19 03 2020

bob goff heart
The great Minister Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an impostor.” Jesus didn’t leave us here to live life on this earth as self-centered individuals. The greatest commandment was for men and women to love God with all of their heart, soul, mind and strength and to love one another. In the midst of a culture gone selfie crazy, Christians who live for the Lord and put the spotlight on taking care of others should stick out like light shining in the darkness. It is when we become too inward and forget that God’s call is all about behaving outward that the church gets its priority of purpose all mixed up. I have learned via my own experience that God will take care of you if you go out of your way to take care of others. And if ever there was a season for followers to showcase our Savior, it is now!

But I want to challenge all of us to ponder something before we just run out trying to save the world on our own. Before anyone of us opens up our mouths, we best be sure that we first open up our hearts fully to the Lord. There is nothing worse than trying to accomplish spiritual works in the power of our own flesh. Peter bragged about all he was going to do for Jesus, but it only took a few hours to prove that he was not up to backing up his talk with his walk. We won’t give the best away to others or love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us without allowing God to do a miraculous work within our hearts.

Before I knew Jesus, I wasn’t a very giving nor merciful individual. I grew up in a very big family and as the oldest child, I just got tired of always having to look out for everybody else. I was expected to share and care always for my siblings at the expense of having to sacrifice my own schedule. I hated having to be so good. Just once, I wanted to tell everyone else to take a hike so I could do what I wanted to do without any responsibility for anyone else. But when I surrendered my soul to Jesus, God put a love in my gut that was never there before. I began to have a real burden not only for those in my life, but for anyone God put in my path.

Many times, Christians are better at making excuses than truly following after the Father’s will. I hear church people say, “I can’t love that person,” or “I can’t forgive them after what they have done,” but the truth is, we can, but we have to want to; and the Holy Spirit gives us the very power to do so. God will put His love in us to fill us so that He can spill us out to others. We can’t tell the Lord what we will do and what we won’t do, where we will go and where we won’t go when all He really requires from us is an obedient, “Yes!” God uses everyday people to accomplish extraordinary tasks when we surrender our lives unconditionally to His leadership. I can’t tell you how many times that I have prayed a prayer like this. “Lord, I wouldn’t do this for anybody else, but for You I will do whatever You ask.” My behavior flows from my deep and real love for my Jesus. If we desire the works of the Lord to decorate our lives, then we best be devoted to the One who produces the fruit of glory via the dirt of earth.

Anonymity is a not a virtue. It seems that some people feel burdened, inconvenienced, or uninterested in sharing their lives. A hardness of heart reflects itself in an unwillingness to open up our loves to others, to invite them to really know us, and to serve them from the bounty the Lord has given us. Perhaps past hurts create a guardedness, or selfishness erodes the desire to share. But in any case, many people think of Christian living in exclusively private terms. If you ask me, there is just too much “Jesus and me,” and not enough, “Jesus and me and everybody else!”

Have you reduced the faith to nothing more than “a personal relationship with Jesus” without recognizing either our union with other Christians or the necessity of sharing our faith and our lives with non-Christians? When that happens, the body of Christ suffers and the world we live in stays in the dark rather than invited into the light. Anonymity stunts the growth of accountability. Anonymity allows you to live a public life and still nurse a private persona. There needs to be a consistency between what we claim to be and who we really are. Bottom line might begin with not telling anybody else how much Jesus loves them until we are ready to love them too.

Bob Goff says that, “we grow where we are loved, not where we are merely informed.” You can inform somebody you have no intention of knowing or having any connection with. But you really can’t love someone you have no intention of knowing. How can we say we love others if we aren’t willing to listen and hear their hearts? Too many of us are really good at pounding people with the facts and figures of Scripture but we never allow enough time to just simply talk. Communication must be a vital component of education. How can you prove your love to the watching and waiting world if you have built a wall around your heart, complete with a mote that has hungry crocodiles waiting to pounce on anybody who dares to get close? Who in your life will you unlock the door and allow to come on in to your messy world?

The Great Commission may carry you to the ends of the world, but it starts in your apartment complex, your dorm room, your duplex, your rental, your bi-level, your rancher, and your neighborhood. God has given you a perfect environment for demonstrating the gospel and advancing His mission, if only you’d open your eyes to it. What if we made people more important than our projects? What if we decided that Jesus didn’t just call us to finish the race first, but He challenged us to make sure that we help those others running along the track with us?

As I write this article, we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic. Have you ever thought of it as a divine opportunity that could open a door to share the gospel? The Plague of Cyprian was a pandemic that afflicted the Roman Empire from AD 249 to 262. The plague had caused a widespread manpower shortage for food production and the Roman army, severely weakening the empire during the crisis of the 3rd century. The agent of the plague was much like smallpox, influenza and a viral hemorrhagic fever similar to the Ebola virus. History records how the Christians kept the light on in such a dark period. The Church of Jesus Christ became a virtual army of nurses, providing the basic needs the suffering community needed to survive.

At the height of the epidemic, around 260, Dionysius wrote a lengthy tribute to the heroic nursing efforts of local Christians, many of whom lost their lives while caring for others:

“Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead. The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.”

Having noted at length how the Christian community nursed the sick and dying and even spared nothing in preparing the dead for proper burial, he wrote: “The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.”

Christianity spread to the world through the selfless acts of these early Christians. What will History write about us today? Are our doors open? Have we given God our open hearts? Are we willing to sacrifice our very lives? Something tells me, we won’t have to wait very long to discover the answers to those questions.



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