THE BIRTH OF A VISION

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THE BIRTH OF A VISION

Postby Dea » Wed May 28, 2014 4:16 pm

THE BIRTH OF A VISION


Where there is no vision, the people perish. (Proverbs 29:18)

INTRODUCTION

The Bible states in Proverbs 29:18, "Where there is no vision, the people perish." The vision to which this verse refers is spiritual vision.

Spiritual vision provides direction. It provides challenge and structure for life. Without it, people become spiritually dead. Developing spiritual vision is the process of recognizing the purpose for which you have been brought into the Kingdom of God. In this chapter, this development is called the "Birth of a Vision.”

WHY SPIRITUAL VISION?

Why is spiritual vision necessary? Why do people perish without it?

The answer is found in one of many Biblical examples of spiritual vision. Read the story of the Prophet Elisha and his servant, Gehazi in II Kings 6:15-17.

God's people, Israel, were surrounded by the enemy nation of Syria. There were many soldiers, horses, and chariots of war. When Elisha's servant, Gehazi, saw the great force of the enemy he was afraid. He cried out to Elisha, "What shall we do?" Elisha told him:

Fear not, for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
(II Kings 6:16)

Then Elisha prayed that God would open Gehazi's eyes and allow him to see in the spirit world. The request was granted, and Gehazi saw the spiritual forces of God surrounding Israel.

In this example, God actually let Gehazi see the spiritual vision with his natural eyes. But the important point is that without spiritual vision the people of God cannot see beyond the natural circumstances of life.

Like Gehazi, they are defeated by the powers of the enemy which they see at work in the natural world around them. Their vision is focused on their problems and their life becomes a cycle of crying out, "What shall we do?" Without spiritual vision, they cannot see and understand the divine plan of God.

DEVELOPING SPIRITUAL EYESIGHT

Before you are born again you are blinded by sin. Through salvation by the blood of Jesus your basic blindness is healed. Then God wants to develop your spiritual vision.

This process is a spiritual parallel of an actual incident in the ministry of Jesus:

And He cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto Him, and besought Him to touch him.

And He took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when He had spit on his eyes, and put His hands upon him, He asked him if he saw ought.

And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

After that He put His hands again upon his eyes and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)

This miracle was an actual physical healing performed by Jesus during His earthly ministry.

Why didn't the first touch of Jesus heal the man completely? Didn't Jesus have all power? Wasn't He the Son of the living God? Jesus was providing a natural example of a spiritual truth. Jesus wants to touch you spiritually just as He did in this natural healing. First He wants to clear up the basic blindness of sin in your life. Then He wants to develop your spiritual vision.


WHAT IS SPIRITUAL VISION?

Spiritual vision involves seeing beyond the natural world into the spiritual world. It is understanding the divine purpose of God and recognizing your part in His plan.

Believers who are spiritually "perishing" are in one of the following categories:

-They do not have spiritual vision.

-They have received a spiritual vision but have been disobedient to it.

-They have a vision, but do not know how to fulfill it. They have tried and failed or perhaps have never tried at all.

Spiritual vision provides a clear image of what God wants you to do and then directs every step of your Christian life towards achieving that goal.

THE VISION OF PAUL

The Apostle Paul had spiritual vision. He said:

I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision. (Acts 26:19)

The heavenly [spiritual] vision became the compelling force in Paul's life. He recognized that having a vision is not enough. Action must be taken to achieve the vision.

A vision can remain "visionary.” This means it never becomes a reality because you never act on it. When God gives a vision He also provides spiritual and practical strategies for fulfilling it.

When God gave Paul a spiritual vision, He gave him specific things to do to fulfill the vision.

...Rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which though hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee;

Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee.

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
(Acts 26:16-18)

God gave Paul spiritual vision for the purpose of making him a minister and witness.

His ministry was to be to a special group of people, the Gentiles. The term Gentiles refers to everyone who is not a Jew, so it really means all the other nations of the world.

God gave Paul objectives [a plan] to achieve the vision. Paul was to:

-Open their spiritual eyes from darkness to light.
-Turn them from the power of Satan to God.
-Lead them to forgiveness of sins.
-Reveal their spiritual inheritance made possible by faith.

THE BIRTH OF A VISION

God wants to give you a spiritual vision just as He did Paul. God also wants to reveal the purposes and objectives which will enable you to fulfill the vision.

As you experience the "birth of a vision" you will become a participator instead of a mere spectator in God's divine plan.

The natural birth process which brings a human baby into the world is similar to the process of the birth of a vision in the spirit world. You will experience the following stages as you give birth to spiritual vision.

CONCEPTION:

"Conception" means to create. A spiritual vision is created in your spirit by God.

When God gave Paul spiritual vision He identified the source. He said, "I am Jesus" (Acts 26:15). God conceived Paul's vision.

