Editor’s Note: Excerpted with permission from The Great Commission: A Sermon Collection by Charles H. Spurgeon, edited by Jason K. Allen. Copyright 2024, B&H Publishing. Available now from B&H and wherever Christian books are sold.

What the Christian Does[1]

I will take it for granted that every believer here wants to be useful. If he does not, I take leave to question whether he can be a true believer in Christ. Well, then, if you want to be really useful, here is something for you to do to that end: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

What is the way to become an efficient preacher? “Young man,” says one, “go to college.” “Young man,” says Christ, “follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” How is a person to be useful? “Attend a training class,” says one. Quite right, but there is a surer answer than that—Follow Jesus, and he will make you fishers of men. The great training school for Christian workers has Christ at its head, and he is at its head not only as a tutor but as a leader. We are not only to learn of him in study but to follow him in action. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

The direction is very distinct and plain, and I believe that it is exclusive so that no man can become a fisherman by any other process. This process may appear to be very simple, but assuredly it is most efficient. The Lord Jesus Christ, who knew all about fishing for men, was himself the Dictator of the rule, “Follow me, if you want to be fishers of men. If you would be useful, keep in my track.”

I understand this, first, in this sense: he separates unto Christ. These men were to leave their pursuits. They were to leave their companions. They were, in fact, to quit the world, that their one business might be, in their Master’s name, to be fishers of men. We are not all called to leave our daily business or to quit our families. That might be rather running away from the fishery than working at it in God’s name. But we are called most distinctly to come out from among the ungodly, to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing. We cannot be fishers of men if we remain among men in the same element with them. Fish will not be fishers. The sinner will not convert the sinner. The ungodly man will not convert the ungodly man, and what is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world. If you are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own, but you cannot save the world. If you are dark and belong to the kingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeat them.

I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is because the world has so much influence over the church. Nowadays we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this and they may do that— things that their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that they may live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, “Do it if you dare. It may not do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering after such dog’s meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage.

Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If you were God’s children you would loathe the very thought of the world’s evil joys, and your question would not be, “How far may we be like the world?” but your one cry would be, “How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?” Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe and ultra-puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a time as this, than to ask, “How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?”

Brothers, the use of the church in the world is that it should be like salt in the midst of putrefaction, but if the salt has lost its savor, what is the good of it? If it were possible for salt itself to putrefy, it could but be an increase and a heightening of the general putridity. The worst day the world ever saw was when the sons of God were joined with the daughters of men. Then came the flood, for the only barrier against a flood of vengeance on this world is the separation of the saint from the sinner. Your duty as a Christian is to stand fast in your own place and stand out for God, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, resolving like one of old that, let others do as they will, as for you and your house, you will serve the Lord.

Come, you children of God, you must stand out with your Lord outside the camp. Jesus calls to you today and says, “Follow me.” Was Jesus found at the theater? Did he frequent the sports of the racecourse? Was Jesus seen, think you, in any of the amusements of the Herodian court? Not he. He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” In one sense, no one mixed with sinners so completely as he did when, like a physician, he went among them healing his patients. But in another sense there was a gulf fixed between the men of the world and the Savior that he never assayed to cross and that they could not cross to defile him. The first lesson the church has to learn is this: Follow Jesus into the separated state, and he will make you fishers of men. Unless you take up your cross and protest against an ungodly world, you cannot hope that the holy Jesus will make you fishers of men.

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[1] Published in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 32 in 1886 by Charles Spurgeon. This is an excerpt from sermon 1906, delivered in 1886, exact date unknown.

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