Sunday, April 7

"Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved" (Romans 10:1). The Apostle Paul did a lot of preaching. He preached in synagogues and in market places, homes and philosophy "lecture halls" (like Mars Hill). But in all the preaching that Paul did, He also prayed.


Prayer in evangelism is important. Prayer acknowledges our weakness and God's power. We cannot control circumstances that advance the Gospel, convict hearts of sin, or bring Gospel realities to bear upon the mind long after the conversation has ended. Indeed, we often struggle with even the most basic matter of speaking up! But God is able to do all the things we cannot and to give us boldness in our work.


Prayer is a means of expressing our burden for souls. In the verse quoted above, Paul connects his "heart's desire" to his prayer to God. The people of Israel were his own countrymen. They were his neighbors and fellow citizens. Paul knew that they had a zeal, but not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2). His heart was burdened for their salvation and prayer became the means of expressing that burden.


Do you pray for the salvation of the lost? Do you pray for God to work in their lives? Do you pray for your witness to them? Do you pray for God to open doors, give you boldness, and convict their hearts? Do your prayers express your dependence on God and your burden for souls?


March 31, 2019

In past articles we have surveyed the characteristics of a fruitful Christians: connecting, growing, serving, and going. Now we will come back around and look at each of these again with more detail. Remember, this should help us evaluate our own spiritual growth and enable us to help others grow as well.


Connecting involves our relationship with God and His people. Consider then for a moment the importance of connecting with God. One of the ways we do this is through worship. Being a worshiper of God is one of the most fundamental relationships we have with Him. Indeed, it is the failure to worship God properly that sent the nations spiraling in depravity (Romans 1). Through salvation we are restored to God as His worshipers.


Worship is essentially ascribing worth to God. It involves communicating to God that He is of the utmost value. It is a reverent acknowledgment that there is no other person and certainly no other god that is as important as He is. As the Psalms teach us, worship involves praise and thanks.


There is one danger that we must especially avoid when it comes to worship. It is a danger that Israel fell into. We must always remember that it is possible to carry out the forms of worship without truly connecting with God in our heart. Today, as you pray, sing, praise, and thank God with other believers do not let this happen as mere "routine". Be intentional and connect with God in your heart as you worship.


March 24, 2019

In the work of the Gospel "plowing" involves preparing people to receive the seed of the Gospel. As we have already seen, this can be accomplished by our godly life and good works. While plowing is an important part of Gospel work, it should not be confused with planting - putting the Gospel into a heart by speaking.


The Gospel is good news. Good works and a godly life certainly help facilitate that message, but they cannot fully communicate the truth that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again on the third day. Nor can our works and life tell people what they must do in order to be saved (repent and believe).


Faith comes by hearing, hearing comes by the Word of God, and the Word of God comes by a preacher (Romans 10:14-17). As Gospel laborers, we must be willing to open our mouths and speak the Word of God to the people around us. Without this, we may end up like the farmer who has a nicely plowed field but no crop!


You do not have to be an official preacher who stands in a pulpit and speaks to a congregation to plant the seed of the Gospel. You can be the kind of preacher that shares Christ over coffee, in the break room at work, or with neighbors at your dinner table. With this in mind, ask God to give you opportunity and boldness this week to plant the seed of the Gospel in someone's heart!


March 17, 2019

Fruitful Christians connect, grow, serve , and go. Today we will consider the last of those characteristics. As we do, consider whether you are a Christian that is "going"...in the mission Christ gave His church.


When Christ met with His disciples after His resurrection He told them to go teach all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). Elsewhere He told them to "Go and preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). While we may not go among the nations, we can go among the people God has placed around us. These include our family, neighbors, coworkers, and people in our community.


A Christian who is going is one who lives as a man or woman on a mission! They see people in light of the Gospel. They live in a way that adorns the doctrine of God and shines the light of Christ. They prayerfully and wisely guide conversations to spiritual things. They tell people how they can be reconciled to God through His Son. They help people take the step of baptism. They take new Christians under their wing and teach them the commands of Christ. In other words, a Christian who is "going" is one who lives in light of the mission of sowing the Gospel and cultivating Christians.


We cannot expect the lost to come to us. We must go to them. We must go and make connections. We must go and live before them. We must go and tell them that Jesus saves. Is your life characterized by going?


March 10, 2019

We have already seen the reality that we have fields around us (people in our family, workplace, neighborhood, community who need Christ). What are we to be doing in those fields? Every Christian should be involved in three basic activities in our "fields". These three activities are Plow, Plant, and Pray. We will look at the other two activities later but for now let's consider plowing.


