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.

 

hilltop-1209853_1920

 

  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

What is your purpose in life?

Is your purpose to live, get as much money or other things as possible and then die, leaving them all behind?  That’s fairly depressing, isn’t it?  But that is what many in the world believe.

 

What is your purpose in life?

As Christians, we believe that our purpose in life is so much more. We believe that we are here to bring glory to God and to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. We think of the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus tells his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I have a question for you though. Do the “all nations” include our neighbor across the road?  Does it include the attendant at the petrol station?

We can be so focused on the “all nations” that we forget about the people we see and interact with every day. If our purpose in life is to glorify God and spread the good news of the Gospel, then should we not be doing it with these very people?

Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you” John 20:21.  Think about this statement and the way Jesus approached the people in his life.  In every situation, he was looking for a way to talk to them about God and to share the Gospel. It didn’t matter if he had just finished a long walk and was thirsty and tired (the woman at the well in John 4).  

It didn’t matter if he was among the crowds being jostled (Bartimaeus in Mark 10). No matter what, Jesus always had awareness of the people around him and how he could speak into their lives.

 

group-of-people-2471124_960_720

 

Well, in the same way, that God the Father sent Jesus into these situations, Jesus is sending you into the lives of people around you. Your neighbor? God placed her next to you for a reason. It didn’t happen by chance. That person who backed into your car? That didn’t happen by chance.

God is orchestrating everything around you. You never know, God may have been working on someone’s heart just so that you could share something with them next time you are at the shops.

Isn’t this exciting? We have a purpose to live for! Jesus has sent us into every single encounter and every single relationship that we have. Imagine if you lived your life with this purpose always at the forefront of your mind. Imagine the changes you could bring in everyone’s lives around you.

 

Last thoughts 

And you know what’s even more amazing? It’s sometimes glossed over because of the emphasis on the first part of the Great Commission. But read again the last sentence: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” As God is sending you into these situations and relationships and chance meetings, he has promised that he will be there. You don’t have to worry about saying the right things, you just have to say, “God how will you use me to fulfill your purpose in this situation?” And then be ready and hear his voice. 

You don’t always have to share the gospel

Why do most people feel anxious about sharing their faith with others?

Have you ever thought “What do I say?” or “Where do I start?” Deciding where to start depends on your view of evangelism. We typically only think of evangelism as helping someone take the final step of putting their faith in Christ. But when you recognise that everyone journeys to faith in Christ, and that journey takes time, you realise that in fact, evangelism includes journeying with a person towards Christ. Your current conversation with them is about helping them take the next step in their journey (and may not include crossing the line today)!

In our day we are seeing an ever-increasing distance to cover in a non-churched person’s journey to faith in Christ.

 

There was once a time in Australia that it was unusual for people not to attend church. Then came a generation that didn’t attend church but still sent their children to Sunday School because they valued the good moral teaching. After that generation came a generation that had minimal exposure to church or Sunday School but still had some exposure to Christianity through Scripture in school or civil public events. But we now have a generation of people having children that have never seen a Bible, never heard the gospel and don’t know who Jesus is, other than a swear word.

 

There was a time when you could logically refer to the authority of the Bible and people would listen. Now people look to their own experience, rather than the Bible, for spiritual convictions.

That means that the journey people take towards God is getting longer as each generation passes. While salvation is an event that takes place in a moment in time, conversion is a journey towards faith in Jesus, and this takes place over time.

 

The time varies

For some people, this journey is very quick. From the time they sense God reaching out to them to when they place their trust in Jesus may only be days, weeks or even months. For others this journey may take years, even decades. People take this journey at different speeds depending on what is happening in their lives and the world around them as well as the type of Christians they encounter along the way and their exposure to the gospel.

 

But here is the exciting thing. A person’s journey towards Jesus can be greatly accelerated by two factors.

 

vintage-791942_960_720

Personal Crisis

A person’s journey to faith is often accelerated by a personal crisis. This may be a positive crisis like having a child or moving to a new country, or it may be a negative crisis like being diagnosed with a terminal illness or losing someone close to them.

 

A Redemptive Relationship

The second significant factor that can accelerate someone’s journey toward Jesus is when there is a Christian in the person’s life who is intentionally building a redemptive relationship with them. As the Christian prays for them and works to help them journey towards Christ, their journey to faith picks up speed.

