Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because spiritualism is still very popular

Many Christians think that no one is interested in religion. But the truth is, while the people who identify as non-religious are a growing minority, the majority of people still believe in religion of some sort. This week I would like to give you some statistics from here in Australia to encourage you as you think about sharing Jesus with those around you. These stats are taken from a 2017 survey conducted by McCrindle research. I want to show you that you don’t need to feel self-conscious about having spiritual discussions with people.

The percentage of people identifying as ‘non-religious’ is growing each year; however, 68% of people in Australia still identify with one religion or another. In addition, 55% of Australians actually talk about spirituality or religion some of the time. So you can see that, for a lot of people, it won’t come as a surprise if you ask them about spiritual things. Many talk about spirituality already, so it would be natural for them to have that conversation with you. Starting or having a spiritual conversation with someone will not necessarily mean that you are seen as weird or ‘old fashioned’.

In addition to this, 92% of Australians know at least one Christian and by far the majority have a positive perception of Christians with the biggest describers of Christians being words such as, “caring, loving, kind, honest and faithful”. Again, as you look to share your faith with the people around you, know that despite what the media or others may make you feel, most people have a positive impression of Christians. On a side note, despite 92% of people knowing a least one Christian, 28% know nothing about Jesus and 56% of people know almost nothing about their local church. As we think about sharing with the people around us, be aware that while people may know Christians, they may know nothing about what it means to be a Christian.

During this survey McCrindle Research asked non-Christians what they thought of Jesus and the Church. When asked about the church, only 9% of people had a negative impression of the church with people saying things like, “When all else fails, the church will be there.” When asked about Jesus, people said things like, “There is nothing negative about him, he was a very moral person. So many good traits there, if he does exist.”

What does all this mean? Well for me it shows me that while we live in an increasingly secular society (only 45% of people identify as Christians and only 7% of people would consider themselves active practisers) that does not mean that people are not interested in spiritual things. There is just a smorgasbord of options for people to choose from. That, in addition to the reality that today people decide on truth by experience, means that people are trying out all the different options to see which one works for them. Wouldn’t it be a shame if, by our silence, the ‘option’ of having a relationship with Jesus was never given to them!

It also means that I can have confidence that telling people around me that I am a Christian does not mean that I will be mocked or ridiculed. I may very well be so, but as I talk to people about Jesus, most people already think positively about him.

As you live your life in the mission field that God has put you in (which is wherever you are), speak out with confidence. Spirituality isn’t dead. It’s still part of the world we live in and discussing spiritual things is still very popular.

People are still searching, in some ways harder than ever. Help them in their search for Jesus!

 

 

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because the rat race takes you nowhere!

Sometimes when I am having a spiritual conversation with someone and they are questioning why I believe what I believe, I like to turn the conversation back on them and ask them, “What about you? Don’t you feel that something is missing in your life, that things are not right, not the way they are supposed to be? Aren’t you searching for something that your current life is not giving you?” It’s easy for them to dismiss Christianity when talking in third person, but when confronted with the outcome of their own life and worldview, they pause. Those who are honest often answer in a subdued voice. “Well…yes.”

We know that, as the church father Augustine said to God, “Thou hast made us for thyself, and restless is our heart until it comes to rest in thee.” We call the headlong pursuit of the secular goals of money and success ‘the rat race’. But the rat race is not the right race, because the prizes it gives will never give a person what they hope it will give them. At the end of the rat race, even if you win, is just more emptiness, loneliness and disappointment.

The rat race is a big lie. It’s important to ask people those questions that reveal the lie. On the surface people may be ‘successful’ and seem to have it all together, but under the surface they know that the rat race is taking them nowhere. Talking openly about that suddenly makes the gospel more relevant. The reason we are never satisfied with the things of the world is that we were made for God and only he can make our lives whole. As Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

Do you want your gospel conversations to be relevant to someone who is in the rat race? Ask them the questions that will help them recognise that the rat race will take them nowhere and point them to Jesus.

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Because it answers people’s search for purpose and meaning in life!

Trying to find a job can be very disheartening. All of my kids are youth or young adults, so between them and their friends I spend a lot of time with young people. I see the agony of trying to find a job. One application after another gets rejected. They move from excitement about jobs that they want to an acceptance of any place that will hire them. After multiple rejections comes a discouragement about your self worth and why you exist in this world.

