The Poor Amoung Us

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Location: Jacksonville, Florida, United States

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Come And Follow Me...

Be my disciple …

..... and don’t forget your cross.

Much of what we hear today from the pulpits of America is a gospel that would be unknown to the early Christians and Church fathers. The Gospel of the early church was one of salvation by the blood of Jesus Christ, preservation and empowerment by the Holy Spirit and sanctification by the Word of God. At the heart of the Gospel is the forgiveness of God through Jesus; who was crucified on the Cross for the judgment of sin and raised from the dead for our justification. The Gospel in the life of the early Christian was one of personal denial as they forsook the world around them and embraced the Kingdom and Lordship of Jesus Christ.

What made the early Christian different was that they understood the call of their Lord to come follow Him. For many of the early Christian’s, and some in third world countries today, it meant social and economical ostracism by their families, community and society. For them to become a Christian at times meant not only to be rejected by the world around them but also to be declared a criminal and a enemy to the state. For them the call to follow Jesus had a real and personal impact in their daily lives. His call for them and for us today, found five times in the New Testament is a call to the crucified life; it is a call to the Cross.

1. Matt 10:38 ....Mat 10:38 And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me.

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2. Matt 16:24.... Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
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3. Mark 8:34.... And calling near the crowd with His disciples, He said to them, Whoever will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
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4. Luke 9:23 And He said to all, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

5. Luke 14:2 7 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple.

In His call for us to take up the cross, Jesus makes the following observations regarding the crucified life.

First, His summons is a call for us to come into a relationship with Him through His cross. As a part of this relationship He requires us to be worthy of Him. Those who would be deserving of the Kingdom of God and its Lord, must have the same commitment to Jesus as He has to them. It is a relationship of trust towards Him as each obeys the call to follow. Regardless of where He goes we are to follow, even to the ends of the earth or our own life. His call to relationship is an invitation to become His disciple. To be willing, to be molded in His image and to serve His cause.

The second observation is that we are to take up the cross. It is not His cross that we are to carry, nor that of someone else, but our own. Each person who would follow after Him is to carry their own personal cross. Because each cross is personal it must be carried willingly by a broken heart which has cried out before the Lord God “Thy will be done”. The cross that we are to take up is not a fashion statement worn on the weekend to enhance our wardrobe or declare our religious affiliation. It is a daily reality that I am crucified with Christ.

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The third and last comment given is that we are to deny self. Jesus’ idea of self denial is not one of religious duty which is practiced on some holiday or any denial based on mans religious law. It is not denial for denial’s sake, but what He requires is that we deny the “SELF” and all that is in the world which self seeks after. What we are to deny is the “lust of the eye which desires all the things that the world offers. Along with the lust of the eye we are to deny the lust of the flesh and those desires of the body which cry out to be unleashed. All that gives us identity outside of God is to be denied because of our own pride of life. The apostle John in I John 2:1647 states that “For all that is in the world the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vain glory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world And the world passes away, and the lust thereof but he that does the will of God abides for ever.

The Cross

To understand the meaning of the cross, as used by Jesus in these text, is to understand it’s application in His own life. Long before nails pierced His flesh, He had taken up His cross. Jesus states in John 8:42, that He came into the world because He was sent by His Father. His incarnation was an act of love(agapao) (1) and obedience by Him, in response to a command given by His Father. Throughout His life, Jesus walked in obedience to the daily directions given to Him.

In John 8:28, Jesus states, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.

And in John 8:29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”

Jesus life was an expression of love (agapao) for His Father, lived daily in obedience God’s commands. He identified with those who did the will of God, stating that they were part of His family - Matthew 12:50.

His cross was the will of God, which He carried daily. It was personal because it was God’s will for Him alone to fulfill. From the very beginning He understood where the will of His Father was going to take Him. Long before He entered the city He had already taken up His cross, because He was already carrying the Will of His Father. This was tested in the garden when Jesus prayed that the Will of His father be done regardless of what He felt at the time. At that moment He surrendered to the Will of His Father who’s “Will” crossed His own natural human will. He was loving (agapao) His neighbor (you and me), according to the Will of His father. In obedience to God, Jesus took up the instrument of His death, and carried the will of His Father, to a hill outside Jerusalem called golgotha.

The Cross in the Life of The Believer.

The cross of the Christian is the “Will of God” which will cross our own natural will. Like Jesus, we are required to take up our cross and die to this world and all that it offers; unlike Jesus, we are not required to receive nails. The cross of Jesus Christ in the Christians life defines our relationship with our Lord and how we love Him and our neighbor.

The cross of God will have purpose in the life of the Christian. Form the foundation of time God the Father had established in Christ, His will for each person who would call upon the name of Jesus. ( Eph 1:3-14 )

Like the cross of Jesus, our cross is personal. It is the will of God the Father which is expressed as His will for our personal life. This will be different for each believer, because God’s will for each believer is not the same. But the general outcome in the life of the believer will be similar because we all are being conformed into the image of our Lord.

The cross of the Christian is to be received as an act of love (agapao) and obedience to God; by each believer. It is obedience to His will in every aspect of our life. There is not one area of a Christian’s existence that is exempt from the will of God. We are to pull down every bit of pride and every thought that exalts itself against the will of God, and to bringing under control every aspect of our life; into the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

The will of God or the Christians cross is a daily reality in the life of the believer. Paul states that he and other believers were always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered daily unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus may be daily manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:10-11 ASV. There is no holiday from carrying ones own cross. God’s will is ever present for those who will listen.

