Biblical Foundations 27: Elevating Others 2
By the grace of God we will continue to dig deeply into the Bible to discover the foundation of this local church—why does the LORD have us attending here? What is He doing in us and through us?
We have spent over a dozen posts looking at the cornerstone of elevating God, knowing Him according to the Bible and not the culture, and we have spent so much time knowing the Trinity through the Bible because loving the LORD is even more important than loving other people. Many want to flip this and make loving others the greatest commandment. But the order is important spiritually as in baking:
- you don’t put all the separate ingredients for brownies into the oven for an hour and THEN mix them after; you must mix them before or you don’t have brownies.
We MUST learn to love the LORD first in order to truly love all others as we love ourselves. To flip the order is idolatry, it makes love God (instead of God being love in His character). Yet, many people who don’t believe in God focus on doing acts of kindness and think, “Isn’t this enough? Doesn’t it all just boil down to this? I do more good deeds than many Christians!”
But the Bible says of course it isn’t enough—getting right (reconciled) with the LORD, being reborn through faith in Christ, receiving His death on the cross as the punishment that our sinfulness deserves—this must happen before we can do the good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians).
- Like a student in a classroom: many think that a student getting good grades academically & treating his/her classmates w/respect means that the student is a success.
- But only if such a student also has a proper relationship with the teacher. That is the primary ingredient to a successful student. If a student understands the academic material, if a student volunteers to tutor the other classmates, but if the student disregards the teacher, if the student doesn’t recognize the authority of the teacher, if the student pretends the teacher isn’t there and does what he/she wants whenever he/she wants to in defiance of the teacher, drawing on the chalkboard at will, heading over to the cafeteria to get a snack at will, starting up conversations—even pleasant ones!—with other students at will, if the student doesn’t believe in & submit to the teacher, well eventually, in spite of the good grades and the good deeds, such a student will be expelled, will be considered not a success but a failure.
And so it is with the LORD. And that is why we have spent so much digging into the Bible to elevate God and know Him…and we will continue to do so!!!!
But in our previous post and this post, we do turn our attention to what the Bible says about our relationship with and responsibility towards the other students, towards both Christians and non-Christians…
40 A man with leprosy
came to him
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.
We began looking at this short but meaty passage last post and began discussing:
- A leper came to Jesus: If we are to elevate others, if we are to love non-Christians with the love of Christ, we must go to them, that Christianity is primarily a “going” faith: Matthew 28: “As you are going…make disciples of all nations.” Acts 1: “You will be My witnesses to the ends of the earth.” Jesus said He would make us “fishers of men & women,” and fishermen don’t sit in their living rooms to fish, they go to the streams, rivers, ponds & lakes that have the fish.
- Jesus was filled with compassion: that is, love that moves to action. We often either have no compassion for others’ suffering or just drops—we are sorry that others suffer but that often doesn’t move us to do anything; we think we are too busy, but really we love ourselves TOO MUCH! We looked at the Bible to see that we are filled with the compassion of Jesus through:
- Receiving Him as Savior for the forgiveness of our sins: we cannot pass out to others that which we don’t have ourselves.
- Praying/confessing that we are in fact empty of His compassion, or just running on fumes. “Increase our [fill us with!] faith!” (Luke 17).
- Obeying/trusting: “May the God of hope FILL YOU with all joy & peace AS YOU TRUST HIM” (Romans 15:13).
- Reading the Bible: “Humans don’t live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”—we must fill ourselves with God’s Word so that we have the compassion (spiritual calories!) to love others.
- Jesus reached out: we don’t play fetch with the compassion of Jesus, we don’t throw it far and tell others to run after it. No, we reach out our hands & bend our knees to personally give the love & Truth of Jesus to others, face-to-face, up close & personal, in the trenches, even when it hurts us & exposes us to danger.
- But as we do this, we must be careful to be thermostats not thermometers; as we love Christians & non-Christians we must not adopt any sinful beliefs or actions/habits that they have. Jesus loved but remained pure/holy; we are called to do the same—BOTH. As Romans says, sincere love “hates what is evil and clings to what is good.”
And so we continue this post by looking at the fact that Jesus was willing to make the leper clean; Jesus didn’t just say “Fine, be clean, now leave Me alone LEPER.” Jesus was willing, He deeply desired the leper not just to be physically healed but to be made spiritually clean. Jesus was willing…are you?
From the book “Dispatches from the Front” by Tim Keesee:
“Allen is with me here—a friend & brother who is passionate about the Gospel and its advance in Ethiopia. This afternoon we met with several of the men he has been training: Meko, Fikra, and Thomas. These are humble men with the strength to do hard things—like walking into Muslim villages near Somalia and proclaiming Christ. These are areas where al-Shabab, Somalia’s version of al-Qaeda, has infiltrated. Al-Shabab’s signature brand of Islam includes kidnapping, piracy, and cutthroat devotion to Allah. And so, when these evangelists go into such lawless regions armed with the JESUS film and a backpack projector, it’s like an act of war. They have risked death many times for Christ’s sake.
