at 90 cents each.
Over the ages, the Atlantic salmon has been the most honored of all fishes. Other fish have become more famous and drawn more attention from anglers, but the interest in salmon can be tract far back as the cave man, and more recently to the days of Caesar. Impressed by the jumping ability of these fish, they were named salmo, which is a derivative of the Latin word salire, meaning “to leap.” Since Caesar’s time, fishing for Atlantic salmon has been known as the sport of kings with hundreds of volumes being written on the sporting aspects of this species.
A STRONG, FIGHTING FISH
Salmon are migratory fishes. They travel to the sea and return to fresh water to spawn. After hatching in shallow streams, their early life is spent in fresh water. They grow to maturity in the ocean and then return to the stream of their birth to spawn. During the migration back to the fresh water rivers, salmon travel at a rapid pace and some cover thousands of miles. They are strong enough to travel upstream against the current to make their way back to the place they were hatched. After their first spawning, all Pacific salmon die. Atlantic salmon go back to salt water and may return to spawn the second time before their death.
Three species of salmon-chum, pink and sockeye, are practically insignificant as sport fish because they feed principally on shrimp and other small hard-shelled animals. Lures do not interest them. The other species of salmon feed mostly on fishes while in salt water; consequently they grab lures. The sporting qualities of some members of the clan are rated among the finest of the finned tribe.
THE GOOD CHURCH MEMBER
The salmon is a good deal like the majority of “church member” fish. They are a prized catch because of their fine qualities. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to bring in a choice family that has been members of some denomination for many years! After all, much has been invested in them already. They are in the habit of being faithful to church, paying their tithes, reading their Bible and praying, taking responsibility, teaching Sunday School classes and witnessing.
Of all the fish in the sea, these are the ones we would be most happy to bring into the true Church. All they need is a little rearranging of their doctrine and beliefs and they are ready to be of valuable service to the work of God.
Because of sin and iniquity abounding, there has been a gradual and serious decline in the quality of these good fish in the last few years. Satan would never be content to let them come too close to truth or holiness; therefore he has built dams and poured pollution into the streams to kill as many of them as possible.
These good church members date back for centuries. After the true Church was plunged into the Dark Ages by the rise of the Roman Catholic Church, only a flicker of light remained. Beginning with great men such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Wesley, and many other, various church denominations came into existence. Thousands of these sincere church members offered up their lives willingly for what they believed to be right. Their writings are still with us today. They were not afraid to take a stand for the truths they held dear, even though it meant going against the current of the day. They had enough courage to buck against
popular opinion. Like the salmon, they jumped and leaped and fought to go where an inner force was compelling them to keep going.
It has been the “good church member” who has produced practically all the spiritually inspired literature of the world. Look on your bookshelves. How many of them were written by Oneness, Jesus’ Name people? Very few. The great commentaries, Bible encyclopedias and other moving literature that has helped shape much of our spirituality has been handed down to us by men who did not know the Lord in the power of the Holy Ghost. It is not our duty to sit in the seat of judgment and pass sentence on these men. That job belongs to God. It is not for us to say whether or not they walked in all the light of truth they had revealed to them. That is to be left in the hands of a just God.
What we do know is that more light has been revealed on the Scriptures and that now we clearly see the necessity of the new birth, which includes baptism in Jesus’ Name and the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking with other tongues, and happy living. It is our duty to help others understand what God has allowed us to see.
HARD TO CATCH
Though we hold this type fish in high esteem, we must admit that they are hard to catch. In fact, the good church member is sometimes the hardest person in the world to see the light. There are several reasons for this. Let’s see what they are.
(Place these three words on left side of Picture CC).
1. Self-righteous. A good person has a tendency to feel justified in all they say and do. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (Proverbs 21:1). Because they are obeying the “letter” of the Word, they feel no condemnation. Yet they fail to ask the Lord to search their hearts.
Many of these good folks have “….prophesied in thy name….and in thy name have cast out devils….and in thy name done many wonderful works.” But the Lord will say unto them, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23).
It seems impossible to think that one could do so many great things for God, yet be lost. Jesus said, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men: but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
It is difficult for a person full of good works to feel any condemnation. They can always remind themselves of the time they did
such-and-such. Because they are faithful to attend the House of God and perform many righteous acts, it is hard for them to see their need for more of God. Like the salmon, they are fighting upstream against much of the sin and corruption of the day, and these deeds appease their consciences.
2. Tradition. This is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome in convincing the good church member of their need of the Holy Ghost and Jesus’ Name baptism. “Why, just look at the founder of our religious organization! Would you honestly think that such a godly man that originated a denomination like ours would be lost!” they say.
This reasoning is similar to that of the Pharisees. Since Abraham was their father, surely they were the chosen ones of God. But John answered, “and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matthew 3:9).
Salmon feel compelled to follow the tradition of going back to the place of their birth. This is so like the church member who argues that “grandma’s religion is good enough for me. If anyone made it, she did-so I’ll just stick with what she believed.” Tradition hinders so many fine people from searching for more truth.
3. Stubborn. Many of these religious folks simply don’t want to admit they have been wrong in their interpretation of the Scriptures. They feel that to acknowledge their error would diminish their image in the sight of their associates. Therefore, they stubbornly resist. Stephen said to his accusers, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). And to this very day, men are still refusing to accept the message of truth.
A good example is the sockeye salmon. They feed on shrimp and hard-shelled animals. Lures do not interest them. They are “hardshelled” religionists who will not listen to anything you have to say because they are simply not interested! What they have right now is enough to ease their conscience and they have no time to search for more light on the Scriptures.
