Category Archives: Evangelism

Matthew 11:28 – I Will Give You Rest

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

What does it say?

Jesus spoke to people who were laboring and who had heavy loads and told them to come to Him and He would give them rest.

What does it mean?

The hard work and heavy burdens Jesus spoke about were not physical work or heavy packages to carry. He was talking about the false ideas that the religious leaders burdened people with. For example, Jesus stated that the Pharisees “bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4). These burdens were in addition to the good Law that God gave to the Israelites in the Bible. God’s laws were designed to keep them from evil and to help them do what was right. Sadly, the Pharisees and other religious people had added to God’s law many extra traditions and rules that had become more than anyone could bear.

The Pharisees, who were the most stringent of the religious groups, required many things of the people. And if someone didn’t follow their rules, they were considered to be sinners. Do a quick search of the word “Pharisee” in the New Testament and you will find these things.

1. You can’t eat with sinful people.
2. You have to fast a lot.
3. You can’t do much on the Sabbath day.
4. You have to wash your hands before eating.
5. You have to tithe everything including spices.
6. You have to be circumcised and obey the Law.

Besides what is mentioned in the Bible, “it has been said … that the Pharisees had added over 600 regulations regarding what qualified as ‘working’ on the Sabbath. That is a heavy burden!”1 With all that the religious leaders required, the people were spiritually burdened with requirements that they would never be able to accomplish.

Jesus told these burdened people to come to Him to find rest. This was much different than what they had been taught. They were under great pressure to perform great acts of righteousness to show how good they were. But Jesus doesn’t say that. He says, come to Me and I will give you rest. Rest is the opposite of working to please God. Someone might ask how God can be pleased if we just rest. Ah… but that is not what Jesus says. He says come to… Me. It is not the lack of work that gives rest; it is the coming to Jesus. He is the One who gives the much-needed rest. And this rest can only come from Him.

How does it apply?

The same problem exists today. Religious groups all over the world teach that you have to do something to gain God’s favor. Those who follow these religions are heavily burdened with the requirements given to them.

1. The Roman Catholic believes that “as long as you remain in a state of grace, you’ll go to heaven.”2

2. The Muslim believes that he must follow the five pillars of Islam.

3. The Sikh believes that he must “serve humanity without expecting reward or recognition.”3

4. The Buddhist believes that he must practice the 5 precepts.4

The common teaching of religion is that you have to do something in order to be right with God. But this is different than what Jesus says here. He says that we must come to Him and that He will give us rest. We don’t need to do good things to become good enough. Instead, He is enough and provides what we need to be made right with God. This is different than most people think. But it makes sense when you read what the rest of the Bible says.

1. We all are sinners who deserve God’s judgment (Rom. 3:10; 6:23).

2. None of us can be good enough to make things right with God (Isa. 64:6).

3. Jesus left heaven and came to earth to die in our place (1 Pet. 3:18).

4. He could die in our place because He is God and is perfectly sinless (2 Cor. 5:21).

5. He died on the cross to pay for our sins (1 John 2:2).

6. God the Father accepted His death for our sins (Matt. 27:51).

7. God the Father requires repentance from sin and faith in Jesus (Acts 20:21).

Notice that instead of telling us what to do, Jesus did it all for us. “Christ is the end of the law to those who believe. He removes the sin and the guilt, he does the saving.”5 If you have been trying to gain God’s favor by doing a bunch of things, you are still under the burden that Jesus was talking about. Instead of trying to do enough good deeds in hope of gaining God’s favor, come to Jesus and find the rest that only He offers.

Romans 4:5 – “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

Footnotes

1 “What does it mean when Jesus says…”
2 “How to Go to Heaven”
3 “Core Beliefs and Practices of Sikhism”
4 “Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained”
5 Lenski 457.

Bibliography

“Core Beliefs and Practices of Sikhism” as viewed at https://dvnetwork.org/…/core-beliefs-and-practices-of… as viewed on 2/8/2024.

“Five Precepts of Buddhism Explained” as viewed at https://tricycle.org/magazine/the-five-precepts on 2/8/2024.

“How to Go to Heaven” as viewed at https://www.catholic.com/…/online…/how-to-go-to-heaven on 2/8/2024.

Lenski, R. C. H., Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Columbus: The Wartburg Press, 1943.

Plummer, Alfred, Matthew, Minneapolis: James Family, n.d.

“What does it mean when Jesus says, ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:30)?” as viewed at https://printer.gotquestions.net/GeneratePF?articleId=2173 on 2/5/2024.

Not ashamed to confess Christ

“We are not to be ashamed to confess Christ before men, and to let others know what He had done for our souls. If we have found peace through His blood, and been renewed by His Spirit, we must not shrink from avowing it, on every proper occasion. It is not necessary to blow a trumpet in the streets and force our experience on every body’s notice. All that is required is a willingness to acknowledge Christ as our Master, without flinching from the ridicule or persecution which by so doing we may bring on ourselves. More than this is not required; but less than this ought not to content us. If we are ashamed of Jesus before men, He will one day be ashamed of us before His Father and the angels.”

