Publication: Pastoral Letter, August 2002
Dear Friend in Christ:
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus! I trust that this letter finds you and yours well. As we come into the latter part of the summertime, I want to share with you some thoughts that I believe will be relevant to us in these days in which we live.
Isaiah tells us in chapter 11 that the Messiah would not judge with the eyes or ears but with righteousness. Not only does Isaiah prophesy that Jesus would judge correctly, but he is telling us that judgment based strictly on appearances is often poor judgment. “Con artists” know how to use the obvious to obscure the truth. But a person could not obscure the truth from Jesus. However, too often we are “conned” by image and shallow perception. Our lack of judgment often costs us, dearly.
Of course, Jesus made righteous decisions about people because He was anointed by the Holy Spirit, and because He looked deeper into a person’s life than their mere appearance. Even on the Cross, surrounded by two thieves, he saw one to be a believer, the other an unrepentant thief. Others just saw two thieves.
Mark 8:22-26 tells a story of Jesus laying His hands upon a blind man. “Do you see anything?” Jesus asked. “I see men walking as trees,” he replied. Then Jesus touched the man again so that the man saw clearly. Many of us need a “second touch” from the Holy Spirit in order to see people more clearly. Yes, we see something – but vaguely. There is more to see if we are going to discern the real person in front of us.
We are very busy. Stereotyping and classifying people are “easy and convenient” ways of judging them. It “saves time.” We do not even have to wait, process, or hear from God. The apparent picture seems enough. We see people as crowds and groups: “Oh, he is Asian, or Latin, or black, or white, or rich, or poor or an introvert or an extrovert.” So we see them merely “as trees walking.” We need another touch and another look if we are going to relate to them as Jesus does – in the Spirit.
Our primary purpose, like the mission of Jesus, is to seek and save the lost. Again, like Jesus, we must see people as individuals, and touch them with the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus saw Zacchaeus, a tax-collecting crook, up in a tree. But Jesus also saw something more; He saw a man hungry for righteousness.
Many years ago I was asked to visit a young man who was emaciated by heroin use. I went to his house and met his anxious father, then I made my way upstairs to the bedroom where the young man lay_thin, hallow-eyed, near death. I saw the results of drugs and failed “cures”. The young man showed no remorse and used very foul language. I thought that he was hopeless. But the Holy Spirit spoke to me to listen to him. In the months that followed, I began to see a different person; one that listened to the Gospel, and ultimately met Jesus as Lord and Savior. Appearances can deceive us.
A HANDSOME MAN
Samuel was the judge in Israel prior to and during the reign of Saul. King Saul looked like a king “should” look: tall and strong. However, he had failed to obey the Lord and was rejected by the Lord. Samuel was sent to Bethlehem to find and anoint a new king from the house of Jesse (see 1 Samuel 16).
As Samuel arrived at the house of Jesse, he surveyed Jesse’s sons and looked favorably upon Eliab. But the Lord cautioned Samuel, “Do not look at his stature or appearance because I have rejected him; God sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance; but God looks at the heart” (see 1 Samuel 16:7). So after looking at each son, Samuel finally anointed David. Later when Goliath threatened Israel, Eliab was one of those who fled. David on the other hand, slew the giant. Good appearances can deceive us also.
This doesn’t mean that either unattractiveness or attractiveness matters to God. It means simply that neither matters to God. What does matter is the heart. We need God’s help in seeing into the heart of a person. We need to let the Holy Spirit help us.
LOVING THE FLESH
Back in the early 1960s, I was pastoring a growing Southern Baptist church. All seemed well. One day my father remarked, “Your people seem to love you.” Dad had pastored for many years and I was impressed that he noticed. I tried to respond humbly, mumbling something like, “Thank you, I hope that you are right.” “Be careful,” he said, “that they do not just love your flesh.” He had set me up. “What does he mean by that?” I wondered. A year or two later, I sought and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. After that, we lost about one-half of our membership. It was a difficult lesson. Those that I thought might leave, stayed. And many of those that I thought would stay, left. I began to see people differently.
Americans have come to trust appearances and we love movie stars. Many of these “stars” lead lives that are at least questionable and deceptive. But we honor and applaud them because they are good actors. Rock Hudson was an impressive looking leading man. He starred in many movies and on television as a handsome lover. But, in real life, he was a homosexual who sadly eventually died of AIDS. Americans loved his flesh.