Now, when you think about these two factors at work in the life of someone you know, who do you think God has sent into that person’s life to help them journey towards Jesus? That’s right—God has sent you into their lives!

You see, you don’t always have to share the gospel in every encounter, but it is your responsibility as a Christian to help people take their next step on their journey towards Jesus. That is why it’s so important for you to ask questions and listen to them.

Learn where they are in their journey to faith and ask God, “What would the next step be for this person, and how can I help them take that step?” Then take action!

Understanding the journey helps you pray specifically for their next step and rely on the Holy Spirit to work in your relationship. When he does you see answers to prayer long before the person puts their trust in Christ for salvation.

Understanding the journey helps you know the part you play and what still needs to happen in your relationship to help your friend move one step closer to Christ.

Understanding the journey helps you relax in conversation. You stop assuming your friend understands Christian terminology. You begin to have a conversation at the level they engage with. You don’t feel pressured to get them across the line in one conversation, so your conversations around Christ are much more natural.

Understanding the journey helps you take action and become more intentional in helping that person take the next step rather than feeling disabled by the thought of having to take a person from zero to faith in one quantum leap.  

 

Last thoughts

Remember, your aim is always to help people arrive at the place where they trust Christ for their salvation, but today God wants you to experience the freedom of simply helping people take the next step on that journey to faith in Christ.

Who can you take on a relational journey towards Jesus today? What step can you help them take?

Witnessing Lifestyle Priority #3: Helping people take the next step on their journey towards Christ

Why do you do the things you do?

YOUR LIFE FOLLOWS YOUR VALUES 

Imagine you are cooking dinner tonight. What will you cook? You will choose something you like, right? You wouldn’t choose foods that you don’t like. Your choice of dinner would follow the “value” that you place on different foods.

In the same way, every choice you make in your life expresses your values. The Bible talks about this a lot. In Matthew 15:19 Jesus says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts…”  Solomon wrote in Proverbs 4:23 “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”

That means that you can’t change your life in any meaningful way without changing the values that drive it. Do you want to start living as a witness for Jesus in your everyday relationships? Then ask what values would drive that kind of lifestyle!

If we try to live for God or change a bad habit, that choice won’t turn into reality unless the values we have are right. We may stop the habit for a little while, or start something good for a couple of weeks, but after a little while, our life again begins to follow our values.

Most of us have seen this reality in our lives. You have probably made a New Year’s Resolution that you kept for the first month or two and then you reverted to your old ways. Why? Because you were trying to change an action but all the while your were not changing. 

 

diary-1149992_1280

 

Here’s another example. Daily time with God is so important; we know that we should be taking this time. But so many of us struggle to actually do it. Why? Well, what are our values?  Do we really value getting closer to God? Or do we place a higher value on a little more sleep, or that TV episode we have been dying to watch since the cliffhanger last week?

There is that saying “You are what you eat.” That’s true of your body but think about this principle on the spiritual level. You are what you think, aren’t you? That’s because what you think about ends up setting your values. What values are reflected in your thoughts and how are those values driving your life?

You want to learn to talk about Jesus with people you run into as you go about your life. If that is to become the way you live, then you need to change the way you think. It’s your turn to cook dinner, right? What’s in your mind as you go to the grocery store?

 

A SHIFT IN MENTALITY 

Of course, you are thinking, “What do I need to pick up for dinner?” But what if you were also thinking, “I wonder who God will bring across my path at the grocery store? How can I speak into their lives? What will God do with me there?” Can you see the shift?  All of a sudden your trip to the grocery store is not about you—it’s about the people around you! It’s about how God can use you in their lives to help them journey towards him.

That changes everything. 

If that is what you want for your life, it’s time to work on the values that will drive that way of living. Remember, your life will not change unless your values change!

 

Last thoughts 

This blog starts a series of twelve blogs, focusing in on the lifestyle priorities that will grow you into a witness for Jesus. Your life is just the expression of your values, so if these values become yours, you will not have to force yourself to live as a witness. Rather, being a witness is what will just flow from your values.

Keep this principle in mind and look for our next blog post!

 

Do worldly people want to talk about God?

