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Entries in Witness (11)

Tuesday
Aug212018

Our Prayer Life and Personal Witness

Colossians 4:2-6.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on August 12, 2018.

Our world today has convinced itself that there is no eternity for us to face.  And so, people live lives that are focused on the fleeting thoughts and wants of this life, going here and there.  Today we need to hear Christ calling us to lift our eyes and see that there is a harvest all around us.  It is a harvest of people who have been made hungry for the Gospel because they haven’t found something that can satisfy their soul.

In our passage today, Paul is drawing near to the end of his letter to the Colossians, and encourages believers to be active in two different areas of life.  The first part is centered on our internal life and the second is focused on our external life.  When believers recognize the value that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has for us and the people around us, we give prayer and witnessing the proper vigilance that eternal matters deserve.

In our passage today, Paul turns from the relationship between slaves and their masters, and speaks to the group of believers as a whole.

Continue earnestly in prayer

If I were to summarize the book of Colossians I would say this.  Paul is concerned that believers understand the mystery of the Gospel of Christ enough in order to avoid deceptions and to be transformed into the image of Jesus.  It takes prayer to withstand spiritual deception, and it takes prayer to put off the old man and to put on the new man.  Thus in verse 2 Paul uses a verb that has the idea of continuing with strength.  Prayer is not just a passionless duty.  It is not enough to pray when you first get saved and then quit.  It is not enough to pray only in times of disaster and great need.  Believers must also continue strongly in prayer during all the times in between.

Paul emphasizes being “watchful” in prayer.  What are we watching?  We are being watchful of our lives, both external deceptions and our own internal deceptions.  We are watchful for those temptations that would seek to take us by surprise and by storm.  We are also to be watchful over one another, as spiritual brothers and sisters.  Jesus himself used the world “watch” in his last hours with his disciples.  He asked Peter, James, and John to watch with Him as He prayed.  Later, when He found them sleeping, He warned them to “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Matthew 26:41 (NKJV).  They were going through a time of severe testing and strong temptation.  It was Jesus who not only made them aware of it, but also told them that they would only overcome those temptations through prayer.  Satan is often successful because we are not paying attention to spiritual matters.  When our flesh is strong then we are prone to take the bait that he is using for us.

Of course it is easy to let ourselves fall into a dire, and even hopeless, attitude.  Yet, Paul tells them to pray with thanksgiving.  If we only treat prayer as a Christmas list that we take to God, then we can get discouraged pretty quick.  God is not in the business of spoiling His children and turning us into entitled brats.  We would be no good to anybody, even ourselves, at that point.  However, when we learn to pray with other kinds of prayer, we become stronger spiritually.  In Scripture we not only see prayers of petition, in which we ask for things for ourselves, but also prayers of Adoration.  This is where we praise God for who He is.  We should also give up prayers of thanksgiving in which we thank God for what He has done and how He has blessed us.  There are also prayers of confession in which we repent before God concerning any areas of sin in our life.

Prayer may have a novelty feel to it at first.  In fact, we can do different things to try and maintain a feeling of novelty (turn down lights, play instrumental music, light candles, etc.).    However, none of these things will ever be able to overcome the reality that our flesh will quickly grow tired of prayer.  When our flesh realizes that God is not going to satisfy our every whim and desire, it either falls asleep or walks away.  So take time to be thankful in your prayers, but not just for the things He has given you.  Also be thankful for who He is and His character, His faithfulness and grace.  We are on the winning side.  So we need not be dire and glum, though the world around us is given over to darkness.  Rather we can pray with joy and thanksgiving in our heart.

Paul also asks that they would pray for him and his companions, especially that they would have an open door to share the Gospel.  Just as they needed doors, so we too need the Lord to open doors for us to share the Gospel.  We should not take it for granted, but labor for it in prayer.  Paul also asks that they would pray that he would have clarity in explaining the Gospel to others.  Many people have a superficial understanding of Jesus, if anything at all.  They need a clear presentation of the Gospel.  So wouldn’t God just open doors for us, why should we pray?  It is true that if you do not pray, God will still be busy working.  And, God will use others.  However, those others cannot take the place that God has given to me and you.  Without prayer, I will miss those opportunities and those opportunities will be missing in the lives of those I was supposed to impact.  Prayer puts us in the harness with the Holy Spirit to do the work that needs done to prepare people’s hearts, plant the seed of truth, water it, and harvest at the appropriate time.  Even though he was in chains, under house arrest, Paul knew that prayer could open up opportunities to share the Gospel.

