Shine Your Light

After giving the Beatitudes which describe who the people are who are blessed and belong in Christ’s kingdom, Jesus continues to describe who his people are. There is an identity that Christ’s people understand that they possess. First, Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. It is not that we have salt but that we are salt. We are to influence people for Jesus. We asked who do we influence, where do we influence, and how do we influence. Jesus’ concern was that we would lose our saltiness. We are to influence in a way that brings grace to the person and to the situation. We must consider our words and actions to determine if we are bringing graciousness that glorifies Jesus. Jesus gives us another picture of our identity in Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14–16 ESV)

You Are the Light of the World. What does that mean? Are we talking influence? And if so…Who do we influence…Where do we influence…How do we influence?

Jesus answers these questions in the two illustrations given…a city on a hill that cannot be hidden and a lamp put upon a stand (not under a basket). In both, Jesus is talking about light and that it cannot and more importantly should not be hidden.

As disciples and men, we must not be hidden and should be obvious like a city set on a hill. God did not make us light so we would hide ourselves…but to shine. Jesus is our example and He says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12 ESV). God is light and His word provide us direction and guidance…it lights our way and in light there is life. His word is “…a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105 ESV).

What we see in Jesus calling himself the light of the world and David declaring that God’s word is a lamp and a light tells us that light is supposed to shine in the darkness so that people can see the way to live their lives. The light is to shine so that they can have direction because the world is full of darkness (cf. John 1:4-9.) Light shows the way. Light illuminates the path. Light provides the direction needed. Keep this idea in mind as we think about being the light of the world. We are to show the way. We are to give direction to the world. We are to illuminate the path.

So how do we take God’s light and let it shine in our lives so that others can see?

To start you thinking through your answer and what you could do differently today…or maybe more something you are already doing to purposefully shine light into the lives of others.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. (Philippians 2:14–16 ESV).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:9–12 ESV)

The Company You Keep

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
(Proverbs 13:20)

Today’s article is one of caution, but also of encouragement: the company you keep will (not can) influence you in one direction or another. This is a discussion that I’m sure many of you as parents are having with your kids, but remember that it applies to big people, too.

The new Galatians Christians were “quickly deserting” the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Some among them were troubling them and perverting the gospel (Galatians 1:6-7; 2:4; 4:17; 5:7-10; 6:12-13). It is a reminder of how quickly someone can be turned away from God and led to believe lies.

The same thing was happening in the Corinthian congregation. Some were preaching that there is no resurrection of the dead, and Paul warned that bad company (and teaching) can corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:12,33).

We see the same warnings by Paul as he wrote to the young evangelist Timothy. Certain conversations along with certain types of people can lead to the “ruin of the hearers,” and will “lead people into more ungodliness.” This teaching and influence will spread like gangrene, resulting in the “upsetting” of the faith of some (2 Timothy 2:14-18). These are powerful warnings from God, and as parents and children we should take heed.

There are verses aplenty about how many will follow the bad influences of others. It’s not just about false teaching, it may be that you are hanging around people with lousy attitudes and worldly passions, and that will take you down the wrong road as well (Hebrews 12:15; 2 Peter 2:2,18).

We are called by God to come out from among these evil influences and to chose holy friends and godly influences (2 Corinthians 6:14-18).

I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:63)

Think of what David just said. Who are his companions? Those who fear God and keep His commandments. Those are great friends!

Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
(1 John 3:13-14)

What is the sign that we have passed from death into life, according to John? Our relationships! When we love the brothers, we will abide in life. When we love the world, we will by definition hate the brothers, and we will abide in death.

Look at this passage from Malachi. In the midst of a lot of wickedness and religious hypocrisy, there was a righteous remnant that hung out with each other and encouraged each other. See how God took notice of this?

Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. “They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.
(Malachi 3:16-18)

And all who believed were together…
(Acts 2:44)

The believers were together. When we are together, powerful things happen for the kingdom of God. Our fellowship is not with this world, it is with Jesus Christ, His blood, and His body of believers!

that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
(1 John 1:3)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
(1 John 1:7)

It really is pretty simple, if you want to move closer to God, look at your friends and relationships. Where are they leading you?

