Who’s your Neighbor?

Do you consider yourself to be a friendly person?  Would the people who see you, whether at work, as you leave your house, or at the supermarket, speak of how you sought them out in friendship and treated them great?  Do you routinely smile and greet those you pass on the street or in the hall, or is your daily focus primarily on yourself?

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Two Ignore, One Helps

Jesus was once asked by religious leaders who he considered to be his neighbor.  He responded with a familiar parable, the story of the Good Samaritan.  In this parable, we learn of a man who is beaten and robbed.  A few of his countrymen see his helpless condition, yet pass by on the other side of the road.  In contrast, a Samaritan, who is naturally an enemy to the Jewish victim, yet seeks him out, takes him to a doctor, and even covers the expenses for the man’s care.

We often hear this parable as a nice story, meant simply to induce us to be kind.  But remember back to what question Jesus was actually responding to when He told this story.  He was asked who his neighbor was.  Understanding this context gives a deeper meaning to the story than the simple truth that we are to be kind.

Look for Needs

The people of Jesus’ day, much like most people in our day, tended to happily exist in their own small sphere of influence, engaging with people who were like them and who they were familiar with.  Through this parable, Jesus shows clearly that we are to intentionally seek out others, others who may not be very much like us, in order to meet their needs.

The Greatest Need

What is the greatest need which many of our neighbors have?  For any who do not know Christ personally, who have not been washed and cleansed through faith in Christ, their greatest need is salvation of their soul.  Without atonement, mankind is separated from God’s good presence, and any who perish without Jesus will face eternity without Him.  The need for salvation is so widespread, little recognized, and of utmost importance that, if we are looking, we will see it everywhere.

This is the condition of many people we see and walk by each day.  The strangers who we’re ignoring are desperately in need of the truth, the truth that we know.  But someone needs to tell them.  Not only that, but most people aren’t particularly receptive to ideas unfamiliar to them being expressed by strangers.  So what can we do?  We share the gospel with them as a friend.

Be a Friend

Friendship doesn’t come instantaneously, but it can be cultivated in a relatively short period of time.  Start simply by adopting the habit of greeting and smiling at the people who cross your path each day.  You’ll quickly find that a great many people are eager to engage with you, particularly if you’ll ask them open-ended questions about themselves.

As you cultivate friendships with your neighbors, be listening for what they value.  Do they desire wisdom? Or perhaps peace and something solid to rely on?  Or maybe they’re contemplating what happens after death because of a recent loss in their family.  Remember that when you have Jesus, you have the truth and the life that our world desperately needs.  Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit, share the truth, and let Jesus call out to the people in your life using you as His mouthpiece.  To God be the glory!

Equipped

Today’s post is a devotional on John 20:19-23. This story takes place just after Jesus’ resurrection, and from it, we’ll learn four ways that Jesus equips us to take His gospel to the world.

19So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23“If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

He Seeks Us

The first way that Jesus equips us to share the gospel with others is by seeking us where we are, even when we are not seeking Him. In verse 19, we read that the disciples were not looking for Jesus, even though He had told them many times that he would rise on the third day after His crucification. Instead, they had locked themselves in a room in an attempt to keep safe from those who hated Jesus and succeeded in killing Him. Yet, Jesus sought them out anyway.

Notice also that Jesus met the disciples where they were in terms of belief. They clearly did not believe His words that He would rise again, but rather than harshly condemn them for their lack of faith in Him, he offered them to touch the wounds of His hands and side. In the same way, Jesus is patient with us and our small faith. When we doubt His words that He can give us a new life, make us a new person when we trust Him as Lord and Savior, he begins showing us in little and big ways, the extent of His awesome power to transform lives.

Jesus seeks after us even when we don’t seek after him. Just like the disciples in the story, many unbelievers have come to faith in Christ not by seeking out a church in the phone book and attending regularly in order to find the Truth, but instead found Jesus at their rock bottom—prison, near-suicide, or in the midst of trying times. Jesus finds us when we need most, and this shows how amazing his grace is! He doesn’t wait for us to deserve salvation, rather, He gives us what we desperately need but can never obtain on our own–forgiveness and eternal life with Him.

Calming Fears

The second way that Jesus equips us to share His gospel is by calming our fears. In the story, the disciples were clearly afraid, so much so that they hid in a locked upper room. Like these men, we face fears of all sorts living the Christian life in a hostile world. John 16:33 says, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” Jesus tells us that we will face challenges in this world, but He also tells us that He is with us. As He calmed the disciples fears through His steadfast love and comforting voice, let Him ease your fears today. Call out to Him in prayer, and trust in His promise, “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20).

As the Father Sent Him

The third way that Jesus equips us to share His gospel with the world is by sending us in the same manner that the Father sent Him. This we read in verse 21, and we take comfort in knowing that Christ himself blazed the path for the Truth to enter the world. We are simply to follow in His footsteps. There are many aspects in which our mission and Christ’s were similar. Two of the clearest are as follows.

First, His mission was difficult. Though He performed countless miracles and spoke with wisdom greater than any other, many hated Him. Just the same, when we share the Truth with those who reject Christ, we will gain many enemies. And yet, as Christ pressed on in spite of opposition, pain, and discouraging circumstances, so must we do as we tell others of His love.

Second, His mission brought glory to God. When Jesus took the sin of the entire world upon Himself and endured the punishment we deserved on the cross, He redeemed His people back to Himself! Though we had rebelled and cursed our Creator, Jesus made a way for our forgiveness and justification. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Like Jesus, we bring glory to God as we shine as lights in a dark world. In sharing the gospel of Christ, we glorify the Father in heaven (see Philippians 2:10-11).

The Holy Spirit

The final way that Jesus equips us to take His gospel to the world is by giving us the Holy Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit in us unleashes the power of God to work through us. The moment you put your faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in your heart (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). What an incredible blessing to have the God of the universe abiding in our heart! What power is ours, what effectiveness for winning souls, if we will bit recognize that God is in us—powerfully able to speak with wisdom, grace, and truth if we will boldly go where the gospel message needs to be heard.

In Acts 2:1-13, the Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to proclaim the works of God in every tongue. Those who saw the sight were astounded! But this same God, this same Holy Spirit is in us! Let us allow Christ to deepen our faith, and prepare to stand in awe before the work God will do through us, His people.

 

  1. Jesus seeks us out where we are and makes himself known to us
    1. Jesus appeared to the disciples
        1. In a closed room (v19). He took the initiative—they didn’t go to the synagogue or the Mount of Olives to look for Him
        2. Where they were in terms of belief. He showed them evidence that He was the risen Christ (v20).

       

    2. Jesus finds us and saves us
      1. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
      2. John 3:16 says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
  2. Jesus calms our fears by his presence
    1. We have real fears in this life
      1. The disciples feared persecution from the Jews (v19)
      2. We will face difficulties too. John 16:33 says, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
    2. Twice, Jesus calmed the disciples’ fears (v19, v21). He is patient with our fears (lack of faith)
    3. Because Jesus was with them, they found joy despite their fears (v20)
  3. Jesus sends us in the same way the Father sent Him
    1. Jesus’ mission was difficult; He has told us ours will be too
    2. Jesus’ mission brought glory to God, as does our fulfillment of the Great Commission (see Philippians 2:10-11)
  4. Jesus fills us with the Holy Spirit
    1. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”
    2. Having the Holy Spirit in us unleashes the power of God to work through us
      1. In Acts 2:1-13, the Holy Spirit allowed the disciples to proclaim the works of God in every tongue.
      2. Jesus granted the disciples power to forgive or retain sins by the Holy Spirit (v23).