As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual

“As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual.”  I am sure you have heard this expression before if you are a born again believer in Jesus Christ.  Somewhere during your Christian walk, someone has tried to help you gain the understanding of a natural circumstance you were involved in by relating it to a spiritual truth or perspective. Though you were able to follow their comparative analogy with your intellect, you may have had difficulty appreciating its truth with your spirit.  One reason for this difficulty could be that you are not familiar with the spiritual realm in which you exist; a condition I like to call spiritual illiteracy.

Consider this:  The past is what shapes us.  The way we have handled experiences in our past will dictate how we will perform in the present.  Another way of saying this is:  the past is experiential; the present is predictable because of our past, and the future is experientially unknown.

Therefore, salvation (being born again), is a present experience that presents problems to our comprehension because there are no past experiences in our memory banks that support its reality.

The same is true of our natural birthing process.  Once we come out of the birth canal we are in what you could call a “present” experience with no memory to support this new physical reality.  There isn’t one of us who has the memory of a womb experience.  We leave behind one realm of existence and enter into a new realm of existence.

And therein lies the parallel of the natural to the spiritual. The point being, you cannot live in the physical world using the dynamics you lived by in the womb; neither can you live in the spiritual world using the dynamics you lived by in the physical world.

Experiences in “new realms” bring “new experiences” as the order of the day with no past experiences to fall back onto.  The womb world has passed away, behold all things are new in the natural realm at the moment of birth, and the natural world has passed away, behold all things are new in the spiritual realm at the moment of conversion.

This parallel continues with the development of behaviors.  Parental and societal influences in a person’s life are the essential ingredients to the success of this process.

In the natural realm, a person’s behavioral habits are formed as a result of the interactions they experience with family and the society that surrounds them.  This is a development that begins at birth and continues throughout their formative years.  Likewise, the person who has been born-again forms spiritual behavioral habits through the interactions they have with other born-again believers.

Our natures undergird our proclivities.  Our proclivities give rise to our habits and our habits dictate our behaviors.

Here is an acronym:  H.A.B.I.T. = How All Behavior Is Taught.

Therefore, we can say that carnal behaviors and Christlike behaviors are taught.

Born again believers have a spiritual nature and a spiritual existence. Their essence is spiritual, that’s who they are.  They are not carnal in their nature.

Here is a critical observation…many to most believers are not able to identify with; make the connection with; acknowledge, or take confidence in their spiritual nature because they have no memory recall of that nature to fall back onto.  Their memory recall is only from their carnal existence and therefore they suffer conflict.  There are not enough accumulated spiritual experiences in their present life to draw upon.

Behavioral growth in the natural is dependent upon the influence of parents and the social environment that surrounds the baby.    The same is true with spiritual behavioral growth.  The spiritual parent of the believer is the Godhead (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  The societal environment that surrounds the believer is the body of Christ (the church).

The born-again believer comes into the spiritual kingdom of God as the baby comes into the natural world;  innocent, immature, and undeveloped.  Both must go through a growth development that will mold their behaviors and attitudes.

As a child can be disobedient to the natural parent; so can the believer be disobedient to the Godhead.  As punishment follows disobedience in the natural; so does punishment follow in the spiritual.  As direction and guidance are given by the natural parent; so are direction and guidance given by the spiritual parent through the Word of God.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have come to the conclusion that one of the major hindrances undergirding Christian people who are struggling with issues of life is their ignorance of who they are spiritually.  They have not developed strong habits of spiritual behaviors. I have found that many “born again”, “saved”; “redeemed” persons do not understand they exist in a spiritual realm once they give their life to Jesus Christ.  This truth is foreign to their understanding.  Many believe that the only thing that happens to them when they give their life to Jesus Christ is that their “sins” have been forgiven and they have received the gift of eternal life.  Though this is true, they have no understanding of the “rebirth” they experienced.

