Every Question Is A Personal Question

The other week a student at SLHS asked me a question that comes up a lot in evangelism: what about the person that never had the chance to hear about Jesus? How can God send that person to Hell?

Now, like I said, this question comes up a lot, so I went into one of my typical answers. I talked about God’s sovereignty over all creation, and how all people have been given the ability to see that God exists and respond. And then how God, before he created anything, knew that if he gave all people free will some of those people would never in any possible scenario receive his free offer of grace. Therefore when he did create them he was free to put them in places where they would never hear about Jesus.

I think that is where I lost him. Actually, I know that is where I lost him because he said out loud, “That’s BS!” (Except he didn’t use the abbreviation). No, it’s not BS— it’s Christian philosophy at its best. Nevertheless, that didn’t really matter.

So I said to him with a laugh, “So you’re not convinced?”

And this is where the conversation took a turn. As we continued to talk he mentioned that all of his family is Buddhist. Ah, now things made sense. He wasn’t just asking some abstract philosophical question, he was asking a very personal question. He wanted to know if his family, who in his mind had never heard about Jesus, was going to Hell. That is a very different kind of question.

The mistake I made is a mistake that is often easy to make when talking to people about matters of faith. It is easy to talk about and respond to matters of salvation in the abstract. It is easy to do because often the person asking the question poses the question in this way as a means to protect him or herself.

But what I had forgotten that day is there are no purely abstract philosophical questions when it comes to matters of salvation. Every question asked is a personal question because the answer will always affect the questioner in a personal way. It may affect how they think about their own eternity, or it may affect how they think about eternity for others—but in both cases, the answer matters to them. If it didn’t they would not have asked the question.

When the student asked the question, I should have responded in a more personal way. Here are some examples of what I could have said.

  • “Wow that’s a really great question. It sounds like you are concerned about God’s fairness. If God is fair, how do you think God views you?”
  • Or “Wow that’s a great question. What led you to think about that question?”
  • Or “Honestly, I’m not 100% sure, but if you really want to know, I’d be happy to get back to you with an answer. But what about you? It seems God is wanting to tell you about Jesus. Do you know what Jesus has done for you?”

I’m grateful that God is bigger than my mistakes and missed opportunities. But hopefully this article will help you and me to remember whenever someone asks us a question about salvation, that question is always a personal question. So we need to pray (sometimes in the moment) and ask God to show us how to respond with a personal, not just philosophical, answer.

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Sharing The Gospel Can Be Easier Than You Think

How much do you have to know to share the good news of Jesus Christ?

The answer is not a whole lot.

The important thing is not knowing a lot, but knowing where to go.

Think of a gospel-conversation like walking with friends along a path and making a few stops along the way. Your job is simply to walk with them in conversation and lead them to the right stops. Then at each stop give them an opportunity to respond.

What are the key stops on the path?

Stop #1 God’s Law.

Stop #2 God’s Judgement.

Stop #3 God’s Grace.

Stop # 4 God’s Offer.

What might this look like?

Watch this video:

Did you notice how the conversation was build around six key questions?

  1. Do you think you are a good person?
  2. Have you every broken one the Ten Commandments?
  3. If God judges you by the Ten Commandments on the Day of Judgement do you think you’d be guilty or innocent?
  4. Do you think you’d go to Heaven or Hell?
  5. Do you know what God did for sinners so that you don’t have to go to Hell?
  6. Are you willing to receive God’s gift, repent and to trust Jesus?

Did you notice how the questions lead the person to consider God’s law, God’s judgment, God’s grace and God’s offer?

The conversation took a few turns but ultimately it kept coming back to the four key stops. And that is all you have to do when sharing Gospel with others–take them to the stops.

I didn’t originate this method, and I definitely don’t think it is the only way to share Jesus with others. But it is one way. And it is a way that is easy and clearly points to our need for Jesus.

So try it out and then tell me how it goes.

And if you have a favorite method of Gospel-sharing put in the comments. And let others  know.

Blessings,

 

Abortion and The Gospel

Abortion is in the news again. I suppose, in some ways, it always is.

I don’t know about you, but at times I find the whole issue overwhelming. Every time I watch the latest video, read the latest news, or hear the latest personal story, I’m tempted to feel depressed, angered, frustrated, and overall hopeless.

It is at this point of hopelessness that it hits me, I have lost sight of the gospel.

So where is the Gospel in the midst of abortion?

As heinous and horrible as abortion is, I do believe that it is able to point us to the Gospel in at least three ways.

