“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
(1 Timothy 4:16)
A man was once traveling by himself on an important errand. His journey took him high up into the mountains where it began to snow. The snowfall turned into a blizzard impeding the man’s progress. Still, he faithfully trudged on through the ever-deepening blanket of snow to reach his goal.
He grew colder and weaker as the sun set and when evening finally came he started to lose his balance. He first lost feeling in his feet and hands, then his legs and arms. “This is the end,” the man said to himself. “I’m going to die here on the side of this mountain all alone.” He stubbornly refused to give into the cold but his body just could not go on. He fell head first into the snow.
But in falling, his hand struck something – someone! Before him lay the prostrate form of a dying man, a traveler like himself lost in the blizzard. Suddenly, the first man revived and got to his knees and began to rub the dying man’s hands and face. Eventually, the unconscious man came to.
In seeing another’s need the first man regained his strength. The interest in another’s wellbeing helped the first man regain his focus. In saving another’s life the first man had saved his own. The exercise of salvation kept his own body from dying and both men survived the night.
Are you a Christian who is freezing to death spiritually? In the act of saving another you could be saving yourself. The seed of the gospel within our hearts is meant to produce fruit. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.” (Prov. 11:30) If we are not producing any fruit what are we good for? (cf. Mt. 5:13) Jesus says we will be “thrown away like a branch” to wither and burn. (Jn. 15:6)
Individual Christians and whole congregations are freezing to death when they fail in their primary mission to seek and save the lost. Their faith withers and the gospel proves unfruitful in them resulting in the loss of their own soul’s salvation. Evangelism is not optional. It is a matter of spiritual life and death.
God invests in us with the gospel. He grants us eternal life and expects a spiritual return on His investment. Jesus illustrates this in the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30). God does not expect us to do anything more than what He has given us the ability to do. But we will be held responsible for doing everything we can. Keep these truths in mind:
- You are responsible for living & sharing the gospel – (1 Cor. 3:4-5)
- You already know enough to share the gospel – (1 Pet. 3:15)
- You are not overburdened by this responsibility – (Mt. 25)
- You are not responsible for how the gospel is received – (Ezek. 3:17-21)
- You have no reason to be afraid of men – (Rom. 8:31-39; Mt. 10:26ff)
- You have everything to lose by refusing to share the gospel – (Mt. 25)
- You (& others) have everything to gain by sharing the gospel – (Mt. 25)
God saves lost souls when Christians share the gospel; both those who are sharing it and those with whom it is being shared!
Over the past several weeks we have been challenged by the teachings of the gospel to work hard for our Lord. Our King commissioned us, His royal priesthood (1 Pet. 2:9) and kingdom citizens (Phil. 3:20), to carry out the greatest work we will ever be engaged in – the salvation of lost souls (Mt. 28:18-20). When He returns He desires to find His people awake, engaged and laboring faithfully in His name (Mt. 25). We are saved to save, served to serve, won to win and taught to teach. Please consider these thoughts over the coming weeks:
SOME WILL REFUSE TO WORK
We all understand the tremendous need for our neighbors to hear the good news of the kingdom. Sadly, there are only a few who will actually carry the gospel to their neighbors. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Lk. 10:2) Most people will seek to justify their complacent attitude and choose not to engage in this work. They will convince themselves that this work is for someone else, anyone else, other than themselves. They will suffer the consequences for their error if they do not repent (Mt. 25:29-30). But please, brethren, do not allow the faithlessness of others to discourage you from following the Lord into the fields of service. Choose to be an example of faith.
THE VALUE OF ONE SOUL
The global population is almost up to 7.5 billion. The US population alone was over 325 million last year. A very small fraction have put their faith in the Lord. That is 325,000,000 souls that need to hear the gospel! Over 151,000 people die each day. Over 6,000 people die each hour. Over 100 people die each minute. More than 1 person dies every second. Tragically, most people are not prepared to meet their God in death. Brethren, we cannot afford to sit idly by and call ourselves Christians while not sharing the gospel with our neighbors and friends.
We must have compassion on these precious souls. Consider the value of just one soul to the Lord: “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” (Lk. 15:7) In some places, there is more joy over one new church building than ninety souls that repent. This is because the faith of some does not extend beyond the walls of their church building. Christianity, to some, consists of a few hours per week. Brethren, let us not forget the value of the human soul to God, “… the precious blood of Christ...” (1 Pet. 1:18-19)
JESUS SAID “GO”
Jesus commanded His disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation,” (Mk. 16:15) but most have not even gone next door. Some Christians go their entire life never bringing another soul to Christ. This is inexcusable. Look around you! Surely, there is one person, a neighbor, a friend, a coworker, a loved one whom you can share the gift of eternal life with. Inviting your neighbors to the public worship assembly is good but we cannot substitute “Come” for “Go”. Jesus commanded us to intentionally “go” and follow His example to “seek and save the lost.” (Lk. 19:10)
CHRIST IS WITH YOU
Jesus commissioned His disciples to go and make disciples, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:19-20) Sometimes we forget that last bit. Jesus promised that if we are busy carrying our His work, He will be with us “always, to the end of the age.”
