Posts Tagged 'witnessing'

Are You Swinging Your Crutch?

crutch free

James Stephenson tells this story:

When the German army, during the Franco-Prussian War, was proceeding towards Paris, they passed through many villages. At one of these villages the inhabitants went out to resist their progress armed with crude weapons of various descriptions. It is said that an old woman came out with a crutch, which she swung in the air. “Go back! They will think you mad,” her fellow villagers exclaimed. “I don’t care what they think,” said she, “as long as they know whose side I am on!”

No, that old woman wasn’t mad, she was fearless and full of conviction. Christians would do well to take a lesson from her. Here’s a question each one of us should be asking ourselves: Do our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances know whose side we’re on?

That’s not an unimportant question. In the midst of our so-busy lives, we’re engaging in so-important endeavors, yet the most important thing is whether or not the people in our lives know we belong to Christ. Because in the end, C.T. Studd will be proven right:

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Our duty: Share the Word

Sharing Christ isn’t an option for the believer, it’s his solemn duty. It can be terrifying. A lot of us aren’t really confident sharing our faith. Part of that fear might be our temperaments. Let’s face it, some of us are shy, we’re not used to being personal with other people. We’re afraid of what they might say or think of us. And our culture has really screwed up our heads, too. At least a couple of generations have been taught that our faith in Jesus is a “personal thing.” But the Bible teaches the exact opposite; giving your faith away is an essential part of the Christian life.  Witnessing is such a vital part of your Christian experience, the apostle Paul wrote about a two-fold emphasis in Romans 10 –

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:6 – 10 NIV)

Witnessing to the lost involves both your heart and your mind. But what does that mean? If you can understand what Paul is getting at, you’ll have more confidence than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll be a witnessing machine.

Non-believers are always needing to see before they’ll believe. In other words, unbelief in the Gospel message is made manifest when a person demands to have firsthand empirical proof of the Incarnation (“bring Christ down”) and the Resurrection (“bring Christ up from the dead”). The stubborn, unsaved heart needs to see the proof before they’ll believe.  But faith doesn’t work that way. Faith works with the divine Word of God – the witness of God Himself proclaimed in the message (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ. Therefore – and here’s the kicker – the faith to believe, which isn’t native to man, is immediately generated when a lost soul hears the Gospel! What that means is simply this: When a sinner hears the Gospel – when he just hears the Good News – the Lord imparts to his heart the ability to believe the message. Of course, learning more about Jesus comes later. But that historical knowledge, as important as it may be, is purely secondary and nonsalvific. In the very simplest of terms, you’re not saved with your brain, you’re saved when God enables your heart to believe.  The Word of God, not your words, does all the work. All you have to do when you share Jesus with the lost is liberally salt your words with His. Your words might pique your unsaved friend’s interest, but God’s Word, when you speak it, will save him. That’s your duty. You speak the Word from your heart with your mouth.

Our witness: Our word

So then, it’s the Word of God that does the saving. But quoting Bible verses at a lost soul will probably yield pathetic results. Or maybe a black eye. When we share our faith with the lost, our witness is our word – it’s telling them our story. There are five components to every believer’s story:

I’m a sinner. The only thing that separates you, a believer, from that lost soul you’re witnessing to is the fact that you’ve been forgiven and he hasn’t been. He needs to know that. He needs to know that you’ve been saved in spite of yourself.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8, 9 NIV)

And he needs to know that, too. You don’t confess your sins to him, you are saved because you confessed your sins to God, and that’s what he needs to do. Every Christian has had to do that. The sinner you’re witnessing to isn’t any worse than any other sinner; we all came to God the same way: Confessing our sins to Him!

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5 NIV)

I’m not perfect. You confess your sins to God, but to others, especially to that unsaved person you’re sharing your faith with, you own up to them. There’s nothing worse than a Christian who thinks they’re faultless. Unfortunately, much of the unbelieving world has been given that impression. It’s up to you to disabuse them of that falsehood! James 5:16 –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Of course, you don’t go crazy with that; you just let him know you’re not perfect.

Jesus is for all. Here’s another thing every sinner needs to know: Jesus died for them. He didn’t die just for certain people, He died for all sinners. Now, not every sinner benefits from Jesus’ work; only those who do this:

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32 NIV)

The word Jesus used is “whoever,” not “some.” The lost soul you’re talking to is “whoever,” just as you were once. Nobody is so bad that they can’t come to Jesus or that He would turn them away. And nobody is too good for saving. Jesus makes a bad life good and good life better.