HOW TO CATCH THEM
The Bible gives us two good examples of the good fish and how they were caught. Cornelius was as good and devout a man as you would want to meet. He did everything the modern church member does and maybe even a little more. Praying and fasting and giving were a way of life with Cornelius. In fact, his faithfulness is probably the key to his conversion.
(Place “Leading of the Spirit” on right side of Picture CC).
One way this type fish is caught is through hunger and desire. God led Cornelius to the man who could help him. This still happens today. I’m sure there are saints in your church today who were “led” by the Spirit to speak to a certain Christian or go to a specific place where they became acquainted with someone that knew the truth. These type people communicate with God. Therefore, the Spirit can direct them to a fisherman. Like the salmon, they are hardly in the water. They are leaping and jumping out of the sinfulness of this world to come closer to God and the Church. They are not at the bottom of the river, but on the very top.
“While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word” (Acts 10:44). Cornelius didn’t need to repent; he had already taken care of that. Thousands of people in our day simply need to hear the Word! When truth is revealed they accept it with open arms and the Holy Ghost “falls” upon them.
This type is caught by the leading of the Holy Ghost. God can send you to the door of a person that is hungering and thirsting for
righteousness if your spiritual Fish Lo-K-Tor is working properly.
The other kind of good fish is like Apollos. He was much like Cornelius, except that he was “an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures ” (Acts 18:24). Apollos already had an experience with God and was diligently teaching all he knew. However, all he knew about baptism was what John the Baptist had taught.
(Place “Explain the Way More Perfectly” on right side of Picture CC.)
A different technique was used on Apollos. There was no angel dispatched or no leading of the Spirit to call for anyone. Aquila and Priscilla happened to be in the congregation one day as Apollos was expounding the Word of God. They simply took it upon themselves after service that day to make friends with Apollos and then have a congenial conversation about the goodness of the Lord. Somewhere in their little chat they expounded to him the way of God more perfectly. What wisdom they must have manifested to have done such a thing!
One successful method of “expounding the way more perfectly” in our day is to teach Search for Truth Bible lessons in the home. This is a lure that a seasoned fisherman can use to catch these most desirable of all fish.
The best lures to use on church member fish are: the Word of God, gifts of the Spirit, good deeds and Home Bible Study. If they attend formal denominational churches, our music could also be an attraction. Anything along the spiritual line would be intriguing, for their interests are already in the things of God.
WHAT TO AVOID
I’m afraid we have been guilty of driving away thousands of these good fish in times past. Because of ignorance on our part, whole schools of church member fish have been offended and run off.
We have said, “….Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou ” (Isaiah 65:5). Of course, we didn’t intentionally try to be holier than anyone else, but our attitude revealed it.
If we ever give the impression that members of other churches don’t know God, that they are unsaved and headed straight for hell, that we are the true Church and everyone else is wrong or that they are ignorant and unlearned in the things of God, we have lost them! It is ridiculous for us to think that God doesn’t hear and answer their prayers. Did He hear Cornelius’ prayers? He didn’t even have the Holy Ghost when an angel was dispatched with a message from God to his home.
At times we feel so superior to the Trinity Pentecostals because God has revealed the Oneness of the Godhead to us and baptism in Jesus’ Name. But we forget that the gifts of the Spirit have probably been distributed to their people in a greater measure than to us. Our attitudes must be changed if we ever hope to attract other God-fearing men and women to the truth!
We are just as human and just as carnal-minded as the disciples were when they told Jesus, “Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbade him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part. For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward. And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea” (Mark 9:38-42).
Somehow, we have not been connecting these Scriptures. Maybe those who are not following with us are the “little ones,” but it would be well to remember that it would be better to have a millstone tied around our necks and be cast into the sea than to offend one of them.
How can we offend someone who is doing miracles in the Name of Jesus, but not following with us? Simply by refusing to acknowledge their walk with God or that they are being used by the Lord.
This does not mean that we are ever to compromise our message or water it down to include any and everything as being saved. But it does imply that we must not be so narrow-minded as to think that we are the only ones God knows or uses or talks to.
In these last days it seems that God is gathering a people together out of all denominations and beliefs and is trying to mold them together into a Bride for His Name’s sake. What difference does it make what we call ourselves? What really matters is the message we preach. Is it according to the Word of God? Do we preach the whole truth and nothing but the truth? If so, that is what will save us-not the church name we wear or the denomination or fellowship we belong to. After all, no one can find in the New Testament where Jesus ever gave a title to His Church. He just said we would be hated of all men “for His Name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9).
If we can develop the attitude when we talk to other church members that we know they love God and they are truly doing their best to serve Him, it will be much easier for them to see that we are all striving together to learn more about the Scriptures and the deep things of God. Perhaps the Lord has shown them something that would be profitable to us. If we are blessed and strengthened by reading the books and commentaries some of their people write, surely we could benefit by listening to what they have to say about what God has done for them.
They will soon detect that we have an experience they don’t have and a desire will begin to grow to find out more about what makes us different. Don’t try to cram “the Holy Ghost or hell” down their throats. Instead, learn to expound the way more perfectly!
See how many students would be interested in having Bible Study lessons in their homes. Another person could teach the lessons who was well qualified. Find out how many are keeping an accurate record of their witnessing and encourage them to try as many ways as possible to catch new fish.
If time permits, allow students to testify that came out of other churches and the type bait used to draw them to the truth. This could provide very helpful, first-hand information to your fishers for souls.
(The above material appeared in Fearless Fishermen, Search for Truth Publication, Houston, TX.)
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