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.

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.

 

Where Can I Find Hope?

Today’s blog is intended for those listeners who are not yet born again believers in Jesus Christ and who are diligently searching for some kind of hope in their current life situation.

I am sure that for most of this group of people, there may be some confusion or ignorance concerning God.  Many of you may have never read the Bible; or even own one for that matter.  Many have never gone to church; have never prayed; sat in on a Bible study; or even have had an opportunity to talk about faith.  For some, they may have parents who brought them up in another religion; or they may have parents who know the Lord but still refuse to follow their faith.

Regardless, you still find that you are searching for some hope.  You have come to a point in your life where you can recognize that you have a deep seated void in your soul.  Your day to day routines and the path of life you find yourself on somehow do not carry any significance anymore.  You cannot seem to find any meaningful direction; you go in and out of temporary lapses of depression and dismay; you cannot seem to find joy in life.

Yes, you have periods of happiness and laughter but there is no joy in your heart.  You keep thinking to yourself “is this all there is to life, I know there has to be something more.”

Well you are correct – there is something more – and that something is faith.  Not just any faith; but specifically, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

But before you or anyone else can be expected to have faith in Jesus Christ, you must first have faith in Almighty God.  For we are told in the Scriptures,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

What this means is that a person must first believe that Almighty God exists.  That Almighty God is.

Now I am sure you have heard one of these following phrases sometime in your life:

  • I don’t believe in God or
  • There is no God

Well let me tell you something about these phrases. They are both proclaiming the same fact – the fact that Almighty God is; the fact that Almighty God exists.

Now I know you may be saying to yourself – how can Elder be getting that understanding from those phrases?

Well, in using these phrases the person does not mean they do not believe that “God” is; what they are saying is they do not believe “in” the God that is; or they “reject” the God that is.

You see, they are really referencing Almighty God when they make these statements because they cannot react to something that does not exist.  Nor can they refuse or reject something that is not there. That would not make any sense.  What they are doing by making these statements is expressing their decisions about a factual piece of evidence.  Either way, they are acknowledging that Almighty God is.

Scripture tells us in Romans 1:18-23

For the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.  For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.  Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images make to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

So you see, as much as you may want to deny the fact that God really does exist, you cannot change the evidence He presents to you.

In line with this, is the evidence God presents concerning Jesus Christ.  Before we can go any further you must first understand the relevance of Jesus Christ, both to the world and most importantly to you.  Here are three things you need to consider:

First consideration is that you must trust in what God says about Jesus Christ.

God says that you have been born with a sinful nature.  That you come into this world separated from Him.  For many, this is a difficult truth to accept; yet it is still a truth.  You come into this world not in fellowship with God.  You come into this world under His condemnation.  Your position of separation and your condition of condemnation is the result of sin that occurred in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

You are the inheritor of Adam’s sinful nature and only Jesus Christ can change that fact for the better.  Scripture tells us  in Romans 5:18-21 that:

Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.  For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.  The law was added so that the trespass might increase.  But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Second consideration is that Jesus Christ did what you could not do.

He paid the penalty for the sin of Adam.  He appeased the wrath of God’s judgment in order to give man the opportunity to be reconciled and reunited with God.  Scripture tells us in the Gospel of John 3:16-18 and verse 36:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.

You see, Jesus quieted God’s anger.  Jesus gave God the justice He required for the sin committed against Him.  Jesus put himself in your place and brought reconciliation between you and God by dying on the cross and shedding His blood for the forgiveness of sin.

Third consideration is what are you going to do about Jesus Christ?

If you want to get your life in order, then you need Jesus Christ to become your Lord and Savior.  Jesus explained it this way to Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council in John 3:3, 5-6:

I tell you the truth; no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  I tell you the truth; no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

If you are sensing that you are being drawn to God then know that the Scriptures are true when they say in John 6:44-45: that

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, they will all be taught by God.  Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me.

So it is imperative that you follow your heart and come to Jesus.  Confess that He is Lord and believe in your heart that he was raised from the dead by the Father.  Call on Him now.  He is standing at the door to your heart and He is knocking.  Let Him in, know that Jesus loves you with an eternal love and that He will forgive you of your sin, and give you the gift of eternal life.  He will cleanse your heart and regenerate your spirit.  He will place God’s Spirit in you the moment you do what Romans 10:9-10, 13 instructs:

That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

So if you have just done what God requires for salvation, know that you serve a risen Lord.  Jesus is alive and well.  He sits at the right Hand of the Father in heaven with all power and authority and He promises you that he will never leave you nor forsake you.

Welcome to the family of God.

What is salvation and why is it so important?

Salvation is the deliverance from God’s condemnation and wrath.  It is a saving or rescuing from eternal damnation in the lake of fire.  It is a saving from being eternally separated from God in this present life and in the life after death.

It is important because man is separated from God.

Now that may not be so important to you, but it is extremely important to God.  It may not matter to you that you are not in fellowship with God, but it matters to Him.  He cares so much about the fact that man is separated from Him that He provided a way for man to get reconnected to Him.

The way is Jesus Christ.  God had Him die on a cross on a hill called Calvary in order to pay the penalty for man’s sin.  Jesus Christ gave His life; Jesus Christ died so that man could be rescued, saved, from God’s condemnation and wrath and eternal separation.

This act of death by Jesus Christ brought appeasement of God’s wrath and condemnation toward mankind.  God justified this act of Jesus Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in heaven bestowing on Him all authority and power in heaven and earth and granting Him the power to give eternal life to all who believe in Him.

This eternal life is re-connection with God.  It is living in eternal fellowship with God.  It is being forgiven for your sins and becoming a part of the family of God as a son or daughter.

Therefore, God has made a way of salvation for those persons who believe in Jesus Christ and put their faith in Him as Lord and Savior of their lives.

God’s way of rescue from His wrath, condemnation and eternal separation is only through faith in Jesus Christ.