This week, we’re continuing our message series on reaching out. In this series, we’re learning some tips on how we can be more effective at seeking and saving the lost just like Jesus did.
So far, we have learned about how Jesus reached out to people where they were and how He did so in a relevant way.
We also learned about an unbelievable invitation that is available to everyone to be carried to King Jesus’ table where all of our sin, shame, and brokenness are covered. We were challenged not to become too busy for Jesus.
Last week, on that same theme, we learned about priorities in life and how, if we put Jesus first, that we can manage everything else that life can possibly throw at us.
This week, we’re being challenged to spring into action when it comes to our faith. I believe that there are three different camps that we can get stuck in that make us feel like we’re doing what God has called us to, but in reality, these three things are wheel boots that prevent us from doing what God has called us to. If we don’t move beyond these three things, we’re going to simply remain stuck in our faith and held back from the fullness of God’s promises.
1. Move from knowledge into action
Yes, it is critically important that we know the word of God, what He requires of us, what He has promised us, and to learn more about who He is and what His kingdom is like. However, if we spend ourselves on knowing and studying God and His word and never put it into action, we’ve missed the point. If we know about God and His word, but never experience God and His word, the cross and resurrection were a waste of time for Jesus. If our ministry is simply teaching knowledge without also living and modeling it, we have fooled ourselves into thinking that we’re something that we’re not.
1 Corinthians 8:1
We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii (a day’s wage of a laborer) and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Knowledge alone had separated the Jews and Samaritans for centuries. They both knew that they were right in who God is and where and how He desired to be worshipped. God came along in the flesh and told them that they were both wrong. Knowledge kept them both puffed up and built up against each other and, ironically, against the God that they both claimed to know. Jesus used a story to explain the heart of true and proper worship and how they both were totally missing it. Knowledge cannot love, but action can! It’s time to move from knowledge into action!
2. Move from words into action
All of us have experienced empty words. We’ve been told by people that they would do something only to be stood up and to find that those words were lies. They probably didn’t maliciously make a promise that they didn’t keep. They probably had a legitimate excuse, but in the end, their words were just words and void of action.
Unfortunately, we are all guilty of doing the same thing to God. We’re all guilty of saying to Him during worship that we’re going to give our lives over to Him, that we’ll follow Him wherever He leads, that we will do things that we absolutely will never do. Some of us even sing lines such as “I lift my hands to you” while our arms are crossed or our hands firmly placed in our pockets.
Unfortunately, that’s a good picture of what our lifestyles and our faith looks like to God; a lie. I mean, let’s not sugar-coat it and make ourselves feel good about this reality. If we say things with our words and don’t act on them, we’re lying to God and as bad as that is, we’re also lying to ourselves.
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
God hears our talk, but He also sees our actions. It isn’t by our talk that God judges our faith, it is by our actions. If you take a snapshot of what the early church looked like versus what the church has become over the centuries, there is one thing that would stand out to anyone who compares those pictures. The early church was a church of action, the church today is a church of words. We pray words, we sing words, we preach words, we teach words, we try and wrestle down three year old boys to sit in a class so that they hear words.
People will come to listen to all of these words, but when the rubber meets the road and they’re asked to serve, which is simply to put those words into action, they refuse. Painfully, this means that the church has stopped representing God’s kingdom! After all:
1 Corinthians 4:20 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (KJV)
For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.
1 Corinthians 4:20 (MSG)
God’s Way is not a matter of mere talk; it’s an empowered life.
It’s time to move from words to action!
3. Move from harvest to harvesters
All of us here are the fruit of someone’s ministry. By the way, to minister simply means to serve. Nearly all of us have put our faith in Jesus as a direct result of someone else serving Jesus by telling us about Him and living for Him themselves. As a disclaimer, there is a rare breed of people out there like the apostle Paul who had a personal encounter with Jesus, but that’s a rarity.
God created our whole creation with a common attribute. Things reproduce themselves. An apple produces apple seeds and if those seeds are in the right atmosphere, they grow to produce apple trees which produce apples which produce apple seeds and the cycle goes on and on until the day that Jesus returns. Dogs produce dogs. Fish produce fish. People produce people. Disciples are supposed to produce disciples. Jesus commanded that we go and make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey all that Jesus has taught us.
Unfortunately, many of us became disciples, or in other words, we decided to follow Jesus, but have never lead someone else to also put their faith in Jesus, or in other words, to become a disciple. Finding a Christian that doesn’t lead other people to Jesus should produce equally as many people as snipe hunting produces snipes. However, we have churches packed full of discipleless disciples and it doesn’t seem to bother anyone. We, the harvest, should in turn, become harvesters.
If we realize what we’ve freely received – the fullness of our salvation – why wouldn’t we want everyone around us to also receive it? We can make every excuse in the book about why we can’t do it, but they all boil down to us selfishly making our lives all about us. The people that God has intentionally placed all around us are heading for hell – eternal torment, not eternal partying. God placed them in our lives so that we can show them and lead them into a better way to live – to truly live life to its fullest! God placed them in our lives so that we can lead them into a relationship with Jesus and be saved.
35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
How did Jesus teach us to treat the lost?
How did Jesus teach us to pray for the lost?
Send out the workers!
This is where the church has things a bit skewed. When it comes to praying for the lost, we pray that Jesus would draw them in. We pray that Jesus would prepare their hearts. We pray that Jesus would save them. We pray that the loving-kindness of Jesus would transform them. We pray for the Lord of the harvest to do the harvesting. Then, we wonder why we can spend decades praying for that person and see no change. Why? Because that’s just not how God has ordained this thing to work!
It’s time for us to move from being the harvest to being harvesters.
Jesus taught us to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers. Praying for the lost is a fool’s task unless our prayer ends something along the lines of the plea of Isaiah to Jesus, “Here am I, Lord, send me!” This morning as we close, we’re going to do something a little different. Instead of worshipping the Lord with words and music, we’re going to pursue Him in prayer.
Our prayers for the lost should be like the prayers of the early church. In fact, seeing the lost come to faith in Jesus begins with prayer. Their prayers were, and our prayers this morning will be:
– Unified & Constant
They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
We’re going to split up into four groups and join together to pray.
24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.
29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Pray that God would give each one of us great boldness to speak God’s word with our lifestyles and words.
1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
Pray for people to rise up to take on the routine ministry tasks of the church to allow the leaders to prioritize and focus on prayer and the word.
When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit
Pray for those who have received the initial deposit of the Holy Spirit, but not the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.
His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him.
Pray together for those who are sick fully believing in God’s willingness and ability to completely heal them.
– Mind-Transforming and Soul-Saving
Acts 10 –
Peter’s mind transformed to accept the Gentile believers & Cornelius’s entire household being saved
Pray that we would be more intentional to listen and obey the voice of the Holy Spirit and that God would connect us with those ready to receive His salvation around us.
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.
Pray that everyone in the church would seek out and fulfill their role within it.
– Comforting and Closing
36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.
Pray that we are able to let go of our past and move forward unhindered, but rather, empowered by it.