May 6, 2013

Firsthand Experience | Day 21

Firsthand Disturbance

Scripture to meditate on: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20:35, ESV)

The following is an excerpt from Firsthand: Ditching Secondhand Religion for a Faith of Your Own by Ryan and Josh Shook.

Jesus told a story that should send a shudder into our souls and divinely disturb us every time we read it. It’s in Matthew 25, the story of how at the end of time the Master (God) will separate the sheep from the goats—that is, the righteous from the unrighteous.

The Master tells all those who love Him to come and take their inheritance, explaining:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.
(verses 35–36, Msg)

Then all the righteous respond to Him with a question of sheer surprise: “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” (verses 37–38, Msg).

After this the Master replies, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me” (verse 40, Msg).

What great news this is for the people who are faithfully serving God! In one sense the needy people of the world are Christ in disguise.

But there’s another category of people who are facing God, and they get very different news.

The Master turns to the unrighteous and says that when He was hungry and thirsty and needy, they didn’t care. Then come some of the most disturbing verses in all of Scripture:

Then those “goats” are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?”

He will answer them, “I’m telling the solemn truth:

Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.”

Then those “goats” will be herded to their eternal doom, but the “sheep” to their eternal reward.” (verses 44–46, Msg)

Maybe you’re thinking, Wait a minute! I thought faith was all about receiving grace and it didn’t have anything to do with works.

That’s right. The Bible tells us that salvation is not about what we can do for God but about what God has done for us through Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). It’s all undeserved grace.

Of course salvation is all about encountering God’s grace. But here Jesus is saying that if you have no compassion for the least of these—the poorest, neediest, and most neglected people in the world—then chances are, you have not encountered His firsthand grace. When you experience a firsthand faith with the Grace Giver, He changes you into a grace giver yourself.

More than three thousand verses in the Bible deal with compassion and justice for the poor. It’s not a side item in the Bible. It’s God’s heart! He has a heart that is disturbed and broken when He sees the hurt and brokenness in our world.

Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, encountered the plight of orphans in Korea with the same kind of shock I encountered with the poor of Nairobi. Afterward, he wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

Let your heart and ours be broken in the same way.