DEVELOPMENT:

When you first receive a spiritual vision, it is in "embryo" form. An embryo is a basic cell of life. Just like the development of the human embryo, God develops your spiritual vision as you grow in Him.

The basic cell of life in the human baby is the embryo, from it all the basic human features are developed. If you try to change the embryo, deformity or death can occur to the child.

God conceives the basic spiritual vision within you. The vision must remain the embryo from which all features develop. If you try to change the vision, it will be deformed from the perfect plan of God, or it may be aborted.

When the vision explained in this course is conceived by God in your spirit it must always remain the same although you may fulfill it in different ways.

The vision will grow and develop as you mature spiritually. Its features will not be the same as yesterday, last week, or last month. But you must never forget the basic vision which is the divine purpose for which you are called.

This development of a vision will be a stretching experience as it is in the natural world within the body of a mother. If the vision does not develop within you it will die.

Just as a mother carries her child within her body, when you receive this vision it is with you constantly. It becomes a vital, living part of you. It draws from your own life source as well as from the divine source which conceived it.

While the baby is developing, a pregnant mother will deny herself of certain things. As your spiritual vision develops, you may have to do this also. You may have to deny yourself of your own plans and ambitions. You may have to lay aside worldly treasures. You will have to sacrifice time to fast and pray.

TRAVAIL:

Ecclesiastes 5:3 states:

For a dream cometh through the multitude of business. (Ecclesiastes 5:3)

The meaning of the word "multitude" is great. "Business", according to one Hebrew meaning, is travail [difficulty]. So a dream or vision comes through "great travail.”

In natural birth there are facts about travail that parallel the spiritual travail which births a vision. Natural travail is a time of intense, concentrated effort to birth the child. This time of travail is also called "labor.”

As in the delivery of a child, a spiritual vision is birthed by intense mental, physical, and spiritual concentration. As you study this course, concentrate on what God wants to birth in your spirit.

In the natural world during labor [travail], the one giving birth must let the natural forces take control. Physically forcing the child into the birth canal before it opens can kill the child.

The same is true in the spirit world. Let God take control of your life. If you try to birth the vision in your own strength it will abort the plan of God.

Everything within you may cry out to push and bring the spiritual vision forth with natural abilities. But by self-effort you can destroy the vision.

Peter cried out to Christ, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man," when he realized what Christ was calling him to do (Luke 5:8). He knew the vision was too great for him to fulfill by his natural strength and abilities.

As a mother in travail hides herself from public gaze, so those in travail spiritually must be alone with God.

THE TIME OF TRANSITION:

In the natural birth process there is a time during labor known as the time of "transition.” It is the most difficult time of travail right before the birth canal is open to permit the birth of the child.

This parallels the birth of a vision in the spirit world. When God births in you a spiritual vision you will experience a time of transition.

Transition means change. As God gives you this spiritual vision it is going to require change in your life. It will call for new commitment and dedication.

You may experience pressure in every area of your life. Everything within you may cry out for relief from the spiritual birth pangs of what God is bringing forth.

This is the point where many fail to receive the vision. Time and time again God has brought His people to the time of transition to birth His vision within them.

But because the transition was too difficult many have turned back. They could not take the pressure of this most difficult time.

It required changes in their thought patterns and lifestyle which they were not willing to make. They could not abandon self-effort and tradition. They could not set aside their own ambitions and desires to embrace the plan of God. This is what happened to the nation of Israel:

Like as a woman with child, that draweth near the time of her delivery, is in pain, and crieth out in her pangs; so have we been in Thy sight, O Lord.

We have been with child, we have been in pain, we have as it were brought forth wind; we have not wrought any deliverance in the earth; neither have the inhabitants of the world fallen. (Isaiah 26:17-18)

Travail brings sorrow but it leads to the birth which brings joy:

A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. (John 16:21)
We are told in Isaiah 53:11 that God witnessed the travail of Jesus Christ and was satisfied. A vision was fulfilled that day on Calvary...a vision that had been promised since the fall of man into sin (Genesis 3:15). Through travail, the vision of redemption from sin became a reality.

Travail is a painful experience, but it is only through travail that the vision can be birthed:

...for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord: shall I cause to bring forth, and shut the womb? saith thy God.
(Isaiah 66:8-9)

THE BIRTH:

The development of a spiritual vision has an expected end, just as a human embryo. That end is birth. Prematurity of birth and delay of birth can result in death, both in the natural birth process and in the birth of spiritual vision.

After birth in the natural world the child continues to grow and develop. After the birth of this spiritual vision it will continue to grow and develop. It will have new features and form, but they all must develop from that basic cell of spiritual life which is the vision.

THE VISION OF ABRAHAM

Abraham tried to bring forth his God-given vision through self-effort by the birth of Ishmael. He knew God wanted to make him a great nation and he thought an heir could not come through his wife, Sarah.

