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Evangelism 101: The Power of Living a Holy Life

1409490_39519859“Preach the Gospel always and, when necessary, use words.”

Most of us have heard that famous quote by St. Francis of Assisi, but I think that very few of us actually take it to heart.  The Bible gives us several verses that back up what St. Francis was saying.  To sum it up: the most powerful evangelism comes from how you live, not what you say.

“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5: 14-16 NLT)

When we become saved, we immediately have the light of Christ inside of us.  It’s our job to shine that light so that the whole world will see.  But so often Christians hide their light under baskets.  Every person has a different name for their basket.  Some call their basket compromise.  Some call it secret sin.  Some call it popularity.  Some call it the pursuit of money.  Your basket is anything in your life that you put ahead of holy living.

But something tragic happens when we hide our lights: we lose our authenticity and credibility with unbelievers. Most of the time, if not all of the time, when unbelievers come searching for answers they have come to a point in their lives when they realize that how they are living isn’t enough.  There’s a void that needs to be filled.  They’re searching for that missing piece of the puzzle that will make them whole.

We as believers know what that missing piece is, yet how can we convey that to them if we live the same way they do.  They aren’t looking for words, they want an authentic lifestyle that shows them why we are different.  If there’s no difference, then there obviously hasn’t been a change.  This is what makes us lose our credibility with unbelievers.

We have no ground to stand on when our lives don’t reflect the love of Christ.  If our lives look just like anyone else’s, how can we possibly tell them that they need to change?  Leading someone to the Lord can’t be a “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of deal.  It needs to be authentic.  In other words, we need to be living out the change that God has brought into our lives.  Failing to do so not only diminishing the redeeming work of Christ, but also inhibits the conversion of others.

We all know how important it is to love others.  But I’m going to be bold and say that if we don’t live in a way that leads people to the Lord, then we are exhibiting the opposite of love.  Because truly loving someone means that we care what happens to their eternal soul.

If we just go along with the flow and do what we have to do to fit in, then other people can’t see what God has done in our lives.  Sure, we can sit there and throw back beers with our buddies while telling them how God has blessed you with peace in your life.  But they don’t want to hear words.  Everyone says words.  They want to see an authentic change.  Without that, there’s no proof of our salvation.

And why would anyone change their lives, change their perspectives without seeing proof that this Christianity thing actually works?  We are asking people to turn away from all their sin, to change their priorities and put God above all else.  That is a huge commitment!  And we can’t help someone make that change with some kind of Christian sales pitch.  They want to see it worked out in our lives.

Here’s a practical example.  If a friend of your tells you that they have an amazing vacuum cleaner that deep cleans the carpet and filters the air.  It’s super quiet and so easy to use.  Their house has never been cleaner and their family isn’t even showing signs of allergies in their house because the wonderful vacuum has sucked up all the dust!  The only catch is, it costs one thousand dollars.

I’m sure that you would listen politely, but when it came to the price tag, you closed off your mind.  Why?  Because although it sounded like a great machine, that’s a huge price to pay just based on the recommendation of a friend.

But let’s say that friend brought the vacuum over to your house and gave you a demonstration.  He showed you first-hand how much dirt it picked up.  When he was done you could smell the freshness in the air.  He even let you use it so that you could experience how easy it was to handle.  Thanks to that demonstration and you being able to experience how such a device could change your life, you start to consider the price as being reasonable.  Although, not everyone who has a demonstration will buy the vacuum, they will at least be able to see that it is worth the price.

If we want people to leave their old life and dedicate their lives to the Lord, we need to show them that it is worth the price.  We need to show them authentically how God has worked in our lives and the change He has made in us.  Once people see it first-hand, they will be more open to receiving the free gift of salvation.

“Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” (James 2:26 NLT)

 

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I Want to be a Mighty Warrior in the Lord’s Army

1023188_36749750I was reading in 1 Chronicles (albeit, not the most exciting of book), when I came across an interesting passage that got me thinking.  It’s only a couple of verses long and mentions a name that I have only seen one other time in the book of 1 Samuel.  Here’s the passage:

“Here is the record of David’s mightiest warriors: The first was Jashobeam the Hacmonite, who was leader of the Three–the mightiest warriors among David’s men.  He once used his spear to kill three hundred enemy warriors in a single battle.” (1 Chronicles 11:11 NLT)

I don’t know why this verse stood out to me, and I haven’t done the research yet to find out why this was important enough to be included in the Bible.  But I do know what this verse got me thinking about.  I remember singing the cute little song in VBS about being in the Lord’s army.  Maybe you’ve heard it before.

