Whoever is a believer in Christ is a new creation. The old way of living has disappeared. A new way of living has come into existence.
If ever there were proof of this promise, it’s this guy right here. Twenty-seven years ago you wouldn’t have been able to get me near a church never mind in one. But this promise proved truer than anything I’ve ever read outside of the Gospel message itself. I experienced the reality of God taking everything I was and transforming it into a completely new life. In all these years, that amazing transformation still fills me with joy.
It was incredible enough that God would send His only Son into the world to walk among us as one of us. That He would allow Him to die in order to pay our penalty was even more incredible. But His decision to place in my heart a desire to know and love Him was beyond belief. I mean, there I was, a living-for-the-weekend guy, wondering where I was going to find some money to buy some “weed” and a six-pack. Then all of a sudden I’m a child of the King standing in the light of His love receiving my ambassadorship.
In my mind I told myself that this must be some kind of mistake. “No mistake,” said the Lord. “Have You forgotten the drugs…the alcohol…the sex?” I asked. “As a matter of fact, I have.” He said. “But the pride…the selfishness.” I said. “Yeah, we’ll have to work on those.” He said. “But I don’t deserve this,” I protested. “No you don’t. But then it’s not a reward…it’s a Gift.” He said.
So, I gave up and let Him get about the monumental task of making me like Jesus. I was His child now and all He was requiring of me was to receive His love. And I was His ambassador and all that job required was to share that love. That was to be my life now: to receive and share the love of Christ, to share that which was responsible for creation, Caanon and the cross…my motive and my ministry…the agape’ love of God. That was my mission then, and it is still my mission today. But it is also my motivation. Not only do I share the love of Christ, but also it is the love of Christ that compels me to share. As I continue in this life transformation that God brought about years ago, I continue in the ministry that Jesus had when He was here. That is my call…that is the call on all of us who love Him. Because the only hands He has to heal the hurting are our hands…The only feet He has to run errands of love are our feet…The only voice to speak hope to the hopeless and joy to the joyless is our voice.
J.R. Miller tells the story of a little girl that had been put to bed. Her room was dark so her mother brought in her doll, Happy, to be with her. This didn’t seem to help and she begged her mother to stay with her. The mother reminded her that she had “Happy” and God and need not be afraid. Soon the child was sobbing again. When her mother came into the room she cried, “Mommy, I don’t want Happy and I don’t want God, I want somebody with skin on.”
We are the love of Christ with “skin on”. He sends us out to represent Him. We are to be the hands, feet, voice and love of He who says, “As the Father has sent Me, so do I send you.
We live in a broken world. The word of God says: “For we know that up to the present time all of creation groans with pain, like the pain of childbirth.”
(Rom 8:22) Families are broken, governments are broken, peace agreements are broken every day and hearts are broken every hour. We have been given a “new life” within which is the power of God to touch lives with love, light and healing. That power is the very heart of Christ. It is a heart that looks across this broken landscape with love and is compelled by that love to act. The heart of man may look at this monumental task and become overwhelmed. But the heart of Christ looks at this same task and plunges right in. It knows that the only way to climb a mountain is one step at a time.
The story is told of a man walking along a beach after a big storm. Thousands of starfish have been washed up and are now dying in the hot sun. Soon he comes across a boy who is picking up the starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the water. “What are you doing?” the man asks. “Saving these starfish.” the boy replied. Looking up and down the beach, the man shook his head and said, “Son, there are thousands of them. Do you think what you’re doing really matters?” Picking up one and tossing it into the water he replied, “It matters to that one.”
Men and women are desperate for the healing touch of God’s love. And the marvelous and miraculous thing about bringing that healing touch to the broken is that we ourselves are made whole. In bringing God’s perfect love to a love-deprived world we ourselves are perfected. The old way of serving self has disappeared…the new way of humbling self for the purpose of lifting others has come. This is how we become like Christ…This is how we reach towards God’s perfection. It is by lifting others that we ourselves are lifted.
