God's Plan to Reach the World (January 20, 2013)
“Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying, Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave; Weep o’er the erring one, Lift up the fallen, Tell them of Jesus the Mighty to save. Though they are slighting Him. Still He is waiting, Waiting the penitent child to receive; Plead with them earnestly, Plead with them gently: He will forgive if they truly believe. Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter, Feelings lie buried that grace can restore; Touched by a loving hand, Wakened by kindness, Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
Rescue the perishing, Duty demands it; Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide; Back to the narrow way Patiently win them; Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died. Rescue the perishing, Care for the dying; Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.”
Fanny Crosby, the writer of this hymn left the following account of the events which inspired her to pen this hymn
“It was written in the year 1869. Many of my hymns were written after experiences in New York mission work. This one was thus written. I was addressing a large company of working men one hot summer evening, when the thought kept forcing itself on my mind that some mother’s boy must be rescued that night or not at all. So I made a pressing plea that if there was a boy present who had wandered from his mother’s home and teaching, he should come to me at the end of the service. A young man of eighteen came forward and said, “Did you mean me? I promised my mother to meet her in heaven, but as I am now living that will be impossible.” We prayed for him and he finally arose with a new light in his eyes and exclaimed in triumph, “Now I can meet my mother in heaven, for I have found God.”
A few days before, Mr. Doane had sent me a theme for a new song, “Rescue the Perishing,” based on Luke 14:23. While I sat in the mission that evening, the line came to me “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying.” I could think of nothing else that night. When I arrived home, I went to work on the hymn at once, and before I retired it was ready for the melody.”
So that made me ask- what does our obedient witnessing provoke in us? Are we being obedient to Christ’s great commission on a full time basis or are we just sometimers Christians? We read in Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus saying…“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” We are to go and teach all peoples. That’s what the word for nations here translates as-all peoples. In Mark 16:15 Jesus said “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Not only are we to teach everyone, but we are to go everywhere. The great commission does not insist that we just witness to the people next door, or to only Americans, or only English speaking peoples. Or to only bucktooth, cross-eyed, knock-kneed, stuttering blondes. We are commanded to go everywhere for the cause of Christ. We are commanded to teach everyone about salvation. As I put this together I began to think. We are to teach. Not just tell, but to teach. To me that means that we are not just telling someone Jesus saves, but we are telling them how, and why. We are transferring knowledge. We may not lead that person to Christ, but we’ve given them knowledge to make that choice. We are to preach and to teach, and leave it to the Holy Spirit to reach.
Sadly, the Church-Christ’s Church, has become overrun with the snares of a worldly system of cares. We have begun to loose our focus on what Jesus has commanded us to do. We have become caught up in the worldly aspect of things. Our focus has switched to the corporate perspective. Run the churches like a business. Watch your profits, maintain your buildings, supervise your staff. Watch that bottom line, and maintain profitability. Where is God in all that business or should I say busyness? If the churches of this country would all put Christ first, would he not in turn bless their work so that these worries of the business class would be laid to rest?
Because of the worldly busyness of the Church, people are not seeing God in their daily lives. They may be taught all that the Gospel teaches, but they don’t see him outside of the church building. For many that relationship that we were commanded to share with the world is naught but a series of lectures on how to live a happy life. Basically, church has become boring. Now I’m not saying that we need to be jumping up and down when we meet, but we should be in an atmosphere where everyone, whether a believer or not-knows into whose presence they are bringing their worship. I have been to many churches, such as this one, where you know whom they serve. I have been to many other churches where I knew what they served. That in itself is a major hindrance for church growth. Because in those churches, nobody will stand up for the call to serve. Nobody, can be a witness. Nobody takes those steps to go and tell. Everyone has heard the saying if you love someone set them free. If it was meant to be then they will return to you. I tell you that we are all loved by someone, and he has set us free. He has set us free so that we may return to him those that are lost or misplaced. When one of us goes into the world with the love and truth of Jesus, we will bring back more than we what we left with. But sadly, few go and as a result there is little to no church growth. The churches become emptier each Sunday until at last there is no one in attendance and all that is left of a once vibrant church is an empty shell of building waiting with boarded up windows waiting for some developer to buy it for some other purpose. Some churches only see growth because they trade sheep. Now it is a good thing that a person can find a new home in another church. When a church closes there are still the needs of the individuals, that another church can take them in is a great thing-That’s Christians taking care of Christians. When someone moves to another town or state. It is great that they can find a church to take them in. But what is sad is when churches trade sheep because the sheep are malnourished, or hurt, or wounded in some fashion and their local church doesn’t want to minister to them. Sheep need to be shepherded. No sheep should ever feel or perceive the need to shepherd themselves.