Married Under the Influence

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
(Proverbs 5:15-20)

Anna was listening to a radio program the other day, and shared with me a great point that the speaker made. It goes something like this, “Satan does everything in his power to get us to be physically intimate before we are married, and then everything in his power to break that physical intimacy after we are married.” So true.

The passage above in Proverbs talks about being intoxicated. We can be drunk and led astray into the arms of forbidden love, or we can be drunk in love of our bride. God created the sexual relationship to be very fulfilling, to draw us closer to our spouse than we are to anyone else on the planet.

That is why this union is designed exclusively for marriage, when it is taken outside of marriage, it defiles everything and everyone it touches. When it is kept within the covenant relationship of a husband and wife, it brings joy, unity and an intimacy unparalleled in human relationships.

Solomon is directing the husband’s senses (ears, eyes, hands, nose, mouth, etc.) to be directed fully toward his wife. When he starts looking at other women, smelling their pretty perfume, and listening to their flattering words, he will become drunk in other women’s love. His hands and arms are to be devoted to his wife, not to any other woman. Just read the first 7 chapters of Proverbs to be reminded of how Solomon teaches and warns about sexual sin.

But in those warnings are also passages like the one above that talk about the joy and intoxication that can be found within a committed relationship between a husband and his wife.

Have you lost that at home? If so, what happened? And then, how can we get that back again? There are no quick easy answers to these questions. If you have been married long enough you have more than likely found yourself in the situation where the sexual relationship is not the joyful union God designed for you to have.

There are a lot of reasons this happens in a marriage. Health reasons, life stresses, past hurts, arguments and bitterness piled up, unrealistic expectations, the kids, or we are just flat out tired, etc. It also could be that other people have drawn away our affections in some way. Can we come back from these things that have tried to destroy our physical intimacy with our wife? Yes. Otherwise passages like Proverbs 5 wouldn’t have been written.

The question is men, what will you do about this? Have you sought out wise counsel on this matter? Are you directing all your senses toward your wife, or are you being pulled away in your affections to other things and people?

Think about what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7

But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife,
(1 Corinthians 7:33)

I don’t believe Paul meant this in a negative way. It’s just a reality. If you are married, your attention should naturally be toward how to please your wife. Included in that is the sexual relationship (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). It is your job and your life, and God wants it to be your joy. Seek to please your wife, all the while seeking to please God as well.

The Faithful Remnant

We are studying the Kings and Prophets, and we are going into the period of the Babylonian Captivity. Dark times for Judah, no doubt. It seemed like no one cared about God or followed God. That may have been pretty close to true, but there were still a few strong followers of God. Just like we considered yesterday with Noah, even in the midst of corruption and wickedness, there was a faithful remnant.

Jeremiah preached for decades, but was anyone listening? For the most part, no, but here are a few examples of the people who were faithfully following God.

Baruch, the scribe for Jeremiah. He wrote down the words that Jeremiah received from God. He was a faithful servant and assistant to Jeremiah. Just like Jeremiah, he was taken hostage and carried off to Egypt after the Babylonian captivity.

The descendants of Jonadab faithfully followed their father’s commands even after centuries passed. Their faithfulness was contrasted to Judah’s faithlessness to their Father (Jeremiah 35).

Many people were sealed by God before the destruction of Jerusalem, because as God told Ezekiel during these days, they were “sighing and crying” over the abominations committed there (Ezekiel 9). Even in Jerusalem, the hot bed of sin and rebellion to God, there were folks faithfully following God’s word.

Ebed-melech was an Ethiopian eunuch who helped saved Jeremiah’s life (Jeremiah 38). For his faithfulness and bravery, he was blessed by God. Take note of this promise of God to Ebed-melech:

“Go, and say to Ebed-melech the Ethiopian, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will fulfill my words against this city for harm and not for good, and they shall be accomplished before you on that day. But I will deliver you on that day, declares the LORD, and you shall not be given into the hand of the men of whom you are afraid. For I will surely save you, and you shall not fall by the sword, but you shall have your life as a prize of war, because you have put your trust in me, declares the LORD.'” (Jeremiah 39:16-18).

Away in captivity, there were also others faithfully serving God during this time. Daniel, Ezekiel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are some examples.

