- I think that the ability that I have to sleep, to some degree, is related to my theology…If I believed that the salvation of souls depended on me, I don’t know that I could sleep well…I promise you that if I felt for one minute that anybody was going to go to hell because, somehow, I failed to make the necessary adjustments in the message to persuade them to believe, I would have a very hard time sleeping.
- a kind of Magna Carta from our Lord on the issue of evangelism.
- The coming of Messiah was always connected with national salvation and international impact…But our Lord has been with this now for a while. There may be a little more than a year away from the cross, so He’s been at this, virtually, for two years. And while there is a superficial fascination on the part of people, there – there just are not many real followers, true believers. What is wrong? Why is it this way? Where is the national repentance? Where is the national redemption? Where – where is the fulfillment of the Gentiles and the nations coming to Israel and coming to the God of Israel? What’s the problem?
- Well the flesh would respond by saying, “We need a different strategy, this one is not really working.” …We’re out of touch somehow with the felt needs of the people.” That’s hard to sell, since Jesus had virtually banished illness from Israel for the duration of His ministry, dispossessed people of indwelling demons, and stopped funeral processions dead in their tracks by raising the dead person to life…But nonetheless, somehow the – the fault must be ours…It’s that kind of thinking, that kind of fleshly thinking that essentially is behind all evangelical adjustments in the gospel that, somehow, we’ve got to overcome the sinner’s resistance.
Jesus’ Evangelistic Instruction
- the Lord gives us, really, a whole chapter here on evangelistic instruction. It’s foundational, I think, to our understanding of biblical evangelism.
- The only human act, our Lord is saying, is to sow and go to sleep while the crop mysteriously grows.
- Nicodemus is saying, “How can I be born again? How can I be regenerated? What do I do?” Jesus doesn’t say to him, “Here’s four steps, here’s three steps, pray this prayer.” He says to him, “That’s really beyond your power…The seed grows, the farmer hasn’t got an idea how it happens. He’s not in charge of the power. He’s not in charge of the energy. The Spirit does His work. The Spirit blows in like the wind, transforming, regenerating a heart. This is a divine work. Even our Lord completely understands that and confirms it.
- I want to show you an illustration of this…the thief on the cross. Luke 23 verse 39, “One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, ‘Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!'” …What happened to that thief? The only explanation for faith at that moment on the cross in the life of that thief was the power of God on his soul. You think, somehow, that your cleverness is the source of someone’s conversion? The Lord Jesus, at His weakest, most vulnerable, looking totally defeated, hanging on that cross, and beside him the Spirit of God brings life to a dead heart, light to a blinded soul and clear faith and understanding bursts forth.
- We may be the means but we are not the power. Do we understand that? We may be the secondary agency but we are not the causing agency. We have no role but to sow the seed and go to sleep and let the work of God be done…Spiritual life and regeneration is divinely automatic. But there are essential elements in that automatic operation that must be there.
How do we approach evangelism?
- Humility, because it’s really not in our power to do the work.
- verse 14. “The sower sows the Word.” This is so foundational, I – I – I just – I feel kind of foolish even saying it, but it should be obvious to all of us that there are no adjectives to describe the sower, the sower, anybody who throws seed, anybody.
- “The Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, chief priests and scribes, be killed, be raised on the third day.” …That’s the seed. That’s the gospel seed. That’s the Word concerning Christ…”We preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, to Gentiles foolishness,” – listen to this – “but to those who are the called,” there’s a Calvinist statement for you. Those who are the called, those who hear the divine call, those who are under the divine automatic work, those on whom the wind of the Spirit blows, this message which will always be foolish, which will always be a stumbling block to the natural man becomes the power of God for salvation.
- Well, what is the parable about if it’s not about sowers and seed? Can’t mess with sower, it’s anybody who sows the seed. Can’t do anything with the seed, you don’t want to create a synthetic seed and – and get a mutation, do you? I think a lot of that is going on. I think all over the place there are quasi-churches of mutations…The issue in the parables is soil…Matthew 13, the parallel, it says, “That which is sown in the heart.” So the soil is the heart. I can sow the seed. I can’t change the heart.
- It’s popular for people to think that they can alter the heart…I’m not interested in manipulating anybody’s will. I never appeal to the emotion. I’m not interested in making anybody sentimental about Jesus. All appeals are to the mind, to understand the truth, to understand the truth. Don’t appeal to people emotionally, because you’ll get a whole lot of emotional response. Don’t appeal to people’s wills because you’ll get a whole lot of self-willed responses. You always appeal to the mind…But the bottom line is, we have no power over those hearts. We can’t give life to the dead. We can’t give light to the darkened. We can’t give sight to the blind. So we approach this ministry humbly. We sow seed.
- Second attitude, just briefly, is found in the parable in verses 21 to 23. “A lamp is not brought in to be put under a basket, is it, or under a bed? Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand? For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” …We are humble because we know we are not the power in salvation. But we are obedient because we know we possess the light…We are humble because we know we are not the power to change the heart. But we are obedient because we know we are the means by which the light comes…Scatter the seed, spread the light.
- We go humbly, we go obediently, we go diligently. Some people say, “Well, if you’re going to believe all of this and you’re going to believe it’s all the work of God, that takes the motivation out of evangelism.”…look at verses 24 and 25. “Take care,” this is another little axiomatic analogy, “Take care what you listen to.” – or how you listen – “By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides.”
- Just how diligent should we be…”By the standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given to you besides.” Here we come right back to the fact that this astonishing promise, truism, axiom is this. Usefulness in gospel evangelism is proportionate to the seed sown and leads directly to eternal reward. Sow sparingly, reap sparingly. Sow bountifully, reap bountifully. So you sow the seed, you sow it diligently because you know that your usefulness is proportionate to your sowing. And that leads to divine blessing. That leads to eternal reward. That’s how you purchase friends for eternity.
- “It’s like a mustard seed, which, when sown on the soil, though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil,” …We sow confidently because we know that God has determined an exponential outcome.
- “What does it mean the birds nest in the mustard seed?” I’ll tell you what it means. All you have to do is read Ezekiel 17. The birds represent the nations of the world. And you have the same thing in the illustration of Daniel chapter 4. Nebuchadnezzar’s view of his kingdom was that the kingdom was made up of his people and the birds were all the nations who nested in his great kingdom.
A Father That Gives Life
- One final thought…”They had gained no insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.” And that night when He came to them in the boat, He stepped in the boat, the hardness was gone and they said, “Truly You are God’s Son.”
- How did that happen? I think the Father in that moment on the lake in Galilee that night answered His Son’s prayer for them and opened their hearts. That was the great transforming. Was there something about the walking on the water that was more impactful than what He had done the day before or what He did for all the times before? That was the moment. In the most unlikely circumstances, in the most unlikely ways, automatically life, hard hearts are shattered. I tell you what, it’s pretty exciting to be a part of this. The burden is not mine, except to sow the seed.
- Father, we thank You for a wonderful text of Scripture, rich, full, blessed. We love You. We love Your Word. We exalt You. Be exalted through us as we faithfully sow the gospel seed. For the glory of Christ. Amen.