When I turned 30 I decided I was going to start fly fishing. I was working downtown San Francisco at the time, so, on my lunch hour, I walked up the hill from the financial district, past Chinatown to an Orvis store. When I got to Orvis I realized a 30-year-old with three kids and a wife at home couldn’t afford to fly fish.

What I could afford was the Orvis Complete Guide to Fly Fishing. I bought the book thinking I would study it and one day when I had enough money I would have all the knowledge I needed to catch fish.

Months later I was still not financially well off enough to both pay the electric bill and a fly rod so I bought a shirt, you know the kind everyone wears today, Columbia, Ex-Officio, whatever. So now I had the book and the shirt but still no fly rod, no flies, and no fish.

Ten years later and a move back to Texas, the Blonde saved up enough money to buy me a fly rod for my 40th birthday. Now I was set I was ready to actually wet a line and catch fish (and I did).

When I think of that story and the journey I think about a lot of people in the church and outside of the church as well. What I mean is they hear about Jesus and how He saves us from the pit of Hell (who wants to go there, right?!) and so they think they are buying a ticket to Heaven by saying a prayer or jumping through some hoop of works, maybe they get baptized or actually get their name on a roll at a local church but what they didn’t do is consider the cost (Luke 14:28) of actually following Jesus. They eventually leave the church the way I left that Orvis store, bummed out, confused and maybe in shock.

Just like me a lot of people have the book, they have a Bible but that Bible doesn’t make you a Christian any more than the Complete Guide to Fly Fishing made me someone who fished with flies.

There are some red letters in Matthew 16. The Rabbi tells us that to be a Christian, we have to be like Him, we have to “deny” ourselves. That word deny is what Peter did 3 times (John 18) … it means to utterly reject, Peter didn’t just say, “No!” He said, “H#ll, no!” That’s what we do if we are really followers of Christ, we reject our flesh and we reject the culture and we live these new and contrasting lives. Maybe you just like the idea of following Jesus but not actually following Jesus? Maybe you just like the book but not actually doing what the book says? You can change all of that right now. What do ya say? He asked me to ask you that.

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Ken Ansell currently serves as a pastor and local missionary in small, rural Texas community. He plays lots of tennis and fly fishes when he can. He can be reached at kenansell1@gmail.com