One the big fears that keeps us from starting ‘God-conversations’ with people is the belief that secular people aren’t interested in God at all. But nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Non-Christians are curious about Christianity

 

One of the most surprising discoveries I have made as I have learned to live as a witness for Jesus is that people want to talk about God, that non-Christians are curious about Christianity, and that secular people have lots of spiritual thoughts.

It’s true that nobody wants the gospel shoved down their throat. The solution? Don’t do that. Never force someone into a gospel conversation. A person should never feel that the gospel is bad tasting food they are forced to eat. Rather, it should be the delicious dessert they have been waiting for!

 

wait-1052487_1920

 

Don’t start with the gospel. Start with a question that will lead into a God-conversation. People love to interact with questions because they love to tell you what they think. And you can be sure of this: everyone has an opinion about God and spiritual truth. As they share their often misguided opinions about what Christians believe or about God, don’t shift into argument mode and try to win an argument about who is right. Remember, your goal is to open this person’s heart to God and that rarely happens through an argument (even if you win).

When you have a good God-conversation going, simply ask, “Has anyone ever clearly explained to you the Christian message about how we can have a good relationship with God?” or something similar. This leads the conversation straight to the beautiful gospel, the delicious dessert they have been waiting for all their lives.

 

Last thoughts

As I think back over the countless conversations I have had with totally secular people, almost never have I encountered someone who didn’t want to talk about spiritual things. If you are pushy, it’s true that they will resent it. But if you approach the topic with a question, people will be eager to take the conversation further. Ask a question of someone today and trust God to take it further!

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.

 

john-macarthur-quotes-you-are-the-only-bible-some-unbelievers-will-ever-read

 

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.

 

rock-1771913_1280

 

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.

 

people-1209916_960_720

 

  • 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.

 

220px-George_Muller

 

 

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.

 

 

220px-Joseph_Lister_1902

 

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”.

 

 BasilGrt 

 

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?

How should I tell someone that they are going to hell?

 

I was at a BBQ with friends and God gave me the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And then the question came, “So what you’re saying is, if I choose not to believe in Jesus I’m going to hell?” Wow—what a question! How do I tell someone they are going to hell?

 

That wasn’t the only time this question has been asked of me. I take some comfort in knowing that people have heard and understand the gospel to be able to articulate such a question. But it is an important question that demands a thoughtful explanation. After all, the good news of Jesus is just that because without Christ it is very bad news.

 

John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

When we see Jesus in the Bible, he never wavered from speaking the truth. He was straight in pointing out the sinful behaviour of people and calling people to repent of their sins – Matthew 4:17. Why is it that we often avoid confronting people about the eternal consequences of sin? Maybe it’s because we feel the weight of our own sin and don’t want to judge others. Maybe we think this will offend them, but most often it’s because we don’t want to ruin our relationship with people. But what was the result of Jesus speaking truth?

 

“News about him spread” across the land. Matthew 4:24

 Why did news about Jesus spread when he preached such a clear message of truth and repentance? Why was it that hell-bound sinners were attracted to him?

adventure-1807524_1920

 

Remember, John tells us that Jesus came “full of grace and truth”. Even though some received his message as a hard message, in his actions Jesus loved them with a sacrificial love. They felt Jesus’ heart to see them restored to his Father. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The people saw Jesus’ words match his lifestyle—a lifestyle of grace and a message of truth that brought life to their souls—and this was attractive to them.

 

Isn’t this the very thing that the people in your life are so desperately searching for? Grace in a world that judges them and truth in a world of lies and deception.

 

2 Peter 3 talks about the coming day of judgment for all that reject Jesus. A day God promises will come. But in that same passage we read “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise [to return] as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

 

What a true picture of God’s grace in light of the truth of Jesus. He is patiently waiting, desiring all to be saved from the coming judgment. In grace and truth the Word became flesh and it is in grace and truth he waits for the day of judgment. As we live and speak the gospel are we characterised by those two words—grace and truth? God will provide you the opportunity, the open door to speak the truth for him. He will also give you each day to walk in his grace and display his grace in every encounter you have with people.

 

Last thoughts:

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

How do I respond to someone who asks if they are going to hell? As Jesus would—full of “grace and truth”, and as Peter explains—with “gentleness and respect”.