That’s not just the experience of young people. Anyone in search of work has these same feelings, as does someone who has retired and wonders if they have lost all their value now that they aren’t working any more. This longing for purpose is also felt by people who don’t really enjoy their work or their life in general.

We were made in the image of a purposeful God and people know that they should be living with purpose. This makes the gospel so very relevant and can be a great starting place for a spiritual conversation.

God’s purpose for us is so central to the Christian message that I try to share it whenever I share the gospel. When you turn to Christ in faith, God forgives you, you start a new life with him at the centre of it, and most exciting of all, you become part of the stream of his activity in the lives of other people you know who are searching for answers. God wants to reveal himself to them through you!

When you recognise that God’s purpose for you doesn’t require you to be a preacher or have an exciting job, then everyday becomes an adventure as you look for doors God is opening and you find ways that God wants to use you in the lives of the people around you.

This purpose of God through you is one of the most compelling parts of the gospel.

Why don’t you start a conversation with someone today with the question, “What is your purpose in life?”

Why is the Gospel relevant in today’s age?—Because it gives us hope despite everything that is happening in the world .

When we look around us it doesn’t take long for us to truly realise that this is a fallen world we live in. We are constantly bombarded by that fallenness. Over the last little while I have been watching the show Designated Survivor. I am enjoying it, but every single episode is a story of war, disease, the evilness of people and I could go on with many other things. I realise that’s the whole point of the show, but it says something about the world we live in. Those things are not fantasy, but a potential reality. Indeed, a reality for many.

Think about the coronavirus that is sweeping the world now. People are in a panic about it.  Yet another disease that is a sign of the fallenness we live in.

Then think about personal tragedy that is such a reality in almost every person’s life. I myself lost both my parents by the age of 16. I have a friend whose brother-in-law who is in his 40’s with a wife and kids who has recently had a brain aneurism.

It’s all around us all the time. Next time you walk down the street, look at the people around you. Realise how almost everyone you pass is affected by this fallen world we live in. When you truly realise this, it can be overwhelming and you can feel hopeless.

When we think about all this, isn’t it amazing how believers have hope in spite of it all. The hope that we have in God truly does surpass all understanding. I would like to encourage you with just a few verses from the Bible.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-10 Paul says,

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God…For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.”

The Psalmist wrote about the Lord in Psalm 40:1-3,

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.”

In Isaiah 41:1-10 there is a magnificent passage where God tells about his mightiness and then at the end tells Isaiah that he will uphold him. Read the following and be encouraged that our God is a mighty God and he is upholding us!

“Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment. Who stirred up one from the east whom victory meets at every step? He gives up nations before him, so that he tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow. He pursues them and passes on safely, by paths his feet have not trod. Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he. The coastlands have seen and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble; they have drawn near and come. Everyone helps his neighbor and says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’ The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith, and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’; and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved…. Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

And lastly, Paul writes to the Romans about the incomparable love of God for us in Romans 8:31-39

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

When you encounter people who seem to have the weight of the world on them, when you speak to people who talk about the evilness of man, or the tragedies that abound around them, be reminded that we serve a God who gives us hope. Introduce them to your Father in heaven. Show them that he is God and he gives hope to the hopeless. Share with them how you have hope, not just for the life to come, but also now in this life in spite of everything, because God is with you.

Why is the Gospel relevant in today’s age?—Because the dread of death is a reality for many!

I’ve had the privilege to attend a number of funerals lately. I deliberately use the word privilege because it reminds us of the reality of life and the equality of all mankind. We will all be the guest of honour at our own funeral one day.

 

However, other than the guest of honour, there are typically two types of people looking on in the crowd of loved ones and friends. Can you guess the two types of people?

 

  • There are those who dread the thought of death. You may experience this yourself. Even reading this article may make you uncomfortable. The reality of death sometimes overcomes you and you would rather avoid the topic and resist the urge to give too much thought to the reality of death.
  • Then, there are those who see death as a milestone in life that all of us face. While the thought of leaving loves ones saddens you and death may even still concern you, you look beyond the grave and excitedly look forward to eternity and are filled with hope, joy and great expectation.