So he did something about it and Ishmael was born. But whose power was behind Ishmael, that of Abraham or that of God? Was the fulfillment of the vision through Ishmael man-made or God-made?

You can bring an Ishmael on the scene through your own efforts. Ishmael represents your plans and methods of trying to do God's will through natural abilities. But the heavenly vision, represented by Isaac, must be birthed by God.

Who is the source of spiritual vision?

When asked, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?", Jesus responded, "This is the work of God", indicating that He, Himself, was the source (John 6:28-29).

God did not want Abraham to be the source of the heavenly vision any more than He wants us to bring forth man-made or organizationally-made visions.

God is the source of spiritual vision. The vision which you will receive in this course is His plan. It is not a plan of man, a denomination, or an organization.

Scripture has no record of God speaking again to Abraham for thirteen years after the birth of Ishmael. Not until it was humanly impossible for Abraham to have a child did God again stir the vision within him. By then, self-effort had died.

Then came the birth of a vision, for in the perfect timing of God Isaac was miraculously born. But with the birth of God's plan [Isaac], Ishmael [self-effort] must be cast out.

It is time for your Isaac [God's plan] to be birthed in your spirit. In order for this to happen, Ishmael must be cast out.

It is a painful experience to cast out self-effort, your plans, ambitions, tradition, and organizational programs.

But God is saying to you as He did to Abraham, "Grieve not for Ishmael [self-effort], for in Isaac shall your seed be called." In Isaac the source of the vision was God.

ARE YOU READY?

Birth requires change. In the natural world, the child must leave the security of the womb.

When you were born again you had to leave the old life of sin. You had to let Jesus change your thought and action patterns.

To give birth to spiritual vision also requires change. It requires courage to step from the known into the unknown.

Are you ready to receive that spiritual vision? Are you willing to experience spiritual travail in order to birth something new and vital in your Christian life? If you are not willing you had better stop your study here, for once you glimpse the vision shared in these pages your life will never again be the same.

THE VISION

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35)

INTRODUCTION

The last chapter described the process of developing spiritual vision. This chapter identifies the vision Jesus wants to birth in your spirit and explains how to receive it.

The vision is the same with which He challenged His disciples over 2,000 ears ago. In order to understand the meaning of the vision it is necessary to identify one of the basic principles of God's Word. This principle concerns natural parallels of spiritual truths.

This chapter defines this principle and applies it to the vision God wants to conceive in you.

NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL TRUTHS

The written record of God's Word, the Bible, focuses on the subjects of people, promises, prophecies, and principles.

Much of the Bible is a record of people, how God dealt with them and their response to Him. There are also major portions of the Bible which record prophecies of future events and there are many promises given to God's people.

The Bible also contains important principles which you must identify in order to understand what God is saying to you through His Word. One of these great principles is that of natural parallels of spiritual truths. The word "parallel" means to be similar to something. When we speak of a "natural parallel of a spiritual truth" it means God uses a natural example to explain or represent a spiritual truth.

The parables of Jesus were natural examples of spiritual truths. In one parable He used the natural example of a woman placing a small bit of leaven in a lump of bread. The spread of the leaven throughout the bread illustrated the growth of the Kingdom of God in the world.

This is just one of many examples of parables in which He used a natural example to illustrate a spiritual truth.

This principle of natural and spiritual parallels is explained in I Corinthians:

...There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. (I Corinthians 15:44-46)

This is a great example of a natural parallel of a spiritual truth. The first man created by God was the natural man. His name was Adam. Jesus, who is referred to as the last Adam, was a spiritual man.

Adam was a natural example of the spiritual truth God was to reveal through Jesus Christ. By the natural man came sin and death. By the spiritual man came salvation and life.

That which is natural is something you can observe with your senses. You can see, hear, or touch it. That which is spiritual can only be observed with spiritual senses.

Natural examples can be recognized with physical senses but spiritual parallels can only be recognized through the revelation of the Holy Spirit.

Understanding this principle of natural parallels of spiritual truths increases your understanding of God's Word.

THE HARVEST

The vision with which Jesus challenged His disciples and which He desires to birth in your spirit was revealed by a natural parallel of a spiritual truth.

Jesus said to His disciples:

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35)

Jesus was not speaking of the natural harvest in the fields that stretched before them at the time He spoke these words. He was speaking of a spiritual harvest.

He used the example of the natural harvest to give His followers a vision that would provide meaning and spiritual direction for their lives.

WHAT DID IT MEAN?

What did this natural example of the harvest mean in the spiritual realm?

Read John 4:3-35. Jesus was passing through Samaria on the way to Judaea. When He rested near a well His disciples went in search of food. While they were gone a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well and Jesus shared the Gospel with her.

