Summary: The Gospel changes our lives.
The following story reminds us that the gospel has the power to change lives. It is from an interview with Jim Cymbala, pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
“Down and Out on Easter Morning”
David Ruffin was one of the thousands of homeless men in NYC.
Left his home in Greensboro NC with dreams of making a life in NYC. But what he wasn’t prepared for was how quickly the city chews up and spits out the naïve and the uneducated. David soon found himself demoralized, alcoholic and homeless. He writes,
“I woke up one day and found myself in the streets homeless. Something had been taken away from me. It’s like, to me, like a fall from society.”
“Being homeless was about the worst thing that could ever happen to me. You grow up always expecting to do something with your life. Then to find yourself in a situation like this – it was really horrible. It hurt me the most one day when it started to rain. I would see people scurrying, scattering all over the place, just going different directions to their homes. I looked at myself, and it was like, “Now where do I go?”
The Brooklyn Tabernacle is one of the places he used to go to get out of the weather. It was Easter Sunday. He was dirty, filthy, smelly, drunk. But something compelled him to come in to the church service. When the pastor gave the altar call, David came forward. From here, Pastor Jim Cymbala tells the rest of the story.
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I took some money out of my pocket and started to offer it to David. He pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I can’t use you, because this is why I called you where you are. This is what you are about. You are about this smell.
Christ changed David’s life. He started memorizing portions of Scripture that were incredible. We got him a place to live. We hired him in the church to do maintenance, and we got his teeth fixed.
A year later David got up and talked about his conversion to Christ. The minute he took the mic and began to speak, I said, “The man is a preacher.” This past Easter we ordained David. He is an associate minister of a church in New Jersey. And I was so close to saying, “Here, take this; I’m a busy preacher.”
Our text this morning is Colossians 1:21-23. This passage speaks of the power of the gospel. This powerful text flows from the preceding passage in which the Apostle Paul elevated Seven Attributes of Jesus.
God made known to us Image of the invisible God