Waiting for an Invitation

A Christian is one who follows Jesus as his Lord.  Instead of serving our own desires and conforming to what our surroundings tell us to be and do, we have found the freedom and life found in Jesus alone! How wonderful it is to follow our Master, for he is loving and His burden is light.  I never realized what a load I had been carrying until I came to Jesus and found strength and rest.  But what about the many people around us who have not yet learned of Christ and the hope and strength He offers?  Sure, we know God has told us to share the truth with them, but what if they think we’re weird?  Surely if they want to know what faith in Jesus is, they’ll just ask?  No.

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A Needed Invitation

Though you may not believe it at first, there are many people all around you who want to know spiritual truth.  They would gladly converse with you on the subject and even come to your church with you to see what it’s all about.  But guess what, they’re not going to tell you that!  And you can’t identify them by just looking.

What Do the Numbers Say?

According to a Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research “…many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).”  (Read these stats in detail here.)  The difficult part for many Christians about asking a friend or acquaintance to church is this:  what if they say no???  Allow me to let you in on a little secret.  Most will say no.  Gasp!  😀

Collecting No’s

The stats are going to vary greatly for any specific person and set of circumstances, so for simplicity let’s just assume that 20% of friends you invite via personal invitation will actually attend church with you.  Of those who attend, some will never return, some will return a few times, and some will be radically changed and become followers of Christ.  How many people will say no to your invitation in order for you to find one person who will hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and turn from sin to faith in Jesus?  Ten?  Sixty?  Two thousand?

Does it matter?  Is it worth it to bring one lost soul to the feet of your loving Savior, so that he may taste the love and salvation of Jesus as you have?  Can you imagine yourself standing before your Lord at the end of your life saying, “Jesus, I would have told people about you, but I just didn’t want to hear anyone tell me no.  It felt awkward.”

Ambassadors

We Christians need to trust God that He has people out there He is going to save.  He has put us where we are in our lives in order that we would take His Word to these people, to be the means by which they hear the gospel.  Christ died for sinners, and anyone who will place their faith in Him will be washed clean and declared righteous.

Go Get More of Both

Instead of viewing negatively an answer of, “no,” to our invitation to come and see Jesus, we should view it as a victory—that’s one more person in the denominator.  For every 100 friends you ask, some percent of them are just waiting to be asked, to come and hear, and to find rest and peace for their souls.  It is God’s plan that they will be saved.  And it is God’s plan that a Christian would share the good news with them.  Will you be that Christian?  Or will God use someone obedient?  Embrace the no’s, they are part of the process.  The more invitations, the more no’s, and naturally, the more yeses.  Let’s be the church we are called to be: let us come together for equipping and encouragement to take the gospel out to the very ends of the earth.  Lord Jesus, lead us on, show us how, and may your will be done.

His Philosophy

What is truth?  Have you taken a moment recently to think about this question?  You have beliefs, beliefs that guide your decisions, and even how you react to situations in your life.  But are these ideas true?  If we’re honest with ourselves, every one of us has an imperfect worldview in some way.  We use our experiences, our minds, and God’s Word to guide us, but only One man who has walked the earth had a perfect understanding of truth:  our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Who Do You Say that I Am?

Many people would say that Jesus was an admirable example, or even a great prophet.  Many people would say that we would do well to become more like Him, and adopt His philosophy.  But few people actually pursue this in their daily lives.  Worse still, many people adopt ideas and philosophies that run in stark contradiction to what Christ taught and stood for.  Instead of reading the Word to learn about what Jesus was really like, many people invent a picture of Christ in their minds that bears little resemblance to ministry on this earth.

You’ve certainly heard of Gentle Jesus, and it is true that He had and has the attribute of gentleness.  Jesus was called the friend of sinners precisely because he sought out prostitutes, thieves, and adulterers to save them from their sin.  He is gentle with us when we stumble and fall on the road of life—even when we rebel against Him, He often corrects us like a gentle and loving Father.  If we will listen to and follow His gentle correction, He often withholds the greater pain and punishment that we truly deserve.

Gentle, But Not Gentle Only

All this being said, Jesus was also a fierce man.  When the situation warranted it, Jesus spoke with boldness and authority, condemning men for their rebellion and the hardness of their hearts.  If we think of Jesus only as a meek lamb and never as a righteous judge, we see him incorrectly.

A striking example of Christ’s anger at those who disregard the Father’s commandments is found in Matthew 21:

12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13And He said to them, “It is written, MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”

Can you imagine one man entering a mall and drivng our droves of merchants by himself?  Imagine the tenacity and fiercness that must have been in our Savior’s eyes.  Now think of your reactions to sin and the profaning of God’s Name.  Do you react as the Lord did?

False Teachers

Another example is found in Matthew 23:

13″But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. 14[“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation].

15″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

25″Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26″You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Here, we see Christ calling out the men who would dare to speak on God’s behalf, perverting His Laws and His character in order to obtain personal benefit.  Jesus called down woes to these false teachers, directing others to avoid their influence and instead follow the true God and His Son Jesus Christ.

Will You Follow Him?

