What type of friend are you?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2

 

In this series of blogs, we are building on the principle that your life follows your values. We are exploring the lifestyle priorities that will cause us to live as witnesses for Jesus. Well, Jesus had an unmistakable lifestyle priority of spending relational time with non-religious people. That priority showed up in his actions. He was always hanging out with ‘sinners’.

 

Why do you think the Pharisees were not impressed with Jesus living this way (besides the fact that they were not impressed with Jesus most of the time)?

 

I’ll give it a go and say this:

 

The Pharisees were probably thinking, Jesus, you will get yourself ceremonially unclean by hanging out with the sinners—something you shouldn’t do as a Rabbi. Also, us religious people need to hang out with religious people ‘cause that’s how we roll.

 

Some of these thoughts can often run in our minds even in 2017 when we think about having friendships with non-Christians. We think that if we develop real friendships with worldly people we will get influenced negatively. Or we think we need to get our lives together and figure out every detail of theology and doctrine before we can go and be friends with people whose beliefs are different than ours.

 

But Jesus gave it a good go. He was called a ‘friend of sinners’. His time spent with these people was what led to most of his followers! It will be the same for you. You won’t find yourself helping people turn to Christ in faith if you aren’t spending relational time with them.

 

How did Jesus build these relationships?

 

  1. He loved them


Jesus crossed paths with people who had sinful lifestyles. If there was one person entitled to judging and accusing those people it was Jesus—the one without sin. And yet he didn’t do that – John 8:10-11

He instead loved them and spent time with them – Mark 10:21 

If there’s one thing that we need to learn about how to be good friends of sinners it’s how to love. And that includes loving without any hidden motives, loving our friends even when they don’t want to come to church, loving them even after years have passed and they are still rejecting Jesus.

 

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  1. He was okay with not being popular

Often times as Christians we can be focused on networking and getting to know that pastor and this pastor and that famous Christian worship leader—so much so that our friendships can:

 

Number 1: become about what we can get out of them

Number 2: become 100% made up of people who are Christians

 

Hanging out with sinners made Jesus very marginalized from the religious community. Yet Jesus wasn’t bothered by that. He kept going to parties and he kept reaching out to the poor, the sick, the abused, the sinners Luke 7:22

Why? Because Jesus wasn’t focused on becoming popular. He wasn’t interested in acquiring a name for himself in the religious community. He wasn’t concerned about how many new Instagram followers he was getting each day.

He was about loving people and being their friend even when it looked like he was surrounded by the wrong crew.

 

  1. Jesus was interested in giving

Have you ever noticed that Jesus was not ever interested in what he could get out of his interactions/friendships with people? Rather, he was focused on loving people and saving them from whatever they needed to be saved from? (accusers, corrupt lifestyle, illness etc.)

 

A good friend loves without judging, is there when needed, is more concerned with what he can give rather than what he receives. A good friend passes the test of time. A good friend has no hidden motives.

 

What kind of friend are you?

 

Final thoughts

 

Jesus’ pattern was to open-heartedly meet people where they were and then help them move towards God. One of the great characteristics of his life was spending time with non-religious people, even though he caught major criticism for it. If we want to follow Jesus, then we must build this lifestyle priority into our lives too!

Witnessing Lifestyle Priority #2: Building real friendships with non-churched people

10 ways to stir up your sentness

Go to school, get educated, get a job, get married, get a house, get kids, grandkids, retire. Go to work, come home, watch TV, go to sleep. Repeat!

This is the pattern that our society often tries to set for us, but Jesus came so that we would have more than just a pattern. We aren’t here to live life the way we are told to. We are here to make a difference!

Oftentimes, we get sidetracked and forget that we have a mission. Here are 10 ways to stir up your sentness – to remind yourself that you have been sent into the world, by Jesus, for a reason.

 

1. Prayer

Prayer takes the focus off you and puts it on God and other people. When we focus on God, and we try to hear his voice in prayer, he will always remind us of who we are. Children of God, ambassadors for Christ. Start each day with prayer and let God remind you of your identity and your purpose.

