Christian social networking for Bible Study and Spiritual Growth.
This is part 1 of a series of sermons that I have been delivering. I pray that it will be a blessing to all that read it.
May God richly bless you,
To Have the Compassion of Jesus
What should we as Christians be doing in this day and age to mirror Jesus in His time in the 1st century? What are the keys to sharing Jesus Christ today? What kind of mindset or perspective do we need? That's what we're going to look into today.
The first step is to adjust our perspective, to see the world as Jesus saw it. One of the things we want to do today is see how Jesus views the world around us, because the way Jesus views the world is exactly the same way we want to view the world. The world view that we have is really the way we see the world around us and the lenses through which we view everything that happens in the world. If you take a look at how people view the world today, their lens is really different.
A friend sent me this, a few days ago, and I think it fits with this message, although I doctored it up a bit.
Here are examples: How do politicians see the world? It depends on what their frame of reference is. It depends on what country they come from. For example: If a man had two cows, a socialist would say, "Give one of those cows to the neighbor who has none." That's the way he views the world. A Communist would say, "Give milk from the cows to a neighbor; keep the cows yourself." A Nazi would say, "Kill one of the cows. Use the money to buy a guard to watch over the other cow." A Fascist would say, "Kill both cows; take the money and run." A Capitalist would say, "Sell one cow and buy a bull." It's the way you view the world that determines how you are going to get along in the world.
That's true in religion too. Just think about the way various religions view the world around them. A Hindu sees the world as us all being a part of God's creation. Everything is sacred. Don't step on a bug, because it's a part of God's creation. A Humanist would say, "No, no, no. We're all products of evolution, and no one is any more special than anyone else." A Muslim would say, "Its part of our responsibility to be true to Allah, the one faithful god. Infidels must die because they are not true to the one god." That's a world view. New Age people would say, "Now, there is no one true god. I am the one true god. I, myself, am the sum total of all that the world is." Hollywood would look at the world and say, "Well, all we need to do is be entertained."
But how does Jesus view the world? That's the question I want to address today. I think Matthew 10:16 will show us the answer to that. Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. (17) But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (18) And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for My sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles.
Let me stop there, because I think that's sufficient for us to understand that the view Jesus has of the world is not looking through rose-colored glasses. Jesus doesn't look out at the world and say, "You know what? This is a beautiful world. My Father did such a wonderful job in creating this world and it's just such a wonderful place to live." You can almost hear Jesus singing with Louie Armstrong about how wonderful this world is. It is a wonderful world. But Jesus was not naïve in the way He approached this world. So He says to His disciples, "I'm going to send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves." His take on the world was that the world was filled with wolves and you and I are sheep. And you say, "How could a loving God send you out as sheep among the wolves?" The answer to that is: He goes with us as the Shepherd among the wolves.
So how did Jesus view the world? First of all, He did not view it as a wonderful place in which to live in which there are no problems. He didn't look at this world through rose-colored glasses. He recognizes that the world is made up of wolves. But isn't it interesting that He says that you, as sheep, have to be as wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove? You have to be smart in the way you approach the world. You have to have insight in the way you see taking your message of salvation to the world around you. And at the same time, I think you have to be pure. You have to be guileless. You have to be like the dove, harmless. And when you and I do that, we find ourselves talking to a world that isn't all that happy about the message of Jesus and salvation. But we can take it, because that’s the world for which Jesus died for.
So here's the key word. When you think about Jesus going out to the world, you think about Jesus taking the message to a world filled with wolves, but He does it because of His significant compassion for the world. This is the thing I want us to think about as we study this passage. The key word here is compassion. Jesus has compassion on the world, and that's why He sends us out into the world. It would be so easy for you and me, once we come to know the Lord as Savior, just to hang out with others who know the Lord, spend time in the aquarium with the other fish, and be fed by our pastor week after week as he drops a few flakes into our aquarium. But the Bible says that Jesus had such compassion for those who were outside of the aquarium, He told us we need to leave our comfort zones and go out to them. But when we go, don't be misled into the fact that everything will be fine for you. Everything won't be fine. This world is filled with wolves. But compassion is the key. You even have to love wolves. You have to love those who do not love you, and that's a hard thing to do.
