We must obey God rather than men.

evangelism

Often times we consider obedience as blatant morality.  We have pep rallies in our churches and small groups, banding together under the motto:  “We obey God and not man” and part of that obedience is submitting to the authorities that God has put in place over us (1 Peter 2.13).  We imagine the day that speaking about Jesus will be against the Law, but all-in-all we live comfortably because the government does not ask us to do anything that goes against what God forbids, or forbid us from doing anything that God commands.

Or does it?

The separation of Church and state was instituted because of the power that the Roman Catholic Church held in the Roman Empire and throughout much of Europe.  The United States was founded (in part) so that people could have freedom of religion and escape the dominion that was un-Biblical.  This is a good thing.  We, as Christians, understand that salvation comes by faith.  We cannot force someone to have faith, and we know that it is God alone who gives faith.  So, if we had a government that attempted to force faith on someone, it would go against the commands of Jesus.  We preach the Gospel, and God causes the growth (1 Cor 3.6-7).

There are issues that are arising which are slowly infringing on Biblical commands, like abortion and birth control.  The government does not force us to have abortions or to use birth control which might go against our conscience, however.  It is attempting to make room for a variation of beliefs within our society and (I believe wrongly) assuming that the option is mankind’s right, and Christians must make provision for it.

But consider with me the primary command that Jesus has given us and the laxity with which Christians approach it.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

– Matt 28.18-20

Jesus’ final words were, “Go and make disciples”.  The disciples themselves prayed continually for boldness to preach the Gospel.  Everywhere they went they were talking about Jesus and following Him.  Everywhere they went people were coming to faith because they shared the Gospel and showed signs and wonders to back it up.  The Holy Spirit even supernaturally moved Phillip to meet a man on the side of the road to share the Gospel, and after he baptized him, took Phillip back.  Jesus said do it, and they did it.

We, however, by-and-large, are not doing it.  We have been indoctrinated that religion is not appropriate for the workplace, so we hope that our outstanding morality and happy faces will be enough.  We want people to think, “There is something different about him”, and leave it up to the observer to ask.  We are not going and making disciples, we are staying and waiting for the lost to try to be found.

And we are completely comfortable doing so.

In fact, we think it is the right thing to do!  We do not want to force our thoughts on someone else, we do not want to try to answer a question that someone is not asking, we just want to be a listening ear and only say something if someone asks.  And when someone asks, we are afraid that we do not know the right answer, so we chicken out.

The disciples went out and preached Jesus.  They were arrested and thrown in jail.  Then the Holy Spirit took them out of jail, without the guards knowing, and the next morning they went to the temple and started preaching and teaching again!  They did not go into hiding.  Then they were arrested again, and beaten.  They went back out preaching more, and even rejoiced that they got to suffer a portion of what Jesus had to endure.

But yet we go in to work and the moment Jesus crosses our minds, we squash the thought because we might get fired for talking about Jesus.

I challenge you today to consider Jesus’ final words.  Go and make disciples.  Everywhere, all the time.  Not just at church, not just in your free time, all the time.  And take the position:

“We must obey God rather than men.”

– Acts 5.29

Is your job, security, or position more important than obeying God?  You must do your job and preform your duties as unto the Lord, but we have been commanded to preach the Gospel always.  With our words.  Actions are not the Gospel, the story of Jesus is the Gospel.  God has promised to meet all of our needs and to take care of us, and if it so be that we lose our jobs because of Jesus, He will take care of us.

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If you deny me, I will deny you.

denial

I live in Denver, CO and my church is across the street from Sports Authority Stadium (where the Broncos play, for those of you who are unfamiliar).  So every time there is a home game, we open up our parking lots for the fans and we stand at every cross street around the church handing out free bottles of water along with a booklet which has Broncos trivia on one side and the Gospel presentation on the back.  We, as a church, hand out about 2,000 bottles of water/tracks every single game.  The last time I was out, I was standing at a red light and my friends and I were giving water bottles to people as they were waiting to cross the street.  Someone asked me why we were out there doing what we were doing, and I pointed up to the church (it sits on a hill overlooking the city), and said “We are from the church and are just out loving our community”.  My friend, however, took the opportunity to explain the love of God for us and our desire to honor Him by loving and serving them and telling them about Jesus.

Ouch.

Talk about conviction.

We talked about it at small group, reflecting on Paul’s instruction and desire to make the most of every. single. opportunity.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

– Col 4.2-6

Now, I am tempted, and my friends were tempted, to appease my conviction by saying, “You do not have to say ‘Jesus’ every time”, “You said you were from the Church, people know what that means”, “maybe talking about Jesus would have driven them away”, and other platitudes of the sort.

