Tuesday, June 6, 2017

For We are Christ's Workmanship Created for Good Works

As a true “born-again” Christian, do you look for ways to help people? Do you even look at the people around you and notice their needs? Most of us don’t look, but if we actually looked, we might discover that some people are depressed, some are sick, and some need emotional support during a time when they simply can’t figure out what to do. Others may just need a friend or a Christian ear that will listen with compassion and then be willing to respond to their need with wisdom, care, support, direction, and yes, with ideas and suggestions. Most importantly, they may need to hear “the truth” within any situation. In fact, sometimes those we encounter and really look at may have an even greater need, for they may be searching for “the truth” that can actually fill that God-shaped space within their souls. In other words, they are searching for that ultimate truth, i.e., the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, which they are in need of recognizing and accepting in order to be whole and complete. It is our responsibility as Christians who are under the direction of the Holy Spirit to help others find the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Indeed, all Christians have been given the responsibility of helping their fellow humans. In other words, we have the responsibility of looking at those around us to determine how we can help another person as well as the responsibility of sharing the Gospel message in order for others to find Christ. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.– (Ephesians 2: 10. NASB). This means that God has prepared us to be able to share the Gospel message which we can do through doing the good works which God has prepared us to do. But, in order to determine what kind of help or information that another person needs, we have to look at that person and then listen to her to determine her needs. However, in a world that is fast paced and at times overwhelming, Christians often fail to really look at the other person, let alone observe her needs or even consider that we may have been gifted with some information, talent, wisdom, etc. that could help her.

Christians should be on the lookout and willing perform some good work that would help another woman or empower her to be more than she is. Sadly, Christians today are so overcome with daily living and yes, to a certain degree we are overcome with selfishness, so much so, that we fail to look closely at the other woman and her needs, let alone are willing to coach, support, teach, counsel, or spiritually guide this person. Some Christian women can even become an accountability partner or just a good friend for another woman, if they are truly on the lookout for a woman who needs an accountability partner or friend. But, how can Christian women go about doing all these things when there is so little time in their very busy days?

Well, one way that Christian women can fit helping other women into their busy days is to become Active Relational Christian Mentors. Becoming a Christian mentor to another woman does not have to take a great deal of time unless you want it to. Just 20 minutes a week is all it takes to sometimes lift the spirit of another woman, answer questions, or counsel and give spiritual guidance to someone in need. But in order to reach out and help another woman, we first have to look at or observe the other woman, i.e., we must recognize that she exists and that she has a need, and only then can we reach out to develop a relationship with her. Then, we can speak into the life of that woman through many different avenues or topics as we befriend and fellowship with her. But we first have to be willing to step forward to listen, befriend, and mentor another woman in order to empower her so that she can be all that she is meant to be for God, herself, her family, and her friends. Are you willing to observe and then step forward to help?

Christ as Our Example

During Christ’s three-year ministry, Jesus Christ was always looking at the people around Him as He observed them in order to help those who had a need. In fact, the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are full of miracles that Christ preformed for those who were less fortunate or for those who were hurting in some way or another. It wasn’t just the person who was blind that Christ helped and healed. And it wasn’t just those that were physically sick that Christ reached out to help or to show them the path to redemption through the love of God. Christ observed people everywhere that He went and He healed emotional and psychological problems as well as those that were demon possessed. Sometimes, people were brought to Jesus for healing, while at other times, Jesus found the person within the crowd that needed His help.

Although, the writers of the New Covenant/Testament wrote down many of the miracles that Christ performed, they could not write down every incident or record every person that Jesus helped. In fact, the Apostle John wrote at the end of his book: “Jesus did many other things as well, If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”  -- (John 21: 25. NIV). For, Christ was engaged in helping people in many different ways and in doing miracles even when His disciples were not around to record them. He also performed so many miracles and helps that the writers of the Gospels had to pick and choose which ones to include in their Gospel. Of course, they chose which ones to include with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Christ had a greater purpose within all the miracles that He performed than in just physically and emotionally healing an individual, for He had been sent by God, His Father, to show all people God’s love and to bless those who would believe that He is the Son of God and those who believe that He had come to save them from their sins with eternal life. Indeed, Jesus Christ came to not only help them in the here and now, but He came to bless them with a future of eternal life, if they believed on Him as the Son of God. In believing on Him, people then would forever have their souls set free from the destruction of eternal death upon their physical death from this world. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”  -- (John 3: 16. NASB)