We must get back to God’s plan to reach the world. If we look to Psalm 126:6 we can glimpse part of God’s plan to reach the world. We read “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
The first part of God’s plan is going-“he that goeth forth”. Going forth is probably the most difficult thing we do. It takes us out of the place where we feel some sort of control, or some sort of confidence thru experience. It is much easier to serve on a committee or even in an office of the church. It is much easier to give money to send to those that have a need. It is much easier to sit there and nit-pick and grumble about how things are being done. It is easier to expect others to do that which God has called you to do. It is easier to be part of a faction than to get into the action. But, when you take those first steps to go. When you stop putting your faith in the things you do within your church and instead put your faith in the one whose church it is. That’s when a church takes it’s necessary steps to growth. When a church begins to go, it begins to grow. Most people have heard the name of Jesus, but few are taught about Jesus. In order for people to hear your message, you need to get out of your comfort zone and get into Jesus’ comfort zone. You can yell the name Jesus from the rooftops, but all the people down below will hear is someone yelling the name Jesus. If you go up to them, listen to them, talk to them, share your knowledge and your faith, you will be doing that which Jesus did, and that which Jesus commanded. The expression is to “Let go and Let God” well I can tell you that the next part of that saying needs to be Get God and get going.
The second part of God’s plan is weeping. “Goeth forth and weepeth”. Hmm. We know that we have to go, but we have to weep? Does that mean we have to go up to someone and with tears pouring down our cheeks, and a sob in our voice witness to them? No. But it should be a reflection of our heart. Not a desire to share the truth, but a passion, a zeal. The heart should have such a passion for sharing the truth of Jesus that it should scream out loud in your chest to the point where you would believe your heart to be broken if you did not share the truth of Jesus. But sadly, many do not because they care not. Many people get so wrapped up in their own problems, fears, and situations that they just don’t leave any room for a God-like heart. Still other people are out there. They have gone forth. But they have gone because they feel obligated, like it’s the thing to do. It’s what is expected of them. Yet they have no heart in it. They are not genuine. They are not willing to invest their heart into someone. For ensample let’s look at Paul. In Romans 9:1-3 we catch a glimpse of Paul’s heart for his countrymen. It reads “I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” Paul has great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his fellow countrymen. Paul doesn’t want to win his people to the Lord because it’s what’s expected of him, or because it’s the right thing to do. Paul has a heart that is broken. His heart is so broken that he could wish that he had no saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in order that all the Israelites could be saved. Imagine that. Imagine having such a heart for your country’s lost, that you would consider letting yourself become lost and separated from Christ for all eternity, so that all your countrymen might be saved! Didn’t God do the same thing for us? In Romans 5:8 it is written “…God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What a heart of love! What an example to set for us to follow. Our hearts need to radiate love, just as Paul did, just as Jesus does, and just as God does. Can we see others around us the same way? Are we broken hearted for them? Do our hearts cry those tears? Do we see the lost as God sees them?
The third part of God’s plan is sowing. “bearing precious seed”. What type of seed could be so precious that God would mention it as part of His plan to reach the world? If we look at Luke 8:11 we get a very clear picture. It reads “…the seed is the word of God”. There’s nothing too complicated about that. We are to carry the precious word of God. But more than that we are to be sowing this seed. What do we sow? I remember as a kid I would plant a flower garden. I would turn the soil, then I would make lines in the dirt and carefully plant each seed, according to the directions, so many inches apart then I would cover the seeds and water. That’s not what we’re supposed to do. Oh it sounds logical. It makes sense to us, but it doesn’t line up with what God is telling us to do. God doesn’t tell us to plant. No he tells us to sow. When you sow you take a bunch of seed in your hand and you scatter it along the ground. All too often we can become methodical, and set in our ways, we don’t spread the seed like we should. We do everything according to our plan and leave nothing for God to do. We even try to do our own watering, because God hasn’t watered anything yet, we think that he’s taking too long. Often times we end up overwatering and ruining our garden. I know that as a kid, my garden seldom got more than a few flowers. Do you plant or sow? Now I can’t as well talk about sowing without talking about the parable of the sower. In Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 we read “Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty… “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” When you sow, some seed will fall by the wayside. Some people may not have a clue as to what you’re talking about, Satan will get in there and either confuse or frustrate that person’s heart, brushing away the seed that you’ve sown, so that nothing remains. Sometimes when you sow, some seed will fall on stony ground. Some people will listen to you, believe that you are telling them something wonderful, but then when something happens that challenges or tests their faith-they will be tripped up. They will be tripped up because they have no deeper knowledge or insight into God’s word. They just don’t grow that well, they have no depth or foundation to work from. Sometimes when you sow, some seed will fall among thorns. Some people will hear your words but will eventually chose to follow a different god. They will become ensnared by worldly cares and the power of things and money. Their view will become distored and they will live a life to better pursue the things of the world, rather than the things of heaven. Are these last two people saved? It’s hard to tell, but if your witness to them teaches them all they need to know and gives them the proper tools for growth, then perhaps they will be like those whose seed was sown in the good ground. That person hears the word and understands it. He perceives the truth of the matter, and applies it. He is one that is taught. You can watch him grow and bear fruit. Not just a piece of fruit or two. But he will bear much fruit. Not everyone of this kind will bear the same amount of fruit, but all will be extremely fruitful to some varying degree.
