From The Pastor's Heart

Since the Lord loves and cares for people, shouldn't they be a priority for us as well?

By Charles F. Stanley

When the Bible says that God loves the world, it doesn’t mean the planet, but people. As beautiful and wonderful as the earth is, the Lord’s purpose in creating it was to provide a habitation for humankind. His interest in humanity is demonstrated throughout the Bible. In fact, Scripture could be called the story of God and His redemption of humankind.

Since the Lord loves and cares for people, shouldn’t they be a priority for us as well? We were created for a relationship with Him and with each other. Furthermore, the Bible is filled with instructions regarding how to treat each other. To build good relationships we need to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, patient, forbearing, and forgiving (Col. 3:12-13).

The example we are to follow is that of our Lord Jesus Christ. He loved us enough to leave heaven, take on human form, minister to hurting and needy people, and ultimately die to pay the penalty for our sin so those who believe in Him could be forgiven and reconciled to God. And before ascending back to heaven, He told His followers to proclaim the gospel, make disciples, and teach them to obey Him (Matt. 28:19-20).

Although His command is clear, sometimes we get hung up on exactly how to do it. It seems too overwhelming, and dealing with people can be very difficult sometimes. Yet we can’t simply withdraw from others and hide away. The church can’t function without good relationships between its members, and we also need to know how to interact with those who don’t know the Savior. Our goal should always be to help others by introducing them to Jesus Christ or encouraging them to grow in their relationship with Him. In other words, we want God to use us to build people up spiritually. So how do we do this?

The people in your life are a gift from God

First, recognize the present condition of the person. When Jesus interacted with people, He didn’t respond the same way to each one. For instance, Nicodemus was a religious Pharisee who needed to understand he couldn’t work his way to heaven; therefore, Jesus explained spiritual truths to him (John 3:1-21). However, His approach to the demon-possessed man in Mark 5:1-20 was quite different. This man’s immediate need was deliverance. Without this, nothing Jesus said or did would have gotten through to him.

Although we aren’t omniscient like Christ and cannot know anyone else’s heart or thoughts, we do have guidance from God’s Word and His Spirit to help us in our interactions with people. Obviously an unbeliever’s primary need is salvation, but sometimes we have to address a more immediate physical or material need before they will listen to the gospel.

When building relationships in the church, it’s helpful to discern spiritual condition as well. Is this person a new Christian who would benefit from encouragement, someone who’s fallen into sin and needs restoration, or a more mature believer who needs to be challenged with deeper truths of Scripture? Spiritual condition, in addition to physical needs, should help us determine how we respond to each other.

Second, realize Christ’s power to transform a life. From a human perspective, we may be tempted to think that some people are hopeless. This was the opinion of those who lived near the uncontrollable demoniac. They were startled to see him clothed, seated, and sane because of what Jesus had done for him (Mark 5:15). Instead of looking at the hopelessness of the human condition, we need to look to Jesus who has the power to transform lives—and the church as a whole should be a place where no one is ever beyond hope.

We must always remember that we are not the ones who change people. Our job is simply to demonstrate the love of Christ and tell them the truths of God’s Word. If we start thinking we’re the change agents, then we’ve stolen the glory from Christ. We are merely the earthen vessels God uses to accomplish His purposes (2 Cor. 4:7). Our job is to obey and leave the results to Him.

Third, reach out to that person. When Jesus ministered to people, it was often on a personal level and sometimes with a physical touch (Matt. 8:3, Matt. 8:15). Much has changed since the first century, and there are many more avenues for evangelism and discipleship. However, in an age of impersonal texts, emails, and social media, we must not forget the value of personal contact. It’s impossible to read expressions, body language, or attitudes unless we are face to face with another person.

Fourth, be ready to help. You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can’t give away what you don’t have.” That is certainly true regarding spiritual matters. If we neglect our own spiritual growth, how will we be able to help others with theirs (Matt. 7:4-5)? We’d be like the blind leading the blind. Our spiritual growth is not just a personal matter. If we aren’t maturing in the faith, we’re depriving the body of Christ of the wisdom we could have offered. But on the other hand, if we are growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, He will use us to help others grow as well.

The people in your life are a gift from God, and He wants you to be a blessing to them spiritually. Therefore, I’d like to encourage you to make the most of every opportunity so you can be “a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21).

Charles F. Stanley

P.S. As you celebrate our nation’s Independence Day, take time to thank God for the blessings He has provided throughout the years. Although we often focus on what’s wrong in our country, there is still much to appreciate, including the fact that we can still freely gather to worship our Lord.

12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews;

2 this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."

3 Jesus answered and said to him, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

4 Nicodemus said to Him, How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born, can he?"

5 Jesus answered, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, `You must be born again.'

8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."

9 Nicodemus said to Him, How can these things be?"

10 Jesus answered and said to him, Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?

11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony.

12 If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?

13 No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.

14 As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up;

15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

21 But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God."

1 They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.

2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him,

3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain;

4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him.

5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.

6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him;

7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!"

8 For He had been saying to him, Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"

9 And He was asking him, What is your name?" And he said to Him, My name is Legion; for we are many."

10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country.

11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain.

12 The demons implored Him, saying, Send us into the swine so that we may enter them."

13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened.

15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion"; and they became frightened.

16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine.

17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region.

18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.

19 And He did not let him, but He said to him, Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you."

20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

15 They came to Jesus and observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion"; and they became frightened.

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

3 Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him.

4 Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?

5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

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