FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC, 8am service, 2013-09-29

Text: 1 John 3:17-18; Mark 6:34

Over the past three months we have learned what it means to grow in Christ-likeness. We have examined the eight characteristics found in 2 Peter 1:5-7. We have seen the commitment that is required of us to follow Christ – That we must be willing to deny self, take up our cross and follow Him. Last Sunday, we saw our need of courage for Christ. And this morning we bring this whole series of sermons to a climax as we consider the compassion that makes us like Christ. There are two things we need to learn about this. The first is that…

I. Christ-like Compassion Moves us to Meet the Needs of Others

This comes from having the right understanding of compassion. It is not merely a sentimental feeling or emotion. Perhaps you may take pity on someone who is in trouble, but compassion is more than that. Or perhaps you may feel sorry when you hear about the plight of the suffering, but compassion is more than that. You may even shed tears as you witness a very touching moment in someone’s life, but compassion is more than that.

What then is compassion? The words in Bible from which it is translated are strong words conveying a powerful emotional feeling, like the labour pains of a mother giving birth. The OT word for compassion (racham) is derived from the Hebrew word for a mother’s womb. The NT word for compassion (splanchna) is derived from a Greek word that refers to the internal organs – the heart, lungs, liver and intestines. Both words bring out the same idea: Compassion moves us to the very depths of our being.

And this feeling is so intense that it cannot be contained, but will burst out into action. To put it very succinctly – No action, no compassion! Compassion brings out the very best in Christ-like character: It makes a person love not just in word or tongue, but also in deed and truth, as mentioned in 1 John 3:17-18 –“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels ofcompassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

The greatest example of compassion is our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus knows our frailties, infirmities and our spiritual struggles very well; He understands our weaknesses and what we can bear, for in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18). We have a wonderful Saviour who can sympathize with us because He became a man and dwelt with us. He hungered, He thirsted, He was wearied, He felt pain, and He wept like us, in order that He might identify with us (Hebrews 4:15).

But our Lord’s compassion does not stop at just knowing, feeling and sympathizing. It moves Him to the very depths of His being to take the most extraordinary action: It moved him to relieve the sick and suffering: For instance, Mark 1:40,41 tells us —“And there came a leper to Him, beseeching Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying unto Him, If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.” Matthew 20:34 tells us that when two blind men of Jericho cried out to him, “…Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him.” Our Lord’s compassion was also seen in Matthew 15:32 when He was moved to feed the hungry multitude: “Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.”

We must now measure our compassion against this biblical standard. How far short of it are we? I must admit that when I look at myself, I realise that I do not have enough Christ-like compassion for people. My thoughts are quite similar to those expressed by Margaret Stangster in a poem which she wrote: “It isn’t the things you do, It’s the things you leave undone That gives you a bit of heartache At the setting of the sun: The tender word forgotten, The letter you did not write, The flowers you did not send, Are haunting you at night. The stone you might have lifted Out of a brother’s way; The bit of heartfelt counsel You hurried too much to say; The loving touch of a hand, The gentle winning tone, Which you had no time or thought for, With troubles of your own. For life is all too short, And sorrow is all too great, To suffer our slow compassion, That tarries until too late.”

I am sure many of us here would also share these sentiments. It isn’t the things we do that troubles us, but the things we leave undone. The painful truth is that we don’t have enough compassion for others. But let us not be downhearted by this. We can all make a fresh start today with God’s help. Let us ask the Lord to help us become more like Christ in being compassionate toward people around us. It will not be easy, because genuine Christ-like compassion will require firm commitment and courage from us. It will also require our diligent application of all the eight virtues that we have seen in our entire series of sermons – faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and charity.

And the very first step we can take is to be more alert to the needs of others. Paul says that we must “look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” (Philippians 2:4) As we go through life, there will always be people around us with needs – those who are weak or hurting or downtrodden. We must be ready to respond by doing something to help them, if we can.

One good example of this is found in the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man on his way to the city of Jericho was attacked by robbers and left to die. Two people passed by but they did not stop to help him. They both perceived the poor man’s need, but there was no action from them. Luke 10:33,34 tells us that the Samaritan “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.”

You will notice that the Good Samaritan’s compassion began when he saw the man’s plight. What he saw moved him to the very depths of his being to do whatever he could to help him. One reason why we lack compassion is that we are so busy with our own pursuits that we fail to take enough notice of the needs around us. A story is told about a young and very successful executive named Josh who was driving down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar which was only 2 months old. He was watching carefully for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed that spot, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and - WHUMP! – it smashed into the shiny side door of his car. Josh slammed on his brakes and his gears ground into reverse, bringing the Jaguar back to the spot where the brick had been thrown.

Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted, “Who are you? And what are you doing?” With great anger, he went on. “That’s my new Jaguar, and the brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?” The kid said, “Please, sir, please…I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do! I threw the brick because no one would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my brother, sir,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy pleaded, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.”

Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything else was okay. He then walked with them to make sure that the younger brother was able to get him back home all right. It was a long walk back to his sleek, black, shining 12-cylinder Jaguar – a long and slow walk. Josh never did fix that side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention again.

Does anyone need to throw a brick at you to get your attention? Sometimes we forget that even our loved ones who are closest to us at home have needs that we can meet. For instance there may be times when your spouse may be sick and still have to keep up with all the household chores. Or perhaps you have a child who has a test coming up soon, and he still does not understand his lessons. Or perhaps you have parents who are struggling to cope with loneliness and the infirmities of growing old. These are some of the simple needs at home that we can help to meet.

Then there are also people with needs in your place of work or study. God wants us to be His peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14). We Christians are supposed to be known for being compassionate like Christ. It is an important part of our testimony toward others. You may have a subordinate at work who is not performing up to your expectations. It may be easy for you to just tell him off. But do you bother to give him a listening ear? Perhaps he is going through a difficult time at home because of problems with his marriage or with his children. Or you may have a classmate who keeps very much to herself. She does badly in all her tests and exams and does not seem to have any friends to talk to. Then you hear that she comes from a broken home. How can you help to meet her needs?

Now there are obviously some needs that are just too great for you to meet, but even a small little gesture or expression of care and concern can go a long way to help them. And when there is really nothing that you can do to help, then why not offer to pray to for them? Praying is actually a very good way to meet their needs because the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). This is an important ministry that brings God’s help to meet man’s needs. And if old age, sickness or tiredness are preventing you from meeting the needs of others, you must turn your compassion for them into prayer. And who knows what great help, relief and comfort God will give them through your prayers?

Thus we have seen that true compassion will move us to meet the needs of others. But the question is asked: If that is all that it is, how then is Christ-like compassion different from the compassion shown by the world? Rich philantrophists will readily donate huge sums of money to help the poor and needy. Today there are many NGOs, humanitarian groups and religious organisations that do a lot more than we Christians do to relieve suffering. They set up and run orphanages, half-way houses, and homes for the elderly. They mobilize resources to set up foundations and institutions to provide healthcare and education for needy children. Look at the many charity drives and shows that raise a lot of funds for charitable causes. Commercial enterprises also want to do charity work – for every dollar you spend on their services, they will give a dollar toward some worthy cause. Even Singapore Pools, the national gaming operator, gives plenty of money to charity every year. Is there anything then that makes Christ-like compassion different from all this? Yes, there certainly is.

II. Christ-like Compassion Administers the Right Remedy for the Needs of Others

It isn’t just a matter of giving to them, but of giving them what really matters. Compassion requires us to be sometimes tender, and sometimes tough. This can be seen in bringing up children. A mother’s compassion moves her to be kind and gentle to her children. She cannot bear to see them sick or suffering and so she tenderly feeds them with good nutritious food. A father’s compassion on the other hand moves him not only to instruct his children well, but also to correct them and discipline them when necessary. He knows that sparing the rod will spoil the child, and so he administers the right amount of discipline. But his tough discipline is motivated by the very same compassion as the mother’s gentle care.

One passage of scripture where we can see both of these at work is 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12 – “But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God. Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe: As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”

The apostle Paul was both a father and a mother to these Thessalonian Christians. As their spiritual mother, he had such deep affection for them that he imparted not only the Gospel of God, but even his own soul. This means that he devoted himself fully, day and night, to feed them with good spiritual food. But his main concern was how they responded to the Word of God they received from him. So, as their spiritual father, Paul wanted them to grow into the full likeness of Christ. He did not merely want to impart more teaching and knowledge to them. He wanted them to stand on their own as a result of that knowledge, and to be able to withstand temptations, persecution and false doctrines. So, as a stern father Paul charged every one of them to walk worthy of God. In his second epistle that he wrote to the Thessalonians, Paul had to be tough with those who refused to work and had become busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3:6-11). He sternly commanded, “If any would not work, neither should he eat!”

The truth that we need to understand from this is that Christ-like compassion is not just about meeting needs. It is about giving what is right and useful to deal with those needs. We may be very sincere about wanting to help others, but the way we do it may actually do them a lot more harm than good. For example, some people think that the best way to help a person who is deeply in debt is to give him enough money to pay off all his debts. But what happens? He gets into debt again, because he believes that there will always be people to bail him out. Showing compassion to such a person means dealing with the root cause of his problem – the sinful habits that make him spend beyond his means. Perhaps it may be a habit of buying on impulse, or credit card abuse. You may need to sit down patiently with him and go into the details of his expenses, until he learns how to manage his finances properly.

