In every healthy Church there will be an upward, inward and outward focus. That means we will have a ministry to God in worship and prayer; a ministry to the Church through teaching, equipping and nurturing and then a ministry to others beyond the Church boundaries through outreach and service. I believe most of the efforts within most Church ministries today are focussed on the first two and that leaves us with a much weaker ‘outward’ focus of our Church – the giving away of God’s love to those who are yet to personally encounter Jesus. We need to consider this aspect of ministry more seriously if we want to continue growing in Christ. This outward ministry must flow from our upward and inward ministry. I firmly believe that without a solid grounding in God’s love and deep encounter with God in worship; without a well-fed and cared-for Church community, any serious consideration of embracing those beyond the Church community is premature. But to never move out is a denial of our whole purpose which is to embrace the mission of Christ and bring the gospel to the world.
If we truly want to be mature in Christ, which is our goal and the subject of this teaching series, then we must have the upward, inward and outward aspects of our ministry all working in harmony with each other. So let’s begin to explore this outward dimension a little more as we see what the Bible has to say to us today about our burden for the lost.
Matthew 9:36-38 “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.”
Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Matthew 24:14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
The Church of Jesus Christ has been given the serious responsibility of reaching this world with the gospel – the only truth which can set them free.. It must be preached in every nation and to every person. This responsibility is not for just a few. It is given to the whole Church of Jesus Christ and God has already given us all we need to be effective witnesses: His power, His presence, His love and our personal testimony. In Christ we are the light of the world. Wherever we go, we must let that light shine through our Christian conduct and testimony. We are the salt of this earth. Salt is a preserving substance. The only thing that is keeping this world from the judgment of God is the presence of His church on this earth. But if we lose our identification (if the salt has lost its savour), we are useless. Embracing Christ’s mission does not happen by command or demand. This will only happen as our hearts are gripped with compassion for the lost.
What is compassion? One dictionary says that to have compassion is: ‘To have tender emotions, to yearn, to feel sympathy, to feel pity.’ We cannot reach this world when we are not even willing to reach our neighbour. We are called to love our neighbour as ourselves (Luke 10:27). This we find very hard to do! We can love our brothers and sisters in the Church, because they also may feel kindly towards us – but to love our neighbour is a very different thing! When Jesus reminded a lawyer of this requirement of the royal law of love, the man sought to justify himself by asking the question, “And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus gave him the long answer as He told him this parable:
Luke 10:30-35 “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
We can learn many valuable truths from this well-known parable:
- The “certain man” is representative of the sinner. His road is downwards.
- The thieves represent the power of sin, or demonic spirits that try to destroy the sinner and leave him wounded and dying.
- Two religious leaders were coming from Jerusalem, a priest and a Levite. They had been engaged in religious service in the temple and were on their way home when they came across the wounded man. The priest did not even bother to check the condition of the man. The Levite did walk over and look at his condition, but then went on his journey. Neither man was moved with compassion. Their religion had no real impact upon their lives. They had already finished their religious duties, and they had no time to be bothered with helping a stranger. They had no concept of this man being their neighbour or their responsibility.
- The man who was wounded was a Jew. The priest and the Levite were Jews. The Jews hated and often mistreated Samaritans. Nevertheless, it was a Samaritan who came along and felt compassion towards the wounded man and ministered to his needs.
We can learn some important lessons and more fully embrace the mission of Christ by taking note of just what this Samaritan did:
(a) He went to him. He did not wait for the man to come to him.
We must put the “go” in the gospel by going to the sinner. The Church is not the field, the world is the field. “Go therefore into all the world …” is the call we have received from the Lord. We are actually already in the world every day. Unless we are a hermit hiding in our house, we encounter the world every day. So what should be said is that ‘in our going’ we need to intentionally connect with those around us. It is so easy for us to hide in our fortresses, hoping that some new people will just come through the door. We must not stand aloof from the lost. We must not judge and criticize them. We must not act as if we are better than they are. We need to humble ourselves and get down on their level because the ground is level before the cross of Christ and we all stand there together.