 

Are you one of these two types of people? When you think of your loved ones and friends, which type of person do you think they are?

 

Why such a great contrast between these two groups of people? What’s the difference?

 

Could the difference be our human ability to muster all the courage inside us to face death? Is it the power of positive self-talk and creative thinking? Can it be the reassurance and well wishes from others that makes such a profound difference? I don’t think so.

 

Wouldn’t you agree that none of these things could possibly have a deep and permanent impact on our honest view of death? So, what can bring about that change? What brings peace to the most fearful soul or stills the anxious heart? Only one thing – a real and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 

But why only Jesus?

  • Only Jesus has demonstrated the power to overcome death and the grave.
  • Only Jesus was raised to life after being dead for three days.
  • Only Jesus offers humanity life beyond the grave.
  • Only Jesus has the authority to forgive your sins.
  • Only Jesus can restore your relationship with God.
  • It is only Jesus who lovingly and openly invites you to experience a personal and real relationship with God.

 

Millions of people throughout history have lived life with hope and peace and have faced their final hours free from the dread of death looking forward to life beyond the grave in the presence of the Saviour and Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Today Jesus says to all who know him, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me… I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”  John 14:1-3

 

The Gospel is relevant in today’s age because the dread of death is reality for many!

 

We need to realise death is not the end. It is a doorway to a better eternity with God. The one who opened that door is Jesus, through his death on the cross.

 

Who do you know that needs to know the good news of Jesus Christ? The only news that can truly free anyone from fear of death and give them peace and hope for eternity is the good news of Jesus Christ – The Gospel

Why is the Gospel relevant in today’s age?—Because we are all searching for answers!

Whether you are a person of faith, nonreligious or free thinking, every person on the face of the planet is searching for answers to make sense of life, their existence and the world we live in.

 

We all have questions, from those on the personal level like Who am I? What is my purpose? Does anyone love me? or How do I find peace?, to questions on a wider global scale like, What is wrong with the world? and Why is there so much suffering? or even Why doesn’t God do something? to questions beyond this world like “Is there something else out there in our universe? and How did life begin? or What happens after this life ends?

 

I’m sure that you have asked yourself these questions or ones like them before, or maybe you’re even pondering some of these questions right now.

 

The reality is that humanity will never be able to answer every question. Why? Because we are not all knowing. We do not have the capacity or ability as individuals or collectively to know everything about all things. Science has been great in providing us some answers, but as wonderful as science is, the more we come to know and understand, the more questions we seem to have that remain unanswered.

 

This is where the truth found in the pages of the Bible—the insight of the scriptures—and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ provide answers to the frustrated seeking mind and comforts the tormented human heart.

 

That’s why I bring these life questions up in conversation with people and talk about what the Bible says about these things. People are often amazed to find that there are actual answers to the big questions of life.

 

Most of these answers are connected to the good news of Jesus and this has a big impact on people.

 

If you want your spiritual conversations to be relevant to people in a way that makes them want to talk with you more, then start with life questions the person is already wrestling with and move towards the gospel from there.

 

Why the gospel is relevant in today’s age?—Christian life stands out as so different!

I have never seen a time like this, where people all over the world are getting sick, anxious, confused, filled with uncertainties, and the economic growth is declining as the effect of the pandemic. As COVID-19 escalates around the globe, fear lingers even quicker than the virus itself! Empty shelves and crowded checkouts in grocery stores provide visual representations of the panic surrounding the spread of COVID 19..Social media photos of empty streets, shuttered shops and restaurants, reduced public transit service, closed borders and issuance of “stay-at-home” order to control the outbreak are the government officials’ response to address this public health emergency.

 

Why the Gospel is relevant today?

 

The Gospel is relevant because Christian life stands out as so different!

 

While my newsfeed and group chats are full of real-time panic-inducing news articles and updates about Corona Virus, you can easily spot on Christians, who view things differently. I know someone who is currently busy acquiring some supplies from other compassionate people and delivering them personally to disadvantaged people. You will see her optimism and how she responds in love about every given situation. You would always see her pointing people to the unshakeable hope we have in Christ. My colleague mentioned a senior band who call themselves, Ambassadors for Christ. They usually perform in daycare and age care, but since the outbreak, they started to spread the message of hope by singing in their garage.

