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In our last lesson we saw how Jesus had a heart for evangelism, and how He expects His followers to have that same heart and to be His witnesses. We spent some time in John 14:2-6, learning how Jesus came to seek and save the lost, and how He turned that job over to us (His "body" here on earth) when He ascended into Heaven.
Now I would like to s back up, and look at what leads up to John 14:2-6.
In John 13, Jesus told the disciples that He was going away. He told them, prophetically through a word of knowledge that one of them is about to betray Him. He knew His time was short and He would be leaving soon. In this setting, He gave a new commandment to His disciples in John 13:34-35. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Some have interpreted this as Christians are to love other Christians and when unbelievers see the love that Christians show to each other, the will realize that these people really are Christians. But that is not the whole impact of what Jesus was saying here. Jesus also meant that we are to love other people and because of that love, we will be compelled to share the good news of Jesus with them, especially with those who do not know Him. As we witness in His love, as His love for them is made manifest to them through us, and they will be drawn to Him because of God's love. People will know that we really are His disciples, that His spirit and His fullness dwells in us, because they will see and experience His love manifesting through us.
Peter did not quite get it. He said to Jesus, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later." Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!" Here Jesus spoke prophetically to Peter of what was going to happen. He did not condemn Peter, but He let Peter know what is about to happen. Jesus goes on to encourage Peter by saying, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me" (John 14:1). Jesus just finished prophetically telling Peter that he did not have the boldness to be an effective witness for Him. Peter is sad and devastated, so Jesus immediately went on to encourage Peter (and the other disciples). He said, in essence, "Yes you are going to be in a situation to witness for Me and you are going to blow it. But don't be discouraged and don't give up. Keep your faith and focus on God. Don't give up."
And He would say the same to us today. "Don't give up. Have faith in Me and be My witness."
Have you had an unsuccessful evangelism experience? Take heart.. so did Jesus' early disciples. Peter's first outreach, by the campfire in the high priest's courtyard, was a total disaster. Peter went in his own strength (instead of being Spirit-led), and he backed down and did not speak out for Jesus at all. In fact, he had three blaring failures on his first outreach and left in tears. But Jesus did not disqualify Peter for this unsuccessful outreach. Instead, He commissioned him again, including Peter with the other disciples in commanding them to be in the right place and await His instructions and empowerment:
He [Jesus] appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard Me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:3b-5)
Peter, instead of giving up, listened to God and did it God's way. Yes, God had commissioned and sent him, but he had found that going out for Jesus on his own strength simply did not work. He had to take his orders from his Commander-and-Chief and listen to God for directions, and then follow those directions. It may have seemed counter-intuitive to Peter to sit in an upper room waiting for God's empowerment instead of going out and doing the work. But Peter listened to God and did as God told him. Then, after a short wait, God showed up with power. Immediately after that, Peter had his first sermon to the masses, and "about three thousand were added to their number that day" (Acts 2:47). What a change! Peter went from a total failure as a witness to leading 3,000 people to the Lord in a single outreach. Wow!!
What accounted for this difference? Peter entered the venue of prophetic evangelism, of listening to God and finding out what God was doing and then participating with Him in it. And that is what God wants from each of us. He doesn't just want us to go out blindly and witness.. He wants us, like Jesus, to hear and see what the Father is doing in evangelism and then do that with Him -- no more and no less. That is prophetic evangelism, and that is what will make us effective. It is simply hearing from God and doing with Him what He is doing in sharing Jesus.
Let's look at a few more verses on this, so that your spirit will be encouraged in the Lord's plan for you, because God plans for you to be His witness. Look at John 4:36-39, which says, "And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: 'One sows and another reaps.' I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors." We are sent by Jesus to reap!!
"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him" (John 6:27).
So many believers spent our time, energy and resources on the things of this life. They strive and struggle and most of them don't get all that far despite all of their efforts. Why is that? It is because those are the things that perish; those are not the things that God wants us to pursue. Instead, if you begin to value the things that God values and do the things that are on His heart, your labor is not going to be in vain! It will be successful as lasting, as per John 6:27.
And what is God's greatest passion? It is for every knee to willingly bow and every tongue to willingly confess that Jesus is Lord. It is for souls -- for the lost to come to Jesus. This is what Our Father says our labor should be for. We are to be His witness. What is the meat which endures unto everlasting Life? Jesus just told us what His meat was, the harvest! The meat is the will of God, and the will of God is fishing for men.