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Ask God to Break Your Heart For the Lost
Motive of Compassion
I haven’t reached this state of spiritual maturity we find in the Apostle Paul when he writes: “I speak the truth in Christ. I am not lying. My conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit.” Paul writes, “I have great sorrow and,” Another translation reads, “I have unceasing anguish in my heart.” Paul goes on: “For I could wish that I myself were cursed.” He’s saying he could wish that he was cut off from Christ, that he would receive the wrath of God. “For the sake of my brothers, those of my own people or my own race, who are outside of Christ.”
Paul is not a sterile, theological academic. Look at his words: great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. Paul evangelized because he had a deep compassion for those who are outside of Christ.
Mere obligation or duty is often not enough. You can easily forget about people and give up on them. And when we give up on people, we are actually forgetting the lostness of the lost, and our heart’s brokenness grows very cold and very hard.
One of the goals of this course is to have the scales fall from our eyes, believe again in the lostness of the lost, to believe again in the power of the gospel to save anyone.
We are going to be asking God to give us a new broken heart for those who are outside of Christ in all our networks of relationships. We’re asking God to give us, not just an intellectual understanding, but something close to great sorrow and unceasing anguish, in terms of our renewed heart affections.
Jesus, in Luke chapter 15, confronts the reality of the hypocrisy in his day in the religious leaders, and their cold, sterile nature of their religion. He responds by telling them stories. Oftentimes, we just narrow in on one particular parable, and forget the context of these religious people condemning Jesus because he hangs out with tax-gatherers and sinners.
Jesus responds to them by telling them three stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son.
Hybels writes, “One of my favorite scriptures that shows Jesus’ emphasis on the ultimate importance of people is Luke 15. According to this passage, the religious leaders were upset because Jesus, who claimed to be the holy Son of God, was hanging around with sinners. He shared meals with cheating tax collectors, arrogant merchants, filthy-mouthed tent makers, even prostitutes. When Jesus heard the scribes and the Pharisees grumbling about all his unacceptable associations, he decided to let them know once and for all just how much he loved, and how much he had compassion for, the very sinners that they despised.”
“And so he told them three moving stories: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. In each of the stories, something,” hear this, “something of great value is lost, and it matters so much that it warrants either an all-out search, or an anguished vigil. When at last the sheep and the coin are found and the son returns home, the respective households burst into songs of rejoicing. Jesus says, ‘In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.'”
In the whole context of Luke 15, what is the overarching message? It’s basically that lost people matter to God. Hybels writes,
“Lost, wayward, rebellious, cursing people matter to God so much that He wants us to actively pursue them. He wants us to search them out and bring them to Him. Authentic evangelism flows from a mindset that acknowledges the ultimate value of people, forgotten people, lost people, wandering people, up-and-outers, down-and-outers, all people. The highest value is to love them, to serve them, to reach out to them. Everything else goes up in smoke.”
My first church-planting context was in an inner city, a high crime zone. I came to Christ at a secular university through aggressive evangelism ministries. So the only thing I knew about evangelism was how to witness to nice, dressed-up, educated young people on a college campus.
And here I was in one of a city’s high crime zones, trying to plant a church, and trying to figure out how to do evangelism here?
To make a long story short, a man had been sent in to evaluate the church from Francis Schaeffer’s denomination at the time. He met with me and we only had a few days that we could spend together and then he was going to leave. I remember meeting with him. He had been a former church planter, at a university, planted a church and had significant ministries of evangelism and discipleship.
Because I knew that his knowledge of evangelism was rich and deep, as was his experience, I asked him, “Bob, please help me understand the kind of methodology, the evangelistic method you think I should be using here.” He kind of smiled that smile that could be interpreted as smug, but it really wasn’t. He wasn’t mocking my question. But he knew how totally off-base my question was in a way that I hadn’t learned yet.
So I’ll never forget him saying to me, “Steve, evangelistic methodologies are going to come and they’re going to go, and they’re going to fit different contexts. My concern is not about you finding the right evangelistic methodology, curriculum, or approach to reach this inner city. May I tell you what my greatest concern is for you regarding evangelism here?” I said, “Yes. What’s that?” He said, “My greatest concern is whether or not God will give you a broken heart for the lost people in this neighborhood.” And then he said, “Steve, listen to me. If God gives you a truly broken heart for all the lost and broken people in this community, almost any method will do.”
My encouragement to you is to fully recognize the lack of Pauline anguish in your heart over the lost and ask God to give you something that you can’t conjure up yourself, to give you a broken heart for those outside of Christ.
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