J. C. Ryle, Ryle’s Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Volume One, Matthew–Mark, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977, p. 101-02.

How can we save America?

In about a year, the United States will vote to elect a new president. At the moment, the top contenders are Joe Biden and Donald Trump. But I wouldn’t be surprised if something changes before next year. With all that is happening in the justice system, we may have new contenders to vote for before that time. But the truth is that even if we could bring back the best president from the past or put a great Christian leader into office, there is no guarantee that this would solve our country’s problems. Why is that? The current problems in our country are not problems that can ultimately be addressed by the government.

  1. The problem of sinful people

    When people become wicked, their thoughts control their actions (Gen. 6:5). During Noah’s lifetime, the people became so wicked that they couldn’t think good thoughts. Everything they thought about was evil and those thought led to actions. It became so bad that God was sorry He had created them. We live in a nation where there is still some morality left over from previous generations. But the vast majority of people are becoming less interested in doing right. They have learned to justify their sins and others are learning to think this way, too.

    When people persistently reject God, things will get worse (Rom. 1:18-32). During Paul’s lifetime, He saw God’s judgment on sinful humanity. When the people rejected what they knew about God, He gave them over to their lust and they began to practice terrible things. The people became increasingly sinful as God gave them over to the results of their sin. Has much changed today? Despite our history of being a so-called “Christian nation,” our country has increasingly okay with abortion, adultery, sexual perversion, and dishonesty. Things are not getting better. They are getting worse.

    When things get worse, it could be a sign of the end (2 Tim. 3:1-7). Paul told us that the last days will include a wide range of sins. His list was written by the inspiration of God almost two thousand years ago but it seems like it was written to describe our current culture. Our culture glorifies revenge, covetousness, pleasure seeking, and other lusts. While these things have existed in many cultures, it does make you wonder how long our civilization can last. What can be done?

    We need to preach repentance from sin (Mark 1:4, 15). It is instructive that God sent John the Baptist to preach repentance before Jesus began His earthly ministry. Before people would be ready to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they would need to acknowledge and turn from their own sin. His message reached tax collectors, soldiers, and kings. Should we do any less? If we shy away from speaking the truth about sin, how will people know about their sin against God?

    We need to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). What Jesus told His disciples to do would change the world. But note what He told them to do. His command was not to infiltrate government with Christian principles or to organize a new political party. His main command was to preach the gospel. The gospel is the good news that should follow the preaching of repentance. Once someone has acknowledged his sin against God, he needs to know that Jesus paid the price for his sins. Jesus, the Son of God, took the punishment for all the sins of the world on Himself when He died on the cross. Now all those who repent of their sin and put their faith in Him will be forgiven by God and changed.

    We need to believe that God can change people (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 1:23-24). The Bible tells us that the person who has been saved by God will be changed. God makes them a new person on the inside and this change will eventually be seen on the outside. As the Spirit conforms each believer to Jesus’ character, people will see a different attitude, actions, and purposes. This was seen in Paul when God saved him. He had been known for his violent persecution of Christians. But after his conversion, he was known for preaching the faith that “he once tried to destroy.”

    We have heard many political speeches from potential candidates for president. Some of them sound pretty good. While we hope to have good people in government, this should not be what we hang our confidence on. Instead, we should follow God’s plan to change the world through the preaching of the gospel. Good government can hold back sinful man for a while. But only God can make a lasting change in their hearts that will eventually be seen in their actions.

    While we have considered the problem of sinful people, this is not the only problem we currently face.

  2. The problem of inactive Christians.

    When Christians are spiritually immature, problems increase (1 Cor. 3:1-3). If the problems of sinful people can be addressed by preaching the gospel, why aren’t we doing it? One answer is the spiritual immaturity of some Christians. Paul saw this in the early Corinthian church. Instead of progressing in their spiritual growth, they had remained spiritually immature because of sin in their own lives. Oftentimes the reason that the gospel is not being preached is the fact that unconfessed sin is holding Christians back from doing anything.

    When Christians don’t act on what they hear, they become useless (Jam. 1:22). Another thing that holds back the church from reaching the world with the gospel is the unwillingness of Christians to act on what they have learned from the Bible. They sit in church and hear the preacher preach. They read their Bibles at home. They learn and answer questions in Sunday School. But if they never act on what they hear, very little will be accomplished.

    When Christians are worldly, they won’t love God or His purposes (1 John 2:15-17). From the beginning, Satan has been effective at distracting people from God’s purposes. He uses the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life to deceive us into becoming complacent about God. When we should be loving and obeying God, we end up loving the world instead. It is hard to get a worldly Christian to reach the world.

    We need to put God’s purposes first in our lives (Matt. 6:33). When Jesus originally spoke these words, He was talking about trusting God to meet our needs. Our first desire should not be worrying about our daily needs; it should be doing God’s will. When we put God’s kingdom first, we will make His priorities our own. When we put His righteousness first, we will live in a way that is godly and appropriate for someone proclaiming the gospel to a sinful world.

