Category Archives: Sermons

Sermon Thursday – Jesus the Healer

Introduction:

  1. There’s a little boy who is paralyzed. His family is poor, and they can’t afford to take him to the specialists who might be able to do something to help him. They’re listening to the radio one day in their barely-running junker of a car, and they hear something that gives them hope. An anonymous donor is willing to pay for treatments for one person. The only catch is that you have to be the first person to call in to the radio station. The family swerves to the side of the road into a gas station parking lot, and the father runs to the payphone to call the toll-free number. But he’s too late. Someone already got through first. All their hope, which for a moment was through the roof—for a moment they had no worries at all because they saw that glimmer of hope—all that hope came crashing down on them.
  2. There’s a man, unable to walk, struck with a disease that’s left him helpless for 38 years. He’s been brought to a place where the rumor is he can be healed. But the catch is that only one person per day can be healed—and it’s on a first come, first served basis. With no one to help him, his hope is gone. He hears the call to come for healing, but he has no way of going, and someone always gets there first.
  3. But there’s another man. This man walks up and says, “Are you wanting to be healed?” You can imagine this poor man getting angry—I’m laying here by the healing place. I can barely move. Of course I’m wanting to be healed! That’s how a lot of folks would respond. But this man was so depressed, so hopeless, that he couldn’t even get angry. “Sir, I have no one to help me, and another one gets there before me every time.”
  4. Could this new man be the one I’ve been waiting for? Could this new man be the one to help me get to the healing place first? Is it possible that there’s really hope for me? Can I possibly be healed? This poor man is hesitant to allow any hope in his heart—after all, it’s been 38 years that he’s suffered with this horrible disease. But maybe?
  5. Read John 5:1-9

He recognized his condition.

You’re probably thinking, Of course he recognized his condition. He was crippled!  He lives with this debilitating disease every day for thirty-eight years. He can’t escape it. It’s always right there in front of him. His limitations. His disease. His inability to be like everyone else.  He has no family—at least, no family that cares enough to try to help him. You can hear the heartbreak in his voice as he tells Jesus, “I have no one…”

But every day, you can find him sitting at the place where people say you can be healed. You find him there, hoping, wishing, probably begging for someone to help him.  He knows that he’s broken. He knows that he’s not what he wants to be.

There’s no healing without first recognizing your condition.  A woman goes to the doctor. After running some tests, the doctor is overwhelmed. “Have you been feeling OK?” he asks the woman. “Well, I’ve been having some headaches, and there’s been some blurriness in my vision, but I’m sure it’s nothing.” The doctor sits down, shaking, and says, “You’ve got cancer on your brain.” “What? That’s not possible!” “It’s spread to the point that there’s nothing that can be done. If you’d have come in earlier, when you first started having the headaches, we might have been able to take care of it. But now, it’s too late. At most, I think you’ve got a month to live.”

If this woman had recognized her condition—recognized that she had a need, then healing was possible. But since she kept putting it off, ignoring it, it was too late. Even when the doctor told her of the condition, she refused to believe it.

There’s no spiritual healing without first recognizing your condition.  The number one reason why people aren’t being saved, being brought into Christ through baptism, is that they don’t realize they’re lost! They don’t recognize their condition. They don’t realize that they are sick and dying. They think they’re doing A-OK.

Jesus says, “Those who are whole don’t need a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The thing is, everybody is sick—whether they realize it or not.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 6:23), and the wages for sin is death (Romans 3:23). Everyone is sin-sick. Everyone is dying from sin. And everyone needs the doctor, the healer, the physician—Jesus Christ.

Until someone recognizes their sin-sick condition, they’ll never be healed—because they’ll never look for healing. People who think they’re just fine don’t have a reason to look for healing.  What’s your condition?

He looked for healing.

Granted, he’s looking for it in the wrong place, but at least he’s looking He is a man who knows he’s got problems, and he’s trying to fix them. We ought to admire that. He has failed for 38 years to fix the problem, but he keeps trying. I wish more people were like that.

