Last night at the weekly college bible study, we finished up The Truth Project, a 12-session series of video-based "tours" which examine God's model and design for foundational areas of human life. More specifically, we studied God's truth as He designed the following: philosophy, anthropology, theology, history, science, sociology, community and other topics. My overall take-away from the study was how radically different God's plan for mankind is from what we generally experience in our world today.
In 1 Peter 2:11-12, the writer reminds Christians that this world is not our home, our final destination. We are here strangers, aliens, pilgrims, sojourners.
Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.
The last session in the series focused on Community Involvement. Unfortunately, some Christians live like some who are first to go through the buffet line. Regardless of how many people are behind them in line, they thoughtlessly fill their plates and take their seats at the table. "I've got mine! Oh, there's no deviled eggs left? Well ... sorry." And then, we religiously meet in our fine buildings and sing our songs in our clean clothes while the world goes to Hell. How cozy! We have the gall, then, to say to ourselves, "We are living the exemplary life!"
Peter goes on in subsequent verses to point out how to live the exemplary life in various relational areas. We'll get to those particulars in later posts. But, for this morning, let's consider the exemplary life that Jesus led. Did he sequester Himself from "the undesirables" and insulate Himself from their needs? No. Over and over and over again, we see Jesus Christ among the most needy, the outcasts, the sick (in body and in spirit), ministering humbly and lovingly to them while sharing God's truth with them.
We are commanded to "not forsake the assembling of yourselves together"; so, we focus on "going to church". But, while a major focus of "assembling" is to worship our Lord, we often miss the equally important point! We congregate, assemble together in order to become equipped! And, once equipped, we are expected to plunge into the battle, not go sit in the observation box to point out from afar the sins of those "below" us. Oh yes, we love to pontificate about the truth from our high-and-lifted-up positions, don't we? How "holy" we are!
And we say, "Well, the truth is with us. Anyone is welcome to come to church to get it!" Yet, unbelievers (when they do get up the courage to enter our churches) are often met with coldness and lack of acceptance. I heard someone say the other day that they visited a church - - - the sermon was spot-on, the music was beautiful, but not one single person spoke to them the entire time that they were there.
We then wonder why they don't come to Jesus, why (as it's phrased in The Message version) they aren't "won over to God's side" (vs. 12). It's because the Body of Christ is deceived! We are acting like the Laodicean church described in Revelation 3:17 - - -
Because you say, "I am rich and have acquired great wealth, and need nothing," but do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.
An exemplary life is a compassionate life, a life marked by compassion for those who do not know the Savior. We read over and over in the New Testament that Jesus was "moved with compassion" (Matthew 9:36). Watch what the early 20th century evangelist Charles Spurgeon had to say about that phrase:
The original word is a very remarkable one. It is not found in classic Greek. It is not found in the Septuagint. The fact is, it was a word coined by the evangelists themselves. They did not find one in the whole Greek language that suited their purpose, and therefore they had to make one. It is expressive of the deepest emotion; a striving of the bowels—a yearning of the innermost nature with pity. As the dictionaries tell us— Ex intimis visceribus misericordia commoveor. I suppose that when our Saviour looked upon certain sights, those who watched him closely perceived that his internal agitation was very great, his emotions were very deep, and then his face betrayed it, his eyes gushed like founts with tears, and you saw that his big heart was ready to burst with pity for the sorrow upon which his eyes were gazing. He was moved with compassion. His whole nature was agitated with commiseration for the sufferers before him.
His compassion was so deep there was not a Greek word for it, and Greek is a marvelously expressive language. They had 3 different words for "love", for goodness sake! Jesus - - - the Indescribable One. He was heartbreakingly compassionate for the needs of others. Remember how He cried as He was on the hilltop overlooking Jerusalem, just before the "triumphant entry" into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday?
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it!
I am so convicted by this because often my heart is unmoved by the needs of those who are suffering, who are needy, or lonely, or sick or shunned. I shut my eyes to the sight of their suffering and close my ears to their pleas. I throw some money at them from time to time and think I've done my part, but God forbid that I should get my pretty clothes dirty.
Lord Jesus, over and over we stand in church and sing about how we want to be like You, but I confess that I've not been a big fan of Your compassion. I've been largely unmoved by the example you set...how Your poured Yourself out for "the unlovely". I've been deceived into thinking that I've been living an exemplary life, but when I face this ugly truth about my hard-heartedness, I realize that I've got a ways to go. Show me and lead me, Lord, to open my heart to the "poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5:3).