  1. Abortion shows us the idols of our hearts

Abortion itself is not the idol. The idol is what we think abortion will give us. Timothy Keller once wrote, “When anything in life is an absolute requirement for your happiness and self-worth, it is essentially an ‘idol,’ something you are actually worshiping” [1]. Abortion shows us what we believe is an “absolute requirement” for our happiness. In most cases it has something to do with freedom. Freedom to pursue a better life. Freedom to pursue other relationships. Freedom from shame. Freedom from regret.

Freedom is good, but not when it becomes an ultimate good. Abortion reveals this idol within all of us.

  1. Abortion reminds us of God’s grace

Any one of us could have been conceived by someone who felt compelled to have an abortion. The circumstances of our birth were completely out of our control. A few changes in the living circumstances, the peer group, and the values of our parents and many of us would not be here to read this. From the moment of our conception our lives were hanging in the balance. Abortion reminds us of this fact.

This in turns reminds us that the only reason any of us are here is because of God’s grace. God, by his grace, allowed us to be conceived by people who valued our lives and allowed us to live.

  1. Abortion reminds us we all need a Savior

Abortion reminds us that we all need someone who is able to save us from death. All of us have used our freedom for selfish gain, in inordinate ways, and for evil ends. All of us are helpless to save ourselves from the judgment and consequences we deserve. Abortion reminds us of the evil in our hearts and in our culture. It reminds us as individuals and as a nation that we do not value what God values, we do not pursue what God pursues, we do not act as God would have us act. We are all very guilty. We all have blood on our hands. We are all in need of a savior.

The good news is that in Jesus Christ we meet that savior: The one who has overcome evil. The one who offers us forgiveness. The one who paid for our sins.  The one who can remove our guilt. The one who can change our hearts.  The one who poured out his blood, and gave up his life, so that you and I could live, now and for all eternity.

Abortion points us to this gospel.

The truth that our hearts are wicked, that we can not save ourselves, and that we are in need of a savior to give us life, now and forever.

 

I pray that by His grace God would enable you today to repent of your idols, receive his grace, and put all your hope in our savior Jesus Christ.

 

 


 

[1] Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters.

 

 

 

 

Not Just Another Sample

 

Costco has become one of my favorite places. Especially on Tuesday mornings when I go with Ian (our three-year-old). The place is still pretty empty. So Ian can run around, climb on the furniture, and “help” push the cart without bothering anyone—most of the time.

The morning gets better if we arrive at just the right time to miss the crowds but still get the samples. Samples are seriously a grace of God. Often Ian will ask for something, try it, then hand it to me and say, “I don’t want it.” Great! More1280px-Costcostorehenderson samples for me.

It’s the nature of samples to fish for preferences. Samples aren’t made for anyone in particular. Instead they are put out for the masses. The hope is that someone will have a preference for the sample and want more. But sometimes, few people have a preference for the sample and the product just goes away.

I love samples. And it’s probably because I am the product of a “sample” culture. Everything from foods to ideas to lifestyles are put out for us to try, to see if we have a preference for it. To see if we like it. If we do, there’s always a way to get more. And if we don’t, that’s ok. It’s just not our preference. The sample just wasn’t made for us.

But some things in our world weren’t made to be samples. Some things weren’t made just for people’s preferences. Some things were meant to be served to everyone.

The Gospel is one of those things.

It often doesn’t feel this way, because a lot people seem fine without the good news of Jesus. Many people have good families, are nice neighbors, have nice jobs, and live decent moral lives – all without putting their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

It can often seem like the Gospel message is just a sample. At some point people may or may not try it. And they may or may not decide it is for them. And even if they never try it, our sample culture says, “that’s ok, there are plenty of other things for you to enjoy.”

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul saw things differently. Specifically he didn’t see the Gospel as just another thing to be sampled. He says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes…”

Paul didn’t see himself as one who passively stands in the marketplace of ideas offering one option among many for people to try. Rather, he saw himself as one called to go serve, to bring the Gospel to everyone. He knew that the Gospel was made for everyone. And that everyone needs the Gospel.

Despite what our lives look like on the outside. Despite the myriad of choices before us. Without the goodness of the Gospel, we’re always looking for good news somewhere else. We’re always in pursuit of the thing that will finally satisfy all our preferences. But sadly, in our attempt to satisfy ourselves we end up destroying ourselves and others.

Eugene Peterson describes this kind of life perfectly:

“It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.” (Galatians 5:19-21 MSG)

These are the parts of our life that we don’t like to talk about. These are the parts our life that need more than a sample of something to satisfy our preferences. These are the parts of our life that need the power of God. They are the parts of our life that need the Gospel.

The Gospel was made for everyone. Because everyone needs the Gospel.