When His disciples returned with the food, Jesus said to them:

I have meat to eat that ye know not of...My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:32,34)

The most important thing to Jesus, more urgent than natural food and the necessities of life, was to do God's will and finish His work.

It was at this point in the conversation that Jesus used the example of the natural harvest. He used it to illustrate what He had just told His disciples: The most important thing in life is doing God's will and His work.

GOD'S WILL AND HIS WORK

What is God's will? What is His work? It is revealed in the vision of the harvest.

Jesus told His disciples to lift up their eyes and look at the natural fields of grain ready to harvest. He used these fields as an example of the spiritual fields of multitudes of men and women around the world who are ready to be harvested for the Kingdom of God.

The Samaritan woman with whom He had just talked was an example of this great spiritual harvest. She was ready to receive the Gospel and accepted it with great joy. Through "harvesting" this one woman, an entire city came to know Jesus:

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified...

And said unto the woman, now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. (John 4:39,42)

THE VISION TODAY

While standing in the middle of visible natural harvest fields that day, the disciples experienced the birth of a spiritual vision.

It is the same vision Jesus wants to birth in your spirit. He wants to give you a vision of the spiritual harvest fields of the world which are ready to be reaped for His Kingdom. When you recognize the reality of that vision and understand your responsibility in fulfilling it, your life will never again be the same.

Jesus clearly stated:

The field is the world... (Matthew 13:38)

Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, South America, Europe, the Islands of the sea...the harvest fields of the world are ripe with multitudes who have yet to hear the good news of the Kingdom of God.

The vision has not changed. It is the same as it was when Jesus birthed it in the lives of His disciples. The will of God is the same because the work of God is not finished.

There are untold millions yet untold. The vision is still the harvest fields of the world.

WHY THE HARVEST?

Why did Jesus use the example of the harvest to illustrate the spiritual vision He wanted to give His followers? There are many other natural parallels He could have used. Why did He choose the harvest?

The harvest was an example to which His disciples could easily relate. The history of God's people, Israel, dated back to Adam who was first to till the ground. Agriculture continued developing to the time of Moses when it became the basis of the economy.

At the time of Christ's ministry the economic cycle of Israel centered on agriculture. Harvesting was a continuous activity throughout the year. Flax and barley harvesting occurred in April-May, the wheat harvest about six weeks later in June-July. Apples, figs, almonds, and the first grapes were gathered in June. Olives, dates, and summer figs were harvested in August and September, pomegranates and pistachio nuts in October. Olives in northern Galilee and winter figs were gathered in November.

Not only did the economy center on the harvest, it was also at the heart of the religious system of Israel. The three main religious feasts God established for His people related to the harvest. The Passover came in the season of the barley harvest (Exodus 23:16). Seven weeks later, at the time of the wheat harvest, was the feast of Pentecost (Exodus 34:22). The feast of Tabernacles was observed the seventh month which was the period of the fruit harvest (Exodus 34:22).

Since the entire calendar, economy, and religious system revolved around the harvest the disciples could easily understand this example.

But even more important, there were certain guidelines for sowing and reaping which affected the natural harvest. These natural laws also applied to spiritual harvesting. The disciples of Jesus could easily apply these principles to spiritual harvesting because of their familiarity with them in the natural world. Applying these natural principles spiritually would bring forth an abundant spiritual harvest. We will study these principles later in this course.

Most important, the disciples recognized the urgency represented by the example of the natural harvest. When a crop was ripe it must be harvested immediately or it would ruin. It was a matter of reap or rot.

If the harvest was great and there were not enough workers available to reap it, the crop would be lost. Of the spiritual parallel to this natural problem Jesus said:

The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. (Matthew 9:37)

RECEIVING THE VISION

When Jesus spoke to His followers about the vision of the harvest He outlined five steps to enable them to receive the vision:

(1) SAY NOT YE (2) THERE ARE YET FOUR MONTHS then cometh harvest? (3) BEHOLD, I SAY UNTO YOU, (4) LIFT UP YOUR EYES, and (5) LOOK ON THE FIELDS; for they are white already to harvest. (John 4:35)

STEP ONE: "Say not ye..."

Many believers spend their entire lives talking about the harvest. They are like a labor crew trying to gather a harvest while sitting in a barn. They go to the barn [church] each Sunday morning and study bigger and better methods of agriculture [spiritual harvest]. They sharpen their harvesting sickles and then go home.

They come back that night to study better methods of agriculture, sharpen their sickles, and go home again. They are back for a midweek meeting to learn bigger and better methods, sharpen their sickles, and return home. They do this week after week until the weeks turn into months and months into years, yet nobody ever goes out into the fields to gather the harvest.