Though many will tell me their lives have changed drastically, I have come to the conclusion that they are referencing only the tangible things in their physical lives.  They are blinded by all the tangible elements of the physical world; they are indoctrinated by all the philosophies of the physical world; they are motivated by all the aspirations of the physical world and they set life goals according to the paradigms of the physical world.  They have not learned that their spiritual realm of existence is a reality of their “present” state of existence, so their behaviors and attitudes remain immature and undeveloped.

As it is in the natural, so it is in the spiritual is an expression of the truth that needs to be a reminder to us of the aspect of the world we live in but are not a part of.   A reminder that we are to concentrate our efforts on understanding the spiritual realm of existence we are a part of and not the carnal realm we came from.

And to always understand that the combined integrated influences we experience from our spiritual parents and the surrounding spiritual social environment we live in are what is needed for us to come to the fullness of behavioral growth and maturation in the Lord.

As it is in the natural – so it is in the spiritual.

Come to the table and eat…

Having meals together around the kitchen or dining room table is something fewer and fewer families are doing nowadays.  Having hectic schedules to contend with; both parents working; electronic technologies competing for our precious spare time; children involved in after-school and recreational activities that carry on into the early evening, and “dinner on the run”; the luxury of quality family fellowship around the meal table is slowly becoming extinct in many households.

What’s the effect?  Family values are not strengthened; parental input and oversight weaken; family unity breaks down resulting in family dynamics that are drastically redefined.  There is no opportunity for the children to learn of their family heritage or histories; no opportunities to “pass down” treasures of the family.  In a sense there is disconnectedness among the family; each person striving for themselves and not necessarily for the common good of the family.  Then there are those fractured families; those with only a single head; either a mom or a dad.  In these cases, there is even more magnification of disconnect and loss of the common good of the family unit.

Society has drifted far from the will of God in reference to family dynamics, especially as it pertains to unity and fellowship.  The influence of modern values, worldviews, philosophies, and morals have corrupted and tainted the family.  God knew this outcome would happen.  He knew the world would bring this deterioration to the family.  I believe that is why He commanded those who are in His family to commune together regularly and commemorate the heritage and history of the chosen people of God.  We are His children; Jehovah is our Father; Jesus the Son is our Savior and Lord; the Holy Spirit is our Paraclete and teacher and the body of believers is who make up our family unit.  God wants His family to function differently than the families of the world.  God wants our focus to be centered on Him and all He provides for His family.  God wants His family unified through intimate fellowship.

So why are we saying to our family members things that God has not said to us concerning fellowship around the meal table?

Why are many born-again believers in Jesus Christ being told by pastoral leadership they are not worthy to participate in the communion meal because of unconfessed sin in their lives; because they have not forgiven someone that harmed them; because they are holding an aught in their heart toward someone or because they have backslidden into old sinful behavior patterns?  Why is this happening?

Could it be we are leaning onto the traditions of man and having the counsel of God darkened over our minds and hearts?  Have we forgotten the command we were given that said to do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth?

I believe this to be the case!!!  Instead of properly exegeting (pulling out of scripture) the interpretative will of God as it pertains to the communion meal, we have put into scripture (eisegesis) what God has not put there.  Because of this, we have wrongfully misinterpreted the will of God as it pertains to communion and has denied many born-again believers their inherited right to partake of the communion elements along with the rest of their God-given family members.

Do you find yourself being one of the people who has been told you cannot take communion?  Have you been told that if you are guilty of any of these sins in your life and proceed to take communion that you will be bringing judgment upon yourself?

Are you one of these people?  If you are, let me say you are being misguided and being taught an untruth” concerning your privilege to participate in the communion meal.

The misguidance stems from a traditional misinterpretation of scripture passages from 1Corinthians 11:23-32, specifically the 26th to the 29th verses.

Somewhere in the annals of Christian tradition lie three false teachings that come from verses 26-29.

  1. The first deals with “unworthiness” in taking communion
  2. The second deals with what a person is to examine in himself before taking communion
  3. The third pertains to the nature of judgment that is brought upon someone for sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.

