Missions and Loving your neighbor

I have been attending our church’s annual missions conference over the past couple of days and have been truly blessed to hear some awesome messages from God’s Word, as well as some awesome testimonies from the field. Tonight, I was blessed to hear a message from Dr. Larry Waters, a man of God who spent 27 years on the mission field in the Philippines. His message tonight was from the Gospel of Luke, principles of missions from the example of the Good Samaritan. I would like to share the insights that I gained and pray that they will bless you as much as they blessed me.

25 And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life ?” 26 And He said to him, “What is written in the Law ? How does it read to you?” 27 And he answered, “YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND ; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 28 And He said to him, “You have answered correctly ; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE.” 29 But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor ?”

I. Missions begin with Jesus

The expert in the law comes you Jesus, not to learn something about life or eternal life, but, instead, he comes with impure motives. He wants to test Jesus to see if He really is all that everyone claims that He is. It is easy to see this man’s sin but what about us, are we ever the same way? Do we ever have impure reasons for asking something of God? Jesus knows the heart of the man and uses the moment as a teaching opportunity. Jesus often answers a question with a question. This is similar to what God did in the Old Testament when people asked Him questions (more proof that Jesus is God). Jesus has to get to the heart of the matter, your heart, in order to prepare you for missions. You cannot be an effective missionary if you have impure motives. Jesus asks the man what the Law teaches in regard to attaining eternal life. The man answers wisely. He responds with the “Sunday School” answer that all good Jewish people were to know well.

YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND ; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.

In essence, this passage means to love (serve) the Lord with all of your:

  • Heart – vigor, passion, emotions, strength, abilities, capabilities (use your life to serve God)
  • Soul – the very breath that you have, your life, your will
  • Strength – the ability to act
  • Mind – reasoning skills, understanding

To put it in other words, we are to love/serve God with all that we are and all that we have. Everything else in our lives flows out of that decision to live and serve God. The manifestation of that is seen through the way that we treat others around us. If we love and serve God then we will treat the people around us, not as objects to be used, but we will treat them the way that we treat ourselves. We will love them like we love ourselves. This man understood the theory but obviously did not practice what he knew, or, he really did not understand the depth of the statement. If your understanding of God’s Word does not lead you to action, then you just have head knowledge but not the heart knowledge. To take it one step further, there is a Jewish proverb that reads, “if you do not do what you say that you know, then do you really know it?”. What about you, do you have the head knowledge, yet remain with an unmoved heart for missions, to serve the lost, dying people around you (in your family, neighborhood, city, state, country, continent, and ultimately the world around you)?

II. Missions involve a change of heart and mind, brought about by Jesus

The lawyer then returns Jesus question, with another question, of course, after he had given the Sunday School answer. Still trying to test Jesus, he asked Him, “who is my neighbor?”. This is a loaded question. This man is not really concerned with the good of his fellow human being. As a good Jewish man, he would have been ready and willing to do something good for his fellow Jew. In other words, I’ll scratch your back because I know that you will do the same for me. Jesus blows the man’s mind with His answer to this question. Jesus uses this as a teaching moment to show this man that he needs a change of heart and mind if he really desires eternal life. All of us want eternal life and God wants to give it to us but in order to receive it, we have to be born again, see John 3 as well as this article. In order to be an efficient missionary, a person must be born again. This man was yet to experience this change of heart/mind which comes about and he needed to learn a lesson. Jesus teaches him with the parable of the Good Samaritan.

30 Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. 31 “And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 “Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 “But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 “On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.’

This story reveals a lot of things about “loving” (serving) your neighbor. There are 3 major players here, other than the robbers and the man who was robbed and beaten.

  1. the priest – his job was to serve the people, showing them the love of God and teaching them how they could know and walk with God day by day, moment by moment. He chose to go around the man. There are several reasons why this could have happened. He could not tell the nationality, race, or rank of the man because he had been beaten bloody, he could not speak and his clothes were gone. All three of these things reveal a person’s identity. The priest may not have been able to determine if this man were a fellow Jew or not. Also, as a priest, consecrated by the Lord for His service, he was not to touch a dead body. His religion and keeping the letter of the Law was far more important than the people around him. He just crossed along on the other side. Many people do not do missions because they are satisfied with their religion, their rules and regulations that they do not deem it necessary to get their hands dirty in the act of serving the less fortunate around them. Remember the occupation of the man, an expert in the law of God yet that expertise was what he trusted in and because of that, the people around him were secondary.
  2. the Levite – he was a servant in the temple with the priest. If his boss did not want to deal with the situation, he had better not make him look bad by stopping and assisting. Other people do not do missions because they are afraid of what it may cost them, their job, way of life, livelihood etc. The Levite could have stopped and at least checked to see if the man were alive or not because he was not forbidden to touch a dead body. Many people are here when it comes to missions. I’ll help someone else go but I cannot. I will support someone else but I am too busy to get involved. Supporting is not bad. In fact, it is necessary, but, God has called YOU to be a missionary if you are a follower of Jesus Christ.
  3. the Samaritan – here is the shocker. The Samaritans were considered “dogs” by the Jews. They had no part of eternal life and were just fuel for the fires of Sheol. He is the only man who showed that he loved God because he took time to get his hands dirty. He took what God had blessed him with and used it to “love” (serve) his fellow man. When a person loves God with all of his heart then he will be moved to reach out to the hurting people around him and help, not just with the physical needs, but, most importantly, with the spiritual needs.

III. Jesus leaves you with a challenge to missions

Pay attention to how the story ends.

36 “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?” 37 And he said, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”

We expect, even want Jesus to say, “and the man was born again and began to love his neighbor as he was on mission”. Jesus does not do this. He actually leaves US with a challenge, “Go and do the same”. Are you ready to go and do the same? Has your heart been changed by Jesus Christ so that you now love/serve the Lord with all that you have? Are you intentional about missions in your home, neighborhood, workplace, and around the world? Do you seek ways to love your neighbor by meeting his needs, both physical and spiritual? In order to be an efficient missionary, you have to meet Jesus, be transformed by Him, and then go and do what He says. Are you meeting with Jesus daily so that He can renew your mind and prepare you to be an efficient missionary? How have you loved/served your neighbor this week? How will you love/serve him next week? Do you have a plan? Why not sit down and make a list of people who need the Gospel and think about how you can serve them over the next week so that you can share the Gospel with them, invest in them and be amazed at how God works in you and through you? May God bless us and help us apply what we have been taught.

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