When Jesus said, "Say not ye" He meant that talking about spiritual harvest was not enough. You must become involved in the actual harvesting process. That does not mean everyone is to leave their jobs, seek financial support from the church, and travel to other nations as preachers of the Gospel. But each believer is to be involved in some way in the harvest. For some, it will be the fields that are right outside the doors of their home and church. It will be the harvest in their school, on their job, and in their local community or village. For others, the harvest will be a foreign field. The point is that each believer is to be participating in and not just talking about the harvest.

STEP TWO: "Yet four months.”..

In order to become part of this harvest time vision you cannot delay it. You cannot wait until some future time to become involved. Souls are dying in sin now. For many, tomorrow will be too late:

Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get you down; for the
press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great.

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. (Joel 3:13-14)

STEP THREE: "I say unto you..."

God's ways are different from those of man:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Men talk about spiritual harvest. They delay it. But what God says is different than what man says. He says...

STEP FOUR: "Lift up your eyes..."

The eyes of the disciples were distracted. They were not focused on the vision of the spiritual harvest fields.

In order to receive this spiritual vision you must take personal action. You must lift up your spiritual eyes from the natural distractions of life. You must lift them from your personal problems, from discouragement, from business and worldly concerns.

You must lift your eyes from the circumstances of life to...

STEP FIVE: "Look on the harvest.”..

Turning your eyes from distractions to the harvest field is not enough. You must really look at the harvest. You must see the world through the eyes of God.

Many do not have spiritual vision because they have not really looked. They have not recognized their personal responsibility to the harvest fields. They have not considered the conditions of the harvest fields of our world today.

TO RECEIVE THE VISION...

-You must not just talk about it.

-You can not delay it.

-You must listen to what God says, the challenge He presents when He cries, "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?" (Isaiah 6:8).

-You must lift your eyes from the distractions of the world to the harvest field.

-You must look at the fields of the world through the eyes of God.



RUSTY SICKLES, EMPTY FIELDS

God views the world as a harvest field:

The field is the world... (Matthew 13:38)

The cry comes to the ears of God from the people of the world:
The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.
(Jeremiah 8:20)

The spiritual harvest fields of the world resemble the natural fields over which the prophet Joel cried:

Be ye ashamed, O ye husbandmen; howl, O ye vinedressers; for the wheat and for the barley; because the harvest of the field is perished. (Joel 1:11)

When God's eyes behold the nations of the world, He sees a spiritual harvest perishing because of the lack of harvesters. Jesus never said there would be a lack of sowers of the Gospel. He said there would be a lack of laborers to reap the spiritual harvest:

The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. (Matthew 9:37)

Presently, North America has 94% of the world's ministers serving 6% of the population. This means only 6% of the ministers are trying to reach 94% of the population in the remainder of the world.

There are approximately three billion people representing over 16,000 culturally distinct people groups yet to be reached with the Gospel. There are over 2,000 languages for which there is no translation of God's Word.

For every 10,000 villages in India, 9,950 have no Christian witness. In Japan the total Christian population is estimated at only one percent.

In Latin America there are at least five million people in jungle lowlands who have not been reached with the Gospel. There are 750 million Muslims with only approximately 500 Protestant missionaries ministering among them.

The need in other nations of Africa, Asia, South America, and the Middle East is similar to these examples.

This is what God sees as He views the nations of the world.

THE GAP

The Bible states:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 2:5)

The need for a mediator indicates there is a gap between two parties who cannot accept each other.

When God looks at the world, He sees multitudes of people standing in a spiritual gap. The reason for the gap between God and man is sin.

Jesus Christ is the mediator between sinful man and a righteous God. Neither can accept the other without the mediator. Jesus made it possible for man to be redeemed from sin and accepted by a righteous God.

Multitudes still wait for the message of the mediator who can bridge the gap between them and God. The Great Commission Jesus gave was for His followers to enter the gap. He spoke of going to Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.

They were to start where they were and evangelize Jerusalem. Reaching Judaea and Samaria would require cross-cultural evangelism. Samaria differed theologically and culturally from Jerusalem. The far regions of the earth represented an even greater challenge. But each region represented the gap.

At first Christ's disciples were hesitant to bridge the gap between Jew and Gentile due to cultural and theological differences. Until persecution came, they did little to extend the Gospel to regions outside of Jerusalem (Acts 8:4).

If you are to fulfill the Great Commission and reap the harvest you must get out of cultural, theological, and denominational ruts. You may even have to leave your geographical location. You must enter the gap to share the good news of the mediator between God and man.

ANOTHER GAP

In addition to the gap of sin between man and God there is another great spiritual gap. This is the gap between the challenge of Jesus to reach the world with the Gospel and the failure of His people to fulfill that challenge.

Until you receive a vision of the spiritual harvest fields you will never fully understand your role in the Kingdom of God. It is the cause which gives purpose and direction to Christian life. The vision of spiritual harvest should be central to your life. For many it is only a minor concern.