Walk wisely around unbelievers

In verse 5 Paul reminds them to walk wisely among “the outsiders.”  This phrase is a reference to people who are outside the Church because they are not believers in Jesus.  Have you ever thought about how your actions can affect unbelievers?  We can be unwise and act foolishly around unbelievers and negatively impact how they view Christ.

Paul also connects to this the phrase “redeeming the time.”  This was a phrase that was used of a person who purchases an item at the perfect time, whether to get a deal in the marketplace, or to take possession of a desired item.  If we walk foolishly then we will lose time in drawing others to Christ.  That can be done by neglecting to look like Christ enough to be attractive to them or even neglecting to share when they are open.  But even worse, we can be offensive to them and drive them away from Christ.  Now, it is true that Christ is offensive to our flesh because He is spiritual.  However, we cannot walk foolishly, AKA unspiritually, and then say they weren’t ready.  We should always have our eyes open and be praying for opportune moments in the lives of people.  Wisdom understands what is important in life and takes care of eternal matters at the expense of the temporal ones.  However, folly takes care of temporal matters at the expense of the eternal.  We redeem the time when we walk in harmony with what God is trying to do in the lives of people around us.

Paul also instructs believers to always speak with grace.  In that sense grace means to speak in a way that is favorable to those who listen to us.  How easy it is to let our speech rush on leaving grace behind.  Even worse, we may pick up unfavorable companions such as: anger, pride, greed, etc.  Part of wisdom is to temper our speech, so as not to offend unnecessarily.  We must remove the obstacles of our flesh as much as we can.  Yes, none of us are perfect, and people can always find some reason to reject us.  But that is between them and God.  My focus needs to be on me.  Lord, help me to walk wisely before those who do not know you.  This connects to the last chapter’s focus on putting off the old man and putting on the new.

Paul also uses a phrase, “seasoned with salt.”  It is a reference to the fact that food is made tastier when it is salted.  Our speech can be plain food without any spice, or we can speak with creative flavor of a life lived in relationship with God.  In fact, Christ uses salt as a reference to believers.  He says that we are the salt of the earth.  Thus our speech should be such that it causes people to want to hear it, at least until they make a decision to either embrace Christ or not.

The combination of prayer, walking wisely, and speaking with grace, will put us in the proper place that we will learn how to answer each person we come in contact with (vs. 6)k  We must truly have a relationship with Jesus before we will learn how to answer those who ask us why we believe in Him.

May God help us to take time this week to pray.  May we pray for the wisdom to redeem the time in the lives of unbelievers.  The “New Man” takes time to pray and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the lost around them.  May God help us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, by the help of His Holy Spirit.

Prayer Life Audio

Thursday
Jan122017

The Heart of a Righteous Person

Psalm 4:1-8.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 08, 2017.

I want to look at this Psalm today in order to hear the heart of those righteous individuals who have gone before us.  It is easy to look at our modern technology and think that those believers before us have nothing to teach us.  However, this is a foolish idea.  If you take time to read about the righteous men and women of the Bible, you will find yourself being filled with encouragement, sometimes.  On the other hand, you may also find yourself being discouraged because you feel that you don’t measure up to them.  We can feel disqualified because we are not as good as they were.  Let me just take a moment to remind you that throughout the Bible we are shown the physical, emotional, and spiritual weaknesses of those who were called righteous.  They were not perfect individuals.  In fact, they sometimes failed God and disobeyed Him, only to have God’s discipline teach them wisdom.  They were just like you and I in their hearts.  But they learned that God could be trusted despite how difficult their situations became.  As we read this Psalm, I pray our hearts will be encouraged by what we hear.