He hears that there’s some special healing power in the pool of Bethesda, and he makes sure he’s there. Whether the healing powers were real, or whether they were just a rumor, the point is, the man is looking for healing, and willing to go wherever he needs to try to get it.

Even Jesus recognized that this man was looking for the cure to his disease. Jesus asked him, “Are you wanting to be made whole?” (John 5:6). The man knows he’s broken. He knows he’s not well. And he’s not content to stay that way. He’s looking for a way to be fixed—to be healed.

There’s no healing without looking for it.  William Clairemore is sitting at his desk, writing a letter. He is incredibly depressed. He’s got a flesh-eating disease that has gradually destroyed his leg, and it is slowly creeping up towards his chest. He’s stopped going out in public. He refuses any visitors. The only one who ever sees him is his wife, and even then it’s only long enough for him to take the plate of food that she’s prepared before he shuts the door. There’s no one that can help me. What’s the point? There’s no hope.

If William would make up his mind to look for help—to look for healing, he would find that his disease is treatable. But instead, he sits. Alone. Depressed. Fully aware of his sickness, but refusing to look for a cure. And then he dies.

There’s no spiritual healing without looking for it.  There’s no such thing as accidental forgiveness. You aren’t going to be going along in life one day and God just accidentally forgives you.

God offers forgiveness to anyone who’s willing to take it. It’s like a free clinic that heals your sin-sickness—and there is a 100% success rate. The thing is, God isn’t a door-to-door doctor. He doesn’t come knock on your door and say, “Hey, I’m here to forgive you.” You have to go to Him.

If you want to know about the healing that’s available, where to get it, and how to get it, you’ve got to read the Bible. You’ve got to read it with an open mind and an open heart. In the pages of this book the cure can be found. In the pages of this book, you can learn about the healing that will save you from dying.

But if you’re not willing to look for it, you can’t be saved. “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7).

Jesus gives the healing.

The man has been looking for healing in the wrong places. But we can’t be too harsh on him. After all, he isn’t the only one thinking that this was the way to be healed. There’s blind folks, and crippled folks, maimed folks, folks who are every bit as broken as he is.  But if he wasn’t there—if he wasn’t looking for healing, he never would have met Jesus.

Jesus asks him, “Are you wanting to be healed?” And the man’s answer expresses Yes! I long to be healed. I am so broken, and I struggle. I want to be made whole again. But I don’t see any way to do it. I need help.

Jesus saith unto him, “Rise. Take up your bed, and walk.” And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. (John 5:8-9).

Jesus is the way that this broken man is healed.

There is no spiritual healing without Jesus. Jesus Christ of Nazareth…Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is called the Savior because He is the only one who has the power to save—the power to heal. “The great Physician now is near, the sympathizing Jesus.”

Jesus says, “Come to me, all of you who are laboring, and who are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my burden on you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

The gift of God is eternal life through His Son (Romans 6:23).

Conclusion:

  1. John is dying. Years of smoking invited cancer to make its home in his lungs. Then one night, he’s reading on the internet and comes across this webpage advertising a “heal-yourself-at-home” product. His interest is piqued, and he keeps reading. As he reads, he sees a testimonial from Wilma of Akron, OH who says that after just two weeks of being on this program, her lung cancer is gone! So John excitedly enters his debit card information and anxiously awaits the package. When he opens it, he finds a professional-looking book and a bottle of special powder. He mixes up the powder just like the instructions say, and takes some before every meal. As the days go by, he says to his wife that he thinks this new product is working. His lungs don’t seem to feel as heavy as before. By the end of three weeks, he’s convinced that his cancer is in full remission, if not gone completely. At the end of the fifth week, John dies as the lung cancer wins. You see, the powder didn’t do anything. He had convinced himself that he was healed, and all the while, he was still dying—the disease was still there.
  2. Jason is looking for healing from sin. He knows he’s lost. He feels the immense weight of guilt and shame of his sins. He desperately wants to be made free. His friend tells him, “Jesus is the only one who can take away your sins. Let’s bow down together and ask Jesus to come into your heart.” And Jason does. He gets up, convinced he’s free, convinced that he’s been healed. But he’s still dying. The disease of sin is still there, because he bought into a fake cure.
  3. Jesus wants you to be healed. He gave up His own life so that you can be healed. But Jesus doesn’t come to you. You have to come to Him. Where is He? Well, He’s up the steps:
    1. Step 1: believe in Him (John 3:16).
    2. Step 2: leave behind the things that were making you sick in the first place—repent (Acts 17:30).
    3. Step 3: acknowledge Him as the only one who can save you—Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 10:9-10).
    4. Step 4: bury your old, dying self into the watery grave of baptism—be buried with Christ, and rise up a brand-new creature—one that has been healed! (Romans 6:3-4).
  4. There is healing—you don’t have to be broken anymore.
  5. But what if I get sick again? What if that sin-sickness comes back? Go back to the doctor. Go to God in prayer, confessing that you let yourself get sick again, and He will heal you (I John 1:9).

Sermon Thursday – The Man Born Blind

The Man Who Was Born Blind (John 9)

An entire chapter in the book of John is dedicated to relaying the time when a man was healed of his infirmity. While that might not seem like such a notable thing to point out, it is notable that though the entire chapter (forty-one verses) deals with this man, we are never told his name. He is called “the blind man” (John 9:6), “him who formerly was blind” (John 9:13), and “the man who was blind” (John 9:24). Though we don’t know this man’s name, we know that he was a man of great courage.

When you think of people in the Bible (or anywhere else, for that matter) who exhibited great courage, you generally think of people who have accomplished great things in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds. You might think of Gideon and his small band of 300 soldiers taking on an enormous Midianite army. You might think of little teenage David who ran out to meet a nine-foot tall armored soldier named Goliath in one-on-one combat. Events like these are what cause people to be viewed as heroic. But I want you to stop and consider the amazing amount of courage exhibited by a blind man who was healed by Jesus Christ.

Blind from Birth

The story of this courageous blind man begins with him almost being seen as an afterthought. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth” (John 9:1). However, this was no chance meeting. There was a reason that Jesus saw this man, and a reason that He took notice of him, and a reason that He healed him.

The disciples were like the typical Jews of that day – and much like many people today as well. They assumed that if something bad had happened to someone, it had to be the result of that person’s sinfulness. The disciples asked Jesus whose sin was to blame for this man being born blind, “this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). Stop to consider how deeply ingrained this belief was in the disciples. They actually asked Jesus if this man sinned in the womb, causing himself to be born blind. This event which is recorded for us by the apostle John serves to put this false belief to rest, because Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

What was the purpose of this man being blind from birth? It wasn’t because of sinfulness on his part nor his parents’, but it was so that the power of God and His Christ could be revealed! It is very important to remember that this man was indeed born blind. Had Jesus healed a man who developed blindness later in life, it might have been touted as a medical marvel, reversing something that had happened. But the impressiveness of this miracle of Jesus is seen later when it is said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind” (John 9:32).

Healed by Works

This man was healed through an obedient faith. Jesus spit on the ground and made a clay, which He then put on the man’s eyes. But that didn’t heal the man. Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. This blind man walked to the Pool and did as he was commanded (John 9:6-7). Before you simply gloss over this fact, try blindfolding yourself and see how easy it is for you to walk very far without being able to see.

If this man had simply stayed put and said, “Sir, I have faith that you can heal me,” he would have remained blind until the day he died. Jesus required works from this man in order to achieve the healing that was being offered. This doesn’t mean at all that somehow the blind man earned his sight, but he did that which was required to receive it. In the same way, Jesus requires us to put forth effort in order to receive the spiritual healing that He offers. It is not by faith only. Instead, Jesus commanded that we “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). It isn’t that we somehow earn our salvation, but we still have to do what is required to receive it.