But, in order to get their attention and to develop a relationship with those who truly needed His help and forgiveness of their sins, Christ sometimes had to first heal their physical and emotional problems. He had to observe and listen as people explained their needs. Once their physical and emotional problems were healed, Christ could then meet their spiritual needs. However, to meet their spiritual needs, Christ would first start with the miracles of healing which could open the person’s eyes for their need for God’s forgiveness and love. This could then lead to their continued relationship with Him. Through the miracles He performed, Christ could show and tell individuals that He was indeed the Son of God and that they had need of more than physical and emotional health; they also needed a spiritual life with God starting with the repentance and forgiveness of their sins.

Just as Christ looked at the whole person, Christian women have to first see the whole woman and see her needs before we can speak into another woman’s life with wisdom, knowledge, support, direction, coaching, counseling, and yes, with spiritual guidance. Only after we have befriended another woman and have shown her that we can be trustworthy and authentic, will we have a chance to share the Gospel message and tell her about the saving grace of Salvation that Christ wants to offer her. But if we only look out for and live only for ourselves, we will fail to see or fail to reach out to help another woman. In our selfishness, we will never get the chance to show the love of God to another woman the way that Christ wants us to do so. But if we look with our eyes and our heart and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we can selflessly help and empower another woman to be all that she can be. “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.– (I Corinthians 3: 9. NASB). As God’s workers are you planting the seeds of love, truth, and the Gospel message in the field God has given you to tend? Are you filling God’s building with followers of Christ?

How Did Christ Show Compassion and Love?

The New Covenant/Testament is full of true stories of how Jesus Christ in His everyday life truly looked at individuals and their needs (remember that Christ and the disciples also walked everywhere they went while most of us today drive a car, so Christ could actually look into the eyes of those He encountered.). Furthermore, Jesus Christ didn’t just pass people by or let them go on hurting, or wait for someone else to help that person if they could. Indeed, Jesus was just as busy or more so than we are today, because Jesus had a limited amount of time to address the needs of others. He also explained the path of salvation to the people He spoke to in the short period of time before He was killed on the cross, resurrected, and then ascended back into heaven to be with His Father. In fact, Jesus left the earth to go back to heaven at the age of 33, whereas there are many Christian women today who are older than Christ was at the time of His ascension. Fortunately, most of us have been given long lives today in order to be of service to the Lord and others. So, what are you doing for the Lord today? Are you in service to the Lord and to others who may need to hear about Christ and salvation? Are you showing compassion and love to other women who may need your help? Are you reaching out in service to God?

Let’s take a few minutes to look at some of the ways that Christ looked at and observed the needs of others. For, even as Christ was searching for the men who would be His disciples, Christ was observing all the people that He met on His travels. He was looking for men who had a heart for the truth and who wanted to love the Lord. One such man was Matthew. Now Matthew (also called Levi) was a tax collector and tax collectors were considered by other Jews to be some of the most vile and sinful people at that time, because they worked for the Romans by collecting the Roman tax from the people. They also usually stole from Jewish people by padding the taxes that were due and then keeping the extra for themselves. So, Matthew was truly a sinner in many ways, but he was also considered a thief for taking money from the Jews to line his own pockets. Yet, Christ saw that he not only had a need for salvation like everyone else, but Christ also saw that deep-down Matthew had a heart that could be saved. Christ wanted Him as one of His disciples. So, the scriptures tell us:

As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and He said to him, ‘Follow Me’ And he got up and followed Him.”  -- (Matthew 9: 9 NASB). But it is in the book of Luke that we get a few more details about Jesus calling Matthew to be one of His disciples. Luke says, “After that He went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (i.e., Matthew) sitting in the tax booth and He said to him, ‘Follow Me’. And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. And Levi (i.e., Matthew) gave a big reception for Him (i.e., Jesus Christ) in his house; and there was a great crowd of tax collectors and other people who were reclining at the table with them.” When asked by the Pharisees and their scribes why He was eating and drinking with tax collectors, Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  -- (Luke 5: 27-29, 31. NASB).