We have become so accustomed to this expression—”taking up one’s cross”—in the sense of “being prepared for trials in general for Christ’s sake,” that we are apt to lose sight of its primary and proper sense here—”a preparedness to go forth even to crucifixion,” as when our Lord had to bear His own cross on His way to Calvary. The cross is the symbol of our submission, even at the cost of loss of family or suffering the most painful death.

To be a follower of Jesus each believer must follow Jesus as Jesus followed His Father. Christ obeyed His Father’s will, and carried out his work of the salvation of men, though it required him to die upon the cross in order to do it. And ever since, the cross has stood as the emblem, not of suffering for the sake of suffering, but of suffering for the cause of Christ and His gospel.

To follow Christ is to take him for our master, our teacher, our example; to believe his doctrines, to uphold his cause, to obey his precepts, and to do it though it leads to heaven, by the will of God, by the way of the our own cross.

The cross in the life of the disciple.

Jesus states in Luke 14:27, “Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” To be a disciple of Jesus is to be obedient to Him as Lord and faithful to the will of God. The call to discipleship is on Christ’s terms, not ours.

Many in the church today have dictated the terms of righteousness that they will accept to be His follower. They have declared political correctness, under the covering of universal love, as the new standard of righteousness. In many of churches in America, and Europe, the church leaders, bishops, archbishops and others, have declared that they have authority to disagree with the Bible and with Jesus Christ. In order to be popular with the world, they seek to edit and twist and manipulate His teachings and reject what they (and the world) don't happen to like.

They deny the very uniqueness of Jesus Christ. They deny His pre-existence as the Word of God, the second person of the trinity, They deny He is unique in his Incarnation, They deny His ability to perform miracles, They deny His teachings, and they deny His resurrection from the dead. They deny that the Bible is the subsistence of God’s truth, revealed, objective, accessible, universal and timeless.

Such persons are not disciples of Jesus and I would say that they are not even born of the Spirit of God. They are false sheep, wolves in sheep’s clothing. Paul spoke of such in Second Timothy 3:5 – “saying that they have the form of religion but deny the power of it. Avoid such people.” They are of the world and are Anti-Christ, because they have denied the very Son of the living God. Be careful who you allow to be your teacher.

The cost of discipleship is determined by the Lord, and not by the servant. As a true disciple of Jesus, you will become unpopular. Nothing is more offensive to the world than to claim the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and that of the Bible. Nothing will anger them more then to the truth of Christ lived out in the life of one of His disciples. Remember what Jesus told the twelve disciples in John 15:18-21

(18) "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. (19) If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (20) Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. (21) But all this they will do to you on my account, because they do not know him who sent me.

<>If your going to follow Jesus as His disciple, understand that it will bring oppression from your mate, family, friends, employer, other church members, the world, and satan.

Luke in his gospel tells of three individuals who desired to be disciples of Christ (Luke 9:57-62).

One of the individuals must have been listening to the teaching of Christ and he approached and said, “I will follow you wherever you go” (v. 57). It is easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement of the moment and join the crowd. But this man must have failed to think through what following Jesus involves. Jesus did not want him to have any false apprehensions. He said, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (v. 58). At the end of His ministry, the day of His crucifixion, Jesus owned nothing, but the clothes on His back. The cost of discipleship for Jesus was high. To follow the will of His heavenly Father, Jesus was obedient unto death, even the disgraceful death through execution as a criminal. It cost Him His life. Jesus calls us to, what seems to be, a radical discipleship. Is this the reason so many drop out after joining up?

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Another person heard the call, “Follow Me” (v. 59). But he replied, “Permit me first to go and bury my father” (v. 59b). Was the man’s father dead? Probably not, because he was there listening to Jesus. If his father had been dead this man would have been busy with the details because in Jesus’ day a person had to be buried the same day that he died. The man is probably saying that he wants to wait and remain at home as long as his father lives, and then he will consider following Jesus after this phase of his life is over. Jesus’ call to discipleship is radical. “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the Kingdom of God” (v. 60). Let the spiritual dead bury the dead. They are dead to spiritual realities. On the other hand, those who are spiritually alive will drop everything, to follow Jesus; as Lord.
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Another person in the crowd said, “I will follow You Lord, but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home” (v. 61). Jesus replied, “No one, after putting his hand to the plough and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God” (v. 62). Discipleship demands that we drop everything, even our families and anyone opposing Him. Discipleship makes us chose between Christ and others.

Who but God could make such demands on His followers? He has not left the choice of standards of following Him up to us. We want to submit Him to our lordship and that will not work. Jesus is Lord. It is He who determines the conditions of discipleship; not us. Because Jesus is Lord then this kind of discipleship is really not radical, or extreme, but is normal for those who are citizens of His Kingdom. Since He is God we owe Him total obedience and total self-surrender. That idea is radical and unacceptable in the world’s way of thinking. Remember what Jesus said in Mat 7:13 “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. (14) But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.” This is the way of the cross in the life of His disciple, and many will not follow this path. The world and most in the Western church have chosen the broad path, the one that is easy to walk upon.

Following Jesus as a cross carrying disciple is tough.

The disciple of Jesus Christ cannot live to please himself. He can live only to please the King. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ living and incarnate,” wrote Bonhoeffer. “Costly grace . . . calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.”

