Social Support: The Tie That Binds

Scripture: John 13:34-35, Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 4:1-16
Date: 06/26/2010 
Lesson: 13
People were created to be social beings, and an adequate social network of love and support can prevent and mitigate many adverse health effects.
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Good morning and Happy Sabbath. Welcome on another Sabbath morning to Sacramento Seventh-day Adventist Church to study with us. A very special welcome to you that are joining us right here in our sanctuary.

And a very special welcome to you that join us every week from across the country and around the world, either live on the internet this morning streaming, video, television, radio, however you're joining us, welcome. We're gonna get started this morning with hymn number 577, "in the heart of Jesus." This comes as a request from michele in Connecticut, sharyl, jan and jeziel in england, steve in Indiana, evie in Michigan, nenita and angela in New York, John in Oklahoma, sandy in Pennsylvania, noel in the Philippines, jonathan and roelie in saudi arabia, shen-shen in tennessee, and sharon in thailand. Hymn number 577, we're gonna sing the first, the second and the last verse. [Music] I hope everyone watching this morning, those of you who are here, know this morning for sure that you have a place in Jesus' heart. If you have a special hymn or a favorite hymn you'd like to sing with us on a coming Sabbath, I invite you to go to our website, saccentral.

org. There you can click on the "contact us" link. And you can request any hymn in the hymnal. We sang a new one this morning before we went on the air that we're learning. You can request any hymn, and we'd love to sing that with you on a coming Sabbath.

Our next hymn we're going to sing this morning is a favorite hymn 422, "we're Marching to Zion." So you at home if you want to stand up and March, go right ahead. This comes as a request from norma, angel, stuart, katrina and nevel in australia, ameidi in belize, nina and roumen in bulgaria, aaliyah and mariana in California, shiyntum and arthur in cameroon, sherace and luis in england, ray, dinarah, dinzi, Ezekiel and albertha in florida, wayne in Minnesota, shiferaw in the netherlands, fabian in New York, denneth and walter in south korea and tamah in the u.s. Virgin islands. Hymn 422, "marching to Zion," we're gonna sing the first, the second and the last verse. [Music] The Word of God promises us that I have not seen, ear hath not heard, nor can enter into the heart and the mind of man the things that God has prepared for us.

Amen! I cannot wait to be there. Let's pray. Our Father in Heaven, dear Jesus, we thank you so much for the privilege, for the honor that we have to come before you and worship on your holy day. We thank you for bringing us through this week, that we are here to lay our burdens, our lives at your feet, at the foot of the cross this morning, and know that we can leave this place changed for the better because of who you are and not anything of ourselves. We thank you for this ministry.

We thank you for pastor mike as he brings us Your Word this morning, Lord. Open our hearts and our minds to you, that we are filled with love and light and hope for those around us, that we can share that hope and that we can hasten your coming. Lord, we cannot wait for the day when you come and you burst through those clouds and you take us home to live with you forever. May your coming be soon. We pray these things in your precious name, Jesus.

Amen. Our study will be brought to us this morning by pastor mike thompson. And he is the health and outreach minister here at Sacramento central. Thank you very much. Thank you ladies for singing.

I think jolyne said it all, don't you? You're asleep this morning. I think she said it all, don't you? Yeah, thank you jolyne for stirring us up here this morning. I appreciate that. Well Happy Sabbath everybody. Before I continue on, I just want to let you know that we have a free offer from Amazing Facts, little classic called, "steps to Christ.

" And it's offer number 736. And if you call the following Numbers, 866-788-3966 or 866-study-more-- it may come out the same number, I don't know-- they will send you this if you live in the continental United States of America. That's offer number 736, "steps to Christ." So this morning, here we are at the end of another journey. This is the last lesson, lesson 13, on this theme "health and healing." Quarters go fast, don't they? They just fly by. But this one this morning is called, "social support: the tie that binds.

" And I want to begin by reading our memory text, the words of Jesus. "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you." Jesus wasn't giving a new commandment, but new in as much as the depth, enlarging it, so we can understand it. This was a new way of presenting truth, that we are to love as he loves. Says, "this is a new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.