Here we see Christ looking at the people’s souls and wanting to help them understand their need for salvation. In order to help them, Jesus not only had compassion on them, but He was willing to take a little time to sit down with those people and fellowship with them so that they could come to understand what they really needed in life. In fact, “Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” – (Matthew 9: 36-38. NASB).

The Lord of the Harvest is God, and Christ wanted the disciples to pray to God that God would send out even more workers, or more people to proclaim the truth of God’s mercy and grace. Christ wanted the disciples to also have compassion and love for all people and to be willing to reach out to tell them about the Kingdom of God and of their need for Salvation through the forgiveness of their sins by Jesus Christ. As true Christians, we are to observe the needs of others and then be willing to reach out in compassion, Christian love, and kindness to help other women any way that we can, which may also include sharing the Gospel message of Salvation with them.

Showing Compassion and Love to the Samaritan Woman

There are many other examples, besides this one of Matthew’s found within the Scriptures; examples of Christ observing and then out of compassion healing or helping another person understand the path to Salvation. Although, I can’t go into all of them today, I will mention a couple of examples. One was the Samaritan woman who came to the well while Jesus was resting from a long journey. There at the well, Jesus observed and befriended her when others deliberately shunned her because of her immoral life-style.

In this particular situation, Jesus and His disciples had traveled through Samaria and had come to the city well outside the city of Samaria. Being tired from His journey, Jesus sat down at the well while sending His disciples into town to buy food. Soon there came a woman to draw water. She came at a time during the day when the other women were no longer coming to draw water. Upon observing her, “Jesus said to her, ‘Give Me a drink.’ … Therefore, the Samaritan woman said to Him, ‘How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?’ (For the Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, Give Me a drink, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”  -- (John 4: 7, 9, 10. NASB). Then Jesus explained what living water was and told her all about her life.

Actually, the Samaritan woman was the first person to whom Jesus directly stated that He was indeed the Messiah who had been prophesied to come. For, “The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called the Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.’”  -- (John 25, 26. NASB). When she heard that He was the Messiah she ran and told all the town people to come meet Christ.

Just by having compassion for her and being willing to speak to her when others shunned her, Christ was able to tell her about Salvation and Living Water. Her whole life was changed, because Christ spoke to her and told her about the Kingdom of God. She learned the truth and was saved. Can you share the Gospel message with another woman? Sometimes, though, like in the situation with the Samaritan woman, we have to be willing to listen to the other person and to see her needs before we can speak into her life. We also have to be willing, like Christ was, to reach out to those who are hurting.

Do you have compassion for other women? Do you notice their distress and dispiritedness? If so, what can you do to help another woman? Well, the answer is really simple. You can be one of the workers that Christ has beseeched from the Lord of the harvest. You can observe the needs of other women and can take the time to befriend another woman who may need your knowledge, expertise, spiritual guidance, counseling, or coaching. Certainly, as followers of Christ we are expected to do more than just live our lives whichever way we want. Sometimes, we have to step out of our self-centered box or the comfort zone that we have built for ourselves and be willing to reach out to help another woman. Christian women can reach out and do their part through Active Relational Christian Mentoring (ARCM).

Mentoring another woman is really easy, if we are willing to reach out and befriend the woman. Indeed, every woman can use another friend whether she thinks so or not. In fact, most women can name many acquaintances, but few are lucky if they can at least name one woman as their friend. That is because in this day and age, we seldom take the time to develop relationships built upon trust, authenticity, compassion, care, concern and love for the other person. Instead, we are all running and running trying to get so many things accomplished, while actually getting few if any important life changing things accomplished as we deal with the minutia of our lives. Certainly, befriending and mentoring another woman in Christian care and concern is one of those important things in life that we can do. Obviously, getting to share the Gospel with her, or if she already is a child of God’s, to be able to support, counsel, coach, etc., her, is a worthy eternal endeavor.

