Tag Archives: evangelism

Today’s Scripture – October 10, 2018

John 12:17-22 (NIV)

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!”

Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.

There were quite a few people who had been at Lazarus’ tomb when Jesus raised him from the dead. Many of those had gone to the dinner at Lazarus’ house the night before His triumphal entry and had accompanied Jesus as he rode into the city, waving palm branches, and shouting praises to God.

When people in Jerusalem asked them what the big deal was, they told them about Lazarus, and about all the other things that Jesus had done. These new people then flocked to Jesus to see and her Him.

All of this dismayed the Pharisees, who were watching Jesus’ entrance with a mixture of fear and disgust. They had hoped to have Jesus quietly arrested the moment He came into town for the feast, but that plan was absolutely out the window now. There was no way that they could arrest Jesus from out of the midst of this excited crowd without causing a riot. It was back to the drawing board.

Among those swept up in the excitement were some Greek-speaking Jews who had come from the western reaches of the empire to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. Embarrassed by their poor Aramaic skills, they wouldn’t just go to Jesus. Instead, they approached Philip and asked for an introduction. The draw to Philip was two-fold. First, his name, Philip, was a Greek name, not a Hebrew one. Second, coming from Galilee, a much more cosmopolitan part of the country, he spoke Greek quite well.

Jesus was surrounded by people, so getting to Him in this crush was no small feat. While the Greek-speakers waited on the edge of the crowd, Philip found Andrew, and together the two of them worked their way over to where Jesus was teaching and passed the request to Him.

Father, seeing and hearing about Jesus and the wonders He has done still inspires excitement and causes people to want to meet Him for themselves. Thus, the importance of our witness – not just of Jesus’ historical wonders, but of the wonders that He is doing in our own lives right now. And people still need someone who already knows Jesus to make the introduction, to bring them to Jesus so that they can establish their own relationship with Him. Help me, Lord, to always keep in mind these two vital roles that I am commanded to play as part of Your kingdom (Matthew 28:18-20). Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 3, 2018

Luke 24:44-49 (NIV)

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: 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 at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

The disciples had calmed down enough that Jesus was able to help them start to understand some of what was going on. They shock of seeing Him alive was starting to fade, and in its place was a sense of awe at what they were experiencing.

But Jesus wasn’t going to waste a lot of time on niceties and chitchat. Luke actually compresses the teachings that Jesus gave to His followers over the 40-day span between His resurrection and His ascension into heaven (Acts 11:3) into the last ten verses of his gospel, hitting all of the high points, and leaving the details to be illustrated by the lives and the sermons of the post-Pentecost apostles as shown in the book of Acts.

The first point Jesus made is that the events of the past several days were not happenstance. Instead, they were all part of the divine plan progressively revealed clear back in Genesis (beginning with verse 3:15), extending through the prophets, and even laced throughout the poetry of the Psalms. And the plan was still working itself out; it wasn’t completed by Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Over every encounter that Jesus had with the disicples during the 40-day span before His departure, He retaught them what the Scriptures revealed of God’s plan. The sacrifice of the Messiah for sins and His resurrection were the central points to which everything prior pointed, and from which everything after derived its direction and meaning. The outflow of this plan would come when the walls of the Israelite people of God would be kicked out, making room for an expansion of God’s kingdom into all people groups (Revelation 7:9). This expansion of the kingdom through the message of repentance and forgiveness would start in Jerusalem, and then expand throughout Judea and Samaria, and from there to the ends of the world (Acts 1:8), becoming a mighty mountain that would grow to fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45a).

The disciples would be the ones through whom the message would go out and spread; they would be the initiators, the spark that would catch and spread far beyond the places that they themselves could go. But before they could accomplish that, they would have to be set on fire themselves. Excitement and joy would not be enough to see them through the challenges that they would face. So, God would be providing them divine power to move them forward. It would come to them in Jerusalem, and it would come soon.

