- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

The following is excerpted from a sermon delivered yesterday by the Rev. Kenji Adachi, pastor of Ambassador Bible Church:

Today we will examine the heart that is compassionate. Let me begin by defining and making observations about “compassion.”

The biblical language presents a vivid image of what compassion is. It is described literally as “the bowels, the entrails, the inward parts.”

Compassion reveals more than a feeling. It is emotion in action. Biblical compassion is also selfless and seeks the needs of others over ours.

Compassion must be selfless, and it must have action, or it is useless.

For the follower of Jesus Christ, compassion is awakened and stirred by the Holy Spirit residing and reigning in us. We can’t do it on our own strength or manufacture it. It is the internal work of the Holy Spirit.

In Acts, the ultimate model of a compassionate heart is found in the life of Barnabas. Today, we will look at his investment in the life of an outsider.

We first observe Barnabas’ compassion in his acceptance of the outsider, Saul (Acts 9:26). Saul was an outsider trying to fit in, and Barnabas reached out (Acts 9:27-30).

Barnabas introduced the former persecutor to the apostles. He was slow to judge and quick to accept. He even testified on Saul’s behalf to convince the church that Jesus had reached out to Saul.

God extended the hand of compassion to an enemy and gave Saul a second chance. Without Barnabas, where would Saul be? Barnabas took a great risk. Are we willing to take a risk to extend a hand of compassion to a stranger?

We need a compassionate heart like Barnabas. We need to extend a hand of compassion to an outsider. Barnabas accepted Saul. Barnabas wanted to make Saul useful to God, so he pursued him, wrapped his arms around him.

We witness this in Acts 11, when Barnabas invited Paul to be his ministry partner (Acts 11:22-26).

Barnabas put his concerns aside and placed Saul’s needs before his. This is discipleship, a mentor walking side by side with his arm around you, guiding you through the journey of life. It takes time and energy to be a disciple, and more importantly, it takes a heart of compassion.

In the middle of Saul and Barnabas’ missionary journey, the author of Acts clearly makes two transitions.

Saul is now called Paul, indicating a new identity. I believe Barnabas had a lot to do with the development of Paul’s new identity in Christ.

The second change is in the identity of the dynamic duo. Initially they were “Barnabas and Paul,” and rightly so, as Barnabas was the established leader and the elder statesman. But while ministering in the city of Lystra, that changed (Acts 14:12).

Luke thereafter refers to the dynamic duo as “Paul and Barnabas,” giving Paul priority over his mentor.

In many ways, discipleship is spiritual parenting, training up the immature to become spiritually mature.

Barnabas took a risk and it paid off, as Saul would become Paul, the greatest missionary and evangelist in Christendom, and the most prolific author of the New Testament.

Today, we want to put compassion in action through discipleship. We want God to use you to take this church beyond where we have taken it. May God use the Barnabases to raise up Pauls.

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