A Friend of Sinners

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In the gospel of Luke, we read the story of a Pharisee named Simon who invited Jesus to his house to have a meal. I’m not sure why any Pharisee would invite Jesus for dinner, let alone bring in other strict religious men to eat with him. A likely reason for the invitation was that Simon and his friends wanted to determine whether Jesus was a prophet or, really, to discount him as one. The passage makes clear that Simon knew of Jesus’ reputation as a prophet (see Luke 7:39).

Scripture doesn’t tell us what this group discussed around that supper table, but we can assume it had to do with theology. The Pharisees specialized in the subject, and they had tried to trick Jesus on other occasions with fanciful questions. Christ knew what was in these men’s hearts, and it quickly became clear. The next thing we read is that a woman of the streets “who was a sinner” crashed the scene. Here I see Jesus showing us where our focus must be, not on false religion or false teachers but on sinners.

Jesus clearly stated “’Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. …Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’” (Luke 7:47-48, 50, NKJV). Jesus was revealing why he came here : to befriend and restore the fallen, the friendless, those overtaken by sin. He is saying to us today, “This is what my ministry is all about.”

Likewise, says the apostle Paul, this is what our focus must be. We are not to judge a fallen person but to seek to restore them and remove their reproach. In fact, he said the test of true spirituality is a readiness to restore a fallen person. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Paul then quickly added this instruction of Christ’s way: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). What is the law of Christ? It is love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Trusting God’s Mysterious Work

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Stop trying to figure out how and why you got hurt. Your situation is not unique at all. Whether you were right or wrong means absolutely nothing at this point. All that matters is your willingness to move on in God and trust his mysterious workings in your life.

Our marching orders come straight from scripture. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13, NKJV).

Maybe you can’t understand why things blew up in your face when God seemed to be leading all along. In doubt, you consider how Judas was called by the Lord; he was destined to be a man of God. He was handpicked by the Savior and was used of God. The difference is that Judas aborted God’s plan and broke the heart of Jesus! What started out as a plan of God ended in disaster because Judas chose to go his own way. Lay off all your guilt trips. Stop condemning yourself.

Perhaps your heart asks, “Why did God allow me to get into this in the first place if he knew it would never work out right?” Most likely you did what you had to do. You moved in the will of God, honestly following your heart, willing to give of yourself. Love was your motivation. You did not abort the will of God; someone else did. If that were not true, you would not be the one who is hurting so. You are hurt because you tried to be honest.

Stop trying to figure out what you did wrong. It is what you are thinking right now that really counts with God. You did not make a mistake; more than likely, you simply gave too much. Like Paul, you have to say, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15).

A Song of Grief and Praise

Gary Wilkerson

In the introduction to Psalm 9, David wrote that this song was for the death of a son. That's pretty sad. We don’t know which son he was referencing. Maybe it was about the loss of his infant son with Bathsheba. Maybe it was Absalom’s murder. It could have even been for Jonathan after he was killed in battle. We don't know exactly what David was thinking of when he titled this song; but when we read it, we can clearly see that God had done something miraculous in his life.

Even though David said this song was about the death of a son, the first two lines read, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2, ESV). A few lines later, he adds, “But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness” (Psalm 9:7-8).

When I was reading that, it didn't make any sense to me. How many people lose a child and are able to say, “God has seen me through the battle that I've been in. He's helped me process my grief. He's helped me understand how I can survive when my child has died. Praise the Lord. I offer thanks with my whole heart.”

How do we learn to sing that kind of song? The songs some of us are singing right now are more lament than anything else. If you need to sing a song of grief and sorrow right now, sing! Know that God hears you, and scripture promises, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

I know that in the Lord’s timing and in his presence, I will walk through his healing process. Then I will be able to take my grief and sing it in a new way. Because we’ve all been hurt and lost loved ones, that gracious promise should give us great hope.

The Command “Follow Me”

John Bailey

The world is filled with a lot of brokenness. People are looking for answers and purpose in their lives. This generation has so many fears and doubts, trying to figure out who God is and what he wants from us.

One of the gospel writers in particular would’ve understood this well. Matthew probably grew up in a traditional Jewish home; he’d heard all the Old Testament stories and seen all the religion. Something had gone wrong, though; he’d become a tax collector for the Roman Empire, and they were put in the same category as harlots, traitors and sinners. In his gospel, Matthew gives a bit of his testimony. “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ So he arose and followed him” (Matthew 9:9, ESV).

Matthew would’ve had all the money and religious know-how, and yet on the inside, he was so broken and empty. Then he had a revelation of Jesus. He would’ve lost his job in order to follow after Christ. He probably gave up his wealth and perhaps even lost relationships with his family. He would’ve faced persecution from the religious leaders of his day. According to church history, he became a missionary to North Africa and was ultimately martyred for the gospel.

I’m certain that if you could ask Matthew, “Would you do it all again? Would you follow Christ out of that tax booth, knowing how your life would change, what it would cost you?” he would answer, “Yes. A hundred times over.”

There’s something so defining about the authority, power and love of God when we really encounter it. I think God is calling us to rise up because the church and the world desperately needs to see God’s heart lived out for them. Just as Jesus wanted to heal in Matthew’s generation, God wants to move again in this generation. This is the expression of Christ’s compassion that Matthew witnessed and wrote about: “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38).

We exist for the purpose of bringing the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to broken spaces. Just like with Matthew, Christ says to us, “Follow me.” If you obey, your life will never be the same.

John Bailey is the COO of World Challenge Inc. and the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church in Jacksonville, Florida. John has been serving the Lord in pastoral ministry for 35 years, ministering the gospel in over 50 nations, particularly as a pastor and evangelist in Cork, Ireland.

What Satisfies His Hunger?

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Many Christians are troubled by the humility required of true faith. Consider the scriptures where Christ told his disciples, “Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” (Luke 17:7-10, NKJV).

Christ is speaking here of us, his servants, and of God, our Master. He’s telling us we’re to feed God. You may wonder, “What kind of food are we supposed to bring to the Lord? What satisfies his hunger?” The Bible tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). Simply put, God’s most delectable dish is faith. That’s the food that pleases him.

We see this illustrated throughout the scriptures. When a centurion asked Jesus to heal his sick servant, he honored Jesus’s high authority. He knew the Savior could accomplish this miraculous feat by merely speaking a word, and Christ feasted on the man’s vibrant faith. We’re told, “When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!’” (Matthew 8:10). Jesus was saying, “Here’s a Gentile, an outsider, who’s feeding my spirit. What a nourishing meal this man’s faith is giving me.”

I notice in Jesus’ words a blunt statement: “You don’t eat first. I do.” In others words, we are not to consume our faith on our own interests and needs. Rather, our faith is meant to satisfy our Lord’s hunger.