Oswald Golter, was a missionary in China back in the 1940s as the government was beginning to crack down on foreign missionaries. He was put under house arrest until his mission board sent him money to come home. When he docked at a port in India to await passage to the States, he found a boatload of refugees housed in a warehouse on the pier. The refugees weren’t wanted in many ports, so they were stranded there. It was Christmastime, and the missionary’s mind was filled with thoughts of a refugee-like couple that was stranded in Bethlehem. So he went to the warehouse to visit them.
Merry Christmas! he said as he greeted them. What do you want for Christmas? “We’re not Christians,” they said. “We don’t believe in Christmas.” ?I know, said the missionary, but what do you want for Christmas? They finally mentioned some wonderful German pastries they were fond of, and Golter scoured the city until he found a bakery that made those treats. He cashed in his ticket home, bought baskets and baskets of the pastries, took them to the refugees, and wished them a merry Christmas.
When he later told the story to a group of theological students, one of them became very angry and visibly upset. After he finished, the young man came to Golter and said, “Why did you do that for them? They weren’t Christians. They don’t even believe in Jesus.” ? I know, he replied, but I do!
What breaks your heart? What brings tears to your eyes? What stirs you with anger?
If we don’t understand what moved Jesus to tears and sorrow and anger – we’ll never understand what drove Jesus to the cross.
We need to be really clear about this. There’s a debate that has surfaced over the years – who crucified Jesus? The Jews or the Romans? It was the Roman soldiers who drove the nails, it was the Jews who masterminded the plot, but nobody put Jesus on the cross. Listen to Jesus’ response to Pilate’s threat – Pilate said, “Don't you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above….” In John 10 he said, “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.”
Jesus was not a victim. He chose the nails. He went to the cross. He laid his life down for us, so that we might have eternal life.
Why? Why would you choose something like that? Why would anyone knowingly put themselves in harm’s way for anybody else? And get this – it wasn’t for people who loved him and were committed to him – it was for people who had abandoned him and betrayed him, for people who had listened and shrugged their shoulders, for people who had driven the nails and people who had shouted “crucify him!” – the bottom line – it was for people who were his enemies – enemies of God – Rom 5:6-8,10 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
· Jesus didn’t isolate himself from people – he wasn’t immune to their struggles and their suffering. In fact, he immersed himself in the lives of people. He knew what they were feeling. He knew what made them hurt. He knew that they were lost and scared and struggling.
· And if you want to know what made Jesus tick, you have to understand that.
· He was moved with compassion when he saw the way sin had wreaked havoc in the lives of people.
· He got angry when he saw Satan building walls between people and God.
· He wept when he saw the lostness of people.
Turn with me to Luke 19:37-42 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
In Matthew it’s the next day when Jesus speaks out boldly and harshly against the hypocrisy and legalism of the Pharisees, and then concludes with tears in his eyes, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
Jesus isn’t about fixing a broken religion, he isn’t about reforming religious bureaucracy, he isn’t about debating doctrine. He is about bringing lost people to God. It is his heart, his passion, his burden.
People were wandering around in spiritual darkness, lost from a God who desperately wanted them back, and the religious leaders were more concerned with making sure you washed your hands before a meal, with whether you had violated a Sabbath law when you carried your sleeping child home from the synagogue.
· They sat and debated the nuances of the law without ever considering the giver of the law.
· They went around condemning people without ever giving thought to the people they condemned.
· They lived their lives insulated and isolated from the very people whom they had been entrusted to shepherd.
When Jesus told parables about lost sheep and lost coins and lost sons, they were wasted on the Pharisees, for whom God was a rule giver and a punisher of rule breakers. There was no place in their theology for a God who went out looking for lost people to bring them home.
It really challenges me to consider whether I’m much different. I mean, I love the parable of the father who welcomes home his prodigal son, and the shepherd who goes looking for his lost sheep. But do I ever really consider that that means there are lost sheep and lost sons who still need to be brought home?
Do I have a heart, a passion, a burden for the lost?
Here’s the problem: When I say the word “lost” our minds immediately go to a nameless, faceless mass of people somewhere far away who are inaccessible. I could never make a dent in that kind of mass lostness.
· They are Hindus or Moslems. They live in Africa or China. They speak another language or they have a different culture. I wouldn’t know where to begin.
· And besides, when I start applying the word “lost” it really flies in the face of our modern mindset of non-judgmentalism. When I say someone is lost, I have made a judgment about their condition that implies I have something they don’t have.
Who is lost? Well yes, there are millions of people out there, somewhere who are separate from God, and yes, we are responsible for going into all the world. But let’s start our thinking in a little smaller scale. Do you remember Jesus’ commission in Acts 1:8 –“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
· Their mission would eventually take them into every corner of the known world, but it started at home – in Jerusalem.
Who are the lost? They are your neighbors and your co-workers. They are the people you go to school with, and the people you see at the gym where you work out. They are people whose names you know, and whose kids come knocking on your door to see if your kids can come out and play. They are people whose marriages struggle and whose finances get tight. They are people who think of God as a childhood nemesis who filled them with guilt, and required them to be good, but they’ve gotten over that. They are people who live lives too busy to think about God or worry about things like salvation.