But Jesus was clear:

“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

– Matt 10.33

If we deny Jesus, He will deny us.  Those words are clear.  Black and white.  There is no doubt about what Jesus was saying here.  Now, we might be tempted to say, “You did not deny Jesus in the water bottle exchange”.  No, not in the sense of saying, “I do not know Jesus, I do not serve him”, or something of the like.  But I denied Him in silence.  I chose to not take the opportunity to share.  I chose silence.  This is why Paul asked the Colossians to pray:  that He would not chose silence, but would make the most of every situation.

Here’s the good news.  Succumbing to weakness it not necessarily the final nail in your or my proverbial coffin.  On the night before and day that Jesus died, all of the disciples except John walked away from Jesus.  Peter, the ring leader of the disciples, actually denied having any relationship with Jesus three times.  And yet after the resurrection, Jesus forgave Peter and welcomed the other ten back into fellowship and commissioned them to make disciples of the world.

Later on we learn that Peter gave in to the influence of the Jews and tried to tell non-Jews that they had to be circumcised in order to be saved.  He changed the Gospel.  And not only that, he quit hanging out with people who were not circumcised because he wanted to look good to the Jews.  But the apostle Paul called him out and restored him.

Judas also denied Jesus, and was not forgiven.  Even though Judas walked with Jesus for three years, saw all of the signs and heard all of the teachings, and also was given the ability and permission to perform miracles with the rest of the disciples, his denial was final and led to eternal damnation.

If you chose silence, if you take the cowardly way out of a conversation, if you actually deny Jesus, there is a possibility of forgiveness.  But it is centered in repentance and change.  You have to claim Jesus.  Otherwise, He will deny you to the Father.

Where do you stand today?  Is your faith something personal that you do not want anyone asking about?  Is other people’s faith none of your concern?  Do you make the most out of every opportunity to talk about Jesus and win people to the Lord?  Let us claim Jesus and pray for boldness!

Even Paul prayed for boldness.

boldness

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing,
But the righteous are bold as a lion.

– Prov 28.1

Boldness.  Are you a bold person?  Are you bold about your faith?  For some reason we tend to be nervous about sharing our faith, even though we are quite comfortable talking about most other aspects of our lives.  Why is it then that we are afraid to talk about our faith?  Rejection?  Uncertainty?  Are you afraid to talk about politics?  Or other hot-topic issues?  Some people enjoy those hearty and often heated conversations, while others shy away from them.

I vividly remember the transition in my life when I started to consider discussing Jesus with my friends.  I lived in Philadelphia, PA until I was in the third grade.  I went to a Christian elementary school where we prayed, memorized scripture and talked about Jesus every day.  When I was in the fourth grade we moved to Indiana and I started going to a public school.  I remember talking to my friend about Jesus and she did not go to church or know his story.  There was no judgment or awkwardness, as we were still children, but it was the first time I realized that not everyone knew Him.  We did not talk about the Bible at this school.  But He was so much a part of my life that I just talked about Him, and church and the Bible anyway.

I am not that bold anymore.  But when I do encounter conversations that can easily be turned Spiritual, I often remember that day and that conversation when I was so shocked that not everyone knew Jesus.

I think that our boldness has to do, in part, with the level of saturation we have in Him.  If you love Jesus, if you spend your mornings with Him, if you discuss major choices with Him and trust Him for your daily sustenance, satisfaction and joy, He will be a quick topic of conversation for you.  Have you ever noticed how car fanatics can turn any conversation to cars?  Football fans can make any correlation to football?  Any story reminds them of a story related to their hobby.  When I first moved back from four yeas abroad, everything reminded me of my host country, and I know I drove my friends and family nuts saying, “That reminds me of the time…” and “Overseas they did…”.  But the farther removed I get from my time abroad, the less it comes up.

Jesus and your faith have to soak into your subconscious.  The more that happens, situations will remind you of His faithfulness, a story out of Scripture, or your personal conversion and those things will simply bubble out.

That being said, there is always room to grow in boldness.  Paul, the apostle who wrote half of the New Testament, asked the Church at Ephesus to pray for him that he would have boldness:

and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.

– Eph 6.19-20

I imagine it would be difficult to preach the gospel to the guards and other inmates when you have been locked up for preaching the Gospel.  But that was the level of boldness for which Paul needed prayer.

