Why I Talk About Jesus To Others (Part 2)

I know there are lots of people who wish we would just keep our convictions to ourselves. “Believe what you will, but just don’t bother me, or try to convince me to agree with you” is the common refrain.

On one hand, I get that. I know what it is like to open the door to a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I go shopping, I tend to resist the aggressive salesperson. I know what it is like to want to be left alone.

And yet, on the other hand, the reason I am a Christian today is because someone chose to not mind their own business. I follow Jesus because someone thought it was important to convey to me what they believed.

And I’m so glad they did.

I’m glad somebody challenged me with the presentation of the gospel, because I would have never figured out the way of salvation on my own.

One of the key reasons why followers of Jesus feel compelled to share the message with others is because we recognize that the need to trust in Jesus for salvation is not self-evident. I cannot discover the way of salvation by walking in the park, or by staring at the stars at night. Because salvation is the result of an event, rooted in history, someone needs to tell me the story.

The apostle Paul understood this, prompting him to ask rhetorically: “How can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone telling them?” (Romans 10:14).

The Christians that I know, who actively share the message of Jesus, aren’t trying to be pushy. We’re not trying to bother people. We’re attempting to be faithful. Someone took time to share the message with us, and we feel compelled to pass the message along. The One we follow has instructed us to “fish for men” (Matthew 4:19). He didn’t instruct us to “hunt for people”. He didn’t ask us to drag people against their will; He said “fish”—drop a line, tell the story, pass on the message.

On Sunday October 25 at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered a message based on Acts 4:1-20 (the audio is posted below). The religious authorities had gathered to question Peter and John, and eventually ordered them to stop talking about Jesus.

I realize a lot of people today would also like it if Christians stopped talking about Jesus. Admittedly, my life would be a lot less controversial if I kept my beliefs to myself. But I’ve been instructed to fish. Because the way to salvation is not self-evident, I’ve been commissioned to pass the story on. You could say that Peter’s response has become the collective response of Christians: “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

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Why I Talk About Jesus To Others (Part 1)

When Jesus calls four of His disciples He makes His agenda known up front. You might expect Jesus, when calling these men, to say something like: “Follow Me, and I’ll make you more spiritual.” Or, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you more holy.” Instead, Jesus says, “Follow Me, and I’ll make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19).

I don’t think Peter, Andrew, James and John knew exactly what Jesus meant by this at first. Luke’s version of the story describes what precedes the invitation to follow. Jesus jumps into Peter’s boat, and insists that they push off shore and lower their nets. Peter initially resists, but eventually complies. The result was a catch so substantial that their nets began to break and their boats began to sink.

On the heals of this miracle Jesus issues the invitation to follow. My suspicion is that these men chose to follow because of what Jesus did for them. They dropped everything believing Jesus would look after their needs.

Present day followers of Jesus aren’t that different. I’ve yet to meet a Christian who says they came to be a follower of Jesus because they wanted to be a part of this movement that “fished for people.”

No, most of us come to follow Jesus because we imagine that He will do something for us. We imagine Jesus will make us a better person. We imagine that He will fill a void for us, or that He will mend something for us. It’s not that this is a wrong way to think, it’s that this way of thinking is incomplete.

Eventually, the early disciples would learn that following Jesus wasn’t simply about them. They eventually discovered that they had been called to something bigger than themselves. They eventually learned that to follow is to fish.

Jesus’ agenda for His followers has not changed in this regard. If you belong to Jesus, His design is for you to fish. His design is for you to positively impact the lives of those around you for eternity.

Followers of Jesus often resist this design. “I lack knowledge” will be one objection. “I’m too inexperienced” says another. “I’m not good with words.” “I’m too this”. “I’m too that.”

But here’s the thing. Jesus never said that the moment we believe in Him we’ll be expert fishers of people. He says, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Like most things in life, our capacity to fish for people is a work in progress. And we stay at it because a big part of following is fishing.