Jesus is God. This is obvious to you, but maybe not the person you’re witnessing to. This present generation is probably the most spiritually dull generation in American history. To many, “Jesus Christ” is just something you say when you’re angry or surprised. But He much more than that.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. (1 John 4:15 NIV)

To “acknowledge” that Jesus is the Son of God is more than just an intellectual exercise. It all goes back to “believing in your heart.” To “acknowledge” the divinity of Jesus is to believe by faith that Jesus is who He claims to be.

Jesus is Lord. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God is just be beginning; the foundation. Jesus Christ must also be Lord of your life.

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:11 KJV)

When Jesus is Lord of your life, He’s the one in control. He’s the Sovereign, reigning on the throne in your heart. The lost soul needs to understand that. That means Jesus, the Savior, also wants a relationship – He wants to be the One to lead you through all the rough waters of your life. That’s what “Lordship” means.

Jesus is coming again. There’s a lot of talk about “the End of Days” being upon us, and the “Second Coming” may be close at hand. The truth is, we are living in the last days and Jesus is coming back, sooner rather than later. But something else is also true: we will all see Jesus face-to-face, either when He returns to earth as King of Kings or after we die and see Him in glory. There is no way to avoid seeing Jesus. It’s in the sinner’s best interest to see Jesus as Lord and Savior, not as Judge.

How to give your faith away

Here’s where the rubber meets the road: You know what to say, but when, where, and how do you say it? What’s the best way to share the Gospel with a lost soul? Volumes have been written about this thing called “personal evangelism,” but there are really five simple ways that have always worked.

Write or speak an encouraging word. Did you know most people are either discouraged, depressed, or frustrated? It’s true. We live in a negative world at a very negative time in history, and all that negativity rubs off on people. Nothing can lift a sagging heart like a note or email of encouragement or just a simple, sincere, “I’m praying for you” spoken in passing.  It can open the door to more later.

Carry your Bible. If you’re timid or shy, let the Bible open doors for you. Carry a small Bible in your car or in your back pocket, have one on your desk at work or in your locker. Read it at lunch time. It will open a door; somebody will say something, guaranteed. If you’re scared about approaching people, let them approach you.

Speak like a Christian. Christians are supposed to live differently. They should also speak differently. Sir Robert Peel, Conservative statesman who served two terms as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was also a strong Christian. One time he was having dinner with some Members of Parliament and was irritated by some of what he referred to as “improper language.” In the midst of dinner, Sir Robert called for his carriage and explained to the other “gentlemen” around the table, saying, “Gentlemen, I must ask you to excuse me: I am still a Christian.”  That took guts, but it is a form witness. Being mindful of what you say and how you say it counts for something. How you react to “improper speech” you hear is also just as important.  Let people know you’re different.  It will make them curious.  Or furious.  But a door will be open.

Say grace. Believe it or not, just saying grace is like killing two birds with one stone. You’re thanking God for your food and you’re witnessing to onlookers at the same time. Never be ashamed to bow your heard and say grace, wherever you find yourself at lunchtime or dinnertime. It’s harmless and unobtrusive. And it makes the sinner think.

Be baptized. Being baptized in water isn’t just a ordinance of the church, it’s a form of witness. Being baptized in water is a way to share your faith with those who may be watching it. It’s a drama in miniature of what Jesus did for you; it’s a way to openly testify to your friends and neighbors of your new faith.

If you are a Christian, there is no more important activity you can engage in than sharing your faith with one who is lost. Nothing. Not getting work on time. Not paying your bills every month. Not raising your kids. Nothing is more important than witnessing for Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14, 15 TNIV)

Let’s look at that word “preach.” Normally, when we see that word we think of the Preacher, or the Pastor. We equate preaching the Gospel with preaching a sermon, and that’s something the Pastor does every Sunday. That’s not the idea Paul is trying to convey. “Preach” comes from the Greek word kerusso, a verb. It means to “publish,” or to “proclaim” or “to make known.” The call to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ has been given to everyone who trusts Him. From God’s point of view, there is no division between clergy and laymen in this. All believers are alike in the sight of God and all are on the same level. It is true that God has declared that some members of the church should be set aside as elders to preserve order within His church, but no elder – no pastor – has special access to God, and most of all, no elder or pastor stands as a mediator between man and God.

