As we’ve mentioned before, the concept of the trinity is all over the pages of the bible, but it will never quite be something we will be able to fully grasp. How can God be three distinct persons but still only one? Today’s name for Jesus, “Ancient of Days”, is another concept which is somewhat blurred at the edges. Let me explain: This title appears three times in the bible and all three instances are in the book of Daniel, chapter 7. Verses 9 and 22 seem to be referring to Jesus and verse 13 to God the father. Here they are:
“As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire”. (Daniel 7:9).
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.” (Daniel 7:13).
“..until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.” (Daniel 7:22).
What may possibly cause further confusion is the fact that we often assume the God depicted as clothed in white and having a snowy white beard to be God the father. However, in verse 9 He is clearly described as sitting on a seat of judgement, the role given to Jesus. Jesus is the one with snow white hair! In this passage, verse 13, Jesus is presented to God the father as the ‘Ancient of Days’.
Confusing? It shouldn’t be. As I have already mentioned, we will always struggle with the “3 but 1” concept. However what we do know is that God the father and God the son have always existed, therefore they can both be legitimately called ‘Ancient of Days’.
This term speaks of God being outside of time and before time existed. He actually bought time into existence. In Genesis 1 He created day and night- measurements of time. Psalm 90:2 refers to Him as being from everlasting to everlasting and Isaiah 44:6 as ‘The first and the last’.
Do you know we can really trust the God who knows the end from the beginning? We can easily become indignant when we don’t receive answers to our prayers exactly when we want them. We should remind ourselves that our loving father is the creator of time. He is outside of time, He sees all, knows all. Our prayers are limited; we see only in part and actually know very little. He answers our prayers at exactly the right time-not too soon, not too late. Trust Him, His timing is perfect!
During the summer holidays I thought I would use some of the Foundations material I have recently written at church, looking into the wonderful subject of being in a relationship with Jesus.
When somebody becomes a Christian, they don’t just have their sins forgiven and a ticket to heaven when they die; they enter into a relationship with their saviour, Jesus.
Many religions focus on various rituals you have to perform and things you have to do in order to get on God’s good side, or to somehow gain his favour. But as we have discussed before we are saved by grace through faith. Effectively all our religious rituals and requirements have already been fully completed in Jesus. He has done everything required. This means that everything we do subsequently is purely out of our relationship with Him.
Just like any other relationship, we will want to deepen our relationship with Jesus by spending time with Him, getting to know Him better and finding out what His will is for our lives.
It is important to stress from the outset that setting time aside to study and read God’s word and to seek Him in prayer is out of relationship with Him, not through any obligation, sense of duty or striving to gain extra merit points. We are saved by grace and we must continue in our faith by grace as we seek to know Him better.
What I am going to cover over the coming weeks may sound like a list of obligations we have to go through to get more standing with God: a daily check list where we tick off 15 minutes bible study, 20 minutes prayer and listen to a worship song, that’s my ‘God bit’ for the day. It is actually very easy to slip into that way, especially if you have been a Christian for a long time, but this is not at all how I want it to come across.
We seek Jesus because we love Him and because we want to please Him, and this is not through any sense of duty. Imagine if I gave my wife a bunch of flowers and said that it was a requirement due to a nuptial agreement we made during our marriage vows. That would not go down too well. My wife wants to hear me say ‘I love you’ (and as I have discovered, not just the once!!).
Over the next few weeks (and I have no idea how long this will continue) we are going to look at 4 ways that will help us develop and deepen our relationship with Jesus. They are not the only ways, but they are certainly good places to start. I have alluded to some of them already but you’ll have to come back each Friday to find out what the next subject is.
Have you ever questioned God or asked where He is when you have faced dark times? It can be so easy to accuse God of being distant, of not caring or not understanding what we are going through.
The bible reveals that God does care; that He cares passionately about us and has taken personal responsibility to show us the full extent of His love. He is a God of action and at a specific point in history He stepped physically onto this earth as a man, experiencing all (and more) of the hurt and pain that afflicts us.
