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The Loss of the Harvest
Harvest Time!
The Loss of the Harvest
Jeremiah 8:20
 
At McGill University the engineering and medical faculties had an intramural basketball game. The score was 33 to 34. With about a minute left, the engineers stole the ball, and then froze it with excellent passing and ball handling until the clock ran out.
 
Only when the final whistle had blown did they learn that they were the ones behind. They were so wrapped up in freezing the ball, they had lost track of the score.
 
I am afraid the church looks at buildings, budgets, and baptisms, and has frozen the ball of evangelism, when we ought to be in a full court press, because we really are behind.
 
Someone has well said that they have no fear that the church will not succeed, but that it will succeed in those things that do not matter.  But we need to remember, no matter how many barns are built, how much cattle is bought, how much seed is sown, or how much land is cultivated, that farmer is a failure who does not bring in the harvest.
 
We’ve spent quite a lot of time already talking about the harvest as we prepare for the 3151 Challenge. Next week will be our commitment service as we pledge to pray for the salvation of at least three people by name, learn a gospel presentation, invite at least 5 people to come to church with me on November 6 for Celebration Sunday and share the gospel at least one time during the month of October.
And in preparation for that, we’ve heard Jesus instruct us to lift up our eyes and see the harvest that is ready. We’ve learned there are some governing laws regarding the harvest. I must plant to reap. I reap what I sow. I reap later than I sow and I reap more than I sow. 
 
We’ve also found out that not only are there some mechanics involved in bringing in the harvest, but my heart and attitude also has an impact on the harvest.  I am to be going, weeping and sowing so that I can rejoice when the reaping takes place. 
 
Today I want to point you to one of the most haunting statements in the Bible regarding the harvest. It is found in
 
Jeremiah 8:20
 
Jeremiah is an ancient prophet of God and as we read what he writes here in the book that bears his name, he is living in the city of Jerusalem. 
 
God has given him a warning that the nation of Judah is headed for disaster because of their rebellion against God. In fact, in this very chapter, we see in verse 13 that God declared their fields would be ruined.  In verse 17, they are warned that their cities would be destroyed, and in verse 19 that the people would be either killed or taken captive.
 
And Jeremiah is telling the people that only God could deliver them from the armies of Babylon that were marching toward the city. He is their only hope. But they didn’t listen. Instead they formed an alliance with Egypt to fight the Babylonians. In other words, they tried to handle it without God.
But Babylon defeated Egypt, marched on Jerusalem, surrounded the city and laid siege to the people. Now back in those days people lived within the walls of the city, and the crops were outside the walls. They thought they were protected, but the problem was their food supply was unavailable.  So an opposing army, in this case, the Babylonians simply waited for the people to run out of food and get hungry enough to surrender.
 
And all the people could do was watch the crops spoil, the harvest wither, the summer end, and the cry of the nation was say, “we are not saved.”
 
They learned the bitter lesson that there is no loss like the loss of the harvest. Now what I want to do today is take that Old Testament picture regarding crops and captivity and life and harvest and apply it to missing the opportunity to reach souls for Christ. 
 
There are three things I want you to see about the loss of the harvest.  First of all, think about
 
1. The Reality of the Loss
 
The first statement says “the harvest is past.” Somehow, Satan has convinced us there is no urgency to our work because it really doesn’t matter if we share the gospel. It really doesn’t matter.  Nothing of any significance is at stake. 
 
I don’t know if we just don’t know the Bible, know it but ignore it, or just don’t believe what we read in it.  But the bible declares that all have sinned and therefore do not qualify to be in the presence of God. 

 
We have rebelled against a Holy God and He takes it personally. And if we continue in that sin, we are doomed and damned forever to hell. And just as with the nation of Judah, in His grace, He gives us opportunity to be saved. But He will not wait forever. 
 
That’s why it is so urgent and so imperative that the harvest be gathered.  And yet, right before our very eyes the harvest is passing away.
 
  • The harvest is passing globally
 
Listen to these statistics: The unevangelized population of the earth called “world a” is growing at a rate of 23,600 persons per day faster than they are being evangelized.
 
Of the 95 invitations given to people to become disciples of Christ, 87 will be extended to people claiming to be Christian already (world c); 7.7 will be extended to people who have already been evangelized, but are non-Christians (world b);
only .3 will be extended to individuals who have never heard the gospel (world a).
 
There are 4.4 billion people in the world who have never heard the name Jesus. Now think about this: 23 people a minute, 1,400 people an hour, 32,600 people a day, 235,000 people a week, 12,230,000 people a year will die without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
 
And I will tell you in regard to the world, the harvest is past, the summer is ended and they are not saved.
 
