Some Won’t Believe

I am always amazed when I read the Gospel of Matthew. Right near the end of the gospel, the resurrected Jesus appears once again to His disciples. This time they are on the mountain and Jesus is about to ascend into heaven. Mathew records the reaction of the disciples when Jesus appears to them…

Matthew 28:17 “The moment they saw him, they worshipped Him, but some still had lingering doubts.”   (The Passion Translation)

Hard to believe that after numerous appearances to all of them, some of them, and even a few one-on-one, some could still be struggling with doubts. 

But, it should not surprise me, I suppose, as Jesus even told us this would be the case. John records the words of Jesus…

“The words I speak to you are Spirit and life. But there are still some of you who won’t believe.”        (The Passion Translation)

Here Jesus apparently is prophesying what Matthew would later record. That some of those who heard the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom and even followed Jesus – seeing Him raised from the dead – would simply never come to fully believe and give Him their complete obedience and allegiance. Doubt would defeat them.

Well, the same is still true today – some are not fully convinced that they should give Him 110% holding nothing back. There are many who say they believe in Jesus. However, they don’t live like they do. They are not applying God’s Word to their life style – their words, actions, attitude. They are not obeying the Scriptures. Remember, Jesus said, “if you love Me, you will obey Me.” So, although they confess to follow Jesus and that they believe in Him, it would seem that they don’t. After all, when it comes to the Scriptures, you only believe what you have applied to your life. It is always much more than mental assent – it is heart transformation leading to total obedience. “But some doubted.” 

Jesus says that, in Matthew 7:24 “Anyone who hears my teaching and applies to the his life…”

Application is the key. Living what you say you believe … And, if you don’t, maybe you don’t really believe. Some won’t really believe. Jesus prophesied it. They will know God’s Word in their mind but not be applying it or living it from their hearts. They will doubt and allow those doubts to sidetrack them.

I recently spoke with a graduate engineer and we got around to talking about the age of the earth. His area of engineering is the study of the earth’s surface. So, his scientific approach and his university education taught him that the earth is millions if not billions of years old. And, that seed of doubt planted has sidetracked him and moved him out of the faith. “And some doubted.”

And, there are some who are apparently walking in the power of the Spirit. They are healing people, casting out demons, and even prophesying in the Name of Jesus. Yet, they too are not true followers and have missed the point. Jesus says of them…

Matthew 7:21-23 ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the realm of heaven’s kingdom. It is only those who persist in doing the will of my heavenly Father. On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’”

They were doing what they wanted and not the will of the Father. So, maybe they were born again and initially followed Jesus but somewhere things took a left turn and they began to believe in themselves and their own ministry – leaving God’s ministry and entering their own – following their own agenda and not God’s will. They doubted that God knew best. 

Jesus says, that on the last days they too will be banished from His Kingdom. They too doubted God’s will, God’s purpose, God’s way. Instead they did what they thought was right and did it in the way they thought was best. And God’s ways are much higher than our ways. 

So, we are still in decision time. We can choose to believe in the resurrected Jesus, His will, His way, His love, His Kingdom, and His purpose of seeking and saving the lost. And follow Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Or, we can choose to allow doubt to enter in and derail us from walking in God’s perfect will for our lives (Romans 12:1-2). 

Our choice – and it is a daily decision. 

Seized With Power

The early Church was birthed on the day of Pentecost when those gathered together were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). In Samaria (Acts 8) Philip brings people into the born again experience and then a few days later apostles from Jerusalem travel to Samaria and we see the Holy Spirit decent upon the new believers and they are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The same experience is noted in Acts 10 with Peter while he was preaching to Cornelius and his household. 

The baptism in the Holy Spirit was a powerful part of the life of the early Church. An essential part. Today, it is given lip service, people pray in tongues, and we call ourselves Spirit-filled believers. Well, not really. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is much more than the gift of a private prayer language. 

