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This sermon was preached on Sunday 21/01/2001 Am, by Kevin Matthews.
So such people are often reading books about evangelism, looking for that magical formula which will never be found, and doing little if any evangelism.
Well this morning we actually return to our studies in the Gospel According to John, and to our mini-series on ‘a wise example of evangelism.’ And this is one of the areas that we hope to address in the course of our message this morning. So please turn if you will, to John chapter 4.
As you may remember we have already considered a number of practical and profitable points already from this passage, and I don’t have time to develop them again:
#1. Evangelism is According to Plan - God’s plan, and nothing is accomplished or done outside of this plan.
#2. Evangelism by Action - there needs to be an abiding display of genuine care, concern, and love for the person you are seeking to win for Christ.
#3. Evangelism by Thinking - you need to think about your approach to an evangelistic opportunity, how you might seize the moment for Christ, wisely considering what you will say, and how you will say it.
#4. Evangelism reveals real need - if a person is to respond to the gospel in the Biblical way then that person needs to see their real need of the gospel, so attention must be drawn to their own personal need of the gospel on account of their own sinful state before God.
#5. Evangelism reveals real Christianity - it points to the Lord Jesus Christ as the real and only answer to man’s sin problem, and has nothing to do with external works and rites.
And today we conclude our consideration of this very profitable and useful passage, with a few more thoughts on evangelism.
1. Start Spreading the News
Having found her real need met in the Lord Jesus Christ, her sin problem having been clearly identified to her, and the only valid means of its eradication opened to her, this woman runs off. What a strange reaction you might think?
‘The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. And upon this came his disciples, and marvelled that he talked with the woman: yet no man said, What seekest thou? or, Why talkest thou with her? The woman then left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men (Jn 4:25-28).’
There are a number of things that can be said in this passage, and which would be quite useful to dwell upon. You see again here the providence of God in the outworking of His decree, with how the disciples do not return until the evangelistic opportunity has run its full course, until this woman has been confronted with the claims of the gospel.
You also have the disciples being confronted with a gospel that transcends all cultural boundaries, and is to be declared to all peoples and not just the Jews.
But the thing upon which we focus for the time being is the response of the woman, who being led into all truth by the Lord Jesus Christ, upon hearing that He is the promised Messiah, runs off to her home city.
The simple application to be gleaned by this response is that evangelism is a fruit of salvation. It is as though the moment someone is brought from darkness to light, from being dead to now living, that that person now starts spreading the news. Evangelism therefore is a fruit of salvation.
And my point is this. There is no point flogging a dead horse, and so too in evangelism there is no point in flogging the dead horses of professing Christianity for they will never be able to do the work of evangelism, but for those who are in fact genuine Christians, it is a desire born in them by the inner workings of the Spirit of God who granted them this new life, and so this is a fruit which merely needs to be cultivated.
Here this woman has received the good news of salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, He who gives the living water of spiritual life - she then leaves behind the temporal vessel of water which had so dominated her thinking in the earlier parts of the conversation, and heads off into the city of people who despise her with living water. Why?
Let me give you this suggestion - this woman who has now entered into eternal life herself is now compelled to take this message of life to others, and she simply has to share the good news with those people from her home city. So off she goes to get others to come back with her and to hear the wonderful words of life from the Messiah’s lips.
‘Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ? Then they went out of the city, and came unto him (4:29,30).’
What was the approach of this woman to the people of the city? She hadn’t had time to make herself acquainted with Berkhof’s Manual of Theology, or with the 1689 Confession of Faith, and in fact there was much she did not yet know - yet she went to these people with what she did know, and it was enough! Can you see that?
She got the people together, and speaks to them in such a way that they would go and find out for themselves - ‘Could this be the Christ?’
There was no need for impressive arguments or reasoning, just come and see what I have found out at the well. Here then is the beauty of the Gospel and of evangelism according to God’s Decree. We do not need to be theologians, or to try and persuade men by great eloquence or displays of natural wit and intelligence, you just tell men what you know to be true of the Gospel, and then God will save His own.
‘And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (Jn 10:16).’ ‘But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (Jn 10:26,27).’
So my brethren in the Lord Jesus Christ, let me encourage you in your quest to be a faithful witness bearer for Christ, tell sinners the truth of what you know is the gospel, and leave God to do the persuading - for men are born of God and not of men. ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (1:12,13).’
Don’t be disheartened thinking you are not yet able to adequately share the gospel - read here often the words of a new convert who knew barely anything and be encouraged. Just share what you know to be true of the gospel. In time you will know more, but what you already know is enough in seeking to win people to Christ. For it is not you who does the saving, ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).’
2. The Harvest is Ready
Upon hearing the testimony of the Samaritan woman, the people of Sychar go out to Jesus to hear what He has to say, and to see if indeed Jesus was the Messiah.
‘In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him ought to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (4:31-34).’
