From the description of John Burke‘s book Unshockable Love: How Jesus Changes the World through Imperfect People (formerly Mud and the Masterpiece):
“We are designed to make an impact in our world, and we can start by loving our neighbor.
What do you see when you look at the imperfect people around you? What do you see when you look in the mirror? Are you shocked at the faults, failures, and moral shortcomings? Or do you see the beauty and potential that God said was worth dying for, the masterpiece hidden beneath the mud of sin in every person? How you frame a person in your mind makes all the difference.
Apply the message to your life through the following NEXT STEPS:
Here are some of the thoughts they shared:
We’re all trying to figure out life, and our place in the universe. That’s what every human has in common. God also has a Story, and He wants His story to intersect our story because that’s when we find a life and purpose that lasts.
Have you ever realized that God’s at work behind the scenes, drawing people to Himself?
When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself. John 12:32
Paul realized that God’s already at work, behind the scenes, with all people of all cultures. Paul goes into Lystra, a pagan, idol-worshipping city, and says :
“We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. 16 In the past he permitted all the nations to go their own ways, 17 but he never left them without evidence of himself and his goodness. For instance, he sends you rain and good crops and gives you food and joyful hearts.” – Acts 14:15-17
Paul sees that God doesn’t love one culture more than another. Even though he gives people free will and lets us go our own way if we want, He is always doing things, sending signs, giving good gifts, putting joy in people’s hearts, and whispering thoughts into our minds. He’s already at work wooing people to Himself.
The Pharisees of Jesus day thought God would have nothing to do with “those people.” That’s why the Pharisee stood up in the Temple and prayed:
“Thank you God that I’m not like that sinful tax collector.” – Luke 18:11
Yet Jesus said it was the tax collector, not the Pharisee who went home right with God that day. The Pharisees didn’t understand what their own scriptures said:
“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” – 2 Chronicles 16:9
Jesus saw the greatest faith in a hated Roman Centurion. He saw the greatest love in a forgiven immoral woman. He reached out to the love-thirsty Samaritan woman who had been divorced 5 times and shacked up with a 6th man. Jesus offered her God’s living water to quench her love-thirsty soul. God wants to restore the Masterpiece under the mud.
Jesus said he came to bring Good News to all people. Paul brought Good News to all people. Do you bring Good News to those around you?
Many Christians have gotten it wrong. They think their job is to bring bad news first, but that’s not what Jesus’ message was about. Jesus’ message was truly Good News for ALL people because God wants to give people their deepest desires for love, security, peace, life, and freedom!
Pharisees thought their job was to convict the world of its sin—a bad news first message. I’ve heard Christians say this “People won’t know they need good news until they hear the bad news.” Only two problems with this—one, it’s not what Jesus did or said. Two, it’s exactly what the Pharisees believed. They appointed themselves the moral police of the world. They they thought their job was to make sure people knew how wrong they were. This is not what Jesus did.
Jesus did speak hard words – 30 times to be exact, but you know WHO he spoke hard words to and WHEN he spoke them? During the first 2.5 years of his 3.5 year ministry Jesus spoke hard words 8 times and 6 of these moments were with the religious pharisees. The other 22 times he spoke hard words was in the last year of his ministry. After 2.5 years of loving, serving, healing, bringing Good News to all people, Jesus saved hard words for the persistently hard-hearted.
Whose job is it to convict the world of sin? Jesus said:
“[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of its sin.” – John 16:8
Convicting others and condemning others is not our job. Our job is to follow Jesus. So, what did He do?
“Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about [God’s] Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease.” – John 4:23
Jesus brought hope, healing, and God’s help to a struggling world. He demonstrated and told people about Good News: “God is for you. He’s not against you. You don’t have to run from God or fear God’s condemnation. He will forgive. He will adopt any person who wants in His family.”
The word “Gospel” means “Good News” or “good message of God’s story.” If you don’t know how to convey this Good Message then learn from Jesus.
Also realize, it’s not complicated. If your story has intersected God’s story then somewhere along the way of being a blessing to people around you, you need to SHARE your story.
“God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:19-20.
God wants all people to know how He feels about them—he uses willing people to put SKIN on His message. People who are learning to love God and others, even more than we love ourselves. We are called by God to care about others more than our own reputation. God pursues people. He wants to help them, but he often wants to use us to love them enough to tell them how He feels.
Your story is powerful. Think about how you would share your story and God’s Story? In the Next Steps, we have an exercise to help you.
1. What was your life like going your own way apart from God?
“I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death.” – Acts 26:9-10
2. What made you decide to follow Christ and how did you decide?
“One day I was on such a mission to Damascus…a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions…and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic,[d] ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’ “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.” – Acts 26:12-15
3. What’s life been like with God?
Paul goes on to explain:
“What could I do, King Agrippa? I couldn’t just walk away from a vision like that! I became an obedient believer on the spot. I started [telling others about] this radical turn to God and everything it meant in everyday life—right there in Damascus, went on to Jerusalem and to the whole world. It’s because of this ‘whole world’ dimension that the Jews grabbed me in the Temple that day and tried to kill me. They want to keep God for themselves. But God has stood by me, just as he promised, and…everything I’m saying is completely in line with what the prophets and Moses said would happen.” – Acts 26:19-23
So what’s your story?
Do you realize all the pain, struggle, and confusion all people are going through? They are just like you and me, and God loves them and cares just as much about them as he does about you. He wants to intersect their story, because no matter how tragic, when He gets involved, He can write a New Story and even use our Story to help others going through the same.