Harvest Sunday, ‘lord of the harvest’, Sept 27th 2020.
2 Cor 4:1-6, Matthew 9:38-10:10.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, my rock and redeemer.
Harvest Sunday. We focus on the many blessings God has provided. Jesus used the harvest in Israel to point to a spiritual reality. He didn’t see people as numbers or objects to be converted – he had compassion, he felt looking at the people he met, that they were helpless, like a sheep alone without a shepherd. Yet he saw people ready for his message. ‘’The harvest is plentiful’’ he said – but the workers are few – so he says to those with him, pray to the Lord to send out workers into his harvest field.
Jesus says ‘Ask the Lord of the Harvest’.
What is God’s role in evangelism?
2 Cor 4:6 says – he makes ‘his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of the glory of God in the face of Christ…’’ God makes it possible by his Holy Spirit for a person to see who Jesus truly is. The beginning of 2 Cor 4:6 reminds us that God said: ‘’Let light shine out of the darkness’’. It is a reference to the miracle of creation in Genesis 1. This same God, who brought light into the world at creation, now shines light into the hearts of human beings, enabling them to see that Jesus is God. In other words, for people to recognise that Jesus is God, God must be at work.
People do not become Christians simply because we share the gospel with them. God must shine his light into people’s hearts so that they recognize and respond to the truth of the gospel. V4 reminds us that people cannot naturally see the truth of the gospel , because ‘the god of this age, has blinded the minds of unbelievers.’ Paul with those words reminds us that we are in a spiritual war., a battlefield. The reason, so many reject the gospel, is that the devil is at work, preventing, working to stop people from recognizing who Jesus is.
Devil blinds by enticing them to prefer or chase after the things of our world. To keep their concerns to the here and now, and not eternity, to keep focused on their popularity, their family, their relationships, their material possessions – to keep them focused away from eternal matters and Christ.
As a result they may value Jesus, see him as a teacher, or a moral example, but his eternal identity and significance is obscured. Satan is determined to stop people seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ. Our role. We share Christ – preach Christ – as Paul says. The world preach can give us negative feelings. But it comes from a word which means simply ‘herald’. A herald is someone who tells, shares, important announcements from the king to his kingdom. Our role is to tell people the gospel – the announcement from the king – and leave the Spirit of God to convict them of its truth. We know God can only open eyes that are blind, and so we must keep praying that God will shine his light in the hearts of unbelievers.
Is it possible that there is more than one personal approach to evangelism? Is it possible that passion we have for communicating our faith, is dampened down by the thought we have to become something that is contrary to our own personality. Is there an evangelism style we are trying to adopt that doesn’t fit us?
God knew what he was doing when he made you, and he knows what shape he is moulding you into, since you became a Christian. He really does. You have a unique combination of personality, temperaments, talents, spiritual gifts, background. Not only does he want to use these in the world around you, not only does he want to use these within the life of a church community, he wants to harness and use all that you are, in His mission to reached this messed up world. Ain’t that amazing? He wants to use you in a way that fits the person He made you to be. I believe God doesn’t call us all to spread this truth in the same way. What can happen is that we try to copy others evangelism efforts – so we spend time duplicating ones that do not work for you, while ignoring or even disregarding ones that could be helpful for you or the church.
When we open the New Testament up, we see how characters took different approaches, to communicating their faith with others. We will look at 5 biblical styles of evangelism, each show by a biblical character. Then ask, if it might fit you.
1.Peter’s confrontation approach.
You can say Peter was a type of ‘Ready, Aim, Fire’ type of guy – whatever he did, he went for it. Think, in Matthew 16, when Jesus asked ‘who do people say that I am?’ He came out and said it – ‘You are the Messiah’. Then later, after Jesus shared what his mission was about, Peter challenged him head on. Can you imagine trying to correct the Son of God!
