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A Heart of Compassion
Jesus was a man of compassion – Matthew 20:29-34. Paul calls on us to put on a “heart of compassion” in Colossians 3:12-15. Take a look at this text…
THE PEOPLE OF COMPASSION – 3:12:
The three designations for Christians Paul uses in verse 12:
Chosen of God
These titles are transferred from OT Israel to Jesus (Luke 9:35; 1 Peter 2:4, 6; John 6:69; Acts 4:27, 30; Matt. 3:17; Eph. 1:6) and – because the church is “in Christ,” subsequently to the church.
THE CHARACTER OF COMPASSION – 3:13-14:
The eight characteristics of the “new man” in verses 12-14.
Heart of compassion
Gentleness – meekness – Being willing to give up rights for the sake of someone else.
Bearing with one another – “restrain your natural reaction” (Wright, 146).
Forgiving each other
The motivation for our forgiving someone else is that the Lord forgave us. If there are any kind words to be spoken, let us speak them now, while our loved ones are yet with us. If there are loving deeds to be done, let us do them today. Flowers on the lid of a coffin and a nice epitaph on a tombstone bring no cheer to the dead.
Paul describes “love” as “the perfect bond of unity.”
THE SOURCE OF COMPASSION – 3:15
What should rule (brabeuo – “act as an umpire”) in our hearts is the peace of Christ (see John 14:27. See also: 1 Cor. 7:15; Gal. 5:13; Eph. 4:4; 1 Thess. 4:17; 2 Tim. 1:9).
Always exhibit the compassionate heart of a Christian who finds peace of mind and peace in the heart, in Jesus Christ.
Preaching will Not Build a Strong Church
That’s not exactly what the flyer said. It’s top line read: “90% of all pastors have concluded that just preaching from the pulpit today will not, by itself, build a strong church.” I’m not sure a faithful Christian has ever claimed that preaching, by itself, would do much good, let alone building a strong church. Can you have preaching isolated from practice?
Indeed, preaching is designed and intended to change practice. Paul told Timothy: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2). “Reprove,” “rebuke,” and “exhort” all deal with changing beliefs and, thereby, practices. This change begins with the gospel preacher himself: “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:16).
The flyer mentions four other components that, they say, need to be part of a strong church. #1 – “Strong worship and praise in your music program.” Man was created with the inherent desire and need to worship something. It is the word of God that channels that inherent desire to the right object (God) and through the right paths (acts of worship). The word of God must be the framework within which acceptable worship is offered to God. Right after Paul tells the Colossians to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you …with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God,” he then said: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”
#2 – An active youth program. That is the other side of the coin to #4 – A strong and energetic senior adult involvement. The key words here are “involvement.” A church does not necessarily need a youth minister or a “senior” minister. We can all get tied up and overwhelmed by having a plethora of “programs.” Again, the key word is “involvement.” Every Christian needs to be involved in the work of the church for the church to be a “strong church.” Young John Mark (Acts 12:25) and the young Timothy (Acts 16:1-3) were involved. The widows Mary (Acts 1:13) and another Mary (Acts 12:12) were involved. Even Manaen, perhaps an older saint by then (Acts 13:1) and elders (Acts 14:23) were involved.
#3 on the list was an “aggressive outreach to the community.” The most important “outreach” to the community is planting the seed (1 Cor. 3:6). The whole focus of Acts is on getting the word into the community. In the temple and from house to house, early Christians were planting the seed (Acts 5:42). This evangelism was accompanied by prayer (Acts 4:23-30).
Serving the sick (Acts 3:1-6) or feeding the hungry (Acts 11:27-30) were always done within the context of planting the seed. As with youth and “senior” programs, getting our eyes off evangelism turns benevolent programs into welfare programs, not evangelism programs.
The purpose of the flyer was to advertise, for the “Senior Adult Program,” their Christmas Rocks program. It is a “2 1/2 hour Broadway style Musical Extravaganza.” It is a “great Christ-honoring Christmas production,” per the flyer.
