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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Thoughts on God Pursuing Sinners

Luke 15:2, "And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them."

15:31-32, "Jesus answered and said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call 
the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

Luke 19:7, "But when they saw it , they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner."

Jesus ate with sinners, fellowshipped with sinners, visited sinners, and pursued sinners in the Gospels. Today I did some counseling ministry after work and was meditating on the reality of the sovereign pursuit of God among sinners. It is such a diverse mystery and a finite mind like mine cannot grip the greatness of God (Deut. 29:29, Isa. 55:8, Rom. 11:33)! Nevertheless, I can see God's relentless pursuit of sinners in which he desires all to be saved (John 6:40), and come to the knowledge of the truth through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ the Savior [and yet acknowledging only some will come to faith] (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Timothy 2:24-26). 

C.S. Lewis said, "The Bible teaches that God, far from waiting passively for us to discover Him on our own, actively pursues sinners for the purpose of bringing them into His fold."

While counseling today, I could see the hand of God pursuing the sinful heart of who I was meeting. God is avidly pursuing this person to believe in his Son and be reconciled. It is a glorious thing when you can see this! It was my role to be the messenger and preach the Gospel.

Afterwards, I reflected on my life and the amazing providence God has demonstrated in so many situations when I was not a believer. I noticed the pursuing nature and force of God that was trying to get my attention in order to wake up my soul that was so asleep in darkness. I have come to a conclusion that God was always working all things out in my life in such a sovereign sense, that one day in my senior year in high school, I boldly collided into the Cross of Christ. For it was the first time I heard the Gospel in truth. I was a sheep who heard the Shepherd's voice. I was seized by his glorious grace through faith. God was aligning things in my life to perfectly bring me to the place where I would crash into the bottom of the cross in knee-bent humility. He used my friend James to show me the way. He used my ex-girlfriend to show me the truth. He used my church to show me the life that was found in His Son. Now some 8 years later, I cannot be more thankful for God working in my life and actively using his outstretched arms to lead me to the Scriptures that are wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15).

I immediately think of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:1-14 when it comes to God pursuing sinners. His warfare victories for Syria were given to him by God. God used him to be victorious against potential enemies that would rise up again Israel. He was a non-believing sinner from pagan Syria who was plagued with the disease leprosy. Then one day the Lord spoke to him during his most prideful, powerful, and prestigious age in life. He got leprosy. This shattered his image and brought him crashing to his knees in divine need of a remedy. Through this difficulty, I can totally see God on the pursuit to save Naaman. The Lord was using an infirmity to shout at Naaman about his spiritual bankruptcy. Six people soon follow to show Naaman the Way in which God uses in his pursuit of Naaman's soul. 

First, God speaks through an Israelite slave girl captured in battle, who is his wife's servant. She tells his wife about the prophet Elisha who can heal him. Secondly, his wife shares the information with Naaman which prompts him to speak to the king of Syria. Thirdly, the king of Syria tells Naaman to go and he sends a letter to the king in Israel, giving him the okay to journey to Israel. Fourthly, Elisha's servant tells Naaman to do what the prophet says by going into the water and dip seven times to be healed. Fifthly, Naaman's servant recounts what instructions had been given by Elisha's servant to convince him to obey the word of the Lord with what little faith he possessed. Lastly, Naaman obeys Elisha's commands and is healed. He shows himself to Elisha with a heart of godly sorrow that produces repentance and transforms him into a believer of the One true God of Israel. Elisha says, "Go in peace." Those were the last words said to Naaman that were progressively built up to his divine healing from leprosy to continue in faith. Jesus says the same exact thing to those he healed in Mark 5:34, "Your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

If there is anyone you know who is not a believer, have hope in Jesus. The Lord is in control and completely sovereign. What hope we have in the Lord! He wants men to be saved, and therefore we trust him to save them and they will come to the knowledge of the truth in Christ! We cannot save people, Jesus can. For the reason Jesus came into this world is to "save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). He is the author of salvation. He is the only one who can write names in the Lamb's Book of Life. He only writes in permanent-eternal ink. He is the only one who can transform hearts. He is the only one who can pursue sinners and radically call them out of darkness into his marvelous light. 

The Lord is patient and long-suffering and does not give up on sinners (2 Peter 3:9), but radically and emphatically pursues them to be reconciled to him (2 Cor. 5:19). Delight in God's active pursuit of sinners. No one is out of the reach of the Savior's pierced hands the bled redemption, justification, and propitiation for our sins!

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