By: Kenneth Haney
The following message was preached at Christian Life Center. It has been edited for publication. The Scripture text was Ezekiel 9:4-6.
God gave a vision of the day of judgment to the prophet Ezekiel. The Lord told Ezekiel, “There must be one with a writer’s ink horn upon his side who will be instructed to go through the midst of Jerusalem. He is to place a mark upon the forehead of every man and woman that cries and sighs for the abominations that are committed in the midst of the city.”
Obviously, there were many citizens of that city who could not cry and sigh because other topics occupied their minds. The Lord wanted to mark as special people those who cried and sighed because of the abominations. Not everyone was disturbed by the deplorable state of this city.
The vision continued: “I want others with a sword on their side to follow up. They are commanded to slay old and young, women or men, boys or girls who do not have the mark.”
It would appear that this is an atrocious act of brutality. But it is the scene of a judgment day. At the end of every dispensation there is judgment. God makes a difference between people who care and those who do
A word which was used frequently in the ministry of Jesus was “compassion.” The Bible said often, “He was moved with compassion” or “He had compassion on them.” The church of today must have the character of Jesus Christ and likewise be clothed with compassion.
There is a mark which indicates whether or not this is true of a person. It may be invisible, but that mark is upon every man and woman. It is not good enough to call yourself a Christian. That is a common term. In America most people call themselves Christians.
If they are not atheists or agnostics or Hindus or members of some Eastern cult, they call themselves Christians. But there is much more to Christianity than wearing a cross on your lapel, a medallion around your neck or a little fish plastered on your bumper. There is the essence of it which Jesus gave to us: He had compassion on them. He cared.
The world that is Christian in name only does not portray a great deal of compassion and love. Many are wrapped up in their own selfish drive to be acclaimed as someone great. Some religious leaders seek stardom. Some denominations seem to want greatness. Even though we are part of an organization, we must not get lost in the clutter. Ministry really takes place at the grass roots, where you are meeting man at the point of his need, loving him. That cannot be done in offices, sitting behind great desks. It cannot be done in committee meetings or board meetings. Ministry occurs out where the world is, among people who are hurting, bruised and victimized by Satan.
Some may think: “We’re Pentecostal! We are doing all sorts of things. We feed the poor; we go to the prisons.”
But I’m not asking you what the church does. What are you doing? Many hide behind the towering steeples, the stained glass windows and the beautifully decorated edifices of church buildings. Many hide behind a Sunday morning service, thinking they paid the Lord a tremendous compliment just to come.
That is not the Christianity Jesus came to bring to this world. He came to meet men at the point of their need. He was wrapped with the spirit of compassion and love toward the lost.
Selfish, egotistical brutality was wrapped in clerical robes even at the time of Judas. We understand he was the great betrayer, but Judas was still a man. He had feelings, a heart, and a family. He betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. Many have sold Him for less.
After Judas made his bargain with the High Priest, he regretted it. His conscience haunted him. How could he have betrayed the only man who ever really loved him, who had opened blinded eyes and unstopped deaf ears, lifted the cripple and helped the man who was destitute? He frantically ran back to the religious leaders crying, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood!” They looked at him with cold, indifferent eyes and said, “What is that to us? You see to that.”
Lazarus was a beggar who lay at the gate of the rich man’s palace, wanting only the crumbs that fell from his the rich man’s table. The dogs had more compassion on him than the rich man did. They came and licked his sores. Then Lazarus died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom (a type of paradise). The rich man died also. The Bible plainly says, “In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.” He was not eulogized because of his wealth. He pled with Abraham. Abraham did not accuse him of being a
wicked, immoral man. The only reason for the story was to reveal his cold heart, fervent attitude, his careless mentality toward a hurting man who begged for just a few crumbs. Lazarus didn’t ask for a chariot, a robe, or to be sitting at the table, he just wanted some crumbs. The rich man represents the greed of that day, which is, of course, just as prevalent today.
