Sometimes you do not belong.

outsider

Twice in my life I have lived in big cities where almost everyone is transient.  People are in search of community, people are independent, people are unreliable, but you can always find friends and someone to do something with.  Twice in my life I have moved into communities where almost everyone is home-grown, somehow related to everyone else, they are tight nit and no matter how much they think they like you and no matter how long you live amongst them, you will always be an outsider because you are not blood.  And twice in my life I have lived in foreign cities where I was an outsider by every meaning of the word: language, skin color, values, religion, everything.

There are times in your life when you know you just do not belong.  It’s like that last day each year in college, you have just taken your last final exam, you walk through the dormitory and half of the residents have already packed up and headed home for the summer, you no longer have a reason to be there and you get that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach and you know it is time to go home.  But sometimes it lasts for weeks, or months, or years.  You will never be a native, once you have moved.  And in some places that means nothing, but in other places that means everything.  Relationally, anyway.  We chronically live our lives in cliques and cool kid clubs.

After Jesus returned to Heaven and the early church was planted, there was much persecution and Christians were scattered.  They were forced out of their homes and they had to flee for their lives, settling in foreign communities.  They were outsiders.  They were not blood.  But they were born of the Holy Spirit and had the bond with God of being His child.

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

– Eph 2.19-22

Since the Church at large was being persecuted and scattered, the unifying factor for believers was their faith, and no longer blood.  They were one in Christ and found their community and comfort in caring for one another and corporately relying on God.  They were being nit together, formed into a temple for the Holy Spirit.  Often we misunderstand the purpose of the Church and individual faith, considering ourselves to be lone ranger believers who are each a temple of the Holy Spirit.  But we learn here that we, corporately, make the Church and in unity with one another become the temple; the dwelling place for Him.

When we function as the body, we have a place and we belong.  But it is not our ultimate home.

For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

– Heb 13.14

We were saved unto an eternal salvation and will one day be taken “home” to be with the father, forever.  Only there, in our new and glorified bodies will we truly belong.  Only there will we be blood, will we be native, will we be truly at home.  And since we are longing for that eternity, we cannot make peace with our Earthly dwelling.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.

– 1 Peter 2.11

We must continually wage war against our sinful flesh.  We must continually fight the fight of being comfortable and lazy and make ourselves aware of the hurting and needy around us.  There are some people in your church who are not blood, who do not belong, and who are hurting and broken.  Skip lunch on Sunday with your cousins and buddies and go love on that hurting and lonely couple.  Tell your crib mate that you will talk to them later and go welcome that visitor and get to know someone new.  But beware the temptation of shallow and transient relationships, too.  We are to function as the body, to hold one another accountable, to be involved in each other’s lives, carrying one another’s burdens and forming the temple for the Holy Spirit.  Let’s break out of our comfort zones, let’s remember that our true home is eternity with Christ, and let’s build the temple of the Holy Spirit by unifying, welcoming, embracing the believers that God puts into our paths.  Let’s break the mold.

Advertisements

“Might Attend”

join maybe decline

Social media has revolutionized relationships and interpersonal communications in the past decade.  I remember when Facebook make it’s debut while I was in college, roughly 12 years ago.  It started out as a networking tool for college students: you had to have a college email address to join.  I chose not to join.  Around Christmas time of my first year in grad school, I realized that Facebook would be a good way to keep up with college friends now that we had all been scattered by life, so I joined.  And now, almost ten years later, Facebook has evolved into a tool for business promotion, event coordination and networking in new communities.

I moved to Denver, CO two years ago and was quickly connected to the Christian community.  There is a Facebook page for everything here:  finding a roommate, volley ball clubs, running groups, frisbee planning, event planning.  And you can now completely plan and organize a party, utilizing Facebook invitations as your sole means of informing invitees.  I am guilty.  My husband and I are hosting a Super Bowl party on Sunday, and it was Facebook organized.

But Facebook creators understand our society, and they have created three responses for an invitation:  Join, Maybe, Decline.

