All Affection Belongs to JESUS Part 3
Sunday Afternoon, September 26, 1999
Question: Wasn’t it said of Jesus that He ate and drank with sinners and tax collectors? Obviously, Jesus didn’t just disassociate himself from everyone who was a sinner.
Well, let’s back up just a little bit. First of all, it was an accuser who said that about Jesus. Jesus didn’t say that about Himself. He didn’t say, “I’m a friend of sinners and tax collectors.” He was accused of that by those who wanted to kill Him. Secondly, He did “eat and drink” with them, but there’s no evidence that He gave away His affections to them. There’s a difference between getting on common ground with people and giving affections away to them.
In the process of bringing others to Christ, I have done a lot of things. I have been to baseball games, football games and soccer games. I swam eight miles across a lake with one guy, and I did a triathlon with another. I met one of the brothers while I was on a very long bicycle ride. But guess what? There were other brothers with me in those situations. When we swam across the lake, there were brothers in a boat 100 meters in front of us just making sure we didn’t get hit by the ferry or any speed boats. When you build in the Kingdom of God, you use tools, like those mentioned above, to help others reach God. And you can use these tools—eating in a restaurant, swimming across a lake, or participating in a triathlon—without giving away your affections. You do it as one extending mercy and kindness.
A good example of this is how I met the man with whom I swam across the lake. I met Jim when he came to a “Sunday morning service” of which I was “pastor” at that time. I practically had to tackle him afterwards because he was taking off so quickly. I said to him, “What’s your hurry? I want to talk to you a little bit.” He explained to me his big plans for the day, “I’m going skiing in the mountains, and when I get done with that, this other guy and I are going to go windsurfing on the lake. By the time we do all that stuff, it’s going to be dark. If we don’t get started now, we’re not going to get it all done today.”
Later on, I called the man who had brought Jim to the “service.” The man who he came with was supposed to have been a believer, but that could have been disputed by the quality of his life and the lack of testimony of his faith. In any event, he considered himself a “member” of this place. I called him and said, “Can I get that man’s phone number?”
And he said, “Ah, Jim’s just a play baby; he won’t want to talk to you. All he does is ride motor cross bikes and go windsurfing and scuba diving all the time. He doesn’t care about anything else.”
But I said, “Well, just give me his phone number anyway.”
I got Jim on the phone and he agreed to get together with me. We talked, and other brothers became involved in the process. Once again, it’s a Kingdom thing. It’s not my “ministry.” It’s Jesus’ life being expressed! And I can’t do that by myself. I don’t have all the gifts. I don’t have the full measure of the character, personality, and qualities of Jesus.
Well, I got to know this guy a little bit better, and he invited me to his house. I rode my bicycle about 35 kilometers out to his house. When I got there, six or eight guys were standing in his front yard. Now Jim is about 5’10” with long curly hair. And everybody around him was about 6’3”, muscular with blonde hair. All of his friends were these big, tough California beach boys with blonde hair and muscles! And Jim, right in the middle of these guys, was the ring leader! I was amazed at this situation. All these guys were saying, “What should we do now, Jim? Where do you want to go now, Jim?” You have to know Jim. He’s an intelligent IBM engineer and very, very quiet and these big, tough guys are all staring down at him, eagerly awaiting his reply. So, all these guys were surrounding Jim, smoking pot, and Jim was right there in the middle of them smoking pot, too! I walked up and put my bike down on the ground. They offered me a toke, and I said, “No, thanks.”
You see, we’re not talking about being some sort of “holy” club or anything like that. We’re talking about getting right in the middle of hearts and minds in this fallen world, but doing it God’s way. Three weeks later, we were training to do this eight-mile swim because I was trying to find some way to get into his world, to “eat and drink.” He didn’t have my affections in the sense that I gave myself away to him though. I didn’t say, “Oh, it’s my chum. It’s my pal, Jim.” NO, my friendship is with Jesus, not someone in the world! But I cared about Jim. I loved him.
No more than three weeks had passed when Jim came to me and said, “You are the best friend I have ever had in my life.”
And I thought, “How could this be? In three weeks time, I’m the best friend he had ever had?” This man appeared to be the most “popular” man on the planet in some strange way. He had tried every sport anyone had ever put their hand to, and he had every “toy” imaginable. He was an IBM hot shot guy with all the friends anybody could ever want. How could it be that I am the “best friend he ever had” in three weeks time?
