Friday, October 29, 2010

I'll Fight To The Very End

No one is ever so bad that we can write them off. We do that in our society because we do it personally. If someone becomes too much of an investment for us we tend to back away from them. Perhaps they are really "messed up", we have told them everything about Jesus and there is no response. They seem to consume huge amounts of our time, our energy, even our emotions. We get to the point where we decide that they are never going to change, that they are wasting our resources that would be better used with someone else, so we move on. Adults do it, kids do it, teachers do it, pastors do it. Praise the Lord, Jesus doesn't do it.

As hard as it is we can never give up on people. As long as they have air in their lungs we have to believe that redemption is possible. Jesus didn't leave us here because our mission would be an easy one. He left us here to fight for people as he fought for people, as he fights for people now. The one group he continued to have problems with are those who thought they knew the truth, those who thought they had the answers, the religious ones. Because they thought they had all the answers they had no room for the truth when the truth presented itself. In Matthew 12 these people asked Jesus to give a miraculous sign as proof of his authority. Jesus told them that he would give them the sign of Jonah. Here he made it very clear what was about to happen. He would die and be buried, rising on the third day just as Jonah had been in the belly of the great fish for three days. But Jesus also told them that they would still not believe.

In fact, Jesus told these very religious people that on the Day of Judgment they will be condemned by the actions of the men of Ninevah:

The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12:41)

That's the problem with the religiously minded people, they do not believe they need to have a repentant heart. They believe they have made it, that their system, their church, their prayers, their sacrificial system, their religion will save them; that they have nothing further to learn. At least the worst of sinners know their condition and are not slow in saying they are messed up. It is much more difficult for Jesus to penetrate the heart of the religious than that of the lost. We write off the "messed up" people not realizing that the truly lost as the religious people.

None of the religious people in Jonah's day had any hope for the Ninevites; they had written them off. Even Jonah ran away when God sent him to deliver a message of their doom. Jonah thought it was a waste of time to warn the people of this city and he even looked forward to their destruction. But the people surprised Jonah and actually repented in a very serious manner. God received their repentance and withheld their destruction. The religiously minded Jonah was upset because he did not understand God's mercy and grace. Unfortunately many of us are like that.

I know it is hard for people to receive but I am going to say it anyway; even the worst offenders in our society are capable of receiving God's mercy and grace when they are given the chance to repent; when they hear the truth and respond. In fact, most of these "low-life scum" are in a better position to repent than many "fine upstanding citizens" because at least they know their condition and are willing to admit their offenses against God. As long as they are willing to be honest we should never write them off because some of them will repent and experience a new birth. The old will be wash away and the new will be placed on them like a new skin or a new garment. Their hearts will be changed and their minds renewed. They will be our brother or sister for eternity. In fact, their actions will stand as a condemnation against us because of our lack of repentance.

Do you remember Jesus' parable about the two sons. The dad asked the one son to do something and he refused but later he changed his mind and obeyed. He asked his second son to do something and the son said yes but never did it. Jesus asked the question, "Who was the obedient son"? It was the first of course. Rebellious at first but in the end he obeyed. The second son only had the appearance of obedience but in the end remained in a rebellious state. This is the reason we can never give up on people who have the appearance of rebellion. General William Booth charged his son to go for souls and then he qualified that charge by telling him "Go for the worst". Never give up. Never give in. Never walk away. No matter what the cost, do not give up on the people Jesus has brought into your life. They are yours to love into the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus never gave up on us. Let me leave you with a quote from the great General William Booth that I pray will provoke us to respond to the Spirit in us:

“While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!” - William Booth

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