    We need to be a shining light to the world (Matt. 5:14-16). Jesus made it clear that His followers would be a light to the world. Jesus was the original light of the world, but they would reflect His light to all who would see and hear them. This is still true today. By living a godly life, we can show the world the change that God has made in us. As we do this, we will be evidence that God can change a sinner into a new creation. But if we hide our light, how will they know?

    We need to renew our minds daily (Rom. 12:1-2). As we go through each day, it is important to give ourselves daily to God’s service. We need to be willing to do His will every moment of our lives. But there is a continuing problem. After attending church services, you may turn on the radio and hear competing ideas. You may read a book or watch a newscast that contradicts what you heard. And if you are not careful, your mind can be turned away from what God has taught you. When this happens, the best antidote is to read your Bible and renew your mind. As you meditate on God’s truths and ask God for wisdom, He will conform your thinking to what He has revealed in the Bible.

Conclusion

As we see the culture around us become more degraded, it would be easy for us to think that a new voice in government will make the difference. While we should pray for our government officials and use our vote to hold back evil, the ultimate solution to our problems is the gospel. Without it, sinful people will continue to get worse and government will have to invest in more laws and police. But if the hearts of people are changed by God, this will make a drastic difference.

What you should consider now is how you will be a part of God’s plan. Will you repent of your sinful complacency and start preaching the gospel to sinful humanity? It may not be easy, but as you seek God’s help, meditate on the Bible, and actively seek to proclaim God’s message, people will have the opportunity to hear and believe and be changed. Will you do your part in God’s solution for man’s problems?


Bibliography

“Why Government is Not the Answer” as viewed at https://www.gotquestions.blog/government-is-not-the-answer.html on 9/17/2023.

Two Voices

“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”1

According to the Bible, our current, sinful nature is a direct result of a choice made by the first man and woman. In the beginning, they heard from two competing voices before making their tragic choice. The first voice they heard from was God. When He created Adam, He placed him in the beautiful Garden of Eden and provided everything he could ever want: fruit trees, a river, the privilege of tending the garden, and also a wife. The two of them were given a paradise to enjoy together with only one rule. They could eat from every fruit tree in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The penalty for eating this fruit would be death.2 But with all that God had already provided for them, why would they want to disobey God and face death?

The second voice came from a serpent. As serpents do not normally talk, the voice must have come from the great deceiver Satan. He subtly asked the woman if God had forbidden them from eating any fruit in the garden. She corrected him and said that they were permitted to eat of any fruit except for fruit from one tree. She was convinced that eating that fruit or even touching it would bring about her death. The serpent took advantage of her naivety and told a lie. He claimed that she would not die but that God was withholding something she should desire—the ability to be like God by knowing both good and evil. Despite all the good that God had done for them, Eve chose to believe the serpent’s lie instead of God’s truth. She chose to eat the forbidden fruit and give some to her husband. Sadly, the result was just as God had promised. “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because all sinned.”3 Two competing voices led to two vastly different results.

1 Gen. 3:2-5 2 Gen. 2:15-17 3 Rom. 5:12 — Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Two Books

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. … And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”1

According to the Bible, God will judge all people after death. The final judgment will be based on what is written in two books. The first book contains a record of the works each person has done. If this book contains a record of everything we have done, are any of us good enough to escape God’s judgment? The sad answer is no. The Bible says that “we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses [good works] are like filthy rags.”2 It is clear that God is not impressed with our “good works.” The Bible also says that “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.”3 If this is God’s description of the works of all people, then none of us has a chance to escape a guilty verdict at the final judgment.

The second book used at the final judgment is the Book of Life. The first book contains a record of all the works each person has done. This second book only contains a listing of names. At the end of this final judgment, anyone whose name is not listed in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire—God’s punishment for all who have sinned and rebelled against Him. But anyone whose name is listed in the Book of Life will escape this judgment. Instead of eternal punishment, they are given life. The big question that should be asked is this. How can my name be recorded in the Book of Life so that I can escape the coming judgment?

Footnotes
1 Revelation 20:11-12, 15
2 Isaiah 64:6
3 Romans 3:10-12

Help Wanted – Part 3 – Matt. 9:35-38

In the past two “Help Wanted” messages, we have seen a couple of things. First, we must have compassion for the lost. Jesus was moved with compassion for the people around Him. We should do that as well. Second, we must notice the needs. I think that it is instructive that Jesus noticed the needs as He was ministering to people. When we are involved in people’s lives, our awareness of the needs around us will grow.

We finally come to the part of the passage that we have been expecting—verse 38. There Jesus completes His thought by saying, “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” From this, we see our third point.

3. Pray that God would send more laborers (38).

a. What should we do?

Many of us are wired to do what needs to be done. As we see the needs around us, our compassion grows, and we want to do something about the problems. A pastor recently visited our church and noted that he would be retiring soon. He, like many churches, is looking for someone to continue the ministry. As we see these needs, we have ideas and maybe people in mind to help. But our first actions should be to pray. This is what Jesus tells the disciples to do.

