A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – Are You Willing To Be Used?

 

At the close of chapter eight the pig farmers of Gadara had asked Jesus to leave and thus chapter nine begins with Jesus leaving Gadara and returning to “His own city” of Capernaum (9:1; Mark 2:1). Jesus will not stay where He is not wanted. In Matthew 8 we studied the willingness of Jesus to work in and through people. We saw that Jesus works through the unworthy humble souls who trust in Him. He works in unexpected ways. We saw that in Matthew 8 begins the application of what Jesus had taught in the classroom teaching of the Sermon on the Mount.

 

In Matthew 9 we see Jesus continue to apply His teaching practically in life. As we enter this chapter we move from a consideration of Jesus’ willingness to work in and through people to the question of our willingness to be used by Jesus. The question of this chapter is Disciples, are you willing to be used by Jesus?  To answer this question we will cover Matthew nine in the following outline:

 

·         God’s Sovereign Plan For You

·         The Problem of the Plentiful Harvest

·         The Unproductive Nature of Non-Laborers

·         The Productive Nature of the Disciple Laborer

·         The Practical Procedure of the Disciple Laborer

·         The Purpose of the Disciple Laborer

 

Let’s see what God has to say about our involvement in His eternal will and way.

 

God’s Sovereign Plan to Use YOU

 

Matthew 9:38 - “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  [1]

Jesus instructs His disciples to “pray the Lord of the harvest.” This tells us that God is the Sovereign, the Master who oversees the vast fields of people in the world. He is in control and as Master and Lord; He has a sovereign plan to harvest. Harvest what and with whom?

God could have chosen to spread the gospel by way of angels (which He will incorporate in the Tribulation – Revelation 14:6-7). He could have chosen to write His message on the walls of the world like He did with the Babylonian king Belshazzar (Daniel 5). He could have written His message in the sky or delivered it through any number of other ways, but He did not. God has chosen to use you. What evidence is there that God wants to use you and me to minister His truth and salvation to the lost? Let’s see.

First, God used people to get His message out in the Old Testament. That is has always been the will of God to use people to accomplish His will in the world is seen in that He sues people in both the Old and New Testaments to do His will. I the Old Testament we see that God used human prophets to warn the children of Israel of their sin and to call them to repent:

  • 2 Chronicles 36:15 – “And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place.”  [2]
  • Jeremiah 44:4 – “‘However I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!”  [3]

Second, the Bible tells us specifically that God wants to use us in accomplishing His will in the world. Two passages can be quoted in this regard (though there are many more):

  • 2 Chronicles 16:9a - “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” [4]
  • Ezekiel 3:16-21 – “Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying,17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:18 “When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.19 “Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.21 “Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”  [5]

Third, the New Testament further explains that believers are “fellow workers” of God. Paul is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 – “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase.8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.”  [6]
  • 2 Corinthians 6:1 – “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”  [7]

That is an incredible statement inspired by the Spirit through Paul. Think of it, in the harvest field side-by-side with the Lord! You couldn’t ask for a better leader. We don’t have a Boos who stands aloft and shouts down orders; we have a Boss who gets right down in the trenches with His workers. Our Boss, Jesus Christ, leads by example!

Fourth, believers are described as the “body of Christ” and as such the body needs to cooperate and obey the directions of the Head Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:18). Paul is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 12:14-20,27 – “For in fact the body is not one member but many.15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body?17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling?18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. . . 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.”  [8]

As the body of Christ we need to follow His orders. Too often the church is paralyzed in that it does not take orders form the Head Jesus. Just ask yourself what would happen to you if when you woke up one morning and your body decided, “No, I’m not getting up, I’m not going out there, I’m not going to work, I don’t care what that head says, I’m not going out there, it’s too scary out there.” The impact would be catastrophic not only because you’d probably lose your job, but because if you didn’t work or get out of bed you might starve and you’d probably lose a large part of what life is all about, being out there; you just may waste away and die.

Fifth, the Bible tells us that we are God’s “ambassadors” and that God pleads with the unsaved through us. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 – “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”  [9]

What an awesome privilege and responsibility! Think of it, we represent God to the world. He speaks through us, He pleads to a lost and dying world, through us! It’s incredible disciple, it’s just incredible. And what is also incredible is that you can rest assured that WHEN GOD ELECTS YOU TO DO SOMETHING, HE ENABLES YOU TO DO IT, HE EMPOWERS YOU FOR THE TASK.  The Bible tells us that it is He who works in and through us, it is He who gives us grace for the task, and it is He who empowers us by His Spirit:

  • Philippians 2:13 – “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”  [10]
  • 1 Corinthians 15:10 – “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”  [11]
  • Acts 1:8 - “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  [12]
  • John 14:26 - “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  [13] (See John 16:13).

You are never alone when you go out to share God’s gospel with others, Jesus is always with you.

  • Matthew 28:20b - “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”  [14]

Sixth, Jesus commands us to “go” and make disciples. As we have been studying in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus commissioned disciples to go and make other disciples:

 

  • Matthew 28:18-20 – “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.”  [15]

The gospel of Matthew is a manual for discipleship, a manual on how to go and make disciples everywhere you are, right where you are. Jesus is speaking to you and to me and He says, “Go therefore and make disciples . . . .” Being a laborer in God’s harvest field of souls is not an option, it is a command.