" We'll be looking at this a little more this morning. But this last lesson theme here in "health and healing" is part of a whole series we've looked at. We've been looking at the relationship between health and spirituality and the emotional aspects of our religious life. And we've even looked at food and all kinds of things, so that as the whole person, it's God's wish that we should enjoy fully abundant health in every sense of the word, 'cause God wants us to be healthy and happy and holy and vibrant, even in a sinful world. And so this week we'll conclude with the theme of interpersonal relationships and how these can impact our physical well-being.

I'd like to draw your attention to a statement right near the front of the lesson. I'm gonna read it here. It kind of defines this in a nutshell. It says, "anything that promotes a sense of isolation may lead to illness and suffering." And that's true. Research has shown that people who have no relationships tend to live in isolation; they're lonely.

They tend to get into more self-destructive habits, whether it's comfort food or drugs or any number of things. But the thing that springs immediately to mind here, those may be self-destructive habits, but you know what? On the larger scheme of things, we may all be alone and isolated from Jesus. And if you're isolated from Jesus, then you've got the biggest self-destructive thing of all. And that is you don't have hope of eternal life. So even if the journey of life leads us literally alone, maybe with no spouse, maybe with no children.

It's easy to think, "I'm all alone." But you know, if you have Jesus, friends, he can be mother, father, husband, kids and the whole shebang, right? And so that's what we need to keep in focus this morning as we continue with this. But let me continue here. Gives us the positive and the negative side. "Anything that promotes a sense of isolation may lead to illness and suffering. That which promotes love and intimacy, connection and community is healing and brings health.

And no wonder because as humans we were meant to live in community and fellowship with one another." And that's exactly of course how it was in the beginning. The world's first married couple had the perfect interpersonal relationship in a perfect community. They experienced perfect marital bliss because they were imbued with a beautiful, unselfish, pure, untarnished love of God. Plus the fact, of course, that God was loved and honored as the supreme leader and head of their little community there in eden as adam and eve enjoyed this sweet, personal interrelationship with God. That was a kind of love that we all need.

That's the kind of love that doesn't look at others and say, "I want you to be my friend. I want you to be my spouse," or "I want you to be this, that and the other, because I want you to do something for me. I want you to make me happy." That's the selfish love that isn't actually within us. But the unselfish love that God imbued adam and eve with is the same love that Jesus had. And that is the love whereby we look at other people and we say, "Lord, how can I make this person happy? What can I do for them?" And you know what? If you do that, what happens to you? You get happy--right? People do all kinds of things to get happy.

If you want to get happy, find happiness, do something for somebody else. Well, as we know sin finally reared its ugly head and things took a turn for the worse. And adam and eve's beautiful little perfect community of perfect health, perfect interpersonal relationship and a perfect place to be. And they which were made in the image of God became morphed, morphed if you like, into the image of selfishness. And since that day the power of self-love has repeatedly brought alienation, strife between humans, time and again destroying unity and community and robbing countless millions because of alienation of the physical, emotional and spiritual health that God desires us all to experience.

But you know what? It's not all hopeless, praise God, because where sin abounds, God's grace does much more abound. And it's God's purpose through the Gospel there should be a total restoration of the human race. And especially in the area of-- and our theme is-- interpersonal relationships. I'm gonna try and stay on the theme this morning, "interpersonal relationships." I'd like us to consider again this week's memory verse, the words of Jesus, that we are commanded to love one another as he has loved us. Let's focus on that and realize this, that all of God's biddings are all of God's enablings.

And I'm gonna say something a little further on about obnoxious people. When God sends an obnoxious person into your life, then you can pray that Jesus will help you love them just as much as he loves you. See it's easy to love grandmother who lavishes gifts upon you. But not everybody's grandmother who lavishes sweet gifts upon you. There's other people in the world who are a far cry from grandma on your birthday.

And that's a real test of our love. But we'll get to that a little later on. But look again at the verse here. And I'd like somebody to read again our memory verse, John 13:34-35. And we have our microphones somewhere.