Prayer is one of those things that takes the weight of each situation off of our own shoulders (Phil. 4:6-7). It is stopping and including God in the work that we are trying to do. If you think about that, it makes a lot of sense to stop work on occasion to pray to God. He is the One with the power to meet the need. The word pray usually means “to ask.” Here it can also mean to beg or plead (Mounce). That makes this sentence come a bit more alive. We are not just reading through a list of prayer requests. We are pleading for compassion and for the needs to be met.

b. Who is the Lord of the harvest?

In Bible times, there was one person in charge of the harvest. You might think of Boaz in the Book of Ruth. He was the owner of the fields and the one in charge of those who worked for him and those who gleaned after the workers went through. I would imagine that it would be like saying the word manager to us today. It referred to the person in charge of the harvest.

Who is in charge of the spiritual harvest? Is it the pastor of the church? Is it the missionary on the mission field? No, the Lord of the harvest is God the Father. He is the One who is behind the scenes making things happen. He is at work in people’s hearts and that includes both Christians and those whose eyes He will eventually open. God has everything worked out and His plan is being fulfilled despite the many needs we see around us.

c. What should we ask Him to do?

Once again, we may be surprised at what Jesus tells the disciples. Shouldn’t they start reaping the harvest? Shouldn’t they start talking with people? Shouldn’t they do something? I suppose that it is true that the disciples should have gotten up and started working. But the immediate need was greater than they could handle. They needed more help to minister to so many people.

The Lord of the Harvest is God the Father. He is fully aware of what the needs are and where there are qualified workers available to help. So we are told to ask that God would send out laborers into His harvest. The implied thought is that God will hear and answer our prayers.

I have been wondering a couple of things. First, I wonder how missionary recruiters are doing. We support missionaries who go to churches and Christian colleges hoping to find young people whom the Lord is preparing for the mission field. Are they finding many who are willing to go? Second, I wonder who the Lord will send to help us in Willard. In my mind, I am hoping for a young couple to join us or a young family. But I don’t know what the Lord will do.

Conclusion

While we faithfully seek to do the work in front of us, we see the needs and feel compassion for people who need Jesus. But as we notice these things, our first action should be to pray that God would send out laborers into His harvest. We do not know what He is doing behind the scenes. (I would like to know some day.) But we are confident that He is aware of the needs, that He cares about people, and that He will hear us when we pray.

With all of that in mind, let us take the time to pray for God to send more Christians into the many needy areas of our country including where we currently are ministering. And when God sends us the help we need, let us thank God for them, accept them into our church family, and work faithfully together with them in God’s harvest field.

Bibliography

“δέομαι” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/deomai on 3/29/2023.

Help Wanted – Part 2 – Matthew 9:35-38

During a recent conversation with my boss, I was informed that a certain area of the country had a lot of potential. According to him, we could be doing much better but were limited by the amount of employees we had in that area. This led me to place help wanted advertisements on the internet to find more people who could fill the need there.

As we have been looking at Matthew 9:35-38, we have already seen the compassion Jesus had toward the needy people around Him. As he worked with them, his heart was moved with emotion because they were weary and harassed by their religious leaders. We ought to follow His example by being compassionate toward the lost around us. But there is something else we should do as well.

2. Take note of the needs (37).

Before we get to praying for more laborers, we need to stop and take note of what the needs are. Have you ever been asked to pray and then stumbled about because you didn’t have anything to say? I have felt that way before. It is best to know what you are needing before asking for help. This is what Jesus did before telling His disciples to pray. He showed them what the need was.

a. What is the status of the harvest?

Define harvest.

Mounce defines θερισμὸς as “a harvest, the act of gathering in the harvest, reaping, Jn. 4:35; met. the harvest of the Gospel, Mt. 9:37, 38; Lk. 10:2; a crop.” In normal language, a harvest is the grain or crop in the field which will eventually be harvested for food. But Jesus was using the word to describe the spiritual situation where He was. He saw this group of people as a crop ready to be harvested.

When I am hiring drivers, I have to balance the desire for workers with the amount of work that is available. Imagine if there were 33 taxi cabs in Willard. Do you think there would be enough work for all of them? Probably not. But when Jesus looked at the spiritual harvest at that moment, what did he see?

Define plentiful.

Mounce defines πολύς as “great, large; more than, greater than; the most; very large.” The idea was that the spiritual crop around him was larger than normal. When harvested it would include a great number of people. Grandpa Plikerd of Delphos, Ohio showed me pictures of a field of corn that was 8 feet tall by the Fourth of July. It was the biggest crop he had experienced. Jesus told his disciples that the spiritual crop around them was very large.

Can you think of another time when Jesus used this idea of a crop needing to be harvested? “The figure of reaping a harvest he had employed before (perhaps a year before, at Jacobs’ well (John 4:35 ff.)” (Broadus 211). At that time, Jesus was referring to the many people coming from Samaria to talk with him after his conversation with the woman at the well.