What a privilege it is to be a co-worker with God, His ambassador and spokesperson. What an awesome responsibility to know that God is pleading with the lost through us! We have been commissioned by Jesus to make disciples of the world according to His word. But there is a problem.

 

The Problem of the Plentiful Harvest

 

Matthew 9:37 – “Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  [16]

Jesus says the harvest is “truly” plentiful. If we carry this metaphor to its logical conclusion we see that the potential for blessing and fullness is in proportion to the harvest; a plentiful harvest has the potential for a plentiful blessing. It’s as though we are looking out on a field with a bumper crop, a field that is just oozing with potential blessing, but there is a problem, “the laborers are few.” God has prepared a field of souls to be harvested unto salvation, but there is a deficiency of laborers to do the work. Why is that; why are there so few laborers? Matthew 9 holds the key.

As you read through this chapter you will notice that those who oppose Jesus are the religious Pharisees. These Pharisees stand around doing nothing but criticizing and opposing the harvest work of Jesus. Herein is the problem, religious Pharisees are not interested in or available to labor in the harvest. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught of the necessity of a disciple exceeding the righteousness of the religious Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). In chapter nine of Matthew we will see why this is the case, because religious Pharisees are more a hindrance than a help to God’s work.

The Unproductive Nature of Religious Non-laborers

This chapter reveals four heart attitudes of religious non-laborers, (religious Pharisaical types of people as were discussed in the Sermon on the Mount) that prevent them from being interested in, capable of or willing to enter the harvest of God. These four heart attitudes are:

First, religious non-laborers have a hypercritical heart that hinders the work of God. In Matthew 9 it states:

Matthew 9:3-4 – “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”  [17]

Jesus was proclaiming the gospel in the process of healing and all the religious people of the day could do was criticize Him. They could just not believe that “this Man”  (a derogatory phrase) could do what they could not, heal the paralytic. Furthermore, they felt they had cornered the market on who God was and how He worked so when Jesus came in an authority other than their own, they refused to receive Him; they rejected His work and accused Him of blaspheming God. The scribes were like doctrinal porcupines, they made a lot of points, but no one could get close to them without being stuck with them.

It’s interesting to note that the word translated “evil” is PONEROS (Strong’s #4190) and means, “painful, serious, grievous, bad, wicked, evil, depraved. The thing that is interesting about this term is that Jesus uses it to describe Satan (Matthew 5:37; 6:13; 13:19; Luke 11:4; John 17:15).  The scribes were so hypercritical, (not to mention envious) of Jesus that they were not willing to enter into the ministry of the Lord. Sometimes we can be so hypercritical of others that ministry is hindered. Non-laborers see the “problems” the obstacles” rather than the ministry to the lost.

The Bible does state that God alone can forgive sins (Exodus 34:6f.; Isaiah 43:25f.; 44:22). Therefore, when Jesus pronounced the forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins, He was making a statement as to His identity, God in the flesh.

Those with a hypercritical evil heart are not open to the move of the Holy Spirit. If someone ministers outside of their church or their denomination, they look critically upon it. This leads to the hindrance rather than the help of God work.

The reason there are so few laborers in God’s harvest fields is often because we spend more time critically analyzing people who we should be joining in ministry with.

Second, religious non-laborers have no heart for the lost. In Matthew 9 it states:

Matthew 9:11 – “And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  [18]

These religious people didn’t want anything to do with the lost sinners of the harvest. They didn’t want to get their hands dirty so to speak. They preferred to “fellowship” with their own kind. They had written off the lost and rather than reach out to them, they had classified them as being of lesser value than themselves. These religious people were too “holy” to interact with the dirty lost of the world. They just didn’t have a heart for the lost and because of that, they did not labor in God’s harvest field.  Jesus wasn’t though; He got right down in the trenches to minister to the lost.

There are often no laborers in the harvest fields of God because people are too comfortable in the church. Reaching out to the lost is too challenging. “What if the person I witness to asks me a question I don’t know the answer to? What if they need a ride to church? What if they reject me? Make fun of me? What if they want to get to know me better?” Disciple, don’t be high-minded, always have a heart to reach out to the lost.

Note this disciple, of the estimated 132 contacts of Jesus with people in the Gospels, 6 were in the Temple, 4 were in synagogues and 122 were in the world where people lived. Disciple, we need to get out into the field and labor amongst the harvest of lost souls. [19] Pray that God would give you a heart for the lost.

Third, religious non-laborers are spiritually shortsighted. Matthew nine states:

Matthew 9:14-15 – “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”  [20]

Even though John the Baptist had by now been thrown in prison, some of his disciples chose to stay together. They come directly to Jesus unlike the Pharisees or scribes, which may indicate they are somewhat sincere in their inquiry. But their methodology was all wrong. They failed to recognize who Jesus was because they were caught up in their religious ritual. The Pharisees, as we have seen, fasted regularly as a religious practice (Matthew 6:16-18; Luke 18:12). There is nothing wrong with fasting and Jesus even implies that the disciples would fast once He had ascended to heaven. Fasting aids in preparing the believer to interact with God. Jesus point was that the time for which they had been preparing by fasting was upon them and fasting was no longer necessary or appropriate, celebration was more in order. They were locked in the rigidity of a ritual and were missing the purpose of the ritual. The disciple laborer needs to not only go by the word but also go by the word in the Spirit according to the situation and time of circumstances. We can be spiritually shortsighted so that we miss out on what God wants to do in the harvest field. John’s disciples were so into “fasting” that they were missing the glorious fulfillment for which they were fasting, Messiah’s arrival.

