Christ’s Foot Soldiers – part 2

Last time we looked at how to increase our ability to facilitate other people’s entry into the kingdom of God by accepting Christ as their Savior – in short, to be better evangelizers. We also examined how to use those enhancements to introduce the gospel to those who don’t feel that they need saving.

Well, what if you approach someone who says that they want to hear what you have to say? ‘Hallelujah,’ is what you’ll probably say to yourself. Still, you don’t want to pass over the spiritual necessities they need to absorb in their heart to consummate their readiness and desire for salvation.

Whoever you’re approaching, keep your gospel-telling conversational, not a fire-and-brimstone monologue. Ask questions that give them openings to tell you what their pre-conceived beliefs are. Lead them to feel that they came to the gospel understanding on their own. That is when people are ready to believe. God can strip their egos later…

Previously, we concentrated on how better to deliver the gospel. Now, let’s spend a little time with the message itself. We might want to open with what it is that we all need saving from:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. Jas. 4:17 ESV

“…for there is no one who does not sin…” 1 Kin. 8:46 NKJV

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rm. 6:23 CSB

Simple. It’s death! And, we are all found guilty of practicing sin, which leads to it.

Next, we can talk to them about what is drawing their attention to salvation:

He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]… Eccl. 3:11 AMP

God Himself is clamoring for their attention, because He loves them and wants to spend eternity with them. And He has a plan for that: salvation through Jesus Christ. It is through the blood of Christ that saves us, and the power of the Holy Spirit that brings Jesus to reside in us, when we accept Him as Savior and Lord over our lives.

Jesus came to save us from our sins. In fact, much of His earthly ministry consisted of saving the sinful in His proximity, hanging out with the outcasts.

The veracity of His divinity as the Son of God was demonstrated in His miraculous deeds, His irrefutable gospel, His sinless life, and through His resurrection.

Through Christ, we connect with God the Father, as well as the Holy Spirit, so that we have the Divine Dream Team Triumvirate living within us, caring for us and pointing us in the right way.

Christ died for you, just as much as He died for me and for everybody else. When that happened, Jesus removed all barriers between you and God by becoming your God-connection.

And [at once] the veil [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom… Mt. 27:51 AMP

Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus… Heb. 10:19 AMP

Thus, you get to know and have a relationship with the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, eternal and changeless holy Creator of the universe. That may sound overwhelming, but there are surefire ways to have that happen.

First, God wrote the Bible through the prophets and the apostles, by way of the Holy Spirit. It tells us most of what we need to know about how He feels and what He’s like:

“The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth (faithfulness); keeping mercy and lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” Ex. 34:5 – 7. AMP

The other way to know God intimately, is to know His Son, Jesus, who is an exact replica of His Father, one with Him and yet separate in a way in which in our finite understanding, do not fully fathom:

He (Jesus) is the exact living image [the essential manifestation] of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible], the firstborn [the preeminent one, the sovereign, and the originator of all creation. Col. 1:15 AMP

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Jn. 14:7 NKJV

Sounds great, huh? God put together this whole arrangement: Himself, His Son and the Holy Spirit, to handle a major problem: to reconcile His children who were lost to Him.

God created a perfect world, a perfect man and wife, and left us a set of perfect commandments to follow, to live a perfect life and stay in right relationship with Him.

But, because the members of humankind want to be masters of their own destinies, to be their own gods, they rebelled against God – beginning with Adam and Eve. That is called ‘sin,’ and as we saw in the beginning, the practice of sin brings death, death in the form of an eternal separation from God and His children.

In His infinite love for all of humankind, God put into action a plan that would save us from our sins. He sent His Son as a Spirit to be born of a virgin and grow to be Jesus the Savior. God worked through Him to bring you the gospel message that you are hearing. Broken down into a nutshell, it is this:

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him might be saved.” Jn. 3:16, 17. NKJV

And this is the reason:

“…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.” Acts 26:18 NASB

Did it work?

