Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Evangelism (page 2 of 2)

Strategic Living

Once you’re past trying to get God to bless your personal mission and realize the Christian life is about abandoning your long-loved private mission and surrendering the rest of your life to God’s mission (the Bible calls this repentance; it is the beginning point of one’s journey as a disciple of Jesus Christ), then you are ready to consider living life strategically.

After Jesus rose from the dead and as He was ready to ascend back to heaven He outlined for His followers the strategy in which He would lead them (and us!) for the rest of time. He laid out for them (and us!) the very strategy that would usher Him back to earth in His Second Coming. This was not something just for the first century, but for all the centuries to come. This was not something just for super-Christians, but for all us ordinary Christ-followers in all ages and in all places. If we are Christ’s, we’re all on one mission—God’s.

Here is how Jesus put it: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The unfolding of the rest of history is laid out in this simple sentence. This is the God-designed, divinely-ordained strategy for all the rest of time—for His entire Church, for each church, and for every Christian.

As you can see the strategy has four key parts: the advance of the gospel to …

1) “Jerusalem
2) “all Judea
3) “and Samaria
4) “to the end of the earth.

Did you realize that this also is the basic outline of the Book of Acts? The Holy Spirit came upon the followers of Jesus in chapter 2 and then immediately God began, through them, to work the strategy. In the Book of Acts we see the disciples of Jesus advancing the gospel through their witness …

  • in the city of Jerusalem (Acts 1-8:3)
  • in the provinces of Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:4-12:25), and
  • to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:1-28:31).

God gave us the Book of Acts to show us something of how the strategy was to be employed and the power and blessing we can expect when we surrender ourselves to God and work His strategy.

But I invite you to look at Acts 1:8 again, not just as an outline of Acts and the church’s activity in the first century, but as a strategic call to live your life on mission with God. Read Acts 1:8 again, this time as the plan for every century and all the followers of Christ, including you and me. This is to be a collective mission (the Church), a corporate mission (each church), and a personal (each Christian) mission.

See Jesus here placing a divinely-designed mission upon the Church in each generation, every church in every age, and upon every Christ-follower throughout all the ages. In this way we will see that we are each one responsible to reach those who are …

  • within our Jerusalem,
  • within our Judea,
  • within our Samaria, and
  • within our generation anywhere on the earth.

But what does that mean?

You will notice that living strategically in line with God’s mission involves living along two axes (that is the plural for axis, not a reference to two or more long-handled hatchets!).

One axis is geographical. The other is cultural.

Acts 1.8

Jerusalem =

Axis #1: Geographically near to me (think “where I live”).
Axis #2: Culturally like me (think “folks similar to me” in terms of income, neighborhoods, tastes, schools, ethnicity, language, etc.)

Judea =

Axis #1: Geographically in proximity to me (think “the other side of town,” “the next town over,” “in another
department at work,” “in another class at school,” etc.)
Axis #2: Culturally near to me (again think, “folks like me”)

Samaria =

Axis #1: Geographically in proximity to me (again think “in my town” or “in my immediate region”)
Axis #2: Culturally unlike me (I must cross a border of language, foods, ethnicity, holidays, religion, culture, etc. to reach them)

End of the Earth =

Axis #1: Geographically far from me (I must cross a boarder or an ocean to reach them physically)
Axis #2: Culturally unlike (in varying degrees) from me (I will probably have to cross a border of ethnicity, language, foods, holidays, religion, culture, etc. to reach them)

In additional posts I want to unpack what living strategically with Jesus means for each of us where we live. Until then, can you begin to identify people/groups/areas/towns/etc. in your life that fit each of these strategic target groups?

The Ministry vs. The Advance of the Gospel

I’ve been reflecting of late upon Philippians 1:12: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”

For several days the Lord has hit my “pause” button over the phrase “to advance the gospel.”

I’m beginning to realize that, while I am called to “the ministry,” so little of my life “in the ministry” makes any direct contribution “to advance the gospel.” I do all kinds of things that qualify as “doing the ministry,” but which contribute little “to advance the gospel.”

Tangentially perhaps. Maybe, via a series of logical connections, an individual might reasonably build a case that most of the things that occupy my time in one way or another “advance the gospel.” But did the Apostle intend for us to expend so much mental effort to justify our labors? Is that what Jesus wants?