We live in the day of “maybe”.

Gone are the days of sending out cute invitations in the mail with an RSVP card.  Gone are the days of getting a headcount weeks in advance.  Gone are the days of commitment.  Remember the days when you made plans with a friend to meet at 4:15 at the mall, and waiting until they showed up?  If he did not show in fifteen minutes, you assumed that they were not coming and you left a voice mail on his answering machine making sure that he was all right.  Now we text minutes in advance invitations, cancellations: flippant plans.  We make and break plans based on our whims.  And since we all have the means of instant communication we allow one another to do so.

And since we never know exactly how we will feel at the time of the scheduled event, we create the RSVP response of “maybe”.

There are a few things to which we are still committed:  school, work, paid-for-activities…  We have to show up for work or else we will be fired.  Some of us cannot function with another person exercising authority over us, so we set out to run our own businesses or find a work-from-home job.  School has mandatory attendance expectations, and activities for which we pay – lessons, sports, activities – merit our attention because we have made a financial commitment.

But everything else is flexible.  And unfortunately, for most today, Church falls into that category.  For some reason we can wake up at 6:00 am five days a week and have ourselves into the office by 8:00 am, but on Sundays we find ourselves incapable of arriving at 10:30 am.  It’s just too early.  We can stay out late on Friday and Saturday nights, eating out, watching movies, going dancing, but a small group/Bible study from 7:00-9:00 is just too big of a commitment.

What is the core of the problem here?  It is simply that God is not that important to us.  Many will argue, “My spirituality is not based on Church!”  and “I can love God on my own”, but Scripture is plain, God created us and saved us to be a part of the body:  the Church.  He has given us gifts and strengths to be utilized within the Church.  The author of Hebrews quite simply says,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

– Heb 10.23-25

In short, do not skip church.  Not only do we need one another for accountability, encouragement and support, Jesus wants us to go and be involved.  If we are relying on Jesus to eternally save our souls from damnation, why would we consider obeying Him and serving the Church as less important that work, school, or sports practice?

A rich man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved, to go to Heaven and not Hell when he died, and Jesus said,

“If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

– Matt 19.21

This man’s greatest treasure was his wealth.  He was unwilling to give it up, so he went away sad knowing that he would not be “complete” or saved.  Some people value family and relationships, and to them Jesus said,

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

– Luke 14.26

Jesus did not mean that we must hate our families in the worldly sense of the meaning, with bitterness, anger and indignation.  He simply meant that His calling should trump our commitment to family.  If our parents, spouse or anyone stand for something that was not honoring to God, we must choose God.  We also must not love and cherish our family in a way that discredits or trumps our love and commitment to God.  In short, if we lost every single family member and were left alone, we would mourn their passing, but would still be complete and full of joy because we have God.  That is the call of Christianity.

The application today is time.  Yes, money and family are idols that we still hold, but with the pace of life and the entertainment, individualistic mindset that is prevalent in our society, we also must fight the battle of time.  Jesus said,

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Matt 6.19-21

Is time your treasure?  Is your treasure your freedom and flexibility and ability to make a last minute decision if you will go?  Is the “maybe” button your idol?

Spiritual ADD

sky

Have you been diagnosed with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)?  Has someone you know been diagnosed?  We live in a society where we are constantly entertained, stimulated and wowed.  We are constantly looking for the next big thing:  the newest technology, new graphics on a TV or movie, the newest and greatest i-phone.  It started when we were little, and we are doing it to our children at an alarming rate:  constant stimulation.  The baby is crying, so we will try everything we can to get him to stop crying.  Food, bouncing, silly faces, music, which progresses into television, more toys, ipads, playing with mommy’s phone.  Being bored seems to be our greatest fear, and in striving to provide for our children what we never had, we develop expectations within them that the world will amuse and entertain us constantly.

I am convinced that this hard wiring in our psyches is transferred into our Spiritual hearts and expectations as well.  It is many people’s greatest concern that eternity in the New Earth will be boring.  I mean, are we really going to sit around and just sing to God all day every day?

