Jesus came to this earth to save mankind from sin so that we might live with God forever. The gospel (good news) is the story of the cross and the way in which God chose to save man. The gospels (Matthew-John) were written to show us what Jesus did, and examine his example as we walk with the Lord day by day.
The crying need of the world today is the gospel. JESUS IS THE ONLY HOPE THAT MANKIND HAS. God wants those who are Christians to share the good news with others, so that they ALL may at least have a chance to make their choice to serve God or not.
Becoming a Christian is the first step – the rest of our lives as Christians must show that we are walking in his steps. Notice 1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
How does Jesus set the example?
JESUS CAME TO DO THE FATHER’S WILL. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but thine be done.” (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42). In John 4:34, as Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman, he stated, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.” In John 5:30 Jesus said, “I can of myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent me.” Again, in John 6, as Jesus discusses the true bread from heaven, he states in verse 38, For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.”
Do we see what Jesus was saying – HIS FOOD was to do the will of God! We all know how important it is to eat, but is doing God’s will in our lives like eating food? Do we crave to do his will as much as we crave eating a meal? Do we hunger to do God’s will?
HE SHOWED US THAT LIVING IN THE WILL OF GOD IS NOT IMPOSSIBLE. Jesus was a man, subject to temptations like all of us (Matthew 4). As he went to the cross, he was subject to the fear of death as all of us, as evident in his plea to “let this cup pass from me.” He did not want to be separated from the Father, and he knew that he would be separated from the Father as he bore the sins of the whole world. His life and his death show us that we can do the same, with his help. We can and must die to the world and its pleasures and seek to follow Jesus. Away with the idea that I cannot be like Jesus. Away with the excuses we make that say we can’t live a Christian life in this world. It is not easy, but it can be done.
HE SHOWED COMPASSION TO SINNERS AND LEFT THEM WITH HOPE. Example after example is found in Scripture where Jesus met with the outcasts of society; with the tax collectors, the women in adultery; with lepers, (you get the point). Jesus wanted to extend grace and compassion to all men – but some men thought they were fine the way they were (the religious leaders who were considered themselves above “sinners”). God wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:9). He cared about ALL sinners – the Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as the rich man who would not give up his possessions (Matthew 19:16-24). Jesus did not force any of them to serve and follow him – it was always their choice.
When a man or woman is in sin; when it seems that they cannot deal with it on their own (and who of us can?), they need to know that there is hope. When we believe the promises of God enough to obey them (that is faith), because of the hope that we have that God will forgive and show mercy to us, then our love for him grows and becomes the motive for further development. Beloved, God wants his people to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. He wants his people to be holy (set apart) from the world. He cannot live in a person who is not holy.
Jesus died for all men and wants all to be saved. But, as noted above, he will not force us to be his servants. He loves us enough to allow us to choose what we will do. If we choose not to follow Jesus, then we cannot be his disciple.
The world desperately needs to see Jesus today. They should be able to see him in the lives of his followers. They should see us unified as we follow him. They should see our care for the lost, for the sick, for the poor, for the neglected, for the aged and the young. They should see that we are color blind when it comes to sharing the gospel and living with our brethren. They should see our joy and the hope that we have in Christ. They should see that our faith is in God, not in the things in which the world puts their faith. They should see that we are looking for a city, whose builder and maker is God
I have a collection of what I call “yard-work” or “car-work” shirts and jeans. They have stains from daily use. Likely, I was wearing a shirt or pair of jeans while cooking or moving something greasy or oily and permanently stained those clothes. Those clothes then moved from the “wear in public” drawer to “I can’t mess them up anymore so I might as well wear them when I change the oil” drawer. Maybe you have similarly stained clothes.
The New Testament penman, James, uses the idea of stained clothes to teach us about practicing pure religion. He warns Christians to keep themselves unspotted or unstained from the world. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:26-27 (ESV)
The inspired writer gives us three ways to have what he calls pure religion as opposed to worthless religion:
- 1.Control your tongue (James discusses this in detail in James 3).
- 2.Visit (care for) the orphans and the widows.
- 3.Keep unstained from the world.
What does unstained look like? James continues:
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?” Jame 2:1-7 (ESV)
The world divides people into groups. The world practices prejudice on many levels. The world wants to put people in categories and keep them in their place. Some are in places of dishonor and distress while others are in places of honor and privilege. The world prefers privilege over distress. Sometimes (more than we like to admit) Christians follow the world in this practice. We want to associate with impressive people. We desire to live in impressive houses. We want our children to attend impressive schools. And we want to have impressive social status. If we cannot have this ourselves we want to associate with those who do. We like to name drop. We remind people of the great things we do or the exotic places we visit. We dress to impress. James is saying focusing on such things stains us with worldliness.
James points our focus on the underserved, the forgotten (orphans and widows), those we call oppressed. As the Youth Minister* at Central recently observed, “Be concerned with the oppressed, not the impressive.”
Where is our focus?
Do we have stains from the world?
Let’s turn our focus around.