"The 'Physical' Side of Christianity" (January 2005)
It seems to me that in Christendom we have become so "caught up" in the "spiritual" aspect, that we have forgotten the "natural" aspect of it. While we do "walk after the Spirit" and we are "not of this world", we still have to walk our Christianity out in this world. You've heard the expression, "So heavenly minded that you are of no earthly good."? Personally, I don't believe we can be too heavenly minded. I think we haven't been heavenly minded enough; instead we have been too "conformed to this world" because we haven't set our affections on things above- those things that are "heavenly". "And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth." (Colossians 3:2- Amplified Bible) I probably just lost you because it sounded like I was contradicting myself. My point is, if we were truly "heavenly minded" (minding the things of the spirit) then we would be doing the whole gospel not just one side of it.
Let me get back to where I started this message. "It seems to me that in Christendom we have become so 'caught up' in the 'spiritual' aspect, that we have forgotten the 'natural' aspect of it.'" What do I mean by that? I have noticed for quite some time that most Christians are only interested in the gifts of the Spirit, miracles, signs, and wonders. There seems to be an attraction to the prophetic and working of miracles. The more "spiritual" it is, the more we want to be a part of it. Everybody wants the "anointing" so that they can lay hands on people and see them fall out under the power of God. We run from meeting to meeting seeking "a word"-- bless me, tell me something good, tell me how God has called me and I am going to do great things for Him. Am I saying that there should be no prophesying, no gifts, no visions, no miracles, no laying on of hands? Absolutely not. The scriptures talk about such being a part of the Christian life. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." (Acts 2:17) "Despise not prophesyings." (1 Thessalonians 5:20) "But to each one is given the manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit [the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit] for good and profit." (1 Corinthians 12:7- Amplified Bible) "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover." (Mark 16:17,18) "Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick." (Luke 9:1,2) Miracles, signs and wonders should follow a Christian's life and we should move in the gifts of the Spirit as the Spirit wills. What I am saying is that we have "tunnel vision". This is only one side of Christianity. There is another side that we seem to have neglected. Because we don't think it's very "spiritual".
There is another side of Christianity, that I believe shows even greater faith, yet we have put so little importance on it. I call it the "practical" side of Christianity- the "earthly good" end of being too "heavenly minded". "And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a desert place. But he said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we should go and buy meat for all this people." (Luke 9:12,13) When the disciples wanted Jesus to send the crowd away so they could get something to eat, what did Jesus tell them? "You give them something to eat." Jesus wasn't speaking of giving them spiritual food- He had already done that all day long. He was telling the disciples to feed them physically. We have been given a twofold command- minister to their spiritual need, and their physical need. Jesus was telling His disciples, "You're right, they are hungry, and need something to eat, so you see to it." This is the point of my message this month. Jesus has called us to minister to the "physical" needs of mankind as well as the "spiritual" need. Always remember, the spiritual need of mankind is greater than the physical need. We must first and foremost be concerned about the eternal souls of men. We have been called to preach the gospel- the good news that Jesus Christ came and died for your sins so that you would not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus came to die on the cross out of love for mankind. ("For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son."- John 3:16a) Everything He did, He did it out of love. As His followers, we too should walk in love. Love is an action, not just a word. Jesus didn't just tell us He loved us, He proved it by going to the cross. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8- NASB) His disciples are to make proof of His love to this world- not just in word, but in action as well. "And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 John 4:16,17)
So what does the scriptures say about Christ's disciples (followers) doing the "physical" application of the gospel. We will see from the scriptures that the Lord puts more importance on the physical application than we do. When a lawyer came to Jesus and asked Him about how to have eternal life, Jesus asked him in turn, what did the law say- "And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:27-37) In this parable Jesus not only showed us who our neighbor is, but also what it means to "love thy neighbor". Here was a man that had a "physical" need. The Samaritan tended to his wounds, placed him on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and paid the innkeeper to take care of him until he returned. How many of us have showed this kind of love to anyone? Have we been more like the priest or Levite- too spiritual to reach out to hurting humanity at the point of their need?
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." (Matthew 25:31-46) According to these scriptures, when the Lord returns the thing that will separate the righteous from the unrighteous, the sheep from the goats, won't be whether they prophesied, saw visions, had revelations, or did miracles. It will be whether or not they ministered to people on a "physical" level. It all boils down to our love walk. It's by our love that they will know that we are followers of Jesus. Love is the outward expression of the Christ that is inside of us. "God is love." (1 John 4:7) If Jesus is living in our hearts, then His love will manifest itself through actions- those actions being: visiting the sick, taking in the stranger, visiting the prisoners, feeding the hungry, cooking a meal for someone who has been in the hospital, taking care of a child so a mother can go to the doctor... I don't need to make a long list of acts of love that we can do. The needs are all around us; we don't have to look very far. When we see them, we should do whatever we can (that is within our power) to meet them. It saddens me deeply when I have heard Christians say that they weren't "called" to do certain menial task. They weren't called to "clean toilets" or "cook meals". I have news for you, if you don't know how to humble yourself and clean a toilet (if need be), how do you think God is going to promote you? He "resists the proud". (1 Peter 5:5)
I believe, according to the scriptures, that showing acts of love and kindness demonstrate more faith than removing mountains, prophesying or moving in Spiritual gifts. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." (James 2:14-18) In these scriptures He tells us plainly that if we say we have faith but we see a brother or sister hungry and naked and do nothing for them (when we are able to) other than tell them, "God bless you, I'll be praying for you", than we don't have the faith we thought we did. You can profess to be "God's man (or woman) of faith and power" all day long, but if you don't have some works- some deeds of love and kindness- to go along with your profession, your faith is dead. Real faith doesn't separate the spiritual from the natural- faith and works go hand in hand (faith being the spiritual part and works being the physical part).
The Lord is calling His church back to the basics of the gospel. I believe that we are going to see signs and wonders in these last days. But I also believe that if the church would have a restoration of compassion we would see much more today than we have been seeing. When you look at the miracles of Jesus, they were all preceded by "compassion". He was moved with compassion when He saw the multitudes and He touched them. He was moved with compassion when He saw the sick and He healed them. Jesus walked in compassion. The gifts operate by love. Without love it doesn't profit anything even though you have faith to remove mountains, though you can speak with tongues of men and angels, though you prophesy. (1 Corinthians 13) Love is to be the key factor behind everything we do.
There are more gifts listed in the scriptures than just the gifts of the Spirit. "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." (Romans 12:6-8) "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12:28)
I'd like to give you some more scriptures on the subject to ponder. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:10) "And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42) "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble." (Psalms 41:1) "He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he." (Proverbs 14:21) "But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:" (Luke 14:13) "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things." (Romans 15:25-27) "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head." (Romans 12:20)
I hope I have made my point clear and haven't appeared to be one sided. Christians aren't classified as "natural men", but "spiritual"- "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God." (1 Corinthians 2:12) Spiritual things ought to be a part of our lives, but so should "natural" things. If we're the followers of Christ that we are called to be, then we should be ministering to the physical needs of mankind as well as their spiritual needs. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27) There's an old song that says, "And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love." (By our demonstration of love- love is an action.)