John 4:35 – “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

The status of the harvest is not always the same. Jesus did not speak this way at every place he spoke. But in this instance, he saw the great possibilities. Do you take note of the status of the spiritual harvest field around you? There is often a need wherever we go. Yes, there are places where people are especially hardened against the truth. But there are often others whose hearts the Lord is working in. Take note. Explore the possibilities. If we don’t take note of what is around us, we may have a wrong impression of the status of the harvest field.

b. What is the need of the harvest?

The ultimate need of people is to be saved. But Jesus does not address that specifically at this moment. Instead, he looks past the people to the need that He saw. He told the disciples that there were not enough laborers to work with the people.

Define laborers.

Mounce defines ἐργάται as “a workman, laborer, Mt. 9:37, 38; 20:1, 2, 8; met. a spiritual workman or laborer, 2 Cor. 11:13; an artisan, artificer, Acts 19:25; a worker, practicer, Lk. 13:27.”

This reminds me of Jesus’ parable about the workers who were hired at different times of the day but paid the same amount. The workers there were hired by the land owner to go into the field and specific work. They would have been people who were capable, trainable, and willing to do the work.

When I hire people, I ask questions that will reveal whether they have the ability to drive long distances, to wake up at night to take trips, and to stick with the job. There are some things that can be taught, but there are other characteristics that the worker has to have already. Otherwise, hiring them would be a mistake.

In order for a spiritual crop to be harvested, spiritual workers are needed. What makes a good worker? A good worker must first be a Christian. God is not calling people from the world to be workers. He is calling Christians to step up and start working. What else makes a good worker? A worker must be willing to do the work. Someone can have a lot of training, character, and experience, but if they are not willing to do the work, they are not useful. A worker must be persistent. When working in God’s harvest field, a worker must keep working. The work is often hard and there are times when the results may not be satisfying.

Define few.

Mounce defines ὀλίγοι as “little, small, short; (pl.) few.”

I recently had someone ask to borrow some money because things were a bit tight financially. He was short of needed cash. This is the idea of the word Jesus used. The spiritual harvest was plentiful but the amount of workers was few. They were short a few workers.

It is interesting that Jesus said this to disciples here and also to the 70 who were sent at a different time (Luke 10:1-2). How could there be too many people for 12 to handle or for 70 to handle? Well, think about it this way. How many people can one person effectively talk to at one time? Usually, people want a one-on-one conversation when talking about spiritual needs. So, twelve people could only handle 12 at a time. Even 70 (a greater number) would be limited to 70 people at a time.

When we traveled with the Explorers team in Wisconsin, I remember one evening where we helped talk to people who responded to a gospel invitation. The young man I spoke with was a bit distracted. Instead of responding to the gospel, he asked what we thought about aliens. While we were talking, I am sure that there were others who could have been dealt with if I wasn’t tied up with this person. But there were only so many people available to help.

Conclusion

Tonight, we have looked at the status of the harvest field. Jesus noted that the field was plentiful. God had been working in people’s hearts and there were plenty who were ready to respond. We also looked at the need of the field. Jesus noted that there were few laborers to work with the people in this area. Together we see a great harvest, few workers, and this leads us to what Jesus says in verse 38. We will look at this next time. But for now, take a look around you and look at what God is doing. Then get busy in the harvest field.

Bibliography

“ἐργάτης” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/ergates on 3/22/2023.

“θερισμὸς” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/therismos on 3/22/2023.

“ὀλίγος” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/oligos on 3/22/2023.

“πολύς” as viewed at https://www.billmounce.com/greek-dictionary/polys on 3/22/2023.

Lenski, R. C. H., Interprestion of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Columbus: Wartburg, 1943, pp. 384-85.

Plummer, Alfred, Matthew, Minneapolis: Colormaster, n.d., pp. 144-46.

Help Wanted – Part 1 – Matthew 9:35-38

When you look around your area, your ministry, and your workplace, you may see many opportunities for God to work. But you probably also see something else—the need for help. There is only so much that one person, one church, or one ministry can accomplish. There is a constant need for Christian workers to help with the work. Where will these workers come from?

Before we look at the answer to that question, we should look at how Jesus responded before He told the disciples to pray for more laborers. The first thing we notice is His compassion for the needy around Him.

  1. Have compassion for the lost (Matt. 9:35-36).

    The enormous number of people around us can be overwhelming. The population of Willard, Ohio is approximately 6,000. When you consider all of the people who travel to Willard to work, the number is even higher. If you are from a large city like Columbus or Cleveland, these numbers may seem miniscule. But when you consider how many people you can minister to on an individual basis, that number is far beyond your ability even in a small town.

    When Jesus saw the crowds coming to be healed by Him and to hear his gospel message, he was emotionally moved. Verse 36 says that he saw that they were “weary and scattered like sheep having no shepherd.” Their individual and corporate situations caused him to feel emotional about their needs. It is interesting to note that the One who created all of us still feels emotionally compassionate toward us.

    As we consider Jesus’ response to the people around Him, we need to ask ourselves how we can follow His example.

    a. How can you interact with people? (35)

    The first things we see is that Jesus was actively involved in the lives of others. He didn’t stay in one place but traveled to multiple locations seeking people. Matthew mentions cities and villages. This means that he went to large cities and small villages. He also preached where he went. And He healed the sick in each location.