Following Jesus is tough. The life to which you and I have been called as Christians is a journey which runs completely contrary and diametrically opposed to the path which the rest of the world is traveling. The world and the lust thereof is contrary to the will of God and the cross of the believer.

1John 2:16-17 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (17) And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. KJV.

Jesus states in Luke 14:33 that “….therefore whoever he is of you who does not renounce all that he has, he can’t be my disciple.

Jesus never said it would be easy. The love (phileo) of this world will get in the way of obedience to the will of God. One will not be willing take up the cross if the love (phileo) (2) of this present world, its wealth and all that life has to offer, is stronger then the love (agapao) of God and Jesus Christ. Paul states in Gal 6:14 that through the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the world is crucified unto himself, and he unto the world.

Paul understood the struggle of serving Christ and the love of the world. He witnessed this struggle in the life of a fellow minister of the Gospel. In Second Timothy 4:10 Paul states “Demas loves the things of this world so much that he left me and went to Thessalonica.” (CEV)

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus says ... “No one can serve two masters. For either he will hate one and love the other, or be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and riches!”

A disciple of Christ should count the cost to follow Jesus. In Phi 3:8 Paul counted all things loss.

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” KJV

It is well for every cross bearing believer to understand that every obstacle to the service of Christ must be given up. Our love for Him must seem as hate of our own life and this present world. Jesus says in John 12:25

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“He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.”

Remember, Jesus said that in this world we would have tribulation, but we are to be of good cheer; because He has overcome the world.

Carrying your cross

What does it mean to take up our personal cross and daily follow Jesus? We have seen that Jesus has called us not just to be believers, not just to be people who profess our faith in Him and sit back on our profession waiting for Him to take us to heaven; but Jesus has called us to deny ourselves, take up the will of God daily (our cross), and follow in single-minded obedience to Him.

Though dead to this world we are to live, work and demonstrate the life of Christ in this world. Paul states it well in Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. (ASV)

Your cross in the life of another

The cross of Jesus Christ in the Christians life defines our relationship with our Lord; and how we love Him and love our neighbor. The cross of Jesus, that we are to carry, is where God’s will cross’s our will. Our cross is to take up the will of God and carry it to our place of death (the death of our will or self) and the place of another’s fulfilled need. Remember, the place of His death on the cross was also the place of our total redemption. Your cross in relation to your neighbor is where the “Will of God” directs you, regardless of the inconvenience, to love your neighbor in such a manner that the act of love brings about will of God for your neighbor.

Therefore your neighbor is the one that you can touch with the love of God through personal involvement. They are the persons who have come into your individual sphere of influence, means and love. Now it’s understood that you will not always have the means to help those who “cross” your path. The Samaritan only had the resources to bandage the wounds and take the injured man to an inn. What little money he had was given to the Inn keeper; with the promise to repay any extra expenditure. Now the care of the injured man was not relinquished by the Samaritan after he left. Even though the inn keeper was now ministering to the needs of the injured man, the obligation (his cross) was still carried in the heart of the Samaritan. He later returned to the inn to inquire about the injured man and settle the account.

At times God will make you aware of the person or their need by just pointing it out to you. Most of the opportunities, to minister or just meet a need, will just cross your path. Divine appointments where God’s provision (YOU) touches the life of someone He wishes to love on. Now telling God that you can’t do any thing will not hold water with Him. Because scripture teaches, in I John 3:17, that to have the means of helping another and to turn away from the person in need, is to revival the true evil nature of your heart. It demonstrates a spirit of selfishness and not the love of God.

Reconciliation and your cross.

In 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 Paul states “But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation.”

The will of God is for us to demonstrate His love (agapao) in us regardless of what we feel at the time. In moment by moment obedience to the will of God, we are to carry our cross (His will in any time) to reconcile Him (through Christ) to those that He seeks. Another way to say what was stated earlier is that we are to love (agapao) our neighbor in such a manner that the act of love (agapao) brings about the reconciliation of God to that neighbor. We are to do unto others just as we would have, God working through them, do unto us; especially in regards to our salvation.

Taking your cross to the nations.

Up to now we have been talking about the cross as it relates to yourself and God. Also we have discussed your cross in relationship to your neighbor. We have also talked about how to carry your cross as a disciple of Jesus; and to be a co-laborer with God in the ministry of reconciliation.

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(18) And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.

(19) Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: (20) teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus, as our Lord, givens us an imperial command. It is given from the position of authority that the Father has given Him. This authority is one of absolute Lordship in all realms of existence, both in Heaven and on Earth. Jesus as Lord seeks a universal empire, and sends forth his armies to conquer the world. Every church and every disciple must understand that they have marching orders. Go, implies an aggressive warfare, against satan and this fallen world system. Not only is every born one of God, commanded to go, or to take steps to make the gospel go, but the object is stated. They are to make disciples, or pupils, and scholars of Christ; not great philosophers, but "babes in Christ Jesus," who have entered the school of Christ and are to be taught afterwards. Who are to be made disciples is next indicated. Not the Jews only, but all nations. Christ came to be the Savior of the world. His is a universal Lord. In the Great Commission Jesus looks beyond Judea, and commands that the Gospel shall be offered to all peoples, nations, tongs and languages.

At this point you have to be asking yourself, “Where do I fit into this command?” First, you have to understand that this command is universal to every member of the body of Christ throughout the Church age; not just to the twelve disciples. Secondly, it is a personal command given to you, not as an option for you to weigh and think over. You have to regard it as if Jesus stated it directly to you.