 

In the book of Acts Peter was put in prison and it looked as though he would be executed just like James had been. The church went to prayer and God sent an angel to free Peter. But when Peter made his way out of the jail, through the streets and to the door of the house where the disciples were praying for him to be freed, he knocked and those praying didn’t believe that their prayers had been answered (Acts 12:5-19). The point is that sometimes we can be so caught up in doing that we miss the blessing, the answers, the fulfillments that God brings.  

 

It is also true that they may have been demonstrating a comparative competitive nature. They were more concerned about what others were doing than fulfilling their own responsibilities.

 

 In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he writes about being competitive and says:

 

  • Galatians 6:2-5 – “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.5 For each one shall bear his own load.”  [21]

A “burden” is a weight that cannot be carried by one person. The Law of Christ is that believers help others with the burdens that come into their lives. A “load” is what a person can and should carry on their own, their personal responsibility.  Notice Paul instructs the Galatians to not think too highly of themselves (6:3). The basis of self-assessment is comparing oneself now with where one was previously; personal growth based on comparisons with ourselves is the basis for measurement. We are not to compare ourselves to others. If we do, the result will be to get proud and puffed up. You can always find someone worse than you are, someone who is less able than you are. Carry your own load, labor in God’s harvest fields, and if you see someone bending and near breaking under a burden, help them out. Then you will fulfill the Law of Christ.

First allusion to the Cross in Matthew

 

Notice too that in Matthew 9:15 that Jesus makes the first allusion to the cross in the phrase, “when the bridegroom is taken away from them.” Jesus knew at a very early stage in His ministry and life, that His destiny and mission was the cross.

 

Fourth, religious non-laborers have closed hearts. Matthew 9 states:

 

Matthew 9:34 – “But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”  [22]

Even though Jesus by now had done countless miracles and good works, the Pharisees weren’t going to let that get in the way of their disparaging Jesus due to their jealousy over the people flocking to Him. The on-looking Pharisees weren’t joyful that a demon possessed man was freed from the devil and able to talk again, they were more concerned about smearing Jesus because He was drawing attention away form them. The hearts of the Pharisees was closed to the work of Jesus. Closed hearts don’t care to labor in the harvest fields of God. In fact, these Pharisees were so closed-hearted that they went so far as to attribute the work of Jesus to the devil. Sometimes we just do not want to accept what God does or the way He chooses to do it. When that happens we are not laboring in the harvest, and we hinder others who are.  

The Problem of Non-Laborers Illustrated

The harvest is plentiful but the problem is that the laborers are few.  The following illustration shows what happens when the church does not send out laborers.

On a dangerous seacoast where shipwrecks often occur, there was once a little life-saving station. The building was primitive, and there was just one boat, but the members of the life-saving station were committed and kept a constant watch over the sea. When a ship went down, they unselfishly went out day or night to save the lost. Because so many lives were saved by that station, it became famous. Consequently, many people wanted to be associated with the station to give their time, talent, and money to support its important work. New boats were bought, new crews were recruited, a formal training session was offered. As the membership in the life-saving station grew, some of the members became unhappy that the building was so primitive and that the equipment was so outdated. They wanted a better place to welcome the survivors pulled from the sea. So they replaced the emergency cots with beds and put better furniture in the enlarged and newly decorated building.

Now the life-saving station became a popular gathering place for its members. They met regularly and when they did, it was apparent how they loved one another. They greeted each other, hugged each other, and shared with one another the events that had been going on in their lives. But fewer members were now interested in going to sea on life-saving missions; so they hired lifeboat crews to do this for them. About this time, a large ship was wrecked off of the coast, and the hired crews brought into the life-saving station boatloads of cold, wet, dirty, sick, and half-drowned people. Some of them had black skin, and some had yellow skin. Some could speak English well, and some could hardly speak it at all. Some were first-class cabin passengers of the ship, and some were the deck hands. The beautiful meeting place became a place of chaos. The plush carpets got dirty. Some of the exquisite furniture got scratched. So the property committee immediately had a shower built outside the house where the victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there was rift in the membership. Most of the members wanted to stop the club's life-saving activities, for they were unpleasant and a hindrance to the normal fellowship of the members. Other members insisted that life-saving was their primary purpose and pointed out that they were still called a life-saving station. But they were finally voted down and told that if they wanted to save the lives of all those various kinds of people who would be shipwrecked, they could begin their own life-saving station down the coast. And do you know what? That is what they did.

As the years passed, the new station experienced the same changes that had occurred in the old. It evolved into a place to meet regularly for fellowship, for committee meetings, and for special training sessions about their mission, but few went out to the drowning people. The drowning people were no longer welcomed in that new life-saving station. So another life-saving station was founded further down the coast. History continued to repeat itself. And if you visit that seacoast today, you will find a number of adequate meeting places with ample parking and plush carpeting. Shipwrecks are frequent in those waters, but most of the people drown.  [23]

The Productive Nature of Disciple Laborers

We’ve seen the unproductive nature of the religious, but what about the nature of God’s laborers, what makes a person a productive disciple laborer for the Lord?

 

First, the disciple laborer is MOVED BY GOD TO LABOR.   