They are moved to talk with God

Modern though likes to say that prayer was a part of our evolution.  When we were knuckle-dragging, cave-people, we were ignorant and afraid of the elements surrounding us.  Thus natural selection elevated those who developed a belief in a higher power.  This made them bolder and fearless.  To those who are so persuaded, a belief and praying to God is no longer necessary.  Our technology is quickly conquering the world around us.  We are now the higher power for which we have always longed.  Of course the Bible directly contradicts such modern conjectures.  We were not created in ignorance and insecurity.  Mankind began in a special relationship with the Creator Himself.  God taught the first pair to tend a garden that He had prepared for them.  Thus man was not at the mercy of the elements originally.  It was a result of their sin and the fractured relationship with the Creator that led man to a scary, fearful place.  Though this relationship has been adversely affected, we are still able to connect with the Creator through prayer because we were designed for communication with Him from the beginning.  Thus this psalm began as a prayer of David to the One who created us.

In verse 1 David asks the Lord to hear his cry.  He is clearly in a desperate situation, and desperate situations have a way of forcing us to get real with God.  A righteous person will not be content to go through a mere ritual of religion.  When push comes to push, they will cry out to God with a passion that is not generally present when things are going easy.  In Isaiah 64:7, the prophet complains that there is “no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.”  Notice Isaiah’s desperation.  He feels alone.  He is calling on God’s name and stirring himself up to take hold of God.  This is a picture of holding on to God and not letting go until He answers you.  I pray that you are not content with just going through the motions.  I pray that you have learned the importance of stirring yourself up and passionately interacting with God like David is doing here.  Don’t settle for a dead faith and dead religion.  God reveals Himself to those who take hold of Him and don’t let go.

We also see in verse 1 that David prays to “the God of my righteousness.”  He recognizes that God is the source of his righteousness.  Of course, everyone thinks they are righteous.  Sometimes people use religion to justify their wicked deeds (name a religion, people have used them all).  Other times people use intellectual justifications that rely upon faulty logic.  David had been taught the Word of God, and had done his best to live by it.  It is to this One who has revealed the Way that the Israelites should live that David is appealing.  Of course our relationship with God has received far more revelation since then.  God has revealed The Way that all peoples on the earth should live.  The righteous are not those who appear to do all the right things.  The righteous are those who know that God is the source of their righteousness.  Without Him we would be trapped in ignorance.  Without Him we would still be trapped by our sins.  It is God who enables us to do and be anything that can be called good.

David has a present need, but he says, “You have relieved me in my distress.”  During present perils, it is easy to lose hope.  However, the righteous will remember past mercies to themselves and to others.  That memory becomes proof of future help.  God helps those who trust Him.  The Bible is filled with testimonies of God’s mercy to those who trusted Him.  If we discount God’s mercy in their lives and in our own then we are not being fair to God.  God has done too much for us to doubt Him.  Yes, your flesh does want Him to do more or something greater, but that is like a kid demanding ice cream and claiming their parents haven’t given them enough.  It is an immature and childish accusation.  In fact, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate act of mercy that should shake any doubt to its core.  Our future is sure, even though our present shouts that it is not.  This is the blessing of the righteous.

They are moved to talk with men

Now let’s look at verses 2 and 3.  It is easy to disconnect and go silent towards those who reject God and His Ways.  However, the righteous are moved to talk with the wicked as well.  Sure there may come a time when there is nothing more to be said.  But that does not discount that something must be said.  The unbelieving need a proper witness to the truth by those who do believe.  Part of that witness is to question the actions of the unrighteous.  David asks, “How long…”  It is partly a plea to repent and turn back to God.  However, it is also a warning.  How long will God allow you to get away with your rejection of Him and doing your own thing without His judgment?  Just as today is the day of salvation, so today is the day to proclaim the salvation of the Lord.  It is too easy to say nothing to people and pretend that we are okay.  But, the righteous through the ages have not been silent to those around them, at least at first.   David proclaims that the ungodly turn “my glory into shame.”  They were doing so by slandering any good thing that David had done.  We see the same thing done to Jesus and the early Christians.  But David may have also meant that they were shaming God by what they were doing to David.  In Psalm 3:3 David calls God, “my Glory.”  Either way, it is true that we shame God when we unjustly attack one another.  David recognizes that the ungodly seek after idols.  They have quit seeking God and given up on any help from Him.  Instead they turn to false answers, false truths.  If they are not caused to reconsider how can they then be saved?  They simply can’t.