The power of what Paul was saying—both for himself and for the Philippians believers to whom he wrote—was that there was a direct connection between his difficult circumstances and the “advance [of] the gospel.” That relationship is, then, the conductor that carries the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) not just forward to the unbelieving, but backward to Paul and the Philippian believers, giving them hope, strength, patience and joy to live through the circumstances and embrace them as a meaningful part of their calling.

So from that I have had this thought (and I think it is forming into a conviction) …

For one called as a disciple of Jesus and into His service, the further away from the “advance [of] the Gospel” our activities are, the less satisfying they are, the more draining they become and the more discouraged we become.

So, I review the things that “the ministry” has required of me this week (and its only Tuesday!). I realize I’ve spent most of my time dealing with things that I can make a case for as a necessary part of being “in the ministry.” But it takes some doing to make any valid connection to what they have to do with the “advance [of] the gospel.”

As a sustained experience this produces exhaustion, discouragement and a host of other negative emotions and thoughts.

Lord Jesus, help me to “do the ministry” in a faithful and responsible way before you as the Chief Shepherd and before the flock which you have called me to tend. Please also enable me to ever increasingly give myself to those things which enable the advance of the Gospel. In this way give me energy, strength, faith and joy. I ask this for your glory, amen.

Four Questions

Do you have trouble steering conversations toward the things of God?  Would you like a simple way to get to the root of spiritual issues at work in a person’s life?  I suggest these four questions as a helpful way to transition from the a person’s natural view of things to God’s view of things.

1. On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you with your life? This begins where virtually every person is thinking — Am I happy?  People love to talk about themselves!

2. What would it take to make your life a perfect ten? This continues the conversation by inviting the person to share their dreams and hopes for life.  After they have shared their answer, transition by asking: Can I ask you the same two questions but with just one word changed?

3. On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy is God with your life? This transitions the person from their natural, self-oriented view of life to the reality that they are standing before a holy God, who knows all things and it is His pleasure that is paramount!

4. What would it take to make your life a perfect ten for God? This takes the conversation to the core of how such a God can ever be pleased with us.

People will offer one of two answers to the final question …

1. They will give some kind of a works-righteousness answer, naming something they must do to make God happier with them.

2. They will say, “God doesn’t expect me to be perfect.”

Every person needs to see that they lack perfect righteousness before a perfectly righteous God.

Share these verses with them …

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

“I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)

We need to see that there is nothing WE CAN DO to make our life a perfect ten before a perfectly righteous God!

But what then is the answer?  The answer is that GOD DID SOMETHING for us …

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law [doing good things]; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin [only there do we see our own failures to keep God’s law perfectly]. 21 But now a righteousness from God [coming from God to us, not from us to God], apart from law [apart from doing good things to earn His favor], has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify [even the Old Testament tells us this]. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace [as a gift, not by our works] through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:20-24)

“But whatever was to my profit [all the Apostle Paul’s good works] I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law [not by my doing good things], but that which is through faith in Christ– the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:7-9)

“For it is by grace [as a gift] you have been saved, through faith– and this not from yourselves [not by something you accomplish], it is the gift of God– 9 not by works [your religious efforts], so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jesus the perfectly righteous One died for us, taking our sins upon Himself and paying their penalty.  When we place our trust in Him, God the Father declares the righteousness of Christ to be placed on our account in heaven.  We are free, for the Father forever promises to see us through the righteousness of His Son!

Jesus took our sin.  The Father declares Jesus’ righteousness to be ours.

We rely completely on the substitutionary death of Christ and upon the righteousness of Christ (His perfect life) credited to our account by God!

REST!  BE AT PEACE!

Evangelism 101

What is the essence of evangelism?

When you have removed all the different methods of doing evangelism, what is left?

What common denominator can be found among all the different legitimate ways of doing evangelism?

Try this on for size:

Evangelism is the process of intentionally moving into relationship with those God has sovereignly placed around me for the purpose of showing and telling them the love of Christ in such a way that they will be compelled toward personal faith in Jesus Christ.

These then are the essential elements of evangelism:

1. Evangelism is both a process and an event.

2. Evangelism is intentional!

3. Evangelism is relational.

4. Evangelism involves looking at how God has sovereignly placed people in my life.

5. Evangelism’s purpose is to spread the love of Christ in word and deed.

6. Evangelism is inherently persuasive!

7. Evangelism is aimed at both the event of conversion and the life of discipleship.

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