And although you were at one time estranged and alienated and hostile-minded [toward Him}, participating in evil things, yet Christ has now reconciled you [to God] in His physical body through death, in order to present you before the Father holy and blameless and beyond reproach _ [and He will do this] if you continue in the faith, well-grounded and steadfast, and not shifting away from the confident hope [that is a result] of the gospel that you have heard… Col. 1:21 – 23. AMP

Perfectly!

It is a gift from God, not something that you can earn. Jesus acquired this gift for you with His life on the cross, taking all the punishment that God would have laid upon all of humanity born throughout time, wiping out all our sins – past, present and future, by exchanging that sinless life for all the lives that would be snuffed out from the ravages of sin.

God’s gift works individually when that person comes to Christ and repents of their sins (i.e. acknowledges he or she is a sinner, exhibits true remorse with the intent to do their best not to repeat them), and to accept Jesus as who He is and what He’s done, and make Him the Lord of their life. Immediately, the sinless righteousness of Christ is transferred to them; and when God looks at him or her, He only sees that righteousness. Their price has been paid for an eternity in paradise…

…the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Eccl. 12:7 CSB

…I saw a new heaven and a new earth…I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God…”Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more…” Rv. 21:1 – 4. CSB

Now, talking to you, my fellow evangelizers: all these scriptures are very apropos in their sequence, but I really put them in for you, to empower you with your truth. Remember, this might be your hearer’s first time for the gospel, so be careful not to overwhelm.

Well, at this juncture, it would be good to dive right in: ‘You’ve seen the vital importance of the salvation of your soul and how to get saved. Will you accept Jesus now? Let’s kneel together and I will lead you through prayer and your salvation will be secure.’

(Time for that sinners’ prayer):

Dear God in heaven, I am a sinner, unable to save myself. I am truly sorry and will do my best not to repeat my sins. But I know that I cannot do it myself. I believe that Jesus is your Son and that He died on the cross for me and was resurrected to pay for all my sins. Please make your Son the Lord of my life, that I may receive your forgiveness and by your Holy Spirit, I ask for Jesus to take residence within me. Thank you for opening heaven so that I may live in eternity with you. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Or something similar. Please, at this juncture, do not let this newbie out into the world. Either follow up with them or connect them to a church.

Be happy. The angels are rejoicing!

I know what you’re thinking, ‘What if they ask me theological questions that I have no answer for?’ We’ll handle that next time…

Goodnight and God bless. 

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Are You Bold for Jesus?

After Jesus ascended to His Father, the apostles returned to Jerusalem, whereupon they formed the first church of Jesus Christ with an initial group of 120 people, all of whom received the power of the Holy Spirit at the same time. This empowerment rendered them with the ability to ‘speak in tongues’ – in this instance, to be able to preach the gospel in various languages to travelers from different countries that were in the city.

Some outside observers accused the church members of spewing drunken gibberish. The apostle Peter rebukes them, and then uses this occasion to speak up for Jesus – delivering the very first Christian sermon. He begins by telling the crowd that what they have been witnessing is the Holy Spirit at work in Christ’s followers – the supernatural spreading of the gospel to the multitude. This event constitutes the commencement of the ‘last days’ before the end of time and Christ’s return for the redemption of God’s children.

Then, Peter dresses down the non-believing Jews for their complicity in Christ’s crucifixion. Convicted, the crowd asks him how they can right their wrong. Peter answers with the gospel’s central message:

“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” Acts 2:38, 39. NASB

Peter was bold for Jesus; and 3000 people were added to the church that day.

On another day, Peter (along with John) was about to enter the temple when he came upon a crippled man who was begging for alms. The apostle responded:

“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6 NKJV

And he did! Peter was again bold for Jesus. He made himself available for divine use, by having faith in the name of Jesus. And he told telling a gathering crowd that it was God that did the healing through Jesus – glorifying His Son.