I cite that as an example because caring about people the way Jesus did is incredibly attractive! People can see His life, and they want that desperately. But I didn’t give my heart away, and I compromised nothing in the process. Being a friend of the world does make you an enemy of God. I didn’t love what he did. I didn’t love where he went. I didn’t dress like he dressed. I didn’t talk like he talked. I didn’t run around with him or pal around with him. It was just like Zacchaeus, which was who Jesus was accused of being a friend with. Zacchaeus repented and repaid four times as much money as he took. Jim literally did that, too. He had all kinds of equipment from IBM that he had “taken out” over time. Equipment he had checked out, but never had checked back in. He had voltage regulators, meters, circuit boards, and other stuff he liked to play with while he was trying to blow up the neighborhood! Jim returned all that stuff. They wouldn’t have known the difference if he hadn’t returned it; the equipment was off the books. It wasn’t easy. He had to drop it off in front of their door and drive away because there was no way to check it all back in. And that is the story about Jim, who was a heathen, but is now a brother.
Whether it is with family, or with Jim, or anybody else we’re reaching out to, there’s a way to walk with integrity and peace. There is a way to walk with others and compromise nothing...and still you could be their best friend in three weeks! But it is JESUS and HIS LIFE that they are attracted to! “This is how all men will know you are my disciples...by the love you have for each other.” As they see us loving each other, they know it’s from Heaven. They know it’s not just some story line that we made up, and it’s not just one of the many world religions that they could choose from. They know it’s from Heaven when they see us loving each other.
So, we do love unregenerate people in the sense that we extend all the mercy and compassion in the world to them. But, when I saw those guys standing around smoking marijuana, did I say, “Ooh, scorpions and spiders, ooh, get away from me”? No, and because of that, I extended myself. Who am I to treat them that way? I used to be disobedient and arrogant. I used to be a heathen swine, futile in my thinking and darkened in my understanding. I should be dead in my transgressions and sin! The only reason I’m over “here” instead of over “there” is because of mercy...God’s unmerited favor.
I never intend to live in such a way as to cause myself or others to be repulsed at people because they don’t yet know Christ. But on the other hand, I do guard my heart. My affections are for Jesus alone. I don’t speak in glowing terms of Michael Jordan. I speak in glowing terms of Elijah! I don’t speak in glowing terms of Michael Jordan because he is a child of the devil and a lover of the world. And I know that’s true because I’ve heard him say things that prove it. So, I can appreciate the athletic skills that he has, but he is not my hero. He doesn’t have any of my heart and he never will, unless he becomes a brother, in which case he will have my whole heart!
Please have a lot of gratitude toward people who are willing to be faithful and not compromise. Be willing to be tough, but also to extend yourselves into situations that aren’t comfortable. Encourage each other in these things, not because it’s “our ministry,” but because it’s the overflow of our love affair with Jesus...pure and simple.
What we’ve been talking about doesn’t mean separation or isolation. It doesn’t mean being in some “holy club” that shirks responsibility and pulls off into the wilderness to pat each other on the back. The Kingdom of God is meant to be right in the middle of a fallen generation, extending our love for each other to the world. It is in this way that people can see how much we love each other. It is not separation from them—it’s in the middle of them! BUT, we are not of them and they are not of us.
Question: How do you reach out to people? How do they see this “love that you have for one another”?
Well, I’ll tell you another story. I met a man in a park, right in the middle of an ugly, urban, drug-infested area of the city. About twelve families had moved into the ghetto to extend Christ’s love into that area. One day, I was in a park and saw a guy there playing basketball. I started talking to him and I began to play basketball with him. He said he was a “superstar” basketball player. So we began playing a little one-on-one. After a while I said, “You hungry?”
He said, “Yeah, I’m hungry.”
I said, “Climb in my car.”
I drove him right up to an apartment complex where a bunch of Christians lived, and dragged him into where one of the families lived. I asked if they would be kind enough to fix us some bologna sandwiches and I introduced him to my friends. Within a matter of hours, he had met at least a dozen believers—some there and some in other places where I took him. Over the course of probably a month, he had met over a hundred people and had gotten to know them a little bit. He had the chance to feel the love of God in his life all because of a little game of basketball.
