Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Self-Righteous, Self-Sufficient Scatterers

            “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”  Matthew 12:30

            “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’”  Matthew 9:36-38

            “Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:17

            I am afraid for America!  I am really afraid of the direction we are going.  We have so much truth here – so much knowledge of God’s Truth, so many Bibles and sermons and Christian books – and yet we are falling away from that truth in great numbers.  Not only is America growing apathetic toward God, but we are growing proud in our own “reasoning” and are growing hostile to Christians, persecuting those who live out their faith.  Whereas we once sang, “God shed His grace on thee,” now Christians are being punished for saying, “God bless America.”  I am afraid for us.  How much longer will God tolerate this kind of disrespect, self-worship, and rebellion?
            In America’s beginning, we were helpless and needy for God.  And we knew it!  We were a fledgling country that needed God’s providence and care and blessing.  And He has blessed us.  And now, we have grown so big and powerful and fat that we don’t need Him anymore. 

            Deuteronomy 6:11-12:  “. . . then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”

            We are spitting in His face every chance we get and kicking Him out of every public place.  We are forgetting Who brought us to this place and blessed us so much.  And instead of being bearers of the Truth to those who need it, we are replacing Truth with moral relativity and apathy.  And in our great intellectual reasoning, we have become smug, self-righteous, self-sufficient, and godless.  We have forgotten that we need Him!
            But who were the people who Jesus helped?  The weak, needy, helpless, and sick.  Those who knew they needed a Doctor.  Time and time again throughout the Gospels, His heart was touched by the ones who called out to Him in need and in helplessness, the ones who desperately embraced Him as the answer.  And He had compassion on them and healed them. 
            But He never had compassion on the smug, self-righteous, self-sufficient, and godless.  They didn’t want or need His help.  And so He could not help them.  And this is why I am afraid for us.  We have forgotten that we need Him.  And we are not just turning our backs on Him and walking away; we are throwing rocks at Him and running away at full speed with our heads held high.  And the sad thing is, He will let us.   (It is tragic that it usually takes a huge crisis to turn our hearts back to Him, to remind us that there is a God and that we need Him.) 
            It makes me sad because so many people need God’s Truth, and we in America are ignoring it or tearing it to shreds instead of upholding it and sharing it.  Even as individual Christians, we are failing to live life in light of eternity, settling instead for temporary pleasures.  Instead of experiencing God’s love and truth through us, people see us busy building up our homes and entertainment systems.  And if we are not gathering people into the Kingdom with God, we are scattering.  If we are not drawing people in, we are encouraging their drift away from Him.  He says that the harvest is plentiful but that there are few workers.  And with America being as stubborn and godless and rebellious as she’s being, there are even fewer. 
            Those of us who are genuine, Bible-believing, Christ-following Christians need to help gather, to get out into the harvest field and do our part.  We are the only hope that our godless nation has.  If we do not take a stand for Truth, if we do not humble ourselves before God and admit our need and pray for our country and engage in the spiritual battle, what hope is there for us?  If we are not actively standing for Him, we are passively contributing to the slide away from Him.  (This doesn’t mean that we have to bash people over the head with the Truth, but we do need to diligently and lovingly live it out so that people may see it, so that we are salt and light to those around us.)
            When I was 17, I went on a mission trip to Russia.  Outside of the Hermitage museum in Moscow, we were passing out pamphlets and Bibles.  I had the Bibles in my backpack, which I wore over my bulky winter coat, and I hadn’t yet passed one out the whole day (possibly even the whole trip, I can’t remember). 
            But as I passed out pamphlets, I saw a man carrying a briefcase about 15 feet away.  He was going to be walking past me in moments.  And this man walked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders and like everything was hopeless.  It struck me deep in my heart.  And I had the strong, deep sense that I was supposed to give this man a Bible.
            Well, I couldn’t get it out of my backpack, so I called a friend over and asked her to quickly get one out.  And then I ran to meet the man who had just walked past me, and I held out the Bible and said, “Gift.”  (In Russian, of course.)  He held up his hands and waved me off in a disgusted way, obviously trying to say, “I don’t want what you are selling.” 
            But I insisted.
            “Gift, gift,” I kept repeating.  “Free gift!”  He kept walking and waving me off, and I kept following.  Desperate!  I just knew that I had to get this Bible into his hands.
            Finally, probably out of frustration and possibly out of curiosity, he stopped and looked at what I was holding.  And then he gently reached out to touch it.  Once it was in his hands, I quickly let go and put my hands up and motioned him forward, to show him that it was his and that I didn’t want anything for it.  And for a few moments, he stood there, obviously confused about what just happened.  And he slowly turned and walked away, holding his gift. 
            Well, I went back to passing out pamphlets.  But a short while later, I looked over at one of the paths leading out of the courtyard area, and there was that man leaning against a wall, reading his new Bible.  I just about cried with joy.  (I still do when I think about it.  I get chills.)  Even from that distance, I could tell that he was soaking up the words of Truth and Hope and Love that he desperately needed, that he may have never heard before. 
            I don’t remember passing out another Bible that whole trip.  (I’m sure I did, but I don’t remember it).  But I believe that the Holy Spirit tapped me on the shoulder when I saw that man and said, “Him!  He needs one!  Make sure he gets a Bible!”  Although I don’t know his name, I have prayed for him since that trip.  I have prayed that God’s Truth would bring him the hope and strength he needs to get through this heavy life.  I hope that he was able to walk a little taller and lighter even though life is hard and the trials are many, because God walks with him.  And I pray that I meet him again in heaven one day.
            How different this man is compared to America nowadays!  He didn’t have any hope in himself and he clearly desperately needed Someone to help lift him out of the mire and muck of life.  And when he found the Truth, he stopped what he was doing to immediately grab onto it and soak it up.  He dove right in, not even finishing his walk home. 
            Yet here in America, we trample all over the Truth, replacing it with relativity, mocking, and the criminalization of those who cling to it, live it, and share it.  We are not needy for God anymore.  We are proud and self-righteous.  We rely on ourselves and on our own wisdom.  We don’t desperately need God anymore.  We are kicking God off the throne and climbing up there ourselves.  (Yet, God will not be mocked and He does not share His glory with any other!  God help us!)    
            And while we scatter and mock and stomp on Jesus’ name (an actual lesson in a college Intercultural Communications course - Google it), people who need and want the Truth - like that Russian man - walk around empty-handed and heavy-hearted, waiting for the workers of the harvest field. 
            And yet, it is those empty-handed, heavy-hearted, needy, desperate people who God will have compassion on, while we in America will earn discipline and punishment. 

            Believers, are you scattering or gathering?  Are you humble and helpless and desperately needy for God, or are you self-righteous, self-sufficient, and in-control?  Are you focused on eternity – on sharing the Truth with those who need it – or are you focused on temporary pleasures?  Are you standing up for Truth or shrugging your shoulders like everyone else?  Are you engaged in the spiritual battle or sitting on the sidelines?  Are you more afraid of offending other people or of offending God?  Our eternal lives and those of the people in the harvest field will be affected by the answers to these questions.

            2 Chronicles 7:14-15:  “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  

            1 Peter 3:12:  “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

            2 Timothy 4: 3-4:  “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 

            2 Timothy 2: 15:  “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 

            2 Peter 3:11-14:  “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?  You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed it’s coming. . . . So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”