First is a fulfillment of a promise that our heavenly Father made to His people (the gathered ones) many centuries before. Jesus told His disciples:

Luke 24:49 “And I will send the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to you. So stay here in the city until the mighty power of heaven falls upon you and wraps around you.” 

(The Passion Translation)

The word “promise” here – the Aramaic reads “the kingdom” or “rule.” In other words, the Father’s promise would be the coming of the Holy Spirit to live in them and empower them (come upon them) as a sign that the Kingdom is now established upon the earth and that His rule is now active in the lives of the believers. So much more than speaking in tongues. 

Jesus comments again about the importance of the experience and encounter.

Acts 1:5 “John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”     (The Passion Translation) 

Again, in the Aramaic, it implies that the disciples would be the ones who would do the baptizing: “John baptized you in water, but you will baptize [others] in the Holy Spirit.”

And, as we are aware, the purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not that we could speak in tongues and have a private prayer language – as important as that might be. The purpose of the baptism in the Holy Spirit is to empower the believer to move in the supernatural power that raised Jesus from the dead and, in so doing, to give witness to non-believers that Jesus is alive and the Saviour.

Acts 1:8 “But I promise you this – the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be seized with power. And you will be my messengers…”      (The Passion Translation)

Again, in Aramaic the phrase “seized with power” could be translated “you will seize power. This, of course, changes the whole picture giving us the task of seizing and not just passively receiving. We have to desire it, reach for it, receive it, and then use it.

The early Church seized this power and were seized by it. Their emphasis was not speaking in or praying in tongues. In fact, the only main reference to tongues being a private prayer language is in 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul the apostle mentions it. Tongues as a way for God to communicate with us (connected to the interpretation of tongues) is mentioned more often than a private prayer language. 

Regretfully today we have majored on the ‘speaking in tongues’ both as a sign that you have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and as a major benefit of the baptism. I believe that the main focus of the Baptism is to empower us to witness – not to empower us the talk to the heavenly Father as we can do that, in His presence, in our own natural language any time we want to. It is time to emphasize the biblical reason for the Baptism – not tongues, but witnessing and fully proclaiming the Gospel. It is time to walk in the power and see miracles, signs, and wonders backing up the sharing of the gospel.

Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

A Revelation of the Power of God

I am of the opinion that believers today need a fresh and new revelation of the power of God. The power that raised Jesus from the dead. The power that brought each one of us from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His dear Son Jesus. The power that lives in us because we are born again. The power that enables and empowers us to be witnesses for Jesus and move in supernatural gifts because we have received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. 

We acknowledge all of the above because we have read about it. We hear it preached. We have a limited understanding of all that it means if it is really true – and it is. But, I don’t think most believers have truly grasped what all of this means to us personally and to the Church that Jesus is building. It is as if we acknowledge it and then simply put it to one side. We believe it but brush it off. We even celebrate it when we come together as believers but place it on a back burner when facing our everyday life among the non-believers.

In 2 Timothy Paul is writing to a young spiritual son and apostle named Timothy whom he has been discipling and mentoring  – fathering – and he writes: “…overcome every evil by the revelation of the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8b The Passion Translation).

I believe every born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit believer needs a fresh “revelation of the power of God.” It may be a refreshing of what they have already experienced and know or it may be their first true encounter with the power of the Spirit since their salvation. Either way, every believer needs to be praying for “the revelation of the power of God.” 

Every believer in their own life have this power to “overcome every evil.” But, by their lifestyle and even their own admission they are not overcomers. They are struggling with their faith. They are fighting temptations and often losing. They are living at the same moral levels as most of their non-believing friends and neighbours, watching the same television programs, listening to the same music, and even viewing the same pornography. 

I was recently at an event where a believer and I were in conversation together. He drew my attention to one of his grandchildren. This young man was sitting near where we were standing. This proud grandfather was telling me how on fire for Jesus this young man was. Well, as the night went on this young man continued to drink and then drink some more until he was no longer in control of his faculties. And, his conversation was anything but becoming of a believer – especially one on fire for God. And, he was not the only believer not “overcoming every evil by the revelation of the power of God.”