As I was looking through ‘The gospels’ this week it struck me again all that Jesus went through, from physical right through to emotional pain, heartache and abandonment. Meditate in wonder as I list some of the challenges and hurts that Jesus faced for us, because He loved us, because He wanted to sympathise and share with us.
Born in a cattle trough in a third world country in poverty, His parentage was immediately questioned having been born out of wedlock. His parents had to flee with Him to another country because a contract was out on His life (from the richest man in the land). His father died early but not before Mary had quite a few more children (at least 6), leaving Jesus in a single parent family with the responsibility on Him as the eldest son to provide for them. He lived in a peasant village which was seemingly despised across the country. During His ministry He was homeless, misunderstood by His own family, thought of as mad, accused of being a drunkard, a glutton and a friend of prostitutes and tax collectors.
During His final days He was abandoned, rejected and betrayed by His closest friends. He was slowly tortured with large nails driven through His hands and feet after being mercilessly beaten up and whipped until the flesh on His back was lacerated. A nail-like crown of thorns was driven into His skull. As He hung there with the shame of nakedness, jeered at and reviled, He then suffered the greatest pain of all, being abandoned by His father in heaven with whom He had intimate fellowship from all eternity, as He took on the weight of the whole world’s sin.
You can be sure that whatever you are going through at the moment, God has walked that path Himself. No-one would go through all of that if they did not love and care for you passionately. So if you are thinking of running away from God, turn around and run to Him instead. He understands.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
Last week I went to a conference in Bedford (UK) organised by ‘The Kings Arms’ church. It was entitled “Intimacy & Identity – Father Heart Conference”. They have been running these conferences for a number of years, but this is the first one I have attended.
Following my experience in June at the ‘Heaven Touches Earth’ Conference held at the same venue, I was really looking forward to this visit. (Click here to see my report of that event). I wasn’t disappointed!
I was especially blessed because I had the joy of attending with my wife this time and so we were able to share the experience together. We were also joined by another 8 members of my church and it was lovely to spend time with them and get to know them better. I find Sunday mornings so busy – it was nice to be able to chill out with others away from that setting and start to get to know people properly.
We had some lovely times of extended worship mainly led by guest worship leader Lyn Swart from the Ivy Church in Manchester.
The main speaker was James Jordan, a New Zealander from Father Heart Ministries. He took some getting used to as to my mind he said a few things during the first session that I couldn’t really agree with. He also had a story telling style which was, shall we say, ‘light’ on biblical exegesis. I did however find myself warming to him as the conference went on. His passion was that we should know God as Father and this message is of vital importance for all of us. It is to change our understanding, our perspectives, motivation and experience of how we relate to God.
My favourite session was actually a seminar entitled ‘overhauling your quiet time’, excellently led by Phil & Carol Wilthew. I could listen to them all day and actually couldn’t wait to get back and overhaul my own quiet times (which to be honest have been pretty dry of late). I found it all very inspiring.
I was touched again by the warmth and friendliness of all who serve at Kings Arms, their attention to detail and the way they honoured with heartfelt applause all who contributed. This is something I would love to see replicated in every church.
I am looking forward to getting the downloads when they come out and I would encourage you, wherever you are at, to seek God as Father and to get to know Him in a deeper way. His arms are always open.
The bible is a very large book with many themes, but its underlying message is that God created us to have a relationship with Him. God reveals himself as a loving Father who has brought us into his family. Throughout the bible we see expressions of this fact, starting with God calling Abraham and through him the people of Israel, culminating in the wonderful end-time gathering of a multitude of people from every tribe, tongue and nation coming together as God’s family before God’s throne in glorious worship. It says in 1 Peter 2 v 9 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light…”
We can enjoy wonderful times of intimate worship with God on our own, but we must also remember that we have been designed to worship God together in community. There is no higher calling than to come together as God’s family (the church) and worship God together, experiencing the intimacy and the awesome privilege of what we have been brought into. The most common translation of ‘church’ in the New Testament is from the Greek word ‘Ekklesia’ meaning ‘gathered assembly of God’s people’.
