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Aug 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 14, 2022



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning!       Welcome to RefleXion.     May the Lord be with you!

When my husband was courting me, over 40 years ago, he pursued me…a couple of old-fashioned words there:  courting, pursued.  And I felt loved, that he would come after me, show me in words and actions that he wanted to be close to me, to know me.  He doesn’t make me feel quite that way anymore, and I miss it.  And I have realized lately that I’m missing that with other people too–some friends, many family members (kids, grandchildren, a brother).  And I’ve noticed that I seem to be doing all the heavy lifting in some relationships. 

But here’s the rub:  I want the relationship, and if I move away, will they actually pursue me?  Will I have lost more than even what I have now?  Or will I find that they miss me, that they reach out and find ways to connect to me?

To know that I’m really loved, it feels like I must not necessarily move away, but stand still, and see if love will pursue me.  Love is risky business.

When I am not necessarily pursuing God, if I will notice, He is still pursueing me.  But do you think that sometimes He just stands still, that He desires me to pursue Him?  Not for His ego or neediness, but just that that’s how intimacy works – Desire and Invitation. 

I pulled out an old book, The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer; and he has an interesting way of talking about this.  He says that Jesus, by His own flesh torn, removed the veil over God’s heart and gives us access to the Holy of Holies (remember the veil in the Temple was actually, supernaturally, torn when Jesus died.)  Tozer says that God has removed the veil of His heart expressing His desire and invitation to us to come closer, but that there is a closely woven veil over each of our own hearts, and it is our self-life.  He says that we must allow that veil to be lifted.

Here’s a connection to another old-fashioned term:  the bridal veil.  Today it might be just an accessory to the dress.  But traditionally, the veil covered the face of the bride as she walked down the aisle.  Sometimes it was lifted by the father of the bride and sometimes by the bridegroom, but it definitely used to be a part of the wedding ceremony.

One way of knowing Jesus is to know Him as the Lover of our Souls, our Bridegroom.  Let’s pursue Him in all the ways we can to declare that we desire and value intimacy with Him.  “Courtship, pursuing the beloved, removing the veil” all might seem old-fashioned, but I think that they will never go out of style.

Our opening prayer this morning is from Tozer, in the chapter called “Removing the Veil.”  The language is definitely old-fashioned, and I think it’s beautiful.  Will you join me?

Lord, how excellent are Thy ways, and how devious and dark are the ways of man.  Show us how to die, that we may rise again to newness of life.  Rend the veil of our self-life from the top down as Thou didst rend the veil of the Temple.  We would draw near in full assurance of faith.  We would dwell with Thee in daily experience here on this earth so that we may be accustomed to the glory when we enter Thy heaven to dwell with Thee there.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Luke 10:1-2

Intro: In the first half of this chapter, Jesus launches a campaign

Of course, like Jesus himself, the operation is modest
– there’s no funding and its reps are unskilled volunteers
• but it’s the crew Jesus chose and the plan is simple and low-key
• there is a twofold purpose for this mission:
◦ prepare people for Jesus’ arrival and ministry
◦ for these disciples to experience their first solo-flights in doing his work
– Jesus begins their preparation with an observation:
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few
• based on this observation, he makes a request:
Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers
• then he gives them precise and austere instructions

The first issue I want to go over is, what he is not saying

When I address controversial subjects, I try to tread lightly
– I know there will be people who disagree with me
• they have good reasons, and I want to show them respect
• but today I just want to speak my heart
– Jesus did not send these disciples to do what we have been told to do by many Christian leaders
• that is, tell others they need to “get saved”
• “get saved” is shorthand for walking unbelievers through “the simple gospel”:
1. Every human person has sinned
2. Everyone who sins goes to hell – a place of eternal torment
3. Jesus Christ died for everyone’s sins
4. All we have to do is receive Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior
5. If we do that, we are saved from hell and will go to heaven
6. To continue on as a Christian you must read the Bible, pray, go to church, and preach the gospel to others
◦ if someone follows these steps, then they got saved

This is not the gospel Jesus preached – nor is it what Paul described (cf. Ro. 1:1-6)
. . . Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mk. 1:14-15)
– this is also the message he gave for his disciples to proclaim
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (Lk. 9:1-2)
Heal the sick in it and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” (Lk. 10:9)
Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near (Lk. 10:11)
• God’s rulership has entered the world of humans
◦ according to his will, he enlightens us to himself and frees us from a world of oppression
◦ to repent does not mean to feel sorry for your sin and apologize and seek forgiveness
◦ repent means to change your way of thinking and the way you live
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Ro. 12:2)
• the gospel is not, primarily, about going to heaven when you die
◦ it’s about living with God here and now in a way that transforms our lives
– listen to a literal translation of the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer:
Father of us, the one in the heavens,
Let be revered the name of you,
Let come the kingdom of you,
Let be done the will of you,
as in heaven, also on earth
(Mt. 6:9-10)
• Jesus is not telling us to pray, “Take me to heaven when I die”
◦ but to ask God to bring the reality of heaven into our lives now
◦ “May we live your will today, and be trapped by the influence of this world”
• when we refer to Jesus as “Lord,” we are recognizing his authority