Every one of us needs a fresh revelation and encounter with the “power of God” on a daily basis. It would serve as a reminder that we can overcome all temptations and every evil we may face during the day. It will remind us in a powerful way (no pun intended) that God is still God and He is most certainly still in control. And, it will allow us to minister to others and see them set free and come to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Without a revelation of the power of God and walking in that revelation we are simply followers of another religion. 

TGIF

I know that it is not Friday… but I just needed to share this thought with you. One of my all-time favourite authors and speaker is deeply involved in teaching in the social work field. Her name is Brene Brown. Her Ted Talk on vulnerability is amazing and one of the top 5 Ted Talks of all time. Her six books are life-changing. She has a new Netflix production which I have not seen yet but plan to take time to watch it next week. She has tremendous insights that help heal the heart and set the soul free of shame, rejection, expectations, and pain just to name a few. 

Recently she has restarted a Friday blog which had been discontinued some time ago. It is entitled TGIF. The letters don’t stand for “Thank God It’s Friday” or “Thank Goodness I’m Fabulous.” They stand for: Trust – Gratitude – Inspiration – Fun.

So, on Friday you are to reflect on the past work week and think about what and who you have trusted; something or someone that you are thankful for and should be expressing your gratitude for; something or someone who inspired you during the past week; and then the fun things you did during the week. You reflect on Trust – Gratitude – Inspiration – Fun.

Let me repost what she chose as her four things …

For my first TGIF back in the saddle:

I’m TRUSTING that it’s ok to just keep doing the next right thing – even when the long-term plan isn’t quite clear. Enough right things will get me where I need to go.

I’m deeply GRATEFUL for the support around The Call to Courage Netflix special. It’s felt equal parts exciting/scary and brave/vulnerable. Researcher, heal thyself.

I’m INSPIRED by the women I sat across from over the last month. Abby Wambach for the launch of her new book, Wolfpack, Laverne Cox at the Netflix launch in Los Angeles, Melinda Gates for the launch of her new book, Moment of Lift, and Laura Mayes at one of my favorite conferences, Mom 2.0.

What’s FUN? 

I come from a long line of product evangelists. My grandmother used to hold up a can of beans or a shortbread cookie and basically do a commercial about why it was the very best (including the aisle location at your neighbourhood Piggly Wiggly). Now it’s my turn!

When it comes to suitcases, hair spray, or sparkling water, I have strong opinions. So it was a fun assignment to put together a round-up for The Strategist’s “What I Can’t Live Without” column.

She concludes with…

What are you trusting, grateful for, inspired by, and doing for fun? Post it with some pics on social and tag us #TGIFpractice.

If you want to sign up for next week’s TGIF newsletter, subscribe here.

You do what you want with the idea. I am making a serious decision to do a personal TGIF every week. I am not planning to hashtag it or even post it on my own blog other than on a special occasion. I just plan to take a few moments at the end of each work week and reflect on the past seven days…. And do my own TGIF.

Enthusiasm and Confidence

I have noticed something recently. Not a new revelation but a revisit of an older one that is being renewed in my heart at the moment. A bit of background: I have slowed down a bit recently. It has been a conscious decision to work a little less and enjoy the stage of life I am in a little more. Less rushing, less travel, less ministry. Don’t get me wrong, I seriously enjoy what I do in my ministry but a recent prophetic word over my life has spoken strongly to me that this is the third and last season of my life. And, that I was to do new things in a new way. So, I wondered space to do that – emotional, mental, spiritual, and even physical space in my active life. 

So, as a result, I am taking a little more time to step back and reflect on my life, my ministry, the Church, the current political and social situation we see unfolding all around us, and what it is God is doing right now in all of the above. And, a side benefit is that I am spending more time with Jesus and in the Word of God deepening my connections with both. 