To change the world we must live where people hurt. When we have a good job and security, we feel comfortable. But the world could explode in five minutes. The economy may not be many days away from falling apart.
I talked with a gentleman I have known for a number of years who will be retiring next year at age 57. He has looked forward to this for a long time. He began to talk about his Social Security, his treasury bills, and
his investments that would provide for his retirement. My mind quickly went to the Book of James which spoke of the man who put away his gold and silver and the canker worms ate it up. There is not much security left in this world; it is getting ready to fall apart. You may be trusting in your job, but you may not have a job within two months. You may be trusting in your bank account, but your bank could fold. There are things more precious than material things. There is the bank of heaven, and Jesus said, “Lay not
up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
Where is our treasure today? God’s children should be good stewards. Young couples should buy homes and establish savings accounts. These things are right, but they must never become a god. That is idolatry. What we must do is live as Jesus would live. Jesus would have picked up the beggar. He would have forgiven Judas. He would not have had an “elder brother” mentality when the prodigal came home. The excitement that Jesus had about the lost must characterize our lives.
We see Jesus in the story of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, a man left Jerusalem to go to Jericho. In the process of his journey thugs and robbers jumped him, beat him with clubs, stole any wealth he had, ripped his garments, kicked in his rib cage, and left him lying on the side of the road.
Along came the priest. He came with his clerical robe, his position, his acknowledgement as a religious leader of the day. He left his home that morning with a horn of oil at his side. He had all the necessities to
minister to the wounded. When he looked at the bloody man, hearing him moan and groan, he skirted the scene. He got home in time for dinner and kept his appointments, but he never had time to do what Jesus would do.
Likewise the Levite came. He was prestigious in community activity. He also had the horn of oil, the ability to help, but he refused. More than a title or position is required to minister to hurting people.
Then the Good Samaritan came along. He looked at the battered body, he heard the groans, and he had compassion. He didn’t worry about his hands or his garments getting bloody and dirty. He lifted the head gently, he poured oil in the wounds and wrapped them. He gently lifted the torn victim and took him to an inn. Somehow we have to come to that place where we are caring, loving, reaching for the lost.
Every day there are people who walk by us who have needs and are hurting. And the hurt is not just outside of the church; it’s on the inside, too. Some of us are so caught up in the “glory land way” that we cannot help the man or woman who has come to the church for help.
If Jesus were here, He would say to blind men, “Receive thy sight.” Leprous men whose bodies dripped with sores would be told, “Go show yourselves unto the priest.” Jesus would be moved with compassion for the widow woman, weeping as she walked in the funeral procession of her only son. He would command life back into the lifeless body. He would stop and take time to help a beggar or to talk with the children who came running to Him.
If Jesus were on the earth, where would He be? I am sure He would be in church and in the prayer meetings, but He would not have stopped with Sunday services. His love and compassion would take Him beyond the four walls of a building, beyond a choir singing, and beyond a lecture in the pulpit. It would take Him into the streets.
If Jesus were driving the of streets and He encountered a drug addict with needle marks up and down his body, He would see more than a guy ripping stereos out of cars. He would see more, than the bandit. He would see it as a result of sin and He would be moved with compassion. We’re not happy when someone burglarizes our cars and homes. But Jesus, would not look only at the consequence of sin. He would say, “The reason behind the actions of this poor boy is his addiction. Satan has done this to him.”
If He noted the prostitutes in the streets, He would see more than a prostitute. He would see a woman with a child trying to make ends meet, an addict driven by her sin. It’s time for the church to wake up and see
beyond the veneer of sin. It is destroying homes, marriages and lives. Little children are running the streets, hungry; a wino comes up to you with his smelly breath and filthy clothes. If Jesus was there He would not look with disdain. He would not say, “Get out of my way, you menace to society.” He would be moved with compassion.