The simple truth of the matter is this: All Christians have been called to take the Gospel to an unbelieving world. Like the old Parisian lady who swung her crutch over head to show the invading army whose side she was one, we need to ask ourselves: Do the people around us know whose side we are one? Are we swinging our crutches high enough?

If Christianity is so great, why can’t I talk about it?

DSC_0308_09_10_tonemapped+-+crop

At some point in the life of every Christian, they come to the stark realization that they’re supposed to be telling other people about their Christian faith. But how do they do that? Witnessing, the non-technical word for “personal evangelism,” terrifies many believers. They find out early in their evangelistic efforts that a lot of people aren’t nearly as excited about the Christian faith as they are. The witness, they face rejection, they feel deflated, and they decide to “live their faith” rather than talk about it. Sound familiar?

Fortunately for Christians like us – I say “us” because it’s happened to me, too – there is hope for recovery. We’re not failures. We’re not bad or lazy Christians. Witnessing doesn’t come easy for most of us. It’s really kind of funny when you think about it. We Christians have the cure for death, yet we have trouble sharing that cure with people who are dying. Imagine if you had the cure for cancer how easy it would be to share it!

Confidence

Like most endeavors in life, you need confidence to succeed in witnessing. If you aren’t sure you if you can play hockey, you’ll be falling down all over the ice. If you aren’t sure about what you believe, you’ll be tongue-tied, and even if you manage somehow to get the facts of your faith out, you’ll sound unsure and disingenuous. You need confidence that Christianity is what that person you’re talking to needs the most. You need to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that no matter what that person is going through, what you know is what they need to know; that your faith is what will help them.

But, how do you get that confidence? Where does it come from? Can you learn it? Can you practice enough to “gin it up?” The short answer NO, you can’t learn it; NO you can’t “gin it up.” That confidence is already inside you, all you have to do is tap into it.

While we’re asking questions, how about answering this one: Are you a confident breather? Seriously, do you think about each breath you take before you take it? Do you practice breathing to make sure you get it right? Of course not! You just do it. Sharing your faith should be like breathing. Your faith is simply part of who you are, like your lungs. Your faith – your beliefs – should animate you; they should be behind the way you talk, the way you work, the places you go, and so on. At any moment of any day, your beliefs should be so real to you; so much a part of who you are and what you are doing, that if somebody comes along and asks you about them, the words should just come naturally. This is what Peter was getting at when he wrote this:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Maybe one simple reason why some of you find witnessing so difficult is that there isn’t enough revering go on. Maybe you just don’t think Christ is that big a deal, and therefore it’s not your faith or beliefs that animate you. Something else is. If this is the case, you have a much bigger problem than not being able to share your faith!

All things being equal, however, and if you are a true believer grappling with how to make the “Great Commission” part of your everyday life, reverence for Christ will motivate you to share Him with others. He is a big deal, and what He did when He saved you is a big deal. It’s a big story worth telling. But in order to do that, we need to know what we believe, why we believe it, and we need to be able to communicate it to people in a way that makes sense to them.

Essentially, we need to know why Christianity is so great.

What we think versus what is true

Here’s what a lot American Christians think: Christianity is on the decline; that nobody wants to hear about Jesus and the Bible. Christians think this way for a number of reasons. First, they think Christianity is on the decline because they attend churches that are, on a good Sunday, half full. Or half empty, depending on the church. A lot of these churches are old, with sanctuaries built to seat two or three hundred people, with names on a sign that include: Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran; words that to modern ears mean nothing. And herein lies the problem, which I’ll deal with shortly. While it certainly looks like Christianity is in decline, the facts tell a different story.

The overriding fact is Christianity is on the rise all over the world. Christianity is growing faster than any other religion. Generations ago, Nietzsche famously declared, “God is dead.” Well, today you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who believes that. In behind the growth of Christianity in places like China, India, and other Eastern countries, is the shocking growth of religion in general. People are very interested in God – or god – and the spiritual life. Even in materialistic America, and to a greater extent the materialistic West, more and more people are searching for spiritual answers to the problems of their lives. Two or three decades ago, secularism was seen as the “new religion,” but today secularism has largely fallen by the wayside as secularists have discovered it holds no answers. Secularism is nihilistic. What people want is some kind of hope; they want a belief system that helps them to make sense of their world. Even the rise of the so-called “new atheism” is marked by faith. Believe it or not, there are “churches” for atheists. What these people have discovered is that faith in something, even in atheism, is better than having no faith at all.

