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.

A Point to Ponder…

A born again believer in Jesus Christ is anyone who puts their faith totally in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.  It is someone who is said to have “entrusted” Jesus Christ with their entire life; to have committed themselves to Him because of what He has done for them and what He has promised them.

He has paid the penalty for their sinful nature by dying on the cross at Calvary which satisfied the righteous requirement of the law and as a result paved the way for all who believe in Him to be eternally forgiven of their sin and to be resurrected with Him unto eternal life with the Godhead at the end of the age.

This is the foundation of the Christian faith;  the rock of truth that every born again believer stands on with expectant hope.

Now, people don’t usually put their trust in something or someone who cannot deliver the “goods” so to speak; especially if it involves their very life.  If the person or thing falters on what was promised, they usually will disconnect themselves from them; move away from them; give up on them; or disown them, just to name of few of the possible responses.  They do this because they have lost “faith” in that person’s ability or the ability of the thing they relied on to deliver what was promised.

Though this behavior of giving up on someone or something for not fulfilling a promise is consistent with being human, it is not a behavior that is consistent with God.  Though people may fail to fulfill their promises to one another, God never fails to fulfill His promises to those who love Him and who receive Him as their personal Savior and Lord.

Ponder these verses of Scripture:

Numbers 23:19 (NIV):  God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind.  Does He speak and then not act?  Does He promise and not fulfill?

2Timothy 2:11-13 (NIV):  Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him.  If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.

Why not then, consider giving your life to the One who can save you from eternal damnation.  To the One who promises and always fulfills His promises. To the One who did for you what you couldn’t do for yourself.  To the One who promises you an eternal life, free of sin and corruption and defilement.  An eternal life of fellowship with the One who created you and loved you to the point of dying for you so you could be reconciled and made holy.

In the climate of today’s relativism, it behooves you to ponder this thought; this piece of truth that can bring you to hope with an expectant joy that the world cannot give you, or promise you.

Give your life to Jesus Christ, the only one who can save you from eternal damnation in the Lake of Fire and eternal separation from the one who loved you enough to die for you…

If you want to learn more about salvation, go to this link: “What Is Salvation” 

Eternal Directives…

The inspired Word of God is very specific about its directives to all born again believers in Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 28:19,20 we are directed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to obey everything Jesus has commanded us.

In Mark 16:15 we are directed to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

In Luke 24:46-47 we are reminded that the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.

Why is it then that there are so many born-again believers in Jesus Christ who pay more attention to “worldly” nonsense than to the “eternal” message of Jesus Christ?  Why are there so many believers who would rather “preach” a message of “abundant life” than the message of “repentance and forgiveness of sins”?

If not for the “cross of Christ” we would all still be lost, condemned, cursed and eternally separated from God.  This is the message that we are instructed to tell people; this is the message that brings hope into the life of every person wanting to be reconciled to God.  Why aren’t born again believers doing what the Lord has commanded them to do, now that they have received the gift of the Father’s grace?

Don’t be complacent because you are “saved” and “redeemed”.  Don’t be insensitive to the condition of those who are still “lost” and “separated” from God.  Walk in the shadow of the compassion that was shown to you by the Father and Jesus Christ; walk in the gratitude of the love that was demonstrated by Christ on the cross.  Pay more attention to the message that holds eternal consequences and less time on the messages of this world that have no significance.

Show the love for your neighbor by preaching to them their need for repentance so that they too may receive forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and redemption; and be more willing to teach them in the way of sanctification.

Remember: The Lord is not wanting for anyone to perish, but for everyone to come to repentance. (2Peter 3:8-9)

Escape is a deception of the devil

In our lifetime, we will find ourselves engaged in many situations or circumstances that pose a threat to our safety and maybe even to our lives that we can handle by “escaping” from them.  But on the flip side, there may be situations or circumstances that we can’t escape and that we find we need to be “rescued” from instead.  Why?

It is because, in those situations where “escape” can be accomplished, it is due to our own efforts and merit to overcome whatever the threat or danger may be.  But in those situations where rescue is needed, it is due to our inability to overcome the threat or danger on our own efforts or merit.

It is like a person who is trapped in a burning room and who is unable to overcome the power and effects of the flames, heat, and smoke that are overcoming his/her every breath of oxygen. Unable to safely make it to an exit, this person will ultimately die of smoke inhalation and asphyxiation.

In effect, this person was not able to “escape” from the circumstances of the burning room on their own efforts or merit.  They needed to have some form of external help, such as a firefighter or Good Samaritan to come to their assistance.  They needed someone who had the power to overcome the circumstances of the burning room.  If that had happened, we would be able to say that the person was “rescued”  from the burning room by either the firefighter or Good Samaritan; we couldn’t say that they “escaped”.

The person who is trapped in that burning room has a final destiny that awaits them if they are not removed from that situation; it is the loss of their life.  If they cannot do anything on their own to remove themselves, make no mistake about it, they are going to die from smoke inhalation and asphyxiation.  Their self-efforts would be of no avail because they cannot overcome their physical condition.

