Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Ministry, People, and the Heart of God

At what point does ministry become drudgery?

What line is crossed that separates a person from a business transaction?

What are the boundaries of the gospel in life?

Where is it appropriate to deactivate the gospel-centric mindset?

These are some valid questions that I've heard and asked myself this past month, and it's caused me to really consider how the gospel really interacts with my everyday life.

For years, I attended a youth evangelism conference called Dare 2 Share where the fire of evangelism was first ignited in my young heart. 

Dare 2 Share  is a huge ministry that hosts youth evangelism conferences all over the country, training students and youth how to share their faith with friends and strangers alike while encouraging a deeper understanding of the gospel in our own lives. Even after all this time, I still remember the big lead in question that was supposed to be the gateway to salvation for all:

If you were to die today, where would you go?

Well that escalated quickly.

A good question, no doubt, but the gospel affects more than our earthly retirement plans. Without a doubt, the gospel promises eternal intimate communion with our heavenly father after our time on Earth has expired, but in what ways are we expressing the truth of the Word of God everyday?

As followers of Christ, we strive to emulate Jesus in all that we do everyday, but what does that mean?

Are we to live in Israel, grow up as carpenters, start our ministry when we are thirty, and walk everywhere we go? If that's the case, I stand condemned; I can't grow a beard like Jesus. I can't grow consistent facial hair to save my life. My beard has more patches than an Eagle Scout's sash.

What aspect of Christ are we supposed to be emulating?

As I read through the gospels, the answer becomes clear. Jesus wants us to care about what He cares about. He wants us to think like Him, act like Him, respond like Him, love like Him. He wants us to have the same heart as Him.

The heart of God.

That's heavy. We are called to have the heart of God. It reminds me of lyrics of the song Hosanna by Hillsong.
Heal my heart and make it clean
Open up my eyes to the things unseen
Show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart for what breaks yours
Everything I am for Your kingdom's cause
As I walk from earth into eternity

I love the urgency to adopt the heart of God, to love like God loves, and share the same passions as God. Well done, Hillsong.

So I suppose that brings us to the next question: what is God's heart? What is God passionate about? What breaks God's heart?

God longs for His people.

Don't misinterpret me. God does not need people. He was doing just fine before He created time and matter. He desires to commune with us and bless us and spend eternity with us. 

God's love is not an action. To God, love is a character trait. It is something that is part of who He is as a whole. God cannot stop loving anymore than you can stop being human. Because God is perfect and eternal, His love is perfect and eternal, unmatched, immeasurable, and inconceivable. 

So God's heart is people.

In Luke 15, Jesus teaches the sinners and Pharisees alike that there is rejoicing in heaven when the lost and broken are brought home and restored. Jesus came to save sinners and heal sick. Not high five the righteous. If we are to develop a heart like God's then we are to develop a deep and urgent love for the people that God loves.

And I know I don't have to ask who God loves. 

As followers of Christ, we are to adopt the heart of God and love the people that God loves, serving them and desiring them to be reconciled with God. Reconciliation is what God craves and desires in all of us. 

Reconciliation is the healing and restoration of a relationship that has been previously broken. God desires us to be reconciled with Him, to restore the deep and eternal communion that we were originally designed for.

At the Starbucks I frequent, I was sitting at one of the high tables by the windowed wall facing the street. Outside was a young woman, maybe twenty three or twenty four, sitting in the dirt with a cardboard sign. Of the words scrawled on the cardboard, I could only make out the words "hopeless" and "please". For the first time in a long long time, I felt a churning in my gut that could only be explained as σπλαγχνίζομαι or a gut wrenching compassion.

I felt heart broken at this sight, and I wasn't sure why. I've seen plenty of homeless people before, especially in Las Vegas, but this kid had my attention, and I was about to find out why. God was about to create a predicament in my mind that would put me in a six hour brain tussle.

As I watched, a woman crossed the street towards the homeless woman and stopped several feet in front of her on the sidewalk. The homeless woman looked up at her and said something I could not hear. The other woman pulled out a sign of her own and opened it up so the street could see. The new woman's sign was brightly colored with nice red letters that said "DO NOT give your hard earned money to panhandling hobos."

My jaw dropped. 

The homeless woman looked at the sign, looked at her sign and stood up. She slid her sign in to her tattered backpack and began to sob.

The homeless woman looked at the other woman and then looked at me. From across the street, through the traffic, through the Starbucks window, she looked at me. 

And then she walked away down the street. 

Thus began my conflict.

There's lots of homeless people everywhere.
And they all need help.
I know some of them are just going to use the money for drugs or alcohol.
And they all need help.
I don't really know their heart.
They are the beloved of God and the focus of His affection.

This truth doesn't only apply to the homeless community in Las Vegas, but to every person who is in dire need of the love of God every single day.

I need God's love everyday. So do you.

I'm not a pro. I wish I could say that I am great example of Godly love, but then I'd be guilty of lying too. That only further proves my need for the love of God.

When we are sharing the love of God with another person, it is not a matter of looking down on a sinner, beckoning them to "get on my level!"

We are all in desperate need of the forgiveness and grace of God everyday. 

When we share the gospel with another person, we love because God loves. 

In the words of PJ, "We are merely a beggar showing another beggar where to find bread."

I never want it to be thought that I am trying to instill a feeling of guilt with anything I say. 

If we truly understand and value the work of Christ on the cross, then that will affect the way we forgive, the way we love, the way we value others, the way we value ourselves, everything! The truth of the gospel changes everything. We who were so lost and undeserving of forgiveness were forgiven and reconciled to God.

We remember how it was. I want everyone to be able to experience God the same way I have. I want to have a heart for the lost and broken and sinful just like Christ does.

Most high and holy Heavenly Father; you alone deserve to be praised and worshiped. God, I pray that we would adopt your heart for the lost and broken. We are all lost and broken. It is by your grace and love that we are reconciled to you. I earnestly pray that you would give us a heart of σπλαγχνίζομαι, a heart of gut-wrenching compassion. Lord, show me how to love like you have loved me, break my heart for what breaks yours. We praise you and celebrate your victory. Continue to heal and transform this growing work in progress.

Nate T B