It was only after the blind man went to the Pool of Siloam and washed that he “came back seeing” (John 9:7). He was healed through faithful obedience.

The Courage of the Man Who was Born Blind

Many lessons can be learned from John chapter 9, but the one on which we will be focusing here is his great courage. He showed great courage by taking an unpopular stand. He showed great courage in not being like his parents. He showed great courage in correcting religious error.

He showed courage by taking an unpopular stand. It was most likely earlier that same day that the religious leaders took up stones to kill Jesus with (John 8:59). It was before these same people that the formerly blind man was brought to answer questions about Jesus (John 8:13, 9:13). They had already shown willingness to try to kill Jesus, so standing up for Christ wasn’t exactly a popular thing to do.

While the Pharisees argued amongst themselves about Jesus, some saying “This man is not from God because He does not keep the Sabbath” and others saying “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”, the blind man responded with “He is a prophet” (John 9:16-17). This proclamation did not sit well with the Pharisees. In fact, they began to accuse this man of lying about having ever been blind in the first place (John 9:18).

How does this make the man who was born blind courageous? Imagine yourself in front of a group of people who just tried to kill someone. How easy would it be to stand up for the person they wanted to kill? It would have been much easier to do what some others did and claim ignorance, or to say, “I don’t know.” So many people today, when faced with questions about Jesus, simply say, “I don’t know” or they look for other ways out of giving an answer because they fear what the other person will say or do. It takes real courage to stand up for Jesus and state the truth about Him. Even when it is unpopular, we still need to stand for Jesus.

He showed courage by not being like his parents. This man’s parents were called to speak before the Pharisees, and it was insinuated that they were liars as well. The Pharisees said “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?” (John 9:19). The parents did indeed state the truth that they knew he was their son and that he was born blind, but because they were afraid, they refused to say how he was healed (John 9:20-22).

They were afraid of being cast out of the synagogue for speaking up for Jesus, so they faked ignorance. They were more interested in social standing and the approval of people than they were in standing up for the truth. This is seen even more clearly when you realize that they were more interested in this approval than they were in their own son. When they were asked, they pushed all questions off on him (John 9:21). They knew that if he stood up for Jesus, he would be kicked out of the synagogue (which is what happened – John 9:34), but they seemed okay with that so long as it didn’t happen to them. This is much like King Hezekiah who was told that his descendants would be taken captive and many of them killed. His response was “at least there will be peace and truth in my days” (Isaiah 39:7-8).

Because he spoke the truth, the man was kicked out of the synagogue. As such, his parents would not speak to him, lest they be labeled as “Jesus sympathizers” too. But this man showed great courage, even though it likely cost him his relationship with his parents. He was more interested in following God than pleasing people.

He showed courage in correcting religious error. The Pharisees began again to chastise the man. In their demands upon him, they implied that he was giving glory to a sinner instead of God (John 9:24). They then re-questioned him on how he was made to see, and he was fearless in his response: “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27).

In their anger, the Pharisees reviled him, and treated him like he was worthless. They mockingly said to him, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from” (John 9:28-29). The constant accusations which are implied against this man are incredible. They had accused him of lying about having been born blind, they accused him of giving glory to a sinner instead of God, and now they are accusing him of rejecting the Law of Moses.

In the face of accusations like this, many people would back down and simply be quiet, or perhaps say the things necessary to appease the accusers (like Peter did in John 18:15-18, 25-27). Instead, this man who was unable to see until that very day stood firm and pointed out their hypocrisy and contradictions. He said very plainly, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet he has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:30-33).