 

As God’s people, our hope is not in anything that belongs to this world or even in our physical health, because we are looking from our lens of faith knowing who God is and who we are in him. Our confidence lies not on our own situation, but in the nearness of Christ. His perfect peace dwells in our hearts as we TRULY trust in him. We are called to be like a “lighthouse in the darkness” and, “a city set on a hill” that “cannot be hidden.” How does that practically look like? As it says in “Galatians 5:6b, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”. REAL FAITH LOOKS LIKE LOVE—BEING GRATEFUL AND GENEROUS amid everything that is happening. We are grateful that even the fear of death cannot separate us from his great love (Romans 8:35-39), and we are generous, because we genuinely care for others. We recognise that even difficult circumstances such as this are opportunities to be a witness for Jesus!

 

As Wayne Alcorn, National President of Australian Christian Churches said, “God’s plan for the planet is the church. His caring force in the earth are people like you and me…Maybe this is the time, in the midst of all these darkness and fear and terror, for you and I, to do what scriptures tells us to do, rise and shine. There’s a wonderful verse, it says, “Rise and shine for your light has come.” (Isaiah 60:1a) Perhaps, this is the greatest moment for the church, despite the terrible times we are in. Just because people are socially isolated, it doesn’t mean that they have to be lonely. Maybe you and I can pick up a phone, maybe we could facetime somebody, maybe there’s a neighbor that needs their lawn mowed, maybe there’s somebody that needs you and I to go and get some groceries or help them with some of the basic needs of life, you probably know a friend whose lost their job, maybe there’s some practical, simple way that you can show tangible expression of the love of God. This really is, a very difficult time for humanity, but in the midst of it, God’s got people like you, He’s got people like me, let’s rise and shine and let’s show the world, that in all of these, God is still real, God is still love, and he will show them his love through people like us.”

25th of April: Anzac Day, “Lest we forget”

Today is a significant day for Australia and New Zealand. Anzac Day is named after the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, who served in the Gallipoli Campaign in the First World War (1914-1918). The bravery, dedication, mateship, and fortitude—in the face of the adversity of those who served on the Gallipoli Peninsula shaped the national identity of Australia.

 

Anzac day is a solemn day of national remembrance of those Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who sacrificially fought and died for their country, and others who have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

 

Lest we forget. Let us also take this day to remember the overwhelming, never-ending selfless love of God. Christ sacrificed himself on our behalf, though we don’t deserve it, paying the infinite and eternal penalty only he could pay (2 Corinthians 5:21). Because of his love for us, Jesus laid down his life, paying the penalty for our sins. (1 John 2:2) Jesus died in our place, for our transgressions, and he was raised again, he is alive today, and we can have a growing and living relationship with him. (1 John 1:12)

 

 

We need to decide what kind of Christian life we want to live and what we are willing to do to get it. There’s a kind of Christianity that basically says, “We have joined the religious club”. The focus of this kind of Christianity is just to tick the items in the list of rules, rituals, rites, or good works; it doesn’t demand too much of us because it doesn’t impinge profoundly on our inner life. It’s ‘Comfortable Christianity’—we want God to be involved in our lives, we want him to be committed to us, but we don’t want to go too far in our commitment to him.

 

But there’s another kind of Christianity that we can choose. It’s the “all-in” kind of Christianity. The kind that we see men and women of God in Scripture, living, the kind that we see some people we know living as well. This kind of Christian has come to a fork in the road in their lives—a time in their Christian life when they encountered God very deeply and sensed that God was saying to them, “I did not die for you so you could continue to live for yourself, just adding some Christian benefits to your life.”

 

No, as the apostle Paul puts it, “For to this end, Christ died and lived again that he might be Lord, both of the dead and of the living.” God doesn’t want to be a comfortable addition to your life. He wants to turn your life upside down! This is the reality of the Christian life God wants for you.

 

Those ANZAC soldiers were reflecting the way God loves. God wants you to respond to his love by loving him back in the same all-in way that he has loved you.

 

There’s a song by Hillsong that beautifully expresses this:

 

Heal my heart and make it clean

Open up my eyes to the things unseen

Show me how to love

Like you have loved me

Break my heart for what break yours

Everything I am

For your kingdom’s cause

As I walk from earth into eternity”

 

Lest we forget…

 

 

 

The Coronavirus has just made the gospel far more relevant to many people!