John has a microphone. We just need a willing subject. Silvia, thank you very much. John 13:34-35. "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have loved one to another." Thank you very much. And if that happens, the world's gonna take note, right? It is, that's what we're told. Now that is a promise that Christ has given to us. So let's keep that in mind this morning. He will make his biddings.

He'll make them enablings. Now in Tuesday's lesson, we're speaking of this love whereby we can love one another. And in Tuesday's lesson, "such love will enable the community of the church to experience unity in redemption." That's the theme there from Tuesday, unity in redemption. And Ephesians 4--and we'll be looking at some passages out of there this morning. Ephesians 4 the apostle Paul describes those who have been brought together as a body, called a body in Ephesians 4:4.

And further down in Ephesians 4:12, we are specifically referred to as the body of Christ, the Spiritual body of Jesus Christ, his church. And there was a question that's asked in Tuesday's section and it's this; what does this mean in how we should relate in one another? In other words, how should Christians treat one another? Ephesians 4:1-3. And I'd like a willing volunteer. Rhonda's right down here, rhonda, mrs. Smith there, thank you.

Thank you, rhonda. "I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." Thank you very much, rhonda. I appreciate that. So love one another with lowliness.

That doesn't come naturally, does it? Longsuffering, forbearing one another. Oh, these are challenges to our Christian experience. In fact, these things show-- God allows things to be the barometer of where we really are in life. And this is why trials have to come. This is why temptations have to come.

Because how can God demonstrate his grace to angels in the unfallen universe if tests are not allowed to come to us? So if we're not tested, nothing shows. Nothing comes out. So it's gotta come out. The reaction has got to be seen to see if we're growing in grace. So we gotta be in lowliness, longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.

Remembering that's how Jesus treats us when we're not so pleasant to look upon. You see God calls us not just to count ourselves part of an exclusive little clique. And you know there's some churches like that. And even in a big church like this you can get cliques, exclusive little clubs, you know? We've known one another. We've sat in the same part of the sanctuary for 20 years.

We've got our little clique here. And you people come through the door and they maybe want to be part of--i won't use the term a clique, but it's easy, even in any church to become exclusive and almost resent any newcomers that come through the door. And it's our vocation, given us of God, that we should break out of those little cliques, those circles, those comfort zones and reach out to those who may be lonely, may be isolated, may be suffering sickness as a consequence of stress and loneliness because there's nobody to care for them. So God has called us to get involved, to get out. Romans 14:7, which is also in our lesson this week, somebody read this Romans 14:7.

Andrew, give it to andrew. He's right there, right in front of you, ray. "For none of us liveth to himself and no man dieth to himself." That's right. There's a lot of theology and a lot of religion right there just in that one verse. So we cannot be a part of God's church, can't be part of the body of Christ if we sit quietly and uninvolved in some little corner week after week and think that our noninvolvement doesn't register negatively somewhere somehow, or doesn't deprive somebody of some blessing, somebody that God has ordained that you should go and reach out and be a part and touch and affect that person's life.

None of us lives unto themselves. We must remember that in joining the church, it's not just having our name on the books. It's consenting to be part of the community of the church, but it's also being--willing to be part of the mission of the church. And the mission of the church, part of our vocation is to take God's last warning message to the world. And what message is that? The third angel's message, right? And let's remind ourselves this morning that third angel's message, as some people would erroneously believe that it's not just--it's something far more than just a doctrinal belief.

It's not just a warning to reject the Mark of the beast. It's all of those things, but along with that, as Seventh-day Adventists, what we've got to learn to understand is that the preaching of the third angel's message at the end is just as much a Revelation of the love and the righteousness of Jesus Christ, which is to be manifested where? In the community of his church. And you cannot and will not be a part of that if you're not willing to get involved in the vocation that God has given you and reach out to others who may be lonely, isolated, have no community and may even be physically sick as a consequence. I'm trying to stick to the theme this morning, praise the Lord. Are you pleased with me, Pastor Doug? Pastor Doug's taking the day off today.

But so powerful will be the manifestation of the character of Christ in his people. And it's gonna be. And if you don't want to be part of it, you won't be. But if you want to be, you will be. You will be filled and imbued with the power of Christ.