(b) The Samaritan truly saw the man’s need, and was moved with compassion towards him:
We meet so many people each day who do not know Jesus Christ. Many of them have been wounded by sin and all who do not know Jesus are missing the whole purpose of their life. We must pray that we will have a heart full of love and compassion for them. If we do not have a burden for the lost, the chances are great that we will never lead anybody to Jesus Christ!
(c) He bound up his wounds.
“… he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted” (Isaiah 61:1). This is what the gospel of Jesus Christ will do for the sinner. Sin leaves its victim helpless and bleeding, but the saving gospel of Jesus Christ gives healing and forgiveness.
(d) He poured on oil and wine.
Both oil and wine are symbols of the Holy Spirit. He did not wait until he brought the man to the inn before he poured on the oil and wine. You can minister in the power of the Holy Spirit to people wherever they are!
(e) He brought him to the inn.
He put the man on his own beast. This meant that there was a real sacrifice involved, because he would have to walk along beside the animal. Perhaps he had to travel for several miles before they came to the inn. This showed how much he cared. He would not stop caring for the man until his needs were all met. The inn is a symbol of the Church. It is important that we bring those we win to Christ to the Church where they can find spiritual rest and receive spiritual food.
(f) He turned him over to the innkeeper, but did not forget about him after that.
The innkeeper is the Pastor or Church leader or mentor. Those you win to Jesus need someone to care for them and feed them. However, do not just drop those that you have won to Jesus. Continue to minister the love of God towards them, and help disciple them. So what was the main difference between the priest, the Levite and the good Samaritan? The first two men had absolutely no feeling towards the wounded man, while the third took the time to really see what the man’s need was and then did what he could to meet that need. He was filled with compassion towards him. It is an absolute necessity to have a burden for the lost; to have true compassion for souls we are going to lead to Christ.
Psalm 126:6 “He that goes forth and weeps, bearing precious seed (the word of God), shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Jesus is our best example here. Jesus did not just call us to be soul-winners, He gave us a living example. The greatest example of soul-winning in the Bible is when Jesus Christ witnessed to the woman of Samaria. It was no accident that Jesus went to Samaria. It was not the normal route for Jews travelling north to other parts. Jews normally avoided this area because they were highly prejudiced against the Samaritans. Yet we read concerning Jesus, “He now had to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4). He could have gone around it, but the great Soul-winner had a burden for a certain sinner in that region. When Jesus reached the city of Sychar, a city of Samaria, he was very weary, and sat down by the well. This was one of the wells that Jacob had dug many hundreds of years earlier, and the Samaritans were proud of its historical significance. As Jesus sat there, a woman came to draw water. It was about noon when the woman arrived. (The Jewish sixth hour is twelve o’clock.)
Most women had long finished drawing the day’s supply of water in order to avoid the hot sun, but this woman probably purposely waited until she would be alone. Such was her lifestyle that she was ashamed to meet other women. She was startled to find a Jew sitting by the well when she arrived. She was used to being snubbed by her own kind, so would certainly expect to be snubbed by a Jew. But Jesus spoke to her and asked for a drink. How shocked she was, so that she had to inquire, “How is it that you, being a Jew, are asking me for a drink, for I am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans?” Jesus immediately turned the conversation from the natural to the spiritual. Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10) I doubt that Jesus stopped everyone who came to the well and witnessed to them. He sat there until this particular woman came whom He discerned had a real need for something in her life. Jesus later cried out to a multitude of people, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” (John 7:37). That message was only for those who were spiritually thirsty. He evidently considered this woman to be among those who were thirsty for the things of the Spirit.
We can learn a lesson from this. If we share our faith with everyone that we meet, we may have little results for the time spent. It is best to pray that God will lead us to those who are thirsty. The soil of their heart is prepared for the seed of God’s Word. Jesus knew that this woman formerly had five husbands and the man she was living with at the present was not her husband. She was seeking true love, but from the wrong sources. Now ‘Love’ was sitting on the well beside her, sharing with her the truth that would change her life forever.