All Peter, it seemed, was needed was to be convinced he was right, and there was no real stopping him. He was direct, bold, to the point! Maybe you would say, Peter may have Dutch roots! On Pentecost he was spokesman, the perfect fit – someone unafraid to take a stand, to preach in the city where Jesus had been crucified just weeks before. He told them to their face – they had crucified Jesus, and they need to call on that same Jesus for mercy and forgiveness. His personality was perfect to do this – with the empowerment of the Spirit, he stood and confronted the people. And God used this confrontational style, with 3000 becoming believers.
But today, there are a lot of people, in our networks and relationships, who won’t come to Christ, unless someone like a Peter is direct and blunt with them about Jesus. Some people don’t want debates, they want someone who clarifies the truth about Jesus, challenge them to do something about it. Could that Christian be you? Do you resonate with Peter’s approach?
If you think this style is yours, ask the Spirit when and how and where to share your words and challenges, as well as the wisdom you need so you do it with a mixture of grace and truth.
2.Paul’s intellectual approach
Now, Paul, he could confront people with truth. Yet his main approach, was his logical reasoned presentation of the Gospel, whether Jew or Gentile. Read any of his letters and you see he lays a sound explanation of the central doctrines of God, our sin, Christ’s unique solution.
When you look at his background, maybe it isn’t surprising. Someone highly educated for his day, aware of the different debating styles. You see him responding to point by point to comments in letters or what he knew people were talking about in the congregations. Can you think of a better person that God sent to the Philosophers in Athens. Read Acts 17. He presents an argument working from an idol to an unknown god and working his way through to the One true God and the resurrected Messiah. His approach was effective – as some believed. Note the wisdom God shows in his choice of spokesperson. The philosophers would not have responded well or related to Peter’s direct, repent, believe, approach. They needed logic that proved its point.
I guess you know people who are like the people in Athens. They don’t want easy answers. They want to know why they should take the leap of faith.
Maybe you are a Paul – is the intellectual approach one that fits you? Are you an inquisitive type who enjoys working with ideas and evidence? Today there are many who need to hear the Gospel declared but also defined and defended.
3.Blind Man’s Testimonial Approach
The blind man of John 9, healed by Jesus, had seen something happen in his life that was worth telling others about. We know the story. He ended in front of a questioning, quite hostile group, and asked to explain what happened. He didn’t enter into theological debate with them. Paul may have done so. He didn’t confront either – while Peter may have been direct blunt with the truth.
That wasn’t the type of person he was. He spoke from his experience, and he confidently said: One thing I know – I was blind, but now I see.
There are a lot of people around us, who need to hear a testimony about how God is working in a believer’s life. For some, the key question they have at the moment, is not, is it true, it is ‘does it work, is it real?’ They may not respond too well to a challenge, or a debate, but a personal account of someone coming to faith or how God has worked in their lives, could influence them powerfully.
Could that story be yours? Do you feel comfortable telling others how God led you to himself. We looked at testimony a couple of weeks ago. Your story can be a powerful tool. We need to remember that an effective testimony doesn’t have to be dramatic – don’t exclude your story because you have a ‘ordinary’ testimony. Maybe you went to church, and were religious and realized that all those things didn’t make you a Christian. Your story, of how you moved from religion into a relationship with Christ, will be more relevant to many of your acquaintances and friends, than a sensational story of someone coming to Christ out of witchcraft, or a near death experience. In fact a dramatic testimony, may give your friends an excuse ‘well, that person needed religion.’ But your everyday story will relate to their everyday life and show they that they too, despite life being fine, enjoyable, they too need the grace and leadership of God that you’ve found. If you have a dramatic testimony, you would say, ask God to lead you into how much detail to share and whom to share it with, so they can be drawn to faith in Christ.
4.Samaritan Woman’s invitational approach.
Isn’t it amazing the unlikely people God picks to fulfil his divine purposes? We’ve already seen it with the blind man, and now with this woman from the well in Samaria. Often as we get involved personally witnessing to others, we can feel this way some days, maybe often about ourselves. But God seems to delight in using ordinary, every day kinds of people in surprising and exciting ways.
We looked at her story a couple of weeks ago. The woman had things going against her in that culture. Did that stop Jesus? Nope. We saw – he ignored all the conventional wisdom, cultural attitudes, and political correctness of his day, by talking to her. She soon is convinced of His stated claim to be the Messiah. What did she do?