God says you and I are the right people for the job of saving souls (Mt. 28:19-20; Acts 2:41-42; 8:1, 4). God has thoroughly equipped us and made us adequate for this task (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:10; 2 Cor. 3:4-6). God knows our limitations but can still work mightily within us (Eph. 3:20; Col. 1:29). God’s word will accomplish its purpose (Lk. 8:11-15; Isa. 55:10-11), we just have to share it.
I don’t know about you but the news that the Brongers, the Smiths and the Currys will be moving shook me pretty hard. Their contribution to the spiritual health and growth of this congregation cannot be overstated. But when we stop and think about the reasons for their moving we should rejoice. They will be encouraging and helping other Christians grow and making new disciples where they are headed. When God’s blessing spreads to others we should be joyful. (Phil. 4:4-9)
More than that, their absence will provide new opportunities for other members to step up and serve in their place. This is already happening! We should rejoice in Julian Skinner taking hold of eternal salvation in Christ. We should praise God for the appointment of Nick Petre as a deacon to serve this church. We should be encouraged by Todd Hall’s willingness to serve as an elder. Space and time does not permit the many others at Danville who are growing and maturing in so many different and wonderful ways. God has the power to take any situation and cause it to work out for His glory and our ultimate good if we have faith in Him. (Rom. 8:28) Let us stay focused on our mission to seek and save the lost!
“Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, or even to eight, for you know not what disaster may happen on earth.”
In the above verses, the Preacher tells us to take every opportunity to do good to our neighbor (Gal. 6:10) because the time may come when we will be the ones standing in need. The ancient farmer would sometimes cast his seed onto flooded areas during seasons of too much rainfall hoping that once the waters eventually recede the seed would take root and his crop would sprout up. The wisdom of the farmer is seen in his taking a seemingly hopeless situation and turning it into a profitable one.
The preacher is instructing us not to be discouraged from doing good just because, on the surface, the situation looks bad (Gal. 6:9). Just continue sowing that seed because eventually the waters of difficulty will recede. And it may take some time for the seed to produce a crop but it will eventually come (1 Cor. 15:58).
“He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap… In the morning sow your seed, and at evening withhold not your hand, for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.”
In these verses, the Preacher tells us that we shouldn’t wait for ideal conditions to get to work. If the farmer was to wait for the absolute perfect weather to sow his seed he would never reap a crop. We will never complete the Lord’s work if we wait for ideal conditions. We should make the best use of the present for the future is unpredictable (Jas. 4:13-17). Jesus once said, “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (Jn. 9:4). Or in Paul’s words, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
Are you waiting for the perfect conditions to begin God’s work?
- Have you been meaning to share the gospel with your neighbor, friend, co-worker or family member but you have been waiting for the right time? Cast your bread upon the waters!
- Have you been meaning to send that encouraging message to your brother you know is struggling but haven’t found the right moment? Cast your bread upon the waters!
- Have you been meaning to study and pray more to develop your relationship and understanding of God but feel like you have to tie up loose ends elsewhere? Cast your bread upon the waters!
- Have you been meaning to be more hospitable and have people over your house more but are waiting for a more convenient time? Cast your bread upon the waters!
Don’t expect to reap a crop of righteousness in the future if you fail to sow the seed of the kingdom in the present (Gal. 6:9-10; Lk. 8:4-15). Follow the wisdom of the Preacher and cast your bread upon the waters. Even if things don’t look favorable right now, much fruit may come later!
“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”
Paul taught that every Christian has an integral part to play in the strength and growth of the local church (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12). Have you ever wondered what your role is at Danville? You have unique abilities that God has given you and He expects you to “use them” (Mt. 25:14ff).
Starting in September we will study passages like Romans 12:6-8 in a sermon series designed to help you find your place. No member is unimportant, no task is trivial and no action is meaningless. You will be asked to follow along in the lessons with a pencil and check sheet in hand as we study these various gifts. By the end, you will better understand your strengths and be better equipped to serve the Lord (Eph. 4:11ff).
Consider the following passages and judge for yourself:
“…“Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.”