Saturday, February 21, 2015, 9:13 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Oh, To Be Like Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 15:1-7 (NASB). Cruel Reproaches Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” There will always be people in this life who will find fault with what we do, and who will criticize what they don’t understand, when we are following Jesus Christ with our lives. Yet, we are in good company, because Jesus was continuously criticized, mocked, chastised, condemned, and falsely accused, and his motives questioned, most especially by the religious leaders of the Jewish people. Yet, the Bible says we should count it all joy when we suffer for righteousness’ sake. So, how did Jesus respond when he was criticized? It depended upon the circumstances and what all and who all was involved in the situation. Yet, most always he took the opportunity to turn what seemed a difficult situation, at best, into a teachable moment. Sometimes he spoke harsh and very pointed words to his opponents as a means to correct and rebuke them, and also so others would know to not follow them. Other times he spoke in parables. Still other times he turned to his disciples (his followers) to teach them what is right and what is wrong and who and what they should listen to and who and what they should not. I hear so many people portray Jesus as one who “opened not his mouth” to his accusers, yet even if they were applying that merely to his arrest, trial and crucifixion, it does not apply across the board in all situations there because he did answer them in some cases and in others he did not. And, all throughout his ministry he had times when he responded to his accusers, and times when he did not, too, perhaps. So, if we are to be like Jesus, then how should we respond to those who would accuse and attack us? I know we should not go and tell other people, i.e. we should not gossip about them behind their backs, just so we can “vent” to our friends. I also know that we are to love our enemies (our opposition) - pray for them, do good to them and say kind things to them and/or about them. I know we are not to try to get even with them and to punish them. Yet, being kind does not mean we say nothing or do nothing and we just walk away. We need to look at all the many examples we have in the Gospels of how Jesus responded to being accused falsely and/or criticized because of his words and/or actions. From what I recall, he mostly responded to his accusers, and he told them the truth. I find today that a good number of Christians have this notion that we should say nothing and just walk away. I don’t believe that was Jesus’ normal response. I also find that a good number of Christians think you should always say positive things because if you don’t then you are not being very encouraging, as though encouragement is always meant to just make us feel good. Lies are never kind and they are not encouraging. They may cause us to feel good temporarily but they will come back to bite us. Jesus always told the truth because he was more interested in changed hearts and lives than he was in making people feel good. He cared more about people hearing what can change them than he was concerned about whether his listeners would end up turning against him. There is a reason that the cross is an offense to those who are perishing. What is best for us is what we need to hear, but it isn’t always what we want to hear. So be kind, but always tell the truth. Seeking the Wanderer So He told them this parable, saying, “What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. If we think of this parable in terms of sheep being those who have believed in Jesus Christ, then we will see the wandering sheep as a believer who has drifted away from his or her pure devotion to Jesus Christ and has gone back to walking in the flesh instead of in the Spirit. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will go after those who have left following Jesus to seek after “other gods.” He will do this because he loves us, and because his heart is filled with compassion, and he does not want to see us continue in sin or return to it as a way of life. He died to deliver us out of bondage to sin. Or we might see this as those who have never believed in Jesus Christ, as the context of the passage would suggest. Those who are already believers in Jesus and who are walking in the Spirit do not need to be sought after to bring us back, unless we have wandered away from our devotion to our Lord and have returned to living to please our sinful flesh. Jesus is seeking after those who are lost and have not found their way or who have lost their way. They are the ones he must bring to repentance and faith (or renewed faith). So, if we are to be like Jesus, how should we respond to brothers and sisters in Christ who are not walking in the Spirit but according to the flesh? Perhaps they are not really in Christ, but have only made a profession of faith, or perhaps they do know Christ but the temptations of this life drew them back to their old ways. What did Jesus do? He went out searching for the sheep that had wandered off and he brought the sheep back. He didn’t join in with the sheep in their sin. He didn’t just hang out with them and just have a good time with them. He was very intentional and purposeful in what he did. His goal was always to bring people to repentance and to faith in himself and to lead them to follow him in all of his ways and in his truth and righteousness. So, if we are to be like Jesus, we also should be very intentional in our relationships with others, and we should seek after those who are lost and/or who have wandered off and with the goal and intent to share with them and to model for them how they can come to know Christ and/or to lovingly confront them with their sin and to lead them to repentance so that they can be healed and restored/renewed and/or regenerated of the Spirit of God. I find today that a good number of Christians are teaching and are believing that we should just mind our own business, that we should “stay in our lane,” and/or that we should not insert ourselves into the lives of others. Many of them also are teaching and believing that we should just go around blessing people by doing good deeds and that we should not share the gospel because we don’t want to appear pushy, or because we don’t want to offend people or make them feel uncomfortable or judged, and so we only say what we think will make people feel good. Yet, is that what Jesus did? No! He inserted himself into people’s lives consistently and that is what got him hated and killed, yet he did so because he loves us, and because he wants us to have lives that are transformed of the Spirit of God and that are no longer walking in the flesh, but in the Spirit and by the Spirit of God. And, we should have that same compassion as Jesus in intentionally seeking after the wanderer to bring him or her to repentance and to faith or renewed faith in Jesus Christ. Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer Thomas O. Chisholm / W. J. Kirkpatrick Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer, This is my constant longing and prayer; Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures, Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear. Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion, Loving, forgiving, tender and kind, Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting, Seeking the wandering sinner to find. O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit, Holy and harmless, patient and brave; Meekly enduring cruel reproaches, Willing to suffer others to save. O to be like Thee! while I am pleading, Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love; Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling, Fit me for life and Heaven above. Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee, Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art; Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness; Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.