Posts Tagged evangelism

Foolishness and Power

1 Corinthians 1: 18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Let’s talk about evangelism a bit today. When you find something good, don’t you want to share it with others? The news about Jesus is good news and we often want to share it with others so they can experience his goodness as we do. Beyond that, though, there is a certain expectation in the church that we share this gospel of good news. After all Jesus did say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” (Mark 16: 15). So, we try to do our part to share the gospel to those we know and people we meet. Unfortunately, it is utter foolishness to them. One version says it is nonsense. To the unregenerate mind the things of God cannot be understood. For that reason, people need to see Christ in addition to hearing of him.

Paul said that Jesus sent him to preach the gospel but not in cleverness of speech that the cross of Christ might be made void, or meaningless (1 Corinthians 1: 17). What do you think he meant by that? How can the preaching of the gospel void the testimony of the cross? In the second chapter of First Corinthians Paul wrote, “And my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power,” (v. 4). Using the word demonstration, he intimates that people need to see the Spirit of God at work, not just be preached to about it. This is where most of us fail in our evangelistic efforts. We don’t let the Spirit of God be seen.

You see, it really is the Spirit’s job to evangelize. We are, as they say, boots on the ground, but the master architect of salvation is the Spirit of God. Paul reveals in verse 2 of First Corinthians: One, that people are called to salvation. By whom are they called? They are called to Jesus by the Holy Spirit. We are the light which, going into all the world, people see and are subsequently called to Jesus.

You and I can save no one but we can be light bringers. We can have testimonies. We can tell of God’s goodness, but we can never convince anyone because it is all foolishness to them. Secondly, Paul said the gospel, to us, is the power of God. This goes along with verse 4 from chapter two, “My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power.” The power of God can be demonstrated; it can be seen. That is our part in evangelism. We are to demonstrate the power of God. Think about this for a moment and let it sink in. Does this make sense to you? Is this what Paul is saying? If you agree that this is the point Paul is making then we need to each ask ourselves, “When was the last time the power of God was demonstrated through my life?” I grant you this is a challenging question and I think most of us will have to admit we have been living powerless lives. Powerlessness in not God’s will for our lives. Would you agree with that? If so, then what are we to do? Are we to continue in our drab existence doing nothing to show God’s power and love to the world? Shall we simply continue going to church on Sunday but keeping our heads low all the other days of the week? Or maybe we will continue to convince ourselves that when Jesus told us to go into all the world he meant for us to preach at the unbelievers until they are persuaded. Do we believe we will find the persuasive speech which will evangelize the world?

It is time we, the church, each one of us, began to take this gospel seriously and allow it to rock us out of our comfort zones. It is time we call upon the name of Jesus to be Lord in this world. It is our time; time to lay hands on the sick and heal them, time to mend broken hearts, but not by persuasive speech, rather by the power of God. Jesus, it is not me who heals, mends, and saves, but rather you. We need to get ourselves out of the center of this dynamic so that Jesus can step in and wield his power. We need not be so concerned that we cannot perform but be convinced that he can. What would it take for you to pray for someone? What kind of miracle is required for us all to begin walking in the earth like the early disciples did? Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you filled with God’s Spirit? Let the goodness and the power of God flow from you. Don’t be a hoarder. God is the God of overflow meaning that He wants His power to overflow from you onto others.

Look, evangelism is easy when people get healed. It is not difficult to convince people of God’s love when you raise their child from the dead. Let’s all get busy. Let’s fulfill the commission Jesus gave us. Go into all the world and share the good news of Jesus.

Salvation is for Today

Luke 4: 18 – 19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Stop for a moment today and consider this passage. This is from the book of Isaiah and it is what Jesus read in the synagogue.  His speaking of this passage marked the beginning of his public ministry. If God sent Jesus only to die on a cross bearing the sin of the world, then why this scripture? If eternal life was the only thing on God’s mind, why did Yahweh anoint Jesus to do all these other things? My point is that we have narrowed our focus as to Jesus’ purpose and in so doing have missed the greater blessing.

