by Lim Chong Teck
When our children were younger, their teachers asked them to make a family tree chart. As we put the names and pictures on the chart, we explained how each individual is related to us. There would be much laughter as we speak of some of the more idiosyncratic ones. We also linked our parents, grandparents, and even great grandparents, people who had a role in bringing us into this world.
Now consider the one who was instrumental in bringing you to Christ, the spiritual family of God. It could be the effort one or two or three. What about those who have brought the ones who brought you? If you don’t have this information, you could ask them who brought them to Christ and the one who brought the one before them.
How far would our spiritual family tree be connected? Have you ever done this to find how far it goes, and of the collective effort of all in reaching out to you? And take the opportunity to render our thanks to them for making it possible for us to know Christ. And if it is possible to link a complete line, we know that all these dotted lines would lead us to Christ, the central person who initiated this.
Christ did four things in the effort of reaching out to save us.
- Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Seeking is an action preceding saving. Seeking has the element of physically reaching out as much as spiritually reaching out. Christ did that. He left the glory of heaven to come down to earth to be with us physically. He went to other cities to preach Mark 1:38 – And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. There are times when we need to come out from our comfort zone to physically be there to reach out to others. Putting in the extra effort to reach out requires us to get out from comfort zones/from our house to other places.
In seeking we also have the element of calling out verbally. Rescue parties going out to seek and rescue people trapped in jungles would be there physically and calling out to the lost so that the possibility of them coming to the rescue team is enhanced. Jesus called out and made his invitation distinct. Such occasions we can read when he said “come unto me”, “if any man will follow after me”, “come follow me” etc.
- Luke 9:56 “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.”
Jesus came to save not to destroy. He did this even though he knew the people he came to save would have a hand in crucifying Him. He did not retaliate or abandon the plan to save them. Jesus’ passion, persistence and patience in reaching out to the lost showed his love for us. He did not compromise the truth to get acceptance/popularity. In the face of rejection he did not have the spirit of destroying others but he move don to others. It is important to note that we seek to save and NOT destroy. Our attitude is so critical that we do what is possible to save, to win souls. It’s important that we move on to others without being discouraged or destroying or tearing down those who reject us so that others can be reached out to and those who rejected may have another chance in the future.
- Matt. 20:28 “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” As bro. Rick said “reaching out to the lost sometimes requires us to walk into their lives. Jesus did that by ministering and helping them both physically and spiritually. Jesus went as far as giving his life for us to save us.
Matt 9:35-36 “And Jesus went about all the cities and the villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not having a shepherd.”
Matt 15:30-32 “And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them. Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel. Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.”
Jesus ministered to their spiritual and physical needs. He gave his life for us. That was how involved he was.
Paul walked into the lives of people he preached to.
1Thess 2:7-12 “But we were gentle in the midst of you, as when a nurse cherisheth her own children: even so, being affectionately desirous of you, we were well pleased to impart unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were become very dear to us. For ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: working night and day, that we might not burden any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and righteously and unblamably we behaved ourselves toward you that believe: as ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth you into his own kingdom and glory.
To the Corinthians he was not reserved to declare his affections for them as they have become a part of his live.
2 Cor. 7:2-3 “Open your hearts to us: we wronged no man, we corrupted no man, we took advantage of no man. I say it not to condemn you: for I have said before, that ye are in our hearts to die together and live together.”
Noticed his attitude to save and not condemn and how he had waked into their lives.
- To open their eyes
Isa 42:6-7 “I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.”
This was a prophecy concerning the work that Christ would do. In his work on earth, Jesus indeed heal physical blindness but he also gave spiritual sight, the understanding of scriptures and its application in their lives.
Luke 24:45 “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures.”
In the book of Acts, Paul, sent by Jesus, was also to do likewise.
Act 26:18 “to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me.”
The opening of eyes to understanding will enable a person to turn from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God so that they may receive the remission of sins and an inheritance in Christ.
In a recent study with a bible correspondence student, I was amazed at the opening of eyes both literally and intellectually when she discovered the truth/light from the simple reading of the bible. In the reading of Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, the student knew that “speaking in tongues” was the ability given by the Holy Spirit to speak in different languages. This was done for the edification of the hearers and in an orderly manner. Her eyes widened as she remarked ” they do not have the Holy Spirit as in the first century” as her experience with today’s speaking in tongues was like “ motor boat noise” without meaning and confusion.
I realized how important it is for one to have the scriptures read and to help one understand its meaning as Philip did for the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. A personal study, being physically present, ministering to the person needs and opening the eyes through the understanding of the scriptures to help one to turn unto God.
Eph 4:17-18 “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart.”
The Gentiles were alienated from God because of ignorance and hardening of the heart. While we can’t do much about their choice of hardening of their hearts, we can do something about ignorance. We must reach out to teach, to open their eyes. Ignorance is the first hurdle we must get pass in bringing souls to God.
Men must be taught so that through mercy that God grants in time and opportunities, they may come to repentance through acknowledging the truth for them to come to their senses and recover themselves out of the snare of the devil.
2 Tit 2:24 -26 “And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.”
Men will not turn to God unless their eyes are open and they come to their senses.
