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Lesson 12: The Harvest and the Harvesters *

Introduction: In Matthew 9:37 Jesus said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." Since Jesus is talking about harvesting souls for the Kingdom of Heaven, I would add, "and skilled workers are even fewer." I have the handle of an old scythe in my garage. Scythes are hand tools for harvesting wheat. They have a long, curved handle, and a long, narrow blade fastened at a right angle to the end of the handle. I've got an idea about how it works, but it would take on-the-job training for me to use it properly. What about harvesting souls? How do we become a skilled worker at that critical task? Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!

  1. Trial Run


    1. Read Mark 6:7. How many of you served an internship for your current job? Is that what we are seeing here, on-the-job training? (Yes. Jesus decides that before He returns to heaven, He will give the disciples a practice run, or internship, for their ultimate harvesting mission.)


      1. Consider the first two things that Jesus does. Why do you think Jesus sent them out in pairs?
      2. Why do you think that the second thing He did was give them authority over evil spirits?


      3. Read Ephesians 6:12. In our evangelistic work today, do we underestimate the importance of spiritual warfare?


    2. Read Mark 6:8-9. When the children were small, we would take vacation trips in our motor home. I believed in taking spare equipment and parts. I thought this was prudent preparation. Are the disciples unprepared? Why would they lack even the essentials - like food and money?


      1. Is the idea to teach them true faith and dependence? (Read Matthew 10:10. Matthew's version of this event gives Jesus' reason - and He does not mention increasing faith. Instead, Jesus says that those who benefit from ministry should support it.)


      2. In the past I've had ministries ask me to contribute to a fund so that they could accrue enough money to "launch" the missionary. More recently, a ministry asked me to contribute to the work of close friends. Is this a flawed approach? Should those who directly benefit from missionary work pay for it? (Read 1 Corinthians 9:6, 12 and 15. The principle is that those who benefit should pay, but it is not a moral issue to make them pay.)


    3. Read Mark 6:10. Why not keep a look-out for better accommodations? (If you consider all of Jesus' directions, they seem to point to an uncomplicated approach - don't be weighed down by extra stuff and don't be searching around for different places to stay. Focus on the mission of sharing the gospel.)


    4. Read Mark 6:11. What lesson should we learn here that will help us with our current evangelistic efforts? (We should focus on those who want to hear what we have to say.)


      1. Those of you who have read my lessons for many years may recall the struggle I had about my elderly neighbors. I did all sorts of "works" for them, but he did not want to discuss salvation with me, and at one point his wife seemed hostile. When they had trouble, they would call me to pray, but I never converted either of them. I thought it was my failure. What does this text suggest? (If some resist the gospel, move on to the next person.)


  2. The Message


    1. Read Mark 6:12. Consider the disciples' message. Should that be our message today?


      1. Read Matthew 3:1-2. John preached repentance for Jesus was coming. When Jesus came He sent out his disciples and they preached repentance. How do you combine the message of repentance with having a welcoming attitude towards sinners?


    2. Read Luke 5:29-30. The Pharisees wanted sinners to change before they ate with them, but Jesus is eating with sinners. What would you guess was the first thing that Jesus said to the sinners? (I doubt it was "repent." More probably, "Why don't we eat?")


    3. Read Luke 5:31-32. What is Jesus' message? (Repent!)


      1. As a practical matter, what do you think this means? Exactly what should we say to people who come to our church seeking truth?


        1. When we see something that the new people are doing or wearing or eating that is inconsistent with our view of what is right, should we call them to repent of the doing, wearing or eating?


    4. Read Matthew 21:23 and Matthew 21:32. Who is Jesus addressing? (The chief religious leaders. These are people who believe in God and seem to have the doing, wearing and eating requirements exactly right.)


      1. In this context, what is Jesus asking them to do in Matthew 21:32? (Repent of their failure to believe in Jesus. John was also preaching faith in Jesus.)


      2. When they refused to "repent" and accept the "way of righteousness," what had they refused? (Grace! Righteousness through faith in Jesus.)


      3. Now, let me ask you again, what is it we should be telling our visitors about repentance? (They should repent of sin, they should repent of believing in righteousness through their own works, they should accept righteousness through faith in Jesus!)


      4. If we tell visitors looking for truth that they should stop doing, wearing or eating something to be saved, who needs to repent? (The person suggesting that salvation comes through doing, wearing or eating!)


    5. Read Matthew 21:28-30. This is the story that lead up to the verses we just discussed. Which son did the will of the father? (Read Matthew 21:31. Not the son who merely said the right things, but the son who did the right thing.)


      1. Let's discuss this. Based on the verses connected to this story, I suggested that church people who tell visitors that they must stop doing, wearing or eating something need to repent. This story says the son who does the right thing is the one who pleases the father. Was my suggestion wrong? (I trust not. Instead, I think this shows us the two sides of error. One side of error falls in the ditch of works - that you must do or not do something to be entitled to salvation. The other side of error falls in the ditch of saying sin is fine. You need change nothing. The path of truth is that you agree to accept Jesus as your only source of salvation and turn your life and your will over to Him.)


    6. Read Luke 24:46-49. What does this tell us is our message to the world? (Repent and seek forgiveness of sin, and you will have righteousness through Jesus' life, death and resurrection.)


      1. They have the message. Why wait? (The power, the skill is promised. We turn to that next.)


  3. The Power


    1. Read Acts 16:6. If our goal is to share the good news about Jesus, why would the Holy Spirit keep us from doing good work? (The Holy Spirit was not keeping them from preaching, He was simply directing where they should not go.)


    2. Read Acts 16:7-10. Have you ever wondered if you should share the gospel with a certain person? What kind of aid can we expect from the Holy Spirit? (This story teaches us that the Holy Spirit will lead us to people who want to hear the gospel.)


    3. Read Acts 2:1-3. Why the wind, noise and fire? (Read Acts 2:4-6. It attracted a crowd. Consider how your church attempts to bring seekers into the church.)


    4. Read Acts 2:7-12. If you had a church meeting, and you wanted to share the gospel with people who spoke 15 different languages, how would you do it? (Recall that I was blaming myself for not having the best gospel "pitch" for my elderly neighbors? The task facing the disciples was impossible - 15 (count them) different languages. But the Holy Spirit resolved it all.)


      1. What does that teach us about how we should present the gospel message? (It tells me that getting the right "help" is the most important thing.)


    5. Friend, if you are not sharing the gospel message, will you start today? Will you share with those who want to hear the message? Will you share repentance and salvation by grace alone? Will you pray that the Holy Spirit will empower you with the right opportunities, words and actions?


  4. Next week: The Cost of Discipleship.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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