Courage is seen in someone standing up for what is right in the face of those who are against it. These Pharisees were supposed to be the religious experts and leaders. But this man – who had been able to see for only a few hours – could see that they were wrong. And he did not hesitate to tell them so to their faces. As a result, he was accused of being a sinner from birth (something that Jesus said wasn’t true – John 9:3), and kicked out of the synagogue (John 9:34). These Pharisees didn’t care for the truth. They cared only for their own prestige and power. But even with being kicked out of the synagogue, the man whose name was never given to us proudly proclaimed to Jesus, “Lord I believe!” and worshiped Him (John 9:36).

Are You Courageous?

It is easy to imagine ourselves doing what is right when we have lots of people watching us as we face overwhelming odds. We know what the right thing to do would be in those circumstances. The true test of courage is this: will you show courage in the normal, day-to-day aspects of your life? When someone says something against Jesus, will you stand up for your Savior or will you remain silent? When a crowd of people makes fun of Christianity, how will you respond? If you own parents give you an example of trying to appease others, will you still stand up for the truth? Even if it means social rejection and being called a liar, will you stand up for Jesus Christ?

It takes courage to do what is right. Follow the example of the un-named man who was born blind and proudly proclaim your belief in Jesus Christ and follow His command to go to the water where your spiritual ailment (your sins) will be washed away!

–Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – Stay in the House!

Stay in the House!

There are sounds of gunfire and screaming coming from outside his window.  The man slowly moves the curtain aside and peers through the glass to see what’s happening. His kids are worried, “Dad, what’s that noise?” “Is somebody hurt?” The man barks at them, “get back!” He makes his way to the front door, and the kids start begging, “Dad, don’t go! Stay here with us.”  The dad opens the door and steps out onto the porch. He turns around and sternly says, “Stay in the house!”  The door shuts, and the children don’t see their father anymore. They run to the window and look as their father falls to the ground dead. And through the crying and tears, they are haunted by the question that they can never answer: Why didn’t daddy stay in the house?

Why would a man tell his children to “stay in the house!”? 

Because there is safety in the house. There is security in the house. There is protection in the house.  Because there is danger outside. It could cost them their lives.

In the Bible there was a strict command given to “stay in the house!”  It’s found in Joshua 2.

The Israelites—almost 3 million of them—are camped next to the Jordan River. Across the Jordan stands the city of Jericho, surrounded by its two protective walls.  From the top of Jericho’s walls, you can see the Israelite camp, their tents, their campfires, and more people than you’ve ever seen in your life—and they’re about to attack.

Then, two of them show up in the city; on the walls; in your house!  Scared for your life, you don’t dare turn them in—you don’t want to anger their God. You quickly hide them on your roof, and when the soldiers come to your door, you send them on a wild-goose chase—because you don’t want to anger the powerful Jehovah of the Israelites. You send the spies out safely, but beg them to spare you and your family when they finally attack.  The spies agree, but give you the stern warning: “stay in the house!”

If you want to be safe, get in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to get in the house (Joshua 2:18).   The spies said “when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee.” Literally, they said, “into your house.”  The only way that anyone in the city of Jericho was going to be saved was if they got in the house.

So, Rahab found her family, and brought them into the house with her—because she wanted to be saved, and she wanted her family to be saved too.  To refuse to come into the house was to refuse salvation.  To refuse to come into the house was to bring death on themselves.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “get in the house” (Acts 2:47).   The house of God is the church (I Timothy 3:15 – “the house of God, which is the church”).   All saved people are in the church (Acts 2:47)—there are no saved people outside of the church.     Christ’s blood is required for salvation, and it only covers those who are in the church (Acts 20:28).   You’re surrounded by enemies who are ready to destroy you—and the only way to be safe is to “get in the house!

Salvation is only found in the church, because it is the house of God, the body of Christ.   To reject the church is to reject salvation!   To reject the church is to bring destruction upon yourself!  If you’re not in the house yet, GET IN IT!  And if you are in the house, why aren’t you trying to get other people in it with you? Do you want them to be destroyed? Are you content to think, “Well, I’ll be saved, so it doesn’t really matter about anyone else?”

