With Jesus people are number one.
For genuine followers of Jesus, people become top priority as well, regardless of background. Some people can rub you the wrong way, difficult individuals whom I used to refer to as “Social Sandpaper” people. We all need to understand that we could be that type of person, we can all be abrasive at times and some live that way day in and day out, at any age.
At a third grade Sunday school, the children were being taught the Ten Commandments. The previous week they had learned to honor their mother and father. The teacher asked, “Can anyone tell me if there is one that refers to brothers and sisters?” A little girl’s hand immediately shot up “Yes there is a commandment about brothers, the one that says, ‘“Thou shall not kill”.
Since George Floyd died in America, the daily news has been full of claims and counter claims during rallies world-wide; holding up placards “Black people Matter” countered by “White people Matter”. All of a sudden it seems the whole world cares about people – as long as you belong to the right race! The Bible makes no such distinction because Galatians 3:26-28 offers the solution.
“You are all Sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
The key to loving people is learning to love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). When we come to Christ, we do not judge men in a carnal, earthly way according to appearances, human credentials or national origin, 2 Corinthians 5:16 tells us “From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view”, (as we once did). In verse 14 since the resurrection, the love of Christ compels us to love people, especially the unwanted.
An artist came to the same spot every day, his passion was painting human faces. Each face told many different stories, some filled with joy, others with pain and sadness. One day a homeless man sitting across the path caught the artist’s eye who resolved to paint the man as he imagined he could be. The final stroke revealed the man with a broad smile. The artist called the man over, “Is that me?” he asked. “Yes; that is the ‘you’ I see” replied the artist. After a brief tearful silence, the man declared, “If that’s the man you see in me, then that’s the man I’m going to be”. That is how Jesus changes people.
“Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
When Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4, to us; everything seemed to count against her but that isn’t the way Jesus sees people. How can we connect with people if we step around “social sandpaper” people? Jesus sees the potential in people and He ‘sands’ the rough edges off us until we mature. By asking for a cup of water, Jesus was saying, “I love all people – your race, your religion, your gender, your past doesn’t matter to me because you are a highly valued person needing salvation”. When unwanted people meet Jesus, they want to tell the whole world,
“Do not forget to entertain strangers for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
All people really do matter to Jesus and His followers.
Author: John Shepherd
From the 2rd century AD, Christianity has always had its share of critics in an attempt todestroy faith in God: Celsus, a pagan philosopher said:
“Christianity is untrue, it served only the superstitious and simple-minded, if there is any substance why such a small following?”
He needed to be told of Matthew 7:14,
“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it”.
But ancient people were offended, especially when asked to believe in realities that no one could see or experience. F.W. Mattox said,
“Christianity is based on historical fact, the pagans had their myths but Christians had their facts the miracles and the resurrection of Christ with the greatest effect being at the location where they took place. The truth of Christianity does not rest on its philosophical aspects; but rather on the death and resurrection of Christ and these facts were open to public investigation.”
But later, educated Greeks with their reputation to examine all things with a Reason, taught that
“Faith could easily become a crutch for the simple-minded who dared not face reality”.
A pot calling the kettle black. For many today, God is far removed from the real world of experiences, most people build their lives on things visible, TV commercials capitalize on the good things of life we don’t need. Scientific advances increasingly make God remote. Materialism is most people’s real-world today, homes, land, and things have become their only sense of security which are only temporary and don’t satisfy for long, they are forced to ask, usually when it’s too late, is this all there is to life? With some, faith is impossible if you can’t touch it. Thomas one of the twelve said to the rest of the disciples,
“unless I see the nail holes in His hand and touch them and touch His side I will not believe”.
When Thomas eventually touched Jesus, he cried “My Lord and my God”. Thomas became a sure witness to the world rather than the doubting Thomas we like to expose. Jesus said,
“Because you have seen and believed blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”.
Then Jesus said to Thomas (and all of us)
“Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:24-29).
Real faith is vital.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).
Even Struggling Christians need heroes, the rest of Hebrews 11 is a testimony of those who persevered through all kinds of hardship for their faith, some receiving what was promised others not, but they remained faithful, providing motivation for others to live for a cause. Faith is based on “things not seen” so not subject to probing science. Only God’s invisible world gives us a place to stand. But real faith makes demands. It separates us from the values of our culture and makes us appear ridiculous to believe in the unseen. Faith means holding on no matter what. Christians will be rewarded if they persevere to the end. Perhaps Jesus prepares Christians for frustration with the parable of the sower in Mark 4:3-9 when so many reject the gospel of Christ through their lack of faith but few there are who find it, not helped by because some Christians lack strong faith to tell it.
