The Greatest Work In The World

Bible Book: Numbers  21 : 4-9
Subject: Evangelism; Soul Winning; Missions
Introduction

This week our nation celebrates work. It is a shame that more Americans can’t find honest work at this time in our history. Work is an honorable thing. But, I want to speak to you today on the greatest work in the world. What is it? It is the work of lifting up the Lord Jesus Christ so that people may come to know Him. It is the work of evangelism and soul winning. Sadly, this is a work that is available but so few Christians are engaged in actually doing.

What is 1 million miles long, reaches around the earth 40 times, and grows 30 miles longer each day? Answer: The line of people who are without Christ. ( updated in 2013 personally using stats from Pulpit Helps - 1990)

We live in world that desperately needs Jesus Christ. This was brought home to me in an even more vivid and graphic way when I saw the recent report in Newsweek magazine on a study that was done of religious life in our own country. You have heard it stated, and rightly so, that vast majority of all Americans say they believe in God. Almost 50% say they go to church or synagogue regularly. The most recent survey, however, blows holes in these statistics. The poll to which I am referring was done in a different way than previous samplings. First, more people were interviewed. Second, specific questions were asked. The results showed that only 19% of Americans have enough religion to get them into a place of worship each week. The study, reported in the book, One Nation Under God, reveals that Americans say they go to church and that they vote because they believe those are two good things; but, statistics just don't uphold the high figures we have accepted in the past.

Noting that America is far more irreligious than we have been told should come as no surprise. Look at our heroes today: rap stars who blatantly encourage crime and promote sexual license; female entertainers who love to take off their clothes in public; ballplayers who live promiscuous lives and cheat with drugs to enhance their athletic performance; cartoon characters whose names I will not even repeat, and I could go on, but you know what I am saying and that it is true!

If America is one of the most religious nations on earth, and yet has so many moral and ethical problems, what can be said of the rest of the world? In reality, our nation and our world, never needed Jesus Christ more than right now! For a long time America, and perhaps the world, feared nuclear destruction more than any other problem. Though that fear has not totally evaporated, it is secondary now to the fear of drive-by shootings, other crimes, and terrorism of all kinds. In all honesty, the real problem for the world is one of personal sin and the coming accountability for it!

There is hope for our nation, our homes and the human heart. The hope of the world is Jesus. The problem rests in the fact that so many of us who know Him are not sharing Him with other. So today, I want us to look at a message entitled, "The Greatest Work In The World!" Let us turn our attention to the hope of the world.

I. The Simple Plan

In the Old Testament Book of Numbers we see the terrible situation that gripped the people. They had sinned greatly and judgment came upon them in the form of snakes. The snakes bit the people and they were dying due to the poison. God, in His mercy, gave Moses a plan to save the people. Moses was to make a brass serpent and place it on a pole. Then he was to lift up the serpent and tell the people that all who looked upon it would live. It may have appeared to many people as a strange idea, but in reality it was a simple, divine plan to save them.

It was a simple plan based on grace that could save the people from death. In John's Gospel, chapter 3, verse 14, we see the meaning behind this Old Testament event. Jesus revealed that the serpent on the pole was a prefiguring of His coming death on the Cross. Jesus said, "As the Moses lifted up the serpent in the Wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up." Jesus also said, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."

The task of the Christian is to lift Jesus up before the world as the only hope for salvation. It is a simple plan, but not necessarily an easy one. To lift Him up requires commitment, time, faith and courage. Many Christians and many churches are just not carrying out God's simple plan for evangelizing the world. Why? The reason we do not lift Him up in our daily conversations and encounters with others is that we have turned inward and joined the “me-ism” generation - thinking only of self and personal comfort.

A story out of the life of David Livingstone can help illustrate what I am saying. A certain missionary society in South Africa heard about Livingstone's work in the deepest and most dangerous areas of Africa. They sent a message that essentially stated the following: "Have you found a good road to where you are? If so, we want to send other men to join you."

David Livingstone replied, "If you have men who will come ONLY if they know there is a good road, I don't want them."

Livingstone knew that those who are looking for an easy road to fulfill the missionary work of sharing our Lord with world cannot possibly be sued of God for that purpose.

It was not easy for Jesus to climb that awful hill called Golgotha. It was not easy for Him wear the thorns for us. It was not easy for Him to endure the taunts of the crowds. It was not easy for Him to endure the pain of the nails in His hands and feet. It was not easy to take upon Himself the iniquity of us all. It was a simple plan to save us, but not an easy one for the Savior!

Friedrich Max Muller once wrote, "Christianity is a missionary religion, converting, advancing, aggressive, encompassing the world; a non-missionary church is in the bands of death." (Instant Quotation Dictionary_, p. 59.)

Many churches are suffering from evangelism malnutrition. God feeds the church that shares a personal and public witness with power, strength, opportunities and servants to carry out His mission. If we were more evangelistic, we would be more effective in all that we do!

II. The Sure Promise

The work of lifting Jesus up comes with a sure promise of victory. God has given us an assurance that if we simply obey Him we will see results. He has told us, "He that goes forth bearing precious see, shall no doubt come again rejoice, bringing his sheaves with him."

