Tag Archives: Good News

Why I Share the Gospel

The word Gospel means Good News. I love to share the Good News that God loves us. And yet I’ve been asked why I am compelled to share this Good News with those who don’t believe. Why can’t I just leave them alone to believe whatever they choose?

The easy answer is that in scripture God commands us to share the Gospel. Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV). For many Christians this is all the reason they need.

Another reason for sharing the Gospel is because we want our loved ones to spend eternity in heaven. I wrote about this reason in a previous post titled The Hardest Thing. For many Christians this is the primary reason.

But as I’ve pondered this week why I personally share the love of Jesus, I realized it goes much deeper than that. The other night I was reading in one of my devotionals before bed and was reminded of a passage in Jeremiah that illustrates the reason why I desire to share the Gospel with others. This passage is from Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NIV):

This is what the Lord says:

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who depends on flesh for his strength
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He will be like a bush in the wastelands;
he will not see prosperity when it comes.
He will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
He will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”

This passage is very similar to Psalm 1:1-3 (NIV), which says:

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

The reason I share the Gospel is because having a relationship with Jesus Christ has made me like a tree planted by streams of water.

I used to be a huge worrier and every little difficulty in life would throw me for a loop. Life was hard and I was more like a bush in the wastelands. There were times when things seemed good, but it never seemed to last and the smallest challenge would seem insurmountable.

But now, with Christ in my life, I can face the challenges of each day. From an objective perspective my life hasn’t gotten that much easier, but my ability to weather the storms that come my way is much different. When I experience a time of drought, I have a source of living water to sustain me.

I’ve known people who have gone through some of the most difficult challenges anyone can imagine, but because they know Jesus they have had the strength to endure and even prosper in spirit. I have a friend who lost her 6-year-old son to a sudden illness and then lost her husband to a brain tumor almost a year to the day later. For many, this type of loss would have been devastating. Yet because of her faith and the strength of her Savior Jesus, she was able to move on and focus on caring for her two other children.

I’ve known other people who are not Christians who struggle with every little challenge that comes their way and who are completely sidelined by bigger trials. They seem to have no anchor in the storms of life. Their focus remains on every bad thing that happens. They do okay when good things happen, but their happiness is short-lived. Having been like them at one point in my life, I feel compassion for their plight.

Which is why I want the peace and love of Jesus for others; it’s why I share the Gospel. The promise of eternity in heaven is one thing, but God’s promise of spiritual peace in spite of the circumstances of this life is so much more tangible and useful for those who need it.

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The Relationship Plan, Part 5

I know you’ve heard of Paul — he wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament. And I know you’ve heard of Mark — he wrote one of the four Gospels. But have you ever heard of Barnabas? He’s mentioned in the New Testament, primarily in Acts. He’s not that well known, but if not for him you would probably have not heard of Paul or Mark. As we discussed in our adult education class last Sunday, he did an excellent job of implementing Jesus’ relationship plan of evangelism.

In Acts 4:36-37, we learn a little bit about the character and background of Barnabas:

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage shows Barnabas’ generosity, but it also reveals probably the most important aspect of his character — He was an encourager. This is shown repeatedly in his relationships with both Paul and Mark.

Barnabas was also filled with the Holy Spirit and had wonderful spiritual discernment. After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he began preaching the gospel. However, because Paul — also known as Saul — had a history and reputation for persecuting Christians and having them tortured and thrown in jail, many of the believers in Jerusalem were afraid of him. But not Barnabas; he could see that God had really changed Paul and that he was a true believer.

When he [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. Acts 9:26-28.

Later in Acts, when the Good News was being preached in Antioch to the Gentiles, Barnabas was trusted by the apostles to be sent to check it out and make sure the Gospel was being preached correctly and that the people there had good leaders. When he arrived and found that all was well, he encouraged those who were preaching. He also went and found Paul and brought him back to Antioch to teach and preach.

[M]en from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. Acts 11:20-26.

Up to this point, when Barnabas and Paul are mentioned together, Barnabas is always mentioned first. That was intentional on the part of Luke (the author of Acts) to show that Barnabas was the leader on these occasions. This is seen also in the beginning of Acts 13 when they went on a missionary trip to Cyprus. But later in chapter 13 they are referred to as Paul and Barnabas. This indicates a shift in leadership. Throughout their time together Barnabas has been discipling Paul, teaching him to be a disciple and to lead others. Barnabas taught him well, as the Lord Jesus would have wanted him to, until Paul was ready to make disciples of others. As we learned in the study of The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman, that was Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.

But what about Mark? The scriptures reveal that Mark (also known as John Mark) was a cousin of Barnabas. Colossians 4:10. He accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey, but in the middle of the journey he left them and returned to Jerusalem. Acts 13:13. Later, when planning another missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul objected because he thought Mark had deserted them and would not be useful.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. Acts 15:36-40.

Barnabas clearly saw something in Mark that Paul did not. He had a closer relationship with Mark and because they were related he likely had a wider range of experiences with Mark from which to reach his conclusion that Mark was worth discipling. In the long run, this disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was likely God’s will for them so that they might cover more territory and bring more people to Christ than they could if they continued to travel together.