David then turns to remind the ungodly of the faithfulness of the Lord.  He puts the point to them.  What side do you want to be on?  God is going to answer me, and in so doing you will be dealt with (of course, unless you repent).  Christians must be a prophetic voice to the world around us that God has set the godly apart for himself.  He will answer them when they call.  Why would you not want to be a part of such a group?  Yet, those who resist God and even take their stand against Him and His people are fighting a losing battle.  There are many today who reject the Bible and the Creator.  They work to diminish their affect upon this nation and world.  No matter how successful the ungodly appear, God is on the side of the godly and will answer their cries.  He is going to come in judgment against the wicked and for the righteous.

They hold fast to the lessons learned

In verses 4 and 5 David rehearses within himself, and now shares with others who are struggling with keeping the faith, those things that had been handed down by the righteous of ages past.  It is important to keep walking the right path even when we are waiting upon God to hear our prayer and answer us.  Thus David says, “Be angry and sin not.”  When you are mistreated it is natural to become angry.  Anger is a powerful motivator to do something.  Much like a reservoir of water behind a dam, the passion of our anger can break forth like an uncontrollable wave of water from a collapsing dam, or it can be released in controlled form through the proper channel of a spill gate.   Notice that it is not a sin to be angry.  It is what we do with anger that often is sin.  Thus anger is dangerous.  If it is not properly controlled and funneled into proper channels of action, it becomes destructive sin.  These words are repeated in Ephesians 4:26, and Paul adds the admonishment, “Do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  The word translated “wrath” is talking about the ways in which anger turns into sin.  It starts internally with irritation, bitterness, exasperation, and vengefulness.  It then leads to the external action of sin.  Yes, there is much to be angry about in this world because there is much sin.  However, the believer must restrain themselves from the affect that anger can have on their fleshly heart, and funnel it into passionate prayer before God and a passionate witness before the ungodly.  That witness is both vocal and non-vocal, through the life of righteousness to which we faithfully cling.  We must walk the walk in the face of all threats against us, whether they come from others, or within ourselves.

David next reminds himself to Meditate.  The righteous build a habit of meditating on their life before God in private.  This is not the eastern form of meditation where one is trying to clear their mind of everything.  That kind of meditation only opens you up to spiritual deception.  Biblical meditation is to bring the issues of our life before God, think about what the Scriptures say, and to think about what God would have us do.  It lays all that before Him and asks for His Spirit’s leading.  All of this happens within our heart when we are alone.  Of course, this can be alone in the sense that it happens in your mind when no one is intruding.  However, David refers to his bed.  We need to seek out times alone, so that we can meditate before the Lord and grow in understanding.  Jesus often sought out times alone to pray before the Lord.

David then remembers, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.”  The righteous always continue in the religious service that God has asked of them and yet do not allow it to become only a form.  They refuse just to go through the motions without a real life of trust and faith backing it up.  Thus many times to do the right thing is itself a sacrifice.  Our flesh doesn’t want to do it, but we die to the desires of our flesh and live out the righteousness of God.  This is the sacrifice that is pleasing to God.

Lastly, David says, “Put your trust in the Lord.”  Ultimately the godly throughout history teach us that the only wise thing we can do is to put our trust in the Lord, even when it seems like He is silent.  It must be done even when it seems like He is letting the ungodly win.  We need each of these lessons in our life today.  It may not seem like much, and the devil will tell you it is not enough.  But, he knows that a person who does these things will become impervious to his assaults, and will ruin his work in the lives of others.