 

Matthew 9:38 - “Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  [24]

Jesus instructed His disciples to pray for God to send out laborers into His harvest. This means that those who end up laboring have been moved by God to labor. It also means that those who

 

 

 

labor  are open to, attentive to and obedient to, the direction of God’s call to labor in the fields

of the lost. A disciple laborer is available to God  for labor. The apostle Paul was inspired to write of this heart attitude when he wrote:

 

  • Romans 12:1-2 – “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  [25]

Have you ever wondered what God’s will is for your life? These verses contain the means to finding the will of God for you, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” That’s what a laborer has done and that is why they end up being a laborer, because when you yield yourself up to God, He inevitably directs you to work in the harvest fields of the lost. Peter was inspired to write:

  • 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”  [26]

If God is “not willing that any should perish,”  then it is clear that the opposite is true, God is willing that all would be saved. THE WILL OF GOD IS THAT NONE PERISH! This is one of the most important, yet most frequently overlooked truths of the Bible. This truth is apparently overlooked because believers are so preoccupied with their own lives. Disciple, this is not right! Following Jesus requires we crucify our self and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-25; Galatians 2:20). God’s desire for the lost to be saved is echoed throughout the Bible and is the reason that Jesus came to earth. This is the message of the gospel of Matthew which states:

 

  • Matthew 1:21 - “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  [27]
  • Matthew 9:13 - “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  [28]
  • Matthew 18:11 - “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.”  [29]
  • Matthew 20:28 - “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”   [30]

This thematic purpose of God is seen throughout the Bible. Read a sampling of other verses from Old and New Testaments that show God’s will is to save the lost:

 

  • Ezekiel 18:23,32 -  “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God,and not that he should turn from his ways and live? . . . . 32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!”  [31]
  • Ezekiel 33:11 - “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’”  [32]
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4 – “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  [33]
  • 1 Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.”  [34]
  • Titus 2:11 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” [35]

 

The disciple laborer recognizes that the will of God is to labor in the Spirit to reach lost souls. But what does that mean for you and me? The “harvest” that is “truly plentiful” (9:37) which Jesus is talking about is the vast field of lost souls in the world. The “laborers,” that, “are few,” (9:37) are you and me! But what is a “laborer”?

 

What is a “laborer”?

 

The word “laborer” is an important one to note here. “Laborer” is translated form the Greek ERGETES (Strong’s #2040) and refers to a, “workman, laborer, doer.” This word is derived from the term ERGON (Strong’s #2041) meaning, “business, employment, that with which one is occupied; an act, deed, thing done.” [36] Jesus is instructing the disciples to pray for those who would be ACTIVELY INVOLVED IN HARVESTING SOULS. (See John 14:21; James 2:14-26). But why would someone labor for the lost?

Second, the disciple laborer is  MOTIVATED BY GOD’S LOVE.

 

The parallel accounts of the opening scene in Matthew nine shows us the extent to which the friends of the paralytic were willing to go for their friend:

 

  • Mark 2:1-4 – “And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house.2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them.3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.”  [37]
  • Luke 5:17-19 – “Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.”  [38]

The friends of the paralyzed man stopped at nothing to get their friend to Jesus. We don’t know if they were believers, (although Mark tells us that Jesus had “preached the word to them” Mark 2:2). Perhaps they had responded to Jesus and become so overcome with love and concern for their paralyzed friend that they went to this great extent to get him to Jesus. Love motivates the laborer. Even if there is some other explanation for the friends bringing the paralytic to Jesus, we know love is the motivating power of the laborer by looking at the laborer Jesus.

Jesus has a passion for souls

In Matthew nine it states of Jesus:

Matthew 9:36 – “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”  [39]

Jesus had and has a passion for souls. Jesus looked out on the harvest of souls and, “was moved with compassion.” The term “compassion” here is a translation of the Greek term SPLANCHNIZOMAI (Strong’s #4697) which means, “to be moved as to one’s bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion - for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity). [40]  As He looked out on the lost, Jesus was deeply moved to the depths of His soul. The love motivated Jesus to labor in the harvest fields of the lost was more than just a feeling is evident in that He took action; He labored on in the field of the lost.

In the Complete Biblical Library commentary, the following comment is worth noting:

The phrase “moved with compassion” (esplanchnisthe) is one of the strongest expressions of compassion in Greek. Except for its appearance in a few parables, the term occurs only in reference to Jesus (cf. Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 15:32; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 8:2; Luke 7:13).

The description of the people “as sheep having no shepherd” emerges directly from the Old Testament (cf. Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Isaiah 53:6). Eskulmenoi . . . [“having been distressed”] here means “being scattered” and suggests “being flayed” or “being wounded” (used of sheep being wounded by thorns) or “being plundered” (as by robbers); in general it means “being weary.” The “sheep” in this instance were weary because of the heavy burdens laid on their shoulders by the religious leaders (11: 28; 23:4). Jesus viewed His own role as the One who gathers the lost and scattered sheep (15:24; cf. 10:16; 18:12). He thus revealed Himself as the promised Shepherd, the Messiah (Micah 5:2; Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24; John 10:1-8). [41]

Scattered, flayed, wounded, plundered and weary, these are all words that describe the gutwreching harvest fields of the lost. Do you see the lost world like this? Do you see the world through the compassionate eyes of Jesus? Is your heart moved when you look at the lost? This is what the love of God in you will do, if that love is allowed to flow in the Spirit. 

