Only by a Personal Relationship With the God of Israel Can We
Hope to Truly Influence and Persuade the Lost to Become Christians, too
The greatest thirst and yearning of mankind happens to be for love, meaning, belonging and destiny, not raw information, not unmitigated pleasure and certainly not obscene wealth. From an early age or at a time of profound crisis many of us began to seek for God, in ideas, in dogmas, in religious notions that promised imminent escape from a world of sorrow, pain and tragedy. Born into a faith tradition, many of us had varying starting points (a head start in a version of Christianity, if you will). And this was not necessarily a bad thing.
Yet, with study and in time and the accumulation of endless books and knowledge about every imaginable exegetical thing about God, the Ultimate Question, at the end of the proverbial day is: Did Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God transform us?1 Aside from knowledge about him, his era, his contemporaries, his death and burial and resurrection, ascension and even his Parousia, what impact and sway does he, as a living Deity, have in our heart of hearts? What difference does he make in what we do in our private lives even when no one is looking? What do we do differently, now that we say we know Jesus? Does our private life look like what we profess with our lips to believe in our public life?
The impact of the love of God and the fragrance of the grace of Jesus becomes so hot and white and strong and so increasingly prevasive that, even alone, no errant deed or wanton temptations could be satisfied or indulged without the prospect of the greatest horror and shame and revulsion! And if this is the case, this is as it should be (1 John 3:9). The source of this love is the unfathomable love of God itself and this is fed and continually nourished by the Scriptures when they describe the lives of holy men (like Abraham, Samuel and Job) the holy prophets ( like Isaiah, Micah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel and Malachi) and Apostles (like Peter and Paul and John). When we look at their lives; when we contemplate the lessons they learned and the persecutions and trials they underwent, and when we consider their steadfast commitment to God, and their passionate love for God, even in their mistakes, this must make us all the more determined to press on and upward to higher ground. And it is through prayer and a continuity of communion with God (day in and day out) that our lives become a reflection of the image of the Son of God and, at surprizing times, interventions from the holy world of the supernatural will intrude when we least expect it. And these moments of inexplicable occurances are ours to cherish, and unnecessary to understand or explain or prove.
When therefore, the time is right and another life we seek to influence for the Lord is put in our path, we have something more profound than a boatload of data, facts and information. For a heart, in a tender and needy context, or in a dire circumstance needs immediate care. This heart would be merely burdened (and very likely uncomprehending) with the back-pack of yet more facts. No heavy or wounded heart desires a bevy of more information, more busyness and more doctrinaire scruples to learn, master and enforce. It seeks, rather, to feel a genuine and unselfish nurturance, guidance and care of their soul. And we can get down to business sooner rather than later and find out what is really going on with people by simply asking, What is up with you? What are you looking for? What has you down?2 What disappointments haunt you and how would life in the presence of God make the prospect of an endless satisfaction, a worthwhile aim in life?
If we understand Jesus for what he represented himself to be, then we must agree and attest to the world that he (not A.D.70) is the resurrection and he (not the Destruction of Jerusalem) is the life (John 11:25). The Truth is not a date, the fall of a certain city, but Jesus himself! (John 14:6). We must not err, my brothers and my sisters, in matters we esteem we know "oh so well"! We should not slip and fall that we mess up and worship the creation more than the Creator! If we put our trust in Jesus, and him crucified, buried and raised and embody his love, grace, compassion for sheep without a shepherd, then we will be loving and gracious and shepherds of the lost and, through us, the fame of Jesus will burst forth, again and again.
By all means, my friends, let's let truth, not a willful falsehood, redound to his glory (Romans 3:7).
A personal relationship with Jesus is a must because it is a fire and this fire can light a flame that may be dim or barely flickering in another's heart. Refrain from trying to penetrate hearts and minds with ancillary persuits—pedigree, dates, theories of everything and anything—and aim, instead (and as a strict rule) on issues of the heart—sin, forgiveness, peace with God, salvation, hope and eternity.3
This, my dear friends, is where the fruits of preaching and prayer are sure to bear fruit, but not otherwise (Proverbs 11:30). I am saying to everyone of us (including myself) that if we have said anything amiss, or mocked, or belittled or came across with an angry spirit to those who do not share our convictions, we should openly apologize to them and make things right (1 Peter 3:15).
I am also saying that the persuit of knowledge, for its own sake, is but another form of vain glory and will, invariably, create a brood of vain people unable to feel or to be touched by the need to be in the presence of even one another. If our efforts are in error what we "give birth" to will only reflect what we are, not who Jesus is, and the newborns will be an obvious indication to all that it is a spirit very, very different than the Spirit of Christ which imbued the earliest Christians.
The Spirit of Jesus compelled their need to get together to pray and sing and praise the Lord. It is the Spirit that replicated itself wherever they went and it graced their commensal fellowships across Judæa and the Roman Empire and the Ancient Near East. Let this example of Spirit-filled and broken and contrite hearts prevail and spread among us both near and abroad today! May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you as you pray and minister and serve.
1 Galatians 5:24; Corinthians 5:17 cf. Romans 12:1-3 and 1 Peter 2:11.
2 Already this 2020 year, more than 240,000 human beings have taken their own lives in suicide! And today it is as Jesus said of his own time, "The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37). We Christians should be prayed up and continually alert for opportunities to share the Gospel of the grace and love of Jesus, for that is what God desires of us both in season and out of season.
3 See 1 Peter 4:8-11 where the Holy Apostle speaks of Christians having ". . .above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. And use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominions for ever and ever. Amen." God gave us grace and, if it has truly affected our lives, that change happened in our hearts. And (we must never forget) the problems in the whole world have mainly to do with the heart. Reflect on the following passages and verses: Matthew 5:18-20; Acts 13:6-12; Titus 1:15; Hebrews 4:12; James 3:1-18; 2 Peter 2:14; Revelation 2:23. If our goal is to win souls for Jesus, then we must not be distracted about what the issues of life really are: heart issues, broken fellowship with God, the need for forgiveness and salvation by the blood of Jesus and balanced relationships through discipleship in communities of fellow Christians.
True Love in a Time of Crisis