Father, sometimes it is hard for us “New Testament Christians” to remember that there is no change of direction, no break in theology or philosophy between the Old Testament and the New. It is one story straight through. The New Testament is merely the ultimate revelation of who you are, the ultimate accomplishment of Your plan to redeem rebellious mankind that was set in motion during the first days of humanity’s existence. Every sermon that the disciples preached, and every letter that they wrote was chock-full of Scripture, Old Testament Scripture, and indeed, those are the Scriptures that Jesus opened the minds of the His followers to understand. Help us, as your people, to receive ALL that You have revealed to us of Your person and Your plan, so that we can help others to know about You as well. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 7, 2017

Luke 10:16 (NIV) “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The disciples always had to remember that the mission that they were on was not their own mission; it was Jesus’ mission, and they were merely acting as His advance team, as emissaries of His kingdom. Therefore, they were not to take personally either their successes or their failures; either the praise from those that they were reaching out to, or their rejection.

If they were rejected by the people of a town, they needed to immediately remind themselves that the people were rejecting not them, but Jesus and, by extension, God Himself. And if the people received their message, it was Jesus that they were receiving, not them, and, by extension God Himself. Thus, if they did their job faithfully and with their whole hearts, there was no room at the end of the day for either pride or shame at the outcome.

Even today many Christians are afraid to share the good news of the kingdom with others, betraying a fear of being rejected. Others take pride in the number of people that they had led into the kingdom. But today it is still Jesus’ mission, and we as God’s people are merely acting as Jesus’ advance team, His emissaries. So now, just as then, no one who is obeying Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations should take personally either their successes or their failures; either the praises of those that they are reaching out to, or the rejection of those people.

If we, as God’s people, are faithfully doing this vital work of the kingdom with our whole hearts, there is no room at the end of the day for either pride or shame. Instead, each of us should simply say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10 NIV)

Father, I admit that I can easily allow too much of myself into Your mission, allowing myself to take personally both the successes and the rejections when I am sharing the gospel with others. But Jesus’ point is crystal clear: it’s not about me at all, but 100% about Him. Help me to adjust my sights, to shift my worldview on this issue, so that I can simply be faithful in serving You without either pride or fear. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 31, 2017

Luke 10:5-7 (NIV) “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

Part of God’s provision for those sent ahead of Jesus was a place to stay in each village that they went to – a place that would not only provide shelter, but food as well. But these men would have to rely on God’s direction to select that house.

As representatives of God’s kingdom, the first thing that they were to do in each house was to pronounce God’s peace, His shalom, on the home and on all who lived there. Most of the time, their peace would be received by the owner of the house. But there always existed the possibility that the homeowner would not receive their peace, but would put them up grudgingly and complain as he provided for their needs.

Of course, it is always more pleasant to stay in a house where you are warmly welcomed and graciously hosted. But no matter what kind of reception these apostles got at the house that God chose for them, they were carefully instructed to stay there, eating and drinking whatever was set before them as the wages that He was providing for them. They were, under no circumstances short of being thrown out, to try to find a better house to stay at, or a more hospitable host.

The reason for this is that, as they went, thy were to go as emissaries of the kingdom of God, to prepare the hearts of the people that they met for Jesus, who was coming right behind them. Some of the people had desperately hard hearts that needed more preparation than others, and God often would lead them to the house of just such a person. But as those people experienced God’s grace and love operating in and through the lives of those men, their own hearts would be softened and their curiosity aroused as to why they believed and acted as they did, even in the midst of being treated inhospitably. And then, when Jesus arrived, He would find the hearts in that household softened and plowed, ready for the gospel seeds to be planted.

Father, it is so easy for us to look around to find the nicest people to focus our evangelistic efforts on. We figure that they are the “low hanging fruit,” already close to salvation because they are so nice. But I have seen that You are often working most strongly in the hearts of the inhospitable, those who are obviously, painfully lost; those that do not seem to be an intuitive selection at all. Lord, help me to not try to decide so much on my own, but to be content to follow Your lead always, to go unquestioningly to the people and the places You send me, and to work there until the work is done, or You yourself direct me to move on. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 10, 2017

Matthew 24:9-14 (NIV) “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.  At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Here Jesus expands the vista of His presentation far beyond the mere destruction of Jerusalem, but there is much in His words that pertained to the group of disciples that was standing with Him on the mountain.

First, He warns them that they will be hated and persecuted by people all around them.  This didn’t take long to begin.  It was just weeks after Jesus’ ascension that Peter and John were hauled before the Sanhedrin and commanded to stop teaching in the name of Jesus (Acts 4).  It was within just a few years that James, the brother of John, was beheaded by King Herod (Acts 12:1-2).  And before they were finished, each of the original 11 apostles that remained after Judas killed himself would undergo extreme persecution.  Nearly all of them ended up being executed.