I may never march in the infantry

Ride in the cavalry

Shoot the artillery

I may never fly over the enemy

But I’m in the Lord’s army

It’s one of those songs that have stuck with me throughout the years.  But growing up, I never really understood the concept of spiritual warfare.  But I have seen it in life.  It’s as real to me now as any war going on in the Middle East.  But the spiritual enemy is far more cunning and conniving that any member of the Taliban.  The Enemy silently deceives believers and works tirelessly to detour them from the path that God has laid out before them.  His mission is simple, to destroy and undermine the work of the Lord.

Knowing that we are all locked in a spiritual battle, whether we know it or not, I began to think about my role in the Army of the Lord.  I could be like the draft dodgers of the 60’s and 70’s and hope that the battle never comes to my doorstep, and if it does, maybe closing my eyes and pretending it’s not there will keep me safe.

Or I could be like a sniper, patiently waiting for the enemy to make itself known, then taking it out in a calculated attack.  But that seems a little too passive for me.  God has given me a personality that doesn’t like to wait!  So where do I fit in?  What’s my role in the Army of the Lord?

After reading 1 Chronicles 11:11, I finally figured it out.  I want to be one of God’s mightiest warriors.  Both times that I’ve seen Jashobeam’s name in the Scriptures, it was to show how powerful of a warrior he was.  But he served an earthly king.  My King is eternal.  When I accepted the free gift of salvation, I was also accepting my enlistment into God’s Army.  All Christians are members of that spiritual fighting force, but there are some who don’t pull their weight.  There are some who close their eyes to the battle and pretend that everything is fine.  There are even those who work as double agents, calling themselves Children of God yet doing the works of the Enemy.

But there are also those who have distinguished themselves as the mightiest of all of God’s warriors.  They spend all of their time working against the Enemy and making sure that the work of the Lord is accomplished.  Despite the attacks of the enemy, the continue to fight for the Lord, even in the face of persecution and ridicule.  It is among these mighty warriors that I strive to find myself.  I’m not there yet, but just as an enlisted seaman would work tirelessly to be able to join the ranks of the Navy Seals, I want to spend all of my time trying to achieve the rank of one of the mightiest warriors for the Lord.

Ignoring the fact that we are locked in a spiritual battle does nothing more than make you useless for the Lord.  We need to embrace our Almighty Leader and fight for him with more fervor than any warrior in history has fought for his king.  I am so grateful for the redeeming work that Christ has done in my life that I can think of no greater honor that to be able to fight for Him.  It’s not about fame or being the greatest in the Kingdom of God.  It’s about the passion that I have for Him and that there is no way to repay Him for what He has done for me.  But I will continue to try to repay Him by fighting for Him and living my life in such a way that those who serve the Enemy, knowingly or not, will be persuaded to follow the risen Savior, and experience the joy that comes from serving Him.  Amen.

 

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Evangelism 101: The Power of Knowing the Scriptures

1419184_44660695In the last post, we discussed the power of listening to others.  In order to truly understand where people are at, we need to ask them questions; give them a chance to tell us what’s on their hearts.  Once we know the questions in their minds or the stance that they may take on certain subjects, then we have an amazing opportunity to meet them where they’re at and lead them to a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ.

The problem comes when we don’t know enough about the Scriptures to be able to adequately answer their concerns.  Sure, most Christians know the basic Scriptures that spell out the path to salvation: John 3:13, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23.  But what happens when the person you are trying to witness to brings up a subject or an objection that has nothing to do with the plan of salvation that you have memorized.

For example, let’s say that after a wonderful heart to heart conversation, the person to whom you’re trying to witness brings up a tough question: “If God is so loving, why does he let bad things happen to people who haven’t done anything wrong?”

This is by no means an easy question to answer, let alone use it to lead someone to the Lord.  But if your answer to the question is, “Well the Bible says that everyone is a sinner, and that the wages of that sin is death.”

To this answer, the person then says, “So you’re saying that my wife died of cancer because she was a sinner?”

Not only have you now offended this person, but you may have lost that soul instead of saving it.  There’s no point in meeting people where they’re at if we are unprepared to take it any further than that.  We need to be in the Word.