These “searchers” are looking for God – your God – whether they realize it or not. Of course, what they find in their search is more often than not something other than the God of the Bible. They find some wacky new age religion, some “family-friendly” cult, or even Allah, the god of Islam. Islam is growing fast; it’s second behind Christianity in much of the world. What people find so attractive about Islam, a dreadfully false religion, is that its teachings permeate every area of life. This is what people want – they want a faith that speaks to every area of their lives. The challenge before Christians is to tell people why Christianity, not Islam, is the only belief system that truly makes sense.

Another reason why so many of us see Christianity in decline is that we don’t see it anywhere. Think about what’s happening in America today. You’re not allowed to talk about God on government property. Crosses and symbols of Christianity are forbidden – you can’t wear them and you can’t display them because you might offend somebody. When you watch TV, do those TV families you see ever go to church? Fifty years ago, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Aunt Bea, Opie, Helen his girlfriend, and Barney his deputy all went to church together. They were seen singing in the choir and working in and around their church. Rarely, if ever, do you see characters on TV portrayed as sane Christians these days. When Christians are portrayed on TV, they are likely portrayed as wacky cult leaders or fundamentalists who have a stockpile of semi-automatic guns, making plans to shoot up an abortion clinic. Churches, if they are portrayed in a positive light at all, are seen as homeless shelters, food banks, or bingo halls, not as houses of worship where members praise God and fellowship together. Pastors, if they aren’t seen sleeping with secretaries or pilfering the collection box might be seen lobbying the government to clean up a local landfill or heading up a recycling project in their neighborhood. But he’s certainly never seen doing what pastors do: leading people to Christ or shepherding his flock.

These negative and false images take their toll on Christians, who often spend more time in front of the TV being brainwashed than they do reading their Bibles or going to church. We come to believe we are truly in the minority; that there really is no interest in Christ. But that’s not true. That’s a fantasy created by Hollywood and the entertainment world.

This leads us to another reason why it seems as though Christianity is decline. Because Christians are in retreat, they think Christianity is too. Nowadays, serious Christians have all but abandoned the non-Christian world. We have our own theme parks. We have our own TV stations and radio stations. We have our own schools. We associate almost exclusively with other Christians. None of those things are bad, by the way, but it’s very difficult to be “salt and light,” as Jesus said we were to be, when we never venture into the dark world.

In spite of all of the above, there is a resurgence of spiritualism and faith all over the world. If you don’t see it, you’re looking in the wrong places.

Religion versus Faith

So, if there is this resurgence is spiritualism and faith, why aren’t churches full? People have finally figured out what some Christians haven’t – churches are not synonymous with faith. Put another way, people think they can find God and faith without a church. They’re not all together wrong about that. A generation ago it was very common for a Christian to identify himself as a “Presbyterian” or a “Methodist.” Today those religious labels mean nothing. What people really want is the faith component, not the religious. They want God, not religion. That’s why we see without exception mainline denominations dying as the independent, non-denominational churches growing and thriving. Churches are not dying. Denominationalism is.

What that means is that when you go out to share your faith, you’d better share your faith, not your church. Don’t invite people to church, invite people to have faith in Christ. Before you freak out and stop reading, you really do need to get this person you’re witnessing to into your church eventually. But people are more sophisticated than they used to be. They can tell if you’re only interested in adding them to your church roll. They don’t want to just be a number; they want a new life. Only Jesus can give them that, not your church. Your church may be good at teaching people how to live their new life, but they have to have that new life first. So don’t put the cart before the horse. Care about that lost soul first, then care about your church. We Christians should be leading the lost to faith, not to religion.

The time is ripe

Given that people are trending toward the supernatural these days, there has never been a better time to share your faith with them. You as a Christian have the truth, and while there are many, many false religions for people to chose from, and while many lies are being told about the nature of faith and Christianity, the truth is powerful. God’s truth cannot be held back or covered up. It’s a force of nature that cannot be stopped or silenced. All you have to do, as a sincere Christian wanting to share your faith, is tell God’s truth. The lost need to know who Jesus is and what He has done for you.  Be confident. Christianity is winning. The church of Jesus Christ is not dying. Have confidence in your faith.