If you are a Christian, think back to the person who helped lead you to faith in Jesus. For me it was my first camp counselor at Muskoka Woods—Ken Harper. As I think back to that time I recall what it was like to live apart from Jesus Christ. I compare what I was then, and what I am now, and I’m so grateful that Ken Harper didn’t shun his obligation to fish. Ken Harper’s willingness to fish has changed my life forever.

You could say that a huge reason why I fish is because I know what it is like to be fished for. I’m so grateful someone fished for me.

Nearly 2000 years ago, Jesus shared His agenda with four men on a beach. We have every reason to believe the agenda is the same for us: To follow is to fish.

On October 18, at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well, I delivered the first of six messages on this theme of sharing the message of Jesus with others. The order of these messages follows the outline of a series by Andy Stanley, entitled, “Go Fish”. Have a listen to the message below and learn why telling others about Jesus is such a big deal for His followers.

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Growing in Gratitude

Gratitude is a big deal. The Bible commands our gratitude, not simply to promote good manners, but as a way to honour God and as a way to inspire His people.

To the Colossians, the apostle Paul writes:

Be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:15b-17)

I note that Paul connects this exhortation to worship. It is as if worship is the action, and gratitude is the flavour of that action. I also note that what is called for here is not superficial. This is not about saying “Thank you” more often. But rather, we are reminded that our worship should be marked with gratitude of the “heart”.

We know from Jesus’ reaction to the Pharisees that technical obedience does not honour God. What honours God is when our hearts are engaged and inclined to Him.

I’m challenged by the frequency of gratitude called for by Paul…”whatever you do…do it all…giving thanks.” It’s as if no part of our life is to be untouched by heart-filled gratitude.

Once we get the importance of gratitude, once we get that our gratitude honours God, it follows that we would seek to develop a more grateful heart.

I don’t want to pretend to be an expert in this. I see a gulf between how I view gratitude (hugely important) and how I express gratitude (not nearly as frequently as I ought). It is with a sense of my own hypocrisy that I offer 3 practical ways to develop a more grateful heart:

1. Become familiar with the words of Christ

Paul says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). Information helps our gratitude. Without a good working knowledge of the New Testament, we’ll only have a vague notion of what to thank Jesus for. But if we study with diligence we will grow in our awareness of all the ways Jesus provides for us.

2. Pray for a grateful heart

Pray for eyes to see God’s invisible hand at work in your life. Your joys are not the result of coincidence, fortune, or luck. The abundance of daily mercies you experience comes from the Lord. Pray for the ability to see God at work, and pray for the ability to respond appropriately for all that He is and has done for us. Pray for a grateful heart.

3. Spend more time with grateful people

I think we know from experience that behaviour is contagious. What I’m suggesting is that if you surround yourself with individuals who regularly express heartfelt gratitude for the Lord’s goodness, there’s a good chance it will rub off on you—particularly if you are working on the other 2 practical ways to develop a grateful heart!

Gratitude is important because it honours God for who He is and what He has done. But expressions of gratitude also have the capacity to positively impact our relationships. In other words, gratitude is not simply proper, but it is also practical.

I invite you to listen below to a message delivered at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well on October 11 (Canadian Thanksgiving). I pray that this message might inspire you as you seek honour God and build up others with your heartfelt expressions of gratitude.

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Crumby Sundays Make Me Happy

One of my weekly routines is to set out the chairs for The Well. I realize that I haven’t been called to be a seating engineer, but I do enjoy the solitude that comes with this set-up in an environment that I adore.

The last couple of set-ups in particular have made me smile. As I unstack the chairs I see that a great many of them are covered with cookie crumbs. This makes me smile because I’m reminded of the blessing that comes from having children as a part of the worship service (Although I do concede that some of the mess might also be the result of sloppy adults!). And I recognize that, in some congregations, cookie eating would be frowned upon, and leaving a crumby mess would be intolerable. But for me, crumby Sundays make me happy.