Let us consider two things.  Firstly, we all realize that constant stimulation is a bad thing.  It leads to problems like ADD where we medicate ourselves in order to calm down and focus on the task at hand.  We have to rest.  God created us as creatures that need to sleep one third of our lives.  One third!  We are so finite that we have to go into a state of unconsciousness for eight out of twenty-four hours every. single. day.  Sure, many of us do not get the recommended eight, some of us get nine or ten.  But on average, in order to maintain a healthy and functioning body, we must let it rest.

We also know that if we cannot focus and complete a task, we cannot earn an income and survive.  Yes, there are a few people who make their living in the entertainment industry, those random video game testers who play for hours a day, but even in those seemingly free roles, there is focus and intentionality.  Video game testers have to play video games for hours upon hours.  They are not free to go wherever the wind blows them.  Actors and actresses have to learn scripts and work hard on the set.  Comedians have to create their jokes and rehearse.  No one, aside from the rare trust fund baby, has the freedom to float through life.  And it is through accomplishment that one grows, feels a sense of purpose and makes life worthwhile.

Why, then, would we expect Spiritual maturity and success to be attained flippantly?  To just peruse a scripture here and there, listen to a spiritual song on my way to work, pray when I find myself in a jam, and go to church on Sunday – if I feel like it.  We learn, we force ourselves to focus and concentrate on work, on chores, on life’s necessities and yet we neglect our Spirituality and just play at it, until we are stimulated.  Spiritual growth and life takes dedication and work!

Now, the other side of the coin is the fact that Jesus created everything that is.  Everything.  In a moment He spoke the entire galaxy into existence.  In one day he created every living animal that roams the Earth.  He dreamed up the oceans, the mountains, the skies, the deserts, and every nook and cranny therein.  He created billions of individual people, thousands of languages, and established the scientific laws which allowed for the development of every form of technology.  His imagination is infinitely bigger than anything we could ever dream up.

Jesus made this profound statement to His followers:

“I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly.”

– John 10.10

Jesus came to give us life to the fullest.  And the fullest life, forever.  Eternally.  There is no end to it.  What, exactly, is the fullest life?  It is the most satisfied.  We only catch a glimpse of it here on Earth as we continue to battle our flesh, press on to maturity and seek after God.  Yes, we are fully satisfied, but abundant, eternal life will blow our minds.  And it will blow our minds because we will be in the presence of Almighty God.  He, Himself, is infinite and it will take eternity to get to know him.

So let’s learn to discipline ourselves now, to dedicate time to God in reading and memorizing the Scriptures, in prayer, in pouring our out hearts to Him and in spending intentional time with Him, getting to know Him.  Let’s also learn to enjoy Him in our day-to-day, and experience the satisfaction and pleasures that He offers through peace, comfort, understanding, and also the awe and wonder in enjoying His creation.  But let’s also understand that God created adventure, diversity, the universe, skiing, rock climbing, and let’s look forward to the infinite reality that is eternity with Him, in which we will never be bored, but we will always be amazed at Him, His depths, and His creation!

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever.  Amen.

– Eph 3.20-21

Truth and Love

truth-and-love

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

– 1 Cor 13.1-3

From the beginning, God has given humanity two laws by which to live, love him and love people.  All of His interaction with humanity has been to that end.  American tolerance culture has confused love with blanket acceptance.  Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to step in and speak truth.  We know this in principle, when we repeat mantras like, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk” or when we popularize shows like “Intervention”.  It is loving to help a friend stop a destructive behavior.  But the way and intention by which one helps must be out of love, if we seek to honor God.

My mentor is amazing.  She is head over heels in love with God and has the most dynamic prayer life of anyone I know.  She trusts God with her future, her decisions, her health, her family and her life.  A few years ago she was in a major accident, and almost died.  Upon returning to church and using a walker to get around, a woman that she did not know, even by name, approached her and said, “You must have a major sin in your life for this to have happened to you”.