Love, the love of Jesus, His passion for lost souls, is the motivating power of the laboring disciple. Such love comes from the Spirit according to the word of God, which states:

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [42]

The love of God in the disciple gives them no other choice but to offer themselves to God to labor for the lost. That this is true is seen in Paul’s inspired words which states:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 – “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”  [43]

Do you have a passion for lost souls? Do you give a thought or care for the lost who are around you? Jesus had a passion for lost souls, do you? If you are willing to respond to God’s moving in your heart, now that He has moved you and filled you with a love for the lost, what do you do next?

The Practical Procedure of Disciple Laborers

When a disciple has been moved by God and filled with His love for the lost, there is a practical procedure the disciple laborer follows.

The MEANS of the disciples laborer is  TEACHING, PREACHING, AND HEALING.

We look to Jesus as our Supreme example of Laborer and we see that His ministry used these three means:

Matthew 9:35 – “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.”  [44]

Jesus taught the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17), He preached the gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1ff.) and ministered practically to the lost by healing them. In the same way disciple laborers use the means of preaching the gospel to save souls, teach the word to edify and build up the saved, minister to the practical material needs of the lost by healing the hurts of those around them. This is the balanced means of laboring in God’s harvest field that the disciple laborer must use.

God’s word is our primary witnessing tool. As Paul was inspired to write:

  • Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  [45]
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  [46]

God’s word is God’s instrument to bring faith to people and once they have received faith unto salvation, His word builds them up and matures them in it.

Peter wrote:

  • 1 Peter 1:22-25 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  [47]

God’s word is the seed of salvation planted in unbelievers. Spread the word disciple!

Laboring with God’s Word in love

God’s word should always be administered in love, never coarsely. God’s agape love is described as follows:

  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a – “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never fails. . . .”  [48]

That is the attitude and way in which laborers are to administer God’s word to the lost. Paul explains this even further when he is inspired to write:

  • 2 Timothy 2:24-26 – “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient,25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”  [49]

The disciple laborer is not looking to war with words, but rather looks to win the lost with a loving, gentle, patient, humble application of God’s word to people’s lives. The disciple laborer wants to be used by the Spirit to free the lost from the clutches of the evil one. The word of God is a sword (Ephesians 6:17) that can be used to hack away at the lost in a way that only dis-members them and scars them, or in a way that becomes like a surgeon’s scalpel to cut out the cancer of sin, to bring salvation and healing. The truth of the word spoken in love is the only way such an objective can be accomplished (Ephesians 4:15). Love  “never fails,” the word of God spoken in love, will be sued by God to save the lost

The disciple laborer’s  FIVEFOLD MESSAGE

First, REST YOUR FAITH IN JESUS – The work that Jesus does in the lives of the people in this chapter is closely connected to the people’s faith in Him. In Matthew 9 faith was present in the people as mentioned in the following verses:

Matthew 9:2,18,22,28-29 – “Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” . . . 18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” . . . 22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. . . . 28 And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, According to your faith let it be to you.”  [50]

The message of the laborer is one of faith in Christ. Those bringing the paralytic, the paralytic, the synagogue ruler, the bleeding woman and the two blind men had faith in Jesus to work in them. As mentioned in our study of Matthew 8, the faith to be saved, to be healed or to do anything comes from God. This is clearly pointed out in two verses which state:

  • John 6:29 – “Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”  [51]
  • Acts 3:16 -  “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.”  [52]
  • Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  [53]

Faith in a person is God’s work, it comes through Jesus, and is a gracious gift from Him, we can’t work to get it. The Bible tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God:

  • Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” [54]

It is impossible to please God without faith, because faith is the first evidence that one has surrendered to God, opened themselves up to God, to receive God’s gift of faith. Faith is the first part of the message of the disciple laborer. Faith is the foundation of our salvation laid by God in us. Without faith, we can proceed no further.

Second, RECEIVE FORGIVENESS of sinsJesus ministered first to the spiritual needs of the paralytic by offering him forgiveness of his sins:

Matthew 9:2a,5-6 – “He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” . . 5 “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?6 “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”  [55]

Forgiveness of sin is only available through faith in Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Since it is sin that separates a person from God (Isaiah 59:2), forgiveness of sin by God is the next aspect of the laborer’s message.

What did Jesus mean when He asked, “which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’”? Forgiveness of sin and healing the paralytic are both things that only God can do. But anyone could come and say the words, “your sins are forgiven,” or, “rise up and walk.” The point is not that either phrase is easier to say verbally than the other, the point is that if someone says, “your sins are forgiven,” there is no certainty that this is so, on the other hand, when someone says, “rise up and walk,” the person either rises up or they do not, the proof is in the response. Jesus connected the forgiveness of sins with His act of healing to show that when He said either phrase, He had the power to accomplish both. That’s why He said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.”