I say “untruth” because any doctrinal teaching that is not reflective of the revealed will of God is a false and untrue doctrine.  When such false doctrine is assimilated and incorporated into the sanctification walk of the believer, it weakens their faith and opens them up to deception.  We must exercise great caution and care to guard against such teachings.

So, from where did this false teaching originate?  It came from interpreting verses 26-29 out of context to the body of scriptures that surround the account of the Church at Corinth concerning the communion meal.  The Apostle Paul was concerned about the manner in which they came together to take the Lord’s meal.

Somewhere, there developed a misinterpretation of the following points:

  1. Unworthiness
  2. Self-examination
  3. Judgment
  4. Reason for doing communion

It is incumbent upon us then, to shed the light of truth on these four verses; to deliver people from the shackles that have held them back from communing with their brothers and sisters, and to restore them back to their rightful place at the communion table.

But before we can learn anything about communion, we must construct a basement foundation that it will rest upon.  Why should we do this?  Because any structure is wholly dependent on its foundation.  Poorly constructed foundations provide poor support for the building; well-constructed foundations provide excellent support for the building, so we must build an excellent basement foundation of knowledge to rest our communion table upon.

Transcendence is our basement foundation.

It is defined as to be independent of the world; to exist above and apart from the material world. 

By implication, whatever is transcended is not subject to the physical limitations of the material world, it rises above those limitations and is free to become something else; something the material world could not limit it from becoming.

Jesus Christ is who introduced the dynamic of transcendence to us during His observation of the Passover Meal on the night He was arrested.  In order to understand the significance of transcendence we must first build a sub-basement from the following three areas:

  1. The Historical Old Testament Passover Meal
  2. The Significance of the Old Testament Passover Lamb
  3. The Identification of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb

The Historical Passover Meal

The Israelites were enslaved by the Pharaohs of Egypt for 430 years.  The Nation of Israel is the chosen people of God who were in physical bondage and slavery and could do nothing on their own to escape.  They were in need of rescue and only God could do it.

The difference between “rescue” and “escape” is that if you can get yourself out of danger, you have escaped.  If you can do nothing to escape then you need someone to overpower your situation and get you out of danger, you need rescue.

The manner God chose to rescue his people was through the means of a substitutionary sacrifice of an innocent animal.  That sacrifice brought propitiation, (the regaining of favor or the goodwill of God) to his chosen people.  In this case, it protected the Israelites from the anger, wrath, and agitation of God toward Pharaoh.

The head of each Israelite home sacrificed an innocent lamb and used its blood to cover the doorposts and lintel of the entrance to the home.  When the death angel came to destroy all the firstborn in Egypt, (men and animal), he passed over” those homes that had blood on the doorposts and lentil.  The judgment of God toward Pharaoh passed over those inside the homes.  Deliverance from their physical bondage came that night because God broke the shackles of captivity and slavery under Pharaoh and the next day the Israelites left Egypt and headed toward the land of promise – Caanan.

This account of physical deliverance from bondage in Egypt authored by Jehovah God is a true historical event. It gave to mankind a prophetic foreshadowing of the process of spiritual deliverance and rescue from the bondage of Sin and death that was to come through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as the propitiation of God’s judgment against fallen man.

After their deliverance, God commanded the Israelites to remember and celebrate the events of that night throughout the generations so the people would not forget that God Himself rescued them and brought them out of bondage.

The commemorative meal is called the Passover Meal.

The Significance of the Old Testament Passover Lamb

The lamb that was chosen to be sacrificed had to be a one-year-old male without physical defect.  It had to be slaughtered and then eaten by every member of the family. Its blood was used to “cover” the doorposts of the home; to act as a sign to the death angel that those behind the door belonged to God, His chosen Israelite Nation, and they were to be shielded from the wrath of God’s judgment on the first-born of Egypt. The lamb took the place of the first-born in each Israelite home.  The lamb was sacrificed in their place.  It was reckoned worthy to be sacrificed because it was without physical defect, and innocent.  Since the life of every creature is contained in its blood, there had to be an exchange of life as payment for the cost of rescue; the life of the lamb in place of the life of the first-born.  This exchange is called substitution, the taking of one life in place for another. The sacrifice propitiates the anger, wrath, and agitation of God.