Certainly the denominational world long ago turned the simple worship of God into an effort to appease men. Worship is worship. Entertainment is entertainment. God has always punished man when he confused the two. A Broadway style musical may draw people to the church building but, if it is not done with Christ’s authority, it cannot draw people to the church’s Savior.
“…Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1Peter 2:21).
Considering the subject of prayer, one cannot be said to be following in the steps of Jesus if prayer is not a personal priority in his life. For example:
- After healing the multitudes at Capernaum, before daybreak Jesus went to a solitary place and prayed (Mark 1:35).
- After the miracle of feeding the 5,000, Jesus ascended a nearby mountain and prayed (Matthew 14:23)
- At His baptism, Jesus prayed (Luke 3:21)
- Before his first confrontation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus prayed (Luke 5:16)
- Before choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus prayed (Luke 6:12).
- Before the first prophecy of His death, Jesus prayed (Luke 9:18).
- At the transfiguration site, Jesus prayed (Luke 9:29).
- Jesus was praying when His disciples came and asked Him to “teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1).
- In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed (Matthew 26:39).
- While hanging on the Cross, Jesus prayed (Luke 23:34 & 36)
Furthermore, Jesus admonished His disciples to pray: “Pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:40). Jesus encouraged His followers to “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke 11:9). Jesus even told three parables, the major emphasis of which was prayer: Luke 11:5-13; Luke 18:1-8; Luke 18:11-13.
The point is this: Since the Son of God felt such a keen need of prayer, how much more ought we to feel this need?! Would Jesus spend so much time in His brief stay on this earth in prayer if it availed nothing?! Would Jesus encourage His disciples to pray if it was really just a waste of time?
How much power in the individual Christian’s life, as well as in the church, is voided because of a lack of fervent prayer? “Power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11); God will give power to His faithful children (2Timothy 1:7) — however, “You have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2).
Where Does Your Loyalty Lie?
We are loyal to brands. I only want to wear Wrangler jeans. We like Heinz ketchup and Vlasic pickles. Loyalty is defined as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.”
The words “loyal” or “loyalty” are not found in the book of Ruth. But the classic illustration of loyalty is found in Ruth (1:16-17).
LOYALTY BEGINS WITH A RELATIONSHIP:
Naomi has two daughters-in-law but (because she feels that God is against her – 1:13) if they were follow her home, it would be courting disaster. So, she has to send them away. Naomi thus loses one daughter-in-law – Orpah. We might criticize Orpah for leaving Naomi but the inspired historian does not. Rather, he simply highlights the extraordinary loyalty of Ruth. Orpah takes the safe route. Ruth takes the faith route.
When you and I, based on our faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, are immersed by baptism into Him, we begin our relationship of loyalty to Him (Romans 6:3-7).
Loyalty begins with a relationship.
LOYALTY – SUPPORT AND ALLEGIANCE:
Consider Ruth’s words from 1:16-17. Let’s begin at the top. Loyalty, for Ruth, meant allegiance to Naomi’s God. Ruth renounces the religion of her parents. For you and me, once we enter a relationship with Jesus Christ, He demands complete loyalty (Matt. 8:21; 10:37).
Secondly, for Ruth, loyalty meant support of Naomi’s people. Ruth was committing herself to Naomi’s people – whatever was good for the Israelite nation became Ruth’s motivation, her focus. When you and I enter into our covenant relationship with Jesus – like a marriage – it is a relationship with more than just one person. We are entering a covenant relationship with the whole family of Jesus – known as His church (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:13).
Loyalty to Jesus requires each of us in covenant relationship with Him to get involved in the work and worship of the church. If you are not involved, you have to ask yourself, are you loyal?
Finally, in this regard, Ruth’s loyalty was permanent. That is the essence of verse 17. She even swears an oath to that effect. Once again, loyalty to God, to Jesus, to His church, must be a permanent loyalty (Rev. 2:10; 1 Peter 1:9).
Loyalty is not loyalty if it is not unto the end.