The message of forgiveness is central to the gospel. And this forgiveness comes through faith in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us:

  • Ephesians 1:7 – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”  [56]
  • Colossians 2:13-14 – “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”  [57]

            Third, REPENT AND FOLLOW JESUS – Jesus called Matthew the tax collector to follow him as His disciple. Repentance is the evidence of God’s faith at work in you. Repentance is the willingness to forsake all to follow Jesus. Jesus says in Matthew nine that this was the main purpose for His coming:

Matthew 9:9-13 – “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples.11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.13 “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”  [58]

Matthew was a tax collector. The people hated tax collectors because they were viewed as traitors who worked for the oppressing Empire of Rome and they were often dishonest. Rome collected taxes on land, on imports and exports, and on houses. The tax collectors made their money by collecting more than the amount of tax required by Rome. The force of the Roman army backed up tax collectors. So hated were tax collectors that few if any Jews would associate with them. They were not permitted to make donations to the Temple or to testify in Jewish courts. In the gospel of Mark and Luke, Matthew is referred to as, “Levi” (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). This probably means he belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi, which would make him all the more repugnant to the Jews. And yet, this is the fifth person called by Jesus to be His disciple in the gospel of Matthew. And when Jesus calls, Matthew does not hesitate to follow (9:9). Luke’s parallel account tells us that Jesus was invited to dine in Matthew’s home (Luke 5:29). Matthew had a great banquet and invited all his unsaved friends (Luke 5:29). Right from the start, Matthew had a burden for his unsaved friends to know Jesus (9:10).

The on looking Pharisees did not like Jesus association with the despicable tax collectors and other sinners (9:11). Jesus responds to the Pharisees by giving them a proverbial remark, “The well don’t need a doctor, the sick do.” Jesus desires to offer mercy to repentant sinners. He quotes scripture to them (Hosea 6:6) and makes the point that He was not coming to establish another sacrificial system, but to offer mercy or “kindheartedness, love, goodness,” (CHESED from Hosea 6:6) to the lost. Jesus did not come to encourage religious “sacrifices.” The sacrifices of the Old Testament were types that foreshadowed the blood atonement that Jesus was to bring (Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 8:4-5; 10:1). Therefore, now that Jesus had come and would go to the cross the old system was obsolete. In Christ there is a new and fresh way to follow. If this was the main purpose of Jesus, the Supreme Disciple-Maker and Supreme Laborer, then it ought to be ours as well.

Jesus said, “For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.What is repentance? Charles Haddon Spurgeon makes the following comment about what repentance is in his book The Soul Winner:

“Repentance is . . . a change of mind with regard to everything! . . . it is a great and deep change . . . . You will not find a better definition of it than the one given in the children’s hymn: -

‘Repentance is to leave the sins we loved before; And show that we in earnest grieve, by doing them no more.’ [59]

Repentance is a 180-degree turn from your old life of sin, to life in Christ in the Spirit. Repentance leads to an actual change in a person’s life. Repentance is what God does in a person (Acts 5:31; 11:18). Repentance is necessary for salvation (Acts 2:38). If you repent and are saved you will be changed, you will not stay the same (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is an important aspect of the laborers message.

Repentance opens the door to God’s renewing, refreshing work. This is what the apostolic laborers preached in the book of Acts when they said:

  • Acts 3:18-20 - “But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.19 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,20 “and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before,”  [60]

Repentance is integral to salvation. There is no salvation without repentance, without turning to God in the faith that He provides. When you turn to God, He will begin that awesome new and refreshing work of the Spirit in you.

            Fourth, REALIZE THE NEED TO BREAK FROM RELIGION – Jesus spoke of the necessity of people realizing that they could not build on the old ineffective religious pharisaical ways, but instead they needed a fresh new beginning. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus made this truth was made abundantly clear (Matthew 5-7). This truth will be reiterated throughout the remainder of the gospel of Matthew (see Matthew 23). In Matthew 9 Jesus said:

Matthew 9:14-17 – “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?”15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.16 “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse.17 “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”  [61]

The disciples of John were locked in a legalistic, works mindset. They were sincere, but they needed to learn what it meant to minister to the Lord (Acts 13:2). The disciples didn’t understand this for the most part either, but Jesus was teaching them (9:14). Therefore, John’s disciples came and asked Jesus why His disciples didn’t fast. Jesus didn’t say fasting was wrong and indeed said His disciples would fast later (9:15). But now, in the presence of Jesus, it was not the time to fast, it was the time to revel in their close personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus used this interaction to point out an important truth.

Nowadays we have pre-shrunk clothing, but that was not the case in Jesus’ day. In Jesus day if you had an old garment that had been washed and worn many times and had been shrunk already, if that old garment was torn and you tried to patch it with new cloth, when you washed the garment, the new cloth patch would shrink and tear away from the old cloth and make the hole that much worse. Just as the new and the old cloth won’t mesh, so the gospel of Jesus would not mesh with the old religious way (9:16).

Old wineskins were stretched out to their maximum capacity. If you poured new wine into the old wineskins went the fermentation process took place and the new wine expanded, it would burst the stretched old skins. In the same way, you can’t pour the new gospel into an old religious vessel; you need a completely new vessel that God alone can provide or you’ll burst the vessel. If you try to take the gospel and follow your old religious ways, you’ll be torn and ultimately burst, it just won’t work (9:17).

These words of Jesus are a restatement of the key verse of His Sermon on the Mount teaching:

  • Matthew 5:20 - “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  [62]

There needs to be a clean break from religious self-efforts and a fresh start made (Eph 2:1-9). Paul makes this point to the church in Colossae when he is inspired to write:

  • Colossians 2:8-10 – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”  [63]

The message of the laborer is that we are COMPLETE IN JESUS; WE AREN’T TO BE SNAGGED IN RELIGIOUS RITUALS AND GUILT.

