Spiritual Search and Rescue

How many of us have been in a tight jam and needed someone else to help us out? How many times have we had a problem that we couldn’t solve ourselves? How many times in our lives have we needed rescuing? I can tell you from my personal experience, the count is pretty high. In the physical realm, in the world, I’ve needed rescuing a number of times. But let’s talk about the important realm, the important part of our lives, the spiritual realm. How many of us have floundered spiritually and needed someone to step in and rescue us … usually from our own silliness, our own mistakes, our own stubbornness.

Last week Barry preached that “America has been lost to the enemy one family, one heart, one soul at a time, and it can be rescued only in the same way, one family one heart, one soul at a time.”

Fill our hearts with the excitement of knowing you…so that we will continue to spread the Gospel of the good news Jesus Christ changing one family, one heart one soul at a time. All across the land, going to every city and village … every city and village in the whole nation. Forgive us that we haven’t done this yet. Barry prayed that God would show us what we all are to do. And give us the courage to do it.

The answer: Evangelism.

So how do we do that? How do we evangelize?

First let me say that I’ve actually been taking a class on evangelism for the last 4 weeks. Great class, fantastic teacher, hasn’t said a word that I didn’t already know but put it together in a way that I would never have figured out without him. I love God. I love that He puts people in our lives that we need at the right time and the right place. He wants to do the same thing with us, He wants us to be in the right place at the right time to help someone else. The person teaching the class is Rick Stem, some of you might know him. He made a statement the first week I was there that changed my attitude toward evangelism considerably. He said: “Evangelism is the top priority of God! It is also the top priority of Satan.” Wow, what a statement. Absolutely true, absolutely scary. The thing is, Satan’s evangelists never stop, never get tired, never back down. They lie, they backstab, they pervert God’s word. And they are everywhere.

So what can we do? God answers that in scripture, we’ve all heard it many times.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

I know this passage, we all know this passage, and this is probably going to offend some of us, we’re going to get defensive and say to ourselves that “I do what I can … I talk about Christ.” That may be the case, it is for me. But ask yourselves this: “How many people have I rescued this week?” How many people have I asked ” Do you know Jesus Christ?” How many people have you rescued this week? This month? This year?

Matthew 28 doesn’t say to we have to save anybody, it doesn’t even say to bring them in to the church. It just says to go and make disciples.

God is clear in scripture that we are to go forth and evangelize the world and preach the good news. Nowhere in scripture does God say: “Sit in your church, praying and hoping that people will come in and give their lives to me.” I know we all try to live Godly lives and influence people that we come in contact with, but how many hours do we spend actively seeking to bring people to Christ? How many hours do we spend on spiritual search and rescue? How many? 1 hour, 2 hours? 20 minutes? Worldly enjoyments yield little time to evangelism.

Barry asked last week that we have the courage to do what God asks of us.

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road. But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’

Luke 10:1-5

Think maybe these guys were apprehensive? I do. Don’t take any money, don’t take any food … just go. Pretty scary orders.

Here’s the thing, every person in here has expressed a desire to go on a “missions” trip. Some even have. Gone to other countries and helped people in need, and all the while there are people in our own neighborhoods who are perishing, dying a slow and painful death leading to eternity in hell. And we sit by and watch them dying because we are too scared to talk to them about Christ.

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

Luke 24:46-47

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Mark 16:15-18

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

John 20:21-23

This is a change we have to make inside of ourselves. We must change our attitude about how we live if we are to be obedient to God’s word. Can we ever “do enough?” Can we ever say that we are doing everything we can? How hard would it be to give up a Saturday morning sleeping in to knock on the neighborhood doors, asking everyone if they know the saving power of Jesus Christ? How much sacrifice would be involved to give up a Sunday afternoon nap or a trip to the movies, or a volleyball game to bring one person to the kingdom of God? To rescue one person from the spiritual death that they are blindly walking toward. How much sacrifice is it really? We have to stop lying to ourselves, lying to each other, lying to the world and especially trying to lie to God. We have to stop putting ourselves and our wants first and start obeying the word of God.

There’s a song we have sung a few times that says this.

We’ve got our
Marching orders
We’ve got our
Marching orders
Now is the time
To carry them forth

Go forth,
Jesus loves them
Go forth,
Take the gospel
Go forth,
The time is now
The harvest is ripening
Go forth!

Randy Rottwell – Go Forth

Why Do We Evangelize?

We have in the past weeks spoken about examining ourselves, the Works of God, and being Workers for God. We have also had a lesson on how to evangelize: Evangelism Made Easy. (Thank you Bobby.) So we know how we are supposed to be, what we are supposed to do, and how we’re supposed to do it. What we haven’t talked about is why. Why should we evangelize? We’ve touched on some of the reasons – we’ll be judged by our fruit, it’s what God wants, a few others. But what is the motivating factor in why we should evangelize? What should drive us to embarrassment, accusations of harassment, and on some occasions- the loss of friends and even family?

