Not a Sermon only a Thought

Compassion for the Lost

Matthew 9:36-38

Throughout the Gospels, a phrase commonly used of the Lord is “He felt compassion” (Matt. 9:36). These words describe what Jesus often experienced when He encountered people in a helpless condition: He was moved to alleviate their suffering. 

Man’s greatest suffering is due to alienation from the Lord because of sin. Even though many people don’t realize it, they are enemies of God and can do nothing to make themselves right with Him. Thankfully, Jesus felt compassion for us and reached down to save us; otherwise, we would all be doomed to the everlasting punishment of separation from God’s presence. Yet often we fail to show that same compassion for the lost all around us. Like the Pharisees, we may avoid people because their behavior is sinful, but God desires that we show them kindheartedness rather than withdraw into religious isolation.

Jesus pictured the multitude of lost people as sheep without a shepherd and a field ripe for harvest. All that’s needed is for the Lord to send workers into His harvest, and that’s exactly what Jesus did when He said, “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (John 20:21).

There are multiple ways to show Christ’s compassion to those who are suffering physically, financially, or emotionally, and we should do what we can to help. However, temporal suffering is minuscule compared to what awaits the unbeliever eternally. That’s why the most compassionate thing we can do is to make people aware of their helpless condition before God and share the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

As Independence Day approaches this year, we have many reasons to be thankful, but there’s also cause for concern as we observe the tragedies that have happened in our country in the last few years. When we hear about school shootings, terror attacks, and bombings that take innocent lives, we may wonder where God is in all this. Why does He allow these tragedies? Couldn’t He do something to prevent them?

The most basic answer to these questions is that we live in a fallen world. Disasters, crime, evil, violence, hatred, and death are the result of sin, which entered the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Everything and everyone has been affected by it, and none of us are exempt.

Yet knowing this, we may still question why God allows these tragedies to occur. If He’s good and loving, wouldn’t He protect His creation from harm? The truth is there are some things in life we will simply not be able to understand. In Isaiah 55:8-9 God says, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’ ... ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

So how are we to respond to tragedies when we don’t understand what God is doing? For believers, our first response should be to trust God (Prov. 3:5). It’s easy to trust Him when we can feel His loving hand reaching out to strengthen and guide us. But when God’s wisdom and purposes transcend our limited minds, and we aren’t capable of comprehending His ways, we must rely on what He has told us about Himself in His Word and trust Him like small children trusting their parents.

We need to get into God’s Word to see what He says about Himself. And the best time to do this is before tragedy strikes so we’ll have a firm foundation to support us in times of need. Once we have a scripturally accurate view of God, we will understand how to respond and go through calamity because we’ll know the God who loves us and holds us in His sovereign hand.

Second, we should respond with courage. Terrorist attacks and mass shootings naturally cause fear. For those who don’t know Christ, this can be overwhelming, but Christians have a confidence that transcends circumstances. Psalm 56:3-4 says, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I have put my trust; I shall not be afraid. What can mere man do to me?”

Third, we should respond with compassion. When we hear about the atrocities done to people, our hearts should go out to them in sympathy. This is an essential character trait of anyone who is a follower of Jesus. Look at His response in Matthew 9:36: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”

Sometimes our reaction to a national tragedy is to shrug our shoulders and say, “I’m glad I wasn’t there.” But Christians are told to put on a heart of compassion and kindness (Col. 3:12). This applies to both those whom we know and those we’ve never met. Although we may not be able to put a comforting arm around strangers on the other side of the country, we can express empathy for them by bringing them before the throne of God in prayer, not only for physical and emotional healing but for salvation as well.

Fourth, we need an eternal perspective. The unexpected loss of life has a way of opening our eyes to the fact that life is transitory. James reminds us not to presumptuously expect our lives to turn out as we’ve planned, saying, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). If there’s one thing we can learn from calamities, it’s that we will die, and we don’t know when. That’s why we must always be ready to meet the Lord and to share the gospel with the lost so they will have the opportunity to be saved.

It may be tempting to withdraw in fear as we see the world becoming a more dangerous place, but this is the time when Christians need to be salt and light to a dark world. Although we don’t have all the answers to why tragedies happen, we are the only ones who have the message that can change someone’s eternal destiny. And offering them the good news of the gospel is the most compassionate and loving thing we can do in times of calamity.

As we walk in these uncertain times, let’s make it our ambition to live godly lives that are honoring and pleasing to God. Although we have no assurance that tragedy will not one day come our way, we can have confidence in the goodness of God. He has promised to work all things for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Prayerfully yours,

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. Even though our nation has experienced increasing evil and the resulting calamities, we can still rejoice in the freedoms we currently have to worship God and share the gospel. Let’s thank the Lord for these blessings as we celebrate the Fourth of July this year.