LOYALTY HAS ITS REWARD:
God rewarded Ruth for her loyalty. God blessed Ruth with a little boy, whom they named Obed. Obed one day has a son named Jesse and Jesse, among eight sons, has a boy named David who becomes King of Israel and the forerunner of the Messiah, putting the Gentile Ruth into the genealogy of the Son of God (Matt. 1:5).
The greatest rewards await those who are loyal to God through Jesus Christ (Matt. 19:27-30).
Be loyal to God, to Christ’s people, forever. The rewards are beyond your imagination.
Leading the People to Praise the Lord
The book of Psalms is certainly one of our favorite books in the entire Bible. Perhaps because it is, in the words of OT scholar, Gerhard von Rad, “Israel in the presence of Yahweh.” We are in the presence of Jehovah when we assemble together to worship in Jesus Christ. We all want to be in the presence of Jehovah when our lives on earth are fulfilled. We try to avoid those things that hinder and affect and impede our position in the presence of Jehovah. The book of Psalms runs the gamut of human emotion and human activity – all done in the presence of Jehovah.
Psalm 148 is a psalm or hymn of praise. C. S. Lewis wrote a devotional book, Reflections on the Psalms in which he writes: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. …In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (95, 97).
Here is the psalm from the NASV: “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away. Praise the Lord from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. And He has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise for all His godly ones; Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him. Praise the Lord!”
Derek Kidner in the Tyndale OT Commentary Series calls this psalm a “Choir of Creation” – (487). You are familiar with this psalm because you have sung it frequently in worship. In 1893, these words were set to music by William Kirkpatrick.
The first two words of this psalm in the Hebrew Bible are “Hallelu” and “jah.” Hallelu comes from the verb hālal meaning to “praise, boast” and “connotes being sincerely and deeply thankful for and/or satisfied in lauding a superior quality(ies) or great, great act(s) of the object” (TWOT, I:217). One-third of the passages which use “hālal” are in the Psalms and most of those are commands to praise. “Yah” is a shortened form of the divine name “Yahweh” or transliterated usually as Jehovah.
Our goal is to get all the earth to praise Jehovah God.
The Tragic Death of a Comedian
Robin Williams died Monday morning at 63. He had received the most coveted awards in the industry: Oscar, Golden Globe, Emmy and Grammy. He was exceptionally funny. What makes it even more amazing is that much of his humor was impromptu, off-the-cuff. He had a net worth of some $50 million. Money. Awards. Acclaim. Popularity. Influence. Sense of humor.
But it was dealing with his success that contributed to the struggles he had over the years. Reports suggest that when his TV show, “The Crazy Ones,” got canceled, Williams fell back into depression that he had struggled with for years. How could he live up to the exceedingly high expectations? He also outlived and struggled to accept the death of some dear friends – Christopher Reeve, Andy Kaufman, and John Belushi.
The preliminary investigation by the sherif is that Robin Williams took his own life. He had struggled with depression for years and dealt with cocaine and alcohol abuse throughout the 70’s and 80’s. One publicist said that Williams talked about his depression publicly but suffered in silence.
Our hearts go out to his family and those who were closest to him.
Brother Dowell Flatt, one of my professors from Freed-Hardeman and a faithful Gospel preacher, also suffered from depression. He wrote a tract on depression that you might find helpful. It might be ordered from the Freed-Hardeman Bookstore.
Among the myths of depression brother Flatt listed are: Depression is sinful; Depression is a lack of faith; Depression can be cured by becoming more faithful; Depression is something you can end; Depression is completely genetic; Depression is a chemical imbalance; Depression can be permanently cured.
Robin Williams shows us that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Money. Awards. Acclaim. Popularity. Influence. A sense of humor. That can all mask the loneliness, hurt, and depression that lurks beneath.
Dowell Flatt shows us that a strong Christian faith, in and of itself, does not always solve the problem of depression.
America needs compassionate Christians. Learn. Listen. Encourage. Pray.
A. W. Tozer, in a book entitled The Knowledge of the Holy, wrote (pg. 70): “With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack?”
Only God is good. When the young aristocrat came up to Jesus and said, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” the first thing Jesus did was correct his misperception: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:17-18). Only God is inherently good.