    While we may not be free to travel about to many locations, are there ways that each of us can use our time to interact with a larger amount of people? While God wants to use each of us in our home, our neighborhood, and our local community, we needn’t limit our usefulness only to these places. Wherever we find ourselves, we must choose to interact with people and seek to be God’s representative there.

    b. How can you help people? (35)

    Jesus helped those around Him by teaching, preaching, and healing. He taught in the synagogues. These were the Jewish “Sunday School” programs designed to help Jewish people learn more about the Bible and God. He also preached to the people. This seems to be something He did outside of a building as there are many mentions of him preaching to great multitudes. But notice His message. He preached the gospel (the good news) of the kingdom. God was wanting to bring His kingdom to earth. Lastly, Jesus healed all of the sick people.

    While the ability to heal the sick is not something we have today, we do have the ability to teach and preach to the lost around us. There have been times during my travels that I have had clear opportunities to speak to people about the Lord. At times, I am able to correct wrong teaching and point people to what the Bible actually says. At other times, the Lord has allowed me to share the gospel of Jesus with people. And going back to the healing ministry of Jesus, is there something we can do for those who are sick and hurting. I think that we can. We can visit the sick and pray with those who are troubled.

    c. What do you see as the problem? (36)

    Jesus saw something similar in all the people whom He visited. They all seemed to be weary. The Greek word behind this means “to flay or skin.” Can you imagine being skinned alive? They were harassed somehow. It may be that those who should have been teaching them the good news were actually burying them under more and more rules and regulations that they could never keep. Jesus also saw them like sheep without a shepherd who were scattered.

    When you look at the need of the moment, what do you see? We see many people wanting to be accepted for who they are. We see people looking for happiness in a variety of ways. We see people struggling with health needs. We see people trying to understand what life is all about. In all of these situations, we know the answer. But we also know that to find the answer to each problem, the individual must submit to the Lord Jesus first. Without Him, the answers will not make sense or be effective.

    Conclusion

    As we consider the needs around us, we need to have compassion for the lost. But we should be reminded that compassion for the lost is often missing because we are not interacting with others, trying to help others, and are not noticing the problems around us. Before we get to what Jesus said about praying for God to send more laborers, we need to be actively doing our own part in the harvest. Until we do, should we expect God to send others to help do what He intends for us to be doing?

Mark 4:26-32

In Mark 4:26-32, Jesus uses the act of planting seeds to say something about the kingdom of God. You might not be aware of this, but there is difference of opinion about what Jesus meant by the kingdom of God. Is Jesus referring to the coming millennial kingdom where He would reign as king over the world? Or was he speaking about a spiritual kingdom which He was currently establishing in the hearts of those who believe Him? While the Bible teaches that there will be a millennial kingdom in the future, it seems to me that Jesus was talking about the spiritual kingdom at this point.

This would coincide with what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” He wasn’t telling his followers to seek to be a part of the future kingdom of God on earth. He was telling them to submit to God and make His ways a priority in their lives. So as we look at this passage, that is how I will interpret “the kingdom of God.”

[Read Mark 4:26-32.]

During my summer with Marion Baptist Church, I lived with an older farmer and his wife. While there, I learned that farming was not for the faint of heart. I helped toss hay into the top of a barn, tear down a chicken building, tasted field corn (I hadn’t known there was a difference), and was chased by a rooster. But I also learned that between planting seeds and harvesting crops there is a lot of work. Sometimes, the seeds grow well and provide a good income for the farmer. At other times, the seeds don’t grow or amount to much.

In the verses we just read, Jesus likened the kingdom of God to the process of planting seeds and harvesting a crop. During this message, we will look at four thoughts from what Jesus said about seeds.

  1. The kingdom of God is like a seed that is planted (26).

    The first statement Jesus made about the kingdom of God is that it is like a man who is scattering seed on the ground. This was a picture which all of the people would easily recognize. They had probably just passed several men who were doing that on this day. Jesus was using this imagery to teach something about the kingdom of God. However, to understand the analogy, we must understand what the terms in the parable represent.

    a. What is the kingdom?

    Remember how Jesus told Nicodemus that he would not see or enter the kingdom unless he was born again? He was talking about the new birth that makes a spiritually dead person alive to God. Nicodemus did not understand. But neither did the other Pharisees of his day.

    In Luke 17:21, Jesus told the Pharisees that the kingdom was not something that would be observed by them. It was something that would be within them. More than just a future physical kingdom, God’s kingdom begins inside of those who believe Him and willingly submit to his rule in their lives. The kingdom of God is not just something in the future; it is something God is doing right now.

    b. Who is the man?

    At this point, we might be safe in assuming that Jesus is the farmer in the parable. He was the One who was planting the seeds of truth in the lives of those who were listening. But as the disciples took on this task, this farmer could represent any of them or any of us who are speaking the truth to others. This idea is supported by Jesus’ explanation earlier in the chapter (Mark 4:13-14). As someone presents the truths of God’s Word, he is the sower of seed.

    c. What is the seed?