Now, if we had brought him to some sort of ceremony, we would be in a lot of trouble, because nobody sees anybody love one another at a ceremony! They’ve got to see it in our living conditions and our daily Life together. For instance, it’s common to have six or eight guys meet in several different places for lunch during a workday. One of the brothers owns a restaurant in the heart of the city. We meet there for lunch and there are a lot of businessmen and street people all over that area. These people see how we love one another! It is “different” to them. They have never seen anything like this, twelve to fifteen brothers, having a blast, partying in this restaurant! We know the owner, and he comes out to talk to us, and brings us free food. People are praying, and talking, and caring and eating. As all this stuff is going on, the people “of the world” are seeing something that they are just not used to seeing. They just don’t see that type of dynamic among people! When they see God’s people together they don’t see empty, lonely people who can only talk about the stock exchange or the changing seasons. In the world, people sit down at a table to make small talk because that’s all they know how to do—that’s all they have. There is just nothing much in their lives. So when we are loving one another, people will notice the difference. If 200 people are having a barbecue in a neighborhood that is right in the middle of the city, people will notice when they drive down the street! They are seeing us live our lives, together.
My son is nineteen, going on twenty. He shovels our sidewalk, our driveway, and two or three others while he’s at it. He’ll also shovel unbelieving neighbors’ sidewalks. People are not familiar with that kind of life. It’s very mind boggling to them! God’s love and our love for one another are impossible to hide. We are meant to be a city set on a hill that can’t be hidden.
Question: If we are not in a situation where that kind of LIVING is our experience, then how do we get there from here?
Well, God didn’t change us in order to create a universe of utopian glory and comfort. What He called us to do is to be obedient every day. I must be obedient in the little things. SO, I take out my garbage and the Holy Spirit inside of me says, “There’s some other trash cans that need to be taken out. The garbage man is only an hour away. Maybe you ought to run over to your neighbor’s yard and pull out their trash cans.” If you live that way, it is very noticeable! All of a sudden, you have dozens and then hundreds of people living that way. But where does it begin? Obedience. You must be obedient to the small things every single day. If you really want to experience the life and the Glory of God, but you don’t understand everything thoroughly, remember—it doesn’t have to be complicated! It’s just obeying what you do know so that the light keeps shining brighter and brighter.
No one can build these things we are talking about except Jesus! The only way Jesus can build His Church, which the gates of hell can no longer prevail against, is for everybody to love Him and obey Him every day with the little things. If everybody will do this, then changes will happen. We’re talking about helping each other obey Jesus. We’re talking about helping each other know and listen to Jesus. We can help each other pull the weeds that block our ability to know Him. As we help each other pull the weeds, we can help each other hear the Shepherd’s voice by saying, “Are you listening for Him?”... “Oh, yeah, you’re right. I was spacing it a little bit. I got a little too busy with my job.” You see, we’re helping each other hear God. And as we help each other hear God, we mature. Then we begin to do the little things better and better. We become the city set on a hill where Jesus said He will build His church that the gates of hell cannot prevail against. We can’t instantly get there from here. But we can obey Him in the little things and let Him do what He wants to do. This Glory isn’t something you go out and “get” and “do.” It’s comes by obeying the little things, which you know you can do. And when everybody does that, and everybody helps each other do that, then all of a sudden we end up with something that looks a lot like Jesus. We end up with something we could never have done in a trillion years of administration, effort, and sermon preaching. So, frankly, it’s easy. It’s not hard.
Some people try to use the scriptures, and the things Jesus did, to justify giving their affections away. There was a guy we met one time who tried to play that “I’m a friend of sinners” game. He regularly went to amusement parks and did other fun things with his old high school buddies. Here’s what he said when someone asked him about it...
“Did you talk to them about Jesus? About your faith? About the gospel?”
“Have you ever?”
“Is this some kind of twenty-year friendship evangelism thing? Someday, somewhere, sometime you’re going to mention something to them?”
This man was pretending that he was doing some sort of spiritual thing, to be a “friend of sinners,” but it was really a smoke screen to hide behind. He had, in actuality, given his heart away to them. They were his buddies. He liked to go to amusement parks, and he tried to play some game with it as if he was building towards “evangelizing” them some day. This is very different from a situation where there is investment in lives with purpose and reason. The foundation of our time with unbelievers needs to be composed and caring, without yukking it up in some carnal, buddy-buddy way.