You will be filled and imbued with the power of his righteousness. And so powerful will this Revelation of his love and righteousness be, that those who are honest in heart in Babylon, and there's a lot of lonely people in Babylon will look on and say, "you know what? I want that." Because they'll see not only the glory of truth shining forth from the remnant of God, they'll not only see the truth in clear, distinct links making a beautiful whole, but they will see the beauty of Christ's righteousness shining out. And that will be so powerfully attractive. You know the truth in its beauty is the most attractive and a most wonderful thing. Now we're so blessed with having this truth.

And I think most of us, and I'll include myself so often, we tend to take it for granted. But every day I wake up by my bed with a treasure trove of truth. And God wants us to open the lid and open the pages and be imbued with these truths that they will become a reality in our lives and shine out. And people will want that experience as they see the unblemished relationship that God's true people have with one another and with Jesus. And this is why Jesus said, "by this shall you know that all men know that you are my disciples," John 13:35.

You know friends, the world is dying for a want of the Revelation, of a demonstration of this very thing that I'm talking about this morning. So God wants us to reach out. He wants us to be part of the great grand finale of his grace at the very end of time. And we're almost there. But even now he has people for us to reach out to, to train us as we do this, to prepare us for the last push to the finishing line.

So remember, God has people he wants you to minister with as part of the community, and in turn to reach out to minister to and draw them into the community. And you'll finally miss out on everything if you just view church as a place where you can get as it were a place, as opposed to where you can give. And you know, we can all fall into that trap. I hope I don't sound like I'm being scolding this morning, 'cause anything I say, you know, it's gone through me first. I pray, Lord, you know, if there's any faults in any member of the congregation, you see them in me first, 'cause we need to be--um, need to have an opinion of ourselves that is humble and meek.

And the more we see that in ourselves, the more we lean upon Jesus to be our righteousness and our strength. So God calls us to be involved. And so going back to Ephesians 4, I want us to notice some of the specific gifts that God has bestowed upon his church, for the purpose that these gifts should be utilized in order to qualify us, in order to perfect us if you like, in the ability to labor effectively and meet with success. In our vocation, in our mission of taking the message to the world and having a community within the church that is attractive to those out there who are lonely and isolated and maybe even sick for want of having a friend to comfort them. So in Ephesians 4:11, I'd like somebody else please to be bold enough to take the mic and read Ephesians 4:11.

Juanita, thank you very much, juanita. "And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Thank you very much, juanita. And so now in Ephesians 4:12-13, I want us to note why such gifts are bestowed. And I'll read this verse 12. It's "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of The Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

" I want us to kind of break that down a little bit and see what--see where this finally leads us, okay. So point number one: "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry." King James it has "perfecting," and some other versions it's got "equipped." Same thing. God wants us to be equipped for the work of the ministry. And when God equips us, he can enable us. He does that perfectly.

Everything God does is perfect. And so the gifts he gives us are not lacking. They're not substandard in any way. For the perfecting of the work of the saints for the work of the ministry so we can be successful in our vocation and take this message to a dying world. "For the edifying of the body of Christ.

" Edifying means to build up, okay. God wants to build up his church not just for our sakes of what we can do, but again God wants to showcase his people to the world, to let the world look on and see that God leaves his people behind in no gift. And God is able to build them up and to make them complete, vibrant and dynamic in love and kindness and compassion and every good thing and every good work, not necessarily always in material things, but in that which people in the world-- you know, there's people in the world that God--they've got all the money they need even in this economy. They've got all the toys they need. They don't need anything else.

But inside they're empty and they're longing for something and they don't know what it is. And there's people out there who when they see the church of God arise and the righteousness of Jesus Christ, they're gonna look on and say, "that is what is missing in my life. I see they're not rich. They don't have this. They don't have that.

But they've got something that I don't have with all my mansions, with all my cars." You see what God offers are eternal things. And there's people in this world who are hungering for those things. And when they see them, when they see how God builds up his church, it will be desirous to them, and they will want that. And then in verse 13, "till we all come in the unity of the faith." This means that God's church can experience perfect unity of faith among the members and finally see Jesus' prayer fulfilled for his church. That's in John 17:23.

