Theme for 2007
Reach Out! Break Thru!
PASTOR TOM STIMPSON
A profound truth about each of us is that we deeply care about how we are treated. We all want to be loved. It is a basic human need. We want to be loved unconditionally, for who we are; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even when we are bad, we want to be loved. Even when our behavior is out of line, and we do not expect people to condone it, we want to be loved. In fact, deep down inside, we know that this kind of love is the only kind of love that will effect any change in us. Some people act up to get attention because they fear that no one even cares that they are around. You see, the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy—an attitude of “I don't care.”
This is why Christianity should be an appealing way of life. One of the basic teachings of Jesus is that we should love one another. Unfortunately, this has not always been the case. All too often, people have used Christianity as an excuse to treat one another harshly, even to persecute and kill one another. Through the years, people have pointed to these events and rightly condemned them. Sadly, they then write off true Christianity as well. But true Christianity is not like that at all.
This does not mean that we accept as truth everything that someone may do, or teach, or believe. Sin is still sin, and false teaching is still heresy. But it does mean that we should love the people who may be doing wrong things or teaching false doctrine. You see, when Jesus told us to love people, He did not limit it to people like us, or people we agree with, or just our friends. In the Scriptures, we are told that there are three categories of people we are to love. We are to love one another (other Christians—John 13:34-35
). We are to love our neighbors (people in general—Matthew 22:39
). And we are to love our enemies (people who don't like us—Matthew 5 :44
). So, you see, there is no one who we are not to love. Everyone fits into one of those three categories, even mothers-in-law.
One category of people for which we need great love and compassion are people who need the Lord—people who are without Christ. This compassion for those who are perishing is evidence that we have the heart of God. Sometimes we need to be reminded of just how much God loves all of those for whom Christ died.
Listen to Paul’s broken heart:
“I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit—I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” (Romans 9:1-2)
Paul’s anguish was for his own people who were not saved. He was saying, “I love Israel. They are my people. I care for them. I am concerned for their welfare. I am concerned for their spiritual destiny. I have great sorrow, unceasing grief in my heart. I want them to be saved.”
That should be the heart cry of every Christian, for lost humanity. We should care enough about the people we are around everyday. Our hearts should be burdened for their spiritual welfare. This is precisely the opposite of self-seeking, self-serving, self-centered love. This is other-centered love. We need other-centered love.
Paul had been thoroughly and radically transformed on the road to Damascus. He was transformed to such an extent that he said, “I have an unceasing, unquenchable burden in my soul for those who don't know Christ.” The reason that Paul was now so concerned was because Christ had changed his heart. And it is because Christ changed our hearts that we can have genuine love for others.
But what is unusual is for us to be burdened to the extent
that Paul was burdened for Israel. He said, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race” (Romans 9:3).
The word here he uses for cursed is the word “anathema
” which means “destined for destruction
,” or “destined for perdition
.” Its connotation is “being eternally cut off from God.” In other words, what Paul was saying here is, “I would willingly go to hell if, by doing so, it would cause the salvation of Israel. I would be willing to suffer eternally in hell if they could only be saved.” That is far more than being simply burdened for someone. How many of us could make such a statement?
In 2007, we will launch an initiative to reach out
to our communities of lost souls and break thru
the barriers that keep them from experiencing the abundant life that God has destined for them. Let’s pray that as we reach out to our loved ones, our neighbors and, yes, even our enemies, that they will experience this miraculous break thru! Let’s do it!