We probably all know this in theory, however when it comes to putting it into practice we can often think of better things to do than attend a time of worship together in our communities. I have already mentioned Hebrews 10 v 25 in at least a couple of my previous posts: “…not to give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing…” Not worshipping together is a habit we can very easily get into. As we desire to grow in our Christian walk and our love for Jesus, let us commit to the design that God initiated and meet as a community together to worship, read God’s word, break bread and pray.
I would like to end with a few thoughts as we consider what we do when we gather together:
We come together to build one another up and encourage each other. The bible verse that God has blessed you with this week may be just the verse that someone else needs to hear. Your unique gifts and talents will also bless others just as their gifts bless you. It’s good to personally seek God before attending a meeting and ask him for a contribution that you can bring. Don’t just turn up passively hoping that God will speak.
We reflect on the grace of God as we celebrate together and recognise what an amazing thing God has done in each one of our lives.
We experience God’s forgiveness as we come before Him without accusation, free to come into his presence because of what Jesus has done. As we realise what God has done for us, we can much more easily forgive others for the wrongs they have done to us.
We break bread together, again remembering what Jesus has done through his own sacrifice, allowing us to be united with the Father and to enjoy fellowship with those around us.
We remember that we are a family together regardless of background, colour or culture, drawn together before the Father of us all.
We are reminded of where we once were, where we are now and of our glorious destiny to come. We are all at different stages of the journey but God has promised to not let us go, continuing to work on us and with us. In the words of that great old hymn “…’tis grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home”.
Corporate prayer as we come together is very powerful. We can achieve great victories as we seek God’s will and agree in prayer together, giving a unified ‘amen’ as we believe God to work in our lives and in the lives of those around us and beyond.
This is now my fourth blog in my series on Christian Community. I hope you are finding it useful and that it has inspired you to think about how you can get more involved with the Christian community you are part of, or indeed if you are not in one, to take the plunge and plug yourself in somewhere. Don’t look for somewhere perfect- it doesn’t exist. Look for somewhere you can serve and grow.
During my study of this subject I came across a couple of chapters in Rick Warrens book “The Purpose driven life” which I have found very useful. He shares 9 characteristics of biblical fellowship which I have listed below, adding my own comments and further scripture references:
Authenticity – Authentic fellowship is ‘hearts on your sleeves’ honesty. It goes beyond the surface level to a genuine opening up of feelings, doubts and weaknesses. It says to each other “I need your help and I’m prepared to be real with you to get it.”But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1 v 7-8).
Mutuality – This where a community develops the art of giving and receiving, those great verses of ‘one-anothering’ as mentioned in a previous post; each one depending upon each other; all of us having something to contribute “…so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Corinthians 12:25). Also “…that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”. (Romans 1:12). You are not responsible for everyone in your community, but you are responsible to them.
Sympathy – Sympathy is not just giving advice or offering a little pat on the back and some nice words, but entering into and sharing someone else’s pain. It’s carrying each other’s burdens. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. (Galatians 6:2). Sympathy meets two fundamental human needs; the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated. “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12).
Mercy – Community should be a place of grace. It happens when mercy wins over justice. We all need to give and receive mercy because we have all made mistakes and continue to make mistakes. You cannot have true fellowship without forgiveness and if we don’t have forgiveness, bitterness and resentment will destroy true community. God’s mercy towards us is the motivation for us to be merciful to each other. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13).