The same can be said today. Scattered throughout the world, and in maybe the most unlikely of places, there are members of the faithful remnant. Most importantly, let’s make sure that you and I are part of that faithful remnant. We can, with God’s grace and help, serve God faithfully in this godless age.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
(Titus 2:11-12)

Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.
(Genesis 6:8-9)

The world was a pretty nasty place in the days of Noah, wasn’t it. The verses in Genesis 6 before and after verses 8-9 tell us of violence, corruption, and continually wicked thoughts in the hearts of all mankind. Noah was surrounded on every side with perversion and wickedness.

Here is the encouragement for me from this text and I hope you will be encouraged as well. Noah was able to live in a way that was pleasing to God even when everyone around him was doing the wrong things.

He was righteous when everyone else was unrighteous. Noah lived as a “blameless” man when all around him was corruption. Noah walked with God when all his friends and neighbors where walking the other direction.

So, can you do the same at work? At school? In your community? Absolutely. We are called by God to live the same way Noah did in his “generation.”

First we must be “saved from this crooked generation”:

And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
(Acts 2:40-41)

We then walk daily with God’s power working in us to transform our minds from worldly thinking to Christ-like thinking.

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.
(Romans 12:2)

As transformed people, we are called to live as blameless and shining lights in this “perverse generation” just like Noah did.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:12-16)

We can live like Noah. With God’s power and help, we can live a righteous life in this wicked world.

Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”
(Proverbs 9:6)

Slow to Anger, Great in Power

An oracle concerning Nineveh. The book of the vision of Nahum of Elkosh. The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him. The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. But with an overflowing flood he will make a complete end of the adversaries, and will pursue his enemies into darkness. What do you plot against the LORD? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time.
(Nahum 1:1-9)

We were studying the book of Nahum last night in our Bible class. Nahum was sent to pronounce the final judgment upon Nineveh and Assyria. Jonah had been sent around 100 years prior to this, and the people of Nineveh repented. However, they have gone back into their violent and wicked ways. God was slow to anger, but now there is no remedy. He will come at them with an overwhelming flood of judgment and punishment.

The phrase I want to focus on for just a moment is that God is “slow to anger but great in power.” A question that was posed last night in class was, “What if God was fast to anger and great in power?” We all agreed that there wouldn’t be much left of us and it wouldn’t take long for God to do it. He would snuff us out in a hurry.

Look at the passage above. Nahum asks, “Who can stand before His indignation? Who can endure the heat of His anger?” When God is full of wrath, there is no place to hide nor any shelter strong enough to withstand the blast (except the shelter of the blood of Jesus, of course). “His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken in pieces by Him,” Nahum added.

Are you great in power? What I mean is, are you in authority over people? At work? At home? In organizations? How about in the church? What do you do with that authority and power? Do you run rough shod over people? Are you quick to anger, or are you slow to anger like God is? Is your wrath poured out quickly and instantly known by others (Proverbs 12:!6)? Are people around you intimidated and scared to set you off? Do others walk on egg shells around you because of your hair-trigger temper?

God is great in power, but slow to anger. He has the power to do whatever he wants to you and me, but His lovingkindness governs His power. Have you ever driven a truck that had a governor set where you couldn’t go over a certain speed? I think we need something like that with our anger and all our passions and emotions. What regulates my power and strength? Does God’s love, mercy and kindness rule my authority so that I do not take advantage of those who are accountable to me?

The people under your authority may not be able to escape. They have to endure that anger and face those blasts of wrath because they have to keep coming to work everyday or they have to live with you everyday. When you go off on a rant, they may have to just stay there and take it. But that isn’t fair to them is it? Should they have to endure that kind of abuse because you can’t control your temper?

If you are that person who has that kind of anger issue, please work with God to get to the root of the problem. Sit down with wise, godly people who can help you work through your anger and give you the tools to control that anger and put it in its proper place. It will take humility to admit you have a problem, and even more humility to seek out help to work through it.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:19-22)

Being a Shechaniah

We were very blessed over the weekend to have Andy Harrison with us. He led our men’s study on Saturday about the power of having a very close intimate brother in Christ. A brother to whom and with whom we can be accountable and vulnerable. Someone who can help us grow to new heights in our walk with God.

Andy used as one of his key examples the man named Shechaniah in the book of Ezra. I encourage you to read Ezra 9-10 and meditate upon it.