Also, 
 
  • The harvest is passing nationally
 
Here in America the harvest is passing. Listen to these facts:
 
  • since 1980 there has been no growth in the proportion of the adult population that can be classified as “born again” Christians.
 
  • since 1970 there has been no appreciable change in the proportion of adults who attend church services at any time during the week.
 
  • the fastest growing churches in America are not Christian. Among those that are expanding most rapidly are the Mormons, the Jehovah's witnesses, and various cults.
 
I think it safe to say that in regard to our country, the harvest is past, the summer is ended and they are not saved.
 
But also
 
  • The harvest is passing individually
 
It is a proven fact that the harvest is greatest during the early years of life. Wise old Solomon said, “remember now your creator in the days of your youth.” (Eccl. 12:1)
 
Several years ago a famous evangelist concluded after many, many years of surveying the crowds that came to his crusades, that if a person isn't saved by the time he is 21, the chances are 5,000 to 1 that he will ever be saved. If he isn't saved by the time he is 30, the chances are 15,000 to 1 that he will ever be saved.
If he isn't saved by the time he is 40, the chances are 30,000 to 1 he will ever be saved. If he isn't saved by the time he is 50, the chances are 150,000 to 1 that he will ever trust Christ as Lord and Savior.
 
If you are here today without Christ, whether you realize it or not, the harvest is passing for you.  You're getting older and your heart is hardening, and you don't even realize it.
 
Dwight L. Moody, the great evangelist, told a story of how one time he was preaching a crusade in a large city, and he was preaching on this text, Jeremiah 8:20.  When he gave the invitation, he noticed a man and woman in the crowd, and this wife with tears flowing down her cheeks, began to beg her husband to respond and give his heart to Christ. But he adamantly refused to do it.
 
Many years later Moody was back in that same city preaching a crusade. One day a request came for him to pay a visit to a certain elderly couple. It seems as though this old man had contracted a terminal illness and was dying.  His wife had requested the evangelist come and see him. 
 
Moody and his song leader, Ira Sankey, went to see this old man with gray hair, his face wrinkled from the years, his body withered with age and disease. When Moody walked into his bedroom, this sweet, Godly wife was kneeling beside his bed pleading with her husband.
 
The old man was mumbling something. Moody leaned down to hear what this man was mumbling. He was repeating over and over: “the harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
Moody asked this wife why he was repeating that verse. She said, “You preached on that text the last night of your crusade here many years ago. My husband heard that sermon and adamantly refused to be saved. That's why he is repeating it now.”
 
Moody got on his knees and began to plead with that man to come to Christ. But the man just kept shaking his head and repeating over and over, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
 
Dwight L. Moody said that man died about sundown with gritted teeth and clinched fist, saying as he went out into eternity, “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”
 
I want you to know my blood runs cold when I think about those that I’ve witnessed to who refused, when I think of those of you here today so set in your ways, so arrogant in your rebellion, so aloof in your sin that you will refuse the grace of God. It chills me because without a time of repentance, one day we will say the same of you that was said of these.
 
I want you to know a preacher cannot have a more empty and helpless day than the day he stands over the lifeless body of a hell bound sinner and tries to comfort a little wife or family who deep in their heart know “the harvest is past, the summer is ended, and they were not saved.”
 
Such is the reality of the loss.  So why is the harvest past?  What is
 
 
 
 
2. The Reason for the Loss
 
The text tells us the harvest is past because “the summer is ended.” The time to harvest wheat was primarily May and June. After that, the burning sun would dry out the wheat and cook the life out of it. So when the summer was ended the harvest was past.
The reason the harvest was past was the season for harvest was gone.
 
Now listen very carefully. Just as there is a season for harvesting grain, there is also a season for harvesting souls, and when that season is over the harvest is past.  So when is the summer ended for the soul? 
 
Let me offer two or three suggestions. 
 
First, the summer is ended when a saint dies. Now obviously, when we talk about a saint, we are talking about a born-again child of God.  So what do I mean the summer is ended when a saint dies? 
 
Well, think about it this way: there is no need to share the gospel and do evangelism in heaven. When the saint goes to heaven he can never rescue a sinner from hell. In heaven there is no sowing. In heaven there is no reaping. Therefore in heaven there is no harvest.
 
Remember the story the Lord told in Luke 16 about the rich man who died and went to hell and the beggar who died and went to Paradise?  The rich man was in such torment he wanted God to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers about their eternal destination in hell. 
 
 
 
But God said, “That can’t happen.  There is no passing between the earthly and the eternal.  Besides that, they have the Word of God and if they won’t listen to that, they won’t listen to anything!”
 
All of that to say, whatever sharing we’re going to do, we better do it now. If there is someone you care about who needs to be warned about hell, then you better get with it immediately because once you’re gone, your opportunity to be witness is over.  Summer is over when a saint dies.  
 
