Pulling Toward Christ
“The Son of Man has come to save that which is lost”
Straddling the fence becomes, somewhat, second nature when the emphasis is placed on the other side. The grass appears to be greener from where you stand. Waves of grass flow like the sea as far as the eyes can take them. Hungry and led by the sight of its feast, some mingle with courage crossing the path of what could be reached. Many follow the herd through the broad gate to greener pastures putting on the attire of wolves’ that feeds with satisfaction. Some trampled and devoured in the midst of their prey, the emaciated and mangled ones escape death for another day. Creeping into the unknown, sheepishly peering over shoulder, others pass with wayward glares, reminding what the elders told us.
“Baaack…baaack…baaack”, they say, as we continue the journey with our sights ahead,forgetting the things we heard and focusing on the things which are seen, we become hard to listen, believing in anything. Our eyes believe what our heart may need, deceiving one to do foolish things. It is better over here than the land of complacency; we do as we please with no rules to trance us. Give me my fill as I do my own, I am free, wherever I may roam. Pushed and prodded by ones from behind, the land barren, cold, and desolation you find. Recognition is lost but the voices cry, where to go when the land is dry. Searching for color, in love with its hue, not even a drop of the morning mist makes the heart smile as it used to. Trapped in the trench with no other care, questions flow, how to get out of here. Reaching to extension I feel the tug, can it be the One Who is love. Pull me from death the One from above; I acknowledge my ways, and know I have done wrong, but my heart longs to come back home.
I remember a time when the thunder rolled from the preachers’ mouth that made the pews seem to vibrate as the strike of lightening pounded down on the altar, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”! A time when the hair of my skin raised to attention as God’s word was preached to me in my adolescence and resonated throughout His house.
Satan works quickly when a Christian, a child of God, desires to become strong in faith. He rolls up his filthy sleeves and gets down to his deceitfulness, lies, and evil ways. Satan is very clever, and is one to not to be taking lightly, that is to say, if you ignore his treacherous ways, he will run all over you.
Remember he is the Prince of this world. And we live in a world that is saturated by narcissism, putting precedence on ourselves, and materialism, which influences our thoughts of what we think we want or need. He makes us think that it is better on the other side, “look, he says, the grass is greener over here, do it your way without rules, you deserve it; do what you want”.
Caught in the lusts of this world, is not easy to avoid by ourselves, it has been fed to us for thousands of years. Today with the rise of advanced technologies, it is all around us, on television, in magazines, on computers and, more recently, on cellular phones. Satan’s pulpit is always a full house twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week—full of deception, filth, and perversion.
When we are wrapped up in the things of this world, we tend to not focus or depend on God, and, subsequently, we forget about Him. By nature, we move along with the herd. That is, we go with the flow; we follow things by tendency of what things are told or shown.
The world attempts to pull the darkened veil over our eyes by convincing us that things must be seen for anything can be proved as real. That is, the world teaches we have to see something before it is believed. We are slapped in the face, almost, daily with things concerning body appearance, sexual implications, capital gains, and numerous subtle temptations that, overtime, may pull us away from God.
Reaching the point where we can reveal our true selves, confessing our sins, and dealing with our disappointments, our failures and lack of achievements may be difficult. It is not as easy to say, “I give up”. Something within us, an inner voice says to us, “You can do it by yourself; you don’t need help or instruction”.
When we become honest with ourselves then we see our true selves. Our vision becomes clear when focused on God. It is when we focus on ourselves when our vision becomes blurred, and we do not see God. We must remember what the apostle told us, “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18), and “we walk in faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). It is when our sight, blurred from the wants of the world, leads us astray.
The lure becomes strong and catches us off guard during our weakest moments. Our living in sin feels to our souls like sin itself. I am speaking from a perspective of one who lived years in the wilderness apart from God. I know several God-loving Christians who have not strayed from God, and serve Him with all their heart.
However, I am speaking of the ones who have lived their life apart from God and desire to come back to Him. Moreover, I am of speaking to the ones who are astray; I am calling on the lost sheep. Jesus tells us that He is the good shepherd and cares about His sheep:
I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief [the devil] does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd (Matthew 10:7-16).
Sheep need direction; they need leadership. Sheep need watching and nurturing, otherwise they wander off. Sheep have no sense of direction; they have no idea where to go. Either sheep follow the herd, or they get lost. Jesus tells us that He is the door of the sheep, and if we come to Him we will be saved. Jesus said He would give us life and give it more abundantly. He is the good shepherd who gives life to the sheep. He is not a weekend warrior who says he will watch over the flock, but flees when things become troublesome or when danger presents itself. No. Jesus is the good shepherd who is always on duty, day and night, tending His flock. We are the sheep who must follow our shepherd, because the thief (the devil) wants to rob us away from God.
How many people do you know that believe they are perfect in every way in God’s eyes? You may know of certain individuals who frown upon or turn up their nose to people who do not act or behave according to certain standards. You may be familiar with such people, the ones who claim to be self-righteous and do no wrong, but are very good at seeing fault in others.
I know one very well, that is, I know of my old self. You know the ones, the unattractive, presumptuous, and self-righteous Christians who believe their good is better than your good, and their sins are better than your sins. They live in the disbelief, in their own self-righteousness, that God views them as holy and is against everyone else.