It can be difficult to live like Christ, particularly in a world that rejects our Lord for who He truly is.  We know that Jesus taught that He was the way, the truth, and the life and that none may come to the Father but through Him.  Yet our world rejects this reality, and accuses those of us who follow Christ completely as being radical and narrow-minded.  Instead of bending to the influence of our culture, let’s really take the time to see our Lord for who He is and not shy away from following Him and letting Him make us more like Himself.  If we will choose today to care more about what Christ thinks of us than what the world thinks of us, we will find Him ready and able to meet our every need—for this day and all the millennia to come!

The Standard of Wisdom

We live in an information age.  Every day, we are overwhelmed with news, media, advertisements, and opinions of friends, family, and associates.  How can we sort out the claims steeped in wisdom from those dripping with folly?  How can we discern truth from error and the wise path from the highway of fools?  We must have a reliable standard by which we can test all claims, holding fast to that which is good.  That standard is our Creator God and the Word He has given us.  Today we’ll delve into an excerpt from Proverbs 12 and discover how the principles contained in it can guide us into truth and right living.

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22Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD,

But those who deal faithfully are His delight.

23A prudent man conceals knowledge,

But the heart of fools proclaims folly.

24The hand of the diligent will rule,

But the slack hand will be put to forced labor.

Easy to Read, Tough to Do

I love the clarity of the Proverbs!  Sometimes they require deep reflection and some digging, but often they are so clear and practical that there is little difficulty understanding them, only difficulty in living them.

In Accord with Reality

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord.  God hates deceitfulness and it is against His character to affirm that which is false.  Conversely, when we deal faithfully with our friends and neighbors, this pleases and delights our Father.  How truthful has your tongue been this week?  Do your words and actions accord with reality, or can you think of times recently when you’ve sought to create an appearance that is false?  Have you blamed another for a mistake that was yours?  Or have you withheld information from someone in order to lead them into an inaccurate conclusion?

Not All Sharing is Good

In the second stanza, we see a common device used in proverbs:  pairs of opposites used together.  Notice the contrast in verse 23:  a prudent man versus a fool, concealing versus proclaiming, and knowledge versus folly.  As is often the case in proverbs, the truth can at first appear puzzling to us.  Why should a wise person keep knowledge from people?  Wouldn’t he want to share his insight with everyone within earshot?  Conversely, wouldn’t a fool want to hide his foolishness by remaining silent?

As usual, the wisdom of the proverb is proven right upon careful consideration.  Much like the New Testament concept of not casting pearls before swine, a wise person understands that sharing wisdom with those who are not willing to receive it will only bring sorrow to all involved.  Instead, we ought to share knowledge and council in stages, allowing a student to hear and understand the simple and general things, and later share the deeper and more magnificent pearls.  Let us be careful not to spew forth speech as a fool, painting those around us with a fire hose.  Instead, let us seek out those who wish to behold a beautiful painting, and paint it for them in small and careful strokes.

Choose to Prosper

Finally, we learn a lesson on diligence.  Decide now to apply yourself and work hard for the rewards you desire.  Stick with your efforts even during the tough times and your hard work will be rewarded with honor and authority.  Do not be as the fool, who has the opportunity to work today but chooses instead to sit idly by.  That man will find himself without honor, doing work he despises against his will.  Today you have the choice to find your passion and pursue it with excellence.  Do it, and develop a habit of diligence, that the seeds you plant today my harvest future bounty for the good of your family and country, to the glory of God.

Follow Your Heart?

In many of today’s movies and TV shows, the lesson is put forth that we should follow our hearts above all else.  From Disney cartoons to adult-rated dramas, the idea that what is best for us is to look deep within ourselves and do that which we inwardly desire.  But will this philosophy really bring blessing to our lives?

Hidden Assumptions

Oftentimes, ideas that seem pleasant on their surface carry along with them disastrous and erroneous assumptions which are not readily apparent.  When we are not vigilant to test the truth claims of the society around us, we can mistakenly believe some of these pleasant-sounding lies, right along with the errors contained in them.

In this case, the assumption that lies within the “follow your heart” advice is this:  your inner self is perfect and righteous.  This claim lies in stark opposition to Scripture, which teaches us the following:

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
(Jeremiah 17:9)

 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.
(Romans 7:21-22)

The Corruption of Our Wills

We know that God created us in His image, and that our earthly father Adam was initially without sin.  Yet when Adam rebelled against God in the Garden, he shattered the perfect nature he was given.  Because of his sin, we, his children, have been born corrupted, bent away from the will of God and inclined toward selfishness and self-centered living.

When we look to our inner selves for direction and purpose, we will find nothing but emptiness and ruin.  How many men have abandoned their wives and families because their hearts told them to pursue a fling with a woman at the office?  How many youths have traded their bright future for a life of addiction because their first hit felt like heaven?  Perhaps your own experiences have been less drastic than these examples, but have they not left you empty and unsatisfied?

The Way to Life

There is a better way to live.  Jesus came to give us life, and that abundantly—His atoning death on the cross bought us peace on this earth and with our Father in heaven.  Because He died to take the penalty of your sin and mine, we can be washed clean by placing our faith in Him as Savior and Lord.  He rose from the grave to demonstrate His power over death, and sits now at the right hand of God the Father.

As Christians, we live not to follow our own inner desires, but rather to serve our Lord and Giver of Life.  Living each day to bring God glory will not only fill the emptiness in a way “following your heart” never could, but your life will bring a smile to the face of the Lord Jesus Christ—on the day He welcomes you into His paradise with those wonderful words, “well done, my good and faithful servant!”