 

2. The Bible

By reading the Bible every day, you allow your mind to be renewed, which means that you won’t believe the lies of the enemy because you know the truth. “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

The enemy will say “Your life has no purpose,” but because of the Bible, you can say “He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9).

 

3. Journaling

Journaling helps you to notice the holy in the ordinary. Life is full of mundane moments, and it’s sometimes hard to notice what God is doing. By sitting down and writing the things that have been going on in your life, you will be able to identify how God was with you on mountain tops and in deep valleys.

This will instill in you a sense of gratitude and new energy to keep on shining a light for Jesus.

 

4. Quotes

Print some quotes, or some Bible verses and put them on the wall somewhere you can see them and let them remind you of where you have been and where you are going.

 

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5. Accountability Group

If you find that you often stay at home on Sundays instead of going to church, or that you would rather spend your money on other things rather than give to God’s work, or that you care about what people think of you so much that you compromise on who you are called to be, get an accountability group/partner.

Tell them what you struggle with and ask them to keep you accountable. By asking people to help you out you are saying: I know there is a problem, I want to fix it and I need help.

 

6. Serving

The consumer mentality of our society is infiltrating our churches. We want to be served rather than serve. We would rather sit in a church service than turn up early and set up the stage or put the chairs out.

Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You are called to be an imitator of Christ. The more time you spend imitating Christ, the less time you will spend imitating the world. Roll up your sleeves, and get involved in serving your local church.

 

7. Movies

I remember when I first watched “Amazing Grace” which focused on William Wilberforce and his work to abolish slavery in the UK, I was deeply impacted. It made me realise that the world has a lot of problems and God’s children are here on earth to help out—to be a voice for the voiceless, to bring justice, to help the poor, feed the hungry, protect the orphans.

Good Christian movies can remind us of our purpose, of the problems that still need solving.

 

8. Time spent with Christians

Time spent with people who genuinely love Jesus and are committed to his cause can leave you energised and refreshed.

Whenever I attend church, or my connect group or hang out with my Christian friends, I always feel inspired to keep living a holy life, because Jesus is with us, active in our lives, blessing us and giving us strength when we need it.

 

9. Time spent with non-Christians.

Time spend with non-Christians is also important. You don’t want to isolate yourself and be part of a Christian bubble. Being around people who don’t know Jesus, who are hurting, who have no hope reminds you of your mission: to tell them about Jesus.

 

10. Re-evaluating.

Lastly, re-evaluating is highly important. Stopping and asking yourself “Am I living a life of integrity?” “Am I living a life pleasing to God?” “Am I helping to expand God’s Kingdom?” will always bring to the surface our values and priorities.

 

Last thoughts:

We will never be perfect at “being in the world but not of the world” but the point is to go for it anyway—to live your life with purpose, to bring glory to God and make his name famous on the earth.

Romans 12:1-2 in The Message says, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

How can I be in the world but not wordly?

What does it mean to be worldly? Here’s a definition the Oxford English Dictionary gives us:

 

“Wordly: concerned with material values or ordinary life rather than a spiritual existence.”

Here’s how the Bible describes “wordly”: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John 2:15 – 17

 

Since we are encouraged not to become worldly, how can we spend relational time with nonbelievers and not be influenced by their way of thinking and living?

 

Be intentional

 

The key is to develop a ministry mindset. If I think about my time spent with non-believers as just “hanging out” with them, I will be influenced towards worldliness—it’s inevitable. But if I am intentional about the time spent with people and pray before those times that God will use me in their lives, then when I am with them I am thinking about how to expose them to God and the influence is flowing in the right direction. This method can also help you give your kids a healthy approach to school. Pray with them each day about the kids they know and their witness to them. Then watch them be the influencers rather than the influenced.

