Faithlife Sermons

Jesus' Strategy to Reach the Lost

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Introduction

Chess

Have you ever played chess? There are two kinds of players in the game of chess. There are those who think through what they are doing as they play. They think forward many moves, trying to anticipate their opponents reactions and plan accordingly. They are very strategic and intentional in their play. Then there are those who can only think one move at a time or do not think at all and simply move their pieces randomly. They have no strategy and simply operate in a haphazard way.
In a match between these two kinds of players, who will win? The strategic one of course. Now, it’s possible the random moves individual could get lucky, but more often than not, the person with some sort of strategy will win.
One of the things that you will see a good chess player do is to sacrifice pieces in order to gain a more favorable position. From the outside it appears that the player is making a very foolish mistake, but in reality he has positioned himself for the win. He knows that the goal is to win the game, not save every piece.
When we consider Jesus’ approach to carrying out his mission, do you think he is more like the random chess player or the strategic one? Jesus is VERY intentional in how he carries out his mission. Nothing he does is random. And what is truly interesting is that Jesus makes moves that from the outside appear to be very foolish. In fact, at the heart of his plan is complete foolishness, from a worldly perspective. But, it will work. Jesus will accomplish his purposes. So what is his strategy? We are going to look at Matthew’s gospel today to try to answer that question.

Context

At this point in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus has been teaching the people and performing miracles. Most recently he has been roaming Galilee. Our passage today occurs right before Jesus appoints the twelve disciples and sends them out for ministry. His earthly work was not meant to be a solo job. He planned on recruiting help.

Jesus’ Ministry Model

Matthew 9.25
Matthew 9:35 ESV
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
Jesus’ earthly ministry consisted of 3 main parts: teaching, preaching, and healing.

Teaching

The text says that Jesus would teach in their synagogues. He would go to a village or a city and then teach God’s word on the Sabbath. The main audience for his teaching was religious people, obviously since that was who went to synagogue. Jesus’ teaching was instruction on right living and action in God’s kingdom. He would explain the Scriptures with power and authority.
The local church today is called to share in that same teaching ministry. This is what I am doing right now. I am explaining God’s word and applying it to our lives. The church teaches on Sundays and in Bible Studies and to kids and in small groups and one to one because Jesus calls us to a ministry of instruction: explaining and apply the Word of God. Good teaching doesn’t simply tickle our curiosity. Good teaching demands action.
In order to remain faithful as a church we must devote ourselves to the unpacking of God’s word for each other.

Preaching

Not only did Jesus teach. He preached. Specifically he preached or proclaimed the gospel of the Kingdom. Preaching is different from teaching in that preaching is the announcement or declaration of the good news that the Kingdom of God was at hand in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus would simply declare that God was delivering his people.
We share in the proclamation of the gospel today. As the church we too are called to declare what God has done for us in Christ by sending his Son to die on the cross for our sins and be raised from the dead. Another word for this act is evangelism. The word evangelism comes from the Greek word euangelion, which we translate as gospel. To do evangelism simply means to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.
Now, who is the audience for that proclamation? We immediately think of those who do not yet know the gospel and those who have not yet received it. We must declare in power the good news. This is the only way that people will be able to become a part of the Kingdom of God. This is exactly what Paul meant in Romans 10:
Romans 10:14–15 ESV
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
But the gospel is not only for those who have not yet believed. The gospel is for those who already believe as well. The gospel isn’t only the ABC’s of the Christian faith. The gospel is the A to Z of the Christian faith as well. We need the good news declared to us, for by its declaration we experience its power. We find the motivation that we need to live according to that gospel.

Healing

In addition to a word driven ministry, Jesus also met people’s physical needs. He healed them of their diseases. Sickness was simply the result of living in a fallen world. Since Jesus was coming to fix what had been broken, he waged war on the people’s physical illnesses.
This did two things. First, it backed up Jesus’ word ministry. Hard to argue with what the man teaches when he is making the lame walk and lifting corpses from their graves. Secondly, Jesus did these things because he loved these people. There are many instances where Jesus healed someone and they went on their merry way without any further regard for him. He often healed with no strings attached, but capitalized on those relationships that grew through his physical ministry to them.
This is yet another area that the church is called to join Jesus in. No, we cannot heal the way Jesus healed. But we can meet people’s physical needs. We can love people free of charge, with no strings attached. Our message will be better received if we love people well and not simply view them as potential notches on our evangelistic belts.

The Model

All three of these elements to Jesus’ ministry were to be carried out by his disciples. He isn’t simply serving the people of Galilee. He is preparing his disciples to serve Galilee and beyond by modeling ministry before them. So too, the church today is called to carry that ministry on.

Jesus’ Heart for the Lost

Matthew 9.36
Matthew 9:36 ESV
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Jesus’ compassion

Obviously, as Jesus ministers the crowds begin flocking to him more and more. Seeing these crowds coming out in desperation for him moved Jesus’ heart. They were vulnerable like shepherd-less sheep: exposed and defenseless to countless threats. There are so many competing voices and claims to truth in our world.
Seeing the crowds he was ministering to moved Jesus’ heart. They were vulnerable like shepherd-less sheep: exposed and defenseless to countless threats.
Our tendency is to view those who fall for those voices with contempt. We look down our nose at those who believe that the natural world is all there is. We roll our eyes at those who believe in new age teachings. We mock those who kick against the natural order of things to redefine what it means to be male and female.
Jesus looks at them and his heart breaks. Our hearts out to break! We should weep, church. People are lost and dying apart from Jesus, finding their hope in things that will never truly satisfy. They are being ravaged by false teaching and corrupt voices. Our hearts should be moved by them, not hardened against them.
Jesus loves lost people. Jesus loves sinners. In his deep love for people who are far from him, Jesus has a plan, a strategy if you will, to reach them. And it is pretty surprising.