In Hebrews it speaks of this when it states:

  • Hebrews 10:19-22 – “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”  [64]

This fresh start is an introduction into a new life in Christ in the Spirit. Elsewhere in the Bible it confirms the newness of this work by saying:

  • Ezekiel 11:19 -  “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh,”  [65]
  • Romans 6:4 – “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  [66]
  • 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 – “And we have such trust through Christ toward God.5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  [67]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”  [68]
  • Ephesians 4:20-24 – “ But you have not so learned Christ,21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”  [69]
  • Titus 3:4-8 – “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”  [70]

The laborers message is that you can’t reach God through a religious pursuit, (that only leads to frustration and failure), you can only come to God in Christ by the Spirit.

Fifth, REMIND PEOPLE THAT NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH JESUSJesus taught by His healing ministry that nothing was impossible for Him. He raised the dead, healed those who were beyond medical healing, healed the blind, and delivered the demon-possessed mutes. All of these were examples of conditions beyond the reach of worldly intervention. Read how nothing is impossible for God in Christ:

Matthew 9:18-34 – “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.”19 So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did His disciples.20 And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment.21 For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.”22 But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.23 When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing,24 He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him.25 But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.26 And the report of this went out into all that land.27 When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”28 And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.”29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.”30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.”31 But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country. 32 As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed.33 And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!”34 But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.”  [71]

The parallel accounts in Mark and Luke identify this “ruler” as Jairus (Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56). Jairus was likely a man of prominence who oversaw the orderly operation of the synagogue worship (Mark 5:22). This position in the community would make Jairus a very prominent and influential individual.  It’s interesting therefore, that a person of such stature and religious involvement would come humbly kneeling and worshipping Jesus. A crisis in life often leads people to the feet of Jesus no matter what others will say or think. Jesus of course went to minister to the needs of this sorrowing one. And what we know is that Jesus healed the dead a12 year old daughter of Jairus. Nothing is impossible with God.

But on the way a woman who had a ritually unclean bleeding condition (Leviticus 15:25) and was likely spurned by the community, reached out to touch the hem or tassel of Jesus garment. She was probably fearful that Jesus would reject her like the other religious leaders had given her ritually unclean condition. But Jesus turned and offered words of encouragement. Over and over we see Jesus accepting and ministering to those the world rejects (cf. 8:1f.) What is of additional blessing is that Mark’s account tells us that she had “suffered many things from many physicians” for “twelve years” (Mark 5:25,26). What the doctors could not heal, Jesus could heal. Nothing is impossible with God.

Jesus walked on and seems to have passed by two blind men who were crying out to Him. Jesus likely went into Peter’s house, which was in Capernaum, and the two blind men followed Him in. After Jesus had tested their persistence, He tested their faith and then He healed them. Again we see that nothing is impossible with God.

Lastly, a man demon-possessed in a way that made him mute was brought to Jesus. Jesus cast out the demon and the man spoke showing that Jesus has authority over the devil. Again, nothing is impossible for God.

That is the fivefold message that is to be practical applied by the disciple laborer: rest your faith in Jesus, receive God’s forgiveness of sin; repent and follow Jesus, realize you need to break from trying to follow Jesus religiously, and remind all that nothing is impossible with God. That is the practical procedure for the disciple laborer. But what is the final purpose in all of this for the disciple laborer?

The Purpose of the Disciple Laborer

Matthew 9:8 – “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.”  [72]

When Jesus labored amongst the lost, they ended up marveling at Him and glorifying God. He is our supreme example. Therefore, the purpose, the pinnacle achievement by the disciple laborer, is to bring glory to God as well.  While we do not want people to marvel at us, (we want them to marvel at God), we do want them to glorify God in every way by what He does through us. In all that we say or do, bringing glory to God is our goal. That is the marvelous reward of the disciple and the purpose of the disciple laborer

Paul reiterates this when he is inspired to write:

  • 1 Corinthians 6:20 – “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  [73]
  • 1 Corinthians 10:31 – “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” [74]
  • 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 – “For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God,13 while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men,”  [75]

Peter too wrote:

  • 1 Peter 4:11 – “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”  [76]

What a glorious privilege it is to be used by God to bring glory to Him. He gives us the words; He gives us the ability; and He uses us to bring glory to His to His name. Thank You Lord!

Conclusion

When you think of the harvest field of the lost you may think we’re talking about missions to foreign lands, but the United States is a mission field filled with those who have never heard the gospel or who are deficient in understanding the basics of the Faith. Below are some statistics from the Barna Research Institute. As you read these stats, ask yourself, “Where am I in all of this?”

Probability of accepting Christ, segmented by age

  • Children between the ages of 5 and 13 have a 32% probability of accepting Jesus Christ as their savior.
  • The probability of accepting Christ drops to 4% for those who are between the ages of 14 and 18.
  • Those older than 18 have a 6% probability of accepting Jesus Christ as their savior.

