Personalizing the Gospel

If a person has grown up with low self-esteem, low self-worth, thinks or has been told they will never measure up, etc. how is telling them they are sinners in need of a Savior going to communicate a DIFFERENT message to them? In fact, if that’s all we tell them, it might even serve to REINFORCE how they feel about themselves instead. This is the word the Lord revealed to me recently and it has opened my eyes.

Don’t misunderstand me at all, please! We don’t want to avoid any part of the Lord’s redeeming news but we also do not want to change it, water it down, make it more palatable, or offer it as a euphemism (more on that in the near future; that’s another revelation). We need to deal with them, their situation and background personally, individually and uniquely. Take a look at how our Savior dealt with the woman at the well (John 4:4-26). Or re-read how G-d incarnate used His combination of power and compassion (in Mark 5:6-13) to forever change the man imprisoned by many demons. How did the Son of Man handle the humiliating and public spectacle between the Pharisees and the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11)? And notice Jesus Christ’s heart and methodology concerning two men, each with debilitating, outward conditions and circumstances but with consistent internal issues (see John 5:14ff and John 9:2-3).

In John 4:4-26 Jesus started His conversation with the Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink of water from the well where she had been drawing it. He knew, first of all, that His very exchange with her was a little unexpected and culturally controversial, to say the least; we see this in her response in verse nine, especially the parenthetical words. He then turned the need He had into a need He knew that she had. His was physical and temporary while hers was spiritual and eternal. This seemingly impromptu meeting falls perfectly in line with His stated earthly mission found in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.”

We find in Mark 5:6-13 that although the demon-possessed man appears to have approached Him, our Messiah had chosen this place to moor the boat He and His disciples were in. The Lord entered into a dialogue with this tormented soul with a question, knowing that the answer would provide insight into his present condition- on the surface physical and emotional, but the root cause behind these awful symptoms was, again, spiritual. And He addressed them as such.
A very well-known passage documented in John 8:1-11 begins by the hard-hearted religious leaders bringing very public attention to a woman’s private, but probably ongoing, sin. (This story illustrates two very different motives and, therefore, very different actions and paths taken towards each one’s goal). Jesus’ words to them in response is designed not to minimize or trivialize her obvious transgression, but rather to acknowledge it by putting everyone gathered on the same iniquitous playing field. It was not sarcastic nor was it adding fuel to the fire the Pharisees and onlookers had hoped to ignite (to detract from their own convictions, no doubt). It was designed to point out the universality of sin. The message was not lost on the leaders and other hearers as they dropped their “weapons” and walked away. The Son of God then turns His attention and His brief interchange with the woman to the core issue in her life and says only what is necessary for conviction and repentance in these words, “…Go, and from now on SIN NO MORE.”

As we take a look at the men mentioned earlier, let’s first focus on John 5:1-14 which is the setting for much compassion, much heavenly tenderness. As scripture says, there was a “multitude of invalids- blind, lame and paralyzed.” One particular gentleman had been suffering for almost 40 years! The Lord knew the heart of the severely afflicted man was the same as all who were there (as far as wanting relief was concerned), but He focused his attention to this specific soul and, again, asked a question, “Do you want to be healed?” After giving him a miraculous and transformationally-healing command to take up his mat and walk, He gets to the heart of the cause-and-effect relationship in this man’s life in the form of a stern admonition, “See you are well! SIN NO MORE, that nothing worse may happen to you.” Jesus’ encounter with this man was pointed. The Lord’s compassion for his physical well-being was surpassed only by His original mission statement- His life focus- “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” With such a global and far-reaching ministry, His great love and mercy for the INDIVIDUAL never wavered or diminished; it was the same directive He gave to His original, hand-picked, dozen disciples as He said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”

A little further in the same Gospel account (chapter 9, verses 1-7), our Master focuses on a blind man. In this situation the disciples ask the Lord if it was this man or his parents who had sinned, assuming that his condition was a cause-and-effect issue like the man we just spoke of. After all, total blindness is certainly a hard and extremely-limiting state of life. Even today, and as judgmental as the human race is, we assume a similar posture or curiosity. Jesus explains to His followers that, in this case, it is not due to sin but to show the watching world the power of G-d. Our Redeemer then proceeded to act on this man’s behalf in His mercy, while simultaneously showing Himself to be G-d by restoring his sight (this had never before been done in all of human history). Further, and more importantly, the only words Christ Jesus actually spoke directly to this sightless individual were these, “Go, wash in the Pool of Siloam.” As wonderful as the command was to wash so as to see for the first time, how much more excellent was the spiritual lesson and benefit to be cleansed and regenerated in the heart and soul! Additionally, nothing with G-d is coincidental; no words or actions are in vain or wasted by Him. We are told that the name Siloam means “sent.” As we believers are sent into the world to share the Gospel (it is the “POWER of God unto salvation”- Romans 1:16), this man was sent to his friends and neighbors to testify personally to the power and divinity of Jesus Christ (verses 11-12).

Going back to those who may think and act in a manner consistent with a lack of foundational love, maybe that’s all he or she has ears for (hears). Right now, his or her concept of salvation may be merit-based or performance-based. He or she can’t even see the connection between sin (choices) and eternal death or earthly discipline (consequences). His or her bad choices and decisions bear themselves out in many ways, and the more obvious ones reap MORE negative responses from parents to teachers to employers to law enforcement.

Do we need to know and realize our predisposition to sin, and become fully aware of our sinful state before a righteous, just and holy heavenly Father? Yes! Scripture reaffirms this by saying that a main ministry of the Holy Spirit is to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). But what is this without the HOPE (full assurance) of salvation? Remember Jesus Christ came to seek out and SAVE the lost. Salvation is the aim. That is the “Good News.” The knowledge that we are sinful is the purpose of the Law (Ten Commandments), to make us aware of our need for G-d’s grace. And it is this grace which was made incarnate in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And it is this grace, the free and undeserved gift of G-d, that was lived out on the Cross. And it is this grace in the form of His shed blood that can be applied to our lives for the forgiveness of sins, which is the highest expression of compassion and tenderness one can know and appropriate (take for oneself, take possession of). The Lord Jesus Christ speaks the words, and His example and actions and life back them up. He is faithful and true. God bless you.

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