Mankind (you and I), finds ourselves in a life-threatening situation with respect to our spiritual position and condition with God.  We cannot “escape” the sentence of eternal death that God has pronounced on us as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  It is a fact that mankind is destined to be thrown into the Lake of Fire, to be eternally separated from God, and to be eternally tormented.

The devil wants you to think that you can “escape” from this sentence of eternal death, separation, and torment.  The devil makes you think you are not in any danger with God.  The devil makes you think that all you have to do is to be good throughout your life and that will enable you to “escape” this sentence; that goodness alone will give you eternal fellowship with God.

But God tells us something very different.  God tells us that we cannot “escape” His sentence of eternal damnation and wrath on our own merits or efforts.  God tells us that the only way to have eternal fellowship and union with Him is through having belief and faith in Jesus Christ and thereby being “rescued” from His condemnation and wrath.

We are told in Colossians 1:13

13For He has rescued us from the one who rules in the kingdom of darkness, and He has brought us into the Kingdom of His dear Son.”

And in John 3:16,17

16For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.”

 God tells us that when we believe in His Son (Jesus Christ) for what He did for us by taking our punishment and dying on the cross; shedding His blood to provide the forgiveness of our sins; and entrusting our entire lives over to His care – only then will we be “rescued” by Jesus Christ from the sentence of eternal judgment and condemnation.

Don’t let Satan continue to deceive you with his lie that you can “escape” the eternal judgment of God by your good works.

Let today be the day you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.

Believe that He died on the cross at Calvary to pay your sin debt; that He shed His own blood on the cross for the remission of your sins; that He was raised from the dead on the third day following His crucifixion through the justification of the Father; and that He gives eternal life to all who believe in Him.

Remember that you are in need of “rescue” from the judgment of God of being thrown into the Lake of Fire to be eternally tormented and of being eternally separated from God and experiencing a spiritual eternal death that comes from it.

Again I say, let today be the day you receive Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior and let God do what only He can do for you to make your life reconciled back to Him.

 

An Eternal Sleep

I laid on my bed one night tumultuously struggling with thoughts of death.  My emotions were overwhelmed with the terror of not being able to escape such a dreadful fate.  I pulled the covers over my head wishing I could find some refuge but my fear only grew in intensity.  As I tossed from side to side I could not stop myself from trembling and crying.  In my mind and in my spirit I keep saying, “I don’t want to die; I don’t want to die” but my thoughts were oppressive and kept me terrorized with fear.

Then a calm overtook me, like when clouds roll back from a storm and you feel the warmth of the summer sun come out and light your face with a cool accompanying breeze.  I heard the voice of the Lord speak softly to my spirit.  He said, “You are my child because you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and Lord and you, therefore, belong to Me.”  He told me that He loves me and is always with me.  He told me how His unfailing love for me has been graciously preparing me for the very moment that I found myself so fearful of.  He reminded me how I have practiced every night of my life for the very moment when I will physically die.  And He assured me that I had become well versed in the process.  That process is called “falling asleep.”

Peacefully, every night of my life I have rehearsed my grand exit from this world.  As I fall asleep each night I cannot recall exactly when I lose consciousness and fall into a state of sleep, but it is something that happens regularly with no fanfare or fear.  How peaceful those moments are; how unafraid I am of falling asleep at those times.

The Lord reminds me that that is exactly what is going to happen to me when I physically die.  He says I am going to go to sleep one more time, then when I awake, because I belong to Him, I will wake up to find myself with Him in paradise for eternity.

Understand one thing: People will have an experience of thinking about death at some point in their lives.  For some, it may come when they are small children.  For others, it may come when something has threatened their life.  Some might witness a loved one die right before their eyes and wonder where they have gone to.  Regardless of the circumstance, rest assured, people are destined to confront their mortality at some point in their lives.

Death has become a reality:  Death was never in God’s original design for man.  Man’s sin brought the consequences of physical death from this world and spiritual death from God into existence.

Death affects the human spirit in two ways.  It separates the human spirit from the presence of God and it separates the human spirit from the physical body.

Adam and Eve brought a curse on all humanity in the Garden of Eden when they sinned against God.  As a result, everyone’s spirit is separated from the presence of God at birth.  Everyone is “spiritually dead” at birth.

In addition, everyone will experience a “physical death”, where there will be a separation of their spirit from their physical body at the end of their physical life.  Both of these deaths are a reality we all face.

Unless you have knowledge concerning your human spirit, the thought of death creates anxiety, fear, and trepidation. Unless you have knowledge of God’s love for you and what He has done to resolve the dilemma of your human spirit, the thought of death stings your very soul.

Scripture identifies two resting places for the human spirit when physical death comes.  One is for those who are reunited with the presence of God through rebirth and the other is for those who remain separated from the presence of God through the rejection of Jesus Christ.  The location of the former is the bosom of Abraham; the location of the latter is Hell.

You see, man cannot change the reality of his physical death; the separation of his human spirit from his physical body.  But he can change the reality of his separation from the presence of God.

