Sermon February 4, 2018 – The Pillar of Compassion of the Church

In Luke 10, we read the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. This well-known parable has become a part of our culture, even past presidents have referred to it in speeches. The parable was told by Jesus in response to a challenge, a question posed by an expert in the Mosaic Law. His question was interesting, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He was obviously trying to trick Jesus, because he knew exactly the requirements of the law. Jesus answers the question with a question, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Luke 10:26). Jesus immediately directs the man to an authority that they both can accept, the Law of Moses.

The scribe answers Jesus’ question by quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

This is the correct answer, but the learned man is not satisfied, he knows that that he is not perfectly loving towards his fellow man, so he is looking for a lower standard. He tries to limit the law’s command by limiting its parameters and asked the question “who is my neighbor?” One of the meanings of the word “neighbor” in the Greek could be translated as someone of the same race or tribe. But this makes the goal attainable, so Jesus tells this parable of the Good Samaritan to correct the false understanding that the scribe had of who his neighbor was.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan tells the story of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho, Jesus doesn’t mention anything about the man, we don’t know his nationality or race, and while on the way he is robbed of everything he had, including his clothing, and is beaten to within an inch of his life. Both a priest and a Levite pass by the man and refuse to offer assistance to him. The next person to come by is the Samaritan, the one least likely to have shown compassion for the man, due to the racial prejudice between the Jews and the Samaritans.

We do not know if the injured man was a Jew or Gentile, but it made no difference to the Samaritan; he did not consider the man’s race or religion, he only saw a person in need of assistance, and he assists him by going above and beyond what would have been expected.

He pays for the man’s care and essentially gave the innkeeper a blank check. He seemed to be very trusting, but I don’t think the lesson is trust, I think the lesson is abundance, he was not concerned because he knew that his supply was from God, and that God never will run out of money. So even if the innkeeper took advantage of him, it would be okay, because it wasn’t his money anyway, it was God’s money and He will pay the bill (see Proverbs 19:17). God’s kingdom is not a kingdom of lack or a miserly mindset, God’s kingdom is a kingdom of excessive abundance, of extravagant generosity, of joyful giving, because that is what our Heavenly father gives to us (see Luke 6:38). Let us be extravagant in our generosity because we serve an extravagant God.

The Samaritan saw his neighbor as anyone who was in need, and we are to follow the Samaritan’s example in our own conduct by showing compassion and love for those we encounter in our everyday activities regardless of their race or religion; the criterion is need.

However, there is no person on earth who can meet this standard, our desires are mostly selfish. When left to our own, we do the wrong thing, we see the person in need and justify why we don’t need to help them. What about the drug addict, the homeless person or what about the Muslim refugee? One could go on listing examples of modern-day needy people who make us look far worse than priest or the Levite.

Even if we do right by the Lord, and those in need,  we must realize that no amount of good works will ever meet the standard set by Jesus. We will never be able to do enough good things to inherit eternal life. The question of the legal expert, is the question of the ages, “what must I do….to inherit eternal life?”

We don’t need a list of tasks, we need a savior. To inherit eternal life, we must put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, the risen Lord and allow the Holy Spirit’s transforming power to enable us to love our neighbor. We cannot love our neighbor without the Holy Spirit in us, leading us and giving us the love of God for those around us. If you find it difficult to love that person who annoys you at work, who offends you or who hurt you, you don’t need patience or more strength; you need Jesus Christ in you, transforming you by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Compassion is a pillar of the church but does not stand alone, there needs to be a strong connection between compassion and mission, between compassion and worship and between compassion and the Word. James chapter 2 explains to us that faith without works is dead; rather we show our faith in God through our works of good deeds.

The compassion of the church must always bring glory to the name above all names. Acts of social justice done for the Glory of God are in themselves acts of worship. However, compassion without the foundation of the Word of God lacks true empathy because it lacks true power to change lives. Only the word of God coupled with the revelation of the Holy Spirit has the power to change lives.

Compassion is essential in the church, not because it is what good people do to help one another, compassion is essential because it is the way the church points people to Jesus. As Jared Wilson wrote in his book, “the story telling God”, “Economic justice is temporal justice…the Gospel’s justice is eternal.”

Just like the work of the church is not done until the Great Commission is completed, so too the opportunities for the church to be a compassionate example of Christ will not go away until Jesus comes again. Let us be a church that proclaims the Gospel loud and clear, intentionally helping those in need with an eternal perspective.

