Biblical Foundations 26: Elevating Others 1
As we continue for the 26th post to look at the foundation of this local church, we will begin to look at elevating others, specifically non-Christians. We have spent much time looking at elevating God (and we will not stop looking at Him!)—knowing Who God is according to the Bible—because loving GOD is the first and greatest commandment, even more important than loving others. But our love from & for Christ Jesus FUELS and GUIDES our love for others…so let’s dig into Papa’s Book now:
40 A man with leprosy
came to him [Jesus]
and begged him on his knees,
“If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Jesus was filled with compassion. [or indignant—angry]
He reached out his hand
and touched the man.
“I am willing,” he said.
42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
Jesus was filled with compassion…
We often have no compassion (we aren’t moved when others are suffering)…
Or we have just drops (we are moved but we quickly get back to life; we aren’t moved enough to actually DO anything; “Oh wow I can’t believe they’re suffering…HEY pass the cheetos!” We are often uncomfortable when facing people who are suffering terribly—we feel awkward and hope that someone changes the subject [or the channel]). We must stop seeking entertainment and must seek to know the suffering of this world and then, as we learn about suffering, we must not change the channel but ask the Holy Spirit to help us BE a channel of His grace & Truth…”Mourn w/those who mourn” (Romans 12:15) is a command of God, not a suggestion. We need to laugh a little less and mourn a little more these days…
But Jesus was FILLED with compassion…how do we get filled?
Prayer, trust (obedience), the Holy Spirit and Bible Reading.
Prayer—confessing to God that we are empty, asking Him to fill us as only He can, considering how much He suffered for us (e.g. how terrible our sins are)—this helps us have compassion for others who suffer when realize how much compassion Jesus has for us in our sin; taking time to be filled with His compassion—this doesn’t happen like a microwave but like a Crock-Pot—a gallon jug of water isn’t filled by quickly running it past the faucet but by letting it sit beneath the flowing faucet to be filled.
- Luke 17:4-5: 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” 5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” [FILL US with faith, because our faith in You is low, is empty, is just drops, is running on fumes!]
The Holy Spirit & trusting God:
- May the God of hope FILL YOU with all joy and peace as you trust Him, so that you are overflowing with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).
- God does the filling as we do the trusting! You trust a person’s directions by following the directions! It’s no use saying I trust your directions, friend, but then choose to go our own way. Same with God—we trust Him by obeying Him. Cry out to the Holy Spirit to fill you w/the compassion you dont have…
- Ephesians 3:16-19: 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
And mainly through Bible reading.
- Humans don’t live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).
- Eating food fills us and then gives us energy to work, move, live, etc. Same with the Word of God—it fills us (but only as we READ IT and FEED ON IT!) and gives us, when combined with prayer and the Holy Spirit, what we need to work, move, live as Christians to love others.
Back to Mark 1:
Jesus reached out…
Now the man came to Jesus…understandably so!
But often nowadays we need to go to where the needs are—those in deep need often won’t come to us and ask…so we need to fish, to cast lines of love & grace & Truth into the stormy seas of this suffering world… With Noah’s Ark of wood, God drew the animals TO the ark; with Jesus’ cross of wood, God the Father sends us OUT to tell others, to invite others, to FISH for people…we must go to the fish and reach out, not expect them to come to us…
- we need to ask how people are doing, be ready to listen, and be ready to prayerfully step in to situations with support as the Holy Spirit leads. You can’t do everything, but you can do something (starfish story: “you can’t throw all the starfish back into the ocean–what will your small efforts matter? It will matter to THIS one, and THIS one…”).
- And in order to reach out, we must reach back from the ways that we spend (WASTE!) our time; we cannot reach out like Jesus if we continue to fill our schedules with activities that He didn’t do, activities that don’t matter. We cannot reach out like Jesus if our arms are full of the stuff of this world…
Back to Mark 1:
Jesus touched the man…
This was personal—Jesus risked getting physical leprosy, Jesus risked His own reputation by being associated with such a person.