The Identification of Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb

God’s disposition toward mankind with respect to being spiritually separated from His presence as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, is to bring reconciliation and restoration between Him and who he spiritually created – man.  This can only be accomplished by appeasing the wrath He has against mankind and pacifying His desire to condemn mankind to an eternal second death separation in the lake of fire.  Enter Jesus Christ.  He is the manifestation of God’s grace toward mankind.  He is the atoning sacrifice that brings propitiation for man’s sinful nature.  What I mean is that Jesus Christ brings forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration between God and mankind as a result of his sacrifice on the Cross at Calvary.

Jesus Christ can do this for one reason and only one reason.  He is accepted by God to be innocent of sin.  He is unblemished as it relates to sin.  He is in this respect as the Passover lamb was; innocent and unblemished.  This fact qualifies him to be an acceptable sacrificial entity that represents all of mankind in God’s sight.

It is crucial that you understand this point of fact.  Adam represents all of mankind from the human perspective and Jesus represents all of mankind from the human perspective because he was fully human when he walked the earth more than two thousand years ago.  Adam sinned against God, Jesus Christ did not.  Therefore, all mankind is credited as sinning against God because of Adam and all mankind is credited as not sinning against God because of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ being an acceptable sacrificial entity had to die (pay the cost for sin) in order to bring propitiation (appeasement) from God.  This act of Jesus Christ brings spiritual deliverance from the wrath and condemnation of God.  It brings spiritual release from the bondage of sin and death and the authority of Satan over our lives.

It is this recognition that one must have when they are taking communion.  The transcendent recognition of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  No other focus is to be in mind.  If the elements of the communion meal are taken without full transcendent recognition of these points, then judgment is the outcome.

Therefore, if anyone has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, then they are not to be denied a seat at the communion table. The requirement to sit at the communion table has nothing to do with a sinful lifestyle.  The requirement has everything to do with what Jesus Christ has done.  He gave His body to satisfy the requirements of the Law, and He shed His blood to provide remission of sin.  Your acknowledgment of this, and your receiving of Him as Lord and Savior are all that is needed for you to partake of the communion meal.

So, come to the communion table with a heart of peace, and gratitude, and love for what Jesus Christ has done for you.

Infidelity

This article is for married men and women who are ignorant of fidelity.  Now before you say to yourself “That’s not me…I’m not ignorant about fidelity”, be absolutely sure that you know what I’m speaking about before you stop reading any further.

Fidelity defined: faithfulness to a moral obligation, pledge, promise or vow.  It implies complete submission; complete entrusting; and complete allegiance to that which you have committed yourself to.  The key word in this definition is COMPLETE.

Therefore, can you say that you have been completely faithful in the fulfillment of your marital vows to your spouse since the day you said: “I Do”?  If you can say “Yes I have” then you can stop reading, but let me challenge you to consider one more thing before you do.  The word complete implies total; nothing lacking.  Can you say with assuredness that you have never fallen short in your words, thoughts or deeds concerning fidelity with your spouse?

Humm…I thought you couldn’t.  Let’s learn something then about the word fidelity and how we have many times missed the mark in our marital relationships by manifesting infidelity in ways we never thought we were.

By its definition, fidelity is not confined to marriage.  It is a condition that is applicable to any commitment.  Infidelity then would mean there was a breach in faithfulness concerning a promise, pledge, vow or moral obligation to someone that resulted in a violation of the commitment of fidelity between the parties involved.

So, when we use infidelity in the context of marriage, we must replace the misconception that the word implies only having sexual relations outside the covenant of marriage.  There is a much deeper significance we must come to understand.

It is easy for us to focus on issues of adultery, substance abuse, gambling, physical and verbal abuse as behaviors that undergird marital discourse.  These are like “bombs” that explode in our faces.  As a result, they are not hard to identify.  They are extremely devastating to any marital covenant.  But there is another “villain in the camp” that we pay very little attention to.  This villain is subtle and appears innocuous but brings a sense of anesthesia into relationships that cause a gradual state of emotional numbness to develop.  The villain’s name is Mr. Erosion, aka Mr. Drip/Drip/Drip.