Author: John Shepherd
Archimedes a Greek philosopher once made a statement to challenge minds in Greek mythology, he said, “Give me a place to stand and I will move the world”. The first thought that comes to mind is “where on earth would he stand?” Left to our imagination, we could only compare it to another Greek myth of Atlas holding the earth aloft doing a handstand at the South Pole. That is almost as ridiculous as saying there is no God. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart there is no God”. Greek mythology and any other human wisdom won’t provide tangible answers to our existence despite the Greek reputation for doing nothing else but seeking wisdom and new ideas. The Bible in Acts 17:21 shows the elusive answer to life was right at their feet the whole time. A few verses later Paul found an altar with this inscription: “To an unknown God”. Paul proceeds to explain who this unknown God is, “the God who made the heavens and the earth and everything in it- and gives life and breath and everything else – from one man He made every nation of men – and gave them exact places where they should live – And He is not far from each one of us– for in Him we live and move and have our being”. Mankind has no excuse; the beauty of creation and the Bible are unmistakable evidence of a far superior being – the one true God. Paul continues: “Now He has commanded all people everywhere to repent, for He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed”. Sin as separated humanity from God since Adam was created and the man God has appointed is Jesus Christ the Son of God who came to earth 2,000 years ago, to offer mankind salvation through His own bloodshed on the cross at Calvary. A world-changing event took place three days later when Jesus rose from the dead. The resurrection of Christ gives man a place to stand for eternity if they would only believe, repent of their sins and reenact Christ’s death, burial and resurrection through baptism (Romans 6:1-4). You become a new person, living by God’s standard, you have buried the old selfish ways and become surrendered to Christ serving Him for the benefit of others in need. Christians have a place to stand and a command to move the world. Matt 28:18-20 says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, and surely I am with you to the very end of the age”. Christians have good news to tell.Ezekiel prophesied 600 years before Christ, “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them, I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws, they will be my people and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:18-20). Jesus is no after-thought, He is the major part of God’s eternal purpose. There is no other credible secure place to stand but to believe in God and to become a genuine Christian, a follower of Jesus. Only He can give us a true place to stand with an exciting purpose of moving a lost world to believe in Christ.
Author: John Shepherd
When questions arise about God – people tend to come up with shallow and evasive statements. A classic one is:
“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere”
Really? They would never dream of applying that motto to any other area of life. G.K.Chesterton once said;
“When men cease to believe in God, they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything”.
Sincerity fits today’s tolerant society and the only virtue that has escaped the corroding cynicism of today’s moral decline, but it also gives the false hope that everyone automatically goes to heaven. Again, it appeals because in one stroke it removes any obligation and risk of being challenged by what the Bible has to offer. Those who use such evasive statements are content not to think about the really important matters of life because it will mean a radical lifestyle change. The gospel is a call to self-denial, not a call for self-fulfillment (Luke 9:23-26). It takes courage to face opposition and the offence of the cross to examine the abundant evidence available, whether there is a God or not; if Jesus rose from the dead or not; if He will accept us or not. To hide our heads in the sand by using shallow opinions and refusing a critical examination of scripture is avoiding life’s most important question, a question that leads from darkness to life eternal to those who remain faithful. God has left it to individuals to decide, but they must be warned of the consequences of unbelief. In Matt 7:24-27 Jesus records the contrast between the man who built his house upon the rock and the one who built his house upon the sand, the storms beat upon both houses but only the house upon the rock stood firm. If you have convinced yourself you only need to be sincere; is as dangerous as building your life upon the instability of sand, materialism and money, according to Paul in 1 Timothy 6:17
“Money is so unstable, (Confirmed by Covid 19) so put your hope in God”.
Sincere assumptions may sound good but offer no foundation for life. Whether or not you take the Bible as the final authority from God, you must at least concede that God has revealed Himself through the most significant book in the world, which has changed more lives for good than anything else, remains the world’s best seller so surely it must deserve a hearing, especially the Bible’s claim that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, and all Scripture has been inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). Human wisdom is temporary, divine wisdom is permanent. Paul said,
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
No one could be more sincere than the religious Pharisees who thought they had every detail of God’s Law mastered, but Jesus said,
“Listen to them but do not do what they do, for they don’t practice what they preach.” (Matt 23:3).
Christians are to remain faithful to the certainty of the risen Christ. It’s easy to be sincere, but so many good people can be badly misled by it. The most important question you will ever face in life is; will you surrender to the living Christ or reject the gospel as utterly foolish?
Sincere people who don’t face life’s most important question are the foolish ones who will face God’s judgement because of unbelief.
Author: John Shepherd, Napier church of Christ.