Jesus’ Strategy to Reach the Lost

Matthew 9.
Matthew 9:37–38 ESV
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

The Strategy

Implicit in Jesus words here is his plan: reach the lost by sending disciples to them. That is what a laborer is. Jesus is modeling gospel ministry before his twelve disciples so that they can go and make disciples by teaching, preaching, and healing, so that those disciples can in turn make disciples by teaching, preaching, and healing. So fast forward to our day and age. If we are disciples of Jesus, then we are a part of Jesus plan for reaching lost people for the sake of the Kingdom of God.

The Harvest

Jesus explains to his disciples the current situation. The harvest is plentiful. There are many people ripe for entry into God’s Kingdom. Anywhere you go on this planet where you find human beings you will find a harvest ripe for the picking. There are not cities or regions or countries where the gospel cannot take hold. There is simply no lack of opportunity for the good news of Jesus Christ to transform lives and bring people in to God’s Kingdom.
We frequently bemoan the fact that there are so few Christians even in our own New England. We live in the least reached region of the United States. Let that sink in for a moment. We sit in the middle of a vast field of lostness. Percentage wise, there are more people dying apart from Jesus here than any where else in our country. What is the problem? Why is this happening? What will it take to reach our region? Jesus has a plan. We are a part of that plan.
It is going to take every one of us to reach Taunton and beyond. We are all called to take part in the ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing. We are all called to make disciples. That is why you are here. That is why you are a part of our church if you are a member. We are all called to get in the game. But that is not enough. Something else is needed. You and I are not enough to reach our city and our region.

Jesus’ Strategy, Part 1

Send his disciples to minister to the lost.

Jesus Strategy, Part 2

Jesus tells his disciples that because the harvest is so massive they do not have nearly enough workers. So, they must pray that God would send them more. As disciples of Jesus, we are commanded to likewise request more laborers be sent to New England for the sake of the gospel. I believe it is why I am here, in response to prayer. But I am not enough. We need so many more here with boots on the ground advancing the Kingdom of God.
That is why we frequently include prayers for gospel laborers in our guided prayer. I hope that you would join us in praying for more disciple makers. It is the only way we will truly reach our city for the glory of God.
I want to give us a few
In light of our text this morning I want to remind us of something that is of the greatest importance for our church.

Application

WSBC exists because Jesus loves lost people

We are not here for a holy huddle. Our church is not a social club for the saved. We are an outpost of the kingdom of God, called to advance the mission of our King to see people repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. We exist because Jesus loves lost people. So if we operate as though reaching the lost is a secondary issue we are failing at what we are called to do.
Imagine a great general sending his forces into enemy territory. The soldiers arrive and set up camp and proceed to carry on among themselves and treat their operation like a vacation in a foreign land. If an enemy happens upon them, of course they will fight, but their focus is on enjoying one another’s company and having a good time. They begin making decisions on what the individual soldiers enjoy or think, rather than on defeating the enemy. They choose bright colored uniforms because they are more fashionable. They spend their resources on better food rather than ammunition. They exchange their weapons for smaller less powerful ones because they aren’t so heavy. They forget why they are there in the first place. What will happen? They will either be defeated or the general will come and deal with them harshly.
Some of us, for all intents and purposes, have gone AWOL. We think that the church exists to satisfy our desires and needs. The church exists because Jesus loves lost people and wants them saved! Here is the crazy thing too. If we focus on those outside our congregation, guess who’s needs are going to be met? OURS. We will bring more people in who serve and who can build up the entire body.
We are going to try to recapture the spirit of our church after Easter. I will be preaching on the future mission, values, and strategy of our church. We will continue to reorient ourselves around Christ’s mission, not our preferences. You have kids and grand kids and neighbors and coworkers and family members and friends who do not know Jesus. If changing things here to better reach them ends up seeing some of them meet Jesus, won’t it be worth it? Our preferences will seem silly once we realize how much better it is to see people we love begin to love Jesus for the first time.

Join the work

You are called to join the work this morning. If you are a disciple of Jesus then you are called to help advance his Kingdom. I want to give you a very practical way to do that in the next two weeks.
In two weeks it will be Easter Sunday. People are more likely to attend church on two days: Christmas and Easter. They already have it on their radar. I want you to consider who God is calling you to invite for Easter. Can you imagine what would happen if we each brought just one person?
Well how do you invite someone to church? It’s easy. In a regular conversation ask them if they have any plans for Easter. They might not. They might. They also will probably ask you. That’s when you tell them that you will be celebrating with your church. Then you say, “Hey if you aren’t doing anything you should come. You don’t have to get dressed up or anything. Our pastor is going to talk about what Easter is about and we will be celebrating with music.”
So I am asking you to invite people to Easter. Call in all of your favors. Get people here. I promise you I will preach the gospel in a way that they will understand it. Let’s see how many we can get to show up. I want to show you that the harvest is massive. There is no reason we cannot have more people here on Easter than we did last year.

Pray for laborers

You are also called to pray for laborers. Will you commit to pray for more gospel workers in this church? We need more disciple makers, more who are willing to get off the bench and in the game. Pray that others would invite people for Easter. There is no shortage of lost people in our city. There is only a shortage of workers. So let’s pray that we get some.

Are you a part of the harvest?

Friend, you might be a part of the harvest we have been talking about this morning. You may have never had a relationship with God through Jesus before but you are interested. I would love to share with you how you can enter the Kingdom of God and become a part of God’s forever family with God as our Father and Jesus our big brother, and the church our siblings. If that is you, hit me up after service.
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