This is the first part of the discussion for Lesson 4: The Son of God Amongst Us (26 July 2008).
In the introduction I shared this favourite quote of mine:
Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, “Follow Me.” Ellen White, Ministry of Healing p 143.
I really like this quote because it focusses on the key elements that we see in Jesus from the gospels. It sets the tone for how we should share the gospel.
1. Desiring the good of others
Do you ever doubt that God really desires your good? That He has your best interests at heart?
It’s always good to refresh our memories about God’s love for us. Can you think of places in the gospel where this is demonstrated? The two that jump out at me are:
a. The parable of the “Prodigal Son”
In this parable we see the father (representing God), overjoyed at the return of his wayward son, doing something quite ‘unstatesman-like’ and running out to meet him.
And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.
His son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
“But his father said to the servants, `Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger, and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening in the pen. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ Luke 15:20-24 (NLT, emphasis added)
While the act of son’s repentance is important, the father in this story seems more overwhelmed with the sheer delight of having his son back and preparing celebrations! What a wonderful picture of God.
b. The many references to Jesus being moved with ‘compassion’ and then helping by healing or teaching. Here’s just one of them:
And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. Matthew 14:14 (NKJV)
We need to be instilled with a love for people – such that we truly ‘desire their good’. We need the same compassion that Jesus had.If our motivation to evangelise stems from the desire to have others think and do as we do, then we’ll run into problems.
People can always debate theology but no one can question the witness of a Christian who is genuinely driven by compassion for their fellow man. Individuals like this truly ‘shine’ out in a dark world. This type of witness can break down barriers that otherwise would hold firm.
2. Ministering to their needs
Following on from the last point, it is not enough to have compassion from afar. We need to act.
Ellen White notes that Christ spent more time on this earth healing people rather than preaching. She expands on this thought:
There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit.
God often reaches hearts through our efforts to relieve physical suffering. Ministry of Healing p. 143, 144.
Can you think of individuals in your life who have demonstrated true Christian compassion? How were they most effective in communicating the love of God to those around them?
I can think of one elderly lady at a previous church we visited who repeatedly took visitors home for lunch. She was a lovely person and made people feel very welcome. It was a simple ministry yet a real witness.
Another lady, although herself in her 80s, was active in the local ‘Meals on Wheels’ community service.
Do you think that Christians generally strike the right balance between service and sermonising? How do we rate on this scale?
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.