And the romance with appearance goes on. Unfortunately, many Christians are taken in by the same deception. Our standard of judgment has created a culture of good “actors,” both in and out of the Church.
Esau, the elder son of Isaac, looked good (see Genesis 27). He was the rugged outdoor type. He loved to hunt and prepare his Dad’s favorite meat. But God chose Jacob, the younger brother, to be blessed and to carry out His plan. Esau became bitter and ungodly in his attitude. Again, God looked on the heart.
Winston Churchill is one of the great figures in history. Mr. Churchill was not blessed with rugged good looks or with good parents. And because of his abrasive personality, he was kept out of the British government prior to World War II, though he was one of the few who could clearly see the looming international events, and he understood the truth of Adolph Hitler’s evil. However, when desperate times became evident to the rest of the world, Churchill was called upon to lead his nation. Appearances almost cost Britain its future. Dare I mention any former U.S. leaders?
Jesus looked at people individually and not as a group. He saw reality on a personal basis; that is why He related to some people so successfully. It is also why He was opposed so fiercely by others. He chose disciples based upon their hearts and not their “pedigree.” He opposed those who made giving a spectacle, who prayed ostentatiously, and displayed their religion for appearances’ sake; but He commended those who acted from the heart.
Sinners saw Jesus as a Savior because they trusted Him. If we are to reach non-believers, we must earn their trust. In my view, contemporary non-believers do not generally trust us. Maybe they misjudge us, and maybe we often misjudge them. We need to meet them heart-to-heart without any agenda except the honest love of God.
All non-believers are not alike any more than all Christians are. While we should not expect them to have spiritual discernment, they do expect that of us. And so does the Lord, who loves them. We must see and deal with the realities in their lives if we are going to succeed in communicating.
Some of the non-believing people that we find before us have a call of God on their lives. Some are future disciples, pastors, evangelists, teachers, or even apostles.
Recently, I heard a man testify about his faith in Jesus. He had been an addict and had lost everything, including his family. But someone brought the Gospel to him. It was someone who themselves had walked through a similar valley. The man repented and changed his life through faith in Jesus. Now He is teaching others how to change through faith in Jesus.
No doubt, prior to his conversion, people saw him merely as “an addict and a drunk.” The reality was that he was a future minister making his way to the cross. Now he leads others there.
One of our great needs is to have eyes to see the youth among us in a personal way. We are losing many of them to drugs, alcohol, and promiscuity. Many times, we see them as lost. However, we need desperately to see the purpose of God for their lives and help them to see it. They are often frustrated because we just see them as young people and not as individuals. At twelve years of age, Jesus was about His Father’s business.
Jesus saw youth differently. He was only 30 when He began to call disciples and most of them were younger than that. The rulers of the Jews were older – much older. “The system” had little room for youth. But Jesus saw the future in them. When Jesus died for the sins of the world, He was only 33. Most of the first apostles were younger than Jesus. But they changed history. World-changing movements are usually started among the young. We must see beyond youthfulness to see what God sees in their hearts and in their futures.
ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT
The apostle Paul says to the Church, “The love of Christ controls us…therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we no longer know Him that way” (see 2 Corinthians 5:14-16).
We do not accept and know the historical Jesus because of physical reasons. Isaiah says, “He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him…” (see Isaiah 53:2). And certainly He did not seek us for those reasons. It was pure grace. And that same grace will move us to see individuals more clearly.
So how should we look at people? We could ask Jesus for a “second touch,” so that we could see them more clearly_in the Spirit, and heart-to-heart. Let’s continue to pray together and seek the Lord’s grace so that our eyes might be opened to the people around us. Please continue to pray also for CSM. The message you have just read is one that I believe needs to get out into the Church…so that the Church might more effectively get out into the world. When you pray for us, or support us financially, or tell a friend about this ministry, you are helping us to move forward in our mission of “extending the kingdom of God…one person at a time.”
If you have not visited our regularly-updated website recently, I invite you to check out www.csmpublishing.org for news, information, resources, as well as articles and pictures. We also invite your feedback on the website…we are continually seeking to upgrade it. Thanks again for being a part of the outreach of CSM!
Charles V. Simpson
Scripture Reference: Isaiah, Mark 1 Samuel, 2 Corinthians