By believing in Jesus Christ’s death as the propitiation for man in satisfying God’s judgment for Adam’s sin and by believing in Jesus Christ’s resurrection as God’s justification for man, a provision is given to man that resolves his separation from the presence of God.  The provision is a manifestation of God’s grace. The provision is a gift of God.  It is salvation.  The provision is Jesus Christ.

Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior brings you into perfect fellowship with God.  It answers the question, which resting place will my spirit go to when it is separated from my physical body.  It will go to the bosom of Abraham.  Positioned to receive a new body that will never be separated from God but united with God eternally.

Scripture says:

1Corinthians 15:50-57 (TLB)

I tell you this, my brothers: an earthly body made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom.  These perishable bodies of ours are not the right kind to live forever.

But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies!  It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown.  For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too.  For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.  When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true – “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting?  For sin – the sting that causes death – will all be gone; and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge. How we thank God for all of this!  It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Therefore, if you have accepted Jesus Christ, you can continue your “dress rehearsals” with a peace that surpasses all human understanding.  You never again will have to become fearful about death.

You Need To Be Ashamed Of Yourself…

Let me speak to my professing Christian brothers and sisters who are struggling with issues of forgiving.

Can you tell me what is it about forgiveness that causes so much upheaval in your soul?  How come you find yourself wrestling and struggling so hard with the notion of having to let someone “off the hook” who has offended you?  What is there that is so valuable in getting “your pound of flesh”?  Is punishing someone because they have offended you really so rewarding and satisfying?  Please, help me understand your pattern of thinking.

I mean, I understand that you profess to be a Christian, meaning you have entrusted your life to Jesus Christ by inviting Him into your heart.  I understand He forgave all of your sins and redeemed you back to the Father; rescued you from eternal damnation and separation and gave you the gift of eternal life.  I understand that you are “born again”, from above, by the incorruptible seed of the Father and you are a new creation – old things have passed away and behold all things have become new in your life.  Is this true?

Well, if so, then tell me why you struggle with giving to someone else that which you received so freely?  Wasn’t forgiveness given to you for all of your sins? Yet you say you cannot forgive someone for his or her sin against you?  Why is that?

What makes you more worthy to receive forgiveness over your brother or sister in Christ? Are you any better than they are?  Have you not also been guilty of hurting others or doing wrongs in the sight of God?

In 1Corinthians 6:9-11 we are told this –

“Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don’t fool yourselves.  Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.  There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God.  You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you.”

Did you get that?  At one time in your life you also were not worthy of the Kingdom of God, remember?  Have you become so holy and sanctified until you believe you can dictate to the body of Christ who is and who is not worthy to receive forgiveness?  Are you suffering from some form of dementia where you cannot remember that it is only a result of God’s divine forgiveness that you are justified by faith in Jesus Christ?

Let me repeat to you what God has told you in Romans 3:21-26 –

 “But now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight – not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago.  We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins.  And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done.  For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.  Yet now God in his gracious kindness declares us not guilty.  He has done this through Christ Jesus, who has freed us by taking away our sins.  For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us.  We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us.  God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times.  And he is entirely fair and just in this present time when he declares sinners to be right in his sight because they believe in Jesus.”  

How then can you think you have any power or authority to impute righteousness or justification on anyone?  Are you God?  How can you have the audacity to say to an offender that they are not worthy of forgiveness?  Have you lost your mind?  Do not forget that you too were a sinner forgiven and redeemed only by the grace of God.

Who has deceived you into thinking you have the right to refuse an offender forgiveness?  Who told you that was the will of God for you as a believer?  I know it wasn’t the Father; I know it wasn’t the Holy Spirit, and I certainly know it wasn’t Jesus.  Therefore, it could only mean that it was the devil himself who darkened the counsel of God in your mind.  Do not allow yourself to be duped into his lies.  Do not get so puffed up with righteous indignation and resentment toward an offender that you fall out of God’s grace.

You know, there was a great English Poet by the name of Alexander Pope who penned the famous phrase:  To err is human, to forgive divine.  He had insight into God’s will concerning forgiveness that you need to assent to.  That is, humans will err – all the time; it is their nature.  But the nature of God is to forgive.  God’s will is that you love one another and that you leave no debt outstanding between one another except the continuing debt of love, which you can never repay.

As a Christian, a born-again redeemed believer in Jesus Christ, this should be your pulse.  Like your physical pulse reflects the rhythmic beating of your physical heart, love should reflect the rhythmic beating of your spirit.  If you profess to be a Christian, your walk must be in accordance with God’s will, which exemplifies his divine character.  That character is love.

You owe it to your Christian brothers and sisters, seventy-times-seven, to forgive them when they offend you.  God demands it of you.  He is so emphatic about the command that he reminds you in Matthew 6:14-15 –

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Therefore, stop struggling with granting forgiveness.  Rise above your carnal desires and honor God.  Let the fruit of your redemption be exemplified in the way you trust him and follow his righteous commands.  Stop playing the part of a Christian and start being the Christian.  Ask God to give you grace to walk in his wisdom; ask God to search your heart for anything that is not clean and to purge it from you.  Do not be a fool and despise the wisdom and instruction of God.

Always remember this: Christians are forgiving people because they have been forgiven.