But also, the summer is ended when the sinner dies.  You can only have a harvest where seed is sown, but there is no seed of the gospel that grows in hell. 
 
I read about a young man that started out of his house one night and as he was leaving, his mother who loved the Lord with all of her heart, with tears in her eyes, knowing that he was going out for a night of sin, placed a little gospel tract in his hand. 
 
And this boy, lost and rebellious, with no use for God, through clinched teeth, cursed and said, “Why did you give me that?” Today at the job somebody gave me one of those blankety-blank things and I want you to know I am so sick and tired of gospel tracts and hearing about God. Where can I go where someone will not give me a gospel tract?”
 
His mother, with a broken heart, said, “My son, you can go to hell. Nobody will give you a gospel tract there.”
 
 
 
I want you to know, the sun is setting on the harvest. Even now the golden grain of the harvest is falling to the ground. That's why Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” (Jn. 9:4)
 
Robert Moffett, a great missionary and statesman said, “We shall have all eternity in which to celebrate our victories, but only one short hour before the sun sets in which to win them.”
 
The sun even now is setting on the harvest. The harvest is passing and the summer is ending.
 
Let me conclude by sharing with you
 
3. The Result of the Loss
 
I think the last statement o this verse is the saddest part of all. There is an ominous finality about those words, “and we are not saved.” The Hebrew word saved, literally means “saved from judgment.”
 
Now I want you to think about those words as a sinner might say them. It could either be the last words the sinner says before death or the first words the sinner says after death. But either way, no matter what else you say or do, nothing else matters if you are not a part of the harvest.
 
I read a poem years ago that has stuck with me and it really is haunting. I want you to listen to it:
 
When the choir has sung its last anthem,
and the preacher has prayed his last prayer,
when the people have heard their last sermon,
and the sound has died out in the air.
When the bible lies closed on the altar,
and the pews are all emptied of men,
and each one stands facing his record,
and the great book is open, what then?
 
When the actor has played his last drama,
and the mimic has made his last fun,
when the film has flashed its last picture,
and the billboard displayed its last run,
 
when the crowd seeking pleasure have vanished,
and gone out in the darkness again,
and the trumpet of ages has sounded,
and we stand before him, what then?
 
When the bugle's call sinks into silence,
and the long, marching columns stand still,
when the captain repeats his last orders,
and they've captured the last fort and hill.
 
When the flag is hauled down from the masthead,
and the wounded afield checked in,
and a world that rejected its Savior,
is asked for a reason, what then?
 
“The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” The time between when the harvest is ripe, and when the harvest is rotten, is so very short. The harvest is great, the need is for laborers. Will you join with me in the harvest?
 
I read a long time ago a story that was told as true of of a young man and his wife who lived in Alberta, Canada who were very much in love.
 
 
 
They went out one moonlit night in the time of harvesting to walk in the golden moon as it was shining there upon the wheat fields. The wheat fields were like a golden ocean waving in the breeze and in the moonlight. It was so beautiful.
 
They had their little son with them. This couple, so much in love with each other and that little boy, were walking through the wheat fields enjoying the beauty and somehow, that little boy managed to get separated from his parents. 
 
He was just a little tot, not even old enough to go to school.  And all of a sudden they realized their little boy was no longer with them. At that particular moment the wife went in one direction and the husband went in the other.
They started calling him, thinking they would find him immediately.  But instead they got further and further away from the spot where they first missed him.
 
Soon they realized that before long the coldness of that Canadian night would be settling in. Their little boy who was not heavily dressed, and would probably freeze to death.  So while the wife stayed there, the husband hurried back to the village and called the people and said, “Would you please come help us? We've got to find our son.”
 
People began to swarm out over that wheat field to help them look for that little boy. It seemed as though they literally were threshing the wheat as they were looking for that lost son. They prayed, they searched, they looked, they called, and hopelessness set in. 
 
 
Finally, one man said, “I believe there is a better way to do this. Let's get organized. Let's make a human chain. Let's stretch out and join hand to hand and sweep these fields. We will go up one side and turn around and come back the other and if he's in here we'll find him.”
 
Up and down they went until suddenly there was a cry “I found him.” Everybody rushed together to find the lifeless form of that little fellow who had died of exposure. According to that story strong men wept, and one voice was heard to say, “Oh God, if we had only joined hands sooner!”
 
There are people all around us and all over the world who are slipping out through the jaws of death into a Christless eternity. For them, unless someone comes with the good news of the gospel, one day the summer will come to an end, the harvest will be past and they will not be saved.  Would you say with me today, “We will join hands for the harvest that people might come to Jesus?”
 
Let’s pray


Comments

01-22-2017
June
This is a powerful sermon
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