Jesus said, The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Mt 9:37) meaning that many people were willing to come to God but there were not nearly enough people available to do the work needed to bring them. Over my years as a pastor I have observed firsthand the truth of Jesus statement. Often dreams of reaching portions of our community went unmet simply because there was no one to do the ministry or would at least stay put long enough for a harvest to be gathered in. But the strongest proof of His words have been the remarkable fruitfulness weve seen whenever believers labored in the good works God had given them to do. The response by unbelievers has always amazed and frustrated me. I think to myself, Imagine what could happen if more Christians rose up and began serving. Imagine how many people we could reach.
In this commandment Jesus tells us we are to be the people whose lives are filled with good works, and that God wants to use those good works to draw people to Himself. First, well look closely at His command, next well address two areas of confusion that prevent believers from doing good works, and finally well consider ways a believer might get started in a life of service.
1. What does Jesus say? (Mt 5:10-16)
Having warned us that we will be persecuted as His followers, He uses three powerful metaphors to encourage us not to pull back to protect ourselves, but to let our lives be a powerful influence on those around us. God does not want us to hide, but to be seen. He wants the world to encounter Him through us. Three metaphors:
a) Salt: a noticeable flavor that cannot be ignored.
b) Light: a source of the truth about God for people in the darkness of deception
c) City: a loving community that people watch to see how Gods people live; He wants to set us on a hill, not hide us in a valley
2. His Command (vs 13, 16)
The lives of My disciples, both individually and corporately should be filled with good works. By your works you reveal the true character of God to the world. If your hearts become tainted (mixed with impurities such as fear of persecution, love of riches, selfishness, etc., then the world will ignore you and youll have no effect on their lives.
3. Why are some Christians afraid of good works
a) Misunderstanding Pauls gospel
- Ro 3:20, 24, 27, 28; 4:1-8
- People confuse works of the law with good works
- Paul taught against trying to be saved by works, but not against doing good works (1Ti 5:10; 6:17-19; Titus 2:7; 3:8)
- So did Peter: 1Pe 2:12
- This confusion existed even from New Testament times:
Peters comments 2Pt 3:14-17
James correction Jas 2:14-26 (real faith produces a changed life in this case clothing and feeding poor believers)
b) Distrust of our own motives
Some Christians refuse to serve until their motives are perfectly pure
so, of course, they never move. Whenever we serve God the devil will tempt us with wrong motives. These must be treated like any other temptation. Distinguishing motives:
- Egotistical: impress people: you have your reward
- Legalistic: impress God: no reward
- Discipleship: express God: heavenly treasure
Christians must distinguish between: works of the law (trying to earn righteousness), works of the flesh (pride, competition, guilt
), and good works (sharing the love of God with others).
4. What is Gods plan for us?
Gods plan for those who are born-again is to call them to a life of service which He designed before the world was created (Eph. 2:8-10)
a) Heres how Paul describes it: Titus 2:11-15
b) Heres how Jesus describes it: John 15:8, 16
5. What godly qualities release good works?
Our nature is to use our religion for ourselves. We tend to employ spiritual tactics to achieve our personal goals, but the mark of true discipleship is the reorientation of a persons focus off themselves and onto people. The American church has not of late confronted our selfish tendencies. It focuses on finding my ministry so I will be fulfilled, just as it focuses on giving to God so I will be rich.
Here are three keys to fruitfulness:
a) Available: watch for those who need your help.
- Summer mission: a young person who anticipates, not just waits to be told what to do
- Dont let daily life take all our time and energy (parable of sower)
b) Faithful: people who keep their commitment long after the fun wears off
- All ministry is selfless
- All ministry is opposed
- All ministry requires more than you possess (we are driven deeper)
c) Teachable: able to be instructed, cooperative, humble
a) Have you been involved in a mission or a ministry? Tell us about some of the fruit (changed lives).
b) What have you personally learned through serving others?