Strategies for Seeking the Lost

Introduction: You and I have been called to do work.  Good works.  That is where our attention will be turned throughout the year as we concentrate on the various good works that God has prepared for us to do. This prepared work is a defining characteristic of Jesus’ disciples.

  • Jesus had a job in mind for His closest disciples. They would come to be known as His apostles (messengers) because Jesus chose them to take the gospel to the world. He prepared these men for this job early in His ministry. Although their commission and audience were different than ours, we can learn from what Jesus told these men.  He called them to take the good news of the kingdom to the lost sheep of Israel. Although Jesus was speaking specifically to the apostles, the principles defining their job can help us see our responsibility to teach others more clearly.

Read Matthew 10:5-15

I.  “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”This event is sometimes called the “Limited Commission” in contrast to the Great Commission of chapter 28. In the great commission they are sent to the whole world, but here only to the cities of the Israelites.

A.  Jesus provides His disciples with the power to accomplish their task. On this occasion He gave the disciples temporary miraculous power enabling them to confirm the message. The miracles were not the main thing, but rather the message. We do not have these miraculous powers, but we are empowered with the message, and the promise that He will also provide for the work He has assigned us.

B.  “As you go, preach” – Jesus’ commission had purpose, They were to live it; preaching along the way, as the preaching was the reason for the journey. So it is with us. The teaching and preaching are the reason for our journey.

 

II.  The Strategies: How were they to accomplish their task?  Jesus instructions contained the necessary methods or strategies needed.  Doing God’s work in God’s way.  The apostles were only messengers, commissioned to do their job in God’s way.  These strategies are important to our work today in reaching the lost.

 A.  A Single Message: “the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (vs. 7) Even with all their spiritual gifts, the heart of the apostles’ limited mission was in the message they preached.  The announcement of God’s coming kingdom through John the immerser, brought hope to the faithful Israelite, and demanded repentance in preparation.

1.  2000 years ago, the kingdom arrived through the preaching of these same apostles. In that message men and women were also called to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins. (Acts 2). In Acts 8 it says “But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.”

2.  We are called to preach the same message today. We preach the kingdom by preaching the authority of the King and the obedience to the commands of repentance & baptism.

3.  The message must be simple and clear. Denominationalism and religious division has muddled the simple message of the gospel. It can be also (and has been) muddled by the political, social, environmental, cultural, or economic causes.  “We preach Christ and Him crucified”

 

B.  Confident Faith: “Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. (Vs. 9-10)  The apostles were not to demand any payment for their work or even to save up money for the trip. They were to go out with their money belts empty. Why?

1.  Jesus was teaching a lesson about faith. They were to have faith in God’s ability to provide.

C.  Continuous Discernment: As the apostles came to the various cities and the houses within those cities there were decisions that had to be made. Should they stay here or move on. Evangelism always involves the ability to read the situation, and consequently the hearts of the listener. The apostles were called on to concentrate on the receptive and reject the contemptuous.

 

1.  Matthew 10:12-13 – 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  The house probably refers to the house where they would go to teach. A “worthy” house was where they found receptive hearts and their message was respected. They were to confirm the greeting of peace upon this house. Peace (shalom) was a call for total well being and represented God’s whole blessing. The implication is that truly receptive listeners were to be ministered to in the fullest way. Their open hearts to the Lord’s work earned them God’s richest blessing. Later in verse 41 Jesus says…”He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet,” Jesus explained a short while later, “shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward” (Matt 10:41).

2.  Matthew 10:14-15  – And whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.”  This verse presents the other side of the apostle’s discernment. “Let your greeting of peace return to you” was an Oriental expression signifying withdrawal of favor or blessing.  Those who would not accept the message could not be blessed by God.

a. God’s gospel is offered to all the world, and it has power to save all the world, but it is powerless to save or help even a single person who will not have Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – John 5:40 – 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

b.  When a house or a city was contemptuous of the apostles and of the words they taught, as they left that house or city they were to shake off the dust of their feet. This refers to the practice among many Jews when they came back from visiting in a Gentile country they would literally shake off as much dirt as they could from their feet so as not to bring pagan soil into their homeland. For the apostles to shake the dust off their feet while leaving a Jewish house or town would be to treat the inhabitants like Gentiles–whom most Jews considered to be out of God’s reach.