While the people were hearing what the woman said, and were now on there way out to Jesus, the disciples were trying to get Jesus to eat. Clearly He was still hungry and thirsty, yet Jesus seems to indicate that He had already been satisfied, that He was no longer hungry. What was Jesus talking about?
The disciples thought someone must have already given Him food, but this was not what Jesus meant - He was seeking to teach a valuable and important lesson to the disciples.
For Jesus, His chief satisfaction was accomplishing what the Father had set before Him to do, and what the Father had decreed to be done. And so coming before even the need to satisfy physical hunger and physical thirst for Jesus, was the need to accomplish the Father’s will for Him - this was His chief concern. Everything else was of secondary importance.
And this is something that the disciples needed to learn, and we too need to learn, that what is important to God is what He has set down for us to do. This is of the greatest importance, and everything else is to give way to this chief concern, even things which are not wrong in themselves, for ‘man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live (Deut 8:3).’
Therefore of chief importance to Jesus was the accomplishment of salvation for His people, and the communication of that gospel to the masses, even to the Samaritans. Indeed this was His mission on earth, to bring salvation to sinners, ‘And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Mt 1:21).’ ‘ For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (6:38-40).’
And part of this mission was to reach this woman and the people of Sychar with the gospel, so He forgoes even food in order to accomplish the will of God concerning this place. Not one of those appointed to salvation was to be lost, all must be saved.
And for Jesus it was this mission, and accomplishing this mission that gave Him real satisfaction.
Is this our chief concern? Is doing what we know to be the revealed will of God for us, as revealed in His Word the Bible, the chief thing for us? Or do you pursue things of lesser importance as your chief concern?
While souls are perishing will you dare not go to them with the gospel of free grace, will you not ‘Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Mt 28:19).’ Or perhaps some temporal thing is of more importance to you.
‘Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together. And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth. I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours (4:35-38).’
Jesus now quotes a proverbial saying that must have been current in those days, ‘there are still four months and then comes the harvest.’ Perhaps this was some sort of saying to suggest that there was no need to hurry, that there was still plenty of time - but is this really the case. Is there time to do that temporal thing? Is there time at the moment to eat that meal?
Jesus point is that coming across the field is the harvest of which these disciples and He must be about seeking to save, now is not the time to eat - there is Kingdom work pressing!
As Jesus spoke these things the crowd from Sychar was making its way toward them across the fields - what a powerful illustration this must have been. A mass of people who needed the gospel making they’re way toward Jesus and the disciples. Was it time to eat?
There is not plenty of time for us to have a little rest, the soul harvest is out there waiting to be plucked from the world - let us be about the Father’s business.
What is the reward and fruit of being about the Father’s business - is it not to see the harvest being made, souls being saved, and sinners entering into eternal life? Even if you do not do the reaping, but are the sower of the seed, in eternity you will also be rejoicing over the harvest that is brought in.
Who cares who does the sowing and who does the reaping - as long as the harvest is brought in! We are all part of the same team, and this is something we should be very mindful of in our evangelism.
As we go out together as a church - one praying, another folding, another delivering the newsletters, and so on - we may be involved in the work of sowing the seed, and not in the harvesting at this time. But the thing to remember, and to encourage yourself in, is that in eternity you will rejoice with the one who harvests the crop you sow - and all to the glory of God. ‘I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase (1 Cor 3:6,7).’
So as I have said before, do not be disheartened because you feel that you see little fruit for your efforts, for it is not your work to do, ‘but God who gives the increase.’ Remember salvation is of the Lord, and according to God’s Decree - in His time the crop will be harvested, reapers will come. Remember there is a time to sow.
But be ready, for who knows if God will call us to put away the seed and to pick up the sickle in order to harvest the crop.
3.The Harvest comes In
‘And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did. So when the Samaritans were come unto him, they besought him that he would tarry with them: and he abode there two days. And many more believed because of his own word; And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee (4:39-43).’
Here in this passage before us we see the harvest come in, and what a harvest, for it contains many of the people of Sychar. What an encouragement this passage ought to be to simple, normal, every day Christians as ourselves.
For here almost a whole city comes to Christ, and by the means of the simple testimony of a woman saved by grace, who knew almost nothing concerning the gospel. So many by so simple a testimony.
Do you see encouragement here for yourself Christian? Are you struggling as you try to tell people about what you know of Jesus? Perhaps at home, or at work, or in your family circle - then take courage by this example of wise evangelism.
The Lord can call a city to Himself via the means of a simple witnessing woman; do you think that He is not able to call a city to Himself via the means of a small Church of such simple witnessing people? Take heart brethren, the Lord’s Word does not return to Him void, ‘So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it (Is 55:11).’
When the time comes for the harvest to be brought in, He will make them willing in the day of His power, and they will hear His voice and come unto Him that they might have life.
Then those who were apart from Christ will have the same testimony as these people of Sychar, ‘now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.’
Until that time, let us cry out to the Lord of the harvest to raise up both a harvest, and for labourers to go out into the field, and all for the glory of God. Amen.
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