Although Jesus is Lord over all the cosmos, only you can make Him Lord of your heart. Remember that a good man out of the good treasure of his heart will bring forth that which is good…

Jesus ask in Luke 6:46, And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?

This is where carrying your cross comes into play. God’s will through Jesus Christ is crossing your own natural will. As a disciple you have to take up His will and carry it to the nations.

Remember, Jesus as the eternal word of God, left His place in Heaven to come to earth in response to His Father’s command. Here, He took up His Father’s will and carried it to the place of His death, and our redemption.

1. God the Father gave His son commandments. Note what Jesus states in John 14:31 and John 15: 8-10

(14:31) But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence. (Jesus was going to Jerusalem to die on His cross in obedience to His Father’s will.)

(15:8) Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (9) As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. (10) If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in His love.

2. Paul in Philippians 2:5-11, states the mind of Christ in response to His Father’s command.

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, (7) but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; (8) and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name; (10) that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

For you to be able to His disciple, to obey His commandments, you have to have abided in His love. And He and the Father has to abide in you. Every thing that Jesus did was based in His Fathers agapeo love. Listen to what Jesus says in John fourteen.

(23) Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (24) He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.

Discipleship comes out of a love relationship between the disciple and his master. Jesus in John 13:34-35 states, “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. (35) If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples. Later in on in John 17:23, Jesus praying to His Father says, “I am one with them, and you are one with me, so that they may become completely one. Then this world's people will know that you sent me. They will know that you love my followers as much as you love me.

In Conclusion.

The call by Jesus Christ to come and follow Him as a disciple and a cross bearer is a summons for us to come into a relationship with Him through His cross. As a disciple we are to have this same mind set or state of heart that is found in Christ Jesus. Jesus invites us to have the same commitment to Him and His Father as they have to us. He calls us to a life of obedience to the will of His Father and to submit to His Lordship. With out stretched and open hands He offers us His gift of forgiveness and grace. Through the Holy Spirit each is called to, the obedience of the cross. It is personal for the repentant soul. It is a call to be worthy of Jesus, worthy of His life and death for our sin’s; worthy of the gift of eternal life, worthy of the Holy Spirit that seals each believer. It is a call for total transformation of the life of the Christian as they daily take up the will of God; and carry their cross to it’s fulfillment in the life of another. It’s a call to forsake this world and the love of it. To have a love for God and His Christ that is stronger then our very own natural life. He summons us to be His very own demonstration of Himself, a living epistle read by all. He invites us to be apart of His ministry of reconciliation, the expression of His (agapao) love to a lost and dying world.

To follow Jesus Christ is a call to us to take up our own cross daily, in love and obedience to His Father’s will, to be His disciple. He is calling us to carrying our cross the ends of the world; and as we go, we are to declare the Gospel of the His Kingdom.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Love Thy Neighbor.

I. After The Hamburger
At the center of the social problems in America is the problem of the heart of the Church and her task in the world. It is this heart of the Church that will be examined; her motivations, responses, values, obedience to the word of God and identification with and responsibility for the poor. When discussing the subject of “Loving thy neighbor” you have to place it in the biblical context of loving those whom you would never seek out and who would never love you first. Although the principles presented here can be applied to any person or group of people, I have chosen the least of our society ( the homeless) to demonstrate the heart crisis of the American Church.

How many times have you thought of reaching out to someone who was on the street, but decided not to because of the inconvenience that involvement and commitment bring. The first impulse from the Holy Spirit stirs your mind into action as pictures flash before you. Images of this lost soul receiving Jesus as Savior and of your part in it. The thought fills you with joy as you contemplate your first move to touch this one in need with the love of Jesus. Then reality sets in; “What will I do with this person?” It’s one thing to buy a homeless person a hamburger and share the Gospel, but God doesn’t really expect them to sleep on my couch, does He?
The family of man hasn’t changed very much since we were chased out of the garden. Do not the words of our heart still cry out to our God; “Am I, my brothers’ keeper?” We may not speak it with our mouth, but we shout it before the throne of heaven through our avoidance of the homeless. It is heard when we look away to evade eye contact, or cross the street to dodge that nagging plea for help. Our muffled excuse, when we push aside those who have dared to get to close to us, echoes through the halls of heaven before a Holy God. As we proceed on, telling ourselves that it’s someone else’s responsibility we are unaware that the plea and the excuse is being recorded in our eternal biography. Even for those who will, at least offer lunch and share the Gospel, the question of what to do with them after the hamburger, still exists. Yet the problem is not one of meeting material and domestic needs; it's a struggle of the heart and the old nature, the world or the cross, the Lordship of Jesus vs. self will. It is a confrontation of the heart of God working in the heart of a person.

II. Love Thy Neighbor.

Motivations

Before we ever become involved in the life of another or take up the banner for some great crusade, we have already embraced a axiom which has become the motivation of our heart. If we truly love God, then we will love those whom He loves. We will be moved by the same things that move Him. Because He loves the poor and homeless, we will care for those that are impoverished or without shelter. We are moved to befriend the orphan or widow because He seeks them out. The stranger in the gate and those that are hungry are welcomed into our home because it’s His table and provisions. It’s love, His love (our axiom or self - evident truth) working in and through us, (His disciples) reaching out to those in need.