Honesty – We need to care enough to speak into each others’ lives. It is not loving to let people continue in their sin without lovingly correcting them. Ephesians 4 verse 15 talks about ‘speaking the truth in love’. It also says in Galatians 6 verse 1 “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently”. Real fellowship depends on frankness. We grow closer by facing and resolving our differences. “Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour, rather than one who has a flattering tongue.” (Proverbs 28 v 23). There is a way to rebuke lovingly which is set out very nicely in 1 Timothy 5 v 1-2 “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”
Humility – Pride builds walls, humility builds bridges. The bible exhorts us to clothe ourselves with humility or God will oppose us. (1 Peter 5 v 5). That’s a scary thought! Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.
Courtesy – Being in community we need to be courteous to one another, respecting our differences, being considerate of each others’ feelings and being patient. We are a family and we belong to each other. “Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves”. (Romans 12 v 10). It’s a loving thing to take time to discover each others’ histories and see where we are coming from.
Confidentiality – Our community needs to be safe and we need to trust each other. Trust allows people to open up and share their deepest hurts, needs and mistakes. This means no gossip-God hates it!! (Proverbs 6). What is said in the group, stays in the group.
Frequency – To build fellowship you need to invest time to meet regularly. True relationships take time as trust is built up. I have already quoted previously the command to not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10 v 25). When we do meet, true fellowship is found not just when we talk to each other but when we take the time to actually listen to what others are saying. It means meeting together even when we don’t feel like it. Many are the times I have considered not going to a meeting because I haven’t felt like it, but I am nearly always blessed when I do.
If you are already in a community, why not get together with the other members and see if you can agree to make a commitment to improving each one of these 9 characteristics. You will be glad that you do!
In my last blog we looked at the word “koinonia”, signifying a sense of community, fellowship, sharing together and the very important concept of ‘one-anothering’. I finished the last blog with the verse “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13 v 34-35). Love is central to Christianity and our fellowship together. The bible says “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Galatians 5 v 14).
This may be an obvious statement but we cannot practice community and show love on our own; we need other people. The bible says; And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another —and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10 v 24-25).
Meeting with other Christians is not always easy. People can be irritating, imperfect, frustrating and frankly quite annoying. It seems that Jesus delights to put people in our communities who ‘rub us up the wrong way’. This is actually a GOOD thing!! It enables us to grow in faith and character and is a means of sanctification (being made more like Jesus). We are in danger of becoming self-absorbed if left on our own. Being with other Christians means we are forced to consider each other and often have to do things we don’t necessarily want to. It may be extremely irritating but this is in God’s great plan to smooth off our rough edges.
So now assuming we are actually meeting together (some even fall at this first hurdle!); how can we serve one another?
I have mentioned in a previous blog that God has given each one of us gifts that we are to use in order to help one another. These can be spiritual: words of knowledge and wisdom; teaching; healing; even leading worship. But we also have practical gifts of service, helps and encouragement. We all have at least one of these gifts and nobody (except Jesus) has all of them, so every time we meet together we all have something to contribute for the benefit of everyone.
Let’s look at a super practical example. When Liz and I got married, the church community helped us on our wedding day in many different ways; by preparing and serving food, doing music and PA, setting out the rooms; a myriad of jobs that mostly we didn’t even pay for. We enjoyed the benefits of belonging to a community – we had gladly served at many weddings before ours, now it was our turn to be blessed. A few years later we were blessed again as our children were born and we received delicious meals from our wonderful community to help us through those difficult early days of parenthood. We would have missed out on all these blessings if we had not been part of a community into which we were also contributing.
There are many creative ways in which you can be a blessing to your community: Look for a need and find a way to meet it (this may involve asking others). A favourite phrase of ours that shapes the way Liz and I minister is from Ecclesiastes 9 v 10 “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” I say “phrase” because the rest of the verse is somewhat depressing, (and it may be taken slightly out of context), but hopefully the sentiment is understood!
In all of our serving and caring for one another, without even noticing it, we are being a witness to the world. We are like pieces of a puzzle; when we are connected to the other pieces the world will say “wow, what a beautiful picture”, but they will only see this picture when all the pieces are fitted in together!