Unattractive because they make crude comments or remarks, such as, “I cannot believe you are talking to so and so”, or “why do you associate with those kind of people”. It is an unattractive goodness, so to speak, that makes it difficult to like them. I had a conversation with a friends’ mother one day, and I asked her what church she attended.
She blatantly remarked, “I don’t go to church very often, those people are hypocrites and talk behind your back. Living in a small town, everyone knows your business; they gossip and spread rumors. It’s humiliating to have these people treat me as though I am trash. I’m not perfect; I have made some bad decisions in my life, but they act as though they are God’s gift, and I can’t deal with those kinds of people”.
These people are the very ones who demonstrate love and compassion towards Christians within the church. They are regular church worshippers, who are dedicated to God, but outside the church and the Christian community, they behave differently.
With that said, it would be ridiculous to say this of all people, but, of course, you are familiar with these goody-two-shoe types. They breathe a smug attitude of self-righteousness that tells everyone around them that God will not judge them but will of the riff-raff. It was no different back in Jesus’ time.
Jesus associated with sinners: the outcast, the thieves, the tax collectors, and the prostitutes. He told us that he came to this world to save sinners, that he gives forgiveness to the guilty. The pious religious leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1).
The Pharisees were experts of the word of God; they knew God’s law backwards and forwards. Their religion was their life. They were passionate in their obedience to God’s law. They were obsessed with their traditional duty. They were ostentatious, that is to say, they wore their badges of godliness on their sleeves. The Pharisees paid more attention to ceremonial display, outward appearance, and tradition, promoting their own righteousness. They focused on the right or wrong of everyone else but themselves. They were quick to be judgmental and to be prejudice.
They believed themselves righteous by obeying Mosaic law, the first five chapters of the Bible (The Torah), their rules and regulations (just to list a few, such as refraining from working on the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), fasting twice a week (Luke 18:12), or tithing 1/10th of income (Malachi 3:8-10). “The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). They were blind to see that Jesus was their Messiah they had been promised. Pastor Dr. Timothy Keller, author of, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, wrote about justifying one’s self rather than trusting in Jesus:
If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then, ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as savior. You are trusting in your goodness rather than in Jesus for you standing with God. You are trying to save yourself by following Jesus. That, ironically, is a rejection of the gospel of Jesus (Page 183).1
What Dr. Keller is saying is we cannot save ourselves. The apostle Paul shares the good news,“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2: 8-9). It is through faith in Him that God justifies us. Paul reaffirms, “It is God that justifieth” (Romans 8:33).
The Pharisees believed their good deeds or works were good enough. The Pharisees trusted their own goodness and were not willing to accept Jesus’ teachings. They accepted Jesus as a rabbi or teacher, but what the Jewish leaders did not accept was that Jesus was the Son of God, the Messiah.
The religious leaders were hard in their hearts and could not see that Jesus was their propitiation (favor) from God; He was their Christ.
The fact of the matter is the Jewish leaders did not understand nor accept the “Good News” that John the Baptist presented to them recorded in the book of Matthew 3:2-3, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!
For this is he who has spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His Paths straight”.
The Pharisees understood the Old Testament, however, they were completely ignorant to the New Covenant, the “Good News”, which was the gospel that Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, had come to save us, and He is the only way to salvation. Paul tells us, “Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:18). This grace is a gift from God, something they could not comprehend.
Paul, originally Saul of Tarsus, converted from a Jew to an apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ at the road to Damascus. Prior to Paul’s conversion to Christ, he followed orders from the chief priests to persecute Christians. Paul was well aware of what the Pharisees believed, and he proclaimed what they failed to accept as true that “by the deeds of the law there shall be no flesh justified” (Romans 3:20), he goes on to say, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Paul tells us more of his former religion and his association with the Pharisees:
My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee (Acts 26:45). For I bear witness that they have zeal [passion] for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:2-3).
The Pharisees complained and argued about Jesus’ association, and of His dining with tax collectors and sinners. The religious leaders said, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:1).
Jesus’ strategy, his public discourse, went against the grain of the Pharisees when He said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Matthew 9:12). The Pharisees thought of themselves as spiritually healthy and in no need of Jesus. Whereas sinners acknowledged they were living a life of sin and were more willing to accept Jesus’ grace.
It is true that Jesus did eat with sinners, but it is also true, when Jesus ate with the Pharisees, He ate with sinners. Think of it this way, if Jesus did not eat with sinners, He would have eaten alone. One of the chief complaints of the Pharisees was Jesus’ eating with tax collectors and sinners.
Jesus was demonstrating by His actions that He had come to save sinners, although Jesus did not condone the sinners’ choices, but rather He recognized their need for salvation. Jesus taught salvation is by faith and not by works alone. Paul explains that God justifies the ungodly and righteousness through faith:
If Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4: 2-5).
Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11). The reverend Charles H. Spurgeon wrote in his book, All of Grace:
The law is for the self-righteous, to humble their pride. The gospel is for the lost, to remove their despair. If you are not lost, what do you want with a savior? Should the shepherd go after those sheep that never went astray? Why should a woman sweep her house for pieces of money that were never out of her purse?...If you are undeserving, ill-deserving, hell-deserving, you are the sort of person for whom the Gospel is ordained and arranged and proclaimed. God justifies the ungodly (Page 20).2