There have been many times when I have tried to start a good spiritual conversation with people, but their reaction shows that they are not interested at all in having that kind of conversation. As believers, we know that the gospel is the most important message a person could ever know and come to grips with. But there is a big difference between important and relevant!

 

Getting right with God and knowing what happens when you die just became much more relevant to our society than it was a few weeks ago. I am part of a Facebook group of pastors in our area. One pastor said that because of the restrictions on gatherings, they moved to sending a live video feed of their Sunday service to their congregation online. So none of the congregation showed up for church. But in spite of the restrictions, two non-Christians showed up looking for answers, looking for hope, looking for God.

 

The coronavirus changes everything for us as witnesses. Don’t miss this change, because it demands a change in your thinking too! Here is what needs to change:

 

You need to stop assuming that nobody really wants to talk about spiritual things or about God and start assuming that everybody wants to have spiritual conversations and is looking for answers and the hope that only God can bring!

Now is not the time to simply pray and hope that God might do something to open a person’s heart to him. Now is the time to act on your prayers and start talking with everyone you know, everyone you encounter, about life and death and God and forgiveness and hope and peace. Be bold. Ask people, “How are you dealing with all that’s going on with the coronavirus? If you were to catch the virus and die, do you have confidence that you are right with God? Can I share with you how you can have that confidence?”

 

Then share the gospel with them. When you have shared the beautiful truth of what Jesus has done to make a way for us to be right with God, ALWAYS ask if they feel like they are ready to take that step right now. If not, ask what is holding them back, and then have another great conversation about that.

 

Maybe you don’t see many people right now, because you are staying at home as we try to help contain the virus. But you can call people to check on them and have these same conversations. Don’t assume that because people have not been open in the past, it means that won’t be open now. Be bold, take action, trust God, and start spiritual conversations, then move those conversations toward the gospel!

 

Jesus is risen!

That statement will be echoed around the world today by millions of people. It’s the culmination of God’s ultimate plan for the human race. What an incredible blessing to be called a son of God as a result of today! Christ died and paid for our sins, and then he rose from the grave and conquered death. He has “the keys of Death and Hades”. (Rev 1:18)

 

For me the sense of joy that occurs on this day makes it one of my favourite of the whole year. As 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Christ’s resurrection means that we are alive with him. I would encourage you to read the whole of 1 Corinthians 15 today.

 

There is a song by Hillsong at the moment that I am loving. It says,

And the morning that You rose
All of Heaven held its breath
‘Til that stone was moved for good
For the Lamb had conquered death
And the dead rose from their tombs
And the angels stood in awe
For the souls of all who’d come
To the Father are restored”

 

I think sometimes we tend to forget the magnitude of what happened that morning. Jesus rose from the dead! Take a moment now and think about that. As the song says, the angels stood in awe. What is our response? Do we stand in awe, or do we sometimes take it for granted?

 

What about those people around us who so desperately need something to cling onto, some sort of hope? In this time that we are living in, now more than ever the world needs hope. What greater hope to share with them than the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and what that means for them?! Share with them that there doesn’t need to be fear or anxiety, but rather hope! And that hope is because on this day almost 2000 years ago Jesus rose from the grave in triumph.

 

We read about the disciples locking themselves in the upper room during this time. Indeed, not unlike what we are going through right now – having to isolate ourselves. While their reasons for being in that room are different to ours, Jesus’ response to us is the same.  We read the story in John 20: 19-21 “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

 

Jesus is telling you two things today. Peace be with you. During all the turmoil and worry, peace. But what is the second thing? He is sending you. In amongst all the turmoil and worry, he is sending you. This time of self isolation and fighting this disease hasn’t put his call on your life on hold. Indeed there is no better time to be speaking to those around you about him – the hope of the world.

 

So go with his peace into whatever situation you find yourself. Whether it be just in your home with your family, or speaking to the fuel station attendant, or in the hospital or wherever you are and know that he has sent you into that situation, just as he did the disciples. Speak out with boldness, just as they did, and watch the Holy Spirit work in people’s lives around you!