It wasn’t that I didn’t believe in God—I just didn’t want God running my life. Until I was saved at 22, I just wanted to push the buttons myself.
But I was drifting. I was empty. I was miserable. And I finally just got sick and tired of being sick and tired.
So I got on my knees one night and said: “God, I have sinned against You. I’m sorry, and I ask You for Your forgiveness. I do believe that Jesus is Your Son. And if You can just take the pieces of my life and somehow put them together—if You can make sense out of it; if You can use it—then You can take my life, and You can spend my life however You want to spend it. I give You my life tonight.”
I prayed that prayer, and I meant it. And to this day, I still mean it. I want to talk to you about what it means to give your life to Christ.
In Luke 14, the Bible says: “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).
That’s pretty tough language, isn’t it? When Jesus says you’ve got to hate your wife, your brothers and your sisters, what He’s saying is your love for Him has to be so great that it almost looks like you hate everything else, because you’re so devoted and so committed to Him.
Then He goes on to say you can’t build a building without examining the cost. You can’t go to war without examining the cost. And if you’re going to follow Him—if you’re going to be His disciple—you’ve got to understand the cost. You have to put Him first. Are you willing to make Him first?
Some people make excuses. Go back a few verses to Luke chapter 9, verse 57: “As they were walking along a road, a man said to [Jesus], I will follow you wherever you go.”
Well, that’s great, isn’t it? Jesus didn’t have to ask him anything. This guy just shows up and says, “I’ll follow you wherever you go.”
“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’” (Luke 9:58).
You don’t hear another word from this man; he just vanishes off the pages of history.
Then we read: “He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But the man replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God’” (Luke 9:59-60).
You say, “How insensitive can Jesus be? The poor guy—his dad’s lying there in the coffin, and he just wants to go and bury him. And Jesus says let the dead bury the dead?”
That’s not what Jesus was saying. This man’s father wasn’t dead; he was probably old, and what the man was saying was, “Listen, when my father dies, I’ll bury him and then I’ll follow You.” It’s just an excuse.
You see, the Lord wants you now. Another man said, “Let me go back and say goodbye to my family” (Luke 9:61). It’s just another excuse. I hear them all the time. I’ve heard people say, “As soon as I can pay off my school loans, I want to serve the Lord.” It’s always something down the road.
Let’s look at another passage of Scripture, in Luke 5. Jesus was teaching by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him. He got into a boat that belonged to Simon Peter and asked him to put out a little from shore. And He taught the people from the boat.
“When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.’ Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.’ When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:4-11).
When I was a student at Appalachian State, in Boone, N.C., I had to take a summer class. And a couple of doctors came to me and said, “Franklin, we’d like to ask if you can help us set up an organization that would send doctors to mission hospitals.”
I said, “Yes, I think I can help you do that. Do you think you could help me get credit from the university? I’d rather not go to class this summer.”
They said, “Yes, we think we could work that out.”
I didn’t realize that working with them for the summer would help guide me to what God was calling me to do with my life. Last year we sent more than 400 doctors to mission hospitals. And it all came out of a class project. Missionary medicine is one of the great tools of evangelism in Third World countries. If it weren’t for missionary hospitals and doctors, there wouldn’t be health care in a good part of the world today.
You see, Jesus wants to take your life and He wants to use you. Simon Peter is in the boat with our Lord Jesus Christ. And when Jesus is through teaching, He tells Simon Peter, “Let’s go out to the deep and let down those nets for a catch of fish.” And Simon says, “Lord, we have fished all night. But because You say so—But because You say so—I’ll do it.”
And guess what. There was such a large catch of fish that the nets began to tear. Simon hollered for his buddies to come help him. These guys were being blessed so much, it was sinking their boats! Peter realized what God had done right there in front of him, and he was afraid. He said, “I’m a sinful man; go away from me” (Cf. Luke 5:8).
And Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:9).
So these fishermen pull their boats up on the lakeshore, full of fish. Think of the thousands of dollars that represented in revenue. It would have been easy to say, “Lord, wait a minute; let us clean these fish first. Think of how much money we can put in the treasury. Think of how much money we will have for ministry.”
Do you think Jesus wanted those fish? He wanted those disciples. He wants you. And you know what these men did? They offered no excuses. They pulled those boats up, filled with fish, and they turned, walked away and followed the Lord Jesus Christ.
I want to say something about catching men. You see, the Bible says that we have all sinned, and we have all come short of God’s standard. And those sins separate us from God. But the Bible tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). The Apostle Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
What do I mean by the Gospel? Here’s what the Gospel is: that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Do you believe it? That Jesus Christ took your sins and He died on the cross for your sins. Do you believe it? That Jesus Christ died for your sins, He was buried for your sins and that God raised Him to life. That is the Gospel message. Do you believe it?
If you don’t believe it, you’re lost. But there is Holy Spirit-filled power in that message.
God uses that message. He pierces the hearts of people with that message. It’s foolishness to the world. But to those who are being saved, it is the power of God unto salvation.
Jesus told Peter, “I’ll make you fishers of men.” And He’s calling us today to be fishers of men. Are you willing to fish?
A few years ago, I was talking to a girl; she had a rock group called Flyleaf. And her name is Lacey Sturm. I said, “Lacey, I’m going to go up the Mississippi River; I’m going to go fishing for the souls of men. You want to go fishing with me?”
And she said, “Mr. Graham, let me pray about it.” A couple weeks later she called me, and she and her husband, Josh, said, “Mr. Graham, we prayed about it. We’ll go fishing with you.”
So we started down in Baton Rouge, La., and we went up the Mississippi River. She would play, we’d have some other groups that would play, and I’d get up and preach. And that summer, we saw thousands and thousands of kids give their lives to Christ. We went fishing for the souls of men.
You want to be a follower of Christ? There is a cost. You’ve got to make Him first in your life. And you know what? When He calls you, there are no excuses. What He wants is obedience, just like when Peter obeyed. Will you obey Him? Will you follow Him and serve Him and give Him your life? If you do that, you’ll never, never regret it. I promise you that. ©2013 BGEA
Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version 1984. The Scripture quotation marked KJV is taken from The Holy Bible, King James version.