Moses and the Art of Personal Evangelism

untitled

Numbers 10:29 – 32

One day Moses said to his brother-in-law, Hobab (son of Reuel, the Midianite), “At last we are on our way to the Promised Land. Come with us and we will do you good; for the Lord has given wonderful promises to Israel!”

But his brother-in-law replied, “No, I must return to my own land and kinfolk.”

“Stay with us,” Moses pleaded, “for you know the ways of the wilderness and will be a great help to us. If you come, you will share in all the good things the Lord does for us.”

This is such a brief conversation that seemingly has nothing to do with anything, so we wonder why the Holy Spirit included it in the canon of Scripture. It is such an innocuous exchange, we are tempted to just skip over it. Yet we need to remember this: An untold number of men and women gave their lives in defense of the Bible – of every single verse and word of the Bible. So these four verses must be important. They are in our Bible for a reason and it’s up to us to discover why.

The fact is, there is much the church of the 21st century can learn from these four verses. A recent article makes the point that many pastors and Christian leaders have been making for many years: Christianity is losing in America. This excellent piece by Craig Dunkley paints a bleak picture of an increasingly impotent church.

Data from the Pew Research Center shows that those who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated with any religion have been rising as a percentage of the U.S. population. In 2012, nearly 20% of the public fell into one of those categories, up nearly 5 percentage points over the preceding 5 years. When focusing on adults under 30, about one third consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated. Almost exclusively, the gains in these groups reflect losses for Christians, with Christians dropping from 78% to 73% of the population over the same period.

Dunkley comes to the right conclusion:

[C]hurches are not teaching their members enough about Christian apologetics. This leaves church members unable to respond effectively when their beliefs are challenged. As a result, they often come to doubt what they’ve been taught, and they are certainly ill-equipped to help “win over” friends or acquaintances who may be seekers “on the fence.”

The whole article is well worth your time so be sure to read it. You can find it here:

http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2015/01/christianity_is_losing_in_america.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook

I want to focus on the second half of the last sentence in the above quote: [Church members] are ill-equipped to help “win over” friends or acquaintances who may be seekers “on the fence.”

That nails the problem most Christians have – they have no clue how to effectively share their faith with others.

And that brings us back to this exchange between Moses and a fellow with the unlikely name of Hobab. Moses didn’t seem to have difficulty sharing what he believed with another. We shouldn’t either, so let’s take a closer look at his experience. Maybe we can learn something from Moses’ encounter that will help us.

Hobab was Moses’ brother in law, the son of Reuel, a.k.a. Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, and Jethro was a helpful person. He joined the Israelite camp not long after it arrived at Mount Sinai. It wasn’t just a friendly, chance encounter. He brought Zipporah, his daughter and Moses’ wife, to her husband, along with the two sons. Jethro and apparently one son didn’t stick around too long and soon went back to Midian. The other son, Hobab, stayed behind. Just before Moses and his people broke camp to begin their desert trek, he had a conversation with Hobab.

Like Moses and the people of Israel, we Christians who make up the church of Jesus Christ are also on a journey of sorts. As we walk through this life on our way to the next, we encounter all kinds of people who are also on a journey. While we know where we are going, most people don’t. If they knew, they’d probably want to adjust their spiritual GPS so that they would travel along with us.

Pilgrims

“Pilgrim” is a good word to describe the people of both Israel and the Church. They were set free from a life of bondage in Egypt and we have been set free from a life of bondage to sin. They were on a journey from their old life of slavery to the Promised Land of Canaan and we have are on a journey from our old life of slavery to sin to Heaven – our Promised Land. Both Israel and the Church may be considered “visitors” to planet earth.

But our homeland is in heaven, where our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, is; and we are looking forward to his return from there. (Philippians 3:20 TLB)

Back in the “golden age” of Contemporary Christian music, Ben Vaughn and Peter Case wrote some lyrics worth remembering:

We are pilgrims in a strange land

We are so far from our homeland

With each passing day it seems so clear

This world will never want us here

We’re not welcome in this world of wrong

We are foreigners who don’t belong

We are strangers, we are aliens We are not of this world

Petra, the group that made this song famous, struck a profound, Biblical cord with these lyrics. We Christians are “not of this world.” We are here temporarily. It’s a good idea to be reminded of this fact from time to time so that we don’t get too attached to the things of this world, which are even more temporary our stay here.