If you want to be safe, stay in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to stay in the house (Joshua 2:19).  “And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head and we shall be guiltless.” Basically, “if they leave the house, they’re dead. And it’ll be their own fault.”

Rahab and her family get all their belongings, and they all huddle together in the house. They look out the window, scared for their people, but also confident that God would keep His promise. They see hundreds of thousands of soldiers march around their city once a day for six days—and the soldiers don’t say a word. It is eerie, disconcerting, and frightening.  But through it all, they stay in the house because they know that they are only safe if they stay in the house.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “stay in the house!”    Almost every letter in the New Testament contains warnings about losing your salvation.  But this is nowhere more clearly stated than in Revelation.  Jesus walks among the seven golden candlesticks, which are his church (Revelation 1:20).   A church who ceases to follow Christ will have its candlestick removed—that is, they will no longer be part of the church (Revelation 2:5).  In fact, Jesus describes the process as vomiting them out of His mouth, His body—vomiting them out of the church (Revelation 3:16).  Those who returned to the Law of Moses willingly left the church of Jesus Christ—and had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

When you leave the church, you leave the protection of the blood of Christ—and you bring it on yourself!  You’re surrounded by an enemy that is ready to destroy you. You’re in the one safe place where they can’t harm you. And then you open the door and walk out—into the destructive hands of the enemy.   It’s stupid! It’s like being in a storm cellar in the middle of a tornado, and then getting out as it goes right over you. You’re dead!  Instead, stay gathered with your family—your brothers and sisters in Christ—stay safe in the house (the church).

Conclusion:

On the seventh day of the siege, the hundreds of thousands of Israelite soldiers marched around the city seven times. The people in Jericho knew something was coming. As they looked out over the wall and through windows, they could see nothing but soldiers—silent soldiers—being led by God Himself.

Then, without warning, trumpets blast and six hundred thousand voices scream all at once. The ground shakes and the walls of the city crash to the ground. And through the dust they see the screaming soldiers running straight into the city with their swords swinging. Blood splatters and pools on the ground and person after person falls lifeless to the ground. Then comes the fire, destroying the city and everything in it.

But one section of the wall never fell.

One small section of the wall still stood, with a house sitting on top of it. Inside that house was a woman who wanted to be saved. Inside that house was her family. Inside that house was a group of people who trusted in God’s promise.

What made that house different? Why did it stand when all the others fell?

There were plenty of other houses. There were plenty of other people huddled in other houses. What made this one different? This house had a window. Out of that window hung a cord—a scarlet cord. That cord is what made that house stand out. That cord is what marked that house for salvation. That scarlet cord saved the spies, and now it saved Rahab and her family.

And Joshua saved Rahab…and her father’s household” (Joshua 6:25).

On the final day, destruction will come upon this entire world. The trumpet will sound and Jesus will shout (I Thessalonians 4:16). No one will be able to stand in the face of His fierce destruction. And then comes the fire—the eternal fire (Mark 9:43-48).

But one house is spared.

Inside that house are people who wanted to be saved when destruction came. But what made that house different? What makes this CHURCH different? After all, there’s plenty of other churches out there.   This church is different because of scarlet—the scarlet of Jesus’ blood. It is that blood which sets this church apart. It is that blood that makes this church stand out. The scarlet marks this church—this house—for salvation.

The people in this house are also saved by Joshua—of course, we know this Joshua by His Greek name, Jesus.

Jesus said He would build HIS church (Matthew 16:18). There is only one church that Christ recognizes. There is only one church that God adds to (Acts 2:47). Christ only built one church. Man has built many. Only Christ’s church—the one protected by the scarlet—will be saved.

The question now is this: how do you get in the house? How do you save yourself from the destruction? How do you get covered by the blood of Jesus?  Those who are baptized into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27) are the ones who are added to the church (Acts 2:47)–God puts them into the house!

