Taking the Word to the World

Archive for September, 2011

The Lord of the Harvest’s Plan for World Evangelism (Part 4/4)

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“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

We’ve heard that dozens of times. The harvest is plenteous. The laborers are few. Contained in those words is a gigantic opportunity: the big harvest. The problem is He needs workers. Because there are lots of lost and only a few seekers a strategy for world evangelism is paramount. Therefore, here is what you do:

Image by Fr. Stephen, MSC

Provide:

“Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat” (Matthew 10:9-10).

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:31-33).

The principles of God’s Word are very clear. If we take care of God’s business, He will take care of our business. God will provide. He will not forsake us. We walk by faith. Susan Fitkins said, “We never test the resources of God until we attempt the impossible for Him.” God has all we need and He will supply it to us (Philippians 4:19).

Inquire:

The messengers were to inquire or search for a place or person open to letting them stay there. Hopefully, in any and every town there is someone that will welcome the truth into his home and heart and will listen to the message and let it take hold in his life. Not everyone will be open and receptive. That is why, in missions, we refer to populations or people that are either receptive or resistant.

“And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence. And when ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matthew 10:11-13).

Gailyn Van Rheenen in Biblical Foundations and Missions explains “the world may be thought of as a giant orchard having many fields. Although some fields are ready for harvest, the husbandman is concerned about all fields, for their harvest will come in due time.” The Lord of the Harvest cares for the world and sends laborers out into the fields; everywhere and anywhere. People are like those fields. They go through times of readiness and resistance. She recommends that “the receptive should be harvested while they are open to the message and the resistant nurtured until they become receptive.”

Move On:

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet” (Matthew 10:14).

To shake the dust off their feet was a Jewish custom. It was a visual to show the people that they had made the wrong choice. The opportunity to choose Christ may never be presented to them again. It let them know that the messenger was innocent of their blood. He had obeyed the Lord of the Harvest, fulfilled His task, and the results were in the hands of God and those that heard him. Shaking the dust off one’s feet was also symbolic to the preacher. It told him to keep moving and not to be discouraged.

It is easy to read this passage and the only thing that remains in our minds is the negative; to shake the dust off our feet and move on. But, look at the reverse impact of adhering to this master plan of evangelism. Through following its principles the gospel is taken to the whole world, the kingdom of God is expanded through evangelism, deepened through discipleship, new churches are planted in the most cost-effective manner, and souls are saved. These are all reasons for rejoicing and lifting one’s hands in praise, bending one’s knees in worship, and proclaiming God’s goodness. And that beats causing a little dust storm any day.

The Lord of the Harvest’s Plan for World Evangelism (Part 3/4)

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“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

We’ve heard that dozens of times. The harvest is plenteous. The laborers are few. Contained in those words is a gigantic opportunity: the big harvest. The problem is He needs workers. Because there are lots of lost and only a few seekers a strategy for world evangelism is paramount. Therefore, here is what you do:

the Gospel of Matthew

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Call:

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1). Because there are lots of lost and only a few seekers, God calls. Entire lessons and books have been written on the subject of the call so we won’t linger with that. The thing to note here is to reiterate that for those He calls, He gives them power. He enables, equips, and empowers His workers to reap the harvest. A call birthed in prayer and fasting, releases spiritual authority and power.

Go:

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:5-7).

The obvious thing about being sent forth is that someone has to “go.” Jesus carefully directed them to the lost. They were to start with the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His plan for evangelism started at home but eventually worked its way around the globe (Acts 1:8). They began in their Jerusalem but didn’t stop there. It is always God’s plan to go the distance; to the uttermost parts of the earth. Someone has rightly said that the light that shines the furthest shines the brightest at home. Some else quipped, “Don’t send a lamp to the mission field that will not burn at home.”

In reading this verse and verses that follow it, it is obvious that Jesus had a strategic, focused, plan.

Declare:

It wasn’t enough to just go. “As you go, preach.” We are to proclaim the good news of the gospel. The kingdom is at hand: it is drawing close to people and bringing them to a point of decision. This is called a “truth encounter” and should be an integral, pivotal part of every Gospel presentation.

Paul testified that he came “declaring unto you the testimony of God” but also in “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:1-4). Those two aspects of presenting Jesus Christ to a lost world work hand-in-hand.

Demonstrate:

“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8).