This is neither truthful nor loving folks.

While it is true that all suffering in the world is the result of sin, those who are in Christ Jesus and have repented of their sins are not under condemnation (Rom 1, 8).  If you have confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, nothing in your life is retribution of God for your sins.  Because Jesus took it all upon Himself on the cross.  There are consequences to our decisions, and at times they can be life altering.  But God is not seeking vengeance upon anyone who is covered by the blood of the lamb.  His wrath has been satiated.  He is no longer angry with the believer.

But let us consider regulated truths.  Divorce is almost always, but not always a sin.  God hates divorce, but he also regulates and redeems it.  If a spouse has been unfaithful the offended spouse may leave.  If one has been abandoned for any other reason than infidelity, the abandoned spouse is not guilty of the sin of divorce, provided he pursues God, restoration and holiness under the authority and leadership of the Church.  To assume, therefore, that anyone who has been divorced has neglected the mandates of scripture over his life is unloving and sinful (Matt 19.3-12, 1 Cor 7.10-15, Deut 24.1-4).  And to chastise him without knowing the details is unloving.

Therefore, when interacting with our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must be aware of two things:  Truth and love.  We must be confident that we know the truth of the situation and the Truth of Scripture, and we must gird ourselves in love, seeking our brother’s sanctification and growth through the interaction and confrontation.

This is not an excuse to neglect accountability.  We are commanded to hold one another accountable, to push one another on to holiness and righteousness, but in order to do that well we must do it through truth and in love.  Who are you loving today?  Who are you pushing on to maturity?  To whom have you humbled yourself so that you can be held accountable?  Are you saturated in Truth?  Are you acting out of love?

Who do you think you are?

confrontation

We, as a culture, do not handle confrontation well.  Many of us tend to avoid confrontation, just let the issue roll off our backs or fade away, while others of us can be abrasive and  take a sick pleasure in pointing out one another’s short-fallings.  Our culture, however, tends to embrace the mindset of “live and let live”.  I won’t meddle in your mess and you don’t meddle in mine.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us clear guidelines for how we are supposed to handle these kinds of situations.  Matthew 18 is regularly quoted when people are dealing with someone in the Church who will not repent of a sin.  In short it says that if someone is sinning and you notice it, you should go confront him in private.  If he will not listen, then take someone else along with you.  If he still will not listen, then you are supposed to tell the whole church and if he chooses sin when the whole church is confronting him, then you kick him out of the church.  This does not happen very often, I personally have only seen it twice in my lifetime.

But Scripture also talks directly to the one who is doing the confrontation:

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.  For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another.

– Gal 6.1-4

Paul is not implying that the one who is caught in a trespass (sin) is not spiritual and only people who are super-spiritual can restore him.  The Spiritual one is the one who has the Holy Spirit residing in him:  a Christian.  If you see a brother in sin, chances are that the Holy Spirit within him is already convicting him.  But if the Holy Spirit within us is stirred by the sin of another, we are instructed to confront him.  But thankfully Paul gives us a thorough game plan:

First of all, we must examine ourselves to be sure that we are not falling into the same sin, and we must be on the alert so that we do not.  Secondly, we must not compare ourselves to the brother in sin, because the brother in sin is not the standard; Jesus is.  We are all sinners and worthless compared to Jesus.  In this mindset of humility we approach a sinning brother.  Thirdly, we approach our brother ready to help him carry his burden.  This is huge.  If your brother has an habitual sin of drunkenness, the heart and intention of restoration is becoming a support for him, and walking through life with him to help him overcome it.  If your brother is mistreating his wife or having an affair, we must approach him ready to walk the long road back to health in that marriage.  Our role is not to simply point out the sin and run.  We must be prepared and ready to restore him and to help carry his burden.  Lastly, this must all be done in a spirit of gentleness.