They are blessed by God

The psalm ends with recognition that the ungodly are often cynical about such a witness from the righteous.  “Who will show us anything good,” is actually a challenge.  The ungodly have been tempted into following the logic and the thing that brings them something they desire.  They have become enslaved by their fleshly desires.  This is a sad way to be.  Only God’s grace can break through such cynicism.  So, David recognizes that the righteous will continue to look to God.  The phrase, “the light of your countenance,” is an allusion to the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:24-26.  There it says, “The LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”  This is a picture that God not only is aware, but He is looking upon us and His face is shining with good-will towards us, rather than a dark and stormy face of judgment.

This leads to the recognition that God gives gladness and joy to the righteous.  His truth tempers our immaturity and folly.  It fills us with the joy of knowing that God is more powerful and wise than anything that stands against us.  Thus, we cannot lose.  He is going to answer at the proper time.  So what makes you glad?  Is it bumper crops, which is basically economic increase?  If your joy is based on such temporary things, then you will be increasingly saddened and driven to leave God’s ways behind and forge your own path of success.  But, if you make relationship with God your joy, then you will never lack its presence in your heart, even when you are in the valley of the shadow of death.

Thus David talks about how the righteous are given peace and sleep in God’s safety.  God is our protector.  Why should we fear?  David says that he can sleep at night because God is what gives him peace and safety.  Though the world around us rages, we can be at peace as long as God is pleased.  Similarly, if the whole world is singing our praises, we dare not be at peace if God is unpleased with our life. 

The word translated “alone” in the last verse makes it sound like God is the only thing that makes David safe.  That is true of course.  But the word might better be translated in this way.  “In solitude, You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  This reference to solitude is a reference to God’s place of safety, or refuge.  We always have such a place internally within our mind and heart.  We can enter into this refuge and commune with the Lord even in the presence of our enemies.  However, such a place of refuge is also literal at times.  David fled into the wilderness from Saul and there God gave him a refuge, and a place of solitude in which he was safe from Saul’s threats.  During that time God spoke to David and encouraged him, while David waited for God’s promises to come true.  God periodically gives us breaks from the onslaught of the battle in order to comfort and encourage us.  This is the blessing that the righteous have from the Lord.  May we live faithfully for Him to the end of our lives!

Heart of a righteous person audio

Tuesday
Sep162014

Consequences: Rejecting the Gospel

Today we will be looking at Luke 10:12-16.  Here Jesus points out the consequences of rejecting the Gospel.  In some ways we are a generation in rebellion against this principle of cause and effect.  We like it when it allows us to create new technology.  But we do not like it when it gets in the way of our sin.  Sin always has destructive consequences in your life, of which the ultimate one is eternal judgment.

Jesus had just finished telling his disciples how to deal with rejection.  They were to shake the dust off of their feet as evidence against that city and those people.  They had heard the gospel.  Now Jesus turns to speak to those cities regarding the consequences.  Do you recognize that our decisions and choices in life have many consequences, and that some of those may be eternal?  Yes, some choices are about small matters and have minimal consequences.  But, rejecting the gospel of Jesus has eternal consequences.  Thus Jesus warns them of the coming Day of Judgment.  Jesus uses a term translated as “woe.”  It is more a cry than it is a word.  It is used to simulate the cry that comes from a person who is receiving punishment or judgment.  Woe is coming upon this world, and woe to those who refuse to hear the truth.

The Greater Witness

Jesus points out that some people have receive a greater witness of the Truth of God than others.  Greater here can mean in content.  Some had received a testimony of the law and yet others had received the greater testimony of the Gospel.  Although the Gospel is in the Law it is there in seed form.  In the gospel we see those seeds as full grown and flourishing plants.  However, some have received greater witness in the sense of the person and power displayed.  Sodom did have a witness of righteousness in the person of Lot.  However, Lot did not do any miracles that we know of.  Yet, the people of Capernaum had Jesus and his disciples who came healing all who came to them and casting out any demons.  Thus Jesus says in verse 15 that Capernaum was “exalted to the heavens.”  Of all Israel this city had received the greatest portion of Christ’s ministry, not because they deserved it more, but because that is just how things happened.  Jesus stayed in the north because it was not his time yet and Jerusalem was too hostile towards him.  His own town did not really want him around either.  Thus the cities of the Sea of Galilee received a greater portion of God’s grace to that age.