Pilgrims animated by faith

To Moses and the people of Israel, God promised more than once that He was going to lead them to the Promised Land. It was their faith in His promise – His Word – than animated them. Without that promise, who would want to walk across a hot and dusty desert? It was their faith in God’s promise that made them press on. Over the intervening years, the people experienced good times and bad; periods of great faith and times of great faithlessness, but they persevered in spite of their circumstances and their feelings. That’s the real secret every Christian needs to appropriate. It’s our faith, not our feelings, that should move us. It’s what we will have, not what we have, that should be our motivating factor.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. (Hebrews 11:1 TLB)

Pilgrims with a story to tell

The Church of Jesus Christ is family; it’s the “household of God.” There are many more on the outside looking in, though. Just as we are “not of this world,” so there are many people all around us who are not part of the “household of God.” Some may not want to be. Some may want what to be part of the “household of God,” but don’t know how to get in. And that’s what Paul was getting at when he wrote this:

But how shall they ask him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14 TLB)

Jesus put it in more urgent terms in His so-called “Great Commission”:

And then he told them, “You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.” (Mark 16:15 TLB)

In case you aren’t aware it, there is an “Old Testament Great Commission,” which goes like this:

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring the happy news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns. (Isaiah 52:7 TLB)

The original spiritual pilgrims, the Israelites, were journeying to their Promised Land and they had a story to tell, which Moses told Hobab. Hobab wasn’t part of the family of God – he wasn’t an Israelite – but that didn’t stop Moses from making him an offer:

Come with us and we will do you good; for the Lord has given wonderful promises to Israel. (Numbers 10:29 TLB)

Think about how Moses shared his faith – which is what he was doing: He shared God’s Word with Hobab. Remember, Moses didn’t have a Bible; the only Word of God Moses had were the “wonderful promises” God had made to Israel. So it was Moses’ faith in God’s Word that not only animated him to live a life of faith, but also to share that same faith with one who didn’t know.

What Moses did was the essence of personal evangelism, the process of telling an unbeliever what you believe. But Moses didn’t share his opinions or his ideas with Hobab. He kept it simple, sharing only what God had said.

Not only that, look at the phrase, “we will do you good.” In other words, Moses told Hobab that if he came along with them, all the blessings of God would come to him. Even though Hobab never heard the promises of God firsthand and even though God had promised to bless only His people, Moses knew that if an outsider walked in faith alongside the people of God, those promises would become his promises as well.

There are a lot of people in your life and mine who would love to have we have in Christ. But they need to be offered the chance in a way that they can understand and they need to hear the Word of God in such a way as it makes sense to them. Here’s how Moses did that:

“Stay with us,” Moses pleaded, “for you know the ways of the wilderness and will be a great help to us.” (Numbers 10:31 TLB)

It’s like Moses was sweetening the pot. He appeals to Hobab’s sense of vanity; Hobab has a skill that the people of Israel would benefit from. Now, it’s interesting Moses would say such a thing, given that God had just made it clear that Moses and the people of Israel were to be following the visible presence of God in their trip. They didn’t need a human guide. We don’t know why Moses said what he said to Hobab; it may well be that Moses wavered a little in his faith. It wouldn’t be the first time. You’ll recall that’s the very reason Aaron went with Moses in his confrontation with Pharaoh. Regardless of the reason, Moses was quick to make the offer in a way that made it sensible for Hobab to accept.

Following Jesus is the most common sense way to live; it’s the best way to live. To the non-Christian, following Jesus may not make any sense at all, and it’s up to us find a way to make the Christian life make sense to them.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. (Titus 2:9, 10 NIV)

That’s the whole point in sharing your faith with the lost: “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.” Christians need to live their faith and share their faith in such a way as non-Christians find the Christian life something they want to be a part of.  The truth is, if a person is lonely, Christ can change that. If a person is angry, Christ can change that. If a person is full of fear, Christ can take it away. If a person is lost and desperate, Christ can change that.  Christ is more than able to supply whatever a person lacks in his life.  The thing is, he needs to be told that in a way he understands.

Do you know how to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive?” You should! Your faith should animate you; your beliefs should be a part of your life and sharing them with others should be as natural as breathing.