According to Webster's Dictionary, the word compassion means "to suffer with." Compassion "with suffering, to suffer with." So basically, if I'm going to have compassion for the world around me, I'm going to see their needs and suffer with them in their needs. Their needs are going to become my needs, and my answer is going to become the answer to their needs. That only happens though, if I'm willing to go out into this world and to suffer with them. Some people are naturally compassionate. Brother Peter Stanway is the first that comes to mind. It's part of their makeup. As we talk about compassion, I think it is something that we can develop. I do think there are some people who are more compassionate than others by their very nature. Perhaps they just have a softer heart. But the more we allow the Spirit of God to work through us, the more we are vessels in God's hand. The more comfort and consoling we are able to bring to those who are hurting, I think the more compassionate we become. So can we develop more compassion? Yes. The way we do that is not to stay aloof from people who need us. We should ask God to use us as His conduit of compassion. The more that happens, the more we come to crave opportunities to become compassionate.
Here is where many of us struggle. I spoke earlier about getting "out there" to engage the world. But for some of us, that world is right where we live each day. We have family members who don't yet know or understand what Jesus came to offer. You can always begin; in fact, you should always begin with the closest people in your life. Leading a small group on witnessing, I found that everyone had issues on sharing their faith with others. Since then, I have seen some who attended become much bolder. Praise the Lord. Just ask Jesus to give you eyes to see the hurt and then to show compassion to whomever you see and to give you the words. It is that easy.
As we grow in the Lord, we find that things that we used to do, or people we used to hang around aren’t that important to us, or that should be the case. We find ourselves with Christian brothers and sisters. Now in saying that, should we stay away from those that are non believers? No! We shouldn't shun neighbors or co-workers, people in class with us, or people wherever we find them. Perhaps they need to see the compassion of Christ even more than our church family does. So we're to show compassion, to see the world as Jesus saw it. But if we want to see things the way He did, we have to be as realistic as Jesus was. Our key verse this morning in this study is Matthew 10:16. Jesus says to His disciples, "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves."
Don't think of these as literal wolves wandering around the neighborhood about to eat you up. Jesus is talking about the world as it is. And Satan has a great deal of influence on the world as it is. Let's remember that sin does not come from God. Sin comes from rebellion against God. That's the original sin. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, that was mankind's original sin.
If you want to trace sin, don't trace it back to your grandparents, although they were sinners. Don't trace it back to generations in the past. Trace it back to rebellion against God. That's where sin always originates.
In our rebellion against God, suddenly we're paying a hefty penalty for rebelling against God. What you see in the world today that is all messed up, everything that is wrong in the world today. All the evil that we see around us today can be traced not to God and His compassion, but to Satan and his rebellion.
Let me give you some examples of the kind of world that you and I will go into. This is a world that is filled with poverty. Many of us experience that poverty every food cupboard. And Jesus told us to take the Gospel into the entire world, not just our comfortable, suburban, middle-class society.
Poverty is on the rise in a lot of places in the world. If we're going to take the Gospel to people, the Gospel in itself has to address some of the issues these people are facing. Poverty is one of those.
Beyond that, there's increased population. The more people there are, the more people we have to take the message of the Gospel to. Currently, the world's population is almost seven billion people. And the growth rate is the equivalent of four new babies born every second. This presents believers with an incredible task, and it's getting more and more difficult each day. So we have a world that's filled with poverty. We have a world that's filled with people. You put poverty and people together, you have a world that's filled with crime. We have about an 89% probability here in the United States of being a victim of a crime sometime during our life. In this country someone is murdered every 21 minutes. There is forcible rape every five minutes. Aggravated assault every 28 seconds, motor vehicle theft every 20 seconds. So, the society that is supposed to be wealthy and send people out to regions of the world in order to help them understand the Gospel is a society that's crumbling from within. Jesus said, "Look, I want you to see the world the way I see the world." This world is not a pretty place. It's a very needy place. It's a place in which you and I are charged to take the message of the Gospel.