“Good” is defined as something “to be desired or approved;” relative to people, it refers to someone who has “qualities desired for a particular role.” It can also refer to “possessing or displaying moral virtue.” In this instance, it reflects the good moral nature of God. Specifically, it means “showing kindness, being obedient to rules, or commanding respect.”
Goodness is listed as one of the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 but I want us to go back in time to the lawgiver, Moses, as an example of goodness. Let’s define “goodness” as “generosity in actions.”
MOSES CALLED – Exodus 2:16-22; 3:1-8:
We see in this text that Moses was good because: 1.) He was willing to suffer with his people rather than enjoy the riches of Egypt; 2.) He helped the daughters of the priest of Midian water their flocks; 3.) He took care of his father’s flocks; 4.) He respected God’s nature.
MOSES, AN HUMBLE SERVANT – Numbers 12:7-8:
In this text, we see that Moses was good, because: 1.) Moses did not retaliate against these accusations. He allowed God to be the avenger; 2.) Moses was humble; 3.) Moses served God first and foremost; 4.) Moses was faithful to God; 5.) Moses spoke God’s message, not his own; 6.) Moses prayed for his sister, just as he had entreated God for Israel earlier.
MOSES THE PROPHET – Deut. 18:15:
Moses was good because he was faithful to God and directed His people to Jesus Christ.
MOSES’ EDUCATION – Acts 7:22:
Moses also used the wisdom and learning he had acquired in Egypt to help his people. It was, perhaps, through his training in Egypt that made him the appropriate person to write down the law of God. Moses was good because he built on the faith that his mother and father had instilled in him and was committed to Jehovah God throughout his life.
MOSES’ CHOICE – Hebrews 11:23-26:
Through the eyes of faith, Moses could see that standing with God was always the right choice to make.
The essence of “goodness,” then, is humility. Will you be good to your wife this week? Seek to serve her. Will you be good to your parents this week? Seek to serve them. Will you be good to your employees this week? Seek to serve them.
In all things, endeavor to reflect the goodness of God on others.
SCOTUS To Rule Definitively
A recent news item in World Magazine (Aug. 23) makes this comment about gay marriage laws: “A federal judge struck down Colorado’s voter-approved gay marriage ban saying it was unconstitutional. Judge Raymond P. Moore temporarily stayed the ruling, though, giving the state time to appeal to the 10th U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That’s the same court that earlier this summer struck down traditional marriage laws in Utah and Oklahoma. Both of those rulings are on hold, however, waiting for the U. S. Supreme Court to rule definitively on the issue.”
It saddens all of us that our country is turning its back on the God of heaven. I look forward to hearing the Supreme Court decision, when it does rule. I’ll go on record believing it will be a 5-4 ruling allowing states to make their own laws, arguing that marriage is such a fundamental bedrock of society that states (the “laboratories of democracy”) have the right to define such as they see fit. Of course, I could be wrong.
But, the Court cannot rule definitively that homosexuality is equal with heterosexuality because they are obviously not.
When the SCOTUS rules, it will not change what God’s word says on the subject. It will not change how the church should view and help homosexuals control their sinful urges. While in Paris, I was visiting a family and invited the grandson to visit worship. He told me he would not be welcome there. I asked why not. He said, “Because I’m gay.” I acknowledged that the Bible says we can’t go to heaven practicing that behavior but we would be glad to have him visit worship anyway. Perhaps due to my response, he did visit maybe a year later. He was welcomed by most people, just as they welcomed all visitors.
The SOCTUS ruling will not change the message of the Gospel nor will it stop the spread of the Gospel. The Roman Empire allowed homosexuality but it fell and the Gospel triumphed as Christ’s church grew and multiplied.
A SCOTUS ruling for the constitutionality of homosexual marriage may sign the death-warrant for the United States of America but it will simply reiterate the need you and I have to spread the message of Jesus Christ. We are not against homosexuality indiscriminately. We are against homosexuality because God said it is wrong and one cannot come into his presence practicing it (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Keep calm and preach the Gospel.