A Woman Comes Seeking Help
She stood shaking and sobbing at the center of the little mission group she had entered, speaking in Spanish of her awareness that God had spared her in many ways. “She is not a Christian,” the small crowd told me.
“Would you like to commit your life to Jesus today?” I asked.
“At some point…I will find a time to do it in a church, perhaps,” she said.
“There is no need to wait,” I urged gently. “He brought you here. He is searching for you.” But, as we continued to pray for healing for others she slipped away. The good news is, though, that only a few days later, she came forward in the church, waving to us as she allowed the pastor to include her in the Christian family through prayer.
Why Do People Hold Back from Christ?
On this recent ministry trip, I found many like her, hanging around the edges, hungering, yet holding back.
“Why,” I wondered, “would they hesitate to take that for which they seem to so long? Do they feel they have to reach some level of worthiness? Do they think God will hurt them or turn them away?”
I was reminded a few days later through a beautiful message by Bishop David Kendall of the Free Methodist church why so many people hesitate to “come to Jesus.” “At the center of the universe,” he preached, “so many think there is a clenched fist. But, the truth is, at the center of the universe is a broken heart of love.”
“A lot of what the world does is anger management for God,” Bishop Kendall said, with such insight. People, thinking that God is the cause of their misfortunes, illnesses, desperate loneliness, and other dark things; God, a powerful deity easily aroused to crushing, vindictive responses, is the God they don’t go after.
Many see God as Someone with whom they cannot gain an “audience” until they totally have “their act together.”
Who told them this?
God’s call is not “quit messing up and ticking me off,” (Bishop Kendall’s phrase) but rather, “Come to Me all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) At the heart of the universe is a broken heart longing for sons and daughters who’ve lost their way, children who have often never understood; who have been misled, and been poorly taught about the nature of God. “At the center of everything is Love,” was the point of the bishop’s address.
How do we know this is so? We have seen Jesus and He is love. His heart towards us has not changed since He walked this earth.
Jesus Christ is Love and He Brings Healing
“Go and tell John [the Baptist] the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” (Luke 7:22-23)
Jesus came to reveal the heart of the Father, His own heart, and the heart of the Spirit. All are the same as all are God who has no malice towards humanity, only a desire to transform us and to be near to us, to give us, once again, the identity of belonging and being the family of God. And those things to which He would restore us come to us through the cross upon which He died.
I wrestle and wrestle with the problem of helping people understand who God is and what His intentions are. He’s good! He’s good!
I rejoice with every moment that someone says, “Yes, I want to commit my life to Christ,” but there are so many, many people who have not done that, who, like the woman in the small village say, “I am somewhat interested but I will wait for a better time.”
My particular concern is winsomely presenting Jesus to recovering addicts who do not yet know Him. Helping them to see His heart and His capacity to utterly change their lives is a pressing concern of mine.
I love the story of Jesus meeting the leper in the village as told in Mark 1:40-45.
“A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees. ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.'”
“Jesus was filled with compassion. He reached out and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!'”
“Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.”
That wonderful Greek word for “filled with compassion,” splagchnizomai, really means “he was so moved, his bowels twisted deep within him.” The depth of Jesus’ caring about the destruction of this hideous disease all the way to the salvation of all of lost humanity is beyond our understanding. He burns with a desire to bring us to Him.
God Help Us to Present Jesus Christ As He Truly Is
It is truly beyond our capacity to convey – His love. He is no tepid therapist trying to make us feel a little better. He is a Warrior God fighting for our lives, the One who is jealous for us, consumed with our well-being, our return, our reformation, our eternity. He is tenderness, kindness, healing, freedom, deliverance. He is the forgiver of sins, the remover of guilt and shame. He is the God who makes the impossible possible. Why would anyone resist Him for a second?…but they do resist and often for years and years.
I pray for God to enable those of us who love Him to be better and better at presenting Him rightly and at being winsome and full of love, well able to draw others to Jesus.
There is no clenched fist at the center of things, as Bishop Kendall preached so artfully, rather, there is absolute love.
“The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Psalm 145:8 KJV