Peter again convicts the crowd for their denial of Christ, which led to His death. Yet again, out of his compassion and His boldness for Jesus, he offers them salvation:

“Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance…Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing my come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His Holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:17 & 19 – 21. NKJV

The church number swelled to 5000.

We too must be bold for Jesus, to re-extend God’s invitation – letting everyone, both the unknowing and the rebellious, that salvation is just a confession and repentant prayer away, asking Jesus for salvation…

Peter and John were dragged before the Sanhedrin to explain by whose authority they were preaching and healing. Peter declares that their authority was from Jesus. The Sanhedrin forbade them to preach anymore about Christ. But Peter and John did not let go of their boldness. They replied:

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:19, 20. NASB

All of the apostles are now working miracles. Subsequently, the high priest had them arrested. Yet that very night they were freed by and angel, who encouraged them in their boldness in preaching the gospel.

Again, they were hauled in front of the high priest, but they stood firm:

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.” Acts 5:29, 30. ESV

“Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:31, 32. NKJV

This time they were scourged, and then let go. How did the apostles feel about that?

So they departed from the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:41, 42. NKJV

Not only were they happy for not backing down from the ‘Great Commission,’ they felt great joy in the opportunity to suffer for Jesus. In fact, it encouraged them in their boldness.

During this time, there was also a disciple from the church, named Stephen who stood boldly for Christ:

…a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit…And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Acts 6:5, 8. NKJV

He was also arrested for expressing his faith in Jesus, and then accused of blasphemy. He threw the charges right back at his accusers:

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:51 – 53. ESV

And just when Stephen was finished, the Holy Spirit provided him with a vision of Jesus standing exalted at the at the right hand of God in heaven. Then he boldly declared that vision to the court.

For that, Stephen was stoned to death, making him the first martyr for Jesus. Yet even with his final breath, he was emulating his Savior – praying to God for the forgiveness of his executioners.

Are you bold for Jesus? You are entrusted with lighting Christ’s lamp, showing people the way out of the darkness. If you convict them of their sin, it is a bold endeavor to free them from it (without judgment). You are saving lives.

First, we convict if warranted. Second, educate with regards to what death without Christ will look like, and then offer the salvation message with love. What they do with it is between them and God. What you are doing is being a good and faithful servant.

We stand bold in our spiritual gifts, drawing upon them to bring home the lost. Jesus also told us that when we open out mouths to testify of Him, the Holy Spirit will fill us with the words that we need to say. Always be prepared to be used by Jesus.

We do that by living out the word of God, by teaching it, and by placing our obedience to it above all that the world would have us do. The world will be a better place, you’ll have more people to love in heaven, and you will live a better life now and for eternity.

Are you bold for Jesus? Can you be? Sure you can…

Goodnight and God bless.

The Gospel Will Sell Itself

If you speak it into the ears of the hearer:

…preach the word [as an official messenger]; be ready when the time is right and even when it is not [keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome]; correct [those who err in doctrine or behavior], warn [those who sin], exhort and encourage [those who are growing toward spiritual maturity], with inexhaustible patience and [faithful] teaching. 2 Tim. 4:2 AMP

All followers of Christ are called to be evangelists (Mk. 16:15), to reach the unsaved for the kingdom of God, to rescue them from eternal death. We’re not all summoned by God to be preachers, but evangelism definitely requires some preaching. Not to worry; every time you open your mouth for Christ, you instantly become Holy Spirit-equipped to do so:

“For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Lk. 12:12 NKJV

“…the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things. and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” Jn. 14:26 NKJV

What Jesus says to you is found within His gospel. That’s why you want to get that word in your heart. Then Holy Spirit will help you share it.

However, your evangelism (speaking of the promise of the gospel) will fall upon deaf ears unless you give a compelling reason for them to act upon it. They need to see the danger of embracing worldly thinking and behavior. In a compassionate manner, you must present the old ‘fire and brimstone’ message. He or she must feel the danger of the situation that they are in. You must prepare them for hearing the salvation message by getting them to see why they need it. Then, the gospel will sell itself.