There are times when people become so entrenched in their sins that “tough love” is the only option.  And it is those types of situations to which Matthew 18 is speaking.  We kick those people out of the church.  Paul said we turn those people over to Satan, hoping that through the destruction of their flesh their souls will be saved (1 Cor 5).  But when the brother is receptive to confrontation and repents of his sin, the process of restoration is to be a gentle one.  Gentleness does not imply weakness.  Jesus was Almighty God, the creator of the universe, and yet He presented Himself as gentle and meek.  It is a restrained and controlled power.  We deal severely with the sin, but gently with the penitent.

This all sounds really nice, but the reality is that is requires vulnerability and trust.  Do you trust anyone enough to confess to them a secret sin, and hope that they will hold you accountable and help you to kill that sin?  Do you love anyone enough to confront them and commit to them to walk the road of restoration and healing together?  And are you humble enough to receive confrontation?  Or will you bow up and say, “Who do you think you are to call me out?”  We justify our sins by telling ourselves that no one is perfect, everyone sins.  And we placate our conviction to call one another out by the same sentiment.

Yes.  We are all sinners.  But if we have removed the log in our own eye, we are commanded to then help our brother remove his splinter.  We cannot remove the splinter with the log in place, but once it is out we have the experience and foundation to help.  One alcoholic should not turn to another alcoholic for help.  A cheating man should not ask another adulterer for accountability.  Why?  Because they will overlook one another’s sin and neither has learned the discipline to conquer it.  We must turn to someone who does not have the same sin issue.  And we must be prepared to walk together.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.

If you deny me, I will deny you.

denial

I live in Denver, CO and my church is across the street from Sports Authority Stadium (where the Broncos play, for those of you who are unfamiliar).  So every time there is a home game, we open up our parking lots for the fans and we stand at every cross street around the church handing out free bottles of water along with a booklet which has Broncos trivia on one side and the Gospel presentation on the back.  We, as a church, hand out about 2,000 bottles of water/tracks every single game.  The last time I was out, I was standing at a red light and my friends and I were giving water bottles to people as they were waiting to cross the street.  Someone asked me why we were out there doing what we were doing, and I pointed up to the church (it sits on a hill overlooking the city), and said “We are from the church and are just out loving our community”.  My friend, however, took the opportunity to explain the love of God for us and our desire to honor Him by loving and serving them and telling them about Jesus.

Ouch.

Talk about conviction.

We talked about it at small group, reflecting on Paul’s instruction and desire to make the most of every. single. opportunity.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

– Col 4.2-6

Now, I am tempted, and my friends were tempted, to appease my conviction by saying, “You do not have to say ‘Jesus’ every time”, “You said you were from the Church, people know what that means”, “maybe talking about Jesus would have driven them away”, and other platitudes of the sort.

But Jesus was clear:

“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

– Matt 10.33

If we deny Jesus, He will deny us.  Those words are clear.  Black and white.  There is no doubt about what Jesus was saying here.  Now, we might be tempted to say, “You did not deny Jesus in the water bottle exchange”.  No, not in the sense of saying, “I do not know Jesus, I do not serve him”, or something of the like.  But I denied Him in silence.  I chose to not take the opportunity to share.  I chose silence.  This is why Paul asked the Colossians to pray:  that He would not chose silence, but would make the most of every situation.

Here’s the good news.  Succumbing to weakness it not necessarily the final nail in your or my proverbial coffin.  On the night before and day that Jesus died, all of the disciples except John walked away from Jesus.  Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, actually denied having any relationship with Jesus three times.  And yet after the resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and welcomed the other ten back into fellowship and commissioned them to make disciples of the world.

Later on we learn that Peter gave in to the influence of the Jews and tried to tell non-Jews that they had to be circumcised in order to be saved.  He changed the Gospel.  And not only that, he quit hanging out with people who were not circumcised because he wanted to look good to the Jews.  But the apostle Paul called him out and restored him.

Judas also denied Jesus, and was not forgiven.  Even though Judas walked with Jesus for three years, saw all of the signs and heard all of the teachings, and also was given the ability and permission to perform miracles with the rest of the disciples, his denial was final and led to eternal damnation.