The Harvest Field

  • 85% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. (2001)
  • 6% of Americans identify themselves as atheists or agnostics (2001)
  • 2% of Americans identify themselves as Jewish. (2001)
  • About 1% of all American adults associate with the Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu faiths. (2001)
  • One out of three adults (33%) is unchurched, (i.e. an adult (18 or older) who has not attended a Christian church service within the past six months, not including a holiday service (such as Easter or Christmas) or a special event at a church (such as a wedding or funeral). A proportion that represents 65-70 million adults in America. (2000)
  • It is surprising to find that roughly 10 million born again Christian adults are unchurched. (2000).
  • The highest proportion of unchurched is in the Northeast (44%), compared to 33% in the West, 32% in the Midwest and 26% in the South. (2000).
  • The unchurched adults have been on the rise in the past 3 years for the following population segments: Busters (rising from 31% to 40%) and men (up from 33% to 38%). (2000)
  • Men are one-third more likely than women to be unchurched (38% of men and 28% of women are unchurched). (2000)
  • Adults who are politically liberal are more than twice as likely than political conservatives to be unchurched (47% of liberals versus 23% of the conservatives). (2000)
  • Nearly three out of ten married adults are unchurched (28%) compared to two out of five who have never been married (39%). (2000)

Basic Understanding of Evangelism

  • 9 out of 10 American adults (86%) cannot accurately define the meaning of the “Great Commission.”
  • 7 out of 10 adults have no clue what “John 3:16” means.
  • Barely one third of all adults (31%) know the meaning of the expression “the gospel.”
  • Only 4% of adults could define the “Great Commission,” quote John 3:16, and define “the gospel.”
  • The most commonly used verse of the Bible in evangelistic conversations and preaching is John 3:16.
  • Two-thirds of the population (63%) has no idea what "John 3:16" refers to, much less has the ability to quote that verse. However, 24% of adults know that it is a verse from the Bible that addresses salvation. Among born again Christians, 50% were aware of this. (1994)
  • Many Americans believe that spiritual salvation is an outcome to be earned through their good character or behavior. One out of two people (51%) believe that "if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven." (2000)
  • Only four out of ten Americans (39%) believe that "people who do not consciously accept Jesus Christ as their savior will be condemned to hell." (1994)
  • 34% say there are some sins that God cannot forgive. (1997)

Evangelizers 

  • 26% of evangelizers are categorized as evangelical Christians. (1999)
  • 58% of born again Christians claim they have shared their faith with a non-Christian during the past year. (1999)
  • Busters (those between 18-33 years of age) are more likely than any other generation to share their faith with others. Our data show that 66% of Busters shared their faith in the last year, compared to 58% of Boomers (those 34-52 years of age), 52% of Builders (those 53-71), and 41% of Seniors (those 72 years plus). (1999)
  • Protestant non-mainline attendees and Baptists are more likely than average to share their faith. Specifically, 66% of Protestant non-mainline attendees and 64% of Baptists report that they have shared their faith with a non-Christian in the past year, compared to 48% of mainline attendees and 43% of Catholics. (1999)
  • It is surprising to see that not all of those who share their faith are totally committed to the Christian faith. When evangelizers where asked about their commitment to the Christian faith, only 76% said that they were absolutely committed to their faith, leaving nearly 1 out of 4 evangelizers sharing about a faith that, in reality, they are not totally committed to. (1999)
  • Americans living in the South feel more of a responsibility to share their faith with others than do adults in other regions of the country, with 40% of southerners feeling a sense of responsibility to share their faith with others, compared to 25% of those living in the West or Midwest, and 23% of those living in the Northeast. (1999)
  • Only about half (53%) of born again Christians feel a sense of responsibility to tell others about their faith. In other words, nearly half of born again Christians do not think that it is their personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs with those who do not know Christ. (1999)
  • Overall, Catholics are less likely than any other denominational group to feel a responsibility to share their faith with others. Only 14% of Catholics report that they have a personal responsibility to tell others about their beliefs, compared to 27% of mainline attendees, 48% of protestant non-mainline attendees, and 52% of Baptists who feel this sense of responsibility. (1999) [77]

Because people go to church does not necessarily mean they are saved. There is a vast harvest field of lost souls and if the above statistics are to be believed, only half of believers care to share the gospel with the lost and even less know how to do it! Disciple, we need to prayerfully ask the Spirit to put God’s word in our hearts and empower us to share the gospel with the lost. We need to prayerfully ask God to put His passion for lost souls into our hearts as well as His word.

 

Samuel Logan Brengle, past Commissioner in the Salvation Army gives the following poem entitled “Zeal” in his book The Soul Winners Secret:

 

ZEAL

 

Equip me for the war, And teach my hands to fight,

My simple, upright heart prepare, And guide my words aright;

Control my every thought, My whole of sin remove;

Let all my works in Thee be wrought,

Let all be wrought in love.

 

Oh! Arm me with the mind, Meek Lamb, which was in Thee,

And let my earnest zeal be found, With perfect charity;

With calm and tempered zeal, Let me enforce Thy call,

And vindicate Thy gracious will,

Which offers life to all.

 

Oh! May I love like Thee, In all Thy footsteps tread;

Thou hatest all iniquity, But nothing Thou hast made,

Oh, may I learn the art, With meekness to reprove;

To hate the sin with all my heart,

But still the sinner love.

 

Disciple, the harvest is plentiful and waiting, the laborers are few. I am praying the Lord of the harvest, God Almighty, will send you!

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[4]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[5]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[6]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19] J.K. Johnston, Why Christians Sin, Discovery House, 1992, p. 142.

 

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23] Thomas Wedel, Ecumenical Review, October, 1953, paraphrased in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 99-101.

 

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[41] Ralph W. Harris, Exec. Ed., the complete Biblical Library, (Springfield, Missouri: The Complete Biblical Library)  1989. p. 185.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59] Charles H. Spurgeon, the Soul Winner, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub. Co. ) 1963. p. 35

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[71]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77] http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=18