Not Every Act of Compassion or Mentoring Will Lead to Immediate Salvation or Even Appreciation

God created a longing within the hearts of humans for the truth and for a relationship with Christ. However, God also gave each of us free will to choose whether or not to seek that relationship with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the One, though, who takes the initiative to speak to a person’s heart about God and Salvation. Although, it is the voice of the Holy Spirit Who speaks to this longing within a person, it is still up to the individual person to recognize Him and then ask Christ to come into their heart. Unfortunately, many people will still refuse to recognize the Holy Spirit and Christ. Instead, they push the Holy Spirit’s voice away.

It is the many difficulties that are allowed to enter our individual lives within this fallen world that should together be the impetus for each person to open up to God and to want His love and help. But not even some of the greatest difficulties in life will lead a misguided and hurting person to recognizing Christ as their Savior. That is because we have a stubborn selfish heart that does not want to acknowledge that God is greater than us. Many do not want to call Christ Lord and so refuse to do so. They have instead learned to love this world and believe the lies that the world and Satan perpetrates upon them. Sadly, even when Christ is the One who shows compassion and love for another person, and even though Christ, the Son of God, sacrificed Himself for that person upon the cross, an individual can still refuse to turn to Him.

One prime example of the healed individual refusing to turn to Christ for Salvation is found in the biblical Scripture within the book of John. This true story began when at this particular time, Christ went up to Jerusalem where He encountered a man who had been unable to walk for years. The Scripture tells us: “Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered [waiting for the moving of the waters; for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.]– (John 5: 2-5. NASB).

There was a man lying there by the pool who had been ill for nearly forty years, and he had been trying to get into the pool when the waters were stirred. But because he could not walk, others always got into the pool before him. “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him. ‘Do you wish to get well? The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up….’Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.’ Immediately the man became well and picked up his pallet and began to walk.– (John 5: 6-8. NASB).

Notice that the man did not answer that he wanted to get well. Instead, playing the victim, he replied that he had no one to put him into the pool when the water was stirred up. You have probably met people like this man, who in some ways wanted your help, but the help that they needed was not the kind of help they wanted. This happens in Christian mentoring too. Some people do not want to be mentored, while others want to be mentored but do not want to know the truth. As Christian mentors, you will probably encounter a similar situation in which the mentee wants the physical or emotional help, but does not want spiritual help of any kind. However, we cannot let one person’s refusal to understand the truth, keep us from reaching out to mentor another woman who desperately wants to know more about Christ, or who is willing to listen to what the mentor is saying or trying to do to spiritually help them. We also cannot be hurt because the woman refuses to understand or accept the gift of Salvation. We are just to do what God and the Holy Spirit has asked us to do. For, maybe we are just planting the seeds in the field, and someone else will come along and water those seeds to get them to grow.

The above story doesn’t end there, though. For, after He healed the man, Jesus immediately slipped away, never telling the healed man who He was. However, the man had been healed on the Sabbath day, and he had indeed picked up his pallet to carry it with him, which was also considered to be work that could not be done on the Sabbath. If the Pharisees found out about Jesus healing this man on the Sabbath or of Jesus causing this man to work on the Sabbath by picking up his pallet to carry it, the Pharisees would have a couple of more things to add to their list of things against Christ. Was this man going to protect Christ from those who were trying to find reasons to kill Him? Would this man be appreciative for His healing? Or was he more interested in telling the Pharisees that Christ had healed him on the Sabbath? We cannot know the thoughts of this man; however, Christ knew this man’s heart, which is one of the reasons that Christ chose him to heal out of all the other people who were lying around the pool who also needed to be healed. Christ knew what this man would do.