When God created man, He was motivated by Love. Although man failed in the garden and was driven out, it was Love that already had a plan for man’s redemption. Love is who God is. It’s not just one of His attributes, but is the essence of His person. Every expression of God's personality is molded by His love. Therefore Love was the motive behind the creation of this universe and humanity. He created us knowing that He would have to redeem us with His own blood through the cross. It is in Jesus Christ that we see the fullness of God’s Love toward us and the master example unequaled by any other for us.

We are taught in the Gospel that we are to love, like our Heavenly Father loves us. We are to love our marriage partner, as Christ loves the Church and to love our children. Love is to be foundation of our communal life within the local church fellowship. We are to love our neighbor as we love our selves. To love those who use us and those who are our enemies.

Now love is not a feeling that we have towards others, but a decision or act of the will. It is an expression towards another which will bless them regardless of how it effects us. Like the our Heavenly Father, who created us and our Lord who saved us, we are to be motivated by HIS LOVE; to create opportunities of hope and life for those in need and to be apart of His work of reconciliation. Love sees the unseen and embraces the unloved. It has a open ear to the cry for help and welcomes all with out stretched hands.
Love sees the privation and gives; It understands the pain and comforts. It's His Love in us reaching out to those in need. Love is God’s heart towards us and our motivation towards others.



Who is my neighbor?

In the parable of the “Good Samaritan” Jesus, in response to the question “Who is my neighbor”, taught that the person in “need” was you neighbor. By introducing the idea that it is the act of loving another as oneself that defines our community relationships and social obligations within a global community; Jesus pulled down the social and religious barriers of His day. The Samaritan was outside of the acceptable social class and religious groups of Israel. He was not even looked upon as part of the people whom God had chosen. In the heart’s of those who were listening, to Jesus, the Samaritan was a “non-neighbor”. Yet it was the act of love to meet a need which defined him as the “Good Neighbor” in the story.

Jesus never expected you to be responsible for every person with a need, just for those whom; the Father, places across your path. There are millions of impoverished people in the world today, yet the one that you are held accountable for, is the person who knocks on your door and asks for help. In Prov 3:28 and Luke 11:5-8 it is the person “in need” which defines who is your neighbor. They are the ones whom you are to love just as you would love yourself. In other words, in the same manner that you would do for yourself or have others do for you, you are to do for them.

At times God will make you aware of the need by just pointing it out to you. Most of the opportunities to meet a need will just cross your path. Divine appointments where God’s provision (YOU) touches the life of someone He wishes to love on. Now telling God that you can’t do any thing will not hold water with Him. Because scripture teaches, in I John 3:17, that to have the means of helping another and to turn away from the person in need, is to revival the true evil nature of your heart. It demonstrates a spirit of selfishness and not the love of God. The will of God is for us to demonstrate His love in us regardless of what we feel at the moment. We are to do unto others just as we would have, God working through them, do unto us.

Your Cross & Your Neighbor

Like Jesus, we are required to take up our cross and die to this world and all that it offers; unlike Jesus, we are not required to receive nails. The cross of Jesus Christ in the Christians life defines our relationship with or Lord and our neighbor. Jesus in Luke 14:27 says “Whosoever doth not bear his own cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” and in Luke 9:23 states “.....If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”. (Please also note Matt 10:38, 16:24 and Mark 8:34) To be His disciple requires each of us to carry our own cross on a daily bases. Though dead to this world we are to live, work and demonstrate the life of Christ in this world. Paul states it well in Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that (life) which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, (the faith) which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. (ASV)

The will of God took Jesus to His death on the hill of golgotha, outside the walls of Jerusalem. Long before He entered the city He had already taken up His cross, because He was already carrying the Will of His Father. This was tested in the garden when Jesus prayed that the Will of His father be done regardless of what He felt at the time. At that moment He surrendered to the Will of His Father who’s “Will” crossed His own. He was loving His neighbor (you and me), according to the Will of His father. The cross of Jesus, that we are to carry, is where God’s will cross our will. Our cross is to take up the will of God and carry it to our place of death (the death of our will or self) and the place of another’s fulfilled need. Remember, the place of His death on the cross was also the place of our total redemption. Your cross in relation to your neighbor is where the “Will of God” directs you, regardless of the inconvenience, to love your neighbor in such a manner that the act of love brings about will of God for your neighbor.

Therefore your neighbor is the one that you can touch with the love of God through personal involvement. They are the persons who have come into your individual sphere of influence, means and love. Now it’s understood that you will not always have the means to help those who “cross” your path. The Samaritan only had the resources to bandage the wounds and take the injured man to a inn. What little money he had was given to the Inn keeper; with the promise to repay any extra expenditure. Now the care of the injured man was not relinquished by the Samaritan after he left. Even though the inn keeper was now ministering to the needs of the injured man, the obligation (his cross) was still carried in the heart of the Samaritan. He later returned to the inn to inquire about the injured man and settle the account.

Whether by person contact or by the pointing of the divine finger
you are accountable to God for how you respond.



III. Values, Treasures And People.

The great American dream is the basic value system at the heart of most Christians in this country. You can easily tell the value system that an individual, group or community has by what they accumulated around them. And much of what we see reflects the world and not the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said that where your treasure is there will be your heart also. In other words, all that you have gathered around you reflects your value system and where your heart really is. How you distribute your resources within your sphere of influence will reflect the value of what you have gathered in relation to those in need around you.