If you chose silence, if you take the cowardly way out of a conversation, if you actually deny Jesus, there is a possibility of forgiveness.  But it is centered in repentance and change.  You have to claim Jesus.  Otherwise, He will deny you to the Father.

Where do you stand today?  Is your faith something personal that you do not want anyone asking about?  Is other people’s faith none of your concern?  Do you make the most out of every opportunity to talk about Jesus and win people to the Lord?  Let us claim Jesus and pray for boldness!

Preach the Gospel Always. Always use words.

There is a quote that has permeated Christendom for hundreds of years now, and it is usually attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who died in 1226.  You have probably heard it, it goes like this:

“Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”

Francis of Assisi is no doubt an inspirational Church Father.  He was born into a wealthy family, but he gave it all up to live a life of poverty and devotion to the Lord.  He founded the Franciscan Order, he preached the Gospel, and I most respect him for seeing the brutality and devastation of the Crusades and going to Egypt on mission to win the Sultan to salvation.  What if we went into hostile territories with the Gospel instead of guns?  It not concretely known if Francis made this statement or if someone else, but irregardless, this sentiment rings through churches and Bible studies regularly.  But here’s the problem:

It is impossible to preach the Gospel without words.

Unless you are a mime and are silently acting out the story of Jesus, your actions, your service, your deeds do not preach the Gospel.  People who do not know Jesus do just as many “good deeds” as Christians.  Have you ever heard of Angelina Jolie?  She no doubt has given more money, visited more orphans and widows, and spearheaded more human rights initiatives than my entire church combined.  But she is not a Christian.  So how can our feeding of the hungry be preaching the Gospel, if non Christians can and do do the exact. same. thing?

It’s not.

And here’s why it’s not.  The love of Christ is not feeding the hungry.  The love of Christ is not clothing the naked.  The love of Christ is not being nice to that jerk at work.  The love of Christ is taking our eternal punishment of damnation, paying for it on the cross, and satiating the wrath of God against us:

“By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.”

– 1 John 4.9

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

 – John 15.13

“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”

 – 1 John 3.16

Do I need to go on?  

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

 – Rom 5.8

Now, please do not hear me incorrectly.  We, as Christians, are commanded to provide for and visit the orphans and widows.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

 – James 1.27

Jesus also expects us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison and care for one another.  In fact, He says that when we do so, we are loving Him:

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’  Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?  When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’  The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine,even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

 – Matt 25.34-40

But notice here:  the focus is on loving Jesus.  Jesus does not say that when you serve the poor you are being Jesus to them, He says that our service to the poor is ultimately service to Him.  Our love for God should compel us to serve and care for one another in extravagant ways.  But it is not the Gospel.  It is service to Jesus.  It is the overflowing of our love for God pouring out to one another.

The Gospel is the story of our sinfulness and consequential separation from God temporally and eternally, but the hope that we have of forgiveness and eternal life through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The Gospel is not soup at a soup kitchen.  The Gospel is not holding an umbrella while a man changes his tire on the side of the road.  The Gospel is not being nice to the unlovable.  The Gospel is the story.  And we cannot know Jesus and be saved unless we hear and believe the story.

…”for ‘Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?  And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent?  Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!'”

 – Rom 10.13-15

Paul does not say, “How beautiful are the feet of those who feed the hungry, provide clean water, provide electricity, etc”.  No.  It says, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things”.  Preach the Gospel:  the story of hope through Jesus.  Unless they hear, they cannot call on God.  They cannot be saved.  And the Gospel is the offer of salvation.  There is a man who was born a Muslim, who came to know Christ, and after being exiled from his family and community he chooses to live his life by this motto:  “I tell everyone about Jesus, and those who want to believe will be my friends”.  That, friends, is someone who gets it.  Our niceties will save no one.  Only Jesus will.

Let’s not believe the lie, and make an excuse for ourselves to be cowards.  Jesus died on the cross for our salvation.  The least we can do is tell people about it!

words