“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”. 1 Peter 3:15
“In Christ is the tenderness of the shepherd, the affection of the parent, and the matchless grace of the compassionate Saviour. His blessings He presents in the most alluring terms. He is not content merely to announce these blessings; He presents them in the most attractive way, to excite a desire to possess them. So His servants are to present the riches of the glory of the unspeakable Gift. The wonderful love of Christ will melt and subdue hearts, when the mere reiteration of doctrines would accomplish nothing. ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God’. ‘O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! … He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom’. Isaiah 40:1, 9-11”. EG White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 826, 827.
The above passage summarises our study for this week. All who are Christ’s disciples will allow the Holy Spirit to give them the love, the tenderness, the grace and compassion of Christ when presenting the gospel to men and women. Their life and words will create in their listeners a hunger to know Christ and blessings He gives a sinful world – deliverance from sin and everlasting righteousness.
Receptivity to the Gospel
“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” John 4:35
God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ. Colossians 4:3, 4
The Holy Spirit is the true soul winner. He is convicting all men of their need of Christ (John 16:8-11). As the apostles did, we need to ask the Spirit daily to lead us to those whose hearts have been prepared to receive the Word.
“He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. But He needed to go through Samaria” (John 4:3, 4, NKJV). Jesus was led by the Spirit to Samaria. His Spirit is more than willing to lead us today to those who are searching for salvation.
An Attitude Adjustment
“No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” John 15:15, NKJV
Jesus is the Friend of Sinners. He receives the outcasts of society for He came to save all mankind.
We have 2 examples of outcasts in our study who encountered Jesus and His grace.
Firstly, the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matthew 15:21-18). Jesus appeared harsh with her to provide an object lesson to His disciples. Yet her persevering faith in Him as Messiah (she was a Gentile) won for her from Jesus this commendation: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.”
Secondly, Mary Magdalene who anointed Jesus feet with spikenard ointment (Mark 14:6-9). Another outcast, she had been healed and cleansed by Jesus and this was her gift of love to Him. When criticised by those around, Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me… She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
We need to examine ourselves in the light of these stories. Who are the outcasts of our day? Who are those we do not welcome to our churches? Who are those who do not come to our homes or our churches because they are not sure of their welcome?
‘“Learn of Me,” Christ says, “and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29. Why do we not learn of the Saviour every day? Why do we not live in constant communion with Him, so that in our connection with one another we can speak and act kindly and courteously? Why do we not honour the Lord by manifesting tenderness and love for one another? If we speak and act in harmony with the principles of heaven, unbelievers will be drawn to Christ by their association with us.’ EGW: Testimonies Vol 9. P 190
The Foundation of Acceptance
Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:5, 6
Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God. Romans 15:7
And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. Romans 5:6-10
The Godhead has loved and chosen and called the whole world to accept their great salvation provided in Christ Jesus. Therefore we, the disciples of Christ must accept and love everyone in the spirit of Christ.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
Presenting the Truth in Love/ Truth Lovingly Presented
And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them. John 17:26
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer for His disciples down the ages, His desire was that we may reveal to all the love of God. We sometimes tend to think that love is kind and patient, but truth needs to be presented sternly. That was not Christ’s method of presenting truth. He was harsh only with those who should have known better – the leaders and teachers of the people; but He loved them too.
What will draw the world to the truth as it is in Christ is the story of God’s love manifested at Calvary…’If I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me’ John 12:32.
As God’s people, we have to have the same attitude to our brothers and sisters in the faith.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.” Timothy Keller
‘The quickest way to slay error is to proclaim the truth. The surest mode of extinguishing falsehood, is to boldly advocate Scripture doctrine upon Scripture principles. Scolding and protesting will not be so effectual in resisting the progress of error as the clear proclamation of the truth in Jesus.’ C.H. Spurgeon
The Consequence of God’s Grace and Mercy to Us
The revelation of God’s grace, patience and long-suffering in our lives encourages others to believe in Him
This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance; that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.1 Timothy 1:15, 16
But I obtained mercy for the reason that in me, as the foremost [of sinners], Jesus Christ might show forth and display all His perfect long-suffering and patience for an example to [encourage] those who would thereafter believe on Him for [the gaining of] eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:16 (Amplified)