I would love to have your comments on ways you have been blessed in the church community or how you have been involved with blessing others. It would be great too, to have some of your ideas of ways we can contribute to our community.
It never ceases to amaze me how powerfully music can stir the emotions, from the saddest mournful tune causing heartbreak and melancholy, to the brightest melody which lifts the spirits and propels you with an uncontrollable urge to dance (well, almost!!).
There are some songs in which the very soul of the writer appears to have been poured into its creation and these, in my opinion, are the ones that can touch your own soul like no other.
Every so often I hear a piece of music which completely captivates me. Even as a child I would buy a favourite vinyl record and listen to it over and over again. There was a special lever on the record player (yes, I really am that old!!) which would cause the arm to automatically return to the beginning of the record and so I could play the song on a continual loop.
I have discovered a song recently which has captivated me in this way. It is a song called “Oh how He loves us” by John Mark McMillan. It can be a very powerful thing when you combine the truths of God’s word with song, especially when singing about how much God loves us. It seems His spirit delights to stir our emotions towards Him. I guess that is the essence of worship and the true reason God created music.
This song has a great tune and some beautifully poetic and original lyrics which have fascinated me. Having said that I didn’t always catch all the words (and do they really sing about “heaven meets earth with a ‘sloppy wet kiss’?”). I therefore made a search for the lyrics and here they are below:
Verse 1: He is jealous for me, Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree, Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy. When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory, And I Realize just how beautiful You are, And how great Your affections are for me.
Pre-Chorus: And oh, how He loves us so, Oh how He loves us, How He loves us all
Chorus Yeah, He loves us, Whoa! how He loves us…..(etc)
Verse 2: We are His portion and He is our prize, Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes, If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking. So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss And my heart turns violently inside of my chest, I don’t have time to maintain these regrets, When I think about, the way…
Chorus He loves us (etc)
Verse 3: Well, I thought about You the day Steven died, And You met me between my breaking. I know that I still love You, God, despite the agony. Cause people…they want to tell me You’re cruel, But if Stephen could sing, he’d say it’s not true, cause You’re good. Chorus
Ok, now I’m intrigued. I’ve heard a couple of versions of this song but I have never heard the 3rd verse. “Who is Steven?” I wondered, and “what happened to him?”
The more I read and discovered, the more I was struck by the aforementioned reality that powerful songs can be written through real tragedy and personal soul searching, the thoughts and emotions of the writer being laid bare for all to see, questioning himself with such things as does he still believe in God when tragedy strikes.
Here is John Mark McMillan in his own words during an interview:
Several years ago my best friend (Steven) was killed in a car accident. I learned about it while I was in Jacksonville, Florida, working in the studio. I was pretty devastated as you can imagine. I woke up the next day and wrote that song. I had a couple lines of the song before he died but I felt like the song was supposed to be for him so I sat down that morning and finished it.
The song is basically about dealing with the anger of his death and how I was pretty tempted to believe that God didn’t love us but that even in this death I can see that God does. I guess my question was if God loved him then why did he die, and the answer, I believed, was that he died because God loved him and wanted to be with him. It’s a difficult conclusion to come to and I’m not sure most people who sing the song completely understand where I was coming from when I wrote it, but I’m glad it’s touching people.
In fact I receive messages pretty regularly from kids who have battled with depression and suicide who tell me that the song actually turned them around and saved their lives. So I would never complain, and after all, I think a song can have more than one meaning.
My friend was actually in a prayer meeting the morning before he died and told the Lord that if his death would shake people up then he would give his life. I don’t entirely understand the implications of this prayer, but I do believe that the effect this song has had on people is part of a promise that the Lord made when He took my friend’s life.
There are kids who are alive now because they heard that song and that’s the only explanation I have for it. Just the facts. I don’t understand how all that works theologically. I just know that’s the way it is.