I am not one to live on the surface. Never have been. I don’t handle surface conversations known as small talk. I don’t appreciate relationships that don’t have any depth or substance to them. I look for churches that are ‘going deep and that want meaning and purpose in all that they do. It has always been this way in my personal relationship with the Lord and with His Word as well. I want to go deep and be very transparent, vulnerable, open, and humble before them. I don’t do plastic.

During some reflection recently I realized that when my relationship with Jesus and His Word are growing and deepening I have greater enthusiasm regarding life and ministry. If I have had a bit of a dry season in the Word – and it does happen – then my enthusiasm for the Lord, for ministry, for life seems to dribble away. Definitely suffers and diminishes. But, when I am focused on Him and His Word and digging deeper – on purpose avoiding surface situations and relationships – then my enthusiasm grows and becomes much stronger impacting all aspects of my life.

And, recently I have realized that this enthusiasm is the foundation for an increased confidence in the ministry the Lord gave to me many decades ago. I had not made that connection before. But, I do feel more confident in what the Lord has called me to do. It is growing as the changes the Lord prophesied over my life begin to grab hold in my heart and bear fruit in my life and ministry. I feel strong as I face the challenges and changes He has spoken about to me a number of times since October, 2015. I feel confident. 

Then as I was writing a blog a few days ago I was working in Romans 15:18-19 and happened to glance back at verse 17. It reads in the ESV “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.” No big deal. 

But, I am currently reading The Passion Translation which is amazing in its accuracy to the original language and its insights into that language. I have been gainly tremendous insights as I read this new version – partly because the verses sound different and it is not the same old, same old. And, partly because of the insights both in the way the verses are translated and expressed and footnotes as the translator dug into the original language and found new shades of meaning and new ways that original language could have been translated. 

So Romans 15:17 reads… “Now then, it is through my union with Jesus Christ, that I enjoy an enthusiasm and confidence in my ministry for God.” (The Passion Translation)

There it is – linking enthusiasm to confidence. And both definitely linked to the depth of my union and relationship with Jesus. Just what I have been going through and what I have been discovering as I have stepped back and slowed down a bit. I am always amazed when the Word speaks like that. I shouldn’t be because I know that God’s Word is alive and active. But, I am surprised when these fresh revelations come.

Hebrews 4:12 “For we have the living Word of God, which is full of energy, and it pierces more sharply than a two-edged sword. It will even penetrate to the very core of our being where soul and spirit, bone and marrow meet! It interprets and reveals the true thoughts and secret motives of our hearts” (The Passion Translation). 

So, I am approaching a new season of new ministry being accomplished in new ways with enthusiasm and confidence. 

A Drink Becomes a River

Jesus is talking to the woman at the well. It is noon in the Middle East. The story is found in John, Chapter 4. The conversation starts with talking about physical water and quenching one’s thirst from the noon day sun that was beating down. Jesus quickly turns the conversation to spiritual water – a life-giving spiritual drink.

John 4:13-14 “If you drink from Jacob’s well you’ll be thirsty again and again, but if anyone drinks the living water I give them, they will never thirst again and will be forever satisfied! For when you drink the water I give you it becomes a gushing fountain of the Holy Spirit, springing up and flooding you with endless life!”

This is a direct reference to Isaiah’s comment:

Isaiah 12:3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

So Jesus is speaking of a well or a fountain that supplies you with spiritual water so that you will never thirst again. You are born again (saved – salvation) and thus have God’s life-giving Holy Spirit in your spirit and He will satisfy your thirst for meaning, purpose, direction, guidance, acceptance, and forgiveness and lead you into your divine destiny. You will have abundant life and be extremely fulfilled as your walk with Him in God’s perfect will for your life.