Why don't we read that? John 17:23, would somebody read that for us? Jolyne? John 17:23, "I in them, and you in me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them as you have loved me." Thank you, jolyne, appreciate that. "That they may be perfect in one." That's Jesus' wish. And that is what God will make happen, that we can all come in the unity of the faith. Now back to Ephesians 4:13, and the next area where God's gifts are to equip the saints. And it says, "and of the knowledge of The Son of God.

" He wants us to come to a knowledge of The Son of God. Now through all eternity the redeemed are going to receive a deeper and a deeper knowledge of Jesus and the wondrous mystery of the cross. Even the angels, even from their vantage point, they're still plumbing the depths of that. And so through all eternity we're gonna be broadening and deepening our knowledge of The Son of God. But even this side of heaven there is, there exists a priceless treasury of the knowledge of The Son of God, perfect in its fullness within the context of our earthly estate that God wants us to understand and to experience.

And God longs to give us that knowledge of Jesus Christ. God is longing to paint the most beautiful pictures of his son before our eyes. And we'll see those beautiful portraits of Jesus if we will look away from the things of this world, and if we will be willing to let God's will overrule all our selfish purposes. And if we will surrender our selfish hearts at the foot of the cross. You know, I know for myself I see so little.

I see through a glass so darkly. And God wants us to come to that perfect knowledge of Jesus Christ. But in arriving at such a perfect knowledge of The Son of God, it goes far beyond a mere head-knowledge. God has purposed that our knowledge should translate into a heart-experience, in the inner being that powerfully transforms the character and changes the whole life. Now that word "knowledge" in the Greek, it's epignosis.

And I looked in the abbott-smith Greek dictionary, blew the dust off and had a look inside. And there's an aspect to this knowledge which describes as having a knowledge of Christ through acquaintance with him, not in the head but an acquaintance with him in the heart and in the life. And here's where the knowledge of The Son of God deepens as something far more than intellectual. And I want us to notice this as we read this verse again and see how having a knowledge of he Son of God relates to becoming a perfected people, not merely in knowledge, but also in reflecting Christ in the life. And I hope you got that.

Ephesians 4:13, "'till we all come in the unity of the faith and in the knowledge--" there it is again, not head-knowledge just, but an acquaintanceship-knowledge of The Son of God. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith and in the knowledge of The Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. I'd like to share with you a statement from the fifth volume of the testimonies page 105, which equates the knowledge of The Son of God with character transformation made possible through divine grace and especially shown to be manifest through love in the heart. And is it not--is not the prescription--is this not the prescription for every ailment in interpersonal relationships and alienation between human beings and with God. Let me read it to you.

It says, "we shall attain to the full stature of men and women in Christ Jesus only as the result of a steady growth in grace. Oh, what can I say to open blind eyes, to enlighten the Spiritual understanding. Sin must be crucified." And it never will unless you and I have a real knowledge of Jesus Christ. "Sin must be crucified, a complete moral renovation must be wrought by the Holy Spirit. We must have the love of God with living, abiding faith.

This is the gold tried in the fire. We can obtain it only if Christ. Ever since-- will become a partaker of the divine nature. His soul will be filled with intense longing to know the fullness of that love which passes knowledge," not head knowledge but the heart knowledge, "as he advances into the divine life, he will be better able to grasp the elevated, ennobling truths of the world of God. Until by beholding, he becomes changed and is unable to reflect the likeness of his or her redeemer.

" That's beautiful. And if you didn't catch it, you go home and read it again. "Five testimonies," 105. To put it in a nutshell, we need conversion. I'll just speak plainly this morning, friends.

We need conversion. We really do. We need conversion because if we were converted as a people, there wouldn't be the alienation and the strife and the fracture of interpersonal relationships that we see around. And we wouldn't even have to write lesson 13 this week in this book, dealing with interpersonal relationships. We only deal with things that have gone wrong, which are broken.