The people of Israel returned from captivity, and over time returned to the same sins that sent them away into captivity in the first place. Jewish men who were to be loyal in heart to God were marrying pagan idolatrous women and they were going down the same old road to destruction. When Ezra heard about this he was so sad. Ezra was overwhelmed to the point of being despondent.

Andy pointed out that if you listen to the words and emotions of Ezra in his prayer of chapter 9, one thing you will not see is hope. Ezra is pretty low at this point, and understandably so.

While Ezra was weeping and praying, a great assembly of people gathered around, and one man stood up and spoke up. Look at the progression of what happens; listen to what is said. Take note that Ezra at the beginning is weeping and praying, and at the end he is weeping and acting. It took a Shechaniah to stand up and support Ezra. Shechaniah showed leadership by being a phenomenal example of follower-ship.

Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.” Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath. Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity. And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem, and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.
(Ezra 10:1-8)

What can you see in the words of Shechaniah that would have meant so much to Ezra in his leadership?

  1. Personal accountability. Shechaniah admitted the wrong, and took responsibility for it. He also made himself accountable to being fully supportive as they worked through solving this problem.
  2. Yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Even the greatest leaders can sometimes get hopeless and despair in situations. Paul did (2 Corinthians 1) and so did Elijah (1 Kings 19). Ezra needed hope, he needed Shechaniah to show him that all is not lost. There’s still hope! Don’t we all need that sometimes?
  3. He was willing to help Ezra lead the people in this solution. “Let us make a covenant with our God.” Shechaniah stood up for God and Ezra by being the first to stand up, confess, and show true humility.
  4. Ezra’s advice was valued and promoted. Shechaniah said, we’re going to do this based upon your advice, Ezra. Think of the power that gave the leader when his leadership and his advice were valued.
  5. Shechaniah reminded Ezra of Ezra’s responsibility. As a leader, he needed the reminder that this is his gig and no one can do it for it. “Arise, for this matter is YOUR responsibility.”
  6. Shechaniah gave further encouragement and support that “we are with you!” Ezra couldn’t lead if no one followed, and he had the verbal commitment and encouragement he needed now to stand up and do the hard things. How much power is given to you to perform the hard things when you know that there are brothers in Christ who are “with you”? I mean truly with you. You can run through a brick wall if you have the right support and encouragement. Shechaniah was that person for Ezra.
  7. Ezra rose up (vs. 6,7) because Shechaniah spoke up (vs. 2). Please contemplate this today, men. You need to be that Shechaniah for somebody. There is an Ezra out there who may be giving up hope and you can stand with them to support them in carrying out the mission God has given them. Give somebody hope, support and encouragement today. It may be a church leader. It might be a parent or a spouse. It may be a caregiver. It might be your boss. But be that Shechaniah today.

Saying Goodbye to Gramma

This is a letter a good friend, Abe, wrote to his mother about the passing of his Gramma Bettye. She passed from this life over the weekend, and Abe’s thoughts are very helpful for us all. With permission I am sharing this letter with you.

I typed this this morning before I went to work. Wasn’t sure if I would ever share it. But maybe knowing Gramma (really GOD through Gramma) did one more great thing in my life will be comforting.

Saying goodbye to Gramma was hard as I left the nursing home Sunday afternoon. For some reason I thought it would be much easier since her eternity was settled, and she had already lost so much in this life in the last couple of years or so (None of those losses matter now:-)

But I am so glad that I got to whisper in her ear: “I love you. I am glad GOD gave me you. You have done your job. You gave us your faith. You have run the race. Now go rest. It’s okay to go. Go get the prize! Bye Gramma. See you soon.”

Goodbye is hard.

It feels like such a long goodbye. But it really won’t be too long!

There was such value in sitting by her bedside (Ecc 7:2). That value was not in comforting HER (which I believe was my original intent). Instead, in one final 7 day period she gave back once again and refocused my life on things not of this world. What a remarkable woman. What an Amazing GOD.

For 7 days, in her toughness while she lay in a room lacking all possessions, to me she demonstrated how fleeting even a 91 year life is (James 4:14). We entered this world with nothing and we will exit with nothing (I Timothy 6:7). And that truth was there for my eyes to see.