Who is lost? Take it out of the religious realm for a moment. If your child wanders away from your campsite and the sun is beginning to set, your concern isn’t whether to cook supper over a Coleman stove or a campfire. Your concern is for your lost child, and you forget everything else until that child is back in your arms. A boat overturns on the lake and you rush to the shore and find people in the water who are thrashing about in panic. You don’t try to teach them to swim; you pull them out of the water.
· Lostness means that a person is in danger in their present situation, and if not rescued will lose their life. Spiritual lostness means that a person is in danger in their present situation and if not rescued they will be eternally lost in hell.
· It isn’t a technical religious term describing someone who hasn’t turned in all the proper forms or participated in the right formal initiation ceremonies. A person who is lost isn’t just a person who thinks incorrectly. A person who is lost is someone who is separate from God because of their sin, and has not surrendered their life to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
· We want to make lostness a debate over whether you have the right name on the building or what version of the Bible you read. Those are hand-washing issues. The world listens to us bicker over those kinds of things and thinks “IRRELEVANT!”
· Do we need to have correct doctrine? Absolutely. But our first and greatest job is to pull people who are drowning into the boat of God’s love and bring them home to him.
· As long as we see lostness as an impersonal problem of someone else somewhere else, we will never have a burden for the lost.
· As long as we see lostness as a matter of differing views on biblical interpretation, we will never have a burden for the lost.
· As long as lostness is a theological problem with no urgency and no immediate consequences, we will never have a burden for the lost.
But you see, for Jesus, lostness was immediate and urgent. It was practical and relevant. It affected the people into whose eyes he looked and whose suffering he had compassion for.
God doesn’t send us into all the world to get religion correct, he sends us into all the world to seek and save the lost. If we don’t share Jesus’ burden for the lost, we will never understand his heart. If we aren’t driven to our knees asking God to give us opportunities to share the good news to the lost people around us, we aren’t about the most important thing. And if we aren’t about the most important thing, we will fill our lives with lesser things.
It’s easy to let God be a God of times past. It’s easy to talk about Jesus as if he were an important figure in a history lesson. If we talk about God in the past tense; if we treat Jesus as though he were a founder of a world religion – we keep them at arm’s length; we need invest no personal commitment.
· I can talk about George Washington without getting emotionally involved. I can discuss Albert Einstein without feeling obligated to share his theory of relativity.
· But Jesus? That’s something different.
o Because Jesus isn’t just an historical figure – he is living and active in my life today.
o Because Jesus demands a response from every man and woman, upon which all of eternity hinges, I can’t just act as if he’s a personal opinion that’s best kept to myself.
Two weeks ago we talked about four men who couldn’t keep it to themselves:
· The healed, demon-possessed man who told everybody he could find about what Jesus had done for him.
· Peter and John who couldn’t be threatened or beaten into silence about the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
· Jeremiah, who, in spite of ridicule and abuse could not keep quiet about what God was going to do – it was a fire in his bones.
It wasn’t just a few people here and there who were consumed with telling people about God. It began to take on exponential proportions.
· As the news of Jesus spreads, it’s not just additions to his followers, but multiplication.
· When we get to the book of Acts we start to see the power of the gospel explode as thousands upon thousands became believers in those early days in Jerusalem.
· But then when the persecution of the church begins in Acts 8 and disciples are scattered from Jerusalem into every city and nation across the Middle East, Asia Minor and Europe – it’s like setting fire to dry kindling as the gospel is spread further and faster than ever before.
I find myself drawn to the story in Luke 10, where Jesus sends out the 72, in groups of two, to all of the towns in Judea preparing them for Jesus’ coming.
· He sends them out without any special equipment or training; he sends them into towns and into homes with the job of telling people about Jesus.
· Their challenge is the same one he gave his disciples at the well in Samaria: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
· We often think we’re starting from ground zero – that all the work is up to us. But the truth is, God has planted the seed, God has watered and fertilized the seed. It has grown and bloomed and produced fruit. Our job is to go bring the harvest in from the field. God is at work in the lives of people before we ever get there. God’s Holy Spirit is touching hearts and preparing ears to hear the good news.
· He tells the 72, “Where you are accepted you stay and talk about God; where they tell you to get lost, you move on.” Let God worry about the results – he is the Lord of the harvest.
· Jesus still sends us out today.
· His challenge is still the same – “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few…”
One of the reasons Jesus sent his disciples out two by two was for encouragement, for focus, for accountability. It’s one thing for me to tell you “go stand out on the street corner with a megaphone and start preaching about Jesus.” There may be places that is effective – I doubt on the corner of 8th and Grand is one of them. But if I said, invite your friend over for dinner and a video about faith, that’s something different – it’s less intimidating, less confrontational… less of everything we’ve come to associate with evangelism.
It’s something they will enjoy, something they will appreciate – maybe even something they will respond to positively.
And it won’t be you alone. Your Life Group will be a part of it – a group of people who love you and love the Lord and are going to do everything they can to make your friend feel welcome.
Do two things: think of one person in your life who is lost; start praying every day for God to give you an opportunity to bring them to him.
You may look around you and think, none of my friends or neighbors would be interested in going to a Bible study, none of them believe in Christ – but the important thing is, you do. And your influence in their lives won’t be because you argue them into Christ, but because you love them into Christ.
Posted on Sun, September 5, 2010
by John Roberts