We tend to talk about the things we love. We talk about our husband or wife, friends, sports, and hobbies. We also talk of things that concern us such as politics, finances, and business. But how often do we speak of lost souls? How much concern do we give each day to the multitudes still waiting in the gap, the harvest perishing in the fields?

Paul speaks of using the most routine activities such as eating and drinking for the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31). Every activity of your life can be centered on the vision of spiritual harvest. When this happens it gives new challenge, purpose, and direction to your life as a believer. Every day becomes an exciting quest to see how you can be part of fulfilling the vision.
When you recognize your personal responsibility to the multitudes in the gap and the vision of the harvest bursts into your spirit, you become part of a special network. This network is a group of believers from many nations who have joined together to see the world through the eyes of God and fulfill His plan to spread the Gospel.

In recent times, this movement has been referred to as "World Christians.” They are believers who at the end of each day can confidently say:

"I know this day my life has counted strategically for Christ's global cause, especially for those currently beyond the reach of the Gospel."

This is the challenge of spiritual harvest. This is seeing the world through the eyes of God.

OPEN DOORS

Men view some nations as closed to the Gospel. When a nation is referred to as "closed" to the Gospel message it usually means the government will not accept Christian missionaries and seeks to stop the spread of the Gospel within its borders.

But there are no limits recognized by God. He sees no "closed" countries. It is true that some nations are closed to the traditional missionary because the government will not grant visas to those who want to enter the nation and preach the Gospel message.

But when the "front door" closes to a nation, so to speak, there is always a "back door.” Teams of manual laborers are entering closed nations to build schools, clinics, and agricultural projects. While there, they share the Gospel message.

Other believers are entering nations as teachers, medical workers, and literacy instructors. Modern communication devices are beaming the Gospel message beyond closed borders. Teams of international intercessors are penetrating the entire world through prayer.

Within "closed" nations local believers are assuming responsibility for the spread of the Gospel in their own countries through underground evangelistic networks. So called "closed countries" cannot be used to ignore your responsibility. The harvest cannot be stopped by governments. Your enemies are not political leaders.

Your concern is with the principalities and powers behind these things which are opposing God's worldwide purpose:


For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

Catch the vision of an unlimited world. Look at the harvest fields. Weep over the cities as Jesus did. See the world through the eyes of God. His vision is global and His purpose is eternal from the foundations of the world.
GOD'S PURPOSE

From the beginning of time God had a divine purpose on which He based His relation with and His promises and prophecies to mankind.

God has revealed His purpose to believers:

Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (His plan, of His purpose). And it is this: In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in Him,

He planned for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and had them up and consummate them in Christ, both things in Heaven and things on earth. (Ephesians 1:9-10, The Amplified Bible)

God's divine purpose from the beginning of time has been to unify all of heaven and earth in Jesus Christ. His vision is global in nature and...

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise...but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)

God's purpose is salvation for the world. Because it is His purpose, it must become our purpose. We must make His global cause a priority.

There are many needs in the world including hunger, poverty, sickness, and social injustice. Traditional missions have been involved in all of these areas, and rightly so, for the Bible teaches such concern.

But the vision of the harvest fields, of reaping men and women for the Kingdom of God, must remain a priority. The other needs are met once communities of responsible believers are established.

Missions involves all levels of human need but spiritual harvesting, the winning of lost men and women to Jesus Christ, must be to us as it is to God: The priority purpose.

THE OLD TESTAMENT

God's purpose can be traced from Genesis to Revelation. His Word is a history of how He dealt with individuals and nations to fulfill His purpose.

The Great Commission was first given when God said to Adam and Eve...

Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it...
(Genesis 1:28)

Adam and Eve were to populate the earth with descendants who were as they were: Created in the image of God, living souls in fellowship with a living God. Physically they were to produce children. Spiritually they were to produce believers.

Later God established an everlasting covenant with Abraham. This covenant was global in nature for He said to Abraham:

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.
(Genesis 22:18)

...and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
(Genesis 28:14)

From Abraham came the nation of Israel. God used Israel as a witness to surrounding nations. The nations of the earth were blessed as God revealed Himself to them through Israel.

During the time of the plagues in Egypt God told Pharaoh that the judgments were sent to show him that God was above all others:

For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart, and upon thy servants, and upon thy people: that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth. (Exodus 9:14)

When Israel faced the challenge of the flooded Jordan River, God dried up the waters so that the people of the earth might recognize His hand:

That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever. (Joshua 4:24)

When David met Goliath on the battlefield he said God would give him the victory so the entire earth might know there was a God:

This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee,

and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel.
(I Samuel 17:46)

After the Kingdom of Israel was established, Solomon caught the vision of the global purpose of God he expressed the desire that...

