Why Are Christians So Eager to Share Jesus?

Why Are Christians So Eager to Share Jesus?

There are many religions in the world that are suitable for polite company. Religions that don’t presume on your time and patience. Many people who practice faith but aren’t terribly eager to have you know about their beliefs or practices, let alone convince you that their practices ought to be yours as well.  If that’s the case, why can’t Christians follow suit.

Why are Christians so eager to share about Jesus?

Jesus Came to Fulfill God’s Promises to Israel 

When you open up the gospels you start noticing that Jesus has come to a particular people (Israel) during a particular time in history (during the reign of the Roman Empire). God had set apart the people of Israel for himself. That’s the story going from Genesis onward.

The one true God came to an unlikely people (not the greatest or the wealthiest or the most well established), rescued them out of slavery and established them to be set apart for His purposes in the world. The people of Israel were to be a light to the nations and an example and testimony to the God they served. Israel was God’s plan to restore the broken relationship between God and man, man and man, man and creation, and man with himself.

This kingdom came together for a time during the reign of King David. Within a few generations the kingdom divided into a northern Kingdom (Israel) and a southern Kingdom (Judah). Sin and disobedience followed by repentance and restoration become a major theme in the Old Testament.  At some point the northern Kingdom is conquered and within a few generations so is Judah. The Babylonians displace God’s people and send them into exile. The exiles eventually return, rebuild, and await a coming Messiah (King) who would re-establish the Kingdom of God’s people in a new Israel.

That Messiah is constantly presented throughout the gospels as Jesus. Jesus is the fulfillment of Israel’s promise and God’s plan to restore fundamental relationships.

Jesus Came for the Poor, Needy, and Marginalized 

Throughout the gospels, but in Luke in particular Jesus is presented as for the poor, the needy, the outcast, and the marginalized.

Jesus comes for others in society as well, but it’s notable that God comes to the soft-hearted and to those who receive him not just those in power and authority or those who believe they are the strongest.

Jesus begins the process of constituting a people for the Trinity. During his ministry on earth Jesus taught his disciples what it meant to be God’s people in thought, word, deed, and authority. Jesus stands as the reconciling agent between man and God, man and man, man and creation, and man with himself.

All who believe in Jesus and his work of salvation on the cross culminating in death, physical resurrection, and ascension are granted eternal life and to be part of the new first fruits of new creation through the work of God in their lives. All are welcomed to repent of their sins committed against God and neighbor, be reconciled, and believe.

Physical resurrection that’s probably the most remarkable statement of all. There’s nothing really like it in religion.

Christians believe Jesus was fully God and fully man. We believe that he died, was buried, and that on the third day he rose again. We believe this reality was essential for his work of reconciling all things unto himself and making peace for the fundamental brokenness in all of creation.

Jesus is Very Real and Invites you to Accept Him as Savior and Lord 

Christians feel compelled to share this testimony and witness because of the power and reality of God at work in our own lives.

We don’t believe we’re perfect, we know probably more than most that sin deeply impacts our hearts and lives, but we are conscious of that sin and with God’s help we are slowly seeing the transformation of the old ways into new ways.

We’ve experienced new life that is better and more satisfying than anything else we’ve come across or tried and we want you to know about it.

We give witness to Jesus because we would not be the people we are without Him. That’s why we tell you and that’s why we invite you to accept Jesus as Lord. Come as you are, there is no better time.

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This Lent, Consider God’s Creation

The disciplines of Lent are meant to shake us up from our regular routine and open up some space for God to work. Lent is a season of self-account and renewed depth.

Lent reminds us that man does not live on bread alone, things alone, conveniences alone, wants alone, but on every word that comes from above. Lent is supposed to re-orient us towards God’s life giving ability, and away from the things that normally sustain us or give us comfort.

When we rediscover the joys of the Lord, the depth and life giving work of the Holy Spirit, and the life of Jesus, than we are more able to give. Give of our means, give of ourselves, and give of our talents. When we discover the abundant life and abide in the vine, we are able to be generous and fruitful, even as we recognize the generosity of the Lord in our own lives.

The traditions of Lent call us towards simplicity, fasting, and refraining so that we might draw closer to the Lord and be more able to give of our time, finances, and of ourselves so that others might have life and peace in the Lord.

