************ Sermon on Matthew 9:35-38 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 25, 2000
"Compassion for the Lost"
Topic: Cross Of ChristThe cross means forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.
Title: A Pledge Of Forgiveness
I read the story recently of how Louis XII of France treated his enemies after he ascended to the throne. Before coming to power, he had been cast into prison and kept in chains. Later when he did become king, he was urged to seek revenge. He prepared a scroll on which he listed all who had hurt him. Behind every man's name he placed a cross in red ink. When the guilty heard about this, they feared for their lives and fled.
Then the king explained, "The cross which I drew beside each name was not a sign of punishment, but a pledge of forgiveness extended for the sake of the crucified Savior, who upon His cross forgave His enemies and prayed for them."
Someday you will stand before the throne of God. The books will be opened. Everything you have done – whether for good or for evil – is recorded in those books. And God will judge you (cf Rev 20:12).
I want to ask you: Will the mark of the cross be put by your name? Will God say to you, "Forgiven, forgiven, forgiven"? Or will God say to you, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels" (Mt 25:41)?
I want to tell you, if you – by grace – haven't given your heart to Jesus, if you – by grace – don't have a personal relationship with Him, then you will be punished by a God Who hates sin and evil.
Jesus is thinking of this final judgment in our passage when He talks of the harvest:
(Mt 9:37-38) Then he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. (38) Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."
Are you ready for this harvest? Are you prepared to stand before the throne?
Today and tomorrow marks the start of our Vacation Bible School program. I want you to turn your attention away from yourself and to your neighbor. I want to ask you: Is your neighbor ready for the Lord's harvest? Is he or she ready to stand before the Lord's throne? Let me tell you, if your neighbor – by grace – doesn't have a personal and living relationship with Jesus then he or she will be sent to hell's eternal fires.
So I want to challenge you this morning: witness to Jesus; preach the good news of the kingdom; press your neighbor to have a living relationship with the Lord.
Why should you be concerned about your neighbor? Jesus tells us two reasons this morning: first, because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd; second, because of compassion.
I Harassed and Helpless
A Why should you be concerned about your neighbor? Our text mentions crowds who were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. What happens when sheep are without a shepherd? They are utterly helpless in finding grass and water, at defending themselves, at avoiding danger. When attacked, sheep usually lie down helplessly waiting for the slaughter.
This, of course, is an image of the Israelites at the time of Jesus. The common people of Israel had no shepherds to defend them or look after their well-being. They were like sheep – defenseless, helpless, harassed. The Pharisees were supposed to shepherd the people. Instead, they lined their own pockets and fleeced the sheep. The Pharisees were supposed to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah. Instead, they weighed them down with a yoke of rules, regulations, and laws which left them totally unprepared for the coming of Christ.
B In Central American countries like Haiti our missionaries struggle against Voodoo. Satan uses Voodoo to keep people in their sin and misery. On top of that, they are desperately poor. Most Haitians are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Millions of people in Africa, Asia, Central America, and South America go to bed hungry at night. These people are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
Our society is filled with people stacked into sub-standard housing, people caught up in the money-making race, young people living without a goal in life, children without security or hope, drug-addicts living for the next fix, street people wondering where they will spend the next night, AIDS patients wondering how long they will live. This past week our Council met with the pastor and some members of a church in Farmersville. They told us about the poverty and hunger of many of the residents there. They told us about the Labor contractors who keep many of their workers in virtual slavery – in conditions we would not even tolerate for cows or pigs. All of these too are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
During the last week we all heard about the riots in Los Angeles following the Lakers victory in the NBA finals. Police cars and TV vans were torched. Stores were looted. Those fans who have nothing to live for but an NBA championship are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
This past Thursday night in Texas a defiant Gary Graham was put to death by lethal injection. Graham pleaded guilty to 10 aggravated robberies during a crime spree 19 years ago and he was sentenced to death for shooting a man dead in Houston during that crime spree. Graham died harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
At least half of the people in our city don't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, nor do they think one is necessary. Some just don't care about eternal things. Others believe they will get into heaven because they try to lead a good life. Whether they admit it or not, they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
I have to say that anyone without Christ is like a sheep without a shepherd. Anyone without Christ is harassed and helpless. Anyone without Christ is defenseless amid the forces of sin and evil. Perhaps that includes some people who are in front of me this morning.
All these harassed and helpless people need the Lord. Whether they know it or not, all these people need the Lord. So it is our job, our calling to tell them about the Lord. To that end we have VBS this coming week. To that end we support missionaries around the world. To that end we can never stop telling our neighbors about the Lord.
A Why should you be concerned about your neighbor? The second reason has to do with compassion.
Jesus saw the crowds. He saw they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. And He had "compassion" on them. Literally, compassion means: to suffer along with someone. You enter into his or her life and you undergo his or her distress.
Jesus had "compassion" on them. And what did He do? He preached the good news of the kingdom to them and healed every disease and sickness (vs 35).
Notice what Jesus did not do. He did not say, "Why don't you work harder, or live cleaner, or straighten out your life?" He did not admonish or condemn or put down. He did not speak of government programs or self-help groups or charity. Rather, He proclaimed the gospel. Jesus knew the problem was sin. And, He took that sin upon Himself. He had "compassion."
Jesus commanded His disciples to follow in His footsteps: to have compassion on harassed and helpless people. He said to His disciples:
(Mt 10:7-8) As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' (8) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.'
B You and I are to be like Jesus and His disciples. We are to have compassion on the crowds that are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. We are to enter into their distress. We are to feel their pain and agony.
We are to be filled with compassion for the people of Haiti caught up in the Voodoo religion. We are to be filled with compassion for the world's hungry, for the homeless, for those on welfare, for AIDS patients. We are to be filled with compassion for those rioting fans in LA. We are to be filled with compassion for those in prison or on death row. We are to be filled with compassion for the man or woman or child next door who do not have a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
What I am saying comes down to this: evangelism has to do with compassion. You can have your testimony down pat, but it means nothing if your heart is not filled with compassion; and, it will do nothing if your heart is not moved with compassion.
Topic: CompassionWhy this difference between the two pastors: the second pastor had compassion whereas the first didn't.
Subtopic: Examples of Human
A church was in need of a pastor. A candidate came who preached on hell. The next Sunday another candidate came whose sermon was also on hell, and his fundamental teaching was the same as that of the first one. When the members of the church were called upon to vote, they voted for the second candidate. When they were asked why, the answer was, "The first one spoke as if he were glad that people were going to hell, while the second seemed sorry for it."
Are you filled with compassion for your harassed and helpless neighbor? Many times, I'm afraid we will show compassion, IF IT IS CONVENIENT.
Topic: CompassionThis is not the kind of compassion shown by Christ. And, this is not the kind of compassion that should be shown by us.
Subtopic: Examples of Human
Title: Convenient Compassion
We are often like the man who was telling his wife about passing a woman in a downpour of rain one afternoon. She had a flat tire and was standing helpless by the side of her car. "I thought to myself," he said, "how awful it is of people not to help such a poor woman. I would have stopped if I were not on my way to work."
C One final point: filled with compassion for harassed, helpless people we not only witness to them but we also pray for their salvation. That is Jesus' final words in our passage:
(Mt 9:38) "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."We pray because we want them to be saved. We pray because we want none to be lost. We pray because we want all to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am calling you, my brothers and sisters, to witness to your unbelieving neighbor. Witness, because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Witness, because you are filled with compassion.
At this point I like to ask all those who are involved in VBS to come forward – bring the responsive litany with you. I invite the congregation to turn to the litany enclosed with your bulletin as we commission the workers God is sending into His harvest field ...
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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