“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).

“And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease” (Matthew 10:1).

“And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people” (Matthew 9:35).

A “power encounter” is a demonstration of God’s power and His acts. It manifests the power of God through answering immediate needs and (at times) through working signs, miracles, and wonders that will confirm the Word of God. These demonstrations may help people make a step of faith. They authenticate the message that has been preached. As signs they evoke awe and astonishment. As miracles they display supernatural power.

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The Lord of the Harvest’s Plan for World Evangelism (Part 2/4)

Read Part 1

“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

We’ve heard that dozens of times. The harvest is plenteous. The laborers are few. Contained in those words is a gigantic opportunity: the big harvest. The problem is He needs workers. Because there are lots of lost and only a few seekers a strategy for world evangelism is paramount. Therefore, here is what you do:

Pray:

“Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38).

Some have recognized this is one of the only prayer requests Jesus ever gave. Pray for workers. Prayer positions and prepares us to receive or hear the call to the mission. Prayer plows through hardened hearts. He didn’t tell us to go hunt laborers. The laborers are there. They are sitting on our pews and studying in our classrooms. They need to be sent. We need only petition, beseech, beg, God to send them forth. But, beware! Prayer also softens one’s own heart to hear the voice of God. Through prayer one gets closer to the heart of God, hears His heartbeat, feels the need, and becomes a prime candidate for the worker He wants to send.

Nehemiah faced similar situations in his day. The people were scattered, shamed, and in a serious snag. When he heard of and recognized their helpless condition he sat down and wept. He fasted and prayed. It wasn’t a simple little onetime prayer. He prayed constantly day and night. He stormed heaven for something to be done. Heaven responded. Nehemiah was the answered prayer to his own heavenly appeal. He left the comfort zone of the king’s palace with a burden for those scattered among the nations. He rebuilt the walls of strength and protection that had been ripped down. He refused to allow anyone or anything to stop him in accomplishing his vision. The Lord strengthened his hands for the good work.

A call into the ripened, abundant harvest is birthed in an atmosphere of prayer. It was in such an environment of corporate prayer and fasting, by the church at Antioch, that Barnabas and Saul were separated “for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). It was after they had “had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:3); and they were “sent forth by the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:4)

As we present our bodies a living sacrifice to God, which is our reasonable service, we also make a commitment not to follow the pattern of this world. As He renews our mind in prayer, fasting, and study of His Word, we are able to discern and “prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). In such a mode of prayer and sacrifice we are challenged to give our lives to the Lord much like a blank check. We allow Him to fill in the details and to work out His will for us.

Prayer also deepens our love for Jesus Christ as we spend time communicating with Him, and getting to know Him better. Andrew Murray in his book The Key to the Missionary Problem, written more than one hundred years ago, said that the lack of love for Jesus Christ was why the Church was failing to fulfill the Great Commission. In another book entitled The Great Omission, by Robert McQuilkin, he writes, “Let us give ourselves to prayer til He ignites us with the flame of His love and scatters us as firebrands throughout the darkness of a lost world.” Loving God and keeping His commandments go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately everyday that the Church fails at mobilization, opportunities are lost, and the number of lost humanity grows larger.

God is looking for a few good men and women? Can He count you in? Can He send you forth? The question is not, is He calling? The question is many times, are you listening?

We are to pray that He will “send forth laborers into his harvest.” Because it is “his harvest” you can be assured He is more than willing to do that. In checking the intention of the original Greek used in “send forth” it was enlightening to note that it refers to bring forth, drive out, expel, pull, take, thrust out, and put forth. The workers are there. They necessitate being expelled or forced free from what they are presently doing. They need to be motivated. We cannot hold them back. Sensitivity is needed. I want to have a sensitive spirit and a listening life. I don’t want Him to recruit prayer warriors so that I will be expelled, driven, pulled, and thrust out of my comfort zone into a scattered world. I’ll go wherever you want me to go, dear Lord!

Since we have reached the close of the chapter it is easy to assume that the topic is finished. I don’t think so. First of all, chapter divisions did not appear in the original. They were added later by men to facilitate easy reading and understanding. Regardless of that, one chapter closes, but the next chapter seemingly picks up with the same topic and further expounds the game plan for world evangelism.