There are a couple more issues that need to be addressed

Some churches train Christians to be salespeople for God
– this has been called “soul winning” or “personal evangelism”
• it is a form of converting or proselytizing unbelievers or people of other faiths
◦ in practice, it means either to entice or put pressure on people to become Christians
◦ typically with the promise of heaven and the fear of hell, respectively
• some people are really good at this, and they keep score!
◦ what always comes to my mind is the word “buttonhole”
(originally, “buttonhold”; to hang on to a button on a person’s coat if they try to leave a conversation that does not interest them or makes them feel uncomfortable)
◦ people with aggressive or forceful personalities are sometimes unaware of how they do this to others
– we’re told we must convert our family, neighbors, friends, and acquaintances
• there is also “cold-call evangelism”
◦ “street witnessing,” door-to-door, or preaching at every total stranger
• most of us are uncomfortable with this, regardless of whether we’re on the giving or receiving end

Another celebrated form of proselytizing is crusade evangelism
– awhile back I mentioned crusade evangelism to Barry Taylor
• he went straight to heart of it with three words: “It’s an illusion”
• we’re given impression something big is happening
◦ thousands of unbelievers are coming to God for the first time in their lives
◦ but that’s not what’s happening
– if you’ve ever been to multi-level marketing seminar, you know how it works
• machinery of crusade evangelism is highly organized and expensive
◦ the advance work is treated as if it were as important as the event
◦ churches are used to publicize and invite family and friends, and to train ushers and “counselors”
• the event itself is entertaining – music, an interview with a celebrity, laughter at times, and tears
◦ but everything is about closing the sale
1. When the appeal is made, everything slows down–the evangelists may speak in quieter tones
2. The music acts as a soundtrack, tugging on heartstrings
3. People in the audience get a sense of being backed into a corner
• if they do not comply by receiving Jesus immediately, they risk going to hell
4. Clear directions are given, with encouragement that it’s an easy step to take
5. People start to get up and move toward stage–lots of people, in fact
6. If you came at a friend’s or family member’s invitation, you know what they want
• I’ve heard many say, “I didn’t plan on it, but suddenly I was on my feet and walking down the aisle”
• when the cause of your actions are unconscious, it’s likely that you have been hypnotized
7. Near the stage you’re met by two counselors
• they go over the basics and ask if you’d like to pray (the “sinner’s prayer”)
◦ you’re asked to provide your contact information for follow-up
◦ that card you sign is the contract – and with it, they seal the deal
• you are told that you have become a Christian, God’s new creation
Karl Barth, “The great, silent mystery of most of our great orators preachers and writers consists in this that they are excellent salesmen. They know the business of catering to their customers and of arousing their desire to buy. They have learned the art of bargaining . . . . For many a great cause in the world, and for most of the so called spiritual and religious movements, it is not particularly important that they are intrinsically good, or new, or useful; their chief need is shrewd promoters and able salesmen who can sell them to a pleased public. It is the accepted way of getting things done.”

How have we created the illusion “thousands came to Christ”
– the majority of people present at crusades have already been primed
• family or friends have been working on them
• many of them are already church goers,
◦ but they never “went forward” in a service until now
◦ years ago, our church was sent about seventy follow up cards from an evangelistic crusade
◦ on all but three cards, the “newly saved” person listed a church they attended
– for every one person who gets up to walk to the stage and get saved, two counselors follow
• so in the crowd heading toward stage, two thirds are Christians
◦ but most people don’t know that, so it looks like everyone is getting saved
◦ this creates a psychological effect, such as, “I must be missing out on something if I don’t go”
• this is not biblical evangelism, it’s not Jesus, and it’s not working
◦ I should qualify that last statement; it’s not working like we think it is
◦ I know people who have come to God at a crusade and gone on to become true Christians

Jesus asked his disciples to pray for God to send out laborers

If the disciples could have recruited, trained, and deployed people for the work,
– then that is what Jesus would have told them to do
• it is God who chooses, equips, trains, and empowers his work force
• so Jesus’ last words to his disciples, was to stay put in Jerusalem (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4-8)
◦ that within a few days God’s Spirit would empower them,
◦ and they’d become his witnesses – bringing in his harvest
(notice that witness is something we become, that we are, before it is something we do)
– what if I want to sign-up? If I want God to use me in his fields?
• first, if I have the desire, it is likely that God is the one who put it in me
• second, all I’m expected to do is give witness to Jesus’ work in my life
◦ I don’t need to have all the answers to every question
Charles Spurgeon, “the difficulty is, that so often when a witness is put into the box, he is more conscious of himself than of what he has to say; therefore, he is soon worried, teased, and . . . by losing his temper, he fails to be a good witness for the cause.” If someone “questions me about other things, I shall tell him that I do not come to bear witness about other matters, but this one thing I do.”
◦ my witness is first of all the life I live – and I need help!
Lonnie Frisbee, “Believe me, I failed many times in every department—but I tried. When I would fail, God would pick me up and instruct me with this truth: We fail our way into the kingdom of God. It starts with grace, and it ends with grace.”

Conclusion: If Jesus told us to pray for something, that something must be important

Am I, or can I, be an answer to his prayer request?

If so, it would help if I could see the world through his eyes
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Mt. 9:35-38)
If I see what Jesus sees, perhaps I may begin to feel what he feels
Then his desire will become my desire, his prayer will be my prayer, and his work, my work
Then, in the small patch of earth that I occupy,
God’s name will be revered, and his kingdom will come, and his will be done,
to the glory of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit

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