Friday, October 18, 2013

Who Needs to Hear about Jesus?

Today is the final day in our 41st week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today* are 2 Kings 24-25; 2 Chronicles 36; 1 Peter 3; Psalm 126.

Recently, someone told me that they are far more comfortable talking about matters of faith with fellow believers than they are with people who don't believe.  He is not alone.  Most people would rather talk about God with people who already agree with them.  This man told me that he has had the opportunity to witness about Christ to some unbelievers at work.  He also told me that one person with whom he shared Jesus was a former pastor who had been so injured by the church that he had given up his faith.  (Now THAT is a hard person to evangelize!)  But whether it's easy or difficult, Christians are called to share our faith.

There are several categories of people who need to hear the Good News about Jesus:

1.  Athiests are generally intelligent people who have done lots of research, and decided that there is no God.  Not only do they deny the existence of the Christian God--they are equally turned-off by all religions.

2.  Agnostics are people who believe that it's impossible to know whether or not there is a God.  They generally aren't opposed to religion.  They just believe that religion is pointless, since there's no way to know or experience God.

3.  Average Jo(sephine) is generally moral, yet espouses no particular religious doctrine.  They may have been raised with believing parents or grandparents, but they have never given any serious consideration to matters of religion or faith themselves.

4.  Believers in other religions that do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God, who bore our sins and offers us salvation by grace, through faith.  The Bible says that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”

5.  Believers in Jesus who are saved, but who simply need encouragement.  Some of these may be "back-sliding" Christians who need to return to a whole relationship with the Lord.

6.  Cultists often believe that they have THE true version of Christianity, yet they have beliefs that are often widely divergent from the teachings of the Bible.  They may say that they believe in Jesus, but which Jesus do they believe in?

7.  "Cultural Christians" who attend church, but who haven't yet made the step of faith and acknowledged the truth of what they've been taught.  These people are "not far from the kingdom of God (Mark 12:34)," yet neither have they quite stepped into the full experience of the kingdom.

Peter tells believers that they are to continually be a witness of God's truth to these people.  He says, 

"...In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience...(1 Peter 3:15-16a)" 

This means that we should be prepared to 

"preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2)."

Sharing your faith doesn't mean sharing your finger at someone else, or being judgmental, condemning, or rude.  It does mean telling them about your experience of God.  It means giving the reasons for the hope that is in you.  It means that if you have to share a difficult truth with them, you do it in love and gentleness.  It means that at some point, you actively invite them to receive Jesus as their Savior.  It means that if they say "no" to your invitation, you continue to love and respect them, pray for them and encourage them as their friend.  It means you never give up on them.

I pray that today, and every day, God will give you opportunities to share your faith.  I pray that He will give you the courage to do so, and the right words to speak.  And I also pray that you will have two listening ears--one ear listening to your friend, and the other ear listening to God.  Listen more than you speak, and then you'll surely know what to say, when the time is right.

*Scriptures are taken from the ESV.

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