What Child is This? part 3 – December 17, 2017

So much of our Christmas season focuses on the birth of Jesus, but we cannot look at the birth of Jesus without looking at the reason why Jesus came to live amongst us.

Luke’s Gospel tells the narrative of how Jesus would be conceived and named. In Luke 1:26-35 we read how Mary had an encounter with the angel Gabriel, and he told her that the baby would be called Jesus. Jesus means God Saves, this must have been another indicator to Mary of who Jesus really was.

Every child carries some of the attributes and characteristics of their mother and their father. The angel told Mary that Jesus would be conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus would have some of the attributes of Mary and some of the attributes of God himself. And we know from Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is fully God and fully man.

Jesus said to his disciples in John 14 verse 9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

So, this child, conceived miraculously by the power of the Holy Spirit, is the exact representation of God the Father and he is fully God, but by being born of Mary, he also has some of the nature of Mary. This is by God’s infinite design so that by being a man, Jesus would one day be able to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sins.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this in Philippians 2:6-8.

We know that Jesus reflected the nature and character of God the Father, but how much of the character of Mary did Jesus possess as he walked the earth?

Looking at the way in which Jesus dealt with people we can see some of what Mary must have been like. Jesus was compassionate and kind, especially with children Jesus displayed patience and tenderness.

Jesus sought out the people on the fringes of society, calling them, showing them compassion and embracing them.

When the angel encountered Mary, he told her in verse 30, that she had found favor with God. God saw in Mary something special, she found favor with God possibly because she displayed the characteristics of gentleness, compassion, patience and tenderness. Perhaps it is possible that God saw in Mary the character traits, that He placed in her in the first place, but the character traits that would be necessary for Jesus to be who he was.

This child that lay asleep on her lap would one day grow up to have the character traits of care and compassion that his mother had.

There are several times in the Bible where the nature of God is described using motherly language and imagery (See Isaiah 66:13, Deuteronomy 32:11-12a, Psalm 22:9-10, Hosea 13:8a, Luke 13:34).

We see these images of God in the Bible as partial descriptions of the nature and character of God. Jesus is the exact representation of God; therefore, he must have these attributes himself. The same attributes that Mary displayed.

In addition to these characteristics, Mary and Jesus both displayed strong character in their lives. They both displayed great faith and trust in God. They were both willing and committed to the mission that God the Father had called them too. When Mary received the instructions from the Angel, her response was in Luke 1:38, “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

When the time came for Jesus to face the completion of his mission, just before he was arrested and crucified, he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, humbly submitting to the perfect plan and will of the Father (Luke 22:41-42).

Both Jesus and Mary lived lives of extraordinary consequence, but both suffered deep pain. We only have a glimpse from the account of the crucifixion of how much pain and suffering Jesus went through as he paid the price for our salvation, but Mary also suffered. When Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple they met Simeon who praised God for allowing him to see the Messiah before his death, and went on to prophecy over Mary foretelling of the pain that she would one day endure (Luke 2:34-35).

Even in the Christmas carol, focusing on the birth of Jesus, we read of the purpose of why Jesus came to earth and gave up his glory in heaven. Mary was present at the crucifixion, standing by the cross, and enduring the agony of seeing her son die in the most excruciating way. Mary never left the side of Jesus, she was committed to being there for her son. This is also a promise of Jesus and one of the primary characteristics of the nature of God, he is a faithful God who promises to never leave us.

No matter how dark the season is that you are going through, no matter how lonely you feel at this Christmas season God is always near and his Word promises that He will be with you.

Jesus promised his disciples when he left them his Great Commission (Matthew 28:20b).

One of the most powerful scenes of compassion took place as Jesus hung suffering on the cross. Mary was there, and she wanted to help alleviate the pain, but Jesus looked at her and cared for her as he instructed the Apostle John to care for his mother (see John 19:26-17). What an incredible picture of love and compassion, in his pain he made sure that Mary was going to be taken care of.

“What child is this?” He is the one who came to love and to be the selfless sacrifice for all those who would believe in his name. But praise God, it didn’t end there. Jesus rose from the dead in a new resurrected body, Jesus became the first born of the new creation, and by his re-birth we can be born again.

Mary came to understand that this miraculous baby became the greater miracle, the way of salvation for millions of people who would put their faith and trust in him.

This Jesus is still the same today, full of compassion and love, ready to meet your needs.