 

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Let the Bible have the final say on things

 

There will be instances when the people you spend time with, who don’t believe in Jesus, will have different opinions than you on certain topics. These will probably be well informed, well thought out opinions which might be verbalised in an eloquent manner. It is very easy to get swayed by well informed, well thought out, well-communicated opinions. But remember that opinions are opinions. They should not have higher authority in your life than the Bible. Respect their opinion, but always go to the Bible and figure out what it says, so that when the chance comes you will be able to humbly let them know that you have a well-informed, well thought out, well-communicated TRUTH!

 

Be surrounded by a good Christian support network

 

You are called to be a worker in God’s field. This field is not a playground but a battleground. You are on a mission to take the message of his salvation and lordship into enemy territory, to win captives from the forces of darkness. To be effective in this mission, it’s important that you surround yourself with people of great wisdom, people who are friends of your destiny, people who are filled with the Holy Spirit. Their influence and support will ensure that you stay the path and keep living your life focused on Jesus.

 

Last thoughts:

Go out and spend intentional time with people who don’t know Jesus—it’s our heavenly mandate. But make sure that you also spend your time in the word, in church, in your secret place with God, and with Christian friends.

How can I urge my church to engage with non-believers?

 

As a leader of a church, the weight comes on you and your team to inspire people to move forward in their relationship with God. You want to see them living their faith outside the four walls of the church. You want them to engage with the people they have been sent to and bring them into a Christian community.

However, leading them to do exactly that takes some work and planning. This blog post aims to give you some ideas of how you can encourage people in your church to engage with non-believers.

You don’t have to be a church leader to apply these principles. As a church member, you can also influence the people you serve with—your small group, your family, and friends—to go out into the world and reach people for Jesus.

 

 

  • Do it yourself and talk about it.

 

People want leaders who act on what they speak. You can’t afford to stand a platform and encourage your congregation to be brave and speak to people about Jesus and you not do it. You will very quickly lose your credibility. Do it yourself. Set an example. Pave the way forward. Share your successes, your failures, your awkward and funny encounters. This will make you approachable and the people you lead will be encouraged by your example and vulnerability. This will also communicate to them: “If I can do it, you can do it too!”

 

  • Have believers share about doing this during church services. 

 

There is so much power in testimonies. They stir up faith. Hearing about someone coming to Jesus brings joy in the hearts of believers and encourages them to keep witnessing to people and to look forward to the day when those people come to Jesus. Keeping testimonies about believers witnessing to nonbelievers constant in your church life will keep the topic of evangelism and witnessing at the forefront of your congregation’s minds.

 

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  • Help them understand that they don’t need to share the gospel outline in their first conversation with someone.

 

The gospel is not a ‘presentation’ that you make. Rather, you want to have gospel conversations with people. Train your people in how to ask questions that can lead to meaningful conversations around God and the gospel. Encourage them that those they speak with will gradually come to a real understanding of God’s grace in the gospel over time and multiple conversations. Realising that they don’t have to force everything into one conversation and demand an on-the-spot decision helps believers to relax and enjoy the process of being a witness, trusting that God will take conversations where he wants them to go.

 

When people who attend EvangelismSHIFT grasp this principle, we often hear how they are set free from performance anxiety and how they feel encouraged to build relationships with people and allow the Holy Spirit to use them to lead people to Jesus in a way that is natural and not staged.

 

  • Help them see that people take steps towards faith in Jesus.

 

Being born again is an event that happens all at once at the moment of faith. But conversion is a journey. There is a point in time when a person begins moving towards God. Many different factors keep them taking steps along this journey until they are ready to put their trust in Christ. Our responsibility as believers, whenever we come in contact with people is to move them closer to Jesus. That’s what you need to communicate to your congregation. This will empower them to go out into their world and bring people one step closer to Jesus. It might be the final step when they commit their life to Jesus, or the first step when they first get to know a real Christian.

 

Have you found these tips useful? Which one is your favourite and why? Leave a comment down below. We would love to hear from you.

Three faith heroes who were in the world but not of the world

Dwight L. Moody said this: “Christians should live in the world but not be filled with it. A ship lives in the water; but if the water gets into the ship, she goes to the bottom. So Christians may live in the world; but if the world gets into them, they sink.” Today we look at three individuals who were in the world but not of the world and what that looked liked for them.