OK. This is the way the world is. How do we change this world? What is the technology we use to change this world? What is my plan for tomorrow to impact the teenagers who live in the community? That's having keen insight. It's having shrewdness, or a sharpness. It's not just saying, "Let's just take the Gospel message and throw it out and see where it sticks." We have to be as harmless as a dove; but we have to be as shrewd as a snake. Here's what I want you to notice about the world. I brought up poverty, population and about crime. But when you think about this world spiritually, you and I are going out into a world filled with spiritual wolves. What that shows me is this: This world is not only filled with wolves but cults. They are breeding rapidly in this world. Our task is more difficult today than let’s
say 20 years ago. Besides that, non Christian religions are making roads into Christian places like they never have before. Most of us here in the United States think we are a Christian nation. But after looking in the Encyclopedia of American Religions today, I find that 1600 denominations are listed, of which 44% are non-Christian. So I think it would be foolish for us to say that the world is a wonderful place in which to live, that all we have to do is go out there and everyone's going to accept our message of salvation and they'll be happy that we've told them that they were sinners. It's just not going to happen. That's why Jesus says, "You have to be as wise as a serpent." You have to have the desire to make a difference. But at the same time, and I fail miserably here at times, and if you are honest with yourself, most of you do too. It is a learning process you have to be unadulterated. You have to be pure. You have to be gentle. You have to be compassionate. And everything we know about Jesus, in going to His world of wolves, was that He had keen insight about what the world was. He wasn't fooled at all by this world. But at the same time, He was very, very loving toward them. I Have prayed hard and long during my much alone time traveling this week on what to say at my dads funeral Tuesday. I think there may be people giving their hearts to the Lord, Praise Jesus.
Jesus’ view of the world was very realistic. He saw the need, the challenge, and that it would be hard. He saw the wolves for what they were. When we look at things that are real, many times our response is fear. We retreat or feel defeated before we even begin. I think the problem is that that's our natural response. We tend to focus on the hugeness of our challenge instead of the hugeness of our God and His ability to help us meet that challenge. But let's face it, our first, our natural response to the world around us is fear. Fear of failure. And that's why it's so important to remember that we do have a secret weapon, something the world doesn't have or doesn't even know about. And that's the power of God's Holy Spirit. Never forget, "Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world." And also “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you”.
I gave statistics on the growth of cults and different types of churches in the last few years. How do we handle those without developing a sort of spiritual quarantine to protect our theology or practice? The last thing we want to do is quarantine our faith. Jesus calls us to share our faith, not to seal it up and protect it. That's why it's so important (I think vitally important) that we build a strong faith so we have the strength necessary to handle the cults and the aberrations of true Christianity. That strong faith comes through getting to know God better. Friends, the only way to get to know God better and build your faith is to meaningfully engage Him. Daily engage Him in His Word and in prayer. I can’t stress this enough. I, through every Bible study that I have led and blogs that I write, when teaching how to get to know God better and to see Him work in your life isn't just to tell you what to do. It's the key to living the Christian life successfully.
If you asked people what is our greatest need, you'd hear things like better education, good jobs, more money, or maybe an end to poverty or cancer. We are all born with the same need. The need for a Savior. And Jesus is our only Savior. How do we present Jesus as the solution to mankind's greatest need?
Our view of the world should match up with Jesus' view. And He certainly saw it as needy. But He also said it would not give us a warm welcome. But instead of treating people as enemies or as adversaries, I think we need to do what Jesus did. We need to have compassion on them. This is a scary world. This is a dangerous world. This is a needy world. But it's a world we have to take the message to. So let's go back one chapter and today find out how Jesus saw the needs of people in this world. Matthew 9:36-38: "But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them” I want you to put that on the front burner of your mind. Jesus saw the world filled with wolves, and He had compassion for them "because they were weary and scattered like sheep, having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.'"
Lets see some more scripture in Matthew. I want you to see the compassion of Jesus. Matthew 14:13-14 When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. (14) And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick. What I want you to see here again is the word compassion, and what immediately happened after this, the feeding of the five thousand. Why did Jesus feed these people? Because of His compassion.