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  (Roman 1:16 ESV)

The Word of God has the power to lead anyone to Christ.  As my amazing pastor has said, “Perhaps what we need to say has already been said…by God.”

It’s so important that we are in the Word every single day so that we can be ready to answer any question that people may pose for us. (1 Peter 3:15)  And it’s not just enough to say, “Well the Bible says…..” We need to be specific.  We should be able to direct people to the exact place in Scripture that backs up what we are saying, and preferably be able to give them the context of the Scripture as well.

But remember–and this is incredibly important–if you don’t know the answer, don’t give one.  It’s ok to admit that you don’t know the answer to a question.  One of the worst things you can do is give someone the wrong answer to an important question.  Likewise, an answer that lacks authenticity can drive a person away.  People are looking for the truth.  They don’t want some sugar-coated Gospel that tells them what they want to hear.

In order to witness to people, we must be able to ask the questions that will help us meet them where they’re at.  But we must prepare ourselves to take it from there.  And the best way to prepare is to know the Word of God.  Studying is great, but we need to cement the Word in our minds so that we can recall the necessary Scriptures when the moment calls for it.  Give yourself a goal, maybe one verse or passage a week.  Don’t try to win people with your words when the Word of God is more than able to handle the job.

 

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Evangelism 101: The Power of Questions

1409010_84143580Our church is finishing up a sermon series called “Wildfires.”  The purpose of the series was to light a fire inside of Christians and motivate them to go out into the world and win people for Christ.  It was incredibly inspirational and convicting to me.  So I wanted to take a few posts and hit on some of the highlights of the series and present them here for you, as I believe these are some great points that all Christians should think about.  From a recent sermon comes a quote from my amazing pastor, Darrin Ronde.  “You need to know what’s in people’s hearts before they know what’s in your head.”

This statement was made to emphasize the power of questions in evangelism.  Sometimes, we as Christians, and I especially mean myself here, come with prepared sermons that we have just been waiting for a chance to preach.  So instead of listening to people and meeting them where they’re at, we tend to launch right in to the gospel message, usually leading off with the fact that everyone is a sinner and in need of a savior.  But in Acts chapter 8, Philip to a different approach in his witnessing to the Ethiopian eunuch.

“Philip ran over and heard the man reading from the prophet Isaiah. Philip asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’  The man replied, ‘How can I, unless someone instructs me?’ And he urged Philip to come up into the carriage and sit with him.” (Acts 8:30-31 NLT)

Philip didn’t just launch into a pre-made evangelistic approach.  He didn’t recite anything from a script.  He simply asked a question.  The eunuch was already reading from the book of Isaiah and Philip simply asked if he understood what he was reading.  That simple question helped him to see where the eunuch was at that moment in time.  This has such an important application in our lives.  We need to take the time to find out where people are.  We need to discover what questions are in their hearts and then take it from there.

For example, if a friend of yours comes with you to church, after the service you could start with a questions like, “So, what did you think of what the pastor preached?”  Or if your friend or acquaintance is commenting on the sad state of the world with all the crime and corruption, maybe you could ask a question like, “Why do you think there’s all this crime?” or “What do you think the solution for all the crime is?”

I’m sure that you can tailor your questions based on your friends and their reactions to certain topics.  But the point is, don’t just launch into a sermon.  Ask questions.  Find out where people are and the questions on their hearts and address that.  They don’t care how many Scriptures you have memorized and how much stuff you know and how many random Bible facts you can spout.  But if you take the revelation that they’ve given you and meet them at that spot, then you have a chance of connecting with them on a deep level and a realistic chance of leading them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Don’t underestimate the power of questions in your evangelistic efforts.

 
 

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Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter

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Danger of Death!

I was told by a Christian once that there was no need for teachers to tell people what to do.  It was far more valuable for people to just sit around and discuss the Scriptures, giving their opinions on what the Bible was saying.  I can think of nothing more harmful to yourself or another person that to blindly give your opinion about what the Word of God is saying.  Here’s the deal: the Bible only says one thing.  There are many different applications you can draw from the truths of Scripture.  But there is only one truth, and that truth is not up for debate or change.

This is a growing trend in the church, although the concept has been around since the time of Christ.  People think they can read something and then they know exactly what it means.  This is not always the case.  There are things in Scriptures that require a little more study than that.  A brief perusal may not be enough to fully grasp the message that is being conveyed.  Likewise, reading the same thing over and over doesn’t necessarily help.  You need to dig deep in order to understand the Bible.