My favourite version of this song is by the David Crowder band and I have put the Youtube video below. They miss out ‘The sloppy wet kiss’ and the third verse; I guess that is personal to the writer himself.
The video itself fascinates me, starting with David’s quirky face and the various clever video techniques. Anyway, see what you think, but above all else don’t forget:
Part of my reason for writing the last two blogs on the subject of the Holy Spirit is because I want to have a deeper encounter with Him and let Him work more freely in my life.
The further I progress in my Christian life the more I realise I cannot achieve anything on my own. I need God’s power. My reliance on Him increases rather than decreases. In the timing of God I have recently attended a conference called “Heaven touches earth” at a church called ‘Kings Arms’ in Bedford (UK).
The main speaker was Andres Bisonni, an Argentinean currently residing in Houston, Texas. He travels to many countries around the world where he speaks at miracle crusades and revival services, seeing the power of God impacting people through signs, wonders and miracles. I have included a video and a link to his website at the bottom of this post.
I had the privilege of travelling with three friends and they have given me permission to include their experiences here.
My life has been impacted by this conference in a wonderful way; I have an even greater hunger for God and I would like to share with you some of my experiences and thoughts. My desire is that through them, your desire for God’s power would increase, your walk with Jesus would be more intimate and you will make a difference where you live and work.
From the outset I was impressed by Andres’ simple faith. He believes God and expects him to turn up. I loved the way he gently prayed for people and stood back as he watched the Holy Spirit minister to them.
The conference seemed to increase in intensity throughout the 3 days as we enjoyed wonderful times soaking in a lovely mix of exuberant and intimate worship. When Andres spoke it wasn’t for very long, and we were soon encountering God’s Spirit as he would make his way around the room praying for people, with many falling over and clearly being touched by the Holy Spirit. Probably the most powerful meeting, for me, was on the Friday night; there was a strong emphasis on healing and many people were healed and touched by God. We saw several significant healings including improved eyesight, mended broken backs, healed arches in feet and many other wonderful touches from God. Much time was given to hearing numerous emotional testimonies from people who have experienced God’s healing in their lives, made apparent by demonstrations of things they can do now, which they were unable to do before.
Some of the key thoughts and experiences I want to share with you are:
1. How impressed I was with the welcome and serving teams at Kings Arms Church. We were greeted with a huge smile and a handshake and everybody went out of their way to help. A great first impression to a visitor.
2. It’s so important to celebrate good news. Every report of a healing or God’s blessing was met with exuberant shouts of joy and standing ovations. We need to celebrate everything God does, however small, and build a ‘culture of honour’.
3. Sometimes we can analyse too much. If we are convinced by scripture we need to stop analysing and simply believe.
4. I am more convinced than ever that ‘Word’ and ‘Spirit’ need to be brought together. Interestingly, Andres stated that many Hindu converts were not convinced by teaching but by miracles; they then went on to study the word, but only after a power encounter. We need word and spirit in our preaching, ministry and worship.
5. Our main aim is to pursue a relationship with Jesus, not signs and wonders. God performs signs, wonders & miracles through those who know His heart. Pursue the giver not the gift.
6. God often uses other people to impart His Holy Spirit (e.g. through the laying on of hands). Andres made this point through the story of Elisha pursuing Elijah up until the moment he was taken up to heaven.
7. We won’t always agree with a person or ministry, but we must be careful not to dismiss them out of hand. We have much to learn from many different ministries and we run the danger of missing out if we let pride get in and blind us to what God is saying.
Finally, how great it is to travel and spend time with good Christian brothers who are an encouragement and a blessing, offering friendship and accountability.
I was challenged in a meeting recently by the following question; “If somebody came up to you at the end of a church service and said they wanted to become a Christian, how would you talk them through the steps to salvation?” A fair question, and one that on the face of it you would think reasonably easy to answer. Could you respond to it straight off the bat? Or would you, like me, get a bit flustered? Do you know the relevant verses? Are you able to set it all out in an understandable way?