You know how he works.  I’m sure you’ve seen him do his thing in nature.  He’s that constant drip of water that keeps striking in the same spot on the earth, and over time, erodes the soil it’s been pounding on to create a crevice that penetrates deep into the ground.  Can you recall seeing his works?

Well, did you know that he likes to abide in marital relationships also?  Instead of water, he uses things like impatience; unkindness; jealousy; envy; boastfulness; pridefulness; haughtiness; selfishness; rudeness; demanding one’s own way; irritability; or holding records of wrongs.

Through these areas, he develops insensitivities between husband and wife.  Each tries to initially co-exist with these insensitivities, but as time goes on in the marriage they find themselves emotionally distancing from each other.   One insensitivity leads into another and the intensity of the insensitivity grows; more distancing occurs until there becomes an emotional “crater” existing between them.  You begin hearing one of them say: “He doesn’t love me like he use to” or “She doesn’t show me respect anymore” or “We don’t seem to connect with each other anymore” or “We are always arguing over the little things”.

In my tenure as a biblical counselor, I have encountered numerous marital cases that were byproducts of these emotional erosions.  The geography of the crater that these couples present in counseling is often times very deep, very jagged and very treacherous.  For the spouse who has fallen into that crater, negotiating the terrain back to the surface isn’t easy because of the extent of emotional numbness that exists.

Do you remember the vows you made to your spouse on your wedding day?   When was the last time you took an inventory of them?     The covenant of marriage is the most basic of relationships established by God.  He expects us to be virtuous in that covenant.  If you don’t remember what you vowed, how can you guard against Mr. Erosion?

What specifically did you vow to your spouse?  Was it to love and cherish and care for?   Was it to honor, obey and respect?  Was it to be there for your spouse in sickness and in health?  Was it to forsake all others?  Fidelity is the cornerstone of any relationship. Does it matter to you that God expects you to be virtuous in his covenant?

Let me give you a homework assignment that will complete your schooling on fidelity.  Meditate on the following scripture passage from the Living Bible, and then write a letter to your spouse relating what the Holy Spirit has revealed to you about your role in the marital covenant.

Ephesians 5: 21-27, 33 (TLB)

{21} Honor Christ by submitting to each other. {22} You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. {23} For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of his body the Church. (He gave his very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) {24} So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ. {25} And you husbands, show the same kind of love to your wives as Christ showed to the Church when he died for her, {26} to make her holy and clean, washed by baptism and God’s Word; {27} so that he could give her to himself as a glorious Church without a single spot or wrinkle or any other blemish, being holy and without a single fault. {33} So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband – obeying, praising, and honoring him.

Stop the erosion in your marriage.  Renew your wedding vows by restating them to each other.  Do it soon.  Do it this weekend.  Send the kids to a sitter and go for a weekend getaway.  Dress up.  Go to dinner.  Create an atmosphere of intimacy.  Speak life back into your marriage by vowing to each other that you will protect the fidelity of each vow.  Commit to edifying each other every day.  Commit to love and honor and respect your covenant of marriage.  Commit to letting infidelity be a thing of the past.

I pray that you were able to digest this and I pray that God gives you the courage and desire to revive the flame that was ignited between you and your spouse on the day you entered into His blessed covenant of marriage.

A devotional challenge – What Foundation Is Your House Built On?

Read this devotional message and then challenge yourself to follow what it’s asking you to do:

Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV)

24”Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  25The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  26But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  27The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Insights:      Jesus Christ is the one making this statement.  He presents a truth; an insight into an element of belief that is overlooked many times by believers or not fully understood.

That element is “acting on what you believe”

People make decisions every day in accordance with what they believe, and what they believe is a result of their own processes of acceptance or rejection of presented facts.  A person will assume a posture of a belief that will reflect their understanding of those presented facts as being either true or false.