See No Man After the Flesh
David said, “I’ll slash the fangs of the wicked.” Now, he’s got to be talking about people, but people don’t have fangs. They have teeth. Yet, from David’s perspective, evil people have fangs! If we don’t have that clarity inside of us anywhere, then we’re not really going to be able to care for them and be redemptive like we should. There is some other game we’re playing. Perhaps inside of ourselves, we’re afraid of how they might view us. In order to really love our relatives, our wife, our children, or whomever properly, we have got to stop seeing people after the flesh. Yes, Jesus loves the whole world! He is extremely redemptive and it is our call to be redemptive, too. But if we haven’t crossed that line inside of us where we “hate” our father, mother, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister, OURSELVES...then we can’t be His disciple. We’ve got to cross that line first in order to be a candidate for being redemptive. Otherwise, some mixture will creep in and we will find ourselves hiding behind the “compassionate” Jesus when it’s really the cowardly us.
Jesus loved people enough to die for them, and the Father loved people enough to sacrifice His Son. Yet, He doesn’t love them so much that the bulk of them won’t spend eternity tortured and separated from Him forever! The most Loving Being in the Universe isn’t so “loving” that people are going to escape damnation if they don’t bow their knee, soften their heart and surrender to Him. If we don’t see people as having a wisp of a life span that is about to end, where they will face a much-deserved fate, then we are not going to respond to them appropriately in the meantime.
We’ve got to view “grandma” properly. If she doesn’t believe in God at all, then it doesn’t matter how nice she is or how well she cooks. When she passes from life to death and God sums up her life, if she hasn’t bowed her knee, it is not going to matter how good her cookies tasted, or how sweet she was, or what “good” things she did. From God’s vantage point, she is an evil person. She is a child of the devil and will go to hell for eternity.
Realizing that, Paul said, “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” I know their final destiny, if they don’t turn things around, and that gives me the energy to CARE! How can I be comfortable, friendly, and chummy with someone whose presence God will refuse to endure for forever. Is my heart more loving than His, or have I misdefined love? If God can banish forever the person that I can pal around with for twenty years, then I have a problem. Again, it’s not His goal to banish forever. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He longs for all men to come to repentance. But if they don’t, then He does not enjoy their company. And neither should we.
A Tool in the Toolbox
I want to encourage you to understand that withholding your affection is actually a tool in God’s toolbox. It’s not a judgment or some form of hostility. In 1 Corinthians 5, God said that if a person calls himself a brother and is in sin, and continues in these sins, then expel him from your midst. Don’t eat with him and don’t associate with him. Why did God say this? He said this so that this man’s soul could be redeemed. He said this so that something inside of him would see his lack and his need for Jesus. Paul said, “Your boasting is not good. Your callousness to this sin is not good. Remove the leaven from the batch and be a batch without leaven.” If this brother continued to sin, whether in slander, gossip, immorality, or something else, he was not to be associated with. You must not give away your affectionate friendship to him. Paul said, “Don’t eat with them or associate with them, and expel them from your midst.”
For many of us this is frightful. We have grown up in religious situations where “the working out of this” was some sort of religious decree. “Excommunication” was this big hammer that was meant to break our neck, crush us and separate us forever from anybody and anything. If you read the scriptures carefully, you will see clearly that was not God’s intention. In fact, the whole thing was for deliverance! It was not unto “discipline.” This is a tool in God’s toolbox in order to wake someone up. It is smelling salts. It is ammonia in the nostrils in order to say, “You can’t keep doing this. You’re going to have to turn this thing around.”
In Acts 3, it was prophesied that everyone who won’t listen to Jesus will be completely cut off from amongst the people. That is an Old Testament prophesy about a New Testament issue. First Corinthians 5 is one of the executions of that. Because of the way they built every day, because the people had such close relationship with that man, when they stopped eating and associating with him, IT MATTERED! (2Cor. 2 and 7). There was a passion there to have this fellowship recovered. He had to make it right. He was desperate. It was like he was curling up and dying because they wouldn’t associate with him anymore. If you know a person really well because they are so close to you in the Body of Christ, it is going to hurt them deeply if you stop eating with them. It is going to MATTER to them!