But the drink can become a river so others can drink from it and be refreshed, encouraged, and receive eternal life, endless life. We find this mentioned in John, Chapter seven…

John 7:37-39a “Then on the most important day of the feast, the last day, Jesus stood and shouted out to the crowds—“All you thirsty ones, come to me! Come to me and drink! Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!” Jesus was prophesying about the Holy Spirit that believers were being prepared to receive…”

Once a person drinks of the waters of the well (fountain) of salvation and is saved they receive so much from the Lord on a daily basis that they will not thirst for meaning and purpose – the reason and purpose of life – ever again. But, with the second encounter with the Holy Spirit – the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 1:8) – the drink becomes a river and many can drink from this inner river flowing out from you. And, as they find answers for their questions and drink deeply they will receive living water – the fountain or well… and the cycle begins again. This new convert needs to then be told of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit so that their drink can also turn into a river and others will come to know Jesus as Lord and Saviour and be refreshed. 

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is so important today. With this experience and encounter with the Holy Spirit you then have the power of God working through you to touch others with the “river.” The Baptism is important and absolutely essential for sharing that “drink” with others. 

So many believers have the well or fountain but never receive the river. So, in their life the drink never becomes a river. And, they seldom see miracles, signs, and wonders or people delivered from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of light. They can share the knowledge of the Gospel but cannot demonstrate that it is true. So, they help people understand the message of the Gospel in their heads but their hearts are left in the same state they were in before coming to understand the message. There is no conviction of the Spirit resulting in true repentance and forgiveness. They say a sinner’s prayer because they understand but without repentance there is no salvation. But, with the river flowing people will be convicted of their sins and their hearts will be transformed while their hearts are being informed. And, they will then taste of the real water – they will have a drink. 

Paul states that to fully proclaim the Gospel you need words (the well or fountain) and miracles, signs, and wonders (the river). Listen to his words:

Romans 15:18-19 “And I will not be presumptuous to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me. For many non-Jewish people are coming into faith’s obedience by the power of the Spirit of God, which is displayed through mighty signs and amazing wonders, both in word and deed. Starting from Jerusalem I went from place to place as far as the distant Roman province of Illyricum, fully preaching the wonderful message of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

So, after you have had a drink, don’t settle for just a well of living water. Seek after and receive the river of living water that come through the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Then others will come to know the Living Jesus Christ through your words and deeds as you fully proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. 

Skilled Instruction and Training

If you were to attend an average worship service on any given Saturday or Sunday you would sit and listen to the pastor – teacher – priest give a teaching – sermon – homily. This is true whether it is a mainline, traditional church, a born again church, or a Spirit-filled church. It is the custom of the people to have the leader spend time during the week seeking God’s heart for a word for the people. Then after he or she has been in the presence of God in their study, the people gather to hear what God has to say through the leader. 

This is much like Moses in the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The people watched as he ascended the holy mountain to meet with God. And, then they waited for him to come back down the mountain from the face-to-face meeting with God and tell them what God said speaking to them about what was on His heart and what He shared with the leader, Moses.

In the early church, it states, “Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. A deep sense of holy awe swept over everyone…” (Acts 2:42-43a The Passion Translation”).

And so the practice continues – the leader or leaders listen for God’s voice, study God’s Word, and bring a message from God to the people when they assemble. We misuse this verse to back up a practice that was never meant to be in the New Testament Church.

However, the word translated ‘teachings’ is the Greek word ‘didache’ which means “skilled instruction and training.” So, the teaching should be more an equipping of the faithful believers – an equipping and training. This, of course, connects directly with Ephesians 4:11-12 which states, “And he has appointed some with grace to be apostles, and some with grace to be prophets, and some with grace to be evangelists, and some with grace to be pastors, and some with grace to be teachers. And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.” (The Passion Translation)

The more familiar version states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

Every believer can go into the presence of God during the week. The believer can enter into the presence of God and approach the throne of grace and hear the voice of God for themselves (Hebrews 4:16). Jesus made a way for us to do this by His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day. We don’t need to wait for the weekend and the assembly to hear what God wants us to know. It can be and should be a daily thing. Then, when we come together on the weekends it is not to hear a well crafted sermon or teaching and receive the polished “word of the week” because we have been receiving the raw, unpolished “word of the day” all week. We come together and share what it is we have individually heard the Lord speak so others can be encouraged and we can find support in our revelation.