We all gather what we believe to be of value: food, clothing, housing, various forms of transportation, toys, tools; all the things which we believe to make life suited to one's needs. Everything which we have possession of has some value placed on it by us because of individual appeal. Where your heart is will determine the type of things you will gather with regard to yourself or another and the value that you will place on them. Most people will gather for themselves, their mate, their children and others in their immediate family. Those that they love and care for.

Kingdom Values

Throughout the Bible God identifies Himself with the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger at the gate and those who are oppressed. He values their well-being in this life along with their eternal position before Him. When Jesus made the statement that “Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also” He was also making a statement about God and the value system of the Kingdom of God. Our Father so valued us that He gave out of Himself that which He held so dearly, Jesus, His son. (John 3:16) Jesus came to seek those who were lost and in need of salvation. Because of the value system which is a part of the nature of God, He held nothing back in redeeming us to His Father. God so loved the world (us) that He gave.... nothing was spared to achieve our total well-being. The heart of God is revealed by what He valued and His willingness to give. Our value is revealed by the price He paid.

Your heart will affect someone, somewhere at sometime. What you value will determine how you touch the life of another. In Matthew 25: 31 to 46, Jesus calls to account those who had the means to meet the need of another. Some are received into the Kingdom of God. They take possession of the treasures that they have laid up in heaven because of what they gave away on earth. Because their value’s reflected the heart of their Lord, they gladly put their life and goods on the line for His name sake. Others are cast into eternal fire, because they did not recognize Jesus in the face of the poor and the needy. They did not have His Kingdom values nor were willing to demonstrate his heart towards those whom God cared for and identified with. Forever the words of Jesus will resound in their ears - “I tell you the truth, whatsoever you did not do for the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Who is Lord?

The question that needs to be asked of Jesus is not what shall I do with this person, but what would YOU do with them. Our only response should be “Yes Lord” after He tells us what He would do. Because there is no difference in what He would do and what He would require us to do. Throughout the Gospel’s, in the life of Jesus, we see Him acting in response to what He either saw or heard the Father doing. What the Father would do in any given situation is exactly what Jesus did. And in like manner we are to respond to the will of Jesus in any given situation.

Salvation is not by works, but by faith in Jesus Christ. But those who are saved will be found doing the works of their Savior. Because they understand who is Lord over their life and the values of God’s Kingdom, they reflect in their lifestyle what is important to God. Like their Lord, they will be found with those who are hungry, naked, sick and in prison. Their earthly goods are gladly distributed to feed, cloth, heal and comfort those in need. As good stewards of His resources they seek equality in the Kingdom so that none lack. They champion the cause of the oppressed, protect the innocent, are hospitable to the stranger, become parents to homeless children, and a friend to the widow. They seek out the spiritually lost and all who are in need of salvation. When asked why? The answer is like there Lord's “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me......”

For them the Gospel of Jesus is more then just words printed in a book, that’s preached from a pulpit at some church meeting. It’s His life in action through them before a needy world. They have become His hands and fingers, His body, bringing the Gospel to life. They testify of His love to the world by demonstrating the Gospel by their life. Every single person that’s fed, clothed, housed, comfort, protected and befriended receives the Gospel by their actions first and then by their words.

Remember, God will hold you accountable
for your value system and obedience to Him.



IV. In The Eye Of The Beholder

Their is some truth to the statement that “ Birds of a feather flock together.” Where our heart is; our motivations, values, identification with and obedience to Jesus, will determine how we perceive ourselves. The state of the heart will also effect how we perceive the people around us and the type of people we will gravitate towards.

We frequently size up a person at first glance and pass some sort of judgment on them. In James 2:2-3 the author address the question of how we view ourselves and our fellow man. He deals with the problem of “respect of persons” by using a supposed situation among the believers.

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? (N.I.V.)
James, points out that at the core of the problem is the condition of the heart; from which comes evil thoughts and conduct. The discrimination comes from a wrong perception of the two guest based on a worldly value system. How we regard those around us is a reflection of our own self perception.

Through The Eyes Of The Lord

One of the main problems with the homeless or any other person or group is our lack of identity with them. We fail to see them through the eye’s of Jesus because we don’t understand how God sees us through and in Christ. Our lack of identity with the work and person of Jesus Christ towards ourselves will blind us to others. Blindness towards our own need, hides the needs of those around us.

Luke 18:10-14
Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get. But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, God, be thou merciful to me a sinner. I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: For every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (ASV)

In Luke chapter 18, Jesus describes two men who went to the temple to go before God in prayer. One thanked God that he was not like the publican who was also praying. Unlike the publican, he failed to see his need before a Holy God. His blindness with regard to himself caused his misconception of others around him. He had failed to see himself as God sees him and his need before the Lord.

The publican, understanding his spiritual need and social standing, stood afar off from the place of God and would not even lift his eyes to heaven. He saw himself as a sinner; not worithey to aproch God or even look in His direction. The sob from his heart, "God, be thou merciful to me a sinner" was a cry of repentance. There is no judgment from him concerning anyone else; only his sin is held up before the Lord of Mercy.

Our identity with other people comes the from our own awareness of our spiritual poverty before the Lord. “Except for the grace of God there go I” becomes the cry of our heart as we beat our chest before Him. We see each person around us as ourselves because of our own need of Mercy and Grace. Our own salvation and complete redemption becomes the hope of our heart towards the lost around us. We start to see each with the same redemptive sight that we received when we were looked upon by the Lord; we see them in the same manner as He sees us.