Therefore, for you to be properly prepared for the Holy Spirit to use you for this endeavor, you must separate yourself from the world first. And then pray ardently for the Spirit to facilitate your execution of the message as you get ready to deliver it.

What are we trying to do? We are attempting to reposition the hearer to receive their resurrection from sin and death – by inducing a spiritual longing, a yearning for redemption and making them aware that in and of themselves, their own faith won’t cut it.

We must impart the knowledge that only by embracing the gospel, will they get the faith from God that will make their deliverance happen, i.e. that they cannot receive it by any other means or actions of themselves. God is the one doing the saving, through the sacrifice of His Son.

The required efforts of the recipient are to do is his or her best to give up their sins; and they must be shown that the worst possible sin is to rebuke the gospel:

…you will die [unforgiven and condemned] in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am the One [I claim to be], you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:24 AMP

The Bible is crystal clear about the path to redemption:

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved…” Acts 16:31 NKJV

So, once you help your hearer really see their present plight, then the gospel can be preached as  you simultaneously assure him or her that it distinctly applies to them – that they will be free of their sins, accepted by God and no longer need to live in fear of death, destruction or the power of the devil.

Moreover, they will now live a life bathed in the love of the Father and the Son through their renewed spirit-connection in their born-again selves.

It would also be good to instill in your new ‘Christian’ some wise wariness, letting them know that there are malevolent spirits in this world that will try to cause them to stumble in their walk to follow Jesus. Teach them that despite their self-recriminations that arise over those slip-ups, God still loves and accepts them and will help them to get up and face another day – as He keeps their unique place awaiting in heaven.

Let them know that the moment they received Christ, they were transformed by the Holy Spirit into their heavenly life now. Even so, they must now be acutely aware of the forces in this world that would darken their soul once more, so that they must strengthen themselves by living as Christ did, to the best of their ability.

Anyone who approaches you asking questions about salvation already has God working inside of them. God’s talking to you through them at that point, saying, “I’m sending you another one. You can do this. The gospel will sell itself.”

We also lovingly help our hearer see their wretchedness, and then we open their eyes to the mercy of God – where punishment is a thing of the past.

Fire and brimstone message? God only warns of hell to implore His children to come to heaven. We must preach as long as they will be willing to hear – patiently until they either get it or reject it. The result falls into the space of the hearer’s free will. But at least you can open the door…

Goodnight and God bless.

Two-Sided Salvation – part 6

Often, those who reside on the side of life prior to salvation are plagued with faithlessness. Why? Many of us are raised in this world with a ‘scientific’ viewpoint; i.e. ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ Yet a plethora of the population believes in the ‘Big Bang,’ while not ever contemplating that it takes some kind of ‘faith’ to believe that the universe and how we got here was resulted from a series of random events.

Many take for granted that every time they flip the light switch, illumination will result – even though electricity, for the most part, cannot be seen.

Lack of faith can produce several deleterious results. For example, what if you don’t have faith in a hereafter? If you haven’t noticed, this life flashes by in heartbeat. Moreover, it is chock-full of trials and tribulations, with no true path for navigating them or rising above them. To make matters worse, the world’s concepts of happiness yield fleeting results at best. Contentedness is a rare commodity.

What if you don’t have faith in love? It’s hard to possess sometimes, given the inherent shortcomings of our humanity. We can’t trust most people to put other’s welfare above their own. And again, the world provides so many destructive paths that lead to failure in love.

If you don’t have faith in yourself, life will be doubly hard. Life keeps coming at you whether or not you are prepared to weather it. If you don’t know how, you’ll view yourself as weak, flawed and unacceptable. Hardly fertile ground for growing relationships. Instead, you can find yourself in isolation, depression and subsequently suffering from all the self-destructive activities one dives into to suppress them.

If you don’t have faith in God, who then are you going to turn to deliver you out of this mess?