The heart, the eyes and the ears
Matt 13:15 “For this people’s heart is waxed gross, And their ears are dull of hearing, And their eyes they have closed; Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And should turn again, And I should heal them.”
Apart from those who are sleeping, we seldom come to this point of being totally shut off. While the scripture is given in the negative sense, yet it gives us insight as to how a person can turn to God to be healed. There are three elements that help a person turn to God, the HEART (understanding and desires), the EYES (to behold and reflect) and the EARS (to hear and consider).
Sometimes the heart may not be looking but the eyes are beholding and the ears listening.
1Pet 2:12 “… having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles; that, wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
Day of visitation – a day when they acknowledge God, the day when their minds and heart come to their senses.
Matt 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
People see how we live our lives. Our actions are beholden by their eyes as a positive impact.
Eph 5:8-9 “for ye were once darkness, but are now light in the Lord: walk as children of light, (for the fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.)”
When we walk as children of the light we produce the fruit of the light, i.e glow of the light. This light is glowed through goodness, the good works that we do, in righteousness as in the manner of life we live. When we live a life of righteousness, which is distinct from the way of the world, our light glows. The sharing of the word of truth with the knowledge we know is manifesting light. These constitute the glow of the light in the Lord.
But we are not “THE LIGHT”- our glow is to bring them to Christ who is the light of the world.
John 8:12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
We bring them to Christ because Christ is the light that gives life.
Act 2:37 “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?”
In Acts 2:22, Peter spoke of things many had seen of Jesus who performed many miracles. Many also had heard from others who had seen it. They knew of it to be true.
In Acts 2:15 ff Peter used the Old Testament scriptures to validate all the things that he said, a fulfillment of it. He preaches the gospel- the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and the remission of sins and the promise to come.
Their hearts were not looking for God in the sense of looking for Christ but when they heard it, their hearts were pricked. They understood the knowledge of truth spoken to them and they came to their senses when Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins.
Consider the prodigal son who came to his senses in Luke 15:14-20. “And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. But when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
The process of coming to senses here is a thought process based on the relevance of truth and what that truth means to him. It is not just an intellect exercise of the truth but how the truth affects or mean to him. It relates the relevance of the message to the hearer. Similarly those in Acts 2 were pricked in the heart act upon hearing the command given by Peter.
John 7:37 “Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that had ears let him hear. When people are willing to hear that is an opportunity. Preaching the word can have an impact on the hearers because the word of God can convict men’s heart.”
Heart that is seeking for God
There is a minority of a special people that at some point in their lives who are searching for God diligently. We see the example of Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius as such people. The bible student that I mentioned earlier was such a one. Her name is Dr. Para. We had advertised our bible correspondence course in The Sun newspaper. She saw our advertisement in the paper which was used to pack her food.
She told us she has asked many denomination groups to teach her the bible but no one seemed interested to teach the pure word of God. She was so thankful for the chance to open the bible, to read and to understand it. In our first session we studied on the authority of the bible and that we will be judged by the words of Jesus (John 12:48). Her eyes opened up and her jaws dropped down, as she put it. “Could it be that these people refused to study the bible with me because they don’t know the words of Jesus? If this is going to judge me, I must know his words before I meet God .Otherwise when He ask me I will have to answer I don’t know!”
She was baptized two weeks ago after several studies with Bro. Chris Lopez and me.
We need to reach out, to cast our nets wide and far as there are people who are interested in God’s word.
Come unto me
Jesus said in Matt 11:28 “Come unto me ye who are weary and heavy laden.” Those tired from the load of sin (Psa 38:4), from burdens of life – anxieties and uncertainties (Matt 6:25-34), those who have lost the purpose of life (Eccles. 1: 2,8,14), and those tired from the yoke of bondage of manmade laws (Gal 5:1, Matt 23: 4), He said “I will give you rest.” Christ is the answer.
People may not be seeking or looking but that doesn’t mean they don’t need Christ. Jesus said, ”Come.” It’s a simple invitation, just like the simple invitation given by Ronnie Lee to Ng Yeow Kong which resulted in him being converted.
When the words of Jesus reach the ears of the lost, and they hear and consider. When Jesus’ teaching is seen in the lives of his disciples, they can see and reflect. And who knows their minds will be open to understanding and their hearts may come to their senses by the knowledge of the truth and they turn to God.
In the words of our late Bro. Guss Eoff, “You will never know.” Many years back, when we were travelling in a car with bro. Guss, I asked him how we are to convert so many people who are lost. Bro Guss replied, “Brother, one at time, one at a time and if every Christian does it, soon the world will be evangelized.”
Like Jesus we need to be active in seeking to save the lost, to have a spirit to save and not to condemn, to minister to the needs of others and to open up their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me. Amen.
(I am thankful to bros. Richard Lim, Daniel Eng, Peter Lee and Wong Chee Shyan for their work in reaching out to me. I am also grateful for the works of Steven Chan, Peter Chin, Raymond Chirng and many other early converts in Klang who brought the gospel to the above. My gratitude to the American brethren, Charles Bishop, the late Ken Sinclair, Chuck Whitefield and others who came to seek and save the lost in Klang and other parts of Malaysia. And to our Saviour Jesus Christ who loved me and gave himself for me, my eternal gratitude.)