In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning disabled children. At a Chush fundraiser dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, “Where is the perfection in my son, Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. Where is God’s perfection?” The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father’s anguish, and stilled by the piercing query. “I believe,” the father answered, “that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child.” He then told the following story about his son, Shaya: One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, “Do you think they’ll let me play?” Shaya’s father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya’s father approached one of the boys anyway and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he shrugged and said, “We’re losing by six runs, and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess, he can be on our team, and we’ll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning.” Shaya’s father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go play in center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya’s team scored again, and now had two outs and the bases loaded, with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However, as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps in to lob the ball in softly so Shaya could at least make contact. The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya’s teammates came up to Shaya, and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate sung the bat, and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and easily could have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it high into right field far beyond the reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, “Shaya, run to first. Run to first.” Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled. By the time he reached first the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman, but instead the right fielder threw the ball high over the third baseman’s head. Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second.” Shaya ran to second base as the runners ahead of him scampered home. As Shaya reached second, the opposing shortstop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, “Run to third.” As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, “Shaya, run home.” Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate, and all eighteen boys lifted him on their shoulders, and made him the hero, as if he had hit a grand slam and won the game for his team. “That day,” said the father with tears rolling down his face, “those boys reached for God’s perfection.”
from: “Excuses Begone” by Dr.Wayne Dyer
And just as it is true that we become like Christ as we carry His love to men and women who need to feel the touch of that love, He also speaks to the church and commands us “to love each other even as I have loved you.” And how did Christ love His followers? Wasn’t it with patience: with them, their faults, their ignorance and their unfaithfulness? Wasn’t it with kindness, with constant thoughtfulness and with compassion? Wasn’t it in ministering to them in all possible ways? And yet how poorly do we follow His example.
Before I became a Christian, it amazed me how Christians would attack one another. Someone once said, “The Christian army is the only army that shoots their own wounded.” It certainly seemed that way to me. When I was younger we belonged to a church where everybody talked with everybody. Then my mother got a divorce. Suddenly, very few people talked to us. And when they did they made my mother angry but mostly made her cry. We ended up leaving that church. I hated them for making my mother cry…I hated my mother for making them not “like” us and I hated myself for hating. Years later when I came back to the church, what I found was little better than what I left: Protestant vs. Catholic, Southern Baptists vs. American Baptists, Pentecostal vs. Fundamentalist, speaking in tongues vs. tongues are from Satan, and on and on. And too many of the same things still divide us today. I remember a joke about two churches:
The first church was having a missions meeting to discuss the evangelistic tent meetings that had just concluded. The head deacon stood and declared, “Well, I’m sad to announce that unfortunately our meetings resulted in no new converts. However, the good news is that the second church also had their tent meetings last week, but “Praise the Lord”, nobody was saved there either.”
We’re not supposed to be in competition with each other…We are followers of but one King, children of but one Father.
Is this to be the church that would minister to a hurting world? We must sound like carnival hawkers competing for the sinner’s soul and oftentimes his wallet. I once heard a parable that went something like this:
A man went to sleep and dreamed that an angel visited him and invited him to visit heaven and hell. In hell he saw thousands of people seated around a table filled with food. They had long straight wooden spoons for arms, the ends of which couldn’t reach their mouths. Food was flying everywhere and they were cursing and wailing in hunger. Then the angel took him to heaven. Same table…same wooden spoons…the difference: the people were feeding each other.
We cannot feed the world and satisfy their spiritual hunger if we will not feed each other. We cannot effectively love those outside the church if we cannot even show love to those we would call “brother”. Those in our midst who stumble and are but a little way down the “road to Zion” need our love. We are not supposed to pull them over and cite them like some spiritual policeman. Nor do they need us to talk to them like a doctor to a patient or a teacher to a pupil. They are family! And like family…we love them and care for them with all the love and care that Christ has shown us.
So then, what should the church look like? Should it be a people who acts alike, thinks alike, has exactly the same view, parts their hair on the same side and prefers stuffing to potatoes? The Good News is that Christ has invited us all to enter into His family…with all our differences and quirks. And as a family we cause God’s kingdom to grow, not by looking exactly alike but by obedience to the head, which is Christ.
Jesus said, “He who loves Me, obeys what I command.” Let the love of Christ compel you to do as He commands:
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second most important commandment is this: 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' There is no other commandment more important than these two." (Mar 12:30-31)
2. So let us not become tired of doing good; for if we do not give up, the time will come when we will reap the harvest. So then, as often as we have the chance, we should do good to everyone, and especially to those who belong to our family in the faith. (Gal 6:9-10)
If we will bend our knee before our Lord in gratitude for the miracle of our “new creation” and with joy follow His command and example, despite all our differences we can proclaim with one voice:
“Now is the time of God’s favor…Now is the day of salvation!”