A Disciple’s Spiritual Fitness Course, Pt. 7
Study Guide, April 23, 2023
Pastor Clay Olsen
How’s your discipline of ‘sowing the seed of the Gospel’ going for you. Right, it’s a challenging exercise for sure. It would help if we could sort of ‘mechanize’ our sowing somehow to cover more ground. But sowing the Gospel usually requires a more personal touch just like with the Parable and with the Sower giving it a personal touch.
Again, one great help in our sowing of the Gospel seed exercise is to simply identify ourselves as Jesus identifies us: We are Sowers. So try to think of yourself more and more as a ‘Sower of the Gospel’ and you will likely practice the exercise or the discipline of actually sowing gospel seed more and more.
So again, Christians are Sowers of the seed of the Gospel. Some are more active Sowers than others, but each of us should have it as our goal to try to become as faithful and committed to the habit of sowing Gospel seed as we can. It’s one of the disciplines we need to practice in order to become more and more spiritually fit. As our theme passage says, we need to spend time and energy training ourselves in this discipline, as well as the other four. So let’s look again at our theme passage and then look at some helps that we’ve called: The Three C’s for the Gospel Sower.
1 Tim 4:8-9- “Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it.” NLT You have probably noticed that we’re trying to get this stuck into our memory by repeating it so often.
And the same goes with our acrostic for our five disciplines: BIBSG Do you remember what they are? The Discipline of: Bible study training, Intercessory prayer, Body life and service, Sowing the seed of the Gospel, and Giving: Tithes and Offerings.
Let’s talk about the mindset of a Sower of Gospel seed. Again, we are calling this mindset ‘The Three C’s for the Gospel Sower’. And the first one is Compassion. In relation to sowing the gospel we are very familiar with that passage when the Lord Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Matt 9:37-38 NASU We know about that. But what’s not as well remembered is what is pointed out in the verse right before this, for verse 36 says – “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”
To be a consistent Sower of the Gospel you need compassion for people. That’s the motivation for the praying and the working and the sowing of the gospel seed – compassion. Jesus felt compassion for people that were not yet spiritually reborn, born again into God’s family. He felt compassion for those who had not yet become spiritual family members of God’s family. Again, what was it that He felt? The word compassion comes from the Latin words – ‘com’ and ‘pati’, or ‘with’ and ‘suffer’. The word ‘passion’ comes from the word ‘pati’, and before the 16th century it was used to describe ‘suffering’. Since that time, it has sort of morphed into many ideas now, like anything from deep feelings about something to romantic love to being committed to something, and so on. But originally it was used in connection with ‘suffering’. That’s why the re-enactments about the Cross of Christ have been referred to as ‘Passion Plays’. The ‘passion of Christ’ was about the ‘suffering of Christ’.
So compassion means ‘to suffer with’. It describes the capacity a person has developed to feel another’s suffering. When Jesus looked at the people who were still dead in their sins, He recognized that they were spiritually suffering, and He felt that. He empathized with that. He sensed their suffering, even if they didn’t sense it themselves.
What are we saying? For one thing, we are saying that people around us who are without Christ’s life in their soul are spiritually suffering. You should know that reality about unsaved people around you. They may not even be aware of this suffering in their soul, but it is there. And because we now know what Jesus knew, we too know that people who are without the Spirit of Christ in their lives are spiritually suffering. And Jesus had compassion on them about that. He had compassion for their suffering soul, and compassion for both the temporal and the eternal condition of their soul if they did not come to Him for the healing of their soul.
In fact, in that very familiar and beloved verse of John 3:16 there is still a rather unfamiliar part to it. Let’s look at it in the Amplified Bible Version to get the full impact of that part. John 3:16- “For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.” AMP Jesus knew that all people without His life and forgiveness are spiritually suffering, and this condition would only get worse unless they repented and entrusted their soul to Him. If they didn’t, they would indeed…perish.