Then, on the weekend we come together to have the fivefold ministers equip and train us in the things that we need to know to continue to minister to those in the world who do not know Jesus. And, they equip us with the skills and knowledge we need to use the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11) that He has given to every born again, Baptized in the Holy Spirit believer and follower of Jesus. In other words, we receive “skilled instruction and training” for the ministry that God has called us to do for Him during the week where we live, work, and play.

So, the assembly should be more like going to a gym than going to the movies. We should be practicing and sharpening our skills in sharing the gospel of the Kingdom. We should be learning how to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We should be practicing using the revelation gifts like a Word of Knowledge, a Word of Wisdom, and the Discerning of Spirits. We should be hearing how to live as believers in the current culture and still impact those who do not know Jesus and have not experienced salvation. 

Hebrews 5:14 (ESV) states: “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

The Passion Translation: “But solid food is for the mature, whose spiritual senses perceive heavenly matters. And they have been adequately trained by what they’ve experienced to emerge with understanding of the difference between what is truly excellent and what is evil and harmful.”

This would, of course, totally change the way we “do church.” Even altering the reason we “come to church.” But then, in my opinion, it desperately needs to change.

Have You Listened Recently to Christians Sharing Their Faith?

Have you recently heard someone share the Gospel of the Kingdom with a non-believer? I haven’t either. The reason – very few believers are telling others about their faith. The reason? I am sure there are many…

1> They have accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and Saviour but believe that there are many ways into Heaven and that all religions or faiths are fairly much the same. Not true in the slightest but, if believed, it removes the need and the urgency to share the one true Gospel.

2> They think they are safe and saved because they have said a sinner’s prayer but never repented of their sins or experienced conviction and godly sorry before praying. The Bible clearly stats that without repentance there is no salvation. So, they don’t share the true gospel that they really have not accepted themselves.

3> The are born again (see John, Chapter 3) and have a personal relationship with Jesus. However, they are not following Him as they have not died to self and so are walking to the beat of their own drum. If they were truly following Him then He would be making them into “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

4> They are born again and following Jesus but after a number of attempts to share the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matthew 24:14) and failing to bring anyone into the Kingdom they are discouraged and have simply given up fishing hoping others will have more success than they have.

5> They have tried to share the gospel but failed to present it in such a way that others could understand and receive it. They assumedly know enough to be saved but have yet to learn to share it in such a way that others can understand the simplicity and yet the depth of the salvation message.

I think that for many believers the last reason for not sharing the good news that Jesus saves is the most prominent. 

The Gospel of the Kingdom is simple but profound. And, many people believe it and understand it in their head and even in their heart. But, they have not trained themselves or been trained in how to share the Gospel with others. Sharing involves more than knowing the details and substance of the Gospel. It involves…

1> Being a good listener and hearing, really hearing, what others are saying so that they know they are in a safe place and accepted. This helps a person to be more open to listening to and receiving the message of the Gospel when you do share it.

2> Being aware of the culture and society you are working in so as to be sensitive to what people believe and how they live their lives. This way you can speak into the culture and not create unnecessary barriers that prevent people from receiving the message.

3> Carefully weighing your words so as not to use Christianeze. Many of the words we use to express the Gospel are no longer in current use in society and many people do not have any church background. As well, some words have changed meanings within their cultural context. Example: we redeem coupons – so the word redemption has lost a lot of its punch. So, the words we use to speak to other believers are not words you want to use when speaking in everyday life to a non-believer. Words like sin, saved, repent, atonement. 

4> Learning to notice the open door to present the Gospel. As you listen to anther person often there is an open door for you to swing the conversation towards more spiritual things. And, as well, learning how to open a door within a conversation should the person you are in conversation with not give you an opening. One of my mentors taught me that if you have not moved the conversation towards spiritual matters in 20 minutes that you won’t. 

5> And, being good at sharing the Gospel takes practice and so, as a believer, you need to practice until you feel comfortable talking about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And, doing so in numerous ways that are natural to you so that you don’t come across like you are following a canned evangelistic program. 