Every person, every household, every neighborhood, every people group, every culture, whether they recognize it or not is in need of the power of God. They are in need of God’s saving work. They are in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is why the Gospel will never be just another sample.

 

 

If we have been transformed by the Gospel, let us pray that God would empower us to move beyond our sample tables. In order that we, like Paul, might bring the Good News we have been given to everyone we meet.

 

One Thing That Keeps Us from Sharing The Gospel And How To Overcome It

 

What keeps us from sharing the Gospel with others?

Until recently I would have given one of three answers:

  1. Christians don’t know enough about the Gospel
  2. Christians have few (if any) non-Christian friends
  3. Christians have become too busy with their own livesV&A_-_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)

Maybe you would agree. Maybe you feel like you don’t know enough. Or maybe you feel like you no longer have any non-Christian friends. And it’s probably likely that you’re busy–crazy busy even–and you just don’t have time to even make time to share the Gospel with others.

I get it. At different times in my life, I’ve been there. And I’ve thought all the same things.

But Pastors David Platt and Francis Chan wouldn’t agree. As they see it, we don’t share the Gospel because we lack something. And that something isn’t knowledge, non-Christian friends, or more time for our neighbors.

What we lack is just one thing–boldness.

We simply lack the courage to do it.

After recently reading through the book of Acts and preaching on parts of it a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t agree more. The early church didn’t know everything there was to know about the Gospel. They didn’t have a ton of non-Christian friends. And they had jobs, families, and other things to do. But when it came to sharing the Gospel, they were bold.  

So how do we get boldness?

This is where we (and by “we” I mean “I”) tend to make the mistake. We tend to try to motivate ourselves (and others) to go share. We might try to motivate ourselves just to love others, or even just to see people as Jesus sees them.

It might work for a short time. But more times than not, the motivation quickly fades. We stop looking for opportunities. And soon we feel guilty again for not sharing our faith.

So what is the alternative?

The alternative is to stop looking for boldness within ourselves. Because it doesn’t exist in us, and we can’t generate it. The kind of boldness that enables us to share the Gospel only comes from God.

Thus, if we want to be bold we must pray. We must ask the Holy Spirit to give us what we cannot give ourselves. This is what the church in Acts understood.  The answer isn’t to try harder. The answer is to pray more. We must first pray for our own boldness, and then pray for each other’s boldness. Only when we start with prayer will we not only see the opportunities to share the Gospel, but we’ll have the God-given courage to actually do it.

 

If you still have a few minutes, check out this great conversation between David Platt and Francis Chan on Prayer, the Holy Spirit and Boldness. You won’t regret it.

 

Life-Saving Use of a Napkin

 

It wasn’t the first time I put my foot in my mouth.  I was a young youth leader just out of college talking with some church folks about evangelism. Someone mentioned they liked using Gospel tracts.  I rolled my eyes and went on a diatribe about how I had tried tracts and found them useless.

“No one really reads them.” I said. “They just throw them away”

I may have even thrown in some stats on the ineffectiveness of Gospel tracts for good measure.napkin

The conversation had been put to rest.

That is until a young women standing in earshot of our group turned around and messed everything up.

She shared how a few years ago she had been in a very bad place in life–drugs, bad relationships, and financial ruin–the whole deal. Then one day she was walking down the street. She happened to see a little booklet on the sidewalk. Curious, she opened it up. It was a Gospel tract. One that used the “Bridge” illustration. She read it. Saw the prayer at the end. Prayed the prayer. And that day gave her life to Jesus Christ.

“That tract saved my life,” she said.

“uh…huh,” I replied.

Since then I’ve become much more “open-minded” about the use of Gospel tracts. I no longer try to convert people away from using them. Even when I hear that they placed them on every car in a Target parking lot. Or that they gave a tract in place of a tip at a restaurant. Or that they just like to pass them out to strangers on a street. Because hey, if God used them once before, he can certainly do it again (and I’m sure he has).

The Apostle Paul reminds us “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”(Romans 10:5)…I think that even includes those who hand out tracts.

But what if you don’t have a tract?

Start with a napkin.

Below is the “Bridge” illustration that led the young women to Christ. If you were born before 1985 and have been around church for a while you’ve likely seen it. But in our “post-Christian” cultural, there’s a good chance you have kids, grandkids, friends, neighbors or others you know who haven’t seen it before.

Take a moment to learn it, or relearn. Practice it on a napkin a few times- (so your drawing is not all smudgy). Then pray for an opportunity to share it with someone. They might take your napkin tract only to later throw it away. But then again someone might happen to find your discarded napkin tract. And it might just happen to save her life.