And if as a people we knew what it was to truly be converted, there would not be the broken relationships. There would be the sweet fellowship. The prayer of Jesus would be answered. There'd be nobody marginalized or pushed out of the cliques. Everybody would be one family.

There would be no sickness. Well, there's sickness you understand, but within the context of people who actually get sick because they go through rejection even in the house of God. And God could work the miracle of transforming us into the perfect man spiritually as a body of Christ. And see fulfilled, see us come to the full measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. We need conversion; that's what we mean.

And I hope nobody's too sensitive his morning to hear that and take offense. We gotta face the facts. It applies to me as much as anybody else. And now the community of Jesus Christ would grow and blossom if as a people we would seek this very knowledge and experience it. What love, what kindness would flourish within the borders of Zion as the professed body of Christ sought not their own well-being but the well-being of one another.

Isaiah 58, this would be fulfilled. God says, "then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee; and the glory of the Lord shall be thy rear reward." Such is God's purpose for his church. And this is why he has lavished these rich, spiritual gifts upon us, which we read about in Ephesians 4. But again, the glorious end result is gonna be a long time coming if like Israel of old we're still wandering in the wilderness because of insubordination. Dare I say that.

Hey, you know, we need to-- we need to face the facts about ourselves, friends. We're not what we should be. If we're what we should be we wouldn't be here upon this earth, right? We'd be lifted off this planet a long time ago because we'd be perfected and the job would have been perfectly done. And the reason we're here is that God has all the grace abounding to bestow upon us. God has all the gifts to bestow upon us.

But we're still wandering around in the wilderness like the Israelites of old, because we've been told by the prophet, because of insubordination. And so where there is insubordination, there is a dearth of the Spirit, there is a dearth in the fruits of the Spirit. And there is a dearth in spiritual gifts. Because in acts 5:32 it reminds us, God only gives the Holy Spirit to them that obey him--you see? We've got heart-searching to do. And Ephesians 4 again reminds us that Christ has sent apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastors and teachers to edify the church.

But if we don't take much heed to the writings of the apostles, and we count as irrelevant the prophet that he has sent us in the last days, and if as evangelists and if as pastors and teachers we're not so enamored with the truth anymore and we'd rather plant some pleasing fables, then error is never gonna sanctify us. Only the truth can sanctify us, only the truth as it is in Jesus. And we'll never be able to come together, at least not for awhile still, in the unity of the faith and the knowledge of The Son of God unto a perfect man. So here we are. And you see where sanctification is lacking, interpersonal relationships become the first major casualty, because selfishness, hatred rule instead of self-sacrificing love.

Where interpersonal relationships break down, people become separated, marginalized, alienated, isolated. And again, as the lesson reminds us, results in a decrease of physical, literal, physical well-being in the body of Christ. And the coming of Christ is delayed. But then on the other side of the coin, let's be fair here. I've been in places where the truth is preached, where every word of the apostles, it's preached in its purity.

I've been in places where the words of the prophet, every jot and tittle is read, it's preached, it's taught, it's obeyed. But in some of those very same places, there is a dearth of love and kindness and compassion and relationships are hanging dead on the vine because it's just a religion of the head again and not a religion of the heart. We need to beware of falling in either ditch. And this leads us to a statement in the lesson. It's in Wednesday's section.

It says a person may have all the theological knowledge in the world, but if the person is not kind, loving and caring about others, what good does this knowledge do? It just makes them hypocrites and pharisees. So we need to fall in love with Jesus. Then we can fall out of love with ourselves. Then we can fall in love with other people as the inner working of his grace abounds in our lives and people will look on and look at this remnant and say, "I want to be a part of that." God's waiting to do all of this, friends. And when you get that experience in your heart, you want to go out and find these people who are locked up and lonely and physically sick because nobody cares a nickel for them.

And they're out there in their droves. And when this experience is ours, only then will we be qualified to successfully meet. The greatest test that God brings to us, brings to me, sometimes I think far too often that makes me comfortable, the greatest test that really reveals the depth of my true walk with him reveals the true depth of my level of sanctification, reveals the true depth of whether I'm phony or genuine. And that character--that test of character is this. And I'm reading again from the lesson on Wednesday, "loving the loving and the kind is relatively easy.