How bold are you?  Do you talk about Jesus and your faith?  Do you stand up for what is right?  How saturated are you in Christ?  Does He ooze out of you?  Does your conversation naturally turn to Him and the things of the faith?  Wherever you are, we can all pray for more boldness and grow.  Even Paul did.  Let’s soak in Him.  Let’s immerse ourselves in the faith more deeply.  Let’s allow daily situations to call our faith to mind.  And let’s talk freely about Him and our stories, and continue to pray for more boldness – no matter how bold we become!

Your gods are no good.

I work for a non-profit that seeks to serve children around the world.  Much of the product that we distribute globally is accompanied by a personal note from the sender, which gives it a personal touch.  Last year children raised money to send mosquito nets to children in Mali to help fight malaria, but because of political unrest in the country the nets were rerouted to other countries in Africa.  The notes had to be divided, as some of the notes from children actually referenced Mali, while many did not.  We sent the neutral cards along with the nets and kept the Mali cards for the time when we can again enter the country.

Sorting the cards took hundreds of volunteer hours.  But I enjoyed getting to read what children in the United States had to say to the children in Mali whom they were trying to help.

One child, an evangelist at heart, wrote this note:

photo (4)

My mind jumped immediately to Elijah standing atop Mt. Carmel, squaring off with 450 prophets to a foreign god and challenging them to compare gods.  He taunted them, he mocked them, and when God consumed his offering and the entire altar with fire from Heaven, proving Himself before the people, Elijah killed them.

This, perhaps, is not the best method of evangelism.  Or maybe it is?  What would your response be if someone said to you, “Your god is no good and won’t help you at all”?  If you made this statement, do you have the boldness to back up your claim with proof?  Is your faith dynamic enough to call God to action to prove Himself?

In our tolerance and political correctness sensitivity, we have lost the boldness to make claims that our God is great and the only hope for eternal salvation.  I believe that sensitivity is extremely important in communicating the truth of the Gospel.  Our goal is not cognitive assertion but for people to truly encounter Jesus in saving faith.  And if we win an argument via apologetics, we might convince someone academically of Jesus’ existence and work unto our salvation, but anything that you or I talk someone into someone else can talk them out of.  They have to meet Jesus.

So is there a right way or a wrong way to introduce someone to Jesus?

Do the crazy preacher men on university campuses and busy street corners see any conversions?  Do people who timidly invest years in relationship hoping to convert by actions without words ever see the lost come to know Jesus?

I heard it said once, by an evangelist who was being berated by an academic who was analyzing his methods,

“I like the way I am doing it better than the way you are not doing it.”

Here’s the deal people.  We are all different, and that by God’s sovereign design.  Someone out there has the disposition to listen to the loud, angry preacher man on the street corner.  Someone out there is so timid that he needs to see Christ’s love lived out for twenty years before realizing that he is missing something.  But more importantly, God has given you an ability to communicate His love and His Gospel truth in a way that is utilizes your gifts, abilities and personality.

There is once caveat:  it must contain words.  You cannot preach the Gospel unless you communicate verbally.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

– Rom 10.17

So the person who needs to see the love of Christ in action must hear the truth of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  If he only sees us as different, he will only think that we are good people or that we have a good moral structure in place, or that perhaps Christianity really does keep people in check.  It would be optimal if this person could hear the Gospel and then see it lived out.  He might ask, down the road, what makes one different, but to contemplate the Gospel while watching it in action builds credibility.

So how has God gifted you?  I have heard many preachers say that it is easy for them to get up and share the Gospel to a large congregation of people but terrifying to talk one-on-one with a lost person.  But I have also heard many people say the exact opposite.  Some people are quick to turn the conversation Spiritual within minutes of meeting a new person, and some people prefer to invite their friends to church and feel them out slowly.  Some people enjoy debates and academic conversation and some are relational and speak purely out of personal experience and aim to not offend.

Jesus can speak through all of these personalities.

What is your disposition?

Are you letting Him speak through you?

Do not let your disposition become your excuse.  If you are not bold, pray for boldness like the disciples did.  If you are unsure of what to say, get in the Scripture and memorize it.  If you are afraid of being rejected, claim the promise that they are not rejecting you but they are rejecting Jesus.  If you are abrasive, pray for sensitivity and slowness of tongue.  And once you do start sharing – be willing to listen to advice and learn from those who have been sharing for a long time.  Grow in maturity and wisdom.  And remember that ever hearer has a different disposition – just as every speaker does!

Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

 – Col 4.5-6

And let’s also remember to rejoice whenever the Gospel does go out, even if it were not in the method we would choose.  Because God is sovereign and His word will not return void.

“Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice…”

 – Phil 1.15-18