Yet, all peoples will be held accountable for that witness that they did receive.  These cities are being used to represent those who lived within them.  Jesus is not just warning cities, but in actuality, those individuals who lived within them.  Though some have received more witness and some less, all had received enough to believe.  In the Gospel of John Jesus had said, “My sheep hear my voice.”  Those who are hungry for truth will drink of it when it is given, regardless of the amount.  This Day of Accountability comes in two ways.  Sodom had received a judgment from God in which the whole city was destroyed and disappeared from the face of the earth.  This represents an extreme judgment while one is alive upon the earth.  They are not always this extreme.  But, we often experience God’s judgment against sin throughout our lives in various ways.  Yet, Jesus speaks of a judgment upon Sodom that is future.  Here he refers to The Final Judgment that takes place at the end of this age.  It is a judgment that is after our death and has eternal consequences.  Jesus says that it will be more tolerable for Sodom at the Final Judgment than it will be for Capernaum.  How could this be?  It will be this way because Capernaum had received far more than Sodom and yet would still ultimately reject Christ.

Think of each of these ancient cities.  Sodom, Tyre and Sidon were all Gentile cities that had received clear and overwhelming judgments from God.  Each of them had received some witness of the truth, whether through the lives of the righteous, or warnings from prophets.  It was easy for Israel to look down upon these cities as wicked and doomed by God’s judgment.  But they couldn’t see the same problem within themselves.  Just like Sodom, Capernaum would be brought down to hades, or the grave.  Not only will the inhabitants die, but the city will be completely destroyed too. 

So what is a “more tolerable” judgment?  Jesus is not saying that they will get off without judgment.  The inhabitants of both Sodom and Capernaum will suffer judgment.  But those who had the greater witness will receive a greater judgment.  There are several verses within the New Testament that mention different degrees of punishment in hell.  We are given no details which has lead to the imagination of men to write books like Dante’s “Inferno.”  But, recognize that lesser punishment is no great hope.  It is the greater punishment that is meant to be a warning to Capernaum, Chorazin, and Bethsaida.  Though the degrees of punishment are not detailed they are presented as a matter of fact.  Here is one of them.  Luke 12:47-48.

“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.”

Thus, the key is to take full advantage of the truth and witness that God gives you.  No one will be held accountable for what they didn’t receive.  Sometimes we have the tendency to expect God to “prove” himself to us.  I will not believe unless God does such and such exactly to my specifications.  Be careful of such an attitude.  God has revealed himself to you in a way for which you will be accountable.  You can miss the blessing of that witness because it is not “great” enough.

Rejecting His Disciples Is Rejecting Jesus

Jesus ends this with the statement that his disciples represent him.  He has appointed and sent them.  Down through the ages this teaching has been passed down.  To reject these teachers was to reject Christ himself.  Now it is clear that not all who claim to represent Christ actually do.  They represent their own selfish motivations.  Yet, this is not an excuse to reject those who really do represent Christ.  We are fooling ourselves if we say that no one represents Jesus.  This is a warning to both Churches and to those who judge them.  It is a warning to both Christians and those who despise them.  We will be held accountable for what God has given us.  Lastly, Jesus is equated with the Father.  To reject Jesus is to reject God the Father.  Many say they serve God, but refuse to accept Jesus.  This is tragic because the Father sent Jesus.  Jesus is his plan.  He wants you to know that and is working to reveal that truth to you.  There is no other way.  Don’t use your devotion to God as a means of cloaking your rejection of Jesus because to reject Jesus is actually rejecting the Father himself.