What is significant for us to note is what does the person do with their beliefs? They can either act on them or not.  Just because someone has a belief in something does not mean they will act on that belief.  When they “act on” their belief it is because they put their trust and reliance on it.  When they “do not act on” their belief it is because their trust and reliance are lacking.

We are told in the Gospel of John 1:14 (NIV) that Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.  We are also told in Psalm 119:160 (NIV) that all of God’s words are true and eternal.

Therefore, in verse 24 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls wise, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth and act on them out of trust and reliance.

In verse 26 of our devotional scripture passage, Jesus is speaking about those persons whom He calls foolish, who hear His words of truth and accept them as truth but do not act on them because of a lack of trust and reliance.

Jesus is giving us insight into the dynamics of what our faith should be.  The truths of God’s words are what we are to trust and rely on.  If we do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating the trust we have in Him.  If we do not do what He tells us to do – we are demonstrating a lack of trust in Him.

Jesus is telling us that only by having trust in Him and doing what He asks us to do will ensure that we will overcome the situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations that come upon us.  We can and will withstand these things because we are anchored on a “rock” foundation that is not moved by any situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation.

On the contrary, if someone has little trust in what Jesus says then they will find themselves not doing what He asks of them and when those situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations come upon them they will suffer great loss.

Application:      Examine yourself over the next thirty days to see how much trust and reliance you are putting in Jesus Christ in the various situations, circumstances, trials, and tribulations you encounter.

Do the following:

  1. Write down what situation, circumstance, trial or tribulation you find yourself confronted with.
  2. Write out the options you have concerning your responses to these areas by drawing a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side, label it “My Ideas” to solve the situation. On the other side, label it “Jesus’ Methods” to solve the situation.
  3. Use your Bible to locate various scriptures that speak to your situation. Write those scripture references on the side of your paper labeled “Jesus’ methods.”
  4. Compare your side to Jesus’ side and see what discrepancies exist between the way you would handle your situation and the way Jesus would.  If there are discrepancies you will have to ask yourself how much you believe that Jesus’ methods are true and better than yours. The proof of your faith will be evident with your decision to follow Jesus’ methods.
  5. Record how many times you were successful following your methods’ versus how many times you were successful following Jesus’ methods.

Prayer:        Lord, give me the desire to put into practice the truths of your Word concerning all of the situations, circumstances, trials or tribulations I find myself in.  Strengthen my faith through my obedience in fully trusting and relying on your Word so that I can experience your wisdom of standing in you as my “rock” of deliverance.  Change me, Lord.  Change my habits of reliance on myself so that I can bring glory and honor to you in the way I respond to life’s challenges.

It is in Jesus name I pray.   Amen.

I once was blind, now I can see…

The ability to “see” is a remarkable phenomenon we possess as human beings.  This phenomenon is made possible by the reflection of light rays off of an object that is then transmitted onto the surface of the retina of our eyes.

When this happens we say we can “see” the object and are then able to interpret the image we “see”.  Without the light rays or their transmission to our retina, it is impossible to “see” anything.

Our physical eyes give us physical sight, but our spiritual eyes give us spiritual sight.  Both require the reflection of light rays.

In the physical, the light rays come from the sun or moon; in the spiritual, the light rays come from the Word of God.

Since we understand the physical sense of sight, let us gain some understanding of the spiritual sense of sight as it is told to us in the Bible.

The Bible tells us that our lives are lived in either “darkness” or in “light”. 

Things that are untruths or lies are said to be “darkness”.  Things that are truth, are said to be “light”.

If you were in a room that had no light, just pure blackness, and it was filled with furniture, you would probably have difficulty moving around in it without bumping into something or tripping over something because of the darkness of the room.  Your movements would be hindered, tentative, unsure and clumsy.  You would grope around trying to feel your way because you were not able to “see” your way around.  The situation would be completely different if the room was lighted.  In that case, you would be able to “see” things in your path clearly and would move freely and effortlessly throughout the room.

Well as a Christian, we see the world through our eyes of faith in Jesus Christ, who told us in the Gospel of John 14:6 that he was the way, the truth and the life.