A Lasting Impact

Matthew 5:14-16

Have you ever stopped to consider this question: How do you use the gift of freedom? God gives all believers true liberty through His Son Jesus Christ. Do you squander that blessing or share it with others? The problem is, some people are so focused on their own needs and desires that they fail to impact even their closest neighbor.

Think about the people you see every week. Do you know how many of your neighbors are sick? Are there people in your church who struggle to make it from day to day? Do you know if any of your coworkers are going through hardships? Most likely, there are individuals all around you who could use assistance. But being self-focused limits our ability to notice those people, let alone reach out to them.

Jesus taught His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matt. 5:13). In order for salt to remain useful, it must maintain its purity and potency. Likewise, we must endeavor to lead holy, humble, and loving lives, focusing on the Savior’s will rather than our own. God has prepared the good works that we are to walk in (Eph. 2:10). Our job is to carry them out.

Whether or not we affect our world positively depends on the focus of our heart. Do you look inward to consider how you can do more to get ahead and add to your lot in life? Or do you look outward and think about ways that you can do more to serve others?

The Danger of Drifting

Proverbs 14:15-16

One fine afternoon, my best friend and I came upon an abandoned boat floating in the river. The paddles were broken, but that wasn’t a deterrent for a pair of teenage boys. We shoved off and drifted downstream talking, joking, and carrying on. I’m not sure how much time passed as we floated aimlessly along, but we knew we were in trouble when a loud roar reached our ears. Up ahead, water was rushing over the dam. Panicked, we grabbed the broken paddles and pulled hard against the current. We managed to get close enough to the shore to safely jump out into shallow water, but the boat went over the edge. What started out as pure fun nearly ended in disaster.

That’s happens to many people today. What begins as fun and pleasure ends in shipwreck because people drift along, neglecting to think ahead or notice how fast they’re moving away from the safety of the Lord’s plan. According to the prevailing attitude of modern society, God isn’t needed as long as the stream runs smoothly. In other words, when income is good, the family is safe, and health is stable, going with the flow seems fine. But in reality, a drifting man is being swept along by the world’s currents, which are dangerous without Christ.

Today’s passage reveals that the wise look to the future to avoid ruin. Let me put it another way: Drifting is foolish. In countless arenas of life—including marriage, family, vocation, and finances—we need to have a goal and navigation plan if we expect to be successful. Thankfully, God provides both in His Word. (See Prov. 3:6.)

Listening to God

Proverbs 2:1-7

Psychologists refer to a phenomenon known as dissociation to describe a mental state in which someone inhabits two worlds simultaneously. Many of us might have experienced this in its mildest form while driving. Our thoughts drift, and we fly right by our exit, traveling many miles before we recognize our mistake.

As Christians, we sometimes suffer from spiritual dissociation. With good intentions, we open our Bibles and begin reading only to realize several verses later that we have no idea what we just read. Although God was speaking, we failed to hear His voice. Usually, this situation can be easily remedied by rereading with focused concentration, but there are other times when we fail to hear God for more serious reasons.

Sometimes an inability to hear the Lord is simply the result of spiritual immaturity, but it could also indicate a perilous state of spiritual indifference or, worse still, rebellion. In that state, we run the risk of becoming like the man who hardens his neck after much reproof and is suddenly broken beyond remedy (Prov. 29:1).

Let’s not make it difficult for God to get through to us. He’s a loving Father who keeps speaking in order to turn us away from evil and direct us back to Himself. His goal is to transform us from stubborn children needing firm control to mature followers who can be counseled merely by a word or a nudge from Him. The more receptive we become to His instructions, the more we’ll experience His lovingkindness and the joy of obedience and righteousness.

The Coming Judgment

Acts 10:42-43

Have you ever been required to appear in court before a judge? Even if your only offense was a parking or speeding ticket, the courtroom experience can be very intimidating. Your wrong cannot be undone, and you must give an account for your actions and accept whatever consequences the judge decrees.

There will come a day when every human being will be required to stand before the Judge of the universe. At that point, there’s no turning back, no chance to start over. We will each be held accountable by almighty God for our choices and actions in this life.

If you’ve trusted in Jesus, you will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10). This isn’t a judgment of your sins, because they were judged when God’s wrath was poured out on His Son at Calvary. Since the Savior has already secured your eternal destiny, you will stand before God, clothed in Christ’s righteousness. The purpose of this judgment is evaluation of your works to determine if they are worthless or deserving of a reward. 

