Posts Tagged 'reaching the lost'

Saving Sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

          And after these things he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office.  And he said to him, “Follow Me.”  And he left all, rose up, and followed Him.  Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there was a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.  And the scribes and Pharisees complained against his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5: 27-32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

          Tax collectors in Israel were Jewish citizens who had ‘sold-out’ to the Roman Empire; and thus turned against their own people.  The Roman taxes were often severe, and tax collectors earned their living by over-taxing the people; in turn, they were passionately despised.  The religious leaders were enraged because Jesus was eating with these types of sinners.  Jewish meals were extremely intimate affairs; those who dined together dipped into the same bowls and drank from the same cups.  Most Jews were very careful who they ate with because they falsely believed that sin could be transferred from one person to another through the sharing of food.  The Son of God however, was not concerned with being contaminated by the sins of others.  Instead, his purity was infecting and cleansing the evil hearts of those who dined with him.  The messiah’s purpose was to seek and to save the lost; to bring light into the lives of those who dwelled in darkness; he came to heal the sick and to restore to fellowship, those who had turned away from the paths of righteousness.

          In 1464 a block of Marble weighing nearly 9 tons was shipped to the Cathedral of the Santa Maria Del Fiore in Italy.  From it, an artist was commissioned to carve a massive sculpture of a young King David.  It is said the artist abandoned the project because the piece of marble contained too many flaws (or veins—veins in marble are weaker than the surrounding stone, which can cause it to crack and break.)  So the defective block sat in the yard for nearly a decade; until another artist was commissioned to continue the work; apparently he also foresaw problems with the veining and walked away from the project.  The scarcely carved stone block was again pushed to the back of the yard where the sun, wind, and rain beat down on it for nearly 25 years.  Then in 1501 a 29 year old sculptor named Michelangelo looked at the stone with optimistic intentions.  To him, it wasn’t just some aged block of marble taking up space; neither did he reject it as a defective throw away, fit only for the trash heap.  Unlike the other sculptors, Michelangelo saw the giant slab, not as it was, but as it could be.  He accepted the commission to complete the work because, from it, he believed that he could create a masterpiece.  In 1504, after nearly 3 years of work, the Statue of David was completed; immediately it was marveled over; even the harshest of critics were astonished by its timeless majesty.  Today, the statue of David resides in Florence Italy, and is unquestionably one of the most beautiful marble sculptures ever created.

          Like Michelangelo, Jesus Christ is a master craftsman; his purpose is not just to take good people and make them better, but to take the worst people and transform them into divine works of art.  As followers of Christ, our duty is to reach out to those who have been rejected.  Rather than turning our backs on sinners, we are called to embrace them in love.  We must not see sinners for who they are, but rather, for who they might become (with the assistance, love, and attention of an all-powerful Creator.)  Reach out to the lost; make friends with the weak; dive into the trash heap and pull out those who have been discarded.  He has sent us into the world to find the lost, and to bring hope to the hopeless.  Are you willing to be an instrument in the hands of God; a tool He can use to accomplish a masterpiece?

          “Lord Heavenly Father, may we seek out those who are sick.  Give us a heart for the outcast, that we would see possibility where others see only failure.  We lay our lives at Your feet; may we be Your messengers; may we bring the good news of salvation and reconciliation to all those who dwell in darkness.  We love You Father, we thank You, and we praise You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name.  Amen.”  God bless all of you.

Loving sinners

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house.  And there were a great number of tax collectors (sinners) and others who sat down with them.  And their scribes and the Pharisees (religious leaders) complained against his disciples saying, “Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Luke 5: 29 – 32.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                Those who had committed the greatest offenses were also the most eager to receive forgiveness. The prostitutes and tax-collectors, devoid of any delusions of purity, were wholly capable of conducting an honest self-appraisal.  The religious leaders however, believing themselves to be righteous, refused to accept the message of repentance and reconciliation.  The initial step toward the restoration of divine fellowship includes a genuine recognition of sin. Still today, those who need the greatest measure of healing, are often rejected by the self-righteous. Although most have forsaken the worst offenders, God has not abandoned them.