If you are facing a huge trial and difficulty, Jesus knows what you are going through and he can meet your need.

If you are lonely and struggling with depression, Jesus knows your pain and is full of compassion.

Jesus came to earth as a little baby, to be fully man, so that he could identify with you and me (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

The 4 Pillars of the Church – Part III February 26, 2017

The church by nature must be compassionate; caring for the poor, the emotionally hurt, the abused, the destitute and the unborn. In our efforts to show compassion we can easily become overwhelmed. After all, how can we possibly make a dent amongst all the pain and the suffering we see around us every day? As we begin to attempt to show compassion, we can sometimes lose focus of our purpose as the church. Our commission is to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28).

Throughout the Bible, we see God described as a compassionate Father (Psalm 103:13). The ministry of Jesus always demonstrated compassion, through his teaching, miracles of healing and the ultimate display of compassion was when he allowed himself to be crucified to atone for our sins.

Whenever we see compassion demonstrated in the Bible, it is shown as an emotion that is followed up by action. As compassionate people, we are stirred by emotion at the sight of pain or injustice and thus we are moved to action (Colossians 3:12).

The Gospel of Matthew gives us a clear picture of the compassion of Jesus. In chapter 8, the Apostle lists for us a series of miracles, then in chapter 9 we read the account of Jesus healing the paralyzed man (Matthew 9:1-8).

Jesus had been healing many people, but this time he did something different, he said “your sins are forgiven”.

The religious leaders were offended because Jesus was claiming to do something that only God can do, and that was blasphemy. Jesus confronts them and proceeds to heal the man after challenging the teachers.

To the bystander, it seems easier to walk up to a sick person and say “your sins are forgiven”, because no proof is required, there is no way of knowing. But when Jesus heals the man, the demonstration of his power gives credibility and proof to the fact that he can forgive sins.

Jesus saw the greater need of the man, and still the greater need of all humanity, the problem of sin. The greatest need of every human being, whether they are sick or healthy, rich or poor; is the need for forgiveness of sins. By Jesus forgiving this man’s sins, he is showing real compassion, meeting the man’s real need, not only his temporal need.

As Jesus goes through the towns, teaching, and performing miracles, we read further in verse 36 that Jesus is moved by compassion. He turns to his disciples and makes the statement that is frequently quotes in missionary circles; “the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Jesus, moved by compassion as he sees the multitudes of people who are destined for an eternity in hell, tells his disciples to pray that God would multiply the work force.

The prayer to pray for workers must be fueled by a heart of compassion.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there with his disciples, in the very next verse in chapter 10, Jesus calls his disciples, he empowers them and he sends them out. As Jesus sends them out, notice that their title changes from disciple to apostle. An apostle means someone who is sent out as an official representative.

This is an important transition that takes place; Jesus encourages his followers to pray for workers, and then he sends them out in response to that prayer. And as we pray that prayer, we need to realize that we are part of the solution.

A prayer of compassion does not excuse us from acts of compassion.

 That is true compassion, the same compassion that Jesus has for us when he stepped down from his throne in glory and became as one of us to save us.

There are two extremes of compassion in modern day Christianity:

The one is what has become known as the social gospel, where so much focus is on meeting felt needs that the presentation of the Gospel is neglected. The danger in this is that we are helping people for a short term, but neglecting their eternal condition. Sometimes the motivation behind this compassion is the desire to earn our salvation, desperately trying to do enough good things to justify our salvation. Or maybe we serve out of guilt for our past sins, and in some way, we are trying to make things right.

However, the Bible is clear; we are all desperate sinners and no amount of good works will ever earn us salvation, we are saved only by the grace of God through the cross of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Charles Spurgeon once said; “the child of God works not for life, but from life; he does not work to be saved, but because he is.”

The other extreme is the church that is so inwardly focused on their own fellowship that they ignore the needs and the desperate situations of their community. There are many possible reasons for this; one possible reason is simply that the church is overwhelmed by the needs around them and simply chose to look the other way.

Another possibility is a church that has served the community for years and helped so much out of their own strength, that they have become fatigued and burnt out in serving and trying to meet all the needs.

Neither of these two extremes are healthy, nor do they bring Glory to God. As we endeavor to be compassionate and missional, we must pray that we would have discernment in knowing what needs God would have us meet as a church. The answer to that dilemma is found by asking the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and direction.