    Jesus defined the seed as the Word (God’s truth). When you look at the previous parable and consider that he is talking about the kingdom of God, you must come to the conclusion that he was talking about presenting the truth of God that would change the hearts of His listeners. Today this would refer to presenting the good news of Jesus to someone.

    d. How is it accomplished?

    The ancient process of planting seeds was much different than today. The farmer would take a bag of seeds to the field and scatter the seeds by hand.

    At first thought, this may seem like a haphazard method for planting seeds. But I don’t think that is the point. The ancient farmer did not place each seed into a specially spooned out hole. He threw the seed wherever he could, knowing that only a portion of the seeds would germinate and be harvested.

    Jesus was trying to show us that we should not discriminate who hears the truth. Just as he shared it with Samaritans, tax collectors, and religious people, we should tell everyone regardless of who they are. We are not called to only speak to those who are receptive. We are to speak to as many people as possible.

  2. The kingdom of God is like a crop that grows by itself (27).

    [Read Mark 4:26-28.]

    After showing the need to plant the seed of truth in people’s lives, Jesus points out the need to let the seeds grow.

    a. We can do other things.

    The first phrase indicates the life of the farmer after planting the field. Jesus described his life as sleeping and rising. He was showing that planting is not the entire life of the farmer. Although planting does take a good portion of his time, there are other things that he is able to do.

    If we are not careful, we can become so overcome with the need to spread the gospel that we are unable to sleep. Yes, we need to see the need for evangelism and missions, but we must also rest in God’s control of the task.

    Psalm 127:1-2 — “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.”

    Sleep is a benefit given to us by God. We must remember that our strength for Christian endeavors is not found in our efforts, but in God’s efforts. That ought to take the burden off of us and help us to trust God to accomplish his goals.

    b. We can rely on the Holy Spirit.

    The next thought is that the growth of the seed is not something the farmer understands. It isn’t that he is uneducated or inexperienced. It is just that the process happens without his having any knowledge of how it happens. The farmer scatters the seed and then goes about other business because he knows it will grow. The seed responds to the soil, rain and sun and eventually grows on its own — just as God designed it to work.

    Evangelism is very similar. When the gospel has been planted in the heart of a person who has not yet become part of God’s kingdom, it begins to accomplish something. Remember that God promised that his Word would not return void to him (Isaiah 55:11). And Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

    We are not alone in our efforts to share the truth with people.

    APPLIC. Have you ever been especially concerned about someone to whom you have presented the gospel? Most of us have shared the gospel with a friend or relative. Then we earnestly pray for their salvation. It is good to pray and to present the gospel, but we must temper our zeal with knowledge.

    If you have planted the seed of the gospel in someone’s heart, please allow God to do his work. Don’t be pesky and constantly knock on that person’s door. You may feel like you are being zealous, but you may actually be pushing that person away unnecessarily. Let God do His work.
  3. The kingdom of God is like a crop that will be harvested (29).

    [Read Mark 4:29.]

    After the farmer has planted the seed, he waits for a period of time. For some crops it will take a long time for the plant to develop fruit. So, the farmer has to be especially patient. But he is still waiting for that time of harvest. As he watches the field, he will eventually recognize that the grain is ready for harvesting. At that point in time, he sends out his laborers to harvest the grain.

    What do we learn from this?

    a. There will eventually be a harvest.

    Evangelism takes a lot of effort with not much return. However, Jesus encourages us with the first two words in verse 29. “But when” shows us that waiting is not the only thing we have to do.

    “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” –Galatians 6:9

    God may call us to difficult places of ministry, but as we faithfully proclaim the gospel, there will be results … it just takes time.

    b. There will be a harvester.

    At the time of harvest, the farmer who planted the seeds is often a part of the reaping. In this parable, that is not as clear as you might think. The phrase “he puts in the sickle” can also refer to a master sending his servants into the field to harvest the grain. In any event, the grain is harvested and he is happy with what God has provided.

    APPLIC. It is the same way with evangelism. You may speak to many people about the gospel and not see any response for a while. But as the Holy Spirit works, there will come a time when God may turn that person from his sins to faith in Jesus.
    Will you always see the results of your ministry? No, although you have given the gospel, someone else may be the one who finally sees the harvest.

    1 Cor. 3:6 – “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”

    Paul made it very clear that he didn’t care who got to harvest the spiritual crop. He planted the seed and was sure that others were watering what he had planted. But in the end, he knew the God was in control of the results. It really didn’t matter who got to harvest the spiritual crop.

  4. The kingdom of God is like a small but fruitful seed (30-31).

    [Read Mark 4:30-32.]