But if we build relationships the way they are typically built in religion, where no one really knows each other, then this tool is unavailable to us. The typical religious setting has a 10% nucleus of commitment and everybody just does what they want all the time. They are not connected in such a way that the hand cannot say to the eye, “I have no need of you.” They are not joined and knitted together. They are not devoted daily to admonishing one another and confessing sins one to another. Do you see the problem? If we don’t live the way God says the Church is supposed to live, then that tool is unavailable to us. A lot of people will end up burying themselves in sin and cutting themselves off from a life with God, and we can’t stop it because we don’t have the tool of right relationship available to us! God said this is a tool. What we see in 1 Corinthians 5 is not some sort of legal judgment or “excommunicating.” It is a tool to get someone’s attention so they can see we don’t extend love and fellowship to people that live as enemies of God.
Jesus said the same thing in Matthew 18. “Go to him and him alone. If he won’t hear you (God forbid that he wouldn’t love the light enough to hear you), then bring in two or three witness and I’ll be there with you. If he still won’t hear you, tell it to the whole church. And if he still won’t hear you, treat him differently than a brother. Treat him as a tax collector or a sinner.” Jesus was very clear that there is a difference between the Church and the way the tax collectors and sinners were treated. “You’ve got to treat them like a tax collector, if they won’t act like they are part of the Church.” Jesus drew that line Himself in Matthew 18.
And, we must obey the beautiful and very clear example in 1 Corinthians 5. If a person calls himself a brother and lives in sin (and it lists several) do not eat or associate with him. Expel him from your midst! If you won’t do that, then you don’t love Me very much. Because if you love Me, you’ll obey My commandments. And I command you to do this. I’m not giving you a choice. You must do this. You cannot do it if you don’t have deep relationships, though, because you won’t have the tool available to you. It won’t hurt them, it will just make them angry or embitter them. If you don’t have relationship with them the way the Bible says the Church is supposed to, then all it does is make them angry. It’s not going to help deliver them from sin. They will just think you are a bunch of foolish, self-centered, self-righteous people. But they wouldn’t feel that way if you desperately loved them and they knew it. If you have “admonished one another daily” and “been called alongside one another daily,” it will make the tools in God’s house EFFECTIVE. Building the New Testament way instead of the religious way gives us tools to deliver even an almost undeliverable situation.
Time to Walk it Out
My parents are unbelievers, and even though I have other family members who are believers, my parents have remained unbelievers. I can’t let them bounce their grandchildren on their knee in some sort of love affair, as grandparents love to do. I can’t give that much affection away to them. Also, I can’t allow my children to have that much respect, enjoyment and fellowship with them, as long as my parents are renouncing the Blood of Jesus. Trampling the blood of Jesus underfoot is an unholy thing. Yes, my children are going to honor them and care about them, but they WILL NOT have some lovey-dovey kind of relationship. It is illegal in the Heavenlies to give away affection to those who have dishonored Jesus and trampled the Blood of Jesus underfoot as an unholy thing.
So, there are these tensions that I must find a way to walk in—to provide leadership where I’m obedient to God on this matter of not giving away my affections, and yet not dishonoring or isolating anyone in some form of hatred. The kindness, mercy, and attractiveness of Jesus and His Love needs to be extended in these relationships. If they can’t experience that, then taking away the affection they want in order to stroke family idolatry won’t have any impact on them! If they don’t see me as a loving and special person who is a lot like Jesus, then it is not a tool. If they don’t want to have anything to do with me anyway, then withholding relationship is not an effective tool. So there has to be enough interaction so they see the character and love of Jesus, but enough withholding of affection that it’s a tool that helps them see their need for Jesus.
The point is that putting these things into practice is a tool that God gives us. If we mess it all up by giving our affections away aimlessly based on flesh and blood issues, we’re squandering the Master’s treasure and misusing His tools. We’re also harming their chance to not be in hell for eternity. It’s not an act of cruelty when you do it God’s way. It’s an act of love and it is attractive.
“This is how all men will know you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another.”
The thing they are missing is the thing that gets their attention. If you throw them all this love, compassion and sympathy, you’re giving them drugs and you’re blinding them to what they really need. You might cost them their soul! We’re not talking about a cruel judgment and isolation. We’re talking about a wonderful opportunity to use a tool that Jesus ordained and Paul, by the Holy Spirit, ordained as being active tools to help change people’s hearts.
This is not a sermon. We are brothers and sisters trying to wrestle through issues that will affect the rest of our lives, and the work of God in the community we live in. I know this is incredibly hard to understand. It’s going to be a thousand times more difficult to implement. But, please, at least sow the seeds and ask God about these things that Jesus and Paul said. It’s important. As a whole, we have not applied these things very well, and it’s time to walk it out. : )