1 Peter 4:7-10 “The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
We operate a winter night shelter for homeless men where we share the hope of Jesus and offer a lifeline to those in life crisis. Over the winter, we come to know quite a few of our guests well, but there seems to always be someone I haven’t reached out to yet. One night I approached a fellow I hadn’t talked to before and introduced myself. I offered to take his plate, but could tell there was a need for a message of hope, so I sat down. He began with a little of his frustrations and I asked him if He wanted me to tell Him about Jesus. His non-verbal answer was, “Where is the hope in that? I’ve heard of that.” So, I let him tell me about his family and what happened to it. He has four beautiful children but his drinking addiction destroyed his relationships and he’s now on the streets. He told me about his former work and the successful business that he used to run, but the drinking destroyed that too. He began to do his own reflecting,”The sad thing is, that all I am sitting here thinking about tonight is where I’m going to get $1 for a drink in the morning. That’s sad, isn’t it.”
He’d invited me into his thoughts; the door had opened. “Yes, it’s sad, but we all made with an empty place inside. The Bible said we’re like jars of clay every pot has an empty place inside until its filled with something. It was made to be filled with the presence of God, but when we don’t find that, we try people – who disappoint, work – which leads to more work, stuff that just gets old, and sometimes things that bind us and destroy our lives- like alcohol.” He told me that once you are an alcoholic, you are always an alcoholic.
I know that’s the teaching in AA, but inside I disagreed in the hopelessness of that message, because Jesus said He makes all things new and I’d heard the testimonies from those who have been healed of the desire. Christ gives us a new mind and can take away the cravings for things that master us, if we only choose Him as our new Master. He’s the Master of Transformation if we’re willing to give Him our whole life. We can’t choose to keep part of it and find freedom, but freedom is there – miraculous freedom. I explained that sometimes choosing God looks like you’re standing in front of a 9′ wall and you can’t see what’s on the other side when you’re blinded by it. When you say yes, the wall comes down and a new way you’ve never understood becomes available, with power to resist the old things that destroy. When you submit everything you are, He welcomes you in. I asked Him if He would let me pray for him and waited while fear and hesitation held him in a grip. I think it was a fear of breakdown, but he submitted and I prayed blessings and grace upon him. He said, “That was beautiful and wiped a tear.”
Over in another area of the room, an argument broke out over some racial issue. I approached another man sitting nearby who overheard the argument and asked him for his thoughts, which led into a great discussion somehow about when we are saved. “Do we just make it in?” one man nearby said. “I mean, when he declares us righteous, that’s just barely, isn’t it?”
“NO!” I exclaimed. If you’re righteous, you’re as righteous as Jesus because that’s who God looks at to judge your righteousness. He asked about something in Peter. “If you are righteous, it isn’t because you make better choices than other people, although that is the evidence that you’ve truly accepted the saving power of Christ. I held out before Him the sacrifice of Jesus in cupped hands. Jesus offered a sacrifice that no priest had ever offered. As a spotless lamb, He approached the Father and held out in his own hands a cup of his own blood. We are sprinkled with the blood of a sacrifice so powerful that no further sacrifice is needed. It covers past and future sin. That’s why Jesus sat down when He was done and said, ‘It is finished.’ That is why rejecting it and keeping a part of your life in your own control doesn’t work. When you understand that every sin you’ve ever committed and will commit is in that blood, how do you feel? …. Overwhelmed with gratitude and joy, perhaps? If you really understood that this cup has the victory over ever sin and evil power in your life and that you were FREE, you would be filled with such joy that you could’t help but tell people. You wouldn’t be tempted with the filth you clung to before, because you would receive a new heart and mind and you wouldn’t think the same way.”
“I can see it! I can see how I would feel that way!” He said. Then he told me he’d gone back to church for the first time last week and began to tell me about his pastor, that he worked in the library as a security guard and that’s where he’d run into him again.
A memory came alive in my head. “Wow – I’m sure I just had a conversation with that man this week! Tell me his name!” Sure enough it was the same man who reached out to me and my kids in the library. When we walked out, we’d said, “That man has a mission in there.” So God gave us something in common and it was soon time to go. He asked when I’d be back so we could talk some more. I can’t wait.
Sometimes we fear spreading the Gospel because we don’t really believe it is good news. Sometimes we don’t know where to start or feel that we aren’t gifted in that way. I realized that sharing the gospel comes out of wonder and amazement that comes from seeing that cup of sacrifice in Jesus hand before the Father. It’s all good news and it has the power to set the captives free – if only we believe that ourselves.