    Jesus now begins a second parable about the kingdom of God. In this parable, He compares God’s kingdom to a small seed that produces a surprisingly large tree.

    a. The mustard seed (31)

    Mustard seeds are very small. “The seeds are usually about 1 to 2 millimetres… ” (Wikipedia). Compared to a peach pit, the tiny mustard seed seems incapable of producing much of anything. But “it can reach a height of 12-15 feet in a few weeks” (Grassmick 121). That is a surprising contrast with the size of its seed.

    b. The kingdom of God

    Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like the surprising growth of the tiny mustard seed. The work of God’s kingdom begins with the spoken (or read) Word of God. When this truth is planted in the heart of someone or in a certain community, it has the possibility of producing great results.

    Jesus had a short conversation with the woman at the well which later led to the whole city listening and responding favorably to Him (John 4:39-42). Jesus had a small group of disciples at the time of His death and resurrection but look at how the kingdom grew quickly in the days following his ascension. Thousands believed just days later.

    How was this accomplished?

    Jesus and the disciples spoke God’s truth the those who would listen. They planted the seed of the kingdom of God in their hearts and then God’s Holy Spirit caused that seed to germinate and grow in them leading to them to repentance and faith in Jesus and a changed life.

    Rom. 10:17 – “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

    APPLIC. When you present the truth of the gospel, it may seem insignificant. Quoting a Bible verse to someone may seem like a small thing to do. You may think that telling someone about Jesus and what He did is not very important. But God is able to use the small message preached to convert the soul of the worst sinner.

Conclusion

As you consider these parables about the kingdom, do you see the encouragement Jesus gave to us? We have a job to do. We need to proclaim the truth to everyone. But the end result is not our responsibility. God has designed it so that the Holy Spirit will work beyond what we say and do. We can rest in God’s ability to bring about the harvest at the right time.

1. Are you spreading the seed of the gospel?
2. Are you patiently waiting for God to do the work?
3. Are you expecting a harvest?

Smile today and realize that God is doing the work behind the scenes and that He will accomplish his great work in His perfect time.


Bibliography

Alexander, Joseph A., The Gospel According to Mark, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1858), pp. 102-05.

Redlich, E. Basil, St. Luke’s Gospel, (Edinburgh: Thomas Nelson, 1948), 93.

“Mustard Seed” as viewed at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mustard_seed on 6/4/2022.

David Harris, “How Tall is a Mustard Tree?” as viewed at https://www.gardenguides.com/12412948-how-tall-is-a-mustard-tree.html on 6/4/2022.

Grassmick, John D., “Mark” in Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, 120-21.

Are you for Free Speech?

Freedom of speech is something we value highly in the US. The first constitutional amendment ensures that among other things, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Why is this important? It is important because the citizens of this great country need to be able to voice their opinions without fear of the government throwing them in jail when their opinion is not in vogue.

Other countries have also seen the value of freedom of speech. During World War 2, Prime Minister Winston Churchill brought up the subject of free speech while addressing some thorny issues and the possibility of differing views within the government.

Party government is not obnoxious to democracy. Indeed Parliamentary democracy has flourished under party government. That is to say, it has flourished so long as there is full freedom of speech, free elections and free institutions. So we must beware of a tyranny of opinion which tries to make only one side of a question the one which may be heard. Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without its being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.

COALMINING SITUATION (Hansard, 13 October 1943) (millbanksystems.com)

This is both a good and difficult statement. It is good because we want to speak our opinions without repercussion. It is difficult because not all opinions are equally valid, and some could also be harmful. We actually don’t want some people to speak their mind. But… consider a few thoughts.

  1. Freedom of speech applies to Christians proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also to those who oppose that message or have corrupted it.
  2. Freedom of speech applies to those who are against _________ as well as those who celebrate it.
  3. Freedom of speech applies to those who promote godly behavior, but also to those who promote what God hates.

While it would be nice if people would always govern their thinking by what God says in the Bible, that isn’t usually the case. People have differing views on what they saw happen at a car accident, so it is probable they will have differing views about everything else as well.

As a Christian, I want my beliefs to line up with the Bible. This is important because the Bible reveals what God (our Creator) desires and says is best for us. However, not many people will share that perspective. Their opinions about life, religion, politics, sports, entertainment, marriage, and a whole lot of things may be completely different than what God says.

As a Christian, I value the freedom of speech because I want others to know the Lord. If I am unable to speak freely, the gospel will be hard to share. But that has to go both ways. If I want the freedom to speak the truth to other people, I need to allow them the same right. They can disagree. But without the freedom to have a conversation (or debate) it will be very difficult to have a meaningful discussion.

A couple thoughts:

  1. Speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Both aspects are important. The truth is important to proclaim but the way it is presented is also important. Are you speaking out of duty or because you love the person? It should be evident. For further discussion, consider this article.
  2. Realize that it takes time for people to be convinced. Paul took the time to reason with and persuade the people he was talking to (Acts 19:8-10). Most people don’t believe something the first time they hear it. Neither do you. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, take the time to explain what the Bible says and why it is relevant to each person.
  3. Know when to stop talking. There are times when continuing a conversation may be a waste of time (Prov. 26:4-5). It is hard to know when to keep talking to an argumentative or foolish person. But there are definitely times when you should walk away because further speech is not profitable. In these cases, be sure to ask the Lord for wisdom.