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Humility is what gives us the vision to look upon our world with fresh eyes. Humility enables us to respect others enough to put down our spurious images of ourselves and open our arms, as individuals and as a nation.
As we follow Christ, we will practice humility my friend.
The good news of God is powerful and life changing. As it is lived out through the lives of those who follow Christ, others are called to repent and believe realizing that the Kingdom of God is present and that Jesus is reigning in His followers.
Saul’s life has forever been changed:
For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
(Act 9:19-22 ESV)
The immediate changes in Saul’s life have been startling. Jesus does a work in him that is powerful and obvious to those who have known Saul. Instead of fulfilling his plans of arresting the radical Christ followers in Damascus, he becomes one. It’s amazing grace in action.
As I read about Saul’s dramatic conversion in Acts 9:1-22, I see a vivid picture of salvation that has repeated itself throughout history and continues into our day. The picture is painted in this fashion:
By grace, we are picked by Jesus to deny self and follow Him. We don’t go looking for Jesus. He comes looking for us.
As we follow Jesus, He changes our thinking resulting in a change in our behavior. Once we were self led and now we are Christ led. We no longer see people the same. We no longer treat people the same. We see each person as one Christ died for and we treat others as we want to be treated, loving all people as Christ does.
We become living testimonies of the power of the Gospel. Those that know what we once were begin to see the changes that Christ makes in us. We begin to point others to Jesus through our words and our actions.
Later on, Paul would pen these words:
But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?" So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:8-17 ESV)
The Christ follower can not conceal the change that Jesus brings to their life. They are living testimonies of the power of the Gospel.
The bread that you possess belongs to the hungry. The clothes that you store in boxes, belong to the naked. The shoes rotting by you, belong to the bare-foot. The money that you hide belongs to anyone in need.
Grace begins and ends prayer. Grace is what we call what is left over after the scouring of the self, the dying into self. Grace is what was there before we ever looked at ourselves in prayer. Grace gives us our initial impulse to pray.
I am finding, day by day, that following Christ is an exciting journey. It’s not always easy and requires much self sacrifice, but it is so rewarding. Not rewarding in the sense of gaining material possessions or notoriety, but rewarding in seeing Jesus take a life that is hopeless, desperate and needy and fill if full of hope and love along with His grace and peace as they are ministered to at the point of need. There’s nothing like it.
I didn’t find joy and satisfaction in the corporate world. I didn’t find joy and satisfaction in the intuitional church world. I was a participant in both those worlds for years and found no joy or satisfaction in life. I find much joy and satisfaction in following Jesus.
Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! His offspring will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid, until he looks in triumph on his adversaries. He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever; his horn is exalted in honor. The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish!
(Psa 112:1-10 ESV)
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He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world's believing him. -- Thomas Jefferson
I’ve seen so much suffering and so much lack of compassion in our day, but I stay full of hope.
Half of this world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day.
Many go hungry daily.
Many die daily of preventable and treatable disease.
Some say that government is the solution.
Some say that the institutional church is the solution.
What does Jesus say?
What does Jesus expect?
When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said, "They need not go away; you give them something to eat." (Mat 14:14-16 ESV)
Jesus teaches His followers that they are the solution.
They are to use what He gives them in time, talent and treasure, however little it may seem, to take care of needy people.
This is the life of the Christ follower.
What would happen in our world if the 2+ billion Christians became Christ followers?
This, I believe, is the solution and I choose to receive my hope from Jesus, the Blessed Hope.
I wonder if we at times base our understanding of God’s willingness to help us on man’s willingness to help us. Let me give you some examples of what I mean. There is the job interview. The interviewer is able to hire, but is the interviewer willing to hire you? There is the loan process. The loan officer is able to give a loan, but is the loan officer willing to give the loan to you? There is that house that you want. The seller is able to agree to your offer, but is the seller willing to agree to your offer? There is your education. Your teacher is able to take your late assignment because your dog ate your homework, but is your teacher willing to take your late assignment? The police officer that pulls you over for going just a little over the speed limit is able to let you go with just a warning, but is the police officer willing to let you go with just a warning? People are able, but are they willing?