Perish? Well, that brings us to the second ‘C’: Cause. We need a clear understanding of the cause or the reason that people are perishing, a clear understanding of sin and its effects. Sin is the cause of people’s condition of perishing. The effect that sin has had on people is that all people without Christ in their life are in a condition the Bible refers to as ‘perishing’. We don’t use that word very much anymore in talking or thinking about the condition of a person’s soul; that they are perishing. Maybe that’s part of the problem. The church has adopted more cultural terminology than Biblical terminology. But that’s one of the enemy’s schemes, so that people won’t understand what God is saying to them, and thus, do something about it. If you can confuse the ‘words’ that people use you can confuse the ‘works’ they will do. But the reality is that people are in danger of ‘perishing’ and they don’t even realize it, and others aren’t warning them about it either. But here’s the reason we know it’s foremost on the mind of God.
Oftentimes people ask: Why hasn’t the Lord returned yet? How much worse can the world get before the Lord Jesus comes back? What’s preventing the Second Advent? There actually is one overall reason and essential reason why Jesus hasn’t already returned like He promised to establish His Kingdom on earth. We have pointed it out many times before, but the point is that we each need to know this so well that we can point it out to others. Plus, it’s a great ‘Gospel seed’ conversation starter. Here it is: 2 Peter 3:9- “The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise to return, as some people think. No, He is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to perish, so He is giving more time for everyone to repent.” NLT
Do you see what’s foremost on God’s mind? Jesus is giving more time for people around us to repent before He returns to earth. Why? Because He doesn’t want anyone to perish! There it is again: ‘PERISH’. God wants people to humbly surrender in repentance to Jesus Christ, and to, in faith, receive Christ’s pardon for their sin penalty and receive Christ’s gift to them of eternal spiritual life. But if they refuse to repent or neglect Christ’s salvation, then they are going to perish. It’s not a complicated message, but it is both profound and profoundly urgent, because it’s the difference between a person experiencing eternal life or perishing in an eternal death!
Here is the question Christians should be asking others to help them to see the real issue of the Bible. Instead of asking people what they think a person has to do to go to Heaven, we should be asking people, “What do you think a person has to do to go to Hell?” Now, if they would even be willing to talk about it, most would answer in terms of things like, “Well, probably murdering others, or being really evil, and stuff like that, right?” But the answer to the question of: “What does a person have to do to go to Hell?” is – “Nothing more!” Nothing more? Why? Because the Bible says that they already are! The Apostle Peter clearly states that unless a person repents; humbly surrenders their life in repentant-faith to God, and receives Christ as their Savior, they will perish!
But back to what God said: God doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s why Christ came! The Cross was a rescue mission. When Christ looked at people, He knew they were in a condition of perishing, already perishing in their sins, and He felt compassion for the people. They were like sheep without a Shepherd, and if they stayed that way they would perish in Hell. The question for us is: Do we see people the way Jesus sees people? Do you see unsaved people as sheep without a Shepherd and if they stay that way they are going to perish in Hell? Jesus said to the people, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish!” (Luke 13:3)
Now look at the one of the most unfamiliar verses in the Bible, and strangely enough it comes right after the most familiar verse in the Bible. And we’ll read it again from the Amplified Version to get the full force of its claim. This is John 3:18- “He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation — he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.]” AMP This is as clear of a warning as could be declared by God: The unconverted soul is already condemned. It is already perishing and will ultimately perish forever.
Remember the old hymn, “Rescue the Perishing”? Who’s perishing? Everybody in your neighborhood, every person in your workplace, everybody on television, everybody in your community that has not repented unto God and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Which brings us to the third ‘C’ – Cure. What the Scriptures clearly reveal is that the cure for sin and its effects of eternal condemnation is clearly different from what people naturally think about salvation. People naturally think that the issue of salvation is about their good works for salvation. But what we see from the Biblical revelation concerning the salvation of a person’s soul is that it is far too late to talk about good works in a person’s life as being able to merit salvation. They have already been condemned. The issue of salvation is way past the issue of good works. That’s like talking to a drowning man about helping with the beach cleanup walk that’s going on. What? He doesn’t need a good works project…what he needs is to be rescued because he’s drowning…he is perishing! He can help with lots of things after he is rescued, but until he is rescued, he’s perishing! He first needs to be rescued by someone else’s good works…by the good works of a Rescuer! And our only Rescuer from drowning in our sins is Jesus Christ!