Go next to Matthew 15:30-32: "And great crowds came to Him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at His feet, and He healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples to Him and said, 'I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with Me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.'"
There it is again—"compassion." Only this time Jesus is feeding the four thousand, different from the feeding of the five thousand.
Let's look at 1 more. Matthew 20:29-34: "And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, 'Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!' And stopping, Jesus called them and said, 'What do you want me to do for you?' They said to him, 'Lord, let our eyes be opened.' And Jesus in pity [with compassion] touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed Him." Again, notice that before Jesus did any of these things (things that helped people in general), there is this note about His motivation. And His motivation is always compassion. The motivation for you and me to share our faith with our neighbors and our family and our friends is always compassion. But let's make sure we understand what compassion is.
Compassion is not something people are born with. Compassion is something that is generated when we see a need and we fill our heart with the heart of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me just define what compassion is and compare it to something else. If you see a person who has a need and you help that person, it may be because that person is one you just simply have pity for. You see a stray dog. You take that dog in. That's not necessarily compassion. That's pity. I'm going to show you an example of this in the Bible.
Remember the story of Pharaoh's daughter when she found Moses in the bullrushes? Exodus 2:6 says that she had compassion on the baby Moses. But the word that is used there is the word for pity, not for compassion. So the reason she took the baby out was not because she loved the baby. She took the baby out because she pitied this poor little child.
Jehovah God always has more than pity on us. He has compassion on us. Psalm 78:38, He was full of compassion for He forgave Israel's iniquities and did not destroy them. God did not pity Israel because Israel was so frequently in God's face and doing things that disturbed God. He forgave their iniquities because He had compassion on them. He loved them.
So compassion is more than pity, first of all. Just feeling sorry for someone is not compassion. You don't take the message of salvation to a neighbor because you feel sorry for them. You take that message because you feel compassion for them.
Secondly, compassion is more than feelings anyway. We have a tendency to relate compassion with the love songs that we have heard or the love letters that we get.
Second Kings 13:23 describes God's feelings toward Israel: "But the Lord was gracious toward them and had compassion for them . . . ."
Graciousness and compassion in this verse have nothing to do with His feelings. It has to do with His relationship with them. In fact, Lamentations 3:32, says of God, that though He brings grief, He will show compassion. So great is His unfailing love.
Rather than say, "Oh, you poor thing, I'm going to share the Gospel with you," you may bring grief to your neighbor in telling your neighbor that he is doing something wrong, that he is displeasing to God. But you're doing that because of your intense love for that neighbor, your great compassion for that neighbor. Compassion arises more from unfailing commitment to people than it does for feelings for people.
Number one, compassion is not just pity; it's a lot more than pity. Number two, it's more commitment. I'm going to be compassionate. It's more commitment than it is feeling.
Then here's a third thing that I think distinguishes compassion and pity. Compassion arises more from our character than it does from our concern. Why are some people more compassionate than others? If we factor out the pity factor (that is to say, some people appear to be compassionate because they have more pity), some actually do have compassion because of their character. It has nothing to do their upbringing. It has nothing to do with their station in life.
Luke 10:30-36: "Then Jesus answered and said, 'A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. [Here's the Good Samaritan—ready for this?] But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you. [Jesus asks] So which of these three do you think was a neighbor to him who fell among thieves?'"
What we have here are two religious leaders who passed by on the other side of the road because they don't care at all about this poor beaten man. Then, we have a Samaritan, who was not privileged in life, but he is the Good Samaritan because he had a character that said to him, "I cannot go on without helping this person." He had compassion on him.
Are we learning the heart of Jesus here? Compassion arises more out of character than it does out of the fluttering of the heart. So when we want to be like Jesus, we're not looking at feeling like Jesus. We're looking at having the character that Jesus had in which He saw the world as filled with wolves and, yet, loved them and was willing to die for them.
Should we have compassion for just those that are sick or poor? I don't think it's wise to categorize or prioritize need. Need is need, and it's wherever we find it. One day our compassion may be needed for a neighbor who has lost his or her job. They need a basket of groceries. The day after that it may be for a woman who has been abused by her husband. She is in need of encouragement, maybe even direction to help her cope appropriately with her situation. It may be, like right now, I feel the need to lay hands and pray for a brother that has an injury. The gospel is the answer to all of our needs. It's the answer to our physical needs, emotional needs and spiritual needs. Everything.
