Monday, July 13, 2009

The Lord of the Harvest

They say, that you shouldn't be out on a plain...

I would like to talk with you this morning about something that deeply stirs the heart of Jesus Christ. I pray that we are ready to be moved by what moves our savior. I hope that we can share in his compassion that he feels for a lost and dying world. I pray that if you don't have a relationship with Christ that you would consider today whether Christ may be holding open arms ready to receive you and heal your physical, emotional, and spiritual brokenness. Lets read from Matthew 9 verses 32-38

32 Just as they were going out, a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Him. 33 When the demon had been driven out, the man spoke. And the crowds were amazed, saying, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel!"

34 But the Pharisees said, "He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!"

35 Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. 36 When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. 38 Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest." Matt 9:32-38 (HCSB)

I was moved as I learned what moved the heart of our Savior. Looking at verse 36 we can see into the heart of Jesus. He say that he was moved with compassion. Compassion is a wonderful emotion that we do not often experience. We are not moved nor do we typically see it as a quality in others. There is something deeply spiritual about compassion. There is a strong connection between the person feeling the compassion and the object that compassion is felt for. Jesus looked out at the people as he was traveling from village to village town to town city to city and was moved with compassion.

Jesus saw how they were weary, worn out, and like sheep without a shepherd.

Weariness is a hard place to be. The Greek paints the word picture of being flayed, troubled, or harassed. Life is filled with conflicts that lead a person to feel weary. At times it may feel like you are being cut up by the world around you. Maybe some other person is tearing you apart. There is trouble in this life. We all face difficulties (some more than others), but I think that we all can understand trouble. Harassment is weary when it does not stop. The devil likes to harass. He continues on and on and on. He gets a foothold in your life and mounts a harassing attack that is difficult to recover from. Sometimes other people can harass. They keep on bugging you with distractions, interruptions, or with words you do not want to hear. We all can relate to the weariness. I have good news for you Jesus sees your weariness.

As if weariness is not enough then we can become worn out. There are some here this morning that are worn out by life. It has become "too much" You are cast down, flung out, and tossed about in this life.

Jesus looked out and saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. I know this is not going to sound pleasant, but I become more and more convinced that people are like sheep. We need a shepherd to guide us through life. Give us freedom and we certainly make the worst of it and get ourselves into all kinds of trouble. The people were starving for Spiritual truths with no one to guide them to green pastures. They were lost without hope. And this moved the heart of our savior. He did not say pitiful creature. He was moved with compassion. Pity and compassion are similar. However pity is the sorrow and regret that is felt toward another's misfortune. It is possible to feel pity and not be moved. It is possible to feel pity and keep on walking by. It is possible to feel pity and do nothing. Compassion is different in this way. Compassion is an awareness of another's suffering with a deep desire to relieve the suffering. You are moved with compassion. It is not possible for compassion to walk on by. It is not possible to feel compassion and do nothing.

Jesus felt compassion for these that were weary, worn out, and like sheep without a shepherd. This morning Jesus feels compassion for those that are weary worn out, and like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus does three things when he is moved with compassion in this passage. First he heals. There was a man possessed by a demon. This demon caused the man to be mute. When the man was brought to Jesus he cast out the demon and the man talked. The ailment was cured. Jesus also would heal various sickness and diseases. His compassion led him to act and bring healing to those people. I have recently come to understand that miraculous healings are given to us as a sign of authority of Christ. These healing were no doubt amazing to behold, but they were not an end to themselves. They were a sign to give audience to what he was saying.

Jesus taught. Everyday Jesus was teaching the Word of God. He was enlightening the people with wonderful and uplifting teachings. He also was confronting error and sin with his teaching as well. Jesus brought hard teachings as well as explaining that His yoke was easy. At first this might seem a contradiction. It has to be received by faith. You see everything that Jesus taught was hard if it was not received by faith. But if it was believed then it becomes the most glorious truth that one can experience. It brings peace and comfort to the weary, worn, and lost soul. The whole of this book the Bible is filled with the wonder of God and if we receive it by faith then we ourselves will certainly be blessed.

Jesus preached the Good News. The good news is the Gospel. It is the message. It is the path from this life into eternity with God. Good news is the path of peace. Good news is the power of spiritual victory and life. Good news is to all, but only some will receive it. Like Jesus' teachings it also must be received by faith. It is Good news to those that receive it. Jesus preached the Kingdom of heaven when he shared the good news. John 3:16 is the good news summed up.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (HCSB)

God loves you so much that he sent his son (Jesus) to die for you. Why did Jesus have to die? Sin. Your sin, my sin, the world's sin. Sin means that we miss the mark. Let's face it we all miss the mark. We cannot even live up to our own standards let alone God's standards for life. We fall short. When we fall short then we are helpless without any hope of entering into a relationship with God. That is until God sent His Son Jesus Christ. It is not enough that He sent Him though. There has to be a response. We have to believe in Christ to be saved. When we believe in God's son Jesus then we have eternal life. We will live on with God in Heaven in His Kingdom. What must one do to believe in Christ. We have to turn our lives over to Him. We are sheep without a shepherd at best, but we are sheep with doubting, hateful, hurtful shepherds at worst. We need a shepherd. You may not want to admit it, but we need to be shepherded in this life. Believing in Jesus is allowing Him to be the Shepherd of our live. If you have never submitted your life to Christ as the shepherd of your life would you be willing to do that today. He is moved with compassion for you and is willing to bring you peace. Are you willing to receive it? Jesus preaches the good news.