...all the people of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as do Thy people Israel. (I Kings 8:43)

David issued a call to the harvest fields of the nations of the world when he cried:

Declare His glory among the heathen, His wonders among all people.

Say among the heathen that the Lord reigneth... (Psalms 96:3,10)

Two of the Old Testament prophets, Daniel and Jonah, ministered cross-culturally. This means they took the Gospel message to nations other than their own.

Daniel was a witness to God while serving as an official in Babylon. Jonah was a missionary to Ninevah.

Isaiah declared that Israel was God's witness among the nations:

Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: Who among them can declare this and shew us former things?...

Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am He: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.

I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Saviour.

I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed...therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. (Isaiah 43:9-12)

The entire record of the Old Testament is a history of God using Israel as a witness to the nations of the world.

The Old Testament reflects God's divine purpose as He dealt with individuals and nations to bring them to the knowledge of the true and living God.

THE NEW TESTAMENT

The Old Testament prepared the way for the fulfillment of God's purpose in the coming of Jesus Christ. The New Testament records the ministry of Jesus as He fulfilled God's will and purpose. When Jesus challenged His disciples with the vision of the harvest He said:

My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me and to finish His work.
(John 4:34)

The entire life of Jesus was dedicated to harvesting men and women for God. It was the purpose of His life to reach the fields of the world:

And He said unto them, I must preach the Kingdom of God to other cities also; for therefore am I sent. (Luke 4:43)

When Jesus went back to Heaven, He left us with the Great Commission which is the mandate behind the vision of spiritual harvest. It is recorded in five different places in the New Testament:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in Heaven and in earth.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
(Matthew 28:18-20)

And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;

They shall take up serpents: and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
(Mark 16:15-18)

Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures.

And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.

And, behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
(Luke 24:45-49)

...As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. (John 20:21)

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

As believers, it is our responsibility to fulfill God's purpose as we are now His witness to the nations of the world.

The book of Acts records the birth and early life of the Church. The central theme is summarized in the phrase "ye shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8). The pattern of this expanding witness can be traced throughout the book of Acts:

Witness to the Jews: Acts 1:1-8:3
Witness to both Jews and Gentiles: Acts 8:4-12:25
Witness to Gentiles: Acts 13:1-28:31

The early church was born in a great demonstration of power as recorded in Acts 2. God began the process of creating a new body of people, the Church, through which His witness would flow to the nations of the world:

And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ;

To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.
(Ephesians 3:9-10)

God's purpose is that by the Church His plan of redemption through Jesus will be made known throughout the world.

The Epistles in the New Testament explain the position, order, privileges, and duties of members of the Church. A well-ordered Church capable of not only articulation [teaching] but of demonstration [showing] of the power of God was to provide the labor force in the harvest fields of the world.

In Revelation 1-3, John recorded the lifestyle of seven local churches at the end of the first century. Through this record we view the condition of the Church two generations after Pentecost.

Some of the churches had forgotten their purpose. Some were cold spiritually and had no power. But regardless of the condition of the church reflected in these chapters, the divine purpose of God had not changed:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)

To any man....from any nation, tribe, and tongue...God desires to reveal Himself. From the beginning of time, God's purpose has not changed.*






Read this passage: Isaiah 14:24-27

Claim this promise: Isaiah 10:27

Pray this prayer:

Lord, I thank you for the vision of the harvest field which you have birthed in my spirit.

I ask you to break every yoke of bondage in my life. In the name of Jesus, break the yokes of______, _____,______and_______(name the yokes which are in your life).

Yoke me together with Jesus. Create a new network in my life that will bring forth abundant harvest.

I thank you now for the anointing which has broken every yoke of bondage.

In Jesus Name,

Amen




WHO DOES GOD USE?

Who does God use to fulfill the vision of the harvest? What type of man or woman does He call to extend the Gospel to the nations of the world?

Read Mark chapter 16 in your Bible. This chapter contains the answer to these questions. In this chapter we find the women who were followers of Jesus going to the tomb to anoint His dead body. When they arrived at the tomb they found...

...a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment, and they were affrighted.

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted; Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified; He is risen: He is not here; behold the place where they laid Him. (Mark 16:5-6)

The women went to share the good news with the disciples. Even though Jesus had appeared in visible form to Mary Magdalene, the disciples would not believe He had been resurrected (Mark 16:11). Later Jesus appeared to two of the disciples as they were walking in the country. When they told the others, they did not believe them (Mark 16:12-13).

Finally Jesus appeared to the disciples and...

Upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen. (Mark 16:14)

Right after He spoke to them of their unbelief Jesus said:

Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.
(Mark 16:15)

Surely He must have made a mistake! These were the people who had gone to anoint a dead body instead of celebrating His resurrection. These were the people who slept during His greatest hour of crisis, denied Him, and hid in fear.