I was quietly rebuked by how seriously they take God’s Word in a life-and-death kind of way. Recently, hounded, hungry, and alone, Thomas nearly turned back. But he read Paul’s letter to Timothy: “Endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).
- Oh dear Christian, are you considering turning back from devotion to Jesus like this? Have you already begun to drift away, not necessarily to another religion but simply to ignoring the One Who purchased you through His blood? Have you simply turned your daily attention from the feet of Christ to the foolishness of the culture, from the Living Waters of the Holy Spirit to the saltwater of the world?
- Satan personally asked Jesus for permission to separate Peter from Christ and grind Peter into dust (Luke 22:31-32). What did Jesus do in response? Jesus didn’t send a firebolt from heaven to destroy the devil (Jesus will eventually do that, though!). No, Jesus protected Peter by saying that He would PRAY for Peter. Staggering. The Son of God praying for us to not fall away, to not drift from Him. And Jesus has prayed for YOU, dear Christian, in your time of weakness and hopelessness—John 17 records Jesus’ powerful prayer for us that we, like Thomas in Ethiopia, would not fall away from Christ like those in John 6.
Back to the quote from “Dispatches from the Front”:
And so, Thomas again shouldered his cross and quickened his pace because he didn’t want to be like [the prophet] Jonah: though [Jonah] had ‘kingdom feet’ (since he finally did go to Ninevah), he didn’t have a ‘kingdom heart’—one that loved mercy and grace for his enemies. Thomas wanted to have kingdom feet AND a kingdom heart.
Before we parted, Allan prayed for these brothers. He took us to the foot of the cross, to the only place where the sacrifices that these men and their wives are making make any sense.”
ONLY as we CONSTANTLY look to the suffering Jesus endured for us on the Cross can we carry our cross each day and suffer for Him by sharing His grace & Truth with others. Only as we turn off the t.v. to consider the Sahara Desert of Jesus’ suffering on the cross can we endure our one grain of sand of suffering to share Jesus spiritual i.v. of grace & Truth with the nations.
I wept as I read this passage last Tuesday. Literally cried at the sacrifices being made by these Christians, cried at the LACK of such sacrifices in my life, cried that Thomas almost turned away from Jesus’ mission for him, and cried that the Holy Spirit gave courage to Thomas not through a unique supernatural sign but simply through the miracle of God’s Word which we all have on our shelves, often collecting disgraceful dust.
These Christians are WILLING, and this is another great name for ALL Christians: The Willing. Not The Feeling, not The Considering, not The Running Away, not The-Avoiding-Eye-Contact-With-The-Teacher-So-He-Doesn’t-Call-On-Us, not The Praying-That-God-Makes-Other-People-Willing…The Willing, The Running Toward, The Here-I-Am-Send-me!. “As for me and my house, we WILL serve the Lord (Joshua). The Willing…Willing to go where Jesus leads, willing to stay where Jesus stays, willing to believe what Jesus teaches (ALL of it), willing to do what Jesus does, willing to suffer what Jesus blesses us to suffer b/c of His suffering for us.
Willing…because Jesus was and is Willing. Not just willing to temporarily meet an earthly need…willing to meet eternal needs…willing to make others clean…willing to make those who are dirty like me…like you…willing to make us Clean…holy…righteous…new…Jesus’ Clean—He is described as the spotless Lamb of God—is cleaner than our dirt is dirty.
The men in the passage of this book are willing, though they enter into a lawless land where Christians are to be killed. They are willing, no matter the cost, to tell others about Jesus, not just to do a good deed but to do the one thing that will offend others the most—tell them about Jesus as the ONLY Way, the ONLY Truth and the ONLY LIFE…they are willing to die to share Him, because He was willing to die to share Himself…oh how we need to weep and confess to God and cry out to Him to make us willing…because so often, to my shame, I am not willing to go around the block let alone around the world to tell others about Jesus…this is disgraceful…but Jesus can make our disgraceful graceful as He transforms and forgives and cleanses us of our unrighteousness…
Are you willing…to let Jesus make you willing?
Do you want the unusual business of following Jesus, or do you just want business as usual?
How does the Holy Spirit make us willing? Again, by the grace of God I am not telling you anything that you probably don’t already know:
- Confess/Repent: For many of us, this is our next battle after crying out to Jesus to fill us with compassion…we then need to confess to God that we really aren’t willing to do anything to make a difference. Oh we justify by stating that we are busy, we have our own problems, etc. etc. But if we are honest, if we had an entire week to do no chores/work/responsibilities and $5,000 to spend on anything, we wouldn’t be spending that time and money spreading the Gospel and serving others. We just wouldn’t. We would treat ourselves and maybe share a little with others. So let’s confess this and ask the Lord to make us willing. Being filled with compassion is being ABLE to help, but being made WILLING is actually doing something with our compassion (our ability)—BOTH the WILL and the ABILITY must come from Jesus because we don’t naturally have this in us.
- Pray: Psalm 51:12b: “Grant me a WILLING spirit to sustain me.” Such a willing spirit must be granted by God as a gift not earned as a reward.