Look around you when you go out. If you have prayed first and have asked Jesus to open your heart and eyes, you will see people that have been invisible to you in the past. When you see your neighbor or the poor person on the street, or those that are simply lost in sin, what will you say before the Lord? Will you thank Him that you are not like them or will your heart break before Him?

Please Remember,
How you see yourself, in Jesus, will become the springboard with which you will dive into the needs of the world around you.

Those People.

Our fleeting observation of the others, regardless if they are poor or homeless or worldly, certifies them to be one of “THOSE PEOPLE”. Because of the sin of pride, we can not admit to the similarities or needs of ourselves and others.. Most of the time we will receive someone whom we accept as “like ourselves” or someone whom we would desire to be like. All the while hoping that we will not be judged to be one of ‘those people” by them. We hide from the needful people because of our own spiritual poverty, and gather the “beautiful people” around us to cover our own social nakedness.

Even in the church body we look through tinted glass and fail to see as Jesus sees. Just look at our church assemblies on Sunday morning if you don’t believe me. Don’t look for who is there, but for those who are not there. Ask yourself, for example, “why is our church all white or all black” or “why is there mostly a certain type of people attending.” You may be surprised to find out that “those people”, who are not attending, are not welcome to worship with you. I know of Christians who were, on Sunday morning, turned away at the door because they were judged to be “those people” and unworthy to inter in. The sad thing is that Jesus is also outside seeking entrance because He is Lord and Savior of “those people”.

All throughout the Gospels you will find Jesus in the midst of “those people” teaching them, healing them, loving them, revealing the Kingdom of God to them. He was constantly asked “ Why do you eat and drink with those people?” Over and over again He reveals the heart of His Father in how he perceived and valued those around Him. His cross is His testimony and seal towards them that He loves. Remember, He died with two of “those people” on either side of Him and will receive unto Himself all of “those people” who will come to Him.



V. Whose Responsible ?

In the mid sixties, President Johnson announced to the nation his vision of a national social welfare program which he called” The Great Society”. He envisioned a central federal government caring for the needs of the poor in our country; a great bureaucracy working for the good of all. Washington took over the distribution of goods and services from the local and state governments and placed the decision making power into the hands of people far removed from the problems of those in need. After many years of federal socialism, some in our country have finally realized that the problems of each community can best be solved on the local level by those who are personally involved. Yet this social model has become the “way of thinking” in our country. Many would prefer to simply pay their taxes and let big brother take care of the problems.

Though far removed from the garden, we are still crying out to our God; “Am I, my brothers’ keeper?” Like Johnson’s “Great Society” we envision God as a far removed central government which will take care of all our needs as long as we pay our tithes. Our pastor’s have become the local agents of this great heavenly bureaucracy; who are available after we have made the proper appointments and waited the appropriate time. Today, industrial styled church managers plot the path of the church for the next century, based on the latest demographics and national poles. Self-help is the buzz word heard in many church groups today and from their pulpits. Is it not disturbing that some have patterned their vision of Heaven and the Kingdom of God after the model of the “Great Society”. Much of what is taught, by those who would be rich in the name of Jesus, has this idea as it’s foundation. The American dream and the conceptions about Heaven have become intermingled in the thinking of many in our country. Too much of the worlds ideas have become the ideas of the Church.

The Archetype Of The Church

Our pattern of God’s Kingdom, and His Church, must be built upon what has been revealed to us from God. Just as the first tabernacle was patterned after that which is in Heaven, so should the archetype of the Church in heaven be it’s pattern on earth. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus states that “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, there! for lo, the kingdom of God is within you.” The Kingdom of God is where God, through Jesus Christ, has relationship and Lordship. Those who have the kingdom within them are those who are born anew of the Spirit of God. They have become united with Jesus in a living organism called the “Body of Christ” and are subject to Him because Jesus is the Head or Lord of this body; His Church.

Paul brings forth this idea in his writings to the Church. In Eph 1:22-23, Paul states “........and he put all things in subjection under his (Jesus’s) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all.” (ASV) Again in 1 Cor 12:12-14, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many” (ASV) Also in Col 2:19, Paul states “.....and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increasing with the increase of God.” (ASV)

The idea that Paul is putting forth is that the “Corporate Christ” is a single, many membered, body which is united by one Spirit. This body, under the head-ship of Jesus, is supplied and knitted together through the Fruit and Gifts of the Holy Spirit; expanding with the augmentation of God. Because of this unity each member should be cared for by the other members. In 1 Cor 12:24-27, Paul shows that God has moderated the body so that there should be unity and care for each other. “.....whereas our comely (parts) have no need: but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to that (part) which lacked; that there should be no schism in the body; but (that) the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or (one) member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and severally members thereof.” (ASV)

God’s idea of His Church

As a part of the body of Christ, each of us is responsible to Jesus for the welfare of those members that we are joined to by our relationships and His Lordship. Each “need” is met by Jesus through those who have the “means” within the body. Regardless of the problem, by faith, prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, the manifestation of the Gifts of the Spirit, motivated by love and obedience to the instructions of Jesus, each member of the body increase in God and each need is met.

As pointed out earlier we are also responsible for those who are in our immediate individual sphere of influence, means and love. In Gal 6:10, Paul writes: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (KJV) and in Heb 13:1-3: Let love of the brethren continue. Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; them that are ill-treated, as being yourselves also in the body. (KJV)

At the center of the spiritual problem in America is the problem of the heart of the Church and her task in the world. Love in motion is God’s idea of His Church on the earth. Love, empowered by the Holy Spirit, touching the lives of those in need is what the world is waiting to see. Jesus is God’s Love in motion and you are to be His divine Love, empowered by the Holy Spirit m touching the lives of others. Together, Jesus and His Body, is God’s idea of Love (His Church) in the world.