                Many living within the boundaries of the Roman Empire had little compassion for the sick and the infirmed.  There were no retirement homes, assisted living facilities, or modern hospitals.  Poor sanitary practices often lead to outbreaks of disease that devastated entire towns, cities, and nations.  Those who fell ill were usually abandoned by the healthy; and left to die in the streets. Still, as Christianity spread, so did mercy, compassion, and love. During a plague in Alexandria, Egypt, in 416 A.D., a group of Christians assembled to care for those who were sick. They became known as “the Parabalani” (“the reckless ones”); because in caring for the infirmed, they selflessly exposed themselves to infection.  As they ministered, they undoubtedly preached the gospel; drawing many to the foot of the cross.

                In similar fashion, we are called to care for the sickest of sinners; those who have been abandoned and left to die.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes, thieves, adulterers, and fornicators are frequently the most willing recipients of God’s message of forgiveness and salvation. May we never abandon the lost; nor shun the wretched; for Jesus Christ himself loves every outcast.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we never forget that we are but sinners, saved by Your grace.  Provide us with opportunities to minister to the lost.  May we have compassion on the sick and love those who are dying.  May we be instruments of Your mercy; delivering Your message of salvation to the lost.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things, according to Your will, in Jesus Christ’s name, amen.”  God bless all of you.

Seeking the lost

JESUS SPEAKING

                Then the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him.  And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”  So he spoke this parable to them, saying:  “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’  I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15: 1-7.)

INSPIRED THOUGHTS

                The religious leaders despised Jesus because he ate with sinners and social outcasts.  The priests and teachers of the law were absolutely obsessed with ritualistic purity.  Most avoided talking too, or even brushing up against those they deemed ungodly [The Jewish people customarily ate food in extremely intimate ways.  They shared cups and dipped bread in to communal bowls; eating supper meant sharing saliva; therefore they believed that whoever you dined with, you became one with.  In turn, sins were readily transferred from one person to another.  For example, they believed that eating with a prostitute made them prostitutes; eating with a murderer made them murderers.]  The Pharisees avoided fellowship with sinners. Jesus however saw them as God’s children; he fellow-shipped with them; ate with them; and loved them; in turn many lost sheep did repent and receive salvation.

                One day a man approached me for help.  He had been a recovering alcoholic for years, but had fallen back in to his old lifestyle.  His clothes were ragged and he smelled rancid; he appeared sick and his hands were shaking badly.  I prayed with the man, bought him some food and gave him a bible; I also helped him enter a treatment center.  At one point I even had to drive his car.  When I approached the vehicle and opened the door, a plume of awful stench struck my nostrils.  He had been passing out in and urinating all over the front seat.  I didn’t want to endure the horrible smell; nor did I desire to sit in human waste.  But God spoke to my heart; I instantly understood that getting dirty was, and is, a necessary part of spreading the gospel.  I sat in that urine; I drove that car; and in turn, I reached a man for Jesus Christ.

                Jesus himself wasn’t afraid to get dirty.  He ate with, lived with, and reached out to sinners.  His most important mission was to save the lost; our mission is the same as his.  We shouldn’t be afraid of getting dirty; nor should we push sinners away; instead we must invite them in; we must embrace them and love them.  They are God’s children; they are His precious possession; they are the treasure; they are the prize.  No matter how filthy or evil a person might be, God never stops seeking them; He never gives up, and He never grows tired.  He is full of mercy and grace, and in Him all repentant sinners can find rest for their souls.

                “Lord Heavenly Father, may we always seek the lost.  May we never be afraid of getting dirty.  May all come to repentance and reconciliation.  Give us strength and wisdom to reach out to others.  Provide us with more of Your Holy Spirit.  May we have countless opportunities to testify of Your Son; that the world may know of Your gracious gift of salvation.  We love You Father, we praise You, and we thank You, and we ask and pray all of these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.”  God bless all of you. 


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