- Pray for joy of salvation: And this is connected with the verse before: “Restore to me the JOY of Your salvation (Psalm 51:12a).” We are made more willing to take up our cross and follow Jesus and love others sacrificially when we are joyful (adjective) and rejoicing (verb!) in what He has done for us on the cross.
- Pray for not falling into temptation: “Pray you will not fall into temptation…the spirit is WILLING but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38). And even when we ARE filled with compassion, and even when we ARE willing (BOTH only through the grace of God), our sinfulness often still tries to stop us—because our sinfulness still makes us weak. Thus prayer is a huge part of elevating others…
- Pray for God showing you how much He has forgiven you, how terrible your sin really is. “Those who are forgiven little, love little.” If we think of Jesus’ forgiveness as paying off our spiritual debt of a few hundred, or even a few thousand dollars, we will be thankful (hopefully!) but we will not be so overjoyed and humbled and awe-struck that we will be wiling to go through any danger & suffering to tell others about Jesus. But when the Holy Spirit helps us realize that Jesus paid our personal spiritual moral debt of $500 trillion dollars—more money than is in the entire world—and that if He HADN’T paid our debt and died in our place and rose again to life that we would have suffered for all eternity apart from God…well, that helps us to love much, to sacrifice much, knowing that helps us to be WILLING to love & invite others…
Luke 7:36-50: Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.
Oh why did she weep? Over her sins, loved ones—she wept over the realization of the terribleness of her sins. Because she realized that she was a wretched sinner. Oh how we today have not learned to do this: we just want Jesus to affirm us (you’re AWESOME!), but He often first afflicts us (you’re AWFUL—but I died to MAKE you holy!). The love of culture says, “I wouldn’t change anything about you.” The love of Jesus shows, “I died to change EVERYTHING about you.” This woman lived a sinful life, a life characterized by sin, not a basically good life with a few random sins here and there. Her life WAS sin, one after the other, a river polluted downstream because the SOURCE of the river—her very heart and soul—was polluted (just like you and me!). This is an important work of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to saving faith in Jesus—convicting us of our sin and helping us agree with God’s diagnosis of our wretchedness (John 14).
She had undoubtedly heard about Jesus, heard about the miracles, heard about the grace & Truth He boldly proclaimed, heard about the ways that He both comforted AND confronted others with His perfect love, heard that He would give free grace & mercy & forgiveness & new life to any who would confess to their deep sinfulness & cry out to Him for pardon. I believe she wept because of her sin AND because she had already, even before meeting Him in person, received His grace for her soul. And so she brought an expensive jar of perfume (she didn’t normally just carry this around in her back pocket!), her earthly life savings in a jar, and poured it all over His feet, not to earn His forgiveness but as a humble thank You for His unearnable forgiveness. She wept tears of sadness AND joy—she had heard of Him, but now she had seen Him, and the effect of meeting pure Truth and Love in Person brought her to weeping for her terrible sin but also for Jesus’ terrific grace to forgive such sin…”twas grace that taught my heart to fear…and grace my fears relieved” (BOTH are grace!), “how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”
Did anyone else have this experience upon being in the presence of God? YOU BETHCA!
- Job: “Now I have seen You…I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:1-6)
- Isaiah: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the LORD!” (Isaiah 6)
- Peter: “Get away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.”
- Tax collector: “Beat his breast, would not even look up to heaven, and cried out, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, I am a sinner.” (Luke 18:11-14)
- Peter (again!): “Went outside and wept bitterly” after he denied Jesus three times. (Matthew 26:75)
Oh has the Holy Spirit ever blessed you like these mighty men of God? Has He ever convicted you of your terrible sinfulness so you could repent and cry out to Jesus for His terrific forgiveness?
“Encounters with God result in limps, not struts” (Matt Smethurst). Has the LORD ever caused you to limp in your self-reliance so you can rely more on Him?
39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.
41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?
[Did you notice HER, or just her reputation, which admittedly is terrible? But did you see a woman made in My image?]
I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet,
[you didn’t serve Me, you weren’t in awe of Me, it was just another meal with Jesus, another time to hang out with Me but not worship Me, another time to stand tall next to Me not fall down in reverence before Me, another church service, going through the motions, no big deal, been there done that, only being with friends at church not being with Me as the Head of the Church]
but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
If we want to love like Jesus, we must be forgiven by Jesus.
If we want to be forgiven by Jesus, we must understand how big our spiritual debt is.
If we have been forgiven by Jesus and if we want to love like Jesus,
We must understand how big our spiritual debt was.
48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
49 The other guests began to say among themselves,
“Who is this who even forgives sins?”
50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Jesus reveals the connection between her love and her faith in Jesus, the connection between giving expensive love for others and receiving the expensive grace of Jesus’ love for her. But it wasn’t the woman’s good deed to Jesus that saved her; it was her faith in Jesus that saved her. Her good deed of sacrificial love for Jesus—that didn’t care what others thought of her as she crawled at His feet—flowed from her faith in Him, flowed from the love that He had for her that she received as a gift. The same is true for us.
Lord willing, more on elevating others in our next post…