As for the false prophets that Jesus foretold, Paul warned the Ephesian elders that they were on their way (Acts 20:29-30), and Jesus’ letter to the Church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-3 shows that many had indeed arisen.  The rise and influence of false prophets was a problem that the early Church had to deal with, but also one that has persisted through the ages, and still exists today.  Unfortunately, too many people, even among those who name Jesus as their Lord, are too quick to listen to and believe people who claim to speak for God, and too slow and reluctant to test the words of those people by the truth of Scripture.  So this will continue to be a problem for the Church until the end.

Because of all of these distractions, because of the tendency for organization to take precedence over organism, the love of many in the Church has a tendency to cool, as traditions and ritual take the place of relationship with God.  Because of the felt need to focus on survival during times of persecution, as well as the draw to protect one’s family and resources, many Christians end up forsaking their first love (cf. Revelation 2:4-6).  Each new generation of believers must come to Jesus, forging their own relationship with Him instead of merely inheriting the forms and structures of the religion of their parents.  And each generation must respond actively to the call for renewal, revival, and the call back to their first love for God and Jesus, or their love will cool completely, and their light will go out entirely.

Jesus’ statement that the end would not come until the gospel has been preached in the whole world should have been both a strong clue that the end would not come soon, and a strong motivation to push the good new continually out to the edges of the world until everybody has heard.  The sad fact is, this goal could have been accomplished already, but the evangelistic zeal of God’s people has waxed and waned over the centuries, and far too many are willing for others to do all the work of taking the gospel to the people of the world.

God’s plan hasn’t changed, but to draw all things to a close, He wants everyone to be saved that can possibly be saved; for all who are willing to turn to be given the opportunity.  That still requires, as Jesus implied, people whose love for God and for their fellow man burns so white-hot that they are willing to face trials, hardships, persecution, and even death to push the gospel out to the farthest reaches of the world.  People who will speak God’s words clearly and truly, and who will stand firm to the end.  Then the end will come, and the harvest at the end of the age will be great.

Father, I’m afraid far too few of us realize that we actually have a vital role to play in Your plan for the salvation of the world.  We are content to go to church, and to do good things in our own small circle.  But very few of us burn with passion for the lost souls around us, and those in the other parts of the world.  Forgive us, Lord.  Inspire us and set us aflame with Your love and with the power of Your Holy Spirit, so that we can be powerful and strongly motivated witnesses of Your gospel, so that all the world can know You.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 18, 2017

Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

As we read these words, it is vital to remember who is speaking them, to whom they are being spoken, and the context – what Jesus has just finished talking about.  Far too many people read and follow this process as if Jesus was giving them a series of steps for them to take to be able to receive an apology, or to be made whole in the face of a wrong done to them.

But Jesus never focused on such things.  Instead, He teaches everywhere that those who are wronged are to forgive those who wrong them (Matthew 6:12, 14-15), and to do good to those who mistreat them (Matthew 5:44).  Jesus had just finished telling His disciples about the length that God Himself is willing to go to win back those who have wandered off into sin.  This parable continues that theme, this time showing His disciples how they can help.  Looking at this paragraph though that lens changes everything.

If a brother sins (the words “against you” are missing from many of the oldest and best manuscripts and seem to be later scribal additions), then the one who knows about the sin needs to assume that that person has wandered off, and is in danger of being lost.  That disciple is being tasked by Jesus to begin the rescue effort by going to the sinning person, and helping him or her to see their fault, where they have wandered off into sin.  The goal here is not to get an apology but repentance; not to shame the other person, but to win him or her over, and bring them back into the fold.

If they refuse to repent, the situation is more desperate, because it shows an unwillingness to acknowledge the sin, and a hardening of the heart.  That is when one or two other godly brothers or sisters are to get involved, to see if additional input can reverse the dire situation and save the soul.  If not, as a last-ditch effort, the whole congregation is brought in on the issue so that they can pray for that person, and talk to them, to try to restore them.