Let’s work at becoming good ‘fishers of men’ as we follow the real Jesus.

Today and the two previous blogs are just some random thoughts on conversations I have been in or observed in the last few weeks.  

Have You Listened Recently to Christians Talking to Non-Christians?

 

Blog for May 16, 2019

Have you been in a situation recently where you had opportunity to observe Christians speaking with non-believers, those who are not followers of Jesus? Did you pay attention to what was being said? I recently attended a wedding where the non-believers far outnumbered the believers. In fact, believers were in the vast minority.

Well, you can tell a true believer by the behaviour and what they speak about. And, there were some there who would tell you that they were believers. However, as the night went on you would have to question if they truly were. Why, you may ask? Because of the amount of alcohol they were drinking. I am not against Christians drinking. The Bible does not say a true believer cannot have a drink. But the Bible is very clear that believers do not get drunk. Yet, there they were – obviously under the influence of both the wine, beer, and hard alcohol that was flowing freely. So, there were fewer believers than one would have originally thought at the beginning of the evening. 

Back to the non-believers … Listen to what they were talking about – their favourite team in a variety of sports, their latest night out and what they did, their job – how good, awful, hard, or easy it is – their home, their latest purchase, the car they just bought, their family, the next trip they are planning to take. They are talking about themselves even if no one really cares. And, often to total strangers as if they were out to impress them for some reason.

Now, think about the true believers (not the drunk ones) and what they were chatting about. Well, let’s see. Their work, their home, their family, their health, their recent trip, the trip they are planning, the cottage or camper or trailer … Gee, sounds a lot like what the non-believers were talking about. Nope! Not “a lot alike” – exactly the same. Listen carefully the next you gather in a larger mixed group of believers and non-believers. And, you will realize that they talk about the same things. And, to their shame, the believers seldom if ever talk about their faith in Jesus and the hope that they have in Him. Yet, that is exactly what the non-believers need to hear about.

Oh, I know, it’s not politically correct. So what? Well, it is not socially acceptable. Again, so what? I don’t think it is socially acceptable that people drink too much, talk too loud, and make complete fools of themselves. However, they do. It seems to me they might know better but they really don’t care what I think. Well, maybe it is time the believer took the same approach and simply shared their faith and the reason for the hope that they have regardless of what the non-believer thinks. Sharing regardless of what the others may say or feel. I mean, so what? Can’t have double standards here, can we? They get upset. So what? I get upset with loud and obnoxious drunks who are talking too loud and saying things that don’t need to be heard. I have to put up with their non-social behaviour, you know, because they are just being themselves. Maybe that gives me permission to just be myself and to say – in a polite way – what I want to say. Just maybe.

But, not happening. Generally Christians feel either out of place in such a setting or totally at home. If they feel out of place – they seldom speak up. If they feel at home – they simply fit in with what is going on around them and what is acceptable for the crowd they run with. You know, don’t rock the boat. yet, this is exactly the place where the boat can and should be rocked. 

Christians should be comfortable enough in what they believe to speak up in any situation and share what they believe and why they believe it. They should look for (even make) opportunities to share what Jesus has done in their lives recently. We must be ready at all times to earnestly contend for the faith that we have received and believe with our whole heart. It is time to be less concerned with what non-believers might think and be concerned with what the Lord of the universe is thinking about us. It is time to worry less about being politically correct and socially acceptable and simply speak boldly about the truth that we believe. 

Jesus said that if we were not willing to acknowledge Him before men that He would not acknowledge us before His heavenly Father. That’s a tough comment. Don’t discount it. Jesus told us that we were to share our faith at all times and in all situations as we go about our daily lives. That was a command actually and not just a suggestion. Jesus said, that if we are truly following Him we would become fishers of men – those who are seeking and saving the lost. So, if we are not fishing we are not following.  

So, time to speak up and be socially unacceptable and politically incorrect. Of course, this is assuming you know how to share your faith in a way that non-believers can understand and receive. But, that is a topic for another day. 