So how might our deep concerns for God’s creation be expressed during the season of Lent?

photo by Clive Calver

photo by Clive Calver

We might consider refraining or reducing our reliance on energy, water, and light so that we might remember those for whom such conveniences are not available. No one is required to do so, but it may help us understand the realities of many Christians living in rural poverty across the globe.

But you might ask what is the use of depriving myself? How will me having less make any difference for those who have nothing at all?

Like fasting, or Lent more generally, it’s to reorient our hearts and compassion towards those whose realities are much different than our own. In a way we are in a very limited respect stooping down and entering into a world and life unlike ours so that we might more fully and accurately consider what the Lord would ask of us in terms of supporting meaningful and transformative change for those who are unable to change their circumstances by their own effort. Even if we are unable to give of ourselves, of our time, and of our talent we ought not to neglect the power of prayer to work in the world. Giving ourselves to prayer is foundational to the work of the kingdom among the poorest of the poor.

There are many good and important initatives that you might consider supporting. Including World Relief, I-61 Ministries, and Word Made Flesh. These groups encourage relationship building with those  whom they are ministering to. Building lasting relationships congregation to congregation I think is so key and essential to really developing a heart and sustaining interests in the least of these. For as much as you can minister and provide for them, they can minister and provide for you.

If you are creation-care minded you might consider supporting the work of the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN). EEN is partnering with New Vision Renewable Energy to build a long term relationship with Eagles Relief and Development in Malawi and MOPAWI in rural Honduras. Our hope is to provide church to church innovative solutions for energy, water, discipleship equipping, and business based development. You can click here to learn more.

You might consider fasting from your energy, water, and light needs so that you can be even more generous in your giving this Lent. Learn more about some of EEN’s Lent resources by clicking here.

Justice + Evangelism

So I’ve been thinking about the links between evangelism and justice. These two missional focal points have long divided Protestants in the U.S. into Mainline and Evangelical camps. They also carry their own theological weight, momentum, and history exacerbated by politics and culture.

But what unites them? What ought to unite them?

Two things come to mind. Sin and Jesus.

On Sin

The reality of sin cover issues of justice and evangelism. Sin is what separates us from a loving God. Sin is what manifests itself in the wrongs of our day. Sins of commission and omission infuse both the life of the individual and the injustices at the center of the ills of our day. Even when sin is not as direct, we have original sin to contend with and its impact on a fallen world. Sin is individual, corporate/communal, judicial, institutional, and systemic.

Identifying the role of sin is central to the mission of the church. Discernment of sin begins at home. Meaning discernment of sin begins with me and within the body of Christ, but extends to Christian understandings of the brokenness and injustice alive in the world today.

On Jesus

The death and physical resurrection of Jesus is central to our understanding of evangelism and justice. Jesus died to reconcile sinners to God. Salvation is offered freely, but salvation is also the beginning of the new creation.

Photo by Greg Foster used through flickr creative commons

Photo by Greg Foster used through flickr creative commons

Consider this quote from Billy Graham:

The greatest need in the world is the transformation of human nature. We need a new heart that will not have lust and greed and hate in it. We need a heart filled with love and peace and joy. That is why Jesus came into the world. He died on the Cross to make peace, between us and God, and to change us from within by His Spirit. He can change you, if you will turn to Him in repentance and faith.

Salvation begins the process of transformation of human nature. Jesus was the first fruits of new creation and that new creation and sanctification extends to all realms of life. Because the realm and reign of Jesus extends to all things, it involves the overturning of injustice as well.

The good news is really radical. It is the start of a new life in Christ. That life extends itself to reflect the Son in all the realms of life. While active, it also waits for the final restoration of all things. It waits for the return of the Son, when heaven and earth are reunited, judgement is given, and sin, sorrow, weeping, and death are no more.

Justice + Evangelism 

Justice opens new avenues and dimensions for evangelism and evangelism focuses the shape and mission of justice. The gospels ultimately unite both justice and evangelism.

To the poor, the marginalized, the brokenhearted,  and wronged, the justice and mercy of God found in Jesus Christ is good news.

Reflections on Billy Graham

Evangelicals would be better off developing new habits and ways to actually help others understand the vast depth, beauty, and dimensions of the gospel. We can’t just rely on the politics of the recent past to guide our engagement with the culture at large. A recent work trip helped drive this point home.