You may be thinking, “I don’t get it. What’s your point and how is it relevant to me?” My point is this: we can not base our understanding of God’s willingness to help us on people’s willingness to help us. We must base our understanding of God on the Bible. The Bible is our authoritative guide to all of our beliefs and our actions.
At the end of Mark Chapter one, we meet a man that has a need. A job is not his primary need. Neither is a loan, a house or an education. This man needs health care. "A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, If you are willing, you can make me clean." (Mark 1:40 NIV)
Leprosy is a terrible disease. In Jesus’ day, leprosy is incurable. Lepers were separated from society and considered to be outcasts. With the disease, skin decays off of the bones. Once a person was diagnosed with this disease, they were separated from their family and could no longer touch or be touched. Can you imagine living the rest of your life and not being able to touch and be touched? - A child no longer feeling the touch of a parent and a parent no longer feeling the touch of a child, a husband no longer feeling the touch of his wife and a wife no longer feeling the touch of her husband. The disease itself brought much physical suffering and disability, but the mental and emotional suffering due to being an untouchable was just as continually tormenting.
To make matters worse, the leper was required by law to walk through the crowded walkways of the city declaring at the top of their voice “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN, LEPER, UNCLEAN.” Upon hearing this, the crowd would part and allow the leper to come through making sure that no one touched the outcast. That pretty much describes this man’s world that we read about in Mark chapter one; untouchable and a social outcast.
This man brought his need to Jesus.
In the midst of his physical suffering and mental anguish; in the midst of emotional devastation, this man did the right thing. He came to Jesus with his need. In the first part of Mark chapter one, we see Jesus healing people and setting captives free from the bondages of sin and evil. The whole city of Capernaum in the providence of Galilee is impacted. Can you imagine the crowds that are now following Jesus? This man with leprosy, void of any self esteem or respect from others presses through the crowd to bring his need to Jesus. His steps to Jesus were humiliating as he shouted “UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN, LEPER, UNCLEAN.” As the people moved out of the way to let him by, he could undoubtedly feel the stares and hear the whispers. But he pressed onward knowing that he had to get to Jesus with his need.
Beloved, we have to press through whatever life deals us and get to Jesus just like this man did. What are you going through right now in your life? What are your needs? What are you struggling with? Do you need a miracle? I encourage you to press through until you get to Jesus. He is able to help you.
Expectations shaped by human treatment.
I imagine that this man turned to many people that were able to help him in some way or fashion, but they were not willing to help him. Listen to his words to Jesus as he says "If you are willing, you can make me clean." (Mark 1:40 NIV) I believe this man went to many people that could help him, but were not willing to help him. His expectations were shaped by others actions and reactions to him. You can hear in his words that he had great faith in Jesus’ ability to help him, but he was not sure if Jesus was willing. This man with leprosy knew that Jesus could help him, but he was managing his expectations based on how others had treated him.
As I meditated on the words of this man with leprosy, God began to show me that our expectations in our day have been shaped by human treatment. We live in a world where others have the ability to meet needs of people, yet they are not willing. In our day, there seems to be more concern over oil in the Middle East than genocide in Sudan. It spills over to our understanding of God and it diminishes our level of faith. We approach God, not doubting His ability, but doubting His willingness to meet our need. That’s why we pray prayers like “God, if it is your will, please heal my body…..” We are not questioning God’s ability to heal, we are questioning His willingness to heal. Our expectations have been shaped by human treatment.
Jesus reveals His heart to us in the way He responds to this man.
Jesus responds to this man’s request, which was conditioned by his experiences of denial for help. "Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.”I am willing," he said. "Be clean!"" (Mark 1:41 NIV) Notice that Jesus does not condemn this man for lack of faith in Jesus’ willingness. No, instead Jesus reaches out and touches the man. This is very significant. Jesus touched the one that was untouchable showing physical evidence that He was willing to help this man. Can you imagine? Who knows how long it had been since this man had felt someone’s touch and here the Son of God reaches out and touches him.