Have You Listened Recently to Christians Talking to Christians

Have you spent time recently listening to believers when they are chatting with one another? Or when they are chatting with non-believers? As someone who works with believers and spends time with non-believers I have a few observations to make.

When Christians gather together most of the conversation is about their favourite subject – me, myself, and I. Listen carefully and you will seldom hear a mention of the Lord Jesus or God the Father. Their conversation may sound spiritual but as you listen you will realize that they are talking about themselves – the day they shared the gospel with someone; the time the spent helping someone in need; the praying they have been doing about a particular situation. Sounds spiritual or God-centered but scratch the surface and it is really all about them. Their focus is me, myself, and I.

Of course, they may share prayer requests with each other but even those are mainly about themselves or the concern they have regarding another person or a particular situation they are involved in. Listen carefully and catch the undercurrent and you quickly realize that it is still all about them – the me, myself and I cycle. Even if they are sharing prayer requests regarding others – the wording often brings the focus back on the believer who is sharing. You know, how close they are to the person needing prayer, the relationship they have with the leader, the insider knowledge they are sharing while asking for prayer, how they are feeling about the person or situation. At times, it borders on gossip.

Listening carefully you quickly realize that many believers spend a lot of time talking about their medical conditions. Maybe it is because I am getting older and those around me are also aging but it seems to me that one of the first things believers talk about with each other is what their current medical condition is, what doctor so-and-so has said, the results of the latest tests, and the ton of medicine they are taking. It’s like they are trying to see who is in the worst or best condition as if it was a competition.

When believers are not talking about themselves with others believers they are talking about other people that they know – believers and non-believers. They are not giving insights to aid in a prayer request that has just been mentioned. No, they are simply talking about other people. And, often the ‘other people’ are family members and these family members would be horrified to hear what is being shared if they were there to hear it – which they never are. Again, maybe we could get real and honest and call this what it is – gossip and not interesting. 

And, need I mention, that if the believers attend the same church their conversation is most often about other members or the pastor. And, often show how critical and judgmental they are as people. 

Here is what I feel when I am with them. Some of the thoughts that zip through my brain.

1> Ashamed of how believers are not glorifying God in their conversations or even talking about Him at all. Like He doesn’t exist or, at least, isn’t all that important or interesting

2> Concerned that most of what I am hearing is “the bearing of false witness” or gossip which is a breaking of one of the Ten Commandments. See Exodus 20

3> Amazed at the lack of a real reference to the living God in all that is said – maybe pointing to the lack of a real relationship with God

4> Bored – I mean seriously bored. Do you hear me, bored! Going once, going twice, going three times. I have heard it all before. It is repetitious. It was not that interesting the second time I heard it and even less interesting the 100th time

5> I want to scream, “Get a life and do something important” – which, of course, is more pleasant than saying, “Oh, for goodness sake, shut up”

6> I want to ask them if they are really paying attention to others as they speak – because if they were they would be aware that most have faded and stopped listening soon after they begin talking and long before they stop talking

Something needs to change. Drastic change is required. 

We follow an amazing God who is doing amazing things. Lives are being transformed by the Holy Spirit; people are being delivered and set free; others are finding salvation in the Name of Jesus; and the Kingdom of God is expanding and pushing back spiritual darkness. Churches are making a difference and touching lives. Nations are hearing the Gospel of the Kingdom for the first time. Churches are being planted. Some are being replanted and coming alive once again. Great things are happening.

So, let’s stop talking about me, myself, and I. Let’s get over the issues we are facing and realize everyone has issues and maybe we need to listen more than talk and discover that our issues are really not that big or even that important. Let’s stop the organ recital – my bladder leaks, my liver aches, my heart skips a beat; realizing that everyone has medical issues and pop prescription medicines daily and so your medical condition is really not that unique nor that interesting. 

Let’s talk more about Jesus and how amazing and wonderful He is. Let’s live the truth that “The Lord is my Shepherd and I shall not want.”

Please, and thank you!