Fish Net Warning
Warning signs keep us out of danger. A "Bridge Out" sign on an orange-and-white barricade keeps me from driving into the river. The "Tire Pressure" light on my dashboard keeps me from continuing to drive on a nearly flat tire, which could cause an accident, or at minimum ruin the tire and ding me for the cost of a replacement.
Jesus told a parable that contains a warning. "Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (Matthew 13:47-50 NIV)
In the end, there will be a judgment. In the end, we will all face an accounting for our lives. Have we pursued wickedness or righteousness? Have we lived for ourselves or for Jesus? This is more serious than the naughty or nice list that supposedly determines if we will get a great Christmas gift or a lump of coal. This is real, and it has eternal implications.
Does Jesus warn us to scare us? I don't believe so. I believe Jesus warns us to motivate us to pursue HIM! Jesus warns us to wake us up from our comfort with worldly things at the expense of Godly things. Jesus warns us the same way every loving parent warns their small child "the stove is HOT, don't touch!" The warning is not meant to make the child miserable, it is to spare the child pain.
It pleases Jesus that we would live from LOVE rather than from FEAR. The Apostle John puts it this way: "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." (1 John 4:18 NIV) Fear of punishment may begin to cause me to want to do what is right and avoid what is wrong. But love for Jesus will sustain the desire.
I want my life to count for eternity. I want my life to be marked by righteousness, by seeking to do the right thing. I want my life to come to the end and not be cast into blazing fire, but rather to hear Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" (Matthew 25:21 NIV)
The sobering thing about Jesus' warning is coming to grips with the Biblical truth that our salvation is not secured by our good works. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." The joyful thing—the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—is that there is grace for all who trust Jesus and pursue His life and will.
There it is. To escape the coming judgment Jesus warns about, pursue a relationship with Him that seeks to make holy living the mark of life. Loving Jesus enough to live for Him (and not for myself) delivers from judgment and its fear.
The parable also has another implication. God does the judging, so I don't have to, or get to. I cannot look into a person's heart. God can. I do not know everything about a person's life. God does. Any judging I do is imperfect, and is tainted by my own fallen heart. God will decide who has saving faith and who does not. God will decide who is saved and who is lost. My job is not to judge, it is to cast the net of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to seek to catch as many people as possible for the Kingdom.
When I love, when I serve, when I give, when I tell about my faith, when I encourage, when I befriend, I am living as a net-caster! In Kingdom fishing, we catch them, and God cleans them. Here's to casting nets!