It’s an unusual day that begins by answering a knock at the back door and one is greeted by two grizzled fishermen offering a bucket of 8 live bullhead catfish.
That’s how my day off began. I met them the evening before fishing at a local lake, and had talked with them a while. Their “salty” language didn’t bother me, but when they found out I was a pastor, it suddenly bothered them, and they profusely apologized for using such words around “a man of the cloth.”
I gave them a personal tract with my address on it – what’s more natural than giving your address to total strangers you just met in the middle of nowhere? Apparently they fished all night hoping a bucket of catfish would atone for their vocabulary. I graciously accepted it, since I like catfish and didn’t want to refuse their hard-earned gift.
Cleaning catfish is not for the timid.
Catfish are notoriously hardy creatures and can live outside water for some time. They’re very hard to kill. They don’t have scales like most fish – their skin is smooth and slimy. To remove it, you lay the live catfish on a board, hammer a large nail through its head, cut the skin the whole way around the head, grab the skin with pliers and pull toward the tail. Then you gut the fish, cut off its head and tail, leaving a nice filet.
After cleaning each cat, I put the filet in the sink. While working on fish number 4 or 5, I heard a noise in the sink. When I looked in (play Twilight Zone music here), I was astonished to see the filets in the sink twitching and flipping, like a fish might flip around when you catch it and plop it on the shore. No heads, no tails, no skin – just chunks of fish flipping around in the sink. Apparently, nerves were still firing in the dancing filets.
Amazing – the fish were dead, but still kicking. Like chickens with their heads cut off running around the barnyard. Like the sin that remains in a Christian’s life after regeneration.
Before we’re born again, we’re in “the flesh” – our fallen nature. But when Jesus saves us, he strikes a death blow to our sin nature, and gives us a new heart and a new nature, born of the Spirit. This is now our dominant nature. Our old nature, though crucified, is not dead yet – it still seeks to exert its influence and entice us to sin. It’s like the filets in the sink, still twitching and flipping.
Eventually the chunks of catfish stopped moving. Similarly, someday our sin nature will be obliterated. In the meantime, we must not be surprised when our old self twitches, jerks and rears its ugly head. Indwelling sin doesn’t go down without a fight. But fight we must, killing our sin day by day, confident that Jesus will complete his sanctifying work in our lives.
So don’t give up – keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep killing that sin by the Spirit’s power. Victory’s on the way.
photo by doug.deep