So how did the people respond? Some by faith! The people that witness the miraculous healing of the mute man were amazed. The recognized that nothing like this had ever been done before. I have to say that in my work as a counselor I have the opportunity to be amazed. Jesus now works through the Holy Spirit of God to bring healing into people's lives. I see it every day where God is working to bring some kind of healing. Unfortunately not everyone was amazed. The Pharisees doubted. Some respond by faith others by doubt. The Pharisees took their doubt to the next level. They accused Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler of demons. Their doubt was not a lack of faith, but rather an out and out rejection of the person of Jesus Christ as well as profaning the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about these miracles of God. They were rejecting the sign of Jesus' authority given by the Holy Spirit's Power!

Jesus asked the disciples to pray. He was a man and could only be in one place at a time. As he looked out at the people he saw a task that was greater than his humanity. While on earth Jesus limited himself to dwell in the flesh as we are in the flesh. Imagine a God sized compassion bound to live with the limit of the flesh. The sheer agony that he must have felt as he looked upon those people. So he asked the disciples to pray that the Lord of the Harvest would send out workers. So they prayed.  Consider this story.

One Sunday morning after preaching, I was standing at the exit of our Church shaking hands and thanking people for coming. A young man who was a first time visitor began to exit with tears in his eyes. He paused as if to ponder something over deeply and then walked in my direction. He extended his hand towards mine and with a firm handshake began to tell me that he had made a decision to take a different course for his life. "I know that I will be all right now," he said, "I have carried this too long and now I have made up my mind to live." He did not want to speak more . . . just thanked me and shook my hand once more as he left.

I have often received things in a hand shake. People have "palmed" me money for special needs within the church. But, I have never received anything like what that young man gave me as he shook my hand and left the church. Inside a folded up one dollar bill was a live round from a 38 caliber hand gun. The young man had been pondering committing suicide and with the encouragement found in God's word -- had changed his mind.

Every now and then, I take out this little "treasure" that I keep in a drawer of my desk. It helps me to focus on how important the work of the Lord is. My prayer is that each Christian could realize the impact that they can have -- and treat each day as if it might just be -- somebody's last. (My Little Treasure, Rev Shelton Cole, http://www.sermon.org)

Is it possible for us to be moved, filled with the compassion of Christ to make a difference in somebody's life?

Some responded with faith, Some responded with doubt and some looked on with compassion and awareness of the size of the task before them.

We have the same choices this morning as the people present before Christ did on that day.

Are you weary this morning? Have you been flayed by the circumstances of your life? Good news Jesus sees and is moved with compassion!

Are you worn out, cast down? Have you been flung out like trash? Do you feel tossed about? Good news Jesus sees and is moved with compassion.

Do you feel lost? Has your life lost direction and purpose? Are you looking for something someone to believe in? Have you become hardened by the lies and deceit of the politicians and grieved by the infidelity, lack of morals, absent integrity of our leaders? Good news Jesus sees and is moved with compassion.

So how will you respond? Please do not harden your heart as the Pharisees did. Jesus wants to bring healing and hope into your life, but he cannot do this unless you receive him by faith. You need to turn your life around! Why not make today the day you turn around and received the gift of salvation that God is providing right now. Don't wait. We don't have any guarantees of how long we might live. Tonight your soul may be required of you. Can you meet Jesus knowing that you have trusted in him? Please do not wait until it is too late.

The workers continue to be few. As I look at the task of rescuing souls I am personally overwhelmed at the task. One of the reasons I feel it is so important to teach faith evangelism class is because I see a harvest of souls that is way beyond anything I could hope to reach in a billion life times. And I only get one. We need workers. We need them now. We are nearing one of the saddest times in the life of the Body of Christ. If we continue the path we are on now there will be a tipping of Christians here on this earth. That is to say more people will be going to meet Jesus in heaven than those who are being reborn by faith. This is a desperate time. Every generation of the churches has experienced growth in the Body of Believers. Ours is a time of decline. In the last decade in the United States there was a 9% decline in church membership. There was an 11% growth in the population over that same period. Taken together that would a 20% total swing in just the last ten years. Could it be that we now stand at one of the most infamous moments in church history a decline in the Body of Christ? I say no! I say we take our stand here! I say no more walking though life with pity and no compassion! I say no more lost souls never hearing the Gospel on our watch. Will you stand with me. Will you look on the people with the eyes of Christ. Will you dare to be moved with compassion to reach the weary, worn out, lost souls. The harvest is ripe! Pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out workers to bring in the harvest. Pray that God would fill your heart with compassion, that he would move you, that you would take action to bring light to a lost and dying world. The time is now, the harvest is ripe. Let's pray!