“We lost another good one, today.” Those were the words I found myself using all day after hearing about the passing of my former professor Dr. Roy Fish on 9/10/12. Dr. Fish was a distinguished professor of evangelism at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as an important denominational and ecumenical leader around the world. Students, colleagues, and churches will always remember Dr. Fish as a humble and kind man with an uncanny ability to remember people’s names. If you mentioned a former student to Dr. Fish, he would not only recall them as a student but would more often know where they were serving in ministry.
In the same vein, he always seemed to be in good standing with everyone. He never appeared have made enemies of anyone. His abilities to remember others and to remain amicable with everyone were rooted in a genuine love for each person God has created.
It is impossible to mention the name Roy Fish without also thinking about the word “evangelism”. Evangelism is a word that simply describes what it means to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Dr. Fish exemplified evangelism with his whole life and people took notice. During one of my courses with Dr. Fish several years ago, I remember him talking about a new young couple that had moved in next door. Dr. Fish, who was around 75 years old at the time, was anxious to see if his most recent conversations with the young husband might blossom into opportunities to share more about Christ. We prayed as a class that the Holy Spirit would open new doors for the Fish family to minister to their new neighbors. I’ll never forget the impact it made on me as I watched my renowned professor still strategizing ways to win his neighbor for Christ when most people his age had long since retired.
I am thankful to Dr. Fish for many things. He opened up for me the missionary and evangelistic intent of the New Testament. He introduced me to the richness of the commentaries of G. Campbell Morgan. He was always encouraging to me as a student and even attended a paper presentation that I gave way down in Houston, TX. Most of all, his life and teaching instilled in me the belief that we never retire from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. When our task is done, God will bring us to our true home. I will forever be proud that my terminal degree comes from the Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions at SWBTS.
In parting, I would like to share with you a version of a message I heard Dr. Roy Fish offer entitled “The Home of the My Heart”. I know you will be blessed by these words and the Scripture that follows.
When Jesus came into my life I invited him into all the rooms in the home of my heart. He came first into the living room of my heart, which was my mind. He found the space small and the walls thick. I was embarrassed because on the walls of this room the Lord found pictures of jealousy, envy, pride, bitterness, and impurity.
I said to Him, “Lord, I’ve tried at times to pull these pictures down from my living room wall but I’ve not had the power to do it. Can you help me?”
The Lord said, “I believe I can, Roy.” And I watched while with strong fingers He reached up and pulled every single one of the pictures down from the living room walls of my heart.
When the walls were finally bare, I asked Him for new pictures. The Lord replied, “I have one. Why don’t you hang it where you will always see it.” He gave me a picture of Himself that He immediately in a prominent place on the living room wall. I’ve since discovered, when I keep my eyes on that picture, it has a way of keeping the other ugly pictures from reappearing on the walls.
The next room we entered was the library in the home of my heart. There Jesus found some racy novels, illicit trash, and other ungodly things. When He helped me get rid of the ungodly books, I asked Him for new books to replace them.
“Yes, I have those too Roy,” He said. “I have 66 books. I want you to take them all and put them on the shelves of your library.” I learned to hold tight to His word in my heart so that I might not sin against Him. His word became a light to my feet and a lamp unto my path.
Next we came to the sitting room in the home of my heart. We took a seat and I began to talk with Him. I discovered that Jesus was the most sympathetic, understanding, and compassionate listener with whom I’d ever talked. He was interested in everything I said.
Soon, however, I delayed our journey. Even though things had been great since I asked the Lord to be a guest in my heart, I left Him alone for a few days. I kept feeling pulled to attend to business that not long before had been so important to me. When I finally decided to come back, I found the Lord waiting in the den in the home of my heart. Apparently He had never left.
I asked, “Lord what are you doing here in the den?” I realized I had been gone for at least a week.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” He replied. “As much as you need this time with Me, Roy, I want this time with you.”
At once we began moving through the rest of the house. We soon came to the workroom in the home of my heart. We walked down the dusty stairs and into the dimly-lit room. I explained to the Lord how I had never had the ability to use these tools to their fullest. He quickly took control of my arms, hands, and fingers, and put them to work on the machines in the workroom. I have to tell you, I had never turned out anything like that before. I realized He was teaching me the secret of Christian service. It’s not a matter of completing projects on my best human level. It’s a matter of yielding myself to Him so that He might live His life in me and through me. Then, I will be able to serve on His best divine level.
At this point, I had hoped our walk through the house was done. But the Lord noticed that smell. That bad smell my heart had been concealing for so long.
“I think I know where it’s coming from,” the Lord said. We went to the closet at the top of the stairs. I’d forgotten He had something akin to X-ray eyes. I had thought I could hide those secret sins from Him.
But the Lord reminded me, “Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks on the heart.” I knew at once that I had to let Him in there too. He had to have the keys to every room in my heart. It was then that I realized He wanted to be so much more than the guest of my heart, He wanted to be the landlord. I’d been treating Him as a guest. But the truth is, He purchased it all. I signed the deed of my heart over to Jesus Christ and I belong to Him.
And the song of my walk with Jesus remains: “It’s grace. It’s grace. It’s grace.”
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (Ephesians 3:16-17a, NIV).
[Source for sermon content from SBC Texan article here.]