In agriculture, plowing the ground is a work of preparation. Plowing comes before planting and serves to make it easier for the seed to get into the ground. When I use the word plow in the context of the Gospel I mean that work that precedes the giving of the Gospel and that helps facilitate (on a human level) an openness to hearing it.


Though they are never called "plowing" in the Scriptures, a godly life and good works fulfill this preparatory role. They are not the message of the Gospel but they do make the power of the message visible. The beautiful and attractive life of the Christian can be a tool God uses to prepare hearts to hear the Gospel.


Are you plowing your fields? Are you living according to the truth in a way that will prepare people to hear your message? Do your actions, attitudes, and words reflect the power of Christ in you? Does your life before your coworkers, family, neighbors, etc. facilitate the planting of the Gospel seed?


March 3, 2019

What does a fruitful Christian look like? We have found it useful to say that a fruitful Christian connects (with God and His people), grows (in maturity), serves (in ministry), and goes (in mission). Thus far, we have considered connecting and growing. Today we turn our attention to serving.


Serving involves activity that is for the Lord in some way. It is the use of our resources, our time, our energy, our skills, and (as we will see today) our spiritual gifts in a way that accomplishes or advances The Lord's work and will. Fruitful Christians serve the Lord.


Since it is impossible for a person to serve two masters, serving the Lord necessarily involves denying oneself. To serve the Lord's interests we must set aside our interests. To do the Lord's work we must be willing to sacrifice our work. To advance the Lord's cause we cannot simultaneously advance our own cause.


Serving the Lord occurs primarily in and through the local church. In fact, Christ has equipped every Christian to help build His body up in love. This equipping involves spiritual gifts (which serve as building tools) given to every member of the body. Whether it be the gift of mercy, the gift of giving, the gift of governing, the gift of teaching, or the gift of helps, Christ has given us what we need through His Spirit to serve one another.



February 17

In the past, we have considered the Gospel "fields" that surround us (family, neighbors, community, recreation, workplace) and the importance of being intentional in our labors. Today I want to begin thinking about how we can be intentional with our work in these fields. To begin with, consider being intentional about "expanding" your fields.


Some of our fields will naturally provide many opportunities in the Gospel. However, some of our fields may be small with few contacts. You will not always be able to expand a field (family, workplace), but sometimes, with a little intentional effort, you may be able to gain more contacts and more opportunities for the Gospel.


Consider, for example, your neighbors. Do you know them? Have you developed a relationship with them? What about your community field? With a little effort you could choose to eat in the same restaurant, shop at the same store, even get in the same line each time so that you see the same people over and over. With a little effort you could get to know their names and begin a relationship with them. Or what about your recreation field? Is there any way you can expand your connection with other hunters, fishermen, quilters, readers, etc.?


Give some prayerful thought this week to your fields and consider what you could do to expand them.


February 10

In an earlier article we began looking at four aspects of a fruitful Christian. We started with the reality that fruitful Christians connect with God and His people. Today we will consider briefly the second characteristic: fruitful Christians grow.


Growth implies change, particularly change that progresses toward an appropriate and desired goal. Children grow as they change physically, mentally, and socially toward the goal of mature adulthood. Seeds grow as they experience change that progresses toward fruit bearing. In the same way, Christians should experience change that progresses toward spiritual maturity, a maturity perfectly modeled by our Lord Jesus Christ.


In II Peter 1:5-7, the Apostle Peter indicates that we are to diligently add to our faith. To our faith we add virtue (excellent moral character and conduct). To virtue we add knowledge (specifically knowledge about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, salvation, the church, angels, and end times). To knowledge we add temperance (control over lusts and passions).


To temperance we add patience (steadfast endurance under trials). To patience we add godliness (living like there is a God). To this is added brotherly kindness (family love in the church). Finally, we add charity (love toward all men including our neighbors and even our enemies).  All of this adding (and thus changing) is what spiritual growth is about!



February 3

Intentional.  The dictionary defines intentional as "done with intention or on purpose."  I probably do not need to tell you that there are many important things that must be done "on purpose" or they will likely never be done at all!  We must be intentional about parenting, building relationships, exercising, eating healthy foods, and...spreading our witness!

 

We are all at a particular disadvantage when it comes to being intentional about the Gospel.  There are many distractions that would take our minds off this important work.  In addition to this, Gospel work can be intimidating.  Most of us will naturally avoid interacting with others about their souls.  We must also consider that we have an enemy who will actively seek to keep us from giving the light to those whom he holds in darkness.