In our last moments all that matters is our rock solid faith (Matt 7:24-25) in a Loving, merciful GOD who causes all things to work together for good…for HIS purposes (Romans 8:28)…..Who desires us to be with HIM, worshipping in HIS presence for eternity (Rev 5:9-14). WHAT A GREAT TIME THAT WILL BE!

Indeed, there is great value in experiencing death while on this earth. I thank GOD for Gramma and this week of watching her enter into HIS rest. She finally gets to rest. She made it!

I love you Mom. Your….what was it….25 years of service to her were amazing. What an awesome example you and dad have been (Philippians 2:3-7, 2:17, Romans 12:1)

Abe

 

Go home to your friends, part 2

And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:17-20)

Everyone marveled. Yesterday’s article was about the formerly demon-possessed man who was sent by Jesus as an evangelist to the region of Decapolis. A man who at one time went around naked, screaming, breaking chains, howling at the moon, and scaring a lot of his neighbors is now set right and cleansed by Jesus. He was commissioned by Jesus to go home to his friends and talk about the Lord’s goodness and mercy. His message clearly had an impact.

A friend, Matt, followed up with me yesterday and sent me this note, and I wanted to share it with you today.

Here’s one of my favorite parts of that story. We don’t really know where the region of the Gerasenes was, but I think scholars think it was in Decapolis. Then in Mark 7-8 Jesus goes back to Decapolis and what do we see? Tons of people coming to Jesus. That’s where he feeds 4,000. I’d like to think that’s because of the demon-possessed man!

Great thought!

Here are two more examples of the impact someone can have on those around him or her.

How about the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4?

So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.
(John 4:28-30)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”
(John 4:34-42)

Take note of what Jesus just said. “Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” The apostles were going to reap what the Samaritan woman had sown. Look at the very next verse: “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.” What one woman planted led to a harvest of souls for Jesus. Remember that woman was a Samaritan woman who had been married and divorced multiple times!

Is it possible that the reason the Samaritans in Acts 8 were so receptive to the gospel is because of the initial work of the Samaritan woman years before to bring so many to hear Jesus?

Is it possible that the reason so many in Decapolis were receptive to Jesus was because of the demon-possessed man who went there and told everyone about what Jesus did?

Yes, it is certainly possible, but regardless, we know that each passage shows immediate impact and influence for Jesus.

Here is another example: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. How much do you know about Andrew, other than he was an apostle? He doesn’t get a lot of coverage in the New Testament. Really the only time he is specifically mentioned in the book of John, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40-42, 6:8; 12:22).

Think about Simon Peter. Peter was without a doubt one of the pillars of the church. He was one of the most influential people in the New Testament and the early church. Question: who brought Simon Peter to Jesus? His brother Andrew.

One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).
(John 1:40-42)

Can you begin to quantify the impact that the Samaritan woman, Andrew, and the demon-possessed man had on generations upon generations to come? How far did that influence spread? I heard a statement long ago that you can count the seeds in one apple but you can’t begin to count the apples in one seed.

Do not minimize the impact that one seed planted for Jesus has. Plant that seed today, brothers.

Go home to your friends

As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
(Mark 5:18-20)

Here is a very rare occasion where Jesus told someone he healed to go out and tell everyone about it. Usually Jesus strictly and sternly forbade anyone he healed from going around and talking about it (Mark 1:34,43-45; 5:43; 7:36; Matthew 12:14-21). Of course, no one really listened to Jesus and went out and told everyone anyways!

Whenever someone would broadcast the news of a healing, Jesus would be so crowded and pressed about that he could hardly move. But in this situation in Mark 5, he was leaving the region. The formerly demon-possessed man really wanted to go with Jesus. I think we can understand that. Not only did this man have a really bad history with the people in that area, but come on, it was Jesus, of course he wanted to go with Jesus. He could go get a fresh start with Jesus.

But Jesus wanted him to stay put. “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you and how he has had mercy on you.” Isn’t that a very simple plan for evangelism? Go to your friends and talk about how God is good to you and His mercy is great upon you. And look at the impact this man had on the people in his region. They believed!

So guys, let’s take that simple thought with us today out into the world. What was asked of this formerly demon-possessed man is the same thing asked of each one of us who were bound by Satan and sin. Talk about the goodness and mercy of God.

Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth! Sing to the LORD, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.
(Psalms 96:1-4)