Most anyone can do that. It's when we are called to love the unloving, the ones who are hard to get along with, the ones who treat us nastily and unfairly," that's the test. And I don't know if God sends them into your life, but I meet some people from time--you're probably sitting there thinking, "is he talking about me?" I'm just talking about life, friends. Whether you're a pastor, wherever you are, God brings people along who is totally opposite to you in personally and the way they do things. And it's God's purpose that that should be so.

This is the big test. You see, God doesn't send the unlovely and the obnoxious into our lives so we can learn to pride ourselves at being pretty good at figuring people out. You know? Getting these people figured out, deciding whether they're worthy or unworthy. Now there's legitimate times for looking at people's behavior, granted. But I'm not speaking in that context this morning.

God doesn't send the unlovely and the obnoxious into our lives so we can evaluate their faults and then finally applaud ourselves for being so magnanimous, for still being willing to assist them in their undeserving state because strictly from a sense of obligation and due to we feel we need to do that. Is that Christianity? Is that Christianity? No, it's not. That's going through an act. That's being like a robot. If Jesus came down to this earth like that--i thank God he didn't.

God does not send such people into our lives for any of the above reasons. God sends them into our lives to be a mirror in which we can see the reflection of our own selfishness and our own obnoxious traits and the irritating aspects of our own personalities. That's why God sends them. And that's why this is a test of our sanctification to see whether we've taken advantage of the grace that God has given to us. See when rude, selfish and obnoxious people burst into our lives, we need to recognize them as an object lesson sent to us from God to drive us to the cross, to ponder there how even more obnoxious we are and how even more undeserving we are in God's sight.

And yet as we reflect, we see how willing he still was to accept us in all our unloveliness and give us the gift of a Savior, so that obnoxious as we are, he still wants us to live with him one day. Well he's gonna--he's gonna change it a little bit before we walk through the pearly gates you understand. But here's the point. God meets us where we are. And he takes our obnoxiousness, excuse the term, and what does he do? When Jesus comes in he makes us sweet, and he makes us kind.

And he makes us a miracle of his grace. And the cross has the most amazing and wonderful way of softening our hearts and changing the way we view nasty, obnoxious people. And getting a much more humble view of ourselves, 'cause if God loves us, then we need to love them. We need to be willing and strive to go out of our way to invite them to become part of our community. See let's just pause for a minute for people we may consider obnoxious and unkind and all these kinds of things.

No point in getting upset with people like that, or angry. We need to pity people who have these unlovely traits of character. And recognize that they're just as enslaved to their weaknesses and their idiosyncrasies as we are to ours. I could say more, but time won't suffice this morning. But Jesus loves us, he loved his enemies and we need to do the same.

In Ephesians 4:32, again in the lesson it says, "and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you. There's a statement from ministry of healing 105, 106, which is on the last page of the lesson. It says, "the love of Christ--" this is still looking at people who we might consider unlovely-- "the love of Christ manifested in unselfish ministry will be more effective in reforming the evil-doer than will the--" sorry-- "than will the sword of the court of justice. These are necessary to strike terror to the law-breaker. But the loving missionary can do more than this.

Often the heart that hardens under reprove will melt under the love of Christ." So let's ask God to give us the grace to be like that and recognize he sends the unloving and unlovable sometimes to be a reflection of what we're really like, and also to be an instrument of his hands to build up our characters and polish us and make us more like him, that we can come up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. I knew a man one time, an old-time Christian man. He says, "I'm praying that God will send all the most ornery people into my life, as many as he possibly can in as short as time that he can, so I can learn as much myself about I can and get it all over with." Well, I'm not brave enough-- I'm not brave enough to pray such a prayer as this. But anyway, it's not a--it's not a question of courage. It's a question of love, the love of Jesus reigning our hearts that just as he loves us, we can love others.

And you know, when the love of Jesus comes into our hearts, that true love cannot be shackled or hidden. It's got to break out. It's gotta break lose. And it's gotta find a way of having an expression through asSaults of love on others which may even be our enemies. Jesus called us to have this experience, as we go out to the world.