The Great White Throne Judgment is reserved for people who have rejected Jesus as Savior (Revelation 20:11-15). The works they have done will be evaluated according to God’s record books. Since their names are not written in the book of life, their eternal destination will be the lake of fire.

Although no one can avoid being judged, the good news is that you have a choice regarding which judgment seat you will appear before. But the only time you can make that choice is in this lifetime. Once your earthly life ends, your destiny is set.

When God Doesn’t Seem Just

Deuteronomy 32:1-4

Can you think of a situation in your life that felt like an exception to the promises of Scripture? In today’s passage, Moses declares that the Lord is faithful and all His ways are just, but we have all been in circumstances that seemed wrong and unfair. And because God did not intervene, we’ve struggled to reconcile our experience with Moses’ statement about Him.

The Scriptures are filled with examples of godly people who faced hardships that seemed totally unfair. For example, Joseph was sold as a slave, David was hunted by King Saul, and Paul suffered with a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

Situations like these can cause us to question whether God is good and just. If left to fester in our minds, these doubts may give way to discouragement. We can easily start thinking, What’s the use of serving the Lord? Look at what it’s gotten me—suffering!

It’s important to remember that what we know about God from His Word is more accurate than what we feel. Scripture tells us that God is good and just, so we can know with certainty that He has a fantastic purpose for us in whatever we experience.

The Lord allows each of us to face some trials that we won’t understand to our satisfaction this side of heaven. Our job is not to comprehend everything He does and permits in our lives, but to know how to respond. He’ll make all things right in eternity. In the meantime, trust the solid Rock when all else is shaky.

The Shed Blood of Jesus

John 1:29-34

When John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching, he declared Christ to be the Lamb of God.

This concept was familiar to the Israelites, since their law required blood offerings as atonement for sin (Lev. 17:11). Jesus became our sacrificial Lamb, paying once for all the sin debt owed by mankind (1 Peter 3:18). His death secured forgiveness and eternal life for everyone who trusts Him as Savior. With regard to salvation, nothing else is required or acceptable to God.

Jesus was the one who set things right between the Father and man. He died to bring us ...

Redemption. This was a word that was used to describe a marketplace transaction—one that buys back something of value. All humanity was in bondage to sin and unable to pay the penalty (Rom. 6:23). As our sacrificial lamb, Jesus willingly died in our place and with His blood, redeemed us for His Father (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Forgiveness. As God’s adopted children, we have been saved by the blood of Christ and pardoned for our transgressions. The penalty for our actions has been fully paid. So at the moment of salvation, guilt for all of our sins—past, present, and future—is wiped away.

Meditate on what the Savior did at Calvary. As the sacrificial Lamb, Jesus exchanged His life for ours and gave it up to pay what we owed. His death redeemed us, secured our forgiveness, and gave us a permanent place in God’s family. Thank You, Jesus, for bringing redemption!

What Christ’s Blood Does for Believers

Romans 3:21-26

Knowing what we believe is key to a life-sustaining faith. Yesterday we saw two of the blessings that are ours through the blood of the Savior. Today we will look at two more.

By trusting in Christ as Savior, we are ...

Justified. Justification is the process by which God sees us as not guilty— just as if we had not committed any wrong. Romans 3:23 condemns all mankind as sinners who are under a sentence of death and facing a dreadful eternity apart from God and His blessings. But everything changes for the person who accepts Christ’s shed blood as payment for his or her sins—through Jesus, that sinner is declared “not guilty” and is provided with Christ’s righteousness. And the new believer is adopted into God’s own family (Gal. 3:26). Jesus’ sacrifice has satisfied our sin debt, and His death is counted by God as our own (Rom. 5:9).

Reconciled. Before salvation, we were separated from the Lord and spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1). We had no way to span the gap between Him and us. Christ sent His Holy Spirit to convict us of our guilt (John 16:8), make us aware that we need a Savior, and bring us to saving faith. Jesus, the Lamb of God, removed the barrier of sin that separated us from God. Christ died to reconcile us to God, “having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20).

As believers, we should understand what occurred when we received Jesus as Savior. Through His sacrifice, we are redeemed, forgiven, justified, and reconciled to God. That is, Christ’s blood has brought us from death to life—and has let us enter into an eternal relationship with the Father.

Let Christ Bear Your Burdens

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus’ compassion is displayed repeatedly throughout the Gospel accounts, and in today’s passage, He shows loving concern by inviting us to come to Him for relief. Is there anything more needed in this world than the feeling of being set free from whatever is weighing us down?