I recently visited the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC. What struck me is how God used this man and a real team of Christians to help spread and advance the gospel within the U.S. and around the world. Here was an ordinary group of Christians with a real passion to reach others.

On one of the nights of the conference I attended we heard from Will Graham (one of Billy Graham’s grandsons). Will challenged the audience about the views of millennial Christians. He said that millennials had lost their passion for the gospel and replaced it with a passion for social justice/righting wrongs. He said that righting wrongs was very very important but it shouldn’t supplant preaching the gospel of salvation.

Because I believe that the implications of the gospel include justice, it wasn’t the easiest message for me to hear. But I think upon reflection he was spot on. Many millennials have lost a drive and motivation for spreading the gospel. Even if I believe that the justice implications actually help spread the whole gospel, I think Will was spot on. There is a waning of passion, but it’s not limited to millennials.

BGEAinK.C.04-56We are replacing our passion for the gospel with the sort of Christianity and culture that makes us comfortable, but too often excludes others. In other words we have grown a bit indifferent. We have replaced gospel faithfulness with a sort of comfort with the culture we have inherited.

Our upholding of Christian beliefs has to include a drive to actually reach those outside of the faith with the gospel.

If we are no longer in the majority or respected in American culture we have to learn to live with our neighbor in peace. We have to find ways to speak to conscience while conscience remains. 

Don’t get me wrong I do believe the Christian needs to be engaged in issues of politics and governance, but we need a new way forward and we need to starting finding fresh ways to reach others.  

The starting point for all of this work has to be the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Only in humility will others be willing to hear what you might have to say about faith. 

Letting Go- Reaching Out

This is a Preview Post for Revealing Light: Daily Victory Over Darkness a Lent Devotional. You can pre-order a copy by clicking here. Reposted with permission. 

By Rev. Leighton Ford 

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14

The Swiss doctor Paul Tournier once compared life to a trapeze performance in a circus. 

The trapeze artist grasps the bar of a swing, then launches in space, swinging back and forth in rhythm, higher and higher until the arc of the swing is at the farthest point out. 

RevealingLightHis or her partner on the opposite platform watches carefully, and then with (hopefully) impeccable timing steps off also swinging higher and further until the two are in sync. 

The dramatic moment comes when the first performer lets go, not able to see exactly where his partner is, and reaches out, trusting that his partner will be at just the right place, and will grasp his arms and swing him safely to the other side. 

Just thinking of such a moment makes my own stomach clutch, and my breath catch! It also makes me realize how apt Tournier’s image was: Life is a matter of letting go and reaching out, again and again. 

The Bible is filled with stories of this risky movement. Abraham is called to leave the security of his ancestral home and to go out by faith to a land he did not know. The disciples of Jesus leave the boats and livelihood and families, testifying “We have left all to follow you.” 

Jesus himself said, “I have power to lay my life down, and to take it up again.” Notice how his letting go is tied to the certainty of resurrection. 

Can you picture yourself this Lenten season as the trapeze artist or the runner, “letting go, and reaching out?” 

The past year was for me in many ways a year of loss— of friends moving away, or dying; of my young associate moving on; of my brother-in-law Billy reaching his 95th birthday but growing weaker; of the traumatic death of my dog Wrangler, who has been my close companion for nine years.

As I look back over my life I can remember many painful partings, letting go of “attachments” that had seemed absolutely vital, and even wondering whether life would be whole again. But God was calling me through loss to gain, letting go of the past to enter into God’s future.

Each of us has certain “attachments” in our lives, whether habits or people, or even addictions or possessions which we clutch for security. And each of us is ever and again to “detachment” in order to trust God more.

Rev. Leighton Ford is President of Leighton Ford Ministries, which focuses on raising up younger leaders to spread the message of Christ worldwide. He has spoken to millions of people in 37 countries on every continent of the world and served from 1955 until 1985 as Associate Evangelist and later Vice President of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Rev. Ford lives in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife, Jean. They have a married daughter, Debbie, and a married son, Kevin. Their older son, Sandy, died after heart surgery in November 1981.