So how do we sow? How do make sure that the good news we share reaches others? We sow by speaking to others about Christ, but more importantly I think that we need to speak with others about Christ. It shouldn’t be a lecture. It should be an informed, two way conversation. Be ready to answer some questions, be ready to ask some questions as well. Do you have to be a Bible expert? No. But you should have a firm grasp on the basics and be able to draw from your own life experiences to complement your witness. One of the biggest ways in which we sow is one of the biggest ways in which we can fail. The life we live. How we live, how we handle adversity, how we handle our finances and how we handle each other is one of the biggest ways we can win someone over or back to Christ. People are watching us when go through tough times. They see how we handle tough situations but what about when we’re not in a tough situation? Do they still perceive that difference in us? What if they went to your facebook page? What would they see? Would they see evidence that you are a Christian? What if they went into your music files (or CDs for some of you) Would they see music that can glorify the Lord and not belittle your fellow man? What if they went on your computer and viewed your history. Would they find that you visited questionable or even worse-sinful websites. Would they see that on occasion you watch some pornography. Would they see that you spend all your time playing games or watching movies. Or would they see that you use the computer as a tool for helping out in God’s kingdom? Pastor has made the point on several occasions about GIGO-garbage in=garbage out. If you have filled your life with junk, your witness will also be full of junk. Some people sow by passing out Gospel tracts. But be alert. A Bible tract can only take a person so far. Make sure that it does give the plan of salvation. Also make sure that it provides some contact information, so that if they’re unsure or have other questions they can receive the guidance they need. Otherwise, it would be like giving a rope to someone that’s fallen into a deep well, and not holding on to the other end of the rope. It’s the right tools, just not enough people to get the job done. Perhaps you’ve found other ways to sow. Share them with people. Perhaps your way will help your brothers and sisters in Christ in such a way to not only see souls saved but your church made stronger.
The forth part of God’s plan is reaping. “Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” This verse is one that has given me a lot of thought. If when we are sowing we are spreading God’s word, then why would we reap what was sown? Some scripture lends the thought that the harvest we reap is our witness. Some scripture talks about the final judgement. After pondering this for some time I’ve come to the conclusion that this harvest is in fact our complete witness. Not only do we sow by sharing God’s word, but we follow through to see God’s desired results. A soul saved. A sower plants the word, a reaper brings the message home. It’s like when you go to Walmart or for you special people Target and buy a piece of furniture as a gift. It’s not assembled. You have all these pieces which you have to put together. Fortunately, the manufacturer has provided you with a set of instructions. You give this box of confusion to your loved one as gift. That’s sowing. You’ve given them the furniture (salvation) and the directions on how to assemble it. (Life application from the Bible). Now if you really love them you would help them assemble that piece of furniture. You would show them, according to the directions, how to assemble that piece of furniture, piece by piece, step by step. With your help, they will end up with a piece of furniture that looks like it was designed to like. There will be no extra pieces, and it will be able to function as it was designed to. Seeing that conversion should bring about a great joy in you. What you have discipled along the way will have grown into a fruitful member of Christ’s Church and will eventually do the same for others, just as you have done for them. What a blessing to experience this growth. Don’t pass up this opportunity to win the lost, and the blessings that come with it. This is the basic element of church growth. One soul at a time. Let’s not focus so much on the people that live in that bad section of town, or the homeless, or the widowed. Yes we need to reach them, but don’t lose sight of who’s in front of you right here, right now. A little story for you “After one of Dwight L. Moody’s meetings, a locomotive engineer came forward and said he had decided to become a missionary to a foreign country. Moody asked him if his fireman were a Christian. “I don’t know,” was the reply, “I’ve never asked him.” “Well,” said Moody, “why don’t you start with your fireman?”. Never attempt to save the elite lost without looking to those closest around you. Many are watching you, waiting for you to talk to them, to talk with them. You just need to give them the chance.
Let’s encourage one another in how we carry out Christ’s Great Commission. But let’s not just talk about it, let’s do it. Let go and let God, get God and get going. Let’s see an increase in our churches as a whole. Let’s not just trade our sheep, but rather let’s multiply Christ’s flock. Let’s have a heart for the lost that compels us to act. In Psalm 126 verse five it is written “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy”. Let’s experience that joy for not only is it ours to experience but according to Luke 15:10 “…there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Imagine that celebration in Heaven over the one sinner who you lead to repentance. Imagine the celebration in heaven if you were to bring 2 or 3, or 10, or 100, or thousands. What a party that would be.
I’d like to close with this:
The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power, to just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed. To lose one’s health is more. To lose one’s soul is such a loss that no man can restore.
Thirty-nine people died while I read this short poem. Every hour 5417 go to meet their Maker. What are you doing to help reach them with the Gospel e’re they are cast into Hell?”