That’s where salvation comes in. God has been waiting for you since before your first day of life on this earth, yearning for your return to His original purpose for you:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved (Jesus). Eph. 1:3 – 6. NKJV

God had every intention of delivering you from the world and its ways and its consequences. He built it into your path. And the gate to the path is Christ:

In Him we have redemption [that is, our deliverance and salvation] through His blood, [which paid the penalty of our sin and resulted in] the forgiveness and complete pardon of our sin, in accordance with the richness of His grace which He lavished on us. in all wisdom and understanding [with practical insight], He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Christ, with regard to the fulfillment of the times [that is, the end of history, the climax of the ages] – to bring all things together in Christ, [both] things in the heavens and things on the earth. In Him also we have received an inheritance [a destiny – we were claimed by God as His own], having been predestined (chosen, appointed beforehand) according to the purpose of Him who works everything in agreement with the counsel and design of His will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ [who first put our confidence in Him as our Lord and Savior] would exist to the praise of His glory. Eph. 1:7 – 12. AMP

So, God wants to draw you to Himself but He cannot do so unless you are holy (sinless). Can we of ourselves come into His presence in that state?

…for there is no one who does not sin… 1 Kings 8:46 NKJV

But we are all like an unclean thing, and all of our righteousnesses are like filthy rags… Is. 64:6 NKJV

Thus, not only are we sinful, our best efforts to atone for them are for naught. But praise be to God, you can see that He has made us ’acceptable’ in His grace through the blood of Christ that pays the price for our transgressions and gathers us into His love for eternity. That is the gospel message, that is salvation.

Notice though the last line of the scripture, we who were the first to hope in Christ; (emphasis mine). ‘Hope’ equates with ‘faith.’ If you have no faith in Christ, who He is, what He’s done and His gospel, you will have no salvation. The consequence is that at the end of time, you will be placed into the category of what Jesus says are ‘goats’ that He gathers in HIs left hand:

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’…Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels’ “… Mt. 23:31 – 34 & 41. NKJV

Doesn’t sound like a great outcome for those goats.

Bottom line: it takes faith to receive salvation. So, what is faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Heb. 11:1 NASB

Faith is the hope in things that are not tangible to our five senses. And faith is required to have a relationship with God:

But without faith it is impossible to please and be satisfactory to Him. For whoever would come near to God must [necessarily] believe that God exists and act He is the rewarder of those who earnestly and diligently seek Him [out]. Heb. 11:6 AMP

We can’t even approach God without some measure of faith. When we possess that faith, the love of God confers upon us our salvation – totally by His doing, not by any efforts of our own:

For we hold that a man is justified and made upright by faith independent and distinctly apart from good deeds (works of the Law). Rm. 3:28 AMP

The [appointed period of] time is fulfilled (completed), and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent (have a change of mind which issues in regret for past sins and in change of conduct or the better) and believe (trust in, rely on, and adhere to) the good news (the Gospel). Mk. 1:15 AMP

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Jn. 5:24 NASB

It’s all about the faith, because if you don’t have it, you cannot be delivered from that stain of worldly dross:

“…if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Jn. 8:24 NKJV

We need the faith, but how do we get it? That’s the best part!

…God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Rm. 12:3 NASB

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… Gal. 5:22 ESV

…let us with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith… Heb. 12:1, 2. ESV

So faith comes from hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the [preaching of the] message concerning Christ. Rm. 10:17 AMP

Thus, God gives us a free gift of faith that He created through His Son, which is delivered by the Holy Spirit and nurtured and strengthened when we immerse ourselves in the hearing of the gospel.

God never leaves us hanging. Once, Jesus came upon a boy that was suffering from demon-induced epileptic seizures. The boy’s father asked Christ to cure the him if He was able. Jesus replied:

“All things are possible for one who believes.” Mk. 9:23 ESV

The father immediately responds, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Mk. 9:24 ESV

And Jesus healed the boy.

So, not only do you receive divine faith when you ask for it, Jesus makes sure you have enough.

Have faith.

Goodnight and God bless.