Are you in the house?

–Bradley Cobb

Miracle-Gro Evangelism

The idea for today’s lesson came from a statement by Jamie Beller.

Introduction:

A lot of people take a “Miracle-Gro” approach to evangelism.  They don’t do any work, and then pray to God to make the church grow—asking for “Miracle-Growth.” And then they wonder why the church doesn’t grow.

What they don’t realize is that—just like with “Miracle-Gro”—there are other steps involved. You can’t just go get Miracle-Gro and spray it on your lawn and expect to have a garden. You have to till the ground, choose your seeds, hoe the rows, fertilize the ground, plant the seeds, water the seeds, and then you use Miracle-Gro on a semi-regular basis. There’s a lot more work involved, and Miracle-Gro is only part of the equation.

In the same way, you can’t just pray for the church to grow if you’ve not done any of the other stuff that’s necessary. I Corinthians 3:6 – I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. Today we will be looking at the way that the church can grow, both here and throughout the world.

But before we get into that, I want you to briefly consider the question, “why should we evangelize?” The goal of evangelism is NOT so we can have a bigger congregation here. The goal of evangelism is NOT so we can build bigger buildings. It’s not about numbers or prestige. We should be evangelizing because souls are lost in sin, and Jesus has given us the tools to save them! We should be evangelizing because that is the mission that Jesus left us with (Matthew 28:18-20). We should be evangelizing because we love other people and we don’t want them to suffer eternal torment!

How does the Bible teach that we are to evangelize?

Plant the seed (“I planted”)

  1. When you plant a garden, you have to decide what crops you want to get from it.  If you want lettuce, you plant lettuce seeds; if you want okra, you plant okra seeds.   But make no mistake about it, if you expect to get certain crops, those seeds have to be planted.       It does no good to buy the seeds and then leave them in a bag or sitting on the shelf somewhere.
  2. The purpose of evangelism is to create Christians.   Because of that fact, the seed that must be used is that which will produce Christians.     To quote Jesus: “the seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).   The word of God—without any subtractions, additions, or changes—will produce Christians. The word of God does not produce Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, or any of the thousand other denominational groups.  The word of God only produces Christians.  The only way to produce those other groups is to change the seed.
  3. But make no mistake about it, just like with a garden, there will be no Christians grown without planting the seed!   Jesus gave the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:3-9.  It began with a sower scattering the seed (the word of God), and showed how the seed fares in different soils (types of hearts). The seed took hold and grew (Christians began to grow), and in some of those soils (hearts) the plant (Christian) flourished.    But there would be no plant without the seed being put in the soil.   There can be no Christians without the word of God first being taken to them.
  4. Why isn’t the church growing like we want it to?   Reason #1 – The seed isn’t being planted enough.  “Are you sowing the seed of the kingdom, brother?

We must water the seed (“Apollos watered”)

  1. If a seed does not receive any water while it is in the ground, it will not grow.    This is why it is extremely important in drier climates to water the garden regularly.    If you don’t water it, you’ve just wasted your time in preparing the garden and planting the seed.
  2. When we teach the word of God to others (planting the seed), we must water it as well.    (a) This is done through lovingly teaching people and guiding them back to God’s word.   (b) This is done by placing the emphasis on only what the Bible says, and not on man’s opinions and theories.   (c) This is done by encouraging people to act on the information that is contained in the word of God.  Acts 2 records Peter’s sermon on Pentecost, but notice that after proving Jesus was the Christ, it says “and with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying save yourselves from this untoward generation” (2:40).  He planted the seed with his sermon, then he began to water it—to encourage them to let the seed take root and grow in their hearts.  (d) This is done by helping them along to the point of becoming a new creature. It’s no coincidence that the Bible connects becoming a new creature with water.  John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” – being born is a becoming a new creature.  Romans 6:3-4 – know ye not that as many of us as were baptized into Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. – new life comes from being baptized into Christ.
  3. It seems that many times, those who take the word of God to others just say “this is what it says” and then they leave it at that.  We need to not just be seed-planters, but be those who water it as well!