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The Lord of the Harvest’s Plan for World Evangelism (Part 1/4)

My morning devotional study found me pondering Luke 19:10 how Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. I’d been to that verse many times before and could easily quote it by heart. This particular break of day I needed to be reminded of the reason for my existence. The words articulated it so well. It’s all about seeking the lost and training the found. A side note in my Bible titled Jesus as the “Seeking Savior” and sent me fumbling through the pages to a reference in Matthew 9:36:

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.”

Jesus is considered by scholars such as Weber ...

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The journey in writing this lesson starts in this verse and fuels my trip with the same passion, burden, and vision that gripped my Seeking Savior. He saw the multitudes generally and individual faces specifically. As they scurried about their daily duties, disguised with smiles and happy-go-lucky attitudes, He saw through all of that, to the very heart of the matter. He peered deep into their souls. They were confused, scattered, troubled, tired, distressed, aimless, hurting, helpless, hopeless, perishing, loaded-down, lost sheep needing a shepherd; someone to guide them into the protective fold. The verse closes with sad, convicting words: “having no shepherd.”

He saw: He considered their plight. He had a vision for their destiny. I want to see souls as Jesus sees them. He readily identified the spiritual needs of those He encountered.

He was moved: I want to be moved, stirred, and captivated by the very things that move, stir, and captivate the heart and mind of God.

His heart broke: I want my heart to be broken with the things that break the heart of God. Sounds simple but it is inevitably heart-wrenching.

He was moved with compassion: He felt what they felt. He had a deep awareness of their suffering. He was interconnected with them. He took action to help. His bowels yearned. His compassion was birthed deep within. I want to feel compassion for the lost in two ways: from His point-of-view and from theirs. How long has it been since you put yourself in their place? Imagine the feelings of being lost, hopeless, or drowning. Surely, such compassion will lead to incite, inspire, and invigorate an enthusiastic, whole-hearted, genuine, lively, fiery, deep, passion. It’s okay to get emotional about hurled, hungry humanity.

Note what Jesus said once he saw their state, was moved by the masses, heart-broken at their helplessness, and was compassionate about their calamity. It spoke to His “disciples.” That is a general term used for the twelve that followed Him. But, it is more than that. We are called to make disciples and to be disciples. Disciples are learners. Jesus wanted to teach students something. If you are following the scenario patiently and perceptively you will quickly unveil that the Seeking Savior was endeavoring to give His followers a game plan or a strategy of world evangelism. He has a game plan for winning; winning souls that is. Let’s check it out.

“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few” (Matthew 9:37).

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We Seek, He Saves!

The slowly revolving illuminated globe provides the backdrop as I sit at my desk, my mind restlessly spinning, and my spirit groping for direction from the Lord. I’ve been captivated today by one of the expressed purposes in the Word coming to earth, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). We serve a seeking Savior.

Image by Fr. Stephen, MSC

Going back to the basics of our very existence is the reminder that our purpose in being here is exactly the same as His purpose in coming here. We are to seek/save the lost and train/disciple the found. No greater purpose. No higher calling. Robert K. Rodenbush had it right when he wrote, “Since it is not granted us to live long on this earth, it is logical to give our best and our most to something that will last eternally…reaching sinners and training saints.”

People from all walks of life boarded the Titanic in 1912. There were millionaires, celebrities, middle income earners, and even a few poor people. A few hours after the disaster, there were only two categories: lost and saved. It all comes down to that—lost or found.

Much has been written in recent years about seeker-sensitive services. I suppose there is merit in that; designing services with the seeking sinner in mind. But, it goes much further than that. Seeker-sensitive churches ought to be churches that train and mobilize members to be seekers of sinners in our lost world. The soul-winner should be wise and sensitive. You find the lost only one way: by looking for them! We need to be seeker-sensitive Christians and ministers bringing sinners to Jesus and to the foot of the cross.

Purpose-driven churches should be Gospel-driven churches. It is the Gospel that saves lives and redirects purposes. Acts 2:38 really works if you work Acts 2:38. The purpose-driven Christian is a Gospel-driven Christian.

I love the promise expressed in “seek and to save that which WAS lost.” It is interesting to use the past tense here. We call those things that are not as if they already are (Romans 4:17). Soul-winning and soul-seeking are acts of faith. We walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). We witness by faith. God does the work as He chips away at stony hearts. We seek. He saves!