  • When the leaders of the synagogue in Pisidia of Antioch drove Paul and Barnabas out of their district, the two men “shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium”
  • Of the unbelieving Jews there Paul had declared, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles”

c.  It is not that we are to turn away from those who reject the gospel at first hearing or even after several hearings. Jesus was speaking about those who opposed the truth and set make light of it. “Do not cast your pearls before swine”.

d.  Jesus warns, Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that city.(vs. 15)

D.  Harmless Wisdom: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” (vs.16)  I don’t think you can fully appreciate this verse unless you know your animals. (sheep, wolves, serpents, doves). There are two interesting insights here:

1.  Jesus was sending the apostles to the wolves. Earlier Jesus had said that the lost world was as sheep without a shepherd, and they may have thought that with their newly bestowed power, they would march through the cities as conquerors.

a.  But Jesus wants them to see their plight and vulnerability. They would be persecuted and mistreated. Their message would not be well received. They would be very vulnerable and weak. Why? Because they would be called to submit, not fight. (Peter’s statement that in the marriage the woman is the weaker vessel.)

b.  What shepherd sends the sheep into the wolf den? It is not natural or consistent with their nature for sheep to voluntarily walk into the wolves’ own den. And it is unnatural for a shepherd to send his sheep into such certain peril. Yet that is where Jesus, the Good Shepherd, sends His disciples–into the hostile world of ungodly souls, because that is where they can serve Him best and be most effective in winning others to Him. God is willing to put you in danger to get the message out. Are you willing to go?

  • Rarely-are Christians called to take up their crosses and follow Christ in moving out into the world as sheep led to slaughter. The popular appeal is to ease, comfort, riches, advancement, and ambition–and the church often uses that kind of enticement to motivate unbelievers to trust in Christ and to motivate believers to follow Him. But Jesus makes no such offer. To the disciple He promises hardship, suffering, and death.  –  John MacArthur.

2.  Jesus demands that they exhibit “harmless wisdom”. In the ancient world serpents represented wisdom or cunning. The word “shrewd” is a good description. This seems to involve 2 important attitudes and abilities:

a.  The apostles were not to be naïve or ignorant of the ways of the world (wolves). God has always been willing to let us know what we were committing ourselves to. We are to prepare ourselves so as to be able to answer the scoffer and seeker alike. Paul told the Colossians,  Col 4:5 – 5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time.

b.   But the apostles were to teach in such a way as to do no harm. Doves represent peacefulness and purity. Uncompromising preaching does not require or include abrasiveness, rudeness or belligerence.

c.   The basic idea is that of saying the right thing at the right time and place. To act appropriately to achieve the highest good. 1 Peter 3:14-16 – 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.”15  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

 E.   Fearless Conviction: Matt 10:26-28  – 26 Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. 27 What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. 28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. One of the chief reasons that we fail to share the gospel is fear. We fear losing popularity, prosperity, peace and approval of others.

1.  Disciples ought to have the courage to shout their faith from the rooftop and not just whisper it in the closet: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).

2.  1 Peter 4:14-16 – 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters.16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.

 

Conclusion:  Taking the news of God’s kingdom to the world (even in a limited sense) was an enormous responsibility for the apostles. It is no less demanding today. Although we are not apostles, and do not have miraculous powers, the strategies are the same:

  •  We have a single message
  • We must exhibit confident faith in God, not ourselves
  • We must continuously discern between those who are receptive and those who only desire to reproach the truth.
  • We must be shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves. Preaching and teaching without offense.
  • We must not fear man, but God.