That’s the amazing thing about pastors.  That’s why God has given us pastors, to study and convey the message of the Scriptures so that it is understandable to the common person.  This doesn’t take away your responsibility to study on your own, but it does give you a place to start.  God instituted the office of the pastor and that should not be taken lightly.  Personally, I thank God on a daily basis for the pastor He has chosen to lead my church.  He unashamedly preaches the Word of God in a way that makes me think and constantly reevaluate my life.  Keeping me in check as I live a life for Christ.  Not letting me get away with justifying sin with excuses.

Saying that you don’t need a pastor or teacher to talk at you is an ignorant and boastful statement.  “Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit.” (Hebrews 13:17 NLT)

Denying the fact that we are given spiritual leaders is disrespectful to them and to God who instituted their position.  “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will guide you with knowledge and understanding.”  (Jeremiah 3:15 NLT)  He gave them to us to teach us, to guide us, to look after our spiritual well-being.  “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers.”  (Ephesians 4:11 NLT)  God called pastors into their roles and that should not be taken lightly.

That being said, there is a danger with giving your opinion about the Bible.  The danger is that your opinion may be wrong.  God doesn’t care about your opinion, He cares about the truth, and what is truth has been written in the Bible for all to see.  Your opinion about it, if contradictory to the Bible, is nothing less than blaspheme.  Jesus doesn’t say He’s one of the ways or the partial truth.  He is the only way and the only truth.

The danger of your own opinion may be that you will inadvertently lead someone away from the actual truth.  “One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.”  (Luke 17:1-2 NLT)  Teaching the Word of God is a great responsibility and not one that should be taken lightly.  I would not want to be the person who teaches something false from the Bible and leads others away from the real truth.  “Dear brothers and sisters,not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1 NLT)

Don’t discount the teachings of your pastor! Don’t think that by simply reading the Word of God that you are an expert.  And don’t think for one second that sitting in a circle and discussing your opinions about what a certain passage of Scripture means is anything less than a dangerous practice that can lead others astray and condemn you to a harsh judgement.  It’s only through studying the Word that you can truly find the message that is intended for those who read it.  Your opinion doesn’t matter.  Only the truth of the Scriptures matter.  Be careful that you only speak the truth and leave opinions out of the equation.

 

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The Lamenting of a Fan

imagesIt’s no secret that I’m a New England Patriots fan, and the shocking events of this week have not been lost on me.  Sure, I’d love to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing happened, but this is Aaron Hernandez we’re talking about.  One of the most dynamic players in the NFL.  What’s going on here?

For those of you who don’t know, Aaron Hernandez is, was, a tight end for the New England Patriots.  He was arrested yesterday and charged with first degree murder.  This doesn’t come long after he signed a forty million dollar contract extension that doesn’t include the just over twelve million he gets from bonuses.  This man is twenty-three years old and his life is over.

I will never pretend to understand what makes the rich and famous do incredibly stupid things.  I know that if I was blessed with an exorbitant amount of money, I would be on my best behavior, wanting to preserve my money and status.  But perhaps that is too wise for some people.  Aaron Hernandez is not alone in his idiocy.  There have been many before him and I’m sure many after who will spectacularly and irrevocably fall from the graces of their fans.

But why does this happen?  Why does it seem that people who are perfectly equipped to do the right thing and make huge impacts in the world, throw it all away in a moment of lust, or anger, or greed?  Proverbs 12:15 says that fools do what is right in their own eyes.  I’m going to be writing more about this tomorrow, but the gist of it is this: people, no matter how good they are, if they are not following after God, will, in this life or the next, fall.

The broader concept here is the idea of relative truth versus absolute truth.  I’ve heard it as I’m sure you have: this is what’s true for me.  If my children used that phrase while in the process of telling a lie, I would lose it!  I lie is still a lie no matter how much you believe it to be true.  Aaron Hernandez did something horrible.  He didn’t do it because he felt justified (although he might feel justified), he didn’t do it because he got angry and carried away (although that may have occurred).  He did it because he is a sinful person who, instead of following after God, followed after the wisdom of himself and others.  That is ALWAYS a losing formula.

“The wicked are too proud to seek God.  They seem to think that God is dead.”  (Psalm 10:4 NLT)

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2013 in Random Ruminations

 

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News Flash: You’re Not Jesus!