Jesus invites us to come, take His yoke upon us, and learn from Him. At first glance, a yoke may sound like an additional burden, but to understand what Jesus means, we must look at these verses from their historical context. A yoke was a bar that fit over the neck and shoulders of two animals. When a heavy load had to be transported, two oxen were yoked together, thereby distributing the weight evenly between them.

What our Lord is describing is a lifelong process that encompasses coming to Him for salvation and learning to know Him—His perfect character, His priorities for life, and His plans for us and the world. Jesus is asking us to place ourselves under the yoke of His lordship. He promises that a life of submission will fit us well and provide relief.

Our Savior offers to be with us in every trial we face. Sometimes He removes the difficulties that weigh us down, while at other times, He lifts the burdensome feelings that accompany our trials. But there will be occasions when He walks with us through the hardships and suffering, giving us the grace and strength to endure. Even then we will discover that His yoke is easy and His burden is light because His compassion and mighty power carry us through.

Choosing to Forgive

Ephesians 4:31-32

Isn’t it interesting that young children generally don’t hold grudges? They may cry and throw tantrums, but once their anger has been vented, they let it go. Adults, however, have a tendency to hang on to offenses. When people wrong us or our loved ones, we want them to pay for what they’ve done, to suffer as we have. It only seems fair to expect restitution of some kind, and unless that occurs, we withhold forgiveness.

As Christians, however, we are called to a different standard and way of thinking—one that’s consistent with God’s character. He is a merciful Father who wants His children to show mercy to others (Luke 6:36). His Son’s life on earth demonstrated this. As Jesus hung on the cross, He prayed for those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). God expects us to forgive as Jesus did, regardless of circumstances.

This command seems impossible to carry out until we start to grasp the enormity of what took place on the cross. Christ’s death made us recipients of a mercy so great it defies comprehension. The Savior took all our sin upon Himself and died in our place. He experienced the outpouring of God’s wrath so we might be forgiven and reconciled to the Father. Although we deserve condemnation, through Jesus Christ we have instead received God’s mercy.

Now as new creations in Christ who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, we have His power to truly let go of the wrongs done to us and extend mercy to others, just as God has given mercy to us.

An Unforgiving Spirit

Matthew 18:21-35

Because of man’s propensity to sin, we’re surrounded by opportunities to forgive others. Perhaps we’ve been unfairly criticized, disappointed by a broken promise, or harmed financially or physically. In this broken world, the list of wrongdoings is endless. The question is: How are we to deal with the offenses of others?

Peter was wondering the same thing, so He asked Jesus how often he should forgive a brother who sins against him. He probably thought he was being very generous by suggesting, “Up to seven times?” But Jesus replied, “Up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). In other words, forgive every single time you’re wronged. Forgiveness doesn’t mean finding reasons to justify or excuse someone’s behavior, nor is it about forgetting what happened or pretending it never occurred.

Genuine forgiveness requires deliberate action on our part. While acknowledging that a wrong has been committed, we choose to release the offender from any obligation toward us and surrender our perceived right to hurt him or her back. In essence, we’re no longer holding the unfair, hurtful behavior against the person but are extending mercy, just as God has done toward us.

The only alternative is to hold onto anger and bitterness. Though we may think we are punishing the wrongdoer, we’re actually hurting ourselves. Resentment is like sludge that contaminates the mind, clogs the heart, and poisons the soul. Untreated anger turns into bitterness, which hinders our relationship with God and others and leaves us vulnerable to Satan’s attacks (Eph. 4:26-27). The only remedy is forgiveness.

Jesus: A Servant

Matthew 20:20-28

Believers like to talk about Jesus as Lord, Master, and especially Savior, but rarely is He mentioned as Servant. Yet describing His own mission, Christ said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). He entered the world to offer Himself for the Father’s purpose and mankind’s need.

Because every human being is born enslaved to sin, Jesus came to set us free. He voluntarily exchanged His glory for flesh because only as a human could He die in our place to pay the penalty for our sin. The greatest service He offered was His sacrifice on the cross. He allowed His purity to be violated by our transgressions. In fact, God made Jesus “who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf” so that we could gain His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Our sinless Savior suddenly and painfully felt the burden of guilt, the vileness of sin, the weight of a tarnished soul, and a wretched separation from His Father. He suffered the injustice of dying for our sins in order that God’s holiness and our imperfection could be reconciled, and we could be shown mercy.

Jesus was the Father’s servant, agreeing to an atonement plan that made Him a sacrifice. And He is your servant as well—He humbly endured the punishment you deserved. To receive the benefit of His sacrifice, you need only believe and call on Him for the forgiveness of your sins. When you receive Him into your life, then you too will know the Servant, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord.

Add Reply

Likes (1)
Keith

×
×
×
×
×