 

We will not just wake up one day and find that we have been useful in advancing the Gospel and leading people to faith in Christ.  No, if we are to serve the Lord in the Gospel and make a difference in the lives of sinners we must be...intentional.   

 

To further your thinking on this consider the following questions:  Are you growing in knowledge about how to witness?  Are you developing relationships with the lost?  Are you regularly praying for their souls.  Are you watching for opportunities to give the Gospel?  Ask God to help you take at least one intentional step for the sake of the Gospel this week! 

January 27

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that fruitful disciples connect, grow, serve, and go.  Today we will consider the first of those characteristics: Connect (with God and His people). 

 

Relationships play a very significant role in Christianity.  Through Christ's blood we are reconciled to God.  We are also brought into relationship with God's people (they become our brothers and sisters).  Fruitful disciples put down roots into these two fundamental relationships.  They also help others do the same!

 

Connecting with God involves cultivating our relationship to Him through means such as worship, the Lord's Supper, Bible reading, and prayer.  Worship (through praise and thanksgiving) connects us to God as His redeemed creatures.  The Lord's Supper reminds us of what Christ did for us and draws our affections toward Him.  In daily Bible reading God speaks His Words to us and in prayer we speak to Him.

 

Connecting with God's people involves cultivating our relationship to believers (particularly in our local church).  We do this by gathering with them at church, getting to know them better, showing interest in their lives, praying for their burdens, and doing them good as we can.  It also involves cultivating and protecting our unity in Christ by being patient, forbearing offences, being longsuffering, and forgiving sins against us.

January 20

In the farming metaphor of Gospel work, fields represent people.  It is into the hearts of people that the Gospel seed is sown.  There, by the grace of God, it germinates, takes root, and begins to sprout.  People who have been instructed in the Gospel and are ready to repent and believe are like a field of grain ready to be gathered in to eternal life!

 

The people in our lives can be grouped together in relational categories.  These categories can also be considered "fields".  Consider the common fields listed below.

 

Family Field:  people in your immediate and extended family.               

Neighborhood Field:  people who live beside or near you.                       

Workplace Field:  people with whom you work.

Community Field:  people you see on a regular basis as you shop and eat out.

Recreation Field:  people with whom you play sports, go fishing, hunt, golf, etc.

 

Stop and think about your fields.  You may not have a connection to every field in the list above.  Some of your fields may be larger or smaller (represent more or less people) than the fields of others.  However, your fields are by divine appointment and they represent potential fruit for the Kingdom of God.  Are you working them for the Gospel?  

January 13

What does a fruitful (spiritually mature and productive) disciple of Jesus Christ look like? This is an important question to consider for two reasons. First, it is important because it relates to your own Christian life. The question might be asked this way - What am I supposed to look like as a spiritually mature and productive disciple of Jesus? Answering this can remind us what we should be working toward in the grace of God.


Second, it is an important question because it relates to our mission. Our task, like that of the Apostles, is to make disciples. This involves more than just preaching the Gospel. It also involves baptizing those who believe and teaching them to observe all the things that Jesus commanded. Having a basic understanding of what a mature disciple looks like can be useful in helping new believers become mature disciples.


So here are four words to consider: connect, grow, serve, and go. These are not necessarily all encompassing but they are useful characteristics of a fruitful Christian. Fruitful disciples connect with God and His people in loving relationship. They grow in spiritual maturity (increasing in knowledge and righteousness). They serve the Lord and His church with their time, energy, spiritual gifts, and resources. They go in mission, sowing the Gospel and cultivating followers of Christ.


January 6

In 2019 we are focusing on our mission: Sow the Gospel. Cultivate Christians. This part of our bulletin will be devoted to helping us think more deeply about giving the Gospel to others and helping those who believe become obedient and fruitful Christians. The articles here will vary between those two important facets of our mission.


To prepare ourselves to give the Gospel to others, we will be working together to memorize Gospel verses. The passage below (which we will work together to memorize in January and February) is an important summary of the Gospel. In order to give the Gospel, we must know it! We must also be able to articulate it to others. I Corinthians 15:3-4 can help us get and communicate the core points of the Good News.


The Gospel is essentially a message about the death (for sins), burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, our general witness about God must become specific. Jesus Christ died for our sins on the cross. This means that He was counted as guilty of the sins of the world and suffered the just wrath of God so that sinners could be forgiven and reconciled to God. His burial was proof that He truly died. His resurrection from the dead signaled that He is who He claimed to be, His sacrifice was accepted, and that He can give eternal life to all who believe.