Compassion under the Guidance of the Holy Spirit provides Temporal Relief but yields Eternal Results.

Our own strength and resources can at best provide some temporary relief to someone in need, but our resources coupled with the power of the name of Jesus, will lead to life transformation and eternal salvation. Every human being on the planet has a desperate need, a need that can only be met by Jesus Christ.

Compassion – Caring for Someones eternal destiny – July 31, 2016

Compassion pt 1 Title.2

Isaiah 58:6-12

Compassion is what we are called to as a church. It is a mark of the Body of Christ, to be outward focused looking to help those in need. But why do we act in compassion? You may say that it’s the right thing to do, but the reality is that by doing kind things and acting compassionately, does not earn salvation. We know that the Bible says in Isaiah 64 that our righteous acts are like filthy rags. You cannot secure eternal life by doing good things for people, so why do we care? Why do we show compassion to the poor and the hurting?

The Bible has a lot to say to us about compassion. The Children of Israel were instructed in the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 15 to be openhanded in caring for the poor and the needy. Jesus in his time here on earth was moved with compassion and healed many people.

One of the most outstanding portions of Scripture relating to compassion, is found in Isaiah 58.

The bible is full of conditional statements, if-then statements. If we are obedient to God, then there is a promise from Him. If you include the first line of verse 6, we have 3 “IF” statements and 3 “THEN” statements.

God’s people are chosen to “loose the chains of injustice,” and to, “Untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free” The children of Israel knew slavery, they would have remembered that they were once slaves at the hands of the Egyptians. Now they were living in the promised land and they had taken the people of the land and turned them into their slaves. Today slavery is all around us, moral injustice, oppression, sex-trafficking, and the ultimate injustice, the killing of the unborn.

Not only are we to speak up and act against injustice, but as verse 7 continues, we are to be generous in our compassion. “Share your food”, Provide shelter, Clothe the naked.”

Compassion involves giving; giving of our time and money and energy.

In verse 8 we see the first “Then” statement, a beautiful word picture of the ending of the night, a new day, new blessings. The second line of verse 8 says; “your healing will quickly appear.” Some people ask why we don’t we see healing today. The truth is that healing takes place all over the world, as God’s people pray. Sometimes we don’t see healing because we are too inward focused. God looks to see the motives of our heart, as we give of ourselves to others we will see healing taking place.

The next line reads; “your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard”. Again this is a beautiful word picture that the children of Israel would have understood as being a reference to the pillar of cloud and fire that moved to the back of Israel to protect them against the attacking Egyptians in the Exodus. What a promise! If you are doing what God has called you to, he will protect you and be your rear guard.

Moving to verse 9, we see the second “Then” promise; “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.”

God looks at the heart, if we pray with the right motives God moves on our behalf. (see James 4:3)

Looking further we have two “if” statements – the first is inward focused; “do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
” Gossip and pointing fingers are malicious and are rooted in pride. (See Matthew 7).

The second IF statement reads; “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” Instead of focusing on my little world, what about spending myself for the hungry and the oppressed.

Then what follows are the wonderful blessings in verses 10-12.

As a church that is going through a revitalization, we are seeing God answer our prayers and I believe if we keep our focus on the world around us and not on our own desires, these promises are for us.

In fact, these 6 verses are the prescription for church revitalization.

If we do what God calls us to do, he will ensure that we will stay strong. One of the promises I always cling to is at the end of verse 11; “You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” If we as a church continue to seek the Lord and do what he has called us to do, he will always provide for our needs.

 As we look at compassion it is easy to care for someone when we can see they are oppressed and maybe in bondage because they were victims of abuse. But what about the unlovely? What about the drug addict who keeps making the same mistake? Do we pick and choose who to help? We need to learn how to act in obedience to God, daily ask God to give us wisdom and discernment to be doing His will on the earth.

The ultimate purpose of compassion is leading people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Point them to Jesus using words, otherwise we are simply alleviating a temporary need. True compassion is caring for someone’s eternal destination. Do you see the poor and the needy as someone Jesus died for?

The Gospel message is the ultimate display of compassion, John 3:16, For God so loved…..that He gave” Jesus gave up his position of glory in heaven so that you and I might have eternal life. Jesus set aside his glory in heaven, but sometimes we find it difficult to set aside the remote control to help someone he died for.

How will we respond today? Let us be a people of compassion, in order to see the lost saved, the church revived and our lives blessed.