Bethel Baptist Church
Worship Service @ Home
10 May 2020
Service available on Youtube, or as text (below), or for audio see the Podcasts page.
Jesus was always relevant to people’s needs, He always scratched where they itched, so to speak. What is the greatest need that people have? How has God made us to function best? Adam and Eve functioned best when they were in that right relationship with God and with each other. And, as we have been seeing these last few weeks, Jesus has put this as no. 1 in the list of commandments: “to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind … and love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40). It follows that the greatest need of the human race is to be loved; the Beatles were heading in the right direction with their words (not so much in their lives) “All you need is love.” How many songs have been sung with the theme of love? How many films made?
In Ephesians chapters 1 – 3 Paul teaches remarkable doctrine, and then in chapters 4 – 6 he teaches us that the Church needs to apply this, and this reaches a climax in Ephesians 5:1-2: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” To summarise, Paul has exhorted the believers in Ephesus:
- ‘therefore walk in unity’ (Ephesians 4:1-16)
- ‘therefore, walk in holiness’ (Ephesians 4:17-32), and here,
- ‘therefore walk in love.’ (Ephesians 5:1-6)
Unbelievers can observe the Church living in unity, and they can observe holiness, but they can especially experience love as the Church reaches out and loves them first and foremost. As we imitate God in this respect they too will one day want to imitate us: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1; cf. 1 Cor 4:16).
But more than that, for if people are desperate for love, and to be loved, and the Church has this as its number one priority, to love God and love them, then the Church is going to be very relevant to all the need around.
This following example is based on a person called Andy in the book: “The Great Commandment Principle” by David Ferguson. Tim Barlow (former Minister of St. Chad’s, Romiley, who will be ministering to us at the Church Weekend Away) introduced me to this book and its teaching.
“Andy … a very big, very angry, forty-year old man, though he was a Christian, had a history of violence that often got him into big trouble. When he flew into one of his frequent rages, he would likely throw furniture across the room, drive his fist through a wall, violently punch someone, to name a few things. He had spent time in jail for physically abusing his wife and children. He was like a hand grenade with the pin pulled, ready to go off at the slightest provocation. His Pastor and the Church Elders had confronted him and disciplined him in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20. He had received counselling and was involved in a men’s accountability group. Even though Andy was beginning to respond to the Lord’s discipline, his pastor, (admitting he was at his wits end with him), felt that still more help was needed: “I still sense a reservoir of rage just below the surface. Nothing seems to help. I’m afraid that one of these days soon, Andy might hurt someone again.” He took Andy to meet David Ferguson who discerned that underneath the anger, violence and rage that had ruled his life for so many years, he was really hurting. Just the mere mention of this to Andy caused his face to soften, as if the anger was being drained from him. David Ferguson continued, “In fact when I think about the magnitude of abuse that has poured out of your life, I’m convinced that there is an enormous amount of pain and hurt and fear inside you. And you have been dealing with it all alone.” This resulted in Andy breaking down in tears. The deep pain went back to a time when he was 9 years old and had been grabbed by some men in a park and sexually abused. He hadn’t been able to share this with anyone and for 30 years had carried his pain and shame alone, blaming himself for the humiliating abuse he had suffered (he had been late going home and so took a short cut through the park where it happened). This was the start of the Lord’s deep inner-healing taking place in Andy’s life.“The Great Commandment Principle” by David Ferguson
When you hear some people’s stories it is quite remarkable that they are still surviving. So much abuse, evil, violence, has gone into their lives and they don’t know how to share about it let alone handle it. It is true that hurting people hurt people. And it’s also true that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
When I worked in a Rehabilitation Centre as the Assistant-Warden and got to know the lads staying there, I was absolutely appalled at the terrible backgrounds they had all come from and the amount of abuse that had gone into their lives. It really was unbelievable and I concluded that but for the grace of God there go I. I also saw, first-hand, the very powerful impact that ‘agape’ love had on their lives, especially from the Warden and his wife, Peter and Betty (and also from the ten Christians who also lived in the Centre and helped out as a Support Team). I think we Christians changed as much as some of the lads as we learnt to put into practice Jesus’ teachings, in this ‘spiritual greenhouse.’ But looking back, and speaking personally, if I could do it all again I would want to place a greater emphasis first and foremost on loving them, on showing even more compassion to them, and not trying to get them to behave first and foremost.
Who did Jesus say these words to?
|“But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion not sacrifice’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” |
(Matthew 9:13 NASB).
|‘I desire compassion: “that loyal love to God which manifests itself in acts of mercy and lovingkindness” (D. Hills)|
Was it to the sinners all around Him, with whom He regularly fraternised with? No, it was to one of the most meticulous religious groups that’s ever walked this planet, the Pharisees. But what did Jesus try and teach this religious group and a number of groups like them? Did He compromise on truth as a result?
“Jesus believed correctly and behaved correctly, but most significantly He, unlike the Pharisees, loved correctly”D. Ferguson, Great Commandment Principle
In this situation, Jesus used the example of a doctor. Imagine doctors, who every day, made a point of only visiting healthy people, and only allowed healthy people into their surgeries. They wouldn’t be functioning as doctors. Likewise,
Jesus “uses physical illness as a metaphor for spiritual need … the point is obvious: any effective “healer” must expect to get his hands dirty”R.T. France
Jesus is telling us to get among the “sinners” and show them the love of God in word and deed. The Pharisees in their hard-hearted interpretation of the Scriptures, made the Scriptures say something that God never intended and in doing so neglected the two great commandments, “love God and love your neighbour”. Jesus however, with His heart of deep compassion correctly interpreted the Scriptures.
The apostle Paul, (a former Pharisee), followed on from this teaching:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing”1 Cor 13:1-3 NKJV
How do we relate to people, for example when they first start attending Bethel. Is our number one priority that they believe so that they behave and then we might let them belong? Or is it this, that we love them fervently? David’s testimony of his first visit to Bethel and the love he experienced is encouraging: “Spontaneous, heartfelt, warm, welcoming and open and it has remained so since” – thanks David.
Do we need to get our hands dirty a bit more in loving the lost? Do we need to show them how much we care first and foremost?
“Heavenly Father, make us more and more like Your Son, Jesus. Help us to love the lost, to show compassion to the hurting, to comfort those who are mourning and to get our hands dirty, so to speak, in ministry to those who are far away from You. That we might be Your channels to heal the broken and see the captives set free. Lord let our number one priorities be to love you, to love our neighbour and to love one another with the love of Christ. For this we need a greater anointing of Your Spirit, in Jesus Christ’s Name, Amen!”