We must seek God’s help (“God gave the increase”).

  1. Sometimes, regardless of how hard you work to get a garden to produce, it fails.  Two years ago, there was a total of three tomatoes grown from all the gardens belonging to members of this congregation.  From this alone, we should realize that our own efforts can only get us so far.  God is the one in control, and as such, we should always seek His aid with everything we do.
  2. This is the part of the equation that we might call “Miracle-Gro.” Miracle-Gro is something extra added to better the chances that the crops will grow and thrive.  Miracle-Gro is added while you’re watering the garden.
  3. When we have done our part to share the gospel with others, we should be seeking God’s assistance.  We must constantly remind ourselves that it is not about US.  I cringe when I hear preachers say “I’ve baptized ____ people.” It doesn’t matter how many people YOU have baptized—because it isn’t about YOU at all. The focus should be on God.   I Corinthians 3:6-7 – I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither is he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.  Pray for God’s aid that you plant the seed properly.  Pray for God’s aid that you water correctly (not too much, not too little).   Pray for God’s aid that the seed will take root and create a new creature.

But wait! There’s more to do!

  1. When you have a garden, it is successful as soon as the first green sprout appears, right?    WRONG!  You consider your garden a success when you have full-grown plants which are producing—That’s the goal of having a garden in the first place!  If your seeds never get past the initial sprouting stages, then they’re no good.
  2. So, what happens if you stop watering your plants when they first sprout?   They are going to die. They will not grow, and they will never be of any use.  Instead, gardeners continually water their plants as it is needed, and continue to add Miracle-Gro regularly.   Gardeners must tend the garden, remove the weeds and do everything they can to give the plants an environment where they can grow and thrive.
  3. It’s not enough to get people to let the word of God take root in their heart and produce a new creature. If we get thousands of people to become new creatures, but they all fade away without producing fruit, we’ve failed. This is the problem of trying to get numbers in the church instead of trying to save souls. Just as new plants require constant attention, so do new Christians.  Some are more hardy than others from the get-go and require very little attention.  But others need frequent care and attention to help them grow.
  4. Christians must be encouraged regularly (just like a plant needs water) to grow.  I Thessalonians 5:11 – …edify one another.  Hebrews 10:24 – Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works.  We must show our love and care for new Christians, constantly encouraging them.
  5. Christians must be fed the proper nutrients in order to grow.  Acts 20:32 – And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.  We must continue to help new Christians in their study of God’s word.
  6. And we must also go to God in prayer on their behalf (keep God involved).  How many times have you prayed for a new Christian, and said, “Lord, please be with _______ as he’s facing the devil’s onslaughts against him. And Lord, please help me to help him grow into a strong, faithful servant of you”?
  7. Keep the spiritual “Miracle-Gro” applied by keeping God involved.

Conclusion:

The goal of evangelism is to produce Christians who will bear fruit and who will be able to spread the word of God to others (II Timothy 2:2). The goal of evangelism is to save souls and teach them how to save others. The goal of evangelism is to make heaven the most crowded place it can be!

Here’s the catch – you are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to even try. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to plant the seed. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to water the seed. You are a failure as a gardener if you refuse to tend to the plant after it has sprouted. Those are all things you can control.

Spiritually speaking, how good of a gardener have you been? Have you been planting the seed? Have you been watering it? Or have you simply been looking at the weed-covered field of the world and said, “well, if they want to grow, they know where to find me”? Imagine a real gardener saying that—it’s preposterous!

Jesus Christ came to this earth and voluntarily took on our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to endure it. You must let that truth take root in your heart and believe it. Allow it to cause you to change your ways by repenting of your sins. Make the confession of Christ, and then apply the water—become a new creature by being baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

-Bradley Cobb