Matthew 28, the last chapter in Matthew. Let me just read half a dozen verses here (1-6 ): "Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow (it must have been quite a sight Can you imagine?) And the guards shook for fear of Him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come see the place where the Lord lay.'"
Let me stop there. Isn't it interesting that this angel is so careful of his grammar when he speaks to these women? I don't see angels going to grammar school. It's just not the kind of image I have of angels. But when he talks to these women about the Lord Jesus, he says, "I know why you are here. You are here to seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here for He is risen."
In light of this; in light of what Jesus has taught (and these women were around to hear it); in light of what Jesus has done (and these women were around to see it—died for our sins on the cross); in light of that, what is the challenge given to these women that ultimately is the challenge to you and me in the this day? It's twofold, and here it is, very plain, verse 6, the challenge is this: First, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
I think it is important, if you and I are going to share our faith with others, we need to spend significant time in God's Word, absorbing the whole message of the Gospel, so that when we tell the message of the Gospel, we are so familiar with it, it just kind of rolls off the tongue. It's a part of who we are. Also for all of us to be prayer warriors, and used to being in communication with God the Father.
So he says to the women, "First of all, I want you to come and look into this tomb, look into this grave. I want you to see first that Jesus is not there." And that's the most important thing for you and me when we're testifying of our faith to others. We are absolutely convinced that Jesus is alive today. He's not in some Palestinian grave somewhere. We need to look into that tomb and be convinced so when the cultists come to our door, or when other religions challenge our faith in Jesus Christ, we're not saying, Umm, I’m not sure. We are sure, because we've been in God's Word.
So he says, first of all, "Come and look into this tomb. Come and see for yourself." That's the challenge of the soul, getting our soul ready to witness. That's number one.
Look at example number two, verse 7, “And go quickly and tell His disciples.” You and I cannot be effective going to tell others of the Lord Jesus until we have first come to see for ourselves. We need to be full of Him ourselves, before we go and tell others.
However, coming and seeing doesn't get the job done either. You can't hang out around the tomb. You have to leave the tomb, like you have to leave church, like you have to leave your Bible study group. You have to leave that at some point and go out and tell the friends that you have what Jesus has done for you.
So if coming and seeing is the challenge of the soul, going and telling is also the challenge of the soul. It's walking away from where you are comfortable and going and telling people about the Lord Jesus.
Come and see; then go and tell. That's our challenge in sharing Gospel. How do we make sure that we cover both sides of the mission? Because some of us are really good at knowing the Word, getting into the Word, but to leave the study part and go and tell is really scary. Or there are others who are fine with talking to people but they haven't really got a foundation beyond the few things they know. We have to take both sides of this equation equally seriously. We cannot just memorize a few scriptures and then just charge out into the world ready to win it for the Savior. That just doesn't work. It's also a source of a great deal of discouragement and disappointment for people who try to do it that way. We need to fill our lives with Christ first. Not so much with answers, but with the mind of Christ. And then we'll be ready to tackle the world. On the other hand, we can't marry ourselves to our quiet time, in prayer and never leave our sanctuary, because the world doesn't live in our sanctuary. The challenge here is for us to see the world as Jesus sees it and to handle it with compassion. I like this saying “But the one option Jesus doesn't give us as Christians is to ignore the need or to stick our heads in the sand and do nothing. Heads in the sand only get grains in the ears. They don't get light to the world.”
So we need to adopt Jesus’ strategies for engaging the world in a way that enables us to meet them at the point of their need with the compassion of the Savior and the salvation of God. Amen?
My brothers and sisters, do you want to see God really work in your life? Dig into your Bibles daily. Pray daily. Share the Gospel daily. Learn to love those that you have had a hard time to be around. Learn how to honestly walk, talk and through our actions act as Jesus did. Let us learn to have the mind of Christ. Let us learn how to let the Holy Spirit guide us in all we do. Amen?