Barnabas’ trust in Mark also paid off. As mentioned above, Mark is believed by most Bible scholars to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. In addition, he later became a trusted companion even of Paul, who wrote to his friend Timothy: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11. Because Barnabas saw something in Mark that was worth cultivating — some quality that was spiritually discerned, such as humility and a willingness to follow Christ — he was willing to spend time with him, teaching Mark all that he knew about our Lord and the means of salvation through faith.

As we have concluded this study on leadership and discipleship, I look forward to the opportunity to be like Mark and to learn more from those who are more mature in their faith than I am; and I look forward to being more like Barnabas, being able to spiritually discern the potential for discipleship in others. I am excited about seeing the Master’s plan of evangelism and discipleship implemented in my own church and in my own life outside the church. It’s all about the relationships we make; it’s about investing time and energy in making disciples of those we are in relationships with. This is Jesus’ plan and that’s good enough for me.

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The Harvest

This morning a blogger friend of mine posted a poem about His Harvest based on Matthew 9:37-38, which says:

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”

Being from the midwest, she mentioned fields and combines in her post. This brought back memories of when I drove pea combine for a summer during college and led me to some observations and thoughts about the harvest.

Jesus, of course, is not talking about literally harvesting wheat, corn, or peas. He is talking about harvesting souls for the Kingdom of God. He is saying that there are many who are ready to accept Christ as their Savior, but those who already believe, the laborers, must go out and bring them into the Kingdom. As I thought about literal harvesting of crops, it occurred to me that not all souls that will be part of God’s harvest will be brought into the Kingdom in the same way or at the same time. As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, there is a time for everything.

Ecclesiastes 3: A Time for Everything

 1 There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:
 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
       a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
       a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
       a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
       a time for war and a time for peace.

During the summer that I drove pea combine we usually worked 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. But one day, at the end of the day, the leadman on our fleet said we could have the next four days off because the peas were too green to pick. I’ve always thought that was kind of funny because aren’t peas supposed to be green? Anyway, this got me thinking about how important it is to harvest at the right time because if you harvest peas when they are too green they will not come off the vines in the combine barrel and your crop will be wasted. It was also important, when harvesting peas, to not drive the combine too fast. If you did, then it would get clogged full of too many vines and some of the peas would end up being wasted.

Similarly, if you try to get a person to accept Jesus when they are not ready they might be put off by your forwardness and turn away from God altogether, forever lost and a wasted soul. But if you wait for the right time, if you listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit regarding whether they are no longer “green,” then you will have a successful harvest. If you wait when the Spirit says wait, and go at the proper speed, you will enjoy a much greater harvest in the long run.

My friend, in her post, referenced the fall harvest. But not all harvest in the fall, even though we think of fall as harvest time. In my town, the Farmers’ Market opens in May and each fruit and vegetable crop is ready in its own season. The market vendors must be ready to display whatever produce is currently in season because that is what the market goers are looking for. I know I am always anxious for the first green beans, which are never available on the first weekend of the market. But if I am patient, eventually I am rewarded with beautiful green beans, plus I get to enjoy some of the other produce before the beans are available.

In the same way, we must be ready for whatever soul harvest is ripe at any given time. The person we think we want to lead to Christ may not be “in season” but another that we weren’t thinking of might be. We need to be open to share with whomever the Spirit shows us is ready to accept Christ and be patient regarding those on our hearts who maybe are not ready right now.

Next I started thinking about our pear trees. We used to have two different pear trees, one Bartlett and the other Bosc, but the Bartlett was cut down during our construction project last year. Now we only have the Bosc. We were willing to sacrifice the Bartlett to put up a storage shed because we never got a very good harvest from it. It usually had quite a few pears on it each year, but the time for picking them was very short. One day they would not be ready, the next day they would, and then before we had a chance to go pick them they were on the ground and had become food for the birds and bugs.

We were careful to preserve and protect the Bosc tree, however, because it has always provided us with a more stable crop. The time within which the pears can be picked and be ripe enough was much longer than for the Bartlett. We seldom found Bosc pears on the ground beneath the tree. However, the size of the crop on the Bosc varies from year to year. One year we had well over 100 pears off this one tree, but this year we had only 2. It occurs to me that the absence of the Bartlett tree for purposes of cross-pollination might be to blame for this smallest crop we have ever had.

So what do my pear trees tell us about the topic of His Harvest? I think that flexibility and following the Spirit is again the key. For some, the window of opportunity to share the love of God with them might be short, and for others that window might be longer. We also need to be prepared for the fact that we are not always going to have a huge harvest, but sometimes we will. And we are not always in charge of ensuring that a harvest is there, but we are responsible for opening our eyes and reaping the harvest that is put before us by God.

 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” John 4:34-38.

So are you ready for the harvest? Are you keeping your eye on the crops Jesus has put you in charge of so that you will be ready when the time is right?

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