From a very early age my daughter Anya has always been told that church should be enjoyable. We used to tell her that Wednesday night catechism and sports was “Party at the church night.” Now I realize, of course, that the grand purpose of church is not to feed stomachs and to entertain fancies. The grand purpose of Sunday worship (and life) is to celebrate the supremacy of Jesus Christ. I’m just not convinced that celebrating Christ’s supremacy needs to come at the expense of enjoying oneself.

You might remember Jesus had to rebuke His disciples for attempting to keep the children at arm’s length,

Let the children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14)

I know far too many congregations that do not have any programs for children. And my fear is that we have subtly “hindered” the children from coming to Jesus by encouraging environments that are unduly formal and serious.

As an interim moderator (someone who assists congregations that do not have a pastor), I have often noted a disconnect between a congregation’s desire and their actions. Every congregation I have ever been associated with will tell you that they eagerly desire children and youth to attend. But what eventually becomes apparent is that the adults want to welcome children and youth on their terms. They want the children and youth to fit into their structures. I don’t mean to sound unkind when I say that there is a lot of self-sabotage going on in when it comes to congregations and children’s ministries.

I assure you that children and youth will not frequent our services, programs, and events just because we say that we want them to. They will more likely attend, however, if we can meaningfully demonstrate that we genuinely want them here, and that the designs of these initiatives had them in mind.

I’m not suggesting that all you need to do is serve juice and cookies and everything will be fine. But I would challenge congregations to think about the environments from which they are presenting Jesus to children. Is there anything that your congregation is doing, or not doing, which might be “hindering” children from meeting Jesus?

How we serve our children is a big deal.

I delight in the presence of children Sunday by Sunday—even if it makes for a crumby Sunday, I’m happy.

By Jesus Alone?

Believing in Jesus as the only way to salvation is a much disputed claim in our day. Those who suggest that Jesus is the only way to the Father run the risk of being labeled as narrow-minded and intolerant.

Within our postmodern culture a myriad of more palatable theories have emerged, presented as more inclusive alternatives to the historic view that Christianity is the only way. These theories are likely familiar to you. You’ve heard these views articulated by a co-worker, a classmate, a neighbour, or maybe a member of your own family.

Popular view #1: All the world religions are basically the same and so you can’t really go wrong with any of them.

Popular view #2There are differences between the major religions, but this can be likened to different paths leading to the same mountain top. The journey looks different, but the destination is the same.

Popular view #3: It really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.

A cursory survey of the world religions will reveal that, indeed, there are some similarities. For example, in each of the ‘Big 5′ (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity) prayer and meditation are primary disciplines. Examine the ethics of each, compare the exhortations for how we should behave and treat one another, and you will also see a lot of common ground.

There are, however, some massive discrepancies in the 5 when you examine closely the core beliefs, such as their view of God, salvation, and how salvation is procured. For example, Buddhism, strictly speaking, does not worship a god. Hinduism, by contrast, recognizes many gods. And while Islam, Judaism, and Christianity acknowledge one god, the former two utterly reject the notion that God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And because these positions are polar, it is not possible to say that “they are all correct.” Logically, they all might be wrong, but they can’t all be right. It cannot be the case that there is a God and no god at the same time. It cannot be true that there are many gods and one god at the same time.

As someone who devotes his time to studying the Bible, I can’t get around the fact that the Scripture makes exclusive claims. The apostle Peter declared: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus, Himself, made exclusive claims: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

The claims made by Jesus are unique. He claimed to be “one with the Father” (John 10:30), and the only way to the Father. These claims distinguish Jesus from the leaders of the other world religions. They are not all the same.

Tolerance does not require that we believe that everyone is essentially saying the same thing. Tolerance does not require that we regard every religion as equal. Tolerance requires us to honour and respect those with whom we may have profound differences. This is something I’m eager to do because I recognize that my belief in the Jesus revealed in Scripture puts me at odds with many people—a group that includes family members and friends.

If you’re interested in hearing further what distinguishes Christianity from the other world religions, I encourage you to listen to the message below, delivered on Sunday September 27 at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well. As always, I welcome your feedback and insight.

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