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I suppose there is no other scripture in the whole of the Bible that is more well known than this one. We make our children memorize it in Bible School, put it on bumper stickers and even billboards. It is a wonderful passage, but it is not the whole story. Jesus didn’t stand up in the synagogue and say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me so that none shall perish but instead have eternal life.” Why? Because that was not his singular purpose nor his anointing. It explains God’s love but not Jesus’ purpose. If you want to know the reason God sent Jesus you must read 1 John 3: 8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” This scripture discloses Jesus’ purpose. Let us go further, though, to see what Jesus, himself, says about his purpose in the earth. John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life, free from the works of the devil, is the gift Jesus came to give us. Yes, eternal life is part of that package but that is the end game, not the whole thing. God made the earth for us to live in and enjoy. He gave us this planet to be our home, not heaven. He didn’t create earth as a testing ground but rather as a home. The point is, the time we spend here is not simply a waystation. Life here isn’t just passing time until we get to heaven. We are supposed to have abundant life here and now. Look again at today’s passage. Clearly that has nothing to do with heaven. Those conditions do not exist in heaven. Adam’s job was to make earth look like heaven so that we would have a heavenly home right here. Jesus prayed, “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” (Matthew 6: 10). Earth is to reflect heaven.

Jesus came to restore our original purpose to us and to return the earth to us as our heavenly home, a home made in the image of heaven. Then God will come here and live with us. We’ve got to stop waiting to get to heaven to start fulfilling our purpose. We’ve got to stop waiting until heaven to start living, especially living in the fullness of God’s intent for us.

Redemption? Yes, it’s a big deal, but it is not the end of the story. It is the means by which God put us back on track. We could not have the abundant life Jesus came to give us until we were cleansed of the sin which stained us and our existence. Furthermore, I do not think eternal life is the evangelical message; it is not the salvation message. The word salvation means, rescue or safety, deliver, health, victory, prosperity, help, and welfare, (Strong’s 3444 & 4991). It does not only mean deliverance from sin. The savior came to give deliverance, health, victory, prosperity, help and welfare. In other words, he came to give us an abundant life right here, right now. This is why I think evangelism is important, but it also points out why our evangelistic message is presently off target. We are trying to get people into heaven while Jesus is trying to save them from their current peril and give them a great life now and forever.

Eternity is now. It began a long time ago. God has plans to get us into heaven but the good news that Jesus shared is that our freedom and victory begins now. This is not the good news we have been carrying to the world, however. God wants people to know they can be free now. Jesus came to set the captives free. Amen? The good news of the gospel is that God wants to bless you now, in this life. He wants to free people from torment and hurt. He wants to mend their hurts and restore them to good life. People need God now, not just in heaven. The message of the gospel is that God loves you now. Salvation emphatically is not, buy your ticket to heaven and then suffer until you die. That is not God. If you know God at all, you know that is not His heart.

To be clear, the evangelical message, the message that all the world needs to hear is that God wants to be your savior today. He wants to move into our lives and improve them. He longs to give us perfect peace and joy in this world, right now. Yahweh is a now God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is that life which in intertwined with our beloved, our Father, Yahweh. He who loves us has sent His son to restore us back to health, welfare, liberty, prosperity and joy. This is the good news of the gospel. Tell that to someone. Heaven is here and now for all who live in Christ. Now is the salvation of the gospel. Now is life and love in the Son. Jesus is here now to give you a good life. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29: 11). Tell someone the good news. Jesus has come, and he has life and healing in his hands. This is his salvation, and ours. Amen.

Show Me

Matthew 12: 33             Voice Translation

Good trees produce good fruits; bad trees produce bad fruits. You can always tell a tree by its fruits.

This is not a farming tip today, though I guess it is a good thing to know. Actually, Jesus spoke this verse in teaching that our words reveal our character. We can no more hide the health of our hearts than a bad tree can camouflage its bad fruit.

This goes to the heart of our evangelical message because it is hard to convince people about the good fruit of Christianity when they perceive rotten fruit on our trees. However, there is another group we should bear in mind because not all evangelism is to strangers. Let’s think about our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers as well. What are our actions and words saying to these people about Christianity?

In the United States, the state of Missouri is known as the “Show me state.” So, if we were all from Missouri we might say, “Show me your Christianity!” You see, if our words are not in keeping with our fruit they will have no weight. The fruit on our trees speaks much more loudly than our words. Our Christianity can best be measured in how we treat other people. People see how we treat each other and they judge all of Christianity by that simple measure, and perhaps rightfully so.

If Christianity is about anything, it is about loving others. This love, is an action verb. It’s not about having a feeling. It is about demonstrating and expressing kindness, gentleness and all the other character traits of our dear Father. Without the outward expression of selflessness and consideration for others, our Christian message fails.