Jesus spent three years preparing these men for His death and resurrection, yet they deserted Him in the hour of crisis and refused to believe eye witness reports of His resurrection. One minute Jesus is correcting them because of their unbelief. The next, He is challenging them with the vision of the spiritual harvest fields in the nations of the world.

How could He possibly leave the future of the Gospel in the hands of these disciples?

Because He was not looking at them as they were. He was not looking at their past performance or their present condition. He was seeing them as they would become when endued by the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is not looking at your past, your failures, your doubts, or unbelief. He is looking at what He knows you can become through the power of the Holy Spirit.

THE MEN GOD USES

Let us look at the men God used down through history to fulfill His purposes.

JACOB:

God had to choose between Jacob, a man who desired the birthright so much he would cheat for it, and Esau, who so lightly regarded it that he would forfeit it for a bowl of soup. Yet he used Jacob to bring forth the nation of Israel.

ABRAHAM:

Abraham was to be the father of many nations. When he received this revelation from God, he fell on his face and laughed in unbelief (Genesis 17:1-3). Later, this great man of faith lied to the enemy and claimed Sara was his sister because he feared for his life. In spite of this, Abraham was called the "friend of God" and became the father of many nations.

MOSES:

His disobedience kept him from the Promised Land, yet he liberated two million people from bondage in Egypt and led them through the wilderness according to the plan of God.

DAVID:

He took another man's wife and murdered the man to cover his sin, yet he was called "a man after God's own heart" and God gave Him the kingdom.

GIDEON:

Gideon was harvesting wheat in hiding for fear of the enemy when God called Him to be the deliverer of Israel (Judges 6).

ORDINARY PEOPLE

God uses ordinary people to fulfill His will. When Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine, He asked ordinary men to fill ordinary water pots. When He multiplied bread and fish He gave it to ordinary men who then fed the multitude. When Jesus was about to perform what was perhaps the greatest miracle in His ministry, that of raising Lazarus from the dead, He depended on men to move the stone from the entrance of the grave. Didn't the same God who raised Lazarus have the power to remove the stone from the entrance?

Yes, but God has always used men to fulfill His plan. His methods are men. God calls ordinary men and makes them extraordinary. He moves men and women from spectators to participators in His plan.

-All you ordinary people who thought you couldn't be used of God...
-You ordinary people who thought you couldn't be part of a miracle...
-All who have denied and failed Him...

God is not looking at your past or present performance. He is not seeing you as you view yourself. He is looking at you as you will become as you accept the challenge to go to the harvest fields of the world. He is seeing you as you will be when endued with the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is not depending on your faith, education, talents, or your level of spirituality. He is not depending on anything that you are. He is depending on what He knows you can become if you will surrender your life totally to His will and purposes.

The world of the early church was not reached through great preaching. It was reached by men and women who were as human as we are but they turned their eyes from their own failures and caught the vision of the harvest. They realized that when they were weak in the natural, they were strong spiritually. God promised:

...My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness. (II Corinthians 12:9)

AN ABUNDANT HARVEST

To those who catch the vision and fulfill the work and will of God, there are promises of abundant harvest:

For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew...
(Zechariah 8:12)

He will turn the wilderness into fertile fields:

He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings. And there He maketh the hungry to dwell, that they
may...sow the fields and plant the vineyards which may yield fruits of increase. (Psalms 107:35-37)

God will even bring harvest to the least fruitful places:

There shall be an abundance of grain in the soil on top of the mountains... [the least fruitful place in the land]. (Psalms 72:16)

Age is no barrier to His plan:


They shall still bring forth fruit in old age... (Psalms 92:14)

You may go forth weeping in travail to birth this vision, but...

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. (Psalms 126:5-6)

You cannot comprehend the abundance of this end-time harvest:

Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you. (Haggai 2:19)

God speaks of a harvest so great that it is continuous:

Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed. (Amos 9:13)

You will not even finish threshing out the harvest until the next harvest is upon you.

This is why the need for laborers is so urgent. The plowman is overtaking the reaper. The vision of the harvest is before you.

-Claim the promise of abundant harvest.
-Claim the heathen for your inheritance.
-The fields of the world are before you. Lift up your eyes and look.

THE FINAL HARVEST

There will come that day of final harvest when God commands His angels:

The time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. (Revelation 14:15)

From all over this world the procession will come.

From Africa, Australia, Asia, North and South America, Europe, and the Islands of the Sea... Harvesters streaming into the throne room of God.

Men and women who have made the vision a reality...Those who lived with the vision as central to their reason for being... Those who died embracing its promises.

And they bring with them the sheaves from the harvest of the earth:

After this I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Lamb clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands;

And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb...and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshiped God.

Saying, Amen: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be unto our God forever and ever. Amen.
(Revelation 7:9-12)
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