Christ-like compassion must move us to give people the right help rather than just the requested help. And sometimes, the right help they need may not be welcomed by them at all, because it deals with spiritual issues. A person’s physical and material needs are often symptoms of his spiritual needs which are greater. And the greatest need that every person has is to be rescued from the bondage of sin. This need is actually the root cause of most of the problems, burdens and sorrows that people face in life.

Sometimes you may not feel like helping certain people anymore because they keep taking advantage of you and they abuse all the kindness and compassion you have lavished on them. But you must then consider: What is it that causes them to do these things? Is it not the malignant cancer called sin that still lurks in their hearts? And if this is the cause of all the bad things they are doing, then surely what they really need most is your wilingness to help them find the deliverance they need from sin. The only way to obtain that deliverance is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The greatest need of every man, woman and child is to be delivered from sin through the Gospel of Christ. Their lives need to be changed through the power of God.

Unfortunately, many have wrongly diagnosed the problem. They thought that all the world’s problems could be completely resolved by promoting more international understanding between people, by providing equal opportunities for everyone to succeed by offering cheap housing, free education, free healthcare and an equal redistribution of wealth. They defined compassion as how much money the government spends each year to eliminate poverty. But all this has not helped. All the years of spending to eliminate poverty have increased the national debt of many countries, crippled their economies, and created more poverty!

There are some who think that our greatest hopes are in the recent advances man has made in science, technology and communication. The world is now more connected than ever through the Internet and social media. If you lose something valuable, just put it on Facebook, and you may get it back soon. And so it is believed that this will bring about a more compassionate and caring society. But new technology not only brings new benefits. It also brings new sins as well! Today we hear of computer viruses and spyware. We hear of websites being hacked. We hear of electronic fraud, on-line theft, gambling and exploitation. We hear of malicious gossip going viral. We hear of people being radicalized into terrorism, and drawn into pornography and prostitution by having free access to certain websites on the Internet.

The truth is: All the best remedies that man uses to solve his problems have proven to be futile, simply because he cannot change himself. Man may invent and reinvent many things, but he cannot reinvent himself. Nothing he does can eradicate the sinful nature from within him. He cannot keep himself from earning the wages of sin which is death, destruction and a hopeless eternity. This is the way that we ought to see the world today, because it is the way that Christ Himelf sees it!

Let us look at Mark 6:34 to understand how Jesus sees the world – “And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.” Most of the time, when we look at a crowd of people that is all we see: just a crowd of people. But when Jesus looks at a crowd of people, He sees much more than that. He sees what they really are: They are like sheep without a shepherd. They have no one to guide them or to lead them in the right path; they have no one to provide them with the right direction they need in life. They face continual harassment and oppression from sin. What the Lord Jesus sees in a multitude are people wallowing in the misery of sin and all its dreadful consequences, people who are heading for eternal death in an awful place of torment called hell.

But Mark 6:34 also records that Jesus was deeply moved with compassion when He saw all that. His heart felt their pain and misery. The compassion He had for them then led Him to teach them many things – things they needed to know about God, about themselves and about how they can be saved from sin, and changed by His power. And that same compassion that our Lord had for them, eventually led Him to the cross, where He paid for their sins with His own life.

In order to have Christ-like compassion, we too need to see people the same way that our Lord Jesus saw them – people who need a Shepherd who can lead them in the paths of righteousness. They need a Shepherd who can teach them everything they really need to know. They need a Good Shepherd who will lay down His own life for His sheep, to deliver them from sin. We must therefore change the way we look at people around us. Outwardly they may seem to be happy – partying, feasting and enjoying life – but deep inside them there is a big aching void that nothing can fill, except Christ. Therefore they need someone to bring them to the Good Shepherd. Will you be compassionate enough to see this need, and be moved to meet it?

The multitudes who need Christ are found not only in areas within our reach like our homes, neighbourhood and our place of work or study. They are also found in our local outreaches like the students and residents in Yishun, the Girls Brigade in Sembawang and the migrant workers at Soon Lee recreation centre. They are also found in the mission fields where our missionaries are serving like Batam, and where our partners-in-missions are labouring, like Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. How can we bring them to the Lord Jesus Christ so that they can be delivered from sin? Let each of us consider this morning, how we can be more outward-looking, and more willing to go forth to those who need the Gospel both locally and overseas, so that they can experience the Lord’s wonderful deliverance from sin, and grow to be like Him.

I think that this makes a good and fitting conclusion to our whole series of sermons on Growing in Christlikeness. Our ultimate aim in building our character is to be conformed to the image of Christ. And we have just seen in Mark 9:34 that Christ was moved to compassion on the multitudes of people who were lost in sin. And so, to be like Christ, let us be moved to compassion to bring them to Him for salvation. We must not stay any more within our own comfort zone. We cannot keep all the blessings we have in Christ all to ourselves. Let us with God’s help, go forth passionately and compassionately to bring the Gospel of Christ to the people out there who need it most.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11