When we share our faith with people, we need to show a care and concern for them. We need to find out what their personal needs are and show them that Jesus Christ is the answer to all their needs. If they have family problems, let them know that Jesus is the answer! If they have physical problems, tell them that Jesus wants to be their Healer! If they are having problems overcoming some evil habit, tell them that Jesus Christ wants to be their Saviour and Deliverer! When we study the entire witness of Jesus to this woman, we will see that the woman kept trying to change the conversation, but Jesus kept coming back to her personal need. The woman was so excited about her encounter with Jesus that she forgot why she had come to the well. She left her water pot, and went running into the city and told the men of the city: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29). Her testimony caused the whole city to come to Christ. (verse 30). Meanwhile, the disciples were more interested in other things, than sharing their faith. They had gone into the city to buy food, while Jesus rested at the well. When they returned, they saw him witnessing to the woman, but said nothing (verses 8, 27). After Jesus’ conversation with the woman was concluded, the disciples begged him, “Master, eat.”
John 4:32-35 “Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?” “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.”
The disciples did not understand that after Jesus witnessed to the Samaritan woman He felt full, satisfied. How does the worth of one soul compare with earthly food? Their minds were on the things of this earth to the extent that they had no interest in what Jesus was doing. Therefore He encouraged them, “lift up your eyes, and look on the fields.” They did not consider that it was the proper time for the harvesting of souls, but He encouraged them to realize that there was no better time than the present.
What about us? Are we waiting for some future time to be a real witness for Jesus Christ? Meanwhile, thousands of people around us are missing out on the life Jesus died to give them. We need to get our eyes off of ourselves and our petty problems and needs and see the ripened fields around us. We can be so caught up with personal agendas and our needs that we forget about the mission to which we have been called. We need a burden for the lost, because a burden will make a way for itself. A burden will cause us to pray, to weep for souls, to fast, to share our faith, to love, to do all that is necessary to bring the lost to Jesus Christ.
What is our purpose in life? To be conformed to the image of Jesus. If that is our heart’s desire then we will think like Jesus, feel like Jesus and act like Jesus. If that is our prayer then we need to be ready for God to answer it as He breaks our hearts with the things that break the heart of Jesus. If we really want to fulfil the purpose for which God called us then we will be asking God to give us a burden for the lost and to flood our hearts with compassion for those who are yet to know His grace. This is serious stuff friends. This is what Christian maturity is all about: upward, inward and outward focus – all working in harmony. If you are brave enough, if you are prepared for God to answer your prayer, then join me now and ask Him to give you that burden for the lost. If that is your heart’s desire, then pray this prayer with me.
Gracious and loving Father, I thank You and praise You for pouring Your love into my heart. I praise You for Your wonderful grace and mercy. You have transformed my life by the power of Your love. I thank You Lord for my brothers and sisters and this Church. I thank you for the teaching and the equipping that I have encountered here. I thank you for the love and care I have enjoyed. This is all precious Lord and I take none of it for granted. Father I ask now that you would bring the third priority into place for me and for us as a body. I pray for the outward aspect of my faith. I ask Lord that you would give me a spiritual burden for the lost that stays with me as long as I draw breath on this earth. I ask Lord that the compassion -for the lost which gripped the heart of Jesus will grip my heart also and not let me go until this whole city is on its knees before Jesus.
Lord I pray that You would release me totally from any sense of guilt or shame or obligation to witness to unbelievers. Remove the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ and replace them all with a deep and overwhelming compassion for all those people in this city and in my circle of influence who do not know Jesus. Prepare my heart for revival Lord by breaking it, just like Yours is broken as You weep over this city and the thousands of Your lost sheep who are yet to find their Shepherd. Lead me to them Lord. I don’t ask for clever techniques or the perfect words to say, I just ask that You break my heart and release the heart of the wounded healer, Jesus, in me today. Empower the word of my testimony Lord as I share my story, which is really Your story, with those who need to hear. Amen