I was getting toward the end here. There's another statement from "ministry of healing," 105. It says, "many feel that it would be a great privilege to visit the scenes of Christ's life on earth, to walk where he trod, to look upon the lake beside which he loved to teach and the hills and valleys on which his eyes so often rested. But we need not go to nazareth, to capernaum or to bethany in order to walk in the steps of Jesus. We shall find his footprints beside the sick bed, in the hovels of poverty, in the crowded alleys of the great cities, and in every place where there are human hearts in need of consolation.

We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the suffering and afflicted. We are to minister to the despairing and to inspire hope in the hopeless." You know, every time I go downtown, I see--well and you do the same thing yourself--i see people of every way, and shape, form if you like. I'm not speaking about whether they're fat or thin, I mean the lives that they live. You see business men, see business women. But in the next block you see people who are kind of down and out.

And it's easy to get so involved in what we're doing and drive by these people, or walk by these people. But you know, God knows every one of them, he has a name and number for every star in the universe. He sees every one of these people. They are his children. And a lot of 'em don't even know it.

And it's so easy for us to be involved in our own life and our own cares and our own business and the things that we just want to do. And it's easy to walk by these people and just ignore them. But if Jesus was here this morning sitting with us in this house, who would he be looking around at? He wouldn't be much looking at me; he'd be looking around seeing who's new? Who's sitting on the back pew? Who's sitting over there in the corner? He'd be looking for a new face. He'd be looking at that person. He'd be looking attentively at their expression.

Jesus was very good at reading expressions. He's very good at reading hearts. Now we can't read hearts. And we can't necessarily read expressions. But you know what? What Jesus can make is so sensitive through his spirit; he can help us to know.

You look at somebody, and you can know if you pray, he will prompt you. And he will let you know, that person, go talk to that person. You may--you won't have them all figured out. But if you're in tune with Christ, you'll just know. He wants me to go talk to that particular person.

And if we walk close with him, he will do this. And as you go and talk to that person, and you start asking a few questions. Don't look too nosey, but just let them know you're a friend. And as you start talking to people, you'll be surprised at things that start to come out. They start to open their hearts.

And on the outside they may look kind of okay, but as people open their hearts, you find there's a lot of grief. There's a lot of sorrow. And there's no balm for them, because they don't know where to find it. But there is a balm. There is a balm in Gilead.

And that's Jesus. And every day these people are passing us by. And one day God is gonna ask us when our journey comes to an end. You know he did a lot of good things. He didn't hang out in the bars.

Well that's commendable, right? He didn't smoke, clean living person, clean pair of lungs. He didn't waste time on the internet. He didn't waste time going to reno to play the slots or go watch the show there. You're pretty wise with your money. You went to church every week.

You were respectable. You contributed to the service in one way or another. But I sent people into your life, and you ignored them. I sent people to your door. I had people cross you on the sidewalk.

And if you had given me your heart, if you had been in tune with me, you would have heard my voice telling you, speak to this person. Speak to this person. This is why, friends, we need conversion. Because when we have conversion as a people, we will hear so much more clearly the voice of God. We will hear so much more clearly the voice of Jesus.

We'll hear him sending us, telling us to speak to this person and that person. When we reach life's journey, when it's all over, there's no second chance to turn around and do it all again. In heaven, there's nobody in need. Everybody's got everything they want. In heaven, there's nobody that's lonely.

In heaven there's nobody who's grieving. This is our one and only chance to be part of the community of Jesus, to go out and find the lost and bring them in. And then as we do this, as we do this, our precious relationship with ourselves and with Christ will deepen and it will speed us onward to become people who reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. And the offer is number 736, "steps to Christ." And you can get this if you call 1-866-study-more, -866-788-3966. Amazing Facts, we'll send you this book absolutely free.

May God bless us and make this a reality. I pray in his name. If you've missed any of our Amazing Facts programs, visit our website at There you'll find an archive of all our television and radio programs, including "Amazing Facts presents." One location, so many possibilities:

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