A little bit later, when Jesus went to the Temple, Jesus again saw the man that He had healed now within the temple (The man had probably gone there to present himself to the priest as a healed man as required by the law.). So, it was in the temple that Jesus again had the opportunity to speak to this man. Knowing the man’s heart, Jesus said to the man “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” – (verse 14). It was like Jesus knew that this man was going to sin and was telling him that he should not sin or worse could happen to him. But instead of being appreciative, and saying that he would try not to sin again, the man went away and immediately told the Jews, i.e. the Pharisees, that it was Jesus Who had healed him. The Jews now had at least two more reasons within the law to persecute Jesus. Jesus, though, knew this would happen.

We can see from what the man did after he saw Jesus the second time, that this man’s soul had not changed with Christ’s miracle, even though he was now physically well. This healed man still harbored some type of resentment, hatefulness, anger, or disillusion in his heart, because he was not joyful, happy, or willing to recognize that he was a sinner. So instead of taking Christ’s words to heart and trying not to sin, when he found out it was Jesus who had healed him, he went directly to the Pharisees to let them know who had healed him and who had caused him to pick up his pallet on the Sabbath. Additionally, it is interesting that even though this man had lived with this disability for years, the fact that he had been healed seemed to be considered by him to be just another occurrence in his life, or in this case, a healing that he deserved. Most people, though, would have had a changed heart from just receiving this healing as a miracle, and they would probably have thought more about the words that Jesus had spoken to him; words about not sinning rather than immediately going to the authorities to tattle on Jesus.

Most people would have also praised the person who had given him such a miracle. They would have been joyous and thoughtful about their status change in life. In addition, most people would have wanted to know more about this man who was compassionate and willing to take the time to help them. But, not this man. Moreover, this paralytic man was not spiritually redeemed that day. Instead, he seemed to not want to know anything about sinfulness, the kingdom of God, or Salvation. Certainly, he did not want to address the idea of sinfulness and repentance in his own life. How do you think you have acted if you could suddenly walk after 38 years of not being able to walk?

Sadly, those who reject Christ as their Savior will someday bear the full penalty of their sins unless they begin to think upon Christ and decide to weigh His Words for their life. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but let us hope that this man began to think about Christ and the miracle he received so that at a later point in time he may have been able to come to Christ and ask Him into his heart. But, whatever the case, God was able to use this man and his healing on the Sabbath to further the pursuit of Christ by the Pharisees that would eventually lead to Christ’s crucifixion on the cross for the sins of the world. God had a plan for Christ to die for the sins of the world on the cross and then to arise the third day conquering eternal death, and this man fit into God’s plan.

Obviously, our all-knowing God, knew that this man would not be spiritually redeemed that day. But that did not stop Christ’s compassion for his situation or stop Christ from reaching out to help this man. What a wonderful example Christ set for all His followers. Through this one example we learn that we are to reach out to those who need our help even if we feel that they may not appreciate of our help as much as we would want them to. Furthermore, we are to reach out to serve others even though they may not come to understand or accept the Gospel message.

We are simply to do the work that God has given each of us to do for the Kingdom of God. This means that we must always listen to the Holy Spirit and reach out to help others whom the Spirit leads us to. For, we cannot read another woman’s mind, nor can we know what the cumulative effect that our simple kindness will have on her heart down the road.  We are to just follow the directions of Christ and reach out in Christian love to help and mentor others whom the Holy Spirit leads us to help. Although, we may not see the immediate response that we desire, the mentored and helped woman may later become appreciative as the Holy Spirit draws her near to Christ, just like the Samaritan Woman in the previous story. In fact, it is not up to us to decide who will and who won’t benefit from our Christian love and help. It is, however, our responsibility to reach out to actively help and mentor others in Christian love for the Lord.

Just as importantly, we are to never give up doing what we were created to do simply because we did not get the results that we thought we should get. We are to listen to other women; listen for their hurts and needs and then be willing to step forward to help in any way that we can. More importantly, we are to share the love of Christ and the Gospel message if that is what the Holy Spirit wants us to do. Remember, that you can change the world for Christ one person at a time. You can do it! You can become an Active Relational Christian Mentor!

“Do not look out only for yourselves. Look out for the good of others also” (1 Corinthians 10:24 NCV).

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