Reflection: 

  • I would ask you two question as you embark on your Lenten journey.
  • What do I need to let go? What unfinished business is there that is holding you back — of hurt, or dreams, or failures, or the “gains” or normal patterns of the last year? Try holding out your hands, visualize in them those concerns, close your hands and then turn them over and open them, as you do releasing them into God’s care.
  • To what do I need to reach out? To what new adventure or challenge may God be calling you? Turn your hands upward, open them and lift them, and receive at least a token of God’s grace. So this Lent- let go, reach out, let God. 

 

Politics Won’t Save You

Many people come to Washington DC to be a part of a movement “to change things.” Whatever the issue people come to contribute. Usually very smart and capable people come to expend their political prowess on the great issues of our day.

Photo by Wally Gobetz used through flickr creative commons

Photo by Wally Gobetz used through flickr creative commons

Over time, disillusionment and cynicism set in as great hopes and hard work translate into meager results. The hope we came to DC with often gets lost in the reality of politics. To advance your issue is to get lucky in some sense or at least to benefit from the politics of the moment which has its own way and logic. The luck of politics is capricious often flirting with those who would do you in.

We often forget that significant changes often take many years and decades to be achieved. And for every major issue let’s remember you have at least two opposing views seeking dominance. For every victory there are those who face defeat. If you were hoping for a rush and sudden significant victories DC will surely disappoint.

But, let’s be clear significant change is possible.  It takes skill, the momentum of cultural, a willingness to compromise, and the right moment all coming together, but it’s possible.

Sometimes faith is offered as a salve from those disappointed by the long hours, hard work, and random nature of political success. Come to Jesus so that you can set yourselves on firmer ground. This salve is true enough, a firmer grounded is needed for all of us subject to the whims of politics.

Yet faith also has a strong word for those who make it in Washington DC. For those who reach the heights of power and make their own House of Cards to live by. For those who are extremely successful the gospels have an important reminder.

Let’s consider the poet Percy Shelley on this point:

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

Power is fleeting. And memory fades. In the lens of time what is achieved here may not even be remembered. Why trust yourselves to what has no power to save and sustain?

To trust in Jesus, especially when successful will save you from the ruins of time, decay, and history. The offer is open to all, regardless of present or past. Come to Jesus for life everlasting.

Our Lives Are Filled with Liturgy

Our lives are filled with liturgy, though not necessarily of a Christian kind. Our day to day wants, patterns, and focuses form a kind of regular lived out pattern or liturgy of practice.

We often don’t recognize how deeply ingrained our liturgies are. At times they are centered around a particularly powerful draw (a TV show, a particular home project, hobby, smart phone obsession, sports team, music, intellectual endeavor, etc).

Our favorite draw often becomes a source of rest, relaxation, and calm. Over time these substitutes for true rest can beget their own children. We can easily become lost in a sea of decreasing satisfaction as many of our habitual interests become divorced from the true Fountain of Life. We often don’t realize the switch or even notice the decreasing amount of enjoyment.

Photo by Bryan Sherwood used through flickr creative commons

Photo by Bryan Sherwood used through flickr creative commons

The reason I am using the paradigm of liturgy to describe our too easily satisfied selves, is, because I think it’s a helpful way to think about the sort of intervention and practice that can break through our complacency.

We are in many ways what we let satisfy our deepest longings. If as Christians we profess Christ to be the center of our lives than we have to be serious about how the Christian faith can meet our deepest needs.

That’s where Christian liturgy and prayers can be especially helpful. Liturgical devotions, worship, and time in contemplative prayer as bookends to a day can be a way to let the Lord reorient our hopes and desires.

I’ve found that over time what started as 7-8 minutes a day in liturgical prayer, worship, and contemplation can now easily spill over into longer richer times with the Lord.

I offer this as an alternative to more common evangelical Christian formation which tend to center around prayer and reading scripture. As good as these disciplines are, I have found that unguided prayer and scripture reading make for a very slow road.

Understanding a basic sense of the scriptures, especially the Old Testament is invaluable to getting a deeper understanding for the life and ministry of Jesus and the work of God among his people.

Structured liturgical prayer has provided a strong foundation for a more serious and sustained prayer life.

If you are looking for a few resources for liturgical prayer, I’d recommend the prayer guides of Church of the Ascension, this resource from the Anglican Church in North America, and if you are looking to branch out a bit perhaps this Orthodox Prayer Guide.

In terms of books that have helped me read scripture here are two. The Drama of Scripture by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen and Creation Regained by Albert Wolters.