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The Pure Joy of Seeking Souls

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 19, number 45, October 22, 2020

“If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him.” -Luke 10:6

During His early Galilean ministry (Matthew 4:12–Matthew 16), Jesus sent out His twelve disciples in pairs to proclaim the Kingdom of God (the new eschatological kingdom of peace, power, redemption, and reconciliation). Afterwards He resolutely set His face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51), and began to move in a southernly direction, eventually to offer Himself up as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all His people. It is at this point that He gave the seventy a mission.[1] They were to go before Him into southern Galilee and find people in the various towns and villages (there perhaps were as many as 150 of them) who were receptive to the message of the Kingdom of God. They went in pairs, probably to give them some measure of security and encouragement. They were to take no money, no shoes, no nothing. Why? Perhaps to remind them that their Heavenly Father would provide for them, but also because they could better identify with those whom they would see, the poor and the downtrodden. They were to go directly to the towns and villages, suggesting they were to go in haste and not waste time. And they were to look for the man of peace. If one was there then they were to pronounce peace upon that man and his household and to minister to those in the man’s household.

Who were these men of peace for whom the thirty-five pairs of disciples were searching? Clearly they were people who were open to the message of the Kingdom of God. We know this because Jesus told His disciples to shake the dust from their feet if they were rejected, and to announce that judgment was coming due to their unresponsiveness. It appears that the disciples spent at least one night in each town (Jesus told them to accept food and lodging from men of peace). So assuming they spent two days and one night in each town then each pair could visit two to three towns per week (they would not have traveled on the Sabbath). Within three or four weeks the seventy could have visited all of the villages and towns in that region. Luke tells us that the seventy came back to Jesus filled with joy, saying that even the demons were subject to them in His name (verse 17). Indeed, the kingdom of this world was becoming the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ (Revelation 11:15). 

My friends, business as usual is not working. The evangelical church in the United States generally is exceedingly weak, compromised, lethargic, lukewarm, and dying. What must we do? We must gain a passion for souls to be saved. And then what? We need a method of reaching lost souls in our communities. First, how do we gain a passion for souls? If you have never had such a passion then perhaps the first thing you must do is answer this question—are you sure you are a Christian? Those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of God cannot stop speaking what they have seen and heard. To be sure, we all lose our zeal from time to time, but if you have never known a zeal for the lost, then you very well may be spiritually dead. Therefore repent of your sins, confess Jesus Christ as Lord, call upon Him to save you, and then the Spirit will give you a zeal to open your mouth and proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you from darkness to light. If however, you have known that zeal in the past but have grown cold hearted, then you must repent of this great evil. Is this too strong a word—great evil? No, not at all. To have the pearl of great price and to refuse to offer it to those in need is the height of pride, selfishness, and greed. Confess your sin and cling to Jesus for His grace and power. And then you should remember what you were like before your conversion and think on all the mighty things God has done in your life, not only is saving you but also in providing for your needs and sustaining you in all your heartaches of this life.

But then what? What is our method of reaching people? Doesn’t it make sense to study what Jesus and the Apostles did and then try to put it into practice? I have written extensively in the past on the vital necessity of open air evangelistic preaching as well as pastors preaching regularly on evangelistic themes to their congregations. Every pastor ought to give an opportunity in every sermon for people to repent and call on the name of the Lord to be saved. Evangelistic preaching, in the church and on the street is the foundation. To use another analogy, open air preaching is like the carpet bombing the Allies employed in World War II over Germany. It softened up the country, but ground troops were still essential, going from town to town, street to street, door to door to root out and conquer the enemy. Likewise, the ground game is essential to reach our communities for Christ. We must go. You must die to your fear of rejection, your fear of man, your fleshly desire to be at ease in Zion. Are you willing to do so this very moment?

And how did Jesus tell His disciples to evangelize? In Matthew 10 He sent His twelve disciples out in pairs. We know this because of how Matthew constructs the wording—Andrew and Peter, James and John, Phillip and Bartholomew, et al. They were to look for houses of peace. It was in those households where the good news of the gospel could take root. Later on, in sending out the seventy Jesus gives them the same technique. They were not to waste their time on people who were resistant. They were to go to those whom the Father had chosen before the foundation of the world and in whom the Spirit was working. As a side note, we tend to spend far too much time on hard soil, rocky soil, and weed infested soil, instead of with good soil. 

So, to be very practical, as a concrete example of how to reach your neighbors, consider what I have been doing. There is a small neighborhood close to where we live. Wini and I have been praying for that neighborhood. Specifically we have been praying for the Holy Spirit to lead us to people of peace. So, I have been walking through the neighborhood, speaking either to people I see on their porch or in their yard, or knocking on their door. And here’s what I am saying, “My name is Al Baker and my wife, Wini, and I live across the road from you. We have been wanting to meet our neighbors and find out if there are ways we can serve our community better. I am wondering if there is anything we can pray for you about? Or to put it another way, if you could ask God for a miracle, what would it be? We have seen God do amazing things in our lives. The most amazing thing God has done for us is to bring us to Himself. I was far away from God until He showed me my sin and gave me the grace to call upon Him to forgive my sins and to give me peace.”

It never ceases to amaze me how a good many people will open up and tell you of their trials. One man I spoke with lives by himself and can hardly walk. Another man told me that his wife is in early stages of Alzheimers.

Another said that she needs friends. I was able to pray specifically for each of these people. And then I say, “We also are interested in having what we call a Discovery Group, which is a study of what the Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles had to say about Jesus and how He can give peace, purpose, and power in life. We want to do this here in the neighborhood. Is that something you would be interested in?” All but one of the people thus far have said that they would like to attend such a meeting. 
Church attendance has been dwindling for years. On top of that, I pointed out last week that Thom Rainer believes after the Coronavirus pandemic as much as twenty percent of church attenders will not return. This actually is quite easy to explain. For at least thirty years the evangelical church has become event driven, entertainment based, especially with gifted, contemporary Christian musicians and mega-church celebrity pastors and with programs out the wazoo. So when public worship shut down the people stayed home and live streamed their favorite worship service and pastor. Then the people began to say to themselves, “Wait, this is easy. No hassle. I can sleep in, relax, drink my coffee, lounge around in my pjs, watch my favorite service, and then watch the NFL games all afternoon.”
So here’s our great opportunity, my friends. People need and want small group settings. Make a concerted, intentional effort to reach out to your neighbors. By this I do not mean “friendship” evangelism. You are always to be friendly to all people, especially your neighbors. No, I am talking about doing what Jesus and His apostles did, going directly to people, looking for those who are open, who are people of peace, and then minister the gospel to them. Don’t waste your time on people who are hard-hearted or not interested. Look for the people of peace. They are there. They are the elect of God from eternity past. Seek to minister the gospel to them.

The seventy came back from their mission, joyfully telling Jesus of what happened. You will have the same joy. There is a certain joy and expectancy in seeing God at work before your very eyes. I promise that if you will venture out of your comfort zone you will be amazed at what God does, how He leads you to people who really want Jesus and all that He offers us in His person and work.  
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1  There is a discrepancy in the varied early manuscripts. Some say there were seventy while other manuscripts report seventy-two. 

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