A Heart for the Lost

The apostle Paul was a driven man. He said in Romans 1:15 that he was “eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” As far as we know, he had never visited that largest of first century cities, but he wanted to. The place teemed with people from all over the world and it would have been a natural place for the interest of an evangelist. He loved the lost and wanted to save them. This should be a prime motivation for the Lord’s church. Great congregations are always reaching out to the lost.               

Concern for the lost comes from God Himself.  In the book of Hosea God pictured His love for His wayward people like the love Hosea had for his wandering wife. “Therefore, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness, and speak kindly to her” (2:14). He longed to bring His people back home again. He even sent Jonah to preach to the dreaded people of Nineveh. Why? Because he cared for the lost and wanted to move them to repentance before He had to judge them.               

The rulers of Israel were scolded through Ezekiel because “the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost” (34:4). Shepherds must care.

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Jesus kindly spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-45), then spent two more days in her city teaching its residents and creating believers. He could have easily skipped the place on his busy journey up north, but he stopped to save the lost.

The heart of the church needs to be tuned to the lost around us. It’s what Jesus wants to see in us. It’s how the church grows, for if we don’t care for the lost, we fail to reach them with the message of life. Yes, the lost can be frustrating when they refuse our interest in them, but we must continue to seek others. How many did Paul convert? Far less than he spoke to. But he rejoiced that he had managed to save some (1 Cor.9:22).

All of us were once lost, but somebody loved us and brought us to Jesus. Do that for someone else. It’s an obligation of love.

– Tim Johnson

We Are Free

John looked out over the Agean Sea from the high hills of Patmos, as he no doubt often did, and saw islands tantalizingly close. One wonders how difficult it must have been for the apostle in exile (Revelation 1:9). Used to a busy life, it must have been suffocating to be confined to this lonely place surrounded by endless water. He longed to be with his brethren.

In his book he speaks of Jesus Christ “who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood” (1:9). For a prisoner, the word released is all-important. John looked forward to the day when he would be free again. What made his exile tolerable was the fact he had been released from his sins. No matter his surroundings, he was free.

Released in Greek is very close to the word washed, which is the way the King James Version translates it. Here we have our cherished phrase, “washed in His blood.” Freedom from sin is the result, so our modern versions translate it “released” or “freed.” His blood washes away our sins and grants us freedom. The tense of the verb indicates a one-time action in the past that still affects us today. John is reminding us that when Jesus gave His blood on the cross, it was all that was needed to free us. It flows down through the centuries and frees us today.

I find it remarkable that John felt free even while confined. Paul expressed similar thoughts in 2 Tim.2:9, “I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned.” Freedom from sin’s penalty and practice grants us a tremendous new life inside, even if life seems outwardly shackled in some way.

We are free indeed! 

–  Tim Johnson

The Greatest Show on Earth

Some say Jesus was tried and executed on the cross about this time of year, and there is some evidence this may be true. Tradition also implies that roughly three years before, Jesus began His ministry in Galilee about this time of year. No one really knows for sure.

Mark records the stunning way Jesus burst upon the scene in Galilee. The first three chapters of his book do not describe a gradual increase of His influence. Once His miracles started, great crowds of people from all over the area rushed to see what He was doing and to hear His remarkable teachings. They crammed the streets and lanes of Capernaum around the house where He was staying. “And the whole city had gathered at the door” (1:33). When He left for a few hours of prayer, people tried to find Him. “Everyone is looking for you” (1:37). The crowds became so large, the cities couldn’t contain them. “…Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere” (1:45).

Skeptics point out that popular figures throughout history have also created similar crowds, which does not prove they were reliable or truthful. Who’s to say Jesus was not just fooling gullible fans? Consider the following:

  • His miracles came in great varieties.
  • No one was beyond His help.
  • Everyone was welcome to watch what He did, over and over.
  • Most were done in broad daylight, and many at night.
  • Critics were unable to derail Him.
  • Everything He did was free.

Jesus wasn’t just performing a show to entertain the crowds. He was a principled teacher; all was based on truth. “All the multitude were coming to Him, and He was teaching them” (2:13). His main concern was the salvation of people everywhere. “Let us go somewhere else…in order that I man preach there also; for that is what I came out for” (1:38). He was “moved with compassion” (1:41).

Jesus was not a popular showman and fraud. He was the divine Son of God, the truth itself. His miracles proved it. Let Mark convince you. “We have never seen anything like this” (2:12).

Listen to Him, and follow.

– Tim Johnson

The Marvel of Grace

Often, before a meal-time prayer, we hear someone announce, “Let us say grace.” I’m not sure when such prayers began to be called grace, but it is a commonly-accepted practice today. In prayer we ask for God to give us His grace, so the prayer itself likely adopted the name. But there’s more to grace than human prayers.

God’s nature is that of grace. He is a gracious God. He is a grace-giving God. God is love. His grace brings salvation to all men and women of the world, hoping they will consider it.

Grace is a wonderful word. It means the free, unmerited favor of God. Grace is free but not cheap. It is the costliest gift ever offered.

Grace cost the Son of God his life. He, the friend of sinners, came into the world to make an infinite sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Potentially, His grace extends from the first human being to the last one that will ever live.

Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He was born to be crucified. He suffered our death that we might receive His life. He bore our sins that we might become righteous. He became poor that we might have His riches.

D.L. Moody said about the grace of God, “Grace isn’t a little prayer that you chant before receiving a meal. It is a way to live. The law tells me how crooked I am. Grace comes along and straightens me out.”

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

– Tim and David Johnson

Unfathomable Riches

The apostle Paul was ever aware of how unworthy he was to preach the gospel. In Ephesians 3:8 he said, “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ.”

His was a world in which half of all people scraped along to make ends meet, and the other half strove for power and great wealth. Some would say things haven’t changed very much today. At one time, Paul was an accomplished Jewish Pharisee, respected for his strength and zeal and his opposition to the early church. He would not have been unfamiliar with wealth and power. But all that changed when he met Jesus.

In Paul’s estimation, he went from greatness to the very least of all saints. His pride of power and place no longer existed. He now lived to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. But God gave him the valuable and ironic role of preaching to the Gentiles, no longer the Jews.

But it was the substance of what he taught them that was so stunning: “the unfathomable riches of Christ.” They are riches that are so deep and complex that no man can ever wear them out or fully learn them all. They were mysteries that had been “hidden in God for ages,” but now revealed. Paul was given the work of preaching such marvels about Christ to people who had never heard them before.

Most of us live basic lives without much wealth to enjoy or power to wield. We wonder if society has passed us by. But Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3:8 that we have been given unfathomable riches that open up to us more and more every day, and will be fully revealed in the next life. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom.8:18).

Like Paul, we are certainly unworthy of such profound things.

– Tim Johnson