Final Thoughts

America has received a great quantity and quality of God’s witness compared to many other places.  Will we not go through difficult things in this life and in the Final Judgment because of this?  Don’t harden your heart because you don’t think it is great enough.  In fact, many from places that have received far less witness are pressing into the Kingdom of God ahead of Americans.  We most certainly have judgments coming within this life at every level: individual, city, state, and the nation as a whole.  Unless we repent and turn in faith to Jesus it is unavoidable.  The warning signs are all around us and in fact we are already knee deep in it.  Yet, even now, if we will turn from our wicked ways and turn towards Jesus we can be saved.

God loves us and will be faithful to give us enough in order to believe.  Great miracles are no guarantee of faith.  Many have perished and gone on to judgment in spite of amazing miraculous things.  Look at the grace and truth He is pouring out to you even now and believe.

Consequences audio

Tuesday
Sep092014

The Lord Needs Workers

Today we are going to look at Luke 10:1-11.  Here we have Jesus sending out some of his disciples to minister throughout Israel, just as he did at the beginning of chapter 9.  However, now he appoints a group beyond “The Twelve,” referred to as the Seventy.

Here we see that the need is greater than the 12 can do alone.  In fact it was and is greater than what these 70 can do.  However, we are shown the heart of God to reach the lost and his need of believers who will partner with Him to do that.

The Sending of the 70 Disciples

Now we notice that these 70 are being sent out in the same way that the 12 had been sent out earlier.  They are going in pairs and they are going to the cities of Israel.  Now, 70 is an important number.  Just as the 12 disciples correspond with the 12 tribes of Israel, so the 70 correspond with the 70 elders of Israel.  They become representative in the Kingdom of God of what the others were in the beginning of the Kingdom of Israel.  In Exodus 24 we are introduced to the 70 elders as they go with Moses and Aaron on the mountain and eat a meal before a heavenly vision of the throne of God.  We also see them again in Numbers 11 where God places a portion of the Holy Spirit upon them to help Moses in leading Israel.  Thus it is clear that Christ is using the numbers on purpose to point to the new work that God was doing through the godly remnant of Israel.

We are also told that these 70 disciples were appointed and sent by Jesus.  The word “appoint” here literally means to raise someone up to a position.  There was a large pool of believers that followed Jesus and yet he raised 70 up out of this larger group for a specific task.  They become second tier apostles or “sent ones” to minister for the Lord.

Their task focuses on preparing the way for Jesus.  Jesus would be coming to those cities and villages at some point.  The work of the 70 would wet the spiritual thirst of people for when that would happen.  Not all are called to be evangelists and pastors.  However, our interactions with others can prepare them for a visitation of the Spirit of the Lord.  Jesus no longer walks on this earth physically.  But His Spirit is moving throughout the earth in order to draw people to Jesus.  These visitations of the Spirit of God come and go.  We can cooperate with the Spirit to prepare people and to save them.  Paul refers to this as planting, watering, and harvesting.  All of these spiritual works are done by believers in Christ in cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then points out the great need of workers in God’s Kingdom.  There are a large number of people to reach.  That doesn’t necessarily mean the majority.  Scripture is clear that the majority of the world will follow the wicked path to destruction.  But the narrow path that leads to life will be found by the minority.  Yet, this is not a set percentage.  In some places more or less will come to Christ.  We have testimonies of whole villages coming to believe in Christ and others where He is rejected.  Yet, the harvest is still large and will take a lot of workers; workers who are willing to sweat in order to bring it in.  Do we sometimes err in expecting people to harvest themselves?  It is our duty to go out and help people to come into the kingdom of God.  This is not a one moment thing.  It involves all the work that leads up to the day of harvest.  If our life is focused primarily on what we want in life, we will only give a half-hearted attempt at reaching the lost if any.  Thus Jesus points out the need for prayer.

Prayer is the place where God touches our heart.  We can’t pray for the harvest without being concerned for it.  The more we pray, the more the Lord will touch our heart.  Yes, prayer can be used to unload burdens.  But it can also be a place to pick up the burden that God has for those who are lost; the urgency to work hard to bring them in.

