by Pastor Bob Miller
At the start of a new year, it's a natural thing for us to look back over the past year and ask ourselves: "How'd I do?" You look at the magazines and listen to the media, and it's all about The Best of 2018 – or the Man of the Year. I heard that Serena Williams was proclaimed Female Athlete of the Year. Lebron James got Male Athlete pf the Year. Even the Nazarene Church posted their most essential highlights of this past year.
When I sat down to write my Christmas card, I was forced to think about the significant things that marked 2018. So many times we want to mark these significant points or events which inevitably show up. They are life changers - it may have been a loss, a surgery, a marriage, a birth. These are significant. But have you ever wondered what it is that God sees as significant? What it is that gets his attention? If He were to give standing applause, what would it be for?
Would it be for a great sermon, someone who gives a considerable sum of money, does a fantastic miracle? Some of us look at the year and think , “I wish I’d done something great but not this year… maybe one day I can do something that will get God's attention.”
What I want you to see is something I think will surprise you. Turn with me to Matthew 25:31-46.
Those are sobering words aren't they? I see three things that touch God's heart.
The first thing I notice is that God gets excited when we reach out to those in need! The idea that overwhelms me about this scripture is that Jesus identifies so closely with the lost and the needy. Did you catch the personal pronouns in verses 35-36:
"For I was hungry, and you gave ME something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave ME drink I was a stranger, and you invited ME in, naked and you clothed ME. I was sick, and you visited ME I was in prison, and you came to ME". (Emphasis mine.)
In other words, when you did it, you did it to me. The same logic is applied in verses 42-43. Whatever you didn't do, you didn’t do it to me. God identifies with us! When Jesus walked among us as the Son of God, the Bible says, "He had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." The word compassion comes from the same Greek word which means "guts." It means when Jesus saw our need, it moved Him at gut level. God saw our need and our lostness and He sent His Son Jesus to be our Savior! God identifies with us so thoroughly that he put upon Himself human flesh and He walked among us and lived with us and died for us.
In verse 40, Jesus says something I wish He didn’t. "To the extent, you did it to one of these brothers of mine…even to the least of them; you did it to me."
The same God who sees the sparrow when it falls is the same Father who takes notice when we reach out to care for people, people who do not have the ability to repay anything we do for them. He notices when we give without expecting anything in return.
When Jesus described His ministry, He said that He had come to serve and not be served. He said that He came to seek and to save those who were lost!
The touch that touches the heart of God is the one that reaches out to those that are lost and in need.
The second touch that reaches the heart of God is the touch that reaches out to do simple things. They were the things most people would say are unimportant. Look at what the Lord recognizes as a ministry,
You gave me something to eat, you gave me something to drink, you clothed me. You came to visit me.
These are not big things. Anyone of us could do them. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to pull it off. You merely need to be able to recognize the need, and be willing to go out of your way to do it.
No wonder those people looked at the Lord and were amazed. "How did you know I did that? I don't even remember doing that?" The things God notices are so simple and straightforward, anybody could do them. But not everybody will. And that it the rub.
You see, the things God notices reveal what is in our heart. By doing these things we are not brought closer to God. The Bible tells us that we can't earn our Salvation. That is a gift from God. It has already been provided for us by the shed blood of Jesus. Our Salvation is received by faith in what Jesus has done for us! These simple acts are merely the fruit of a life that has been touched by Jesus. They are the acts that flow from a heart that beats with the heart of Jesus.
What touches God's heart is seeing you or me doing something that anyone could do but which only those who have His heart would find themselves doing!
The Lord says what counts is, "You gave a drink to someone thirsty, food to someone hungry, you visited someone when they were sick. These little things are the things Jesus is talking about because they are done without any thought of what we can get in return. They are done out of love!
We are going to be surprised on that day. To some whom we think are doing the BIG THINGS, God is going to say, "I don't know you. Please let so-and-so by. They gave a drink of water in my name!"
Let me give you a tip on touching others: Start where you are! Bloom where you're planted. Stay where you are and begin to minister right there! Before you can make a difference elsewhere you must start right where you are at!
The third touch that touches the heart of God comes from the heart! Catch the motives in this passage? Both groups were equally surprised. Both groups said,
"Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, or naked or in prison?"
The righteous didn't have a clue. They were helping because they cared! They loved others. They saw the world through the eyes of Jesus, and they only did what He would have done.
The unrighteous didn't have a clue either. They were, in essence, saying, "Lord when did we see you? If we had known it was you we would have been the first to feed you and clothe you! Had we known it was You, we would have given you everything. Lord, why didn't you let us know it was you?”
The righteous did it because it was right. Because they loved people and because they loved God. They never did it expecting anything in return. They just did it. That is the fruit of their salvation. When the Holy Spirit comes to abide in our heart, He fills us with the love of Jesus, and that love is expressed in caring for others.
Tony Campolo tells the true story about Joe. Joe had been a drunk that was miraculously converted at a downtown mission. Before he met Christ, he was known as a dirty wino without any hope or redeeming qualities. But after the Lord forgave and changed Joe, he became one of the most caring and loving people around that mission. There was nothing that Joe would not do to help others. If vomit needed to be cleaned up, it was Joe who would do it. One night following one of the evangelistic services that had been held at the mission, one of the men responded to the call to come and pray. The repentant drunk knelt at the altar and began to cry out, “Oh God, make me like Joe!" The director of the mission said, "Don't you mean, make me like Jesus?" The man looked at the director with a quizzical expression and asked: "Is Jesus like Joe?"
My prayer is that God would put Jesus in our hearts, so that our world would see Jesus in us, and they would want what we have!
The things that touch the heart of Jesus are simple, easy things – something that anyone can do. They are done out of love, and they are done for those who have a deep need! We don't always see people who are thirsty or hungry. But every day, we rub shoulders with those who need our Savior. They are hurting inside, and they need Jesus.
One of the most loving things we can do is to tell them about Jesus.