Think about the children we are raising. They hear a lot of messages out there and we are trying to compete with our message of Christian love but are we modeling it? What does it do to an impressionable heart when you claim you are a Christian but do not produce fruit? I tell you it confuses our young people. Even more, it alienates them from the Christian message. And what is the Christian message if not love. But this is not a message which can be conveyed in words alone. It is in our actions, and, as I’ve said, most notably in the way we treat others. These children are saying very loudly to us, “Don’t tell me about your Christianity. Show me.”

I believe they have a right to expect Christianity to be demonstrated to them. They ought to see Christianity in action. Believe me, they will not follow someone who is not authentic and sincere. It is okay to make mistakes. We all do, but there is so much persuasion in admitting fault to your children, even in apologizing to them when we err.

I hope you will give this some thought and let it sink into your heart. We must produce good fruit if we want our Christian message to have any credence at all. The fruit is most noticeably demonstrated, and weighed, in how we treat others, including our children, friends, and associates. We evangelize every day with our actions. The question is, what message are we sending?

Magnified

1 John 4: 8

God is love.

Every congregation around the world has talked about this passage of scripture. We have heard time and time again that God is love but its deepest truths have yet to permeate our Christian cultures and our individual hearts.

To know God is to love. Every person who says they know God must have come to know Him as love. We must, at the very deepest levels, understand that He loves us, but further, we must grasp what it means for God’s nature to be love. Anyone who does not know love, does not know God. It is that simple.

I am listening to an audiobook, a work of fiction. The fictional world in which the characters live is populated by many different people all, who serve different Gods. The overtones of religious hypocrisy are rampant. It caused me to think of our God and our expression of who He is. The atrocities perpetuated by the characters in the book in the name of their Gods, unfortunately, mirrors the same challenges the church of Christ has endured. For me this has become a simple matter, at least theologically. Evangelism must be based in love and motivated by love. All else is both meaningless, at best, and damaging.

In driving through town one day, I saw a car painted with, what was clearly meant to be, an evangelical message. However, the words did anything but magnetize one towards Christ. In fact, I, a Christian, was repelled by the message, even offended. Presumptively, the person driving the car, the one who painted the message, was attempting to populate heaven. The message was not filled, however, with the essence of God which is love.

Sooner or later the church must decide and subsequently adopt an attitude and philosophy of love. We must first, give ourselves over to God’s love, allowing Him to love us in our deepest thoughts and feelings. As we allow ourselves to receive uncompromising love, we will be competent to tell others about the love of God. Only love draws people to God. Theology does not and hell does not. Even the promise of heaven is too vague for most people to appreciate and fathom. We needed acceptance when we were lost and flailing. We found that in our Father who accepted us as we were, even with all our scars and blemishes. We fail, however, to extend that same grace to others and I believe it is because we have yet to fully immerse ourselves in the love the Father offers us.

To my way of thinking, there is no evangelism outside of love. The world does not need us criticizing and damning them. They are not drawn to condemnation nor do they see us as more holy than they when our dialogue is full of hateful expressions instead of love. Don’t tell me you love God when you spit vitriol at His children. It is a vulgar lie. We can no longer afford the luxury of pious self-promotion while people are dying and going to hell. Others are leaving the church because they see hate and judgment. If the church is to grow and function as it was meant to, then we must make the choice to love. It is not our job to decide who goes to hell. Our job is to make hell a wasteland. Eventually, as a body and as individuals, we must embrace love and allow it to color our lives. If God is love, then our only choice is to exercise love. If we are to march in the name of our God then we cannot kill, steal or destroy in His name. This is the message of our times. The first step of this age is: embrace love. Let it fill you and let it be reflected in you. We can’t be mean-spirited and imitate Jesus. We can no longer afford to cause harm in the name of Jesus. That is not his way nor our commission. The gospel is good news and all people, when they encounter us, should have a brush with unfathomable love. Jesus told people that the Kingdom of God had come near them. People will only see the Kingdom and its power when we accomplish step one, adopt love. There is no step two until we achieve step one. Let love guide you, let it fill you. Let God be magnified by magnifying love.

Stoned Again

John 8: 59

Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

Yesterday I shared a very similar verse with you. Jesus drove the Jews crazy. He inspired murderous intent in them. What was it about him that aggravated them so? Think of it this way. Jesus told them the truth, the absolute truth. Doesn’t it strike you as odd that the truth inspired such malicious actions? Here is another point to ponder. The Jews actually thought they were doing good in their persecution of him. They were trying to protect the church and the faith. They accused Jesus of blaspheme when he told them the truth and they believed that blaspheme should be silenced because of its potential damage to the church.