In Numbers 23:19 we read, "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”(NKJV)

God will keep His Word - he will keep His promises. He promised to bless the great work of carrying the Gospel to the world. We do the "lifting up" and He does the "drawing" to Himself!

The Lord said that those who looked upon the serpent, upon the pole, would live. All who looked, lived! Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all people unto me." And that He will do, just as He promised. The great work of evangelism is using all means possible to lift Him up!

William Penn, the founder of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was well liked by the Indians. Once they told him he could have as much of their land as he could encompass on foot in a single day. So, early the next morning he started out and walked until late that night. When he finally went to claim his land, the Indians were greatly surprised, for they really didn't think he would take them seriously. But they kept their promise and gave him a large area that today is part of the city of Philadelphia. William Penn simply believed what they said. Should we do less with God?

III. The Serious Problem

The snakes, as recorded in Numbers, had bitten many people. The problem was serious. People were dying. Today, as I stated when I began, millions are without Christ and without eternal life. Multitudes right around our church are without the saving power of Jesus. The need is growing more intense every year. And, the problem is no longer one that is distinctively far away in the lands that we know little about. The world has arrived at our doorstep right here in the shadows of our villages, towns and cities.

Let me give you an example shared by former Baptist leader, Dr. Edwin Cliburn. He tells how Nelson Price, former pastor of the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Cobb County Georgia wanted to place his church's television ministry into the most unchurched counties in America. Price contacted the Research Department of the North American Mission Board and asked them to give him a list of the most unchurched counties in America. To his utter astonishment, one of those counties was Cobb County Georgia, the county his church was located in!

The greatest work in the world – that of lifting up Jesus to others – can be done wherever we are. That is what we are be doing as a church and as individual Christians.

During the Arab-Israeli war 1967 an American reporter was flying over the Sinai desert with an Israeli officer, and they spotted some fifty thousand stranded Egyptian soldiers who obviously were dying of thirst. When the situation was reported in the newspapers, a number of world leaders and organizations tried to do something to help. But every time a plan was suggested, some military, diplomatic, or bureaucratic obstacle prevented them from being able to carry out a plan. By the time they could get help to those stranded men, literally thousands of the soldiers had died. It is just as sad for churches to get bogged down today in programs, committees, and personal debates while thousands around us are desperately in need of the spiritual water of the Word – in need of Jesus!

IV. The Single Person

Moses was just one man, but he was available to God and God used him. Thousands were dying, but one man brought the grace of God to them and they were saved. One person can make a difference. One person's gift, one person's prayers, one person's involvement, and/or one person's witness can make such a tremendous difference in bringing the lost to Christ.

I think about the woman who came to the well at Sychar. She was a moral outcast and came to the well at midday, likely because the women of the city did not want to be seen with her. Usually women came to the well early in the day or late in the day, but this woman came at the odd hour of noon. When the sinful woman got to the well, she met Jesus. You will recall that the 12 disciples had gone into Sychar for food, so Jesus was talking to the woman alone. You know that story well. He introduced her to the Water of Life and she believed on Him as the Messiah and Savior that the Scriptures had promised would come. She ran back to the city and told people everywhere about the Man who had told her everything she had done. The people came out to meet Jesus. The disciples had gotten back by this time and witnessed the great crowd coming to Jesus. The men of Sychar persuaded Jesus to stay with them and He did so for some time. Now here is my point. Twelve trained disciples went into the city and brought back nothing but food. One woman who had no theological training, but had a deep gratitude for the newness of life she had found, and she managed to bring the whole city out to meet Jesus. One person with passion, drive, desire and commitment can make all the difference in the world when it comes to missions. That day at Sychar, one woman did what 12 trained preachers did not do. All of our training is to no avail unless we have the commitment to use it!!!

Also, notice that the woman who came to the well got so excited about meeting Jesus that she left her water pot at the well as she departed. Something that occupied her time and her mind was left behind because of her excitement about Christ. Without a doubt, we will never win this world to Christ unless we become so excited about and committed to Christ that we leave behind things that formerly occupied out time and attention. If we keep doing what we are doing, we are going to keep getting the results we have been getting! God is called us to a new level of commitment. We must share more, give more and pray more than ever before in order to Life Him Up!

Conclusion

Sharing Christ with others is the greatest work in the world. Are you involved personally in talking to others about Him? You see, we cannot witness silently. Moses had to “lift up” the serpent on the pole so people could see and believe. We must lift Jesus up in our conversation and testimony.

The late Corrie ten Boom, holocaust survivor and great Christian speaker and writer, used an illustration to point out how serious it is to fail in the work of lifting up Christ to the those around us. In her book "Amazing Grace," she used the following thought. She asked, "If I came to your home and straighten the pictures on the walls, would I be committing a sin?" She implied, of course, that no sin would be committed in that case. Then she continued, "But suppose that your house were on fire and I came in calmly and went about straightening pictures, what would you say? You think that I was either stupid or very wicked! The world today is on fire. What are you doing to extinguish the fire? " (Amazing Love," p. 101)

Let us this day make a new commitment to be personally and prayerfully involved in The Greatest Work In The World – lifting up Jesus so that people can be saved.