In 1 Peter 3 verse 15 it says “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
I have another question related to this: “What is the gospel?” You have probably heard the phrase “…I gave him the gospel” many times spoken by church members and those with an evangelistic gift. But how do you “give” someone the gospel?
It’s a good question to ask and certainly as the verse above reveals, something we should be ready to do at any time, so let’s look at it now. The Greek word “euangelion” is translated “gospel” in the New Testament and it simply means ‘good news.’ It is the good news that God has saved us by sending His son to take our place by dying and rising again, so that we can be reconciled to God. But that needs some explanation, especially if speaking to a person with no church background, as is becoming increasingly the case in today’s society.
I am now going to go through the main points that I think should be raised when presenting the gospel to somebody.
(1) God and man are separate.
It is clear from the bible that God is Holy. We can be so focussed on the fact that God is loving that we forget the other side of the coin, that He is Holy, He is ‘other’. We are created in His image but He is not like us. He is perfect. He is the creator, all knowing, all present, all powerful. Verses referring to this start in Genesis 1:1 and continue throughout the bible, such as; Exodus 15:11, Psalms (take your pick!), Isaiah 43:15, Jeremiah 10:10, 1 Timothy 1:17.
It is equally clear that Mankind is sinful. It started with the first man Adam and has affected every person ever since. It is in our nature. It is important to stress that we are all sinners (Romans 3:23, Romans 3:10-12, Romans 5:12).
The consequence of these two facts is that our sin separates us from God. The sentence is death (Romans 6:23) and without God intervening there would be no hope, which takes us to point two:
(2) God made a way to restore our relationship.
We could do nothing about this separation, so God stepped onto this planet in the form of His son Jesus Christ who is God (God has revealed himself in the bible as three persons in one). Because Jesus lived a perfect life he was able to take our punishment (death) for us (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:21). He did this by voluntarily dying on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (1 Peter 2:24, Isaiah 53:4-5) and coming back to life three days later to demonstrate His victory (1 Corinthians 15:17-18, 1 Peter 1:3, Romans 6:4, 1 Corinthians 6:14). We could not earn this. He did this freely by His grace (Ephesians 2:8-9, 2 Timothy 1:9).
(3) We can now believe in Him and be saved
We are saved through faith when we repent of our sins and trust that what Jesus has done saves us (Romans 10:9, John 11:25-26, John 3:36). We are now at peace with God and in a relationship with Him. Our sins (past, present and future) have been dealt with, we can start a new life and Jesus has promised us he will never leave us or forsake us. No wonder it is called ‘Good News’!!
I would just like to make a couple of points for consideration when we are presenting this gospel:
It is important to stress that they are coming to Jesus, not just because they want their sins forgiven. They are entering into a relationship with Him. When they accept this free gift, they are understanding that Jesus is now Lord of their lives and they are following Him.
I’ve mentioned it before and I will mention it again now, (and no doubt on many more occasions due to the fact that in our humanity we feel we must somehow contribute to God’s work of salvation): but it’s ONLY BY GRACE. We cannot earn it, we certainly don’t deserve it, it’s a free gift. FREE! FREE! FREE! (Repeat this to yourself endlessly until death!!).
We are not on our own; we actually couldn’t live this life on our own. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us. In a later blog we will discuss how you can pray for somebody to receive the Holy Spirit, (but actually what better time is there than as soon as they enter their new life?! Start as you mean to go on!).
I would really encourage you to learn these three simple steps, or indeed any other way you find comfortable: You may want to use the ‘Bridge to Life’ model or something similar, or copy the way in which the gospel was presented to you (it obviously works!). I would also make it a commitment to memorise the passages of scripture mentioned above – there is nothing more powerful than quoting scripture as it is the power of God.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1:16)
Please feel free to make any comments on this subject. I really hope it helps you to think how you can more effectively share your faith. Don’t forget that God is with you and will be with you as you step out. Let me know of your successes.