Wants or needs?
In the days after the first Pentecost, Peter and John were on their way to the temple for afternoon prayer (Acts chapter 3). As they were about to enter the temple grounds, they came across a man who had been crippled from birth. The man’s friends placed him there every day at the temple gate to beg for a coin or two from people coming to the temple.
Peter knew what the man wanted. More important, he knew what the man needed. As the man’s open hand stretched out to Peter, Peter looked him in the eye and said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.” Then came the double gift that filled not the man’s wants but his greatest needs. Peter said to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
That first gift was amazing enough. The man miraculously not only got up and walked but also began jumping and leaping.
But the second gift was even greater. As he ran and leaped into the temple courts, he praised and thanked God for what he received in the name of Jesus. The man who had been lifted from his mat to his feet was also a man who had been lifted from his hopelessness and sin into the arms of a gracious Savior. Only minutes later, he heard Peter speak to the gathered crowd and point to the One who made this healing possible, Jesus.
People today are no different than the beggar at the temple. Their lives are often filled with sadness, frustration, and despair. They are searching for something, anything; that will make their lives happier and more fulfilling. They know that something is wrong, but they look for solutions in the wrong places.
In that search, some come to the church looking for answers. Like the beggar, they hold out their hands asking for something that they think will help them. Maybe they desire an emotional boost to help them feel better about themselves. Maybe they seek to be uplifted by compelling preachers and entertained by uplifting music in worship. Maybe they are looking for practical advice on how to cope, how to be better parents, how to be better mangers of their money.
What answer should we give them? Shouldn’t it be the same answer that Peter gave to the beggar? God’s church has not been placed on this earth to dispense practical advice to self-absorbed consumers. The mission of God’s church is not primarily to meet the physical and emotional needs of people who measure happiness on the basis of what they have and how they feel. The answer given by the church to such people should be, “We have none of these things for you. But what we have we will give you.”
We have the same message that God gave to Peter and the apostles. We have the message of God’s law that unmasks the real problem in people’s lives, the fact that they are poor miserable sinners standing before a holy God and deserving only his punishment. And we have the message of the gospel that speaks to crippled and helpless sinners a message of forgiveness, healing, love, and life. We point them to Jesus, the only place where sinners can find what they really need.
If that’s what people get when they come to us, their joy will be as genuine as the man who was healed at the temple, a joy that comes from sins forgiven, guilt removed, and sorrow banished by the blood of Christ. It’s maybe not what they thought they wanted, but it’s what they really need.
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Author: President Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 102, Number 3
Issue: March 2015
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