And so I solemnly urge you before God and before Christ Jesus—who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom—to preach the Word of God urgently at all times, whenever you get the chance, in season and out, when it is convenient and when it is not. Correct and rebuke your people when they need it, encourage them to do right, and all the time be feeding them patiently with God’s Word. (2 Timothy 4:1, 2 TLB)

That’s Paul’s advice to a young preacher, but the principle is applicable to all believers. All of us, preacher or not, should be prepared to give the Gospel to the lost, at any time, whenever the opportunity presents itself. We should care that much about the lost. Paul was right: we are debtors to them.  We owe them a coherent, cogent, honest presentation of the Gospel.

 

Trusting Your Theology

BeFunky_non_tollit.jpg

Some things are just hard to explain and even harder to understand. Try understanding any – and I mean any – government form. Even worse than trying to understand the form itself is trying to grasp the reason why you have to fill the darn thing in the first place. Sometimes understanding assembly instructions for a piece of furniture requires a degree in engineering. And who can fathom recipes? “Fold in.” Who knows what that means? Or what about road signs? I’m sure I am the only driver in my neck of the woods who knows how a four-way (all-way) stop works.

Christian theology can be hard to understand, too. And hard to explain. Take, for example, the wonderful and well-known piece of theology no Christian can live without knowing: the hypostatic union. If you are a Christian, you know full well about the hypostatic union. You hear about it in church every Sunday. What, exactly, is the hypostatic union? It’s the doctrine that tells us Jesus Christ is One Person with two separate and distinct natures. All Christians know about the hypostatic union even if they don’t its name. We all know Jesus is “God in the flesh.” That He is both the Son of God and the Son of Man. Two natures. One Man. The hypostatic union. So, explain it to me. How is the hypostatic union possible? The answer most Christians would give is: “Nobody can explain the hypostatic union beyond a simple definition. It takes faith.”

Yes, faith. The last refuge for people who are too lazy to wrestle with Scripture; to try to understand and make sense of what they believe. Don’t misunderstand, we can’t all be theologians and Bible scholars. But how in the world can a Christian fulfill the Great Commission unless they know what they believe and know how to explain it?

Work hard so God can say to you, “Well done.” Be a good workman, one who does not need to be ashamed when God examines your work. Know what his Word says and means. (2 Timothy 2:15 TLB)

But as for you, speak up for the right living that goes along with true Christianity. (Titus 2:1 TLB)

There may well be mysteries or paradoxes in the Christian faith. There will be elements of our faith we may never fully understand until we see Jesus face-to-face.

Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is. (1 John 3:2 TLB)

That’s a fact. But it isn’t an excuse. Let’s consider some basic, fundamental Christian theology you may believe but have difficulty explaining.

What is theology, exactly?

Our English word “theology” comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning “God,” and logos, meaning “word” or “expression” or “study of.” Before we can tell anybody about God, we need to think right things about God. Thinking rightly about God is as simple as knowing what the Bible has to say about Him because the Bible is God’s revelation to man about Himself.

Christians are funny people. We become experts in the things we are interested in. Movies, TV shows, Hollywood gossip, baseball, politics, you name it, we can talk about it. But the truth is, it really doesn’t matter what we think about those things. It matters greatly what we think about God.

Why is theology so important?

The answer to this question is one word; a name actually: Jesus. It’s His fault that theology is so important. Here’s why:

Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: ‘Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37 – 39 TLB)

Theology makes this possible. It feeds our minds, enabling our hearts and souls to fulfill the second greatest commandment. And it goes without saying that when we have a right understanding of God, we will understand ourselves.

Ignorance is never bliss

Some people think theology is only important for the pastor to know about. Others think theology is just too divisive – that it causes arguments and splits in churches. They think it would just be better for everyone concerned if we kept quiet about theology. But that’s wrongheaded thinking! Theology is what the Church of Jesus Christ is built on! Without theology – good theology – there would be no Church. Paul has an interesting way of describing people who don’t know theology: he calls them immature. And immature Christians are most certainly a danger to themselves and could be a danger to others!

Why is it that he gives us these special abilities to do certain things best? It is that God’s people will be equipped to do better work for him, building up the Church, the body of Christ, to a position of strength and maturity; until finally we all believe alike about our salvation and about our Savior, God’s Son, and all become full-grown in the Lord—yes, to the point of being filled full with Christ. Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. (Ephesians 4:12 – 14 TLB)

You just can’t trust a Christian who doesn’t know what he believes. And forget about the confused saint trying to witness to the lost! That really would be the blind leading the blind. Ignorant, confused Christians are the type of people who are up one day and down the next. They are the ones with enough faith to move a mountain on Monday, but by Wednesday they aren’t sure if God even exists. James has an interesting way of describing this kind of Christian:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5 – 8 NKJV)

Who needs it?