She immediately –she went to her street, her town and brought a bunch of people to the well to hear and meet Jesus themselves. This simple invitation resulted in Jesus saying two days in the village. Her friends later declared in v42 : Now we have heard for ourselves and we know that this man is really the Saviour of the World.’’
There are many people in the world who would make great strides in their spiritual journey if someone would invite them to an Alpha course, maybe even a standard church service. A UK survey in 2015, which is mentioned in our upcoming Life Groups’ series, says, 1 in 5 people, in the UK are open to have a conversation about Jesus and faith.
Naturally invitation means invite to the right thing. A church service may be too far; perhaps Alpha – we will be running an Alpha Course in January. Perhaps the first step may be in fact, here is our online service would like to have a look sometime…
Again. We can all invite. But there are some who have a knack, a talent for doing it. Maybe you are someone, who just seems to invite people to come along to things…
5.Dorcas Service approach.
Acts 9 says that Dorcas was ‘always doing good and helping the poor’. She was known for her loving acts of service, which she performed in the name of Christ. She was a quiet practitioner of what we can call the service approach to evangelism. It would have been very hard for people to observe her activity, perhaps have a chat, and not realize that it was the love of Christ that inspired her.
People who take this approach find it relatively easy to serve others. It is how God made them. We are all called to serve. But these folks naturally notice needs other’s don’t see and find joy in meeting them, even if they don’t get a lot of or any credit for it. They may be quieter people, and enjoy expressing compassion through tangible forms of action.
It can take time before producing spiritual results. But it is very important. Service style evangelism touches people nobody can reach.
There is a story of a lady called Ginger. She had a brother she was trying to share Christ with. He was into alternative spirituality, and really was uninterested in Christianity. So she did what came naturally to her. Which was her confrontational style. She challenged him with the claims of Christ.
When that didn’t seem to make a dent. She studied and came to him with a whole set of reasons why he should change his position. She tried everything she could think of. Nothing go through. Finally all hope seemed to go, when he moved his wife and kids to join, what in that day, was called a New Age religious group.
But God was at work. When Ginger’s brother moved into his new home, he soon met the people who lived next door. They turned out to be wonderful neighbours. They were constantly doing things for him, available if he needed help, like helping him settle in, lended a hand to fix stuff. Even brought over food when someone in the family was sick. Just ordinary acts of service – done out of their love for Christ, as you guessed.
These people brought down the wall between Ginger’s brother and God, brick by brick. And within a year, he had committed his life to Christ, moved his family back home, and celebrated his first communion, sitting next to Ginger in her church.
This way needs to be celebrated. You can see why. Those neighbor will never be famous. But God is using their efforts to reach those the rest of us, haven’t a clue how to reach.
You may not have the knowledge of Paul, or the courage of Peter or the Samaritan woman, but you are great at making meals or fixing things. Those things, like other acts of service, can be done in a way that points others to God.
So 6 different approaches to sharing faith. You can be yourself and God knew what he was and is doing when he made you and as he shapes you.
No one fits perfectly into just one of these. There may be a couple you click with. You will probably over time have opportunities to use all 6 of them! The key thing. God designed diversity on his team. Each member is stronger in some styles than in others. Our aim, in faith sharing. To work within the design God has given you. Identify the approaches that work for you and then develop them, and use them in the advancement of the kingdom.
Harvest. Lord of the Harvest. God’s role in evangelism.
Ask him to send workers into the harvest fields: it is possible that where you are now in your home, your office, your job is the mission field where the harvest has to be reaped. It could be he wants you further afield. Ask him what his will is.
You are sent, what approach do you feel suits you best?
Lord, I commit myself today to love and serve you by giving time to developing my relationship with you, and by the way I live among other people. Please Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, so that I may display your presence by the way I live.
May your love flow from me to every person I meet. May my heart shine because it is filled with your joy and your peace. May I be gentle, patient, kind and good.
May I learn faithfulness , reliability and self control, so that my choices are Christ like, in Jesus name. Amen.