Another problem with what Jesus preached was that it was new. Rather than taking into consideration what Jesus proclaimed, they rejected it out of hand. What was the source of their fear? Why does a person’s articulation and sometimes even just their existence rattle people so? The Pharisees should have known that truth wills out. It will survive no matter what you do. The false will fade and wither. They even admitted that others had come previously claiming to be the Messiah but, their testimony did not last.

Jesus was aware of their justification of their thoughts and acts. He warned us that we would face this same dynamic. “They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16: 2). There is no need to be so reactionary and persecute people for their beliefs. God is bigger than any false doctrine. Moreover, there may be truth in what is said. Perhaps, though, it is the truth which frightens people most of all. And to be honest, it is not really the church which we seek to protect by our vehement rebuttal of opposing thought. We are in truth seeking to protect our thoughts and our way of life and that is the case even if our belief is wrong. We will fight to the death for a philosophy which isn’t even truth because to entertain an opposing idea challenges us. Why are we so afraid? What can another’s opinion do to us? We don’t have to force our ideology and views down other people’s throats in order for Yahweh to be seen as the glorious God He is. He is bigger than any paradigm we have yet constructed. Furthermore, Jesus has told us that he is doing a “new thing” so we need to relax and trust him and trust that he is well able to reveal truth amongst an abundance of opinion. Believe me, the prophets God is sending into the world are going to shake us up. They are going to challenge us. That’s okay. Father is well able to care for us and lead us into all truth.

It is very easy to look back at the Pharisees and the Jews and criticize them for their shortsightedness but we have become the modern day Pharisees. We serve a form of religion rather than the truth. Our opinions and doctrines sit on the throne of our faith rather than the Word of God. We listen to old, worn out theology and never even question whether it is rooted in the Bible. So much of what we defend is from Christian culture rather than the heart of God. Jesus came sharing good news. He went about doing good, (Acts 10: 38) not beating people up with the law. The commission he gave us was to continue his mission, to spread the good news of the gospel. We don’t need to try to convince people they are wrong treat, them as outcasts or slay them with our words. We only need to share the love of God and allow them to do the same. Whatever is true will prevail and we will be a unified body walking in the glory of our Lord.

No Shame

Romans 1: 16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul was definitely a good evangelist. He did share the good news everywhere he went. I wonder why lots of us don’t tell the good news any more than we do. I think in a sense we are ashamed. Perhaps we are not ashamed of the gospel per se but we are embarrassed or ashamed of sounding like a Jesus freak. Maybe were are afraid of rejection. Paul certainly wasn’t, though, and life could be pretty dangerous for his exhortation of the gospel.

Paul had a revelation of the power of the gospel. Maybe that is what made him so bold and me so timid. Or do we get so caught up in the busyness of our life that we don’t take a moment to be concerned over anyone else. Looming on my horizon is my next twenty to do items and the three big projects sitting on my desk. What will happen in eternity if I get none of that done? I mean, how important are they really? Are my deadlines arbitrary? Does any of it matter that much? When I think of this in light of the eternity of someone’s soul I feel a bit embarrassed. Is it really too much for me to take five minutes to ask my banker if he knows the saving power of the gospel?

You know, I heard a good story the other day about a woman who took the time to notice someone else and when she did she saw that other person suffering. She offered to pray for the woman who’s countenance was forlorn. You know what? Her bravery afforded her the opportunity to meet someone’s need. But I am too busy. Maybe I walked right by that same woman and never even looked at her.

Lord God, give us all the courage of our convictions. Give us joy bubbling up out of us that begs to be shared. Help us to be like Paul and see not the consequences to ourselves but the significance to others. Help us to share the power of the gospel with those who are in need.

Blessed Feet

Isaiah 52: 7         NIV

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Not only are the feet of those who bring the good news beautiful, they are also blessed. Blessed are the feet of those who bring good news. And of course they are because they deliver a blessing and we know that what a person sows, he also reaps.

This is the evangelistic model. We don’t have to be smart; you don’t have to know the whole Bible or be an eloquent speaker in order to help people receive their salvation. Just tell folks the good news. What has Christ’s victory meant in your life? Are you excited and happy about what he has done for you? Evangelism is as simple as telling others all of the good things in your life since you found Jesus. 

When you come carrying the good news of Christ you bring life and hope into otherwise desperate situations. No doubt that is beautiful to those who hear. You don’t have to be a preacher, just let your light shine and get your feet blessed.

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