It is hard to hear these things. You would prefer to discuss faith, but I’m telling you what Jesus would say to you. The church does not need more beautiful buildings and more money in the bank. The church needs a baptism of compassion.
The world may be getting worse, but the outlook is brighter for the church because never have men and women been more hungry for something to change their lives.
You are not saved because you are great but because of the greatness and mercy of God. I cannot save myself. Jesus saved me, gave me a new heart, a new mind, changed my lifestyle, and gave me something worth living for.
Unconcern is prevalent. I have traveled in third world nations and seen people lying in the gutters, begging. My head would swim with these questions, “What should we do? How can we reach them?” But you can’t reach a world. You can reach only one man at a time. That is what the early church did. Each one took the responsibility to reach one at a time. They changed the world.
When Jesus came, the situation was bad. There was more sickness and disease than even today. They lay on stretchers in the streets with no medical cures. But Jesus came and cared. It is the caring, the concern that counts.
You will remember the story of the woman in New York City who was stabbed 38 times while a multitude watched. She begged for someone to help her, but nobody wanted to get involved. You say, “I don’t think I would want to either.” I know. I understand. I am just showing you an attitude our society has. Has about the 60-year-old man on the Miami beach who had a heart attack. He lay there in pain, begging somebody to help him. But nobody had time. Readers’ Digest tells a story that happened on the Los Angeles Freeway. A man had a heart attack and had to stop right in themiddle of the road. Someone who saw him slumped over his steering wheel stopped to offer help. He tried to stop someone to call the paramedics, the police. The man was dying. Car after car would stop and then speed off. Finally when someone stopped, the man grabbed the keys from the ignition and said, “Do something to help!”
Ours is a world of greed. Many are wrapped up in their own families. It is good to be concerned about the well being of your family, but it must go beyond our four walls.
So unconcerned so many are,
About that soul that drifts afar;
A soul that yearns to know the love
Of the One who came from Heaven above
Shall never know, shall never feel
The cleansing blood of the One that’s real.
Oh, you that are so unconcerned
The night is coming, the clock is striking
The day is almost gone.
The darkness of a horrible night
Soon shall be coming on.
Then you that are so unconcerned
Stand with hands that drip with blood
Because you are so unconcerned
Anyone can become calloused. In hospitals nurses see people dying every day, crying out with pain. If they are not careful it becomes old. I’ve been there when a doctor came out to tell the family, “There is no hope” in an unfeeling and cold manner. The undertaker will say, “Business is good. We have had 600 services this year.” It is easy to get caught up in “things” and not be moved. I thank God there are still some who are
compassionate. They have the Spirit of Jesus.
We talked about doctors, nurses and undertakers; what about preachers? Is it business or can you shed a tear? We conduct approximately 50 funeral services a year at Christian Life Center. I hardly ever can speak at a funeral hurting without fighting back the tears. It bothers me and I don’t want to ever reach a place where it doesn’t. I step into the pulpit to preach Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday evening, at conventions and camp-meetings. It is never easy. I don’t want to ever get to the place where I don’t need to depend on God. I want to be moved with compassion and concern. I want to be caring and loving.
Something else that goes with all this is forgiveness. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” this is what He told them.
“After this manner therefore pray ye Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:9-12).
Those who hope to receive forgiveness must be willing to forgive others. (See Matthew 18:24-35.) Some harbor bitterness, anger, or resentment over something that happened long ago.
Everybody makes mistakes; everybody does wrong, but there is forgiveness. Harboring grudges will tend to affect your health, your mind. We need to be marked with compassion. We need a spirit that causes us to wrap our arms around folks. We need to be aware of people who have hurting spirits.
We must not die as a worthless piece of humanity who sponged off of everyone else. Everything we have belongs to the Lord. We came into this world naked and will leave the same way. Everything He gave us is to be used while we am here. We CAN take it with us if we give it to Jesus down here.
(The above material appeared in the Spring 1992 issue of First Love.)
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