Instructions For Going

In verses 3 and 4, Jesus gives them instructions regarding their going.  They are to go as “lambs among wolves.”  This metaphor represents our spirit or demeanor among the lost.  We are going out into a den of wolves looking for lost sheep, and our tendency is to become like the wolves out of self-preservation.  Wolves are bloody, cruel, aggressive, and to be feared.  They will eat you up if you give them the chance.  However, lambs are peaceful, not aggressive, and definitely not feared.  They are the vulnerable ones.  What manner of spirit are we?

Jesus also sends these 70 without material provisions.  They are not to concern themselves with their material needs.  Rather, they are to depend upon God to provide.  Notice that it is clear that Jesus intends for their material needs to be met by those who receive the gospel from them.  We will talk more about being content with what is provided in the next point.  But, here the emphasis is upon trusting God.  This is not an endeavor that we can accomplish in our flesh.  We need the Lord to supply both our material needs and spiritual accomplishment.

He also tells them to “Greet no one.”  The concern here is to be one who is focused upon a specific task.  They are official representatives of the Kingdom of God.  The temptation to get distracted when responding to the task given is still with us today.  Many people who have started to go for the Lord have gotten distracted from the main purpose of reaching the lost.  In fact, some have gone so far as to be entangled in the cares of this world to the point of ship wrecking their faith.  We must keep a single eye upon this work.

Instructions For Ministering

Verses 5-11 detail the instructions for what to do when they reach the cities.  They are to approach the people of these cities as a giver of peace.  In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus had said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the Sons of God.”  Peace is a hallmark of God.  Where God’s Spirit is there will be peace.  Thus the ambassadors of Jesus are to be peaceful within their selves and to be givers of peace.  Yet, not all desire peace. There are wolves they will meet.  We must not have a fake peace that is quickly thrown aside when others reject us.  The peace of Christ went all the way to the cross.  Is your “peace” a mile wide and an inch thick?  Is it easily pierced and dissipated as the morning fog?  Jesus says that if your peace is rejected it will return to you.  By the act of rejection your peace is “thrown back in your face.”  They reject both words and actions.  Yet, it is our duty to “take our peace back” and move on in peace.

Jesus also points out their attitude towards what would be provided by those who received them.  They would be uniquely susceptible to certain temptations because they were taking no provisions with them.  Jesus tells them to receive whatever they are given.  In other words, don’t be picky.  Our concern must never be how great the provision is, whether in quantity or quality.  Our concern must only be upon the work of the Lord.  In truth, such provisions are given to God anyways.  The people who would bless them are doing so out of thankfulness for the work that God is doing through these “sent ones.”

Jesus also warns against moving from house to house.  This was a method of getting everyone’s best.  You stay at a house until they are no longer treating you royally and then you move to another home.  This is a fleshly motivation that is not to be followed.

Yet, the laborer is worthy of his hire.  When we labor to bring spiritual blessings to people it is only natural that they minister to our material needs.  I don’t need an expensive car and a multi-million dollar home.  But I do have need of shelter, clothing and food.  To have your eyes opened to the truth of your lost condition and yet the grace that God has for you is an amazing thing.  You are receiving the eternal effect of salvation.  Consider that in contrast to the temporary effect of a morsel of food.  Is this fraught with temptations and pitfalls?  You better believe it.  There are pitfalls for both the minister and the one being ministered to.  So Jesus warns them and us.

Ultimately they were to minister to those who received them, wherever that was at.  They were to heal the sick and to cast out demons.  They were to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.  It has come near to you.  Enter in by faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though some places would reject them, they were to focus on leaving behind a good witness.  The symbolic act of shaking the dust off of their feet was a way of saying, “I did my job and I leave this dirt as evidence that I was here.”  It is also a way of saying, “I will not let your rejection of Christ and scoffing of his ways cling to me.”  This symbolic act is a witness against them if they go into eternity without repenting.  Leaving is inevitable.  But what we do will either help them to salvation or condemn them.  They will be without excuse.

Let me close by encouraging us to respond to this mission that Christ shows us.  This mission to reach those who are lost with the Gospel has many temptations.  But if we listen to Christ we can do a job that he will rejoice in.  So that we may hear one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lord Needs Workers audio