There are ways that we can bless from a long distance, and these are important too! Praying for Christians around the world, supporting missionaries and the local church with a check, etc.
But we must also be willing to get personal, to get within arm’s-reach of suffering and do something about it face-to-face. As I’ve read before about physical war, the airforce is important but no war has been won without sending ground troops. The ground troops—face-to-face—are absolutely necessary, though of course this is extremely dangerous for those soldiers.
But as good and important as this is, the Bible warns us that such up-close and personal loving is also dangerous: as we love people who are sinning in various ways, we are more likely to start doing those same sins as we love them. This is one of the strengths of this current generation of Christians: we take seriously the fact that Jesus ate with sinners and associated with them! But we fail to take seriously the other side of the coin: the importance of not becoming (beliefs and a actions) like sinners as we love them.
- We have lost the importance of holiness, of being in the world but not OF the world (for more on this, please click HERE).
- We focus on the first half of James 1:27: “Faultless & pure religion is caring for widows & orphans in their distress” but neglect the second half of that same verse: “to keep one’s self from being polluted by the world.”
- We have forgotten the humbling Truth that “friendship with the world [with its values & belief systems & actions] is enmity [hatred] toward God” (James 4:4). We have swung to the other extreme–loving others is more important to many of us than loving & honoring the LORD.
- Jude 22-24: Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.
- 1 Timothy 5:22: Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
- Galatians 6:1: Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
- 1 Corinthians 15:33: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
We are likely to act like those that we spend time with, and this Jesus never did—He associated with sinners, but He never began to act like them. Jesus was a thermostat, not a thermometer. And if we are going to love sinners (as we should!), we must also make sure through prayer and Bible reading that we don’t begin to act like them. We must have a Biblical view of sin—hating what is evil and clinging to what is good.
- Romans 12:9-10: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love.
- Sincere love is both HATING what is evil and clinging to what is good, not allowing the definitions of good & evil to be changed by others/the culture.
- We often hang out with people of other religions and think, “Wow, they’re polite, they’re nice…certainly God wouldn’t send THEM to hell!” And thus over time our experience of the person as “nice” overrules what the Bible clearly says. We are thermometers in a cold world, reflecting the world not changing it.
- We hang out with people who commit certain sins and think, “Wow they’re polite, they’re nice…they’re nicer than some Christians! Certainly God doesn’t think that what they are doing is sin!” And thus over time our experience of the person as “nice” overrules what the Bible clearly says. We are thermometers in a cold world, being changed by the world, not vice-versa…
And so, just like on a plane in an emergency when the oxygen masks pop out, before we rush out to serve non-Christians (which we should!), we must put the oxygen mask of the Bible, of prayer, and of the Holy Spirit over our own souls so that we love others but don’t become like them, so that we are thermostats influencing the environment around us and not thermometers being changed by and reflecting the environment around us. Jesus touched the leper but did not get leprosy…did not celebrate & encourage the leper in his uncleanness…did not become like the leper…
In the next post we will continue to dig deeply into Mark 1:40-42, especially the fact that Jesus was “willing” to reach out and touch and make the leper clean. How can the LORD make us willing? What an important question to tackle next post…
Jesus didn’t say “Be healed”…He said, “Be clean.”
Jesus understood that though this man’s problem was physical, the root of his problem was spiritual. Not that his specific sins caused his leprosy (though we see examples of that in the Old Testament!), but that the disease of leprosy—and all sickness—is ultimately a result of the fact that this is a fallen world due to sin.
As we have talked in the past, some people literally just go to church, the Bible, Jesus for some earthly blessings, for tips on how to live a more successful life on earth. But Jesus sees through that and wants to first make us CLEAN—our souls in eternity are far more important that our situations on earth.
Have you cried out to Jesus to make you CLEAN, to clean your soul from your sinfulness? Have you begged Him on your knees like this man did? Has the Holy Spirit showed you that you have spiritual leprosy that only Jesus can heal? Your soul, which will last forever, is even more important than your current skin (which won’t); cry out to Jesus to cleanse the former before He does the latter…