If Christ is the truth, then He is light, and it is His light that is reflected in the “retina of our spiritual eyes” which is our faith.

Because of this, we are able to say I “see” the truth of God in this or that.  Those areas in my life where I was groping around in the lies of “darkness”, have now been lighted with the “light” of truth because of my faith in Jesus Christ.  I am now able to move freely and effortlessly around those “things” in my life, that were once in darkness and that caused hindrances in my relationship with Him.

Thank God for rescuing me from the kingdom of darkness and bringing me into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who has given me the ability to “see” the “light” of truth that is in Christ Jesus.

Don’t smother me, give me room to breathe

Christians are commanded to reach out to unbelievers and share the gospel message of Jesus Christ.  This is a truth stated by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew prior to His ascension into heaven.

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 What I find interesting is that Jesus did not tell us how to do this, He just told us to do it.

In light of this, I have seen many Christians evangelize their faith by drowning their hearers in Scripture verses. I have also seen it done by debating with the hearer.  I have seen it done by critically passing judgment on the hearer because of their unbelief.  Very rarely have I seen evangelizing done by demonstrating love to the hearer.

An unbeliever needs to be allowed to disclose their many preconceptions concerning God, life, death, sin, etc.  They need time to explain their condition to you, otherwise, they will withdraw from the discussion and you will have lost a valuable opportunity to effectively witness to them about the love of Christ.

The Bible gives us a great example of a technique we should use when speaking with an unbeliever.

Acts 17:19-23 (NIV)

19Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean.” 21(All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.) 22Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.  Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

 The Apostle Paul took time to study, observe and examine his audience in Athens.  Only when he was able to pinpoint a starting point for his dialogue with them did he present the gospel.  Because of this approach, he was able to hold their attention and “plant” the necessary seeds of the gospel message.  There is much we can learn from this approach.

When was the last time you took inventory of how you witness to an unbeliever?  Are you smothering them with information that is foreign to them?  Remember, the language of the Bible and many of the words you use are of the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of this world.

Therefore, it is a foreign language most of the time to an unbeliever.

Or are you finding that you pay no attention to the sinner’s worldview; how they think and reason.  Remember, you need to let the Holy Spirit show you where the “soft” spot is in the heart of the sinner you are trying to witness to – that is your entry for the gospel.

Another point of consideration is the outcome you expect when you witness.  Is it that the hearer immediately gives their life to Christ at the conclusion of your encounter or is it that you have successfully planted or watered a seed of faith in their heart?  Remember, it is only our duty to tell them of the good news; it is God who softens their hearts and leads them to Christ.

Evangelize vs Witness

Today, it is extremely critical that every born again believer in Jesus Christ be literate of the distinction between evangelism and giving personal testimony (better known as witnessing).

The definition of witnessing is to testify to one’s religious convictions.  This usually takes the form of explaining to someone what the Lord Jesus Christ; the Holy Spirit or the Father have done in one’s life or in one’s circumstances.  This is witnessing to the goodness of the Lord or the deliverance one experienced from the hand of the Lord.  It is testimony that affirms the presence of the Lord in one’s life and how that has caused changes in one’s behaviors, attitudes, thoughts, etc.  It acts as an “advertisement” so to speak to the one hearing the testimony.  It sturs awe, amazement, hope, anticipation, and desire in the hearer to seek the Lord for themselves.  “If He can do it for me, He will surely do it for you”.

The definition of evangelizing is to preach the gospel to.  This pertains to telling someone specifically about Jesus Christ – not you;  His mission, purpose, life, death, burial, resurrection and provision of eternal salvation.  It is the gospel message that convicts, soften hearts, brings contrition and repentance.  It is through the gospel message that one understands how to secure eternal forgiveness and eternal life.  So remember to ask yourself the next time you are having a discussion with an unbeliever if you are witnessing or evangelizing.  Both are beneficial but they are not synonymous.  Remember that it is only through Jesus Christ that one is saved – not through your personal testimony.