I guess the only person who doesn’t need to know some sound, basic theology is a double-minded man. But for the rest of us, we need to know some. Truth be told, everybody has a theology. Everybody, even the atheist, has beliefs about the nature of reality, morality, ethics, and so on. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that not all theologies are good or correct. With so many different ideas floating around, some must be wrong.

The Christian has an obligation to know for certain that his theology is the right theology. In our secular, postmodern, PC culture, all theologies have merit, they say. One man’s belief is just as valid as the other’s, they say. But is that the case? Isn’t there an “ultimate theology” above all others? Every religion would say that their theology is the correct one. So how do we know ours is?

For the Christian, it all goes back to the Bible. Our theology is objective; it is not based on what we think or feel at the moment. Our beliefs are rooted in a Book centuries old; beliefs that have not changed since they were written down and have persisted in cultures and societies all over the world. Other “holy books” and teachings have come and gone; have changed to keep up with the times; have been modified, added to and edited to suit the culture and societal norms of the day. Only the Bible has remained unchanged; it’s truths influencing the world around it, not influenced by the world around it.

As Christians, we may be absolutely confident that our theology is the right theology because God has revealed Himself to His people in a meaningful way.

But we know about these things because God has sent his Spirit to tell us, and his Spirit searches out and shows us all of God’s deepest secrets. (1 Corinthians 2:10 TLB)

This is not an insignificant statement Paul is making here. Our faith is based on the objective realities that each one of us has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand the mind of God, and that we are created in the image of God, which means we have the ability to think and reason just like He does. We can actually tap into the mind of God through the power of the Holy Spirit within us. It is that same spirit that opens up our eyes to the teachings of the Scriptures.

But the man who isn’t a Christian can’t understand and can’t accept these thoughts from God, which the Holy Spirit teaches us. They sound foolish to him because only those who have the Holy Spirit within them can understand what the Holy Spirit means. Others just can’t take it in. But the spiritual man has insight into everything, and that bothers and baffles the man of the world, who can’t understand him at all. (1 Corinthians 2:14, 15 TLB)

Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word. (Psalm 119:18 TLB)

If these things are true, as Christians believe them to be, then it makes sense that our beliefs are the correct beliefs and that only Christians are teaching objective truths. Every human being gets their sense of right and wrong; their sense of morality and ethics, from some place or someone. Parents, teachers, peers, and even from within oneself come ideas that contribute to one’s theology. As worthy as those contributions may be, they aren’t always trustworthy or dependable because they are not objective but subjective. That is, ideas that come from the mind of another are subjective; they are subject to feelings, change, debate, modification, and so on. The ideas that come from the Bible, revealed to and illumined in the hearts of believers by the Holy Spirit, are objective because they are the same for all believers, of all cultures and races, and for all time. So what is wrong in America is also wrong in Singapore. What is considered righteous behavior in New Guinea is righteous behavior in Great Britain. The theology of the Bible works for everybody, everywhere, every time.

Are we always right?

Given that Christians possess the ultimate truth and believe the correct theology, are we always right? I wish that were the case. Unfortunately, our temperaments, personalities and sinful natures get in the way sometimes. But just because from time to time a believer behaves in a way that demeans Biblical theology, that doesn’t mean what he believes is wrong. It means that he is flawed human being. Our theology may be perfect, but we are not. That’s why when we share our faith – our theology – with others, our focus needs to be on God, not on us. John. R.W. Stott wrote:

Evangelical Christianity is theological in its character, biblical in its substance, and fundamental in its emphasis.

We would do well to remember those words! When we are sharing our faith, it really isn’t our faith we are sharing, it’s theology given to us by God through His Holy Spirit and His Word. Sound, reliable, consistent theology that springs from those sources should embolden all believers and fill them with reassurance, hope, and confidence. Why? Because what they believe didn’t originate with any man, but with God.


Bookmark and Share

Another great day!

Blog Stats

  • 285,749 hits

Never miss a new post again.

Archives

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 279 other followers

Follow revdocporter on Twitter

Who’d have guessed?

My Conservative Identity:

You are an Anti-government Gunslinger, also known as a libertarian conservative. You believe in smaller government, states’ rights, gun rights, and that, as Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

Take the quiz at www.FightLiberals.com

Photobucket