Friday, February 9, 2018
Psalms 149:1-5 Praise the LORD. Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp. For the LORD takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.
Earlier this week in a devotional, I referred to a Pastor friend named Jerry. I want to share another story from that relationship that will draw out a spiritual truth from today’s Psalm.
When our church started a relationship with Pastor Jerry and the people of Bayou DuLarge Baptist Church, we asked him to give us the name of someone for whom he really wanted us to pray for salvation. He gave us the name of Raymond. We started praying immediately. For three years we prayed for him. He was on our daily prayer list at our staff devotions, and many of our church people prayed for him in their personal devotions as well.
I remember the trip to the Bayou when God answered our prayers. It was a Tuesday night, and without any notice, Raymond showed up at the church and asked if he could talk to me. Thirty minutes later Raymond and I were on our knees as he surrendered his life to Jesus and repented of his sins. Hallelujah! For three years, no one on the bayou would have thought it was possible. But with God nothing is impossible. Our God is mighty to save.
Raymond and I celebrated together. We cried together, we prayed together, then we cried some more. Then we laughed. We set out on a course of confession of Christ to those people who were closest to him – first his wife, and then Pastor Jerry. Soon the whole bayou knew. Raymond was not ashamed of his Lord.
His wife, who is a born again Christian, told me that it’s the love of God that won his heart. She said he has never had anyone really love him for who he was, so when I loved him it really softened his heart to the love of God. Instead of having to be proud and protective of his life, he could finally let go and humble himself before God. How could he be expected to surrender to God and trust Him to save him when he never had an example of that kind of love? That’s not to say that he didn’t see it in any other Christians on the bayou, but he never really had anyone take a personal interest in his life and accept him as he was. He never really had a relationship of love and trust with a Christian man before.
Raymond is just like so many others that we know and work with every day. They are afraid to be humble before God because they fear what He will say or do to them based on their sin. That fear is very real to them because of the way we as God’s people tend to pound on sinners. If we, the ambassadors of Jesus Christ, pile shame of those who sin, and separate ourselves from them, then what other impression of God could they possibly have than to think that He will do the same. If we want people to come to Jesus on their knees in confession and repentance, then we must respond to them the same way that Jesus will – with compassion, love, and forgiveness. It’s time we stop telling people they have to change, and time to start showing them that God has changed us.
But I struggle with something – why is it so hard to do that where we live? We love to go on mission trips and serve others, but there isn’t the time to get intimate and personal with them. We feel protected. We can leave them a good surface impression of God’s love, but we never show them the grace of God that is necessary to forgive us for our sin and cover our shortcomings. Heaven forbid that other people should ever see us as weak.
Yet all around us are people who need to see the real love of God that accepts people at their worst and transforms them into God’s best. We all have people near us who are hurting and lost, and need to see the compassion, acceptance, and forgiveness of God so they can humble themselves before Him. They want to see love in action. They want to see Jesus in us.
But we tend to get so wrapped up in our own lives that we only show God’s love when it is convenient or profitable to us. Yet God calls us to live that way every day, right where we are.
Imagine the rejoicing that would be going on in our churches if the people who are lost in their sin understood that the LORD takes delight in them, and will crown them with salvation if they will humbly come to him. They will flock to our sanctuaries and worship centers to find a place of acceptance and forgiveness.
But they are afraid.
They will only overcome their fear of God when we show them how loving He is by loving them as they are. They will understand that God takes delight in them because we take delight in them. They will trust God to forgive them and accept them, because we accept and forgive
We represent God to them. You and I are the ones God has chosen and honored with this mission. Let’s go and love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and show them the love of God.