 

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George Mueller (1805-98)

Pastor with a passion for orphans

 

 

 

 

George Mueller was a native German who lived in England. He did follow up work for D. L. Moody, preached for Charles Spurgeon, and inspired the missionary faith of Hudson Taylor. But that is not what he is most remembered for.

He spent most of his life in Bristol, England and pastored the same church there for over sixty-six years. In 1834 (when he was 28) he founded The Scripture Knowledge Institute for Home and Abroad. Five branches of this Institute developed:

  • Schools for children and adults to teach Bible knowledge
  • Bible distribution
  • Missionary support
  • Tract and book distribution
  • “To board, clothe and Scripturally educate destitute children who have lost both parents by death”

The accomplishments of all five branches were significant, but the one he was known for around the world in his own lifetime, and still today, was the orphan ministry. He built five large orphan houses and cared for 10,024 orphans in his lifetime.

 

 

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Joseph Lister: (1827 – 1912)

A Christian, British surgeon with a passion for patients

 

 

 

 

 

 

During Lister’s time in the 1800s, sterilisation standards were not high in hospitals. Doctors would wear their blood-stained coats around as if they were a badge of honour and rarely wash their hands or tools they used on the last patient when dealing with a new one.

Many patients who went into hospitals with one problem would end up dying from another, as bacteria and viruses were unknowingly shared.

Lister, a Quaker, called on hospitals, nurses and doctors to do a better job cleaning so they wouldn’t spread viruses and bacteria among their patients. This led to a reduction in postoperative infections and made surgery safer for patients, distinguishing himself as the “father of modern surgery”.

 

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St. Basil of Caesarea (330 AD – 379 AD)

A bishop with a passion for the poor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Basil, the bishop of Caesarea, ardently defended the truth of the Christian faith as well as being generous toward the poor.

Ordained as bishop in 370, he had long preached social justice in his sermons. Soon after becoming a bishop, he put his authority into action, establishing soup kitchens, hospitals, hospices and poorhouses throughout the region.

In one of his infamous sermons he stated, “The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.”

 

Last thoughts

Being in the world, but not of it, is necessary if we are to be a light to those who are in spiritual darkness. We are to live in such a way that those outside the faith see our good deeds and our manner and know that there is something “different” about us. Being in the world but not of the world means that we are present in the world enough to see the needs of hurting people and do something about it by God’s grace. How can you make the world a better place in the name of Jesus?

Should Christians open up about their struggles?

 

Life is an incredible gift given to us by our Creator. It is filled with beautiful moments but oftentimes our reality is interrupted by the noise of hardship. Jesus never promised us an easy life. He warned us that in the world we will have problems. What should our response be when we go through hard times?

The reality is that there are so many Christians who choose to put on a brave face and keep doing life without admitting that they are going through a tough season. This can often be exhausting for a person and it can also be extremely isolating.

Should Christians open up about their struggles? What should our response be when life becomes hard?

 

Go to God

 

When the Christian life gets hard and there are no easy answers or explanations, let your first response be running to God for comfort, wisdom, and strength to help you handle the situation.

David was a man after God’s own heart, and he often wrote about his doubts and struggles during times of hardship in Psalms. Being honest about your struggles doesn’t make you less spiritual, it actually brings you closer to God because it forces you to let go of your pride and self-sufficiency.

You don’t overcome the difficulties of life by ignoring the struggles; you overcome them by inviting God to work in those areas! Psalm 43:5

 

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Go to people

 

You might think that you need to hide your pain, because showing it diminishes credibility and makes you come across as a weak, faithless Christian. But that’s not true. In fact, the opposite is true: vulnerability creates intimacy, and this leads to credibility.

Listen, I am not suggesting that you write about your struggles on Facebook or Instagram for the whole world to know. Choose people you trust and let them know that you are struggling and that you need their support.