The last sentence of this paragraph has been used to justify, and even encourage, shunning of an unrepentant sinner.  But again, the context must be seen and honored.  To understand what Jesus meant by “treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector,” we have to look at how Jesus Himself treated pagans and tax collectors.  (That is where the disciples would go to figure that out.)  Jesus did not shun them or write them off as unredeemable.  (That’s actually what the Pharisees and teachers of the law did!)  Instead, Jesus considered the pagans and tax collectors as the lost sheep to whom He had been sent to show the way into the kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 15:24), and as the sick to whom He had been sent as a physician (Matthew 9:10-13).

What Jesus is telling His disciples here is that if someone, even someone who has been a brother of sister in the Church, turns away into sin (whether sin against me or sin in general), that is a sign that they have wandered away, and every effort must be made to pursue them and get them to repent and return to the fold.  If, even after all of the steps listed are done, they refuse to repent, then they must be considered as one who is lost, as lost as a pagan or a tax collector.  As such, they are no longer a candidate for restoration, but a target of wholehearted evangelistic efforts.  God Himself will see them as lost sheep in need of saving, and will be pursuing them in love to bring them to Himself.  And His people must see them that way too, and deal with them on that basis.

Father, it’s amazing the difference it makes to take the context into consideration.  In the way that Jesus is saying it, even if I am the wronged party, from a kingdom perspective, the focus is not on me, on enabling me to be made whole.  It is on the one who has so clearly demonstrated that they have wandered away from the fold and need to be found.  If it was about me, about my getting an apology or satisfaction for the wrong done against me, then I can read that, after I have exhausted all of these steps, I am justified in writing that person off.  But if it is about them, as Jesus clearly intended it to be, then their failure to repent after even the Church tries to help them to see their wrong shows that they are in need of salvation as a top priority, and urges us to pursue them on that basis.  Thank You for shifting the frame!  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 17, 2017

Matthew 14:34-36 (NIV) When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.  And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country.  People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed.

After the successful feeding of the 5,000, there was no time to rest on laurels.  There were still many people who had not yet heard the message of the kingdom, and time was ticking away.  So Jesus had His disciples put ashore in Gennesaret, just west of Capernaum.

Jesus had been through this area many times, so was quickly recognized.  As soon as He was, the word went out that He was back in town, and the people started flooding in, bringing their sick.

Jesus didn’t really mind, and He didn’t feel put upon, even when people just wanted to touch the tassels on the edge of His robe to be healed.  He allowed what many feel would have been an intrusion on His personal space, because the healings that the people received from Him did two very important things.

First, it brought wholeness, shalom, into the lives of God’s people, not only a positive blessing in itself, but a clear sign that God’s kingdom was becoming a reality right where they were living.  Second, it opened the hearts of the people to hear the teachings about the kingdom that were never absent from Jesus’ lips.  Very few would receive a miracle from Jesus and then be closed to His words.  The power He brought into contact with their lives gave Him the right to be heard and taken seriously.

That is one of the reasons why it seems that there is so little openness to the gospel today.  The majority of people presenting it have no power.  Their lives are qualitatively no different from the lives of the people they are trying to reach.  They have no personal experience of transformation to share.  So they are perceived as mainly sharing a philosophy or a religion, and most people have had more than enough of both of those in their lives.  So they close their ears and move on.

Some might claim that people shouldn’t need signs, and miracles, and stories of powerful transformation; that the message of the gospel should stand on its own.  But Jesus Himself didn’t present the gospel that way.  His words rang with the authority of personal experience with the Father Himself, and were nearly always accompanied by actions, miracles, and signs that were designed to clearly demonstrate that the kingdom of God that He was telling them about was a here-and-now reality.

Father, so many today pooh-pooh the need for miracles in sharing the gospel, that it’s really eye opening to realize that Jesus Himself never did.  (The one possible exception being John 4:48, but even then He followed up immediately with a miracle for this father in need.)  Instead, Jesus allowed Your power to flow through Him constantly, so that the people could see that what He was telling them was real.  And He encouraged His disciples to use the same technique (cf. Matthew 10:7-8; John 14:12-14).  It doesn’t do us any good to try to design new ways to share the good news of the kingdom when those ways are powerless and ineffective.  We will never be able to design a way that is better than the way Jesus used.  Help us to BE the kingdom, just like He was, help us to allow YOUR power to flow through our lives, so that our message today is as powerful as His was then, and so that lives can be changed as they were when the Church was new.  Amen.

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