Each day you will have an opportunity to be God’s expression of Love within your sphere of influence; if you will only look for it. God is seeking those whose heart, like His own, is broken because of the need of His people. He seeks those who will touch another’s life in a real and meaningful way. He has reached out to you, through Jesus Christ, to be His Love in motion in a world of sin and need.



VI. Who Are The Homeless

We live in a country that has too many lost and hurting people who have slipped between the cracks of the GREAT SOCIETY. As a productive part of our community they are lost to the streets. About 40% of the homeless are people just like you and me. People who have worked hard all their life and for various reasons and have lost the ability to provide for them selves or their family. In some areas the percentages are higher because the main employer for the community has closed or moved outside the area. This group are those who can be and want to be helped. They are found waiting in long lines for few available jobs. Most often you will see them wandering, with their children, form city to city; their hopes of finding employment and a fit place to live fading as time passes.

Another part of the homeless population are the couch homeless. They are the ones who have gone back to parents or family. They have given up trying to find work and have sought help at home. Although they are not counted as homeless they will sooner or later find themselves on the streets again. The same despair that drove them home, in some cases, also will keep them on the couch. The pattern of failure has now become their way of life.

About 30% of the homeless population are those that society has decided are not mentally ill enough for hospitalization. But They are nevertheless considered emotionally disturbed and are in need of help. These are truly the “helpless ones” of our society. Abandoned by their families and unseen by the rest of us, they are left to care for themselves. The back ally is their street address and a cardboard box is called home. A derelict building becomes a palace for the more fortunate ones, but most simply succumb to the elements.

The third group that make up 30% of the homeless population are those who are substance abusers. Every thing from cheep wine to hard drugs flows through the veins of this group. But regardless of the type of chemical substance used their addiction is real and life controlling. Driven by the need of the next fix or drink they have lost all they have to support their addiction.


The New Face Of The Poor.

The traditional view of the homeless in America is changing. The old stereotypes of people carrying their cardboard bed or pushing their worldly goods in a shopping cart are falling away. Among the new faces are found more families, mother’s with children who have been abandoned by the husband and father of the household. Teenagers are a increasing part of the street seen in most cities of America. Some are throughways, others are runaways, but all have lost the link that held them in the family group. Another group starting to be found on the streets are the elderly. Grandparents who should be basking in the golden years of their retirement struggles to survive. A few are retired and receive pensions or welfare supplements. Some even work on a day to day basis; but all still cannot afford to rent or buy a wooden shell to call home.

Most homeless people are not drunks or drug abusers or former mental patients. Most are able or willing to work. They are not the perpetual social problem many people believe they are. So who are they?

Fulltime workers
One out of four homeless is employed full or part-time, according to the United States Conference of Mayors. The arithmetic is simple and frightening: a person who works forty hours a week at the 1992 Federal minimum wage of $4.25 per hour grosses about $700 a month, takes home less than $600 and is a prime candidate for homelessness.

Disabled vets
One quarter of the homeless are war veterans, most of them from the Vietnam conflict. Do you remember Ron Kovic’s story in the film, Born on the Fourth of July? It dramatized the fact that the veterans of that war were abandoned and discouraged, even dishonored, and in Ron’s case wound up on our streets, some of them disable, others mentally traumatized by their war experiences, others simply unable to find work.

Children
One out of four homeless people is a child. The fastest growing homeless group in the United States is families with children. Their number nearly doubled between 1984 and 1989, and continues to do so. Even more appalling, many homeless children are alone. They may be runaways who left home because there is no money for food, because they are victims of rape, incest, or violence or because one or both of their parents is in emotional turmoil. Some are “throwaways” whose parents tell them to leave home, or won’t allow them to return once they leave.

The Elderly
Elderly people on fixed incomes don’t fit the traditional image of homeless folk. But the fact is that a senior citizen who receives $450 a month in benefits and pays $350 for rent can’t survive in any U.S. city. However, Social Security, Medicare, and other senior oriented programs provide a safety net for many of the elderly, making their numbers disproportionally less among the homeless than other minorities. Although the elderly are not as likely to be found in shelters, it is true that some are afraid to go to shelters, or even a soup kitchen. Others are living in poverty, not homeless, but often homebound and without proper heating, water, or other amenities.

Regardless of age, sex, or position in the family, a new group is immersing on the streets of our cities. They are the disposable people, those who have fallen or were pushed out of the traditional family safety net of our society. They have become "those people" in the eye's of the community church and are not welcomed. Far-weather friends have fallen away because they are no longer a social asset but have become a liability. Pushed away by family, friends and their church they wander the back streets of our cities because they have been declared, like the leper of old, unclean.

Although much of what has been shared has focused on the homeless, the ideas are true regardless of your or another’s status in life. In the end the only real ability you have concerning the poor or anyone else, is how good or evil you will be towards them. The choice is yours to make. Your decision or the lack thereof and the outcome in another’s life will be recorded in your eternal biography. God’s choice for you, is that your life be one of Faith, Hope and Love. Faith towards Him, Hope eternal in you and an abounding Love towards others. This is the true solution for poverty, in the heart of men, the soul of a community and the prosperity of a nation.