You might think that you don’t want to share your burdens with people because you don’t want to weigh them down. But consider this verse: “Bear one another’s burdens . . .” Galatians 6:2

How can someone bear your burdens if they don’t know about them? And how can you bear someone else’s burdens if they don’t tell you?

 

Be real even with non-Christians

 

If a co-worker or your neighbour notices that you haven’t been yourself recently, don’t try to hide it. Let them know that you are going through a tough time and how you couldn’t be coping without your faith in Christ and your friends and family. People are looking for a Christianity that is real.

Who knows? Maybe your honesty will open a door for them to share their struggles with you and for you to minister to them.  “Blessed be God … who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

Have you been trying to hide from God and from the people in your life? Is it time to open up and ask God and key people in your life to help you?

 

 

Dating a non-Christian – Is it a good idea?

Single people from all walks of life often wonder if dating a non-Christian is a good idea. Oftentimes that question arises when the person already has a non-Christian they like in their life and are unsure of whether or not to go ahead and enter a significant relationship. The Bible doesn’t give us a list of 15 rules we must follow when we start dating, but it gives us a clear picture of what it means to be in the world and not of the world as a Christian.

 

And that is the lens from which we will look at this topic today:

 

What does it mean to be a Christian?

If you are a believer and profess to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, there is no getting around the fact that this is by far the most influential relationship you will ever have.

It’s a relationship that will shape your identity, form your beliefs, influence your choices and guide the entire purpose of your life. It’s a relationship that will not just change you, it will re-create you. You are made absolutely new. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Being a Christian is about so much more than just being a moral person. Being a believer means that your relationship with God has absolutely, entirely and clearly changed your life.

I realise this blog post is about dating, not about marriage, but I’m going to jump ahead to marriage because even if you’re not sure that is where the relationship will end up, that possibility should be a consideration when you’re deciding who to date.

 

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What is marriage?

God designed marriage. That means that he knows best how it should operate. His word gives us the principles we need for satisfying marriages. It takes three to make a good marriage: God, the man, and the woman. For a Christian to marry an unbeliever is to enter marriage lacking something essential. Marriage has been described as a triangle with God at the top: the closer each partner moves to God, the closer they move toward each other. The further each moves from God, the further they move from each other. As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they experienced alienation from each other and Adam began blaming Eve for his problems.

Broken marriages always involve at least one partner moving away from God.

 

Building a life on two different foundations.

As a Christian, your life is built on a desire to trust and follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. For the other person who is not a Christian, it is very likely that they have built their life on a desire for success, money, health etc. Things that are good, but not necessarily heavenly. Somewhere, at some point, you will realise that you are building a life as a couple on two different foundations.

And if dating turns into marriage, this will cause a lot of disagreements around finance management, your children’s education, and religious beliefs.

 

Last thoughts

It is not my job as a person sitting behind a laptop typing out a blog post to tell you who you should or shouldn’t date. That is your responsibility. Make sure you talk about it with your family, friends and people who are responsible for your spiritual growth (your pastor, youth leader etc).

However, one thing I want you to take away from this article is this: How do you imagine your life? Do you imagine yourself serving the Lord wholeheartedly? Do you imagine being involved in ministry? Do you imagine attending church with your husband/wife? Do you imagine your children growing up to love Jesus?

Because if you imagine yourself living a devoted life for Jesus, dating a non-Christian might get in the way of that life. Do you want to pay that price?

The gospel is good news for those who are saved

If you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you might have heard preachers or evangelists say: “The gospel is good news”. Today we look at why exactly the gospel is good news for Christians, in the hope that you will be reminded of the great privilege you have to be called a son or a daughter of the King. Also, we aim to equip you to share why the gospel is good news with your friends and family.

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The Gospel is about God’s Kingdom

“And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom”.Matthew 4:23. Jesus’ first coming was to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God and pay the penalty for mankind’s sins. When sharing the good news of the gospel a lot of people leave out the topic of God’s Kingdom. In this article, we look at why God’s Kingdom is good news for humanity and more specifically, what Jesus said about God’s Kingdom.

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