1360665_53239785One of the scariest things I hear from Christians these days is: “Well, that’s what Jesus did.”  I’ve heard that statement used to explain a myriad of different activities, but those who say it often overlook one very important detail: they aren’t Jesus.

The Bible commands us to do many things in regards to Christ.  We are told to act as Christ did (1 John 2:6).  We are told to love as He loved (John 15:12).  We are told to sacrifice for others as He died for us (Ephesians 5:2).  We are told to live in Christ (Galatians 2:20).  But I have not found any Scriptures that tell us to  do everything that Christ did.  In fact, I see some of the opposite in spelled out for us in the Bible.

Here’s a practical example.  I often hear people say that Jesus entered in to dens of sinners and dined with them, partied with them even.  I’ve heard that He would go into places that the religious elite of the day would never step foot.  So, since Jesus did it, that means that we are to go into the bars, go into the strip clubs, go into the adult bookstores and casinos and every other place that exists solely for the propagation of sin.  Since that’s what Jesus did, then we should do the same thing.  Right?

First of all, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Jesus didn’t go into brothels and bars.  He dined at the homes of people. I’ll even take one step further.  When Jesus called Matthew to be His disciple, he went to his home, where Matthew threw a banquet in His honor.  I find it hard to believe that this banquet was full of lascivious behavior as it was to bring honor to Christ.  Luke says that many of Matthew’s tax collector friends were there, but I’m they were on their best behavior.  I can’t imagine Jesus sitting through an entire banquet thrown just for Him where there was nothing but sin going on.  I believe Jesus took that opportunity to preach to those who needed to hear the Good News of the Gospel, not partake in the sin of others in order to establish report.

Luke 15:1 says that tax collectors and sinners were often drawn to hear Him speak.  Why?  Because Jesus would crack open a cold one with them and shoot the breeze?  No!  But because they were hungry for what He was teaching.  Jesus lived His life in such a radically different way that people came from all walks of life to find out what was different about Him.  People weren’t attracted to Jesus because He fit in.

But, just for argument’s sake, let’s say that I’m wrong.  Let’s say that Jesus did frequent bars and other seedy places.  Does that mean that we can do it too?  Not a chance!  There is not one verse in the Bible (and of this I am certain) that tells you to walk into temptation.  In fact, the exact opposite is taught.

“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts.  Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace.  Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.”  (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT)

Youthful lusts are not always sexual desires, but any desires of the flesh.  When you become saved, you do not suddenly lose your urge for sinful things.  Just ask any of the prominent pastors who have fallen from grace (figuratively speaking) in a very public way, getting involved with drugs, promiscuity, and any other sin you can think of.  Sin is an equal opportunity corrupter and will seek out those who are most vulnerable.  And those who think themselves impervious to the wiles of the devil, are, in truth, the most susceptible to fall when tempted.

Jesus was, is, perfect.  We are not, so we need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and minds (Psalm 101:3) against the powers of the devil.

So does that mean that we shouldn’t try to reach those people for the Lord?  Of course not!  Every needs the saving power of Jesus Christ.  But we should really be more discriminating about how and when we deliver the Word.  For example: would it really be fruitful to walk into a bar and tell those who are drunk and compromised about Jesus?  There’s no way that they would be able to fully understand because their mind is compromised.  In fact, the Bible says that drinking can actually lead people to forget about God, not run towards Him (Proverbs 31:5-6).

Think back to all of the encounters that Christ had with unbelievers.  Did he ever confront a prostitute in the midst of her deplorable acts?  No.  He found them in everyday life.  They were just people living in sin, not committing it at that exact moment.  Although he intervened when the men were about to stone the prostitute, and he always called out the pharisees when they would judge others, I still haven’t found the verse that says that Jesus approached the drunk man and preached the Word to him, at which time the drunkard immediately sobered up and turned his life around.  We need to be discerning about when we witness for Christ, giving people the best chance possible to hear, and understand, the Word.

Do I think it’s a sin to go into a bar?  No, I don’t.  But I do think that it’s incredibly unwise to put yourself in a position where you could potentially be compromised.  Remember, Christ never once tried to blend in.  In fact, it was his radically differentiation that set him apart from those around him, which ended up drawing people (sinners and tax collectors) to him to find out how they could have what he was offering.  Perhaps that’s the lesson we should take away.  We need to live our lives in a way that makes those around us want to have what we have.

“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket.  Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”  (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT)

 

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