Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sign me on!

Forget for a few moments that you are already a Christian and know your Bible answers as well as you know your own name. Forget that you know the correct answer to Jesus’ questions, “Who do the people say I am?... And you – what are you saying about me?” Mark 8:27-29 MSG

For a moment, listen to the voice of a young man who is socially unskilled, jobless, and not well-educated: “I was in a car accident today, and I have to say that I am lucky, although my car is totaled, my clothes were cut off me, and I have a nasty bruise and some soreness in my neck. I started to go into shock. The hospital visit wasn't fun, I was breathing heavy in the ER, and my heart rate was in the rafters. I wasn't relaxed. I am glad Pastor Bob was there and for everyone's prayers. Pastor Bob was holding my hand at the hospital; I keep thinking about that. Does God care that much about someone like me? Think about it: girls run away from me. I don't blame them – I call too much, come on too strongly, and I can be just plain stupid in my social attempts. I have gotten mad and said things I wish I never did, but why would God care about me? But if this is what God is really like, if He will hold my hand when I am scared for my life and filled with anxiety, then sign me on.”

So what is this young man saying about Jesus? That he experienced the physical touch and presence of Jesus Christ. That Jesus accepts the socially unacceptable, and tenderly holds his hand, and won’t leave him. That’s who Jesus is. His love shows up in actions and attitude, not only in words.

Jesus’ brother James, who once had considered Jesus deranged and was embarrassed by his Brother, is sometimes derided by our culture as being a legalist who is at odds with the concept of salvation by faith in God’s grace. But early in his epistle, James echoes the themes of the Sermon on the Mount, and says that those who are loving people are blessed. He counsels understanding and acceptance instead of judgment. Then he writes the most famous and controversial parts of his letter, the discussion of faith and works.

Consider that John wrote that “God is love,” and Paul wrote that three things abide: faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. And: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.”Galatians 5:6 NASB

So what if, when you read James chapter two, you substitute the word FAITH for LOVE? Try it this way:

“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has [love] but he has no works? Can that [love] save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so [love], if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, ‘You have [love] and I have works; show me your [love] without the works, and I will show you my [love] by my works.’ You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that [love] without works is useless?” James 2:14-20 NASB

That makes faith and love less ethereal and more concrete, doesn’t it? Love, without action, is useless. It’s unemployed, unengaged. It’s not working. For love or faith to mean anything, they must be in motion: working, helping, holding the hand of the fearful and broken, cheering the hopeless, nourishing and refreshing the hungry and thirsty with meals of Jesus’ righteousness. In other words, expressing your love by your works.

Is there anything more endearing than when you’re embracing a child or a pet, it lays its head on your shoulder and sighs happily? When Jesus’ love flows out of you, through that hand laid on the fearful person, you are also blessing the Lord. It’s one thing to say, “Praise the Lord, bless His holy Name,” and another to do so by your acts of kindness and love to His children, even the “nerdy” ones. Their response will be, “If this is what God is like, sign me on.”

That is evangelism. Changing the world by “signing people on.”

You have it in you to make Jesus happy (blessed) by showing Him in your acts of love. Lay your head on His shoulder and sigh, and hear His heartbeat of love for you. When Jesus whispers to you, “Who do you say I am?” your answer will be: “You are Love, and I love you with all my heart, soul, and mind.” And He’ll remind you, “And you love your neighbor as yourself. As I do.”

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