Not only does Jesus physically touch the man, but He verbally tells him that He is willing to meet his need. With a spoken command of “Be Clean!” Jesus demonstrates not only His ability to meet needs, but also His willingness to meet needs. The result of the man coming to Jesus and Jesus touching the man was supernatural. "Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured." (Mark 1:42 NIV)
Beloved, this has great relevance to us in our day. As we press through whatever we are going through and we take our needs to Jesus, He has compassion on us and works miracles in our life. Please know that according to the Word of God, Jesus has not changed. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8 NIV) Not only is Jesus able to meet your every need, He is also willing. Continually bring your needs to Jesus Christ. Jesus will have compassion on you. Jesus will reach out and touch you. Jesus will defy the natural and will work the supernatural in you. In these days that we live, refuse to let human treatment shape your expectations in what God can do. Expect a miracle each time you come in contact with Jesus!
As Christ followers, we are to minister at the point of need as Jesus did. I call it, "getting our hands dirty." As Jesus leads us to where the need is and has given us the resources of time, talent and treasure to meet the need, we are to be willing. The recipient of point of need ministry will see Jesus in us and experience His love and willingness to help through us. His point of need ministry will continue.
Christ followers learn that remaining still, allowing God to do a deep work within them by the indwelling Holy Spirit, prepares them for point of need ministry. They learn the voice of Jesus and listen, knowing that God is also preparing someone on the other end to receive the point of need ministry that they will bring as they follow Christ. Jesus will show them the need. They will be quick to minister as unto Him.
The highest attainment in life is to remain still, allowing God to act and speak in you preparing you to continue the point of need ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus works in each of His followers in different ways that produces the same result. The result is always obedience that leads to point of need ministry.
In Acts 9:10-19 of God’s word we see Jesus working in Saul and Ananias, molding and shaping them to obey Him and continue His point of need ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only Jesus can do this work and it only happens in those who submit to His leadership.
Saul was picked by Jesus in Acts 9:1-9. He humbled himself and submitted to Jesus’ leadership. He once was self led and now he is Christ led. Jesus instructed him to go to Damascus and wait there for further instruction. Saul obeyed.
It was in the waiting that Christ did a deeper work in Saul, preparing him to enter into his destiny as a Christ follower. While waiting, Saul fasted and prayed. This went against Saul’s nature of being self led and self sufficient. He was use to going and blowing; doing his own thing in his own time. He rested, worked and played on his own schedule. This had to change in order for Christ to fully utilize him. Saul waited. Saul prayed. Saul fasted. Saul obeyed. He didn’t know why, but he obeyed.
Ananias was a Christ follower in Damascus. Jesus came to him in a vision and gave him detailed instructions. He tells him specifically what street and what house to go to in order lay hands on Saul so that Saul would receive his sight back. Jesus was telling Ananias to go help the man who came to town to throw you in prison and would like to murder you. Wow, what an instruction and what a step of obedience by a Christ follower.
Ananias obedience led to point of need ministry. When he arrives, he specifically addresses Saul as “brother”. What an example of the love and forgiveness that are fruit of a Christ follower’s life. Saul received his sight after Ananias laid his hands on him. Saul followed Christ that day as Ananias baptized him in water. Ananias took care of Saul’s basic needs and prepared food for him to eat so that he could regain his strength. Once again, the obedience of a Christ follower leads to continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Saul learned a lot that day. He learned the value of obedience and he benefited from its result as a Christ follower ministered to him at his point of need that day. Saul didn’t have to go to a church building and attend a service. Saul didn’t have to go to an evangelistic event or a faith healing crusade. Saul did not have to wait in line at the homeless shelter for a cup of hot soup. No, the Christ follower came to him and took care of his needs right where he was at.
This act of unconditional love and forgiveness undoubtedly started to shape Saul for the ministry that was ahead of him. In the rest of the book of Acts we will see Saul, in complete obedience, continue the point of need ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Ananias will not be mentioned again, but rest assured, a Christ follower does not retire until they reach glory. Ananias kept living a life of obedience, continuing the point of need ministry of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
As we follow Christ, He will direct our steps and lead us to where He desires us to continue His point of need ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. We will be pleasantly surprised as we realize that Jesus’ ministry goes far beyond the walls of a church building and the confines of a service. His ministry is where the need is and that is where He will lead us. Will we go? The difference between the called and the chosen is obedience.
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