Think about it: From God’s point of view, how strange it must be to hear so many of the teachers of false religions, even a lot of leaders in so-called Christendom, telling people that they are okay with God and with going to Heaven as long as they keep up their good works program. That would be like a Physician talking to a terminally diseased person, who is in need of life saving surgery, about some good exercises and some new recipes they would enjoy. No…the dying patient is need of rescuing…not rehabilitation. The issue now is how can this dying patient be rescued from this disease that’s killing them? What’s the cure for this disease that’s making them perish? And then, once they get rescued from this disease, then they can get into a healthy good works exercise program. But the Gospel is the ultimate “First things first” message! Jesus and the Apostles were ‘first’ – instructing people to repent in order to be rescued from their condemnation so they wouldn’t perish in Hell. We can talk about good works once they are out of their crisis of perishing.
And that bring up a question about the question to unbelievers about, “Are you going to Heaven?” Since the Bible says unbelievers aren’t going to Heaven, it’s really too late for that question with unbelievers. That’s like asking a man on death row where he plans to live once he gets out? He’s not getting out! He’s on death row. He’s going to die unless someone pardons him and rescues him from his death sentence! John 3:18 reveals to all people on Planet Earth that the sentence of eternal condemnation upon every unrepentant person has already been handed down from the courts of Heaven. The question for everyone to really consider is more like, “Have you been rescued from perishing, just like Jesus talked about in John 3:16 and 18?”
That’s a hard question to ask to a soft-minded culture, but it’s the harsh reality of what’s at stake. The Cross of Christ was not a pretty sight. It was an ugly reality of what it took for God to save us from our eternal death penalty because of our sins against our Creator and God. Christ had to come from Heaven to die on Earth because it was the only way to rescue people from going to Hell.
Again, those who have not yet repented and have not yet had their soul rescued by Jesus Christ are already going to Hell. That is a Biblical reality. The verdict is already in! That’s what the Gospel of John is warning the world about! Everyone is already perishing, but we have a Rescuer, the Lord Jesus Christ! Every person on Earth is drowning in their sins and perishing. The world really is a sea of humanity. And each one is drowning in their sins. But they don’t have to perish, because Jesus is holding out His hand offering to rescue every drowning person. It’s another way to picture Salvation, with Jesus holding out His hand to every spiritually drowning person who will hold up their hand for Jesus to rescue them from perishing.
Christians need to think Biblically, not culturally, about the condition of people’s souls. We need to see people as Jesus saw them. Jesus saw unsaved people around Him as dying in their sins, needing a soul healing, a spiritual resurrection from their deathbed of sin. These are ways to help us really see the real condition of unsaved people around us. They are on their deathbed of sin…on spiritual death row…they are drowning in their sin. And knowing that this is the condition of every person’s soul, Jesus felt compassion for them. Of course, His capacity to feel their suffering is far, far, beyond ours, but still, our capacity to feel for or to empathize with the suffering going on in the soul of an unsaved person will directly determine the motivation we feel for then sowing the seed of the Gospel, and for trying to help get the cure to them for their sin disease so that they won’t have to perish.
What we are sowing is the cure for dying souls. What we are sowing is the ‘Divine Life Preserver’ that they can use to be rescued from drowning in their sins. What we are sowing is the pardon handed down from the Judge of Heaven that can release them from their spiritual death penalty.
As much natural tension as we sometimes feel toward others, or that cultural angst we have with some people, or the disagreements or conflicts we have with others, and so on…when you look at them Biblically and see them like Jesus sees them, as sheep without a Shepherd, and as those who have already been condemned to an eternity in Hell because of their sins and are now on spiritual death row, and as people who are drowning in their sins, it gives you a sense of compassion for them, in spite of all the rest of the stuff.
Regardless of how normal or talented or happy or prosperous and so on a person looks, if he or she hasn’t humbly surrendered their life to God in repentance and received Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and gift of eternal life, then the real picture of them is that they are living their life right outside of the doorway to Hell, and they are only one step away, one breath away, one heartbeat away from stepping into an eternity in Hell. Unless they repent, they will perish. That’s what God says. That’s what the Bible says.
And so what we can do is to at least get the information to them about what God says in His Word about how they can know how to be rescued from perishing. Jesus is ready to rescue them. He is willing to rescue them. And the Gospel tells them how. Again, only they can decide, but we can sow the Gospel seed in order to give them that chance.
Make sowing the Gospel seed simply become one of the things that you do in your life, because, simply put: A ‘Sower’ is who you are, and sowing Gospel seed is what you can do to help rescue the perishing.