The answer is simple really, it comes down to one thing: love. We love God (We obey His commands.) We love Christ (We believe in Him and the One who sent Him.) and, only slightly less important, we love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Let me diverge here for a minute, does anybody here love Jesus? When we found Christ, how many of us where filled with such a great joy that we had to tell everyone we knew about Him? How many of us drove our spouses crazy, or our sisters, or our brothers? How about our friends? How many of us have the same friends now as we did before we found Christ? I know I don’t, especially when I first found Christ, I alienated everyone … almost alienated my wife. (Thank God He sent Kyleigh to bring us both into His kingdom.) Most of my friends avoided me and I couldn’t stand talking to my bother and sisters. They just didn’t hear what I was saying. There was a few years when I had almost no friends. That’s been changing lately though. I think that God gives us the gift of separating us from our friends so that we can mature in Christ before we begin to be tempted by all the things we used to do with our friends. Without some maturity, how easy it would be to fall back into the old sin patterns with the people whom we knew so well, and those who knew us. I still have people say things like: man, you’re so different, I knew you when you where fun.

So let’s talk about what happens when we are saved. Turn to Matthew 13:3-23. He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one.

Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand. His disciples came and asked him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?” He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them. That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don’t really see. They hear, but they don’t really listen or understand. This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah that says, “When you hear what I say, you will not understand. When you see what I do, you will not comprehend. For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes — so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.” But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it. Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!

Matthew 13:3-23

We’ve heard this so many times, most of us can tell it to others with no problem. But what does it mean that we “produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted?” It means that we are so consumed with the joy of God that we have to go out and plant it ourselves.

In Matthew 13:44-46, Scripture says this: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!”

Are any of us that excited? Would any of us sell everything we have to obtain the kingdom of God? To obtain an invitation to spend eternity in heaven with God? I would. Once we have that treasure, once we obtain that incredible gift for ourselves what do we do with it? Do we take that treasure and hide it under our bed, keep our families out of our room for fear that they’ll steal it? Who here is so selfish that they plan on keeping that treasure for themselves that they don’t want their family to spend eternity in heaven? Who here would like to see their best friend go to hell rather then share the treasure of the knowledge of Christ?

Personally, I’d rather party with the Angels. Turn to Luke 15. There are three parables in Luke 15, all of which deal with something being lost.

Parable of the Lost Sheep

Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!”

Parable of the Lost Coin

Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.

Parable of the Lost Son

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!'”

So, we were lost, but now we’re found, I was lost at least … anybody else here that was lost? Confused? Searching? Anybody here found? So some of the reasons we evangelize, some of the reasons we share the knowledge of Christ are that there’s a party going on in heaven every time someone comes to the saving knowledge of Christ; we build up treasure in heaven as we do God’s work for His kingdom here on earth; but, most importantly, it’s because we love each other. It makes me sad to think that I have friends here on earth that I will never see in heaven. I have family that will never know the peace and joy of spending eternity with God. Can we look at someone, even someone who we don’t know and say: oh man, I’m so glad they’re going to hell.

We have a lot of work to do, so much work it’s almost overwhelming, and I’m not so sure we have a lot of time. Here’s some statistics. These are from a book titled The Church is Bigger Then You Think by Patrick Johnston.

COMMENTARY ON “PROGRESS IN FULFILLING THE GREAT COMMISSION” CHART

Prior to 1800, the gap between the number of people-groups and those “reached” was actually widening. Evangelical Christians have made amazing progress in the last 200 years. Only 3500 of the world’s 13,000 people groups do not have an indigenous church capable of evangelizing their people group without outside help. To temper this chart, realize that about 40% of the world’s population (2.4 billion people) lives in these unreached people groups.

COMMENTARY ON “GROWTH OF EVANGELICALS 1960-2010” CHART

Define “evangelical Christians”—decision for personal relationship with Jesus Christ, high view of the Bible, and desire to share gospel with others. Evangelicals are growing at over three times population growth rate and are the world’s only body of religious adherents growing rapidly by means of conversion. The big news is that Christianity is growing fastest in the non-western world—by 2010, there will seven times more non-western Christians than in the west. From a tiny fraction at the turn of the century, over 50% of the population of Africa has now turned to Christ. Unfortunately, evangelical churches have had little impact on political structures and attitudes. Over the 20th century, the number of evangelicals in Latin America increased from under 250,000 in 1900 to around 60 million in 2000. Evangelicals in Asia have now become more numerous than in North America (though they are still a smaller minority of the total population). In 1900, Korea had no Protestant church, and was deemed “impossible to penetrate” by missions experts. Today, 35% of S. Korea is evangelical, with 7000 churches in Seoul alone–including 7 of the 10 largest evangelical churches in the world. The evangelical church in Singapore has now become the most missions-minded church in the world—sending out 1.44 missionaries per congregation (10 times the rate in the USA). Christianity continues to explode in China and Indonesia.

COMMENTARY ON “LANGUAGES WITH BIBLES 1500-2000” CHART

8 out of every 10 people now have access to the entire Bible in their own language. 94 out of 100 people have access to the New Testament in their own language.

COMMENTARY ON “PRESENT ALLOCATION OF MISSIONARY RESOURCES” CHART

This is the bad news—the people groups that most need missionaries have the fewest resources. 1.2 billion Islamic people have only 900 missionaries. The good news is that there are more than sufficient resources to complete the task. While in 100 AD there were 12 unreached people groups for every local church, today there are 600 local churches for every remaining unreached people group. The resources are fully sufficient to complete the task! And because mission agencies are tuned into this problem, about 99% of the world’s population live in a people group that has a commitment for church planting in the near future—as soon as the resources can be mobilized.

The above is from www.xenos.org.

In conclusion – if we have love in our hearts, if we love our friends, our family, then we’d better start talking. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we’d better start talking. If we can’t stand the thought of anybody spending eternity in hell, we’d better start talking.

Let’s pray.