Category: Evangelism (page 1 of 18)

What Else Barnabas Saw

“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad…” ~Acts 11:23

The Jerusalem church leaders sent Barnabas to Antioch to investigate the news that Gentiles there were being baptized. Is it legit? What are they being taught? How are they worshiping? Who’s leading them? Can we sign off on this? I’m not sure what the specific concerns might have been, but we do know that when Barnabas arrived, he clearly saw physical, tangible proof that God was at work. What did he see? Can we see those same things today? And are we even looking for those things?

“The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.” ~Acts 11:21

Barnabas saw sinners turning their lives to Christ. They believed the Good News that God through Jesus was putting everything back together again. The persecuted proclaimers knew it, the new disciples in Antioch understood it, Barnabas saw it, and we need to believe it! We don’t trust in God’s Word, we don’t believe in God’s power, we don’t believe in God if we don’t think it’s possible in our churches and throughout our cities. Barnabas saw sinners stop sinning. And that’s what you and I need to be looking for, too. That should be our expectation.

But we have this attitude that we expect to keep sinning. Before we ever get out of bed in the morning, before our feet ever touch the floor, we know that we’re human and that we’re going to sin sometime before dinner. What is that?!? Where does that come from?!? Not from the Bible. I know we can’t be completely perfect this side of glory. We’re not saints. Randy Harris defines “saint” as someone who’s life hasn’t been sufficiently researched. But what is this concession to sin?

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” ~Romans 6:1-4

God’s grace is the avenue for genuine repentance and change. Where there is God’s grace, you’re going to see changed lives. By the same token, f your life is not changed, perhaps you have not personally received the grace of God — you’re rejecting it or denying it or something. It is God’s grace that motivates and initiates real change. It is God’s grace that empowers you and me to say “no” to sin.

“The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” ~Titus 2:11-14

The grace of God has given us the redeeming life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That ought to be enough, but it seems like it takes more to get us excited nowadays. We’re jaded. Bored. I know, Jesus saved us by dying on the cross. Yeah, yeah. Yawn. Are you kidding?!?! That is stark raving mad!!!

Jesus has delivered us from our bondage to sin! Jesus has rescued us from our slavery to death! We belong to a loving and gracious God through our risen and reigning Lord! Jesus is reigning right now at the right hand of God! He’s taken office! The ascension is huge! We don’t talk about the ascension enough! Jesus is in charge right now! And he doesn’t reign like Queen Elizabeth — he absolutely rules! And we humbly give our whole lives over to him! We say “No” to sin every day, every hour, and “Yes” to his gracious rule!

With a lot of exclamation points!

That’s what Barnabas saw in Antioch as proof of God’s grace. Is your life radically changed by the love of God in Christ? Do we see dramatically changed lives in our churches? Are we even looking for it?

Peace,

Allan

What Barnabas Saw

“When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad…” ~Acts 11:23

When the church leaders in Jerusalem got word that the Greeks in Antioch were turning to the Lord, they sent Barnabas there to check things out. And what Barnabas saw convinced him that God was surely at work. He saw proof of the grace of God. It’s probably a good idea for us to try to identify the things Barnabas saw and look for those things in our own churches. Pay attention to those things. Give special consideration to those things.

Certainly Barnabas was impressed that these persecuted Christians were so boldly sharing the Gospel.

These Christians from Jerusalem / Israel were in the throes of oppression. Their friends and relatives were being beaten and thrown into prison. At least one of their leaders, Stephen, had been killed. They’d been scattered all over the world, separated from their relatives and communities. But “those who had been scattered preached the Word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4). Those who wound up in Antioch found themselves in the middle of one of the most wicked cities in the Empire. And we don’t have even a hint of anyone complaining or questioning God. What they saw through the eyes of faith was not their negative circumstances — they saw a massive opportunity for the Kingdom.

Acts 8 gives us the story of Philip in Samaria. And now we have these unnamed disciples in Antioch.

“Some of them, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the Good News about the Lord Jesus.” ~Acts 11:20

We are not in the same situation in the United States in 2019. But it’s similar. I think we can draw parallels.

Christianity does not enjoy a favored status in the Empire of the United States anymore. The government no longer props up the Church here. The culture has turned against our Lord and his people. We’re on the outside of power now in the U.S. and on the way to being marginalized. On the way to persecution. You can pretend it’s not happening, but that doesn’t make it less true. We’re there. Jesus is no longer honored, his Church is no longer respected, and his truth is no longer believed in this country.

How do we see that?

We must see this as a tremendous opportunity! This is an incredibly exciting time! There’s all kinds of potential for miraculous Holy Spirit adventure here! We’re in uncharted territory that’s testing our faith and stretching our resolve. This is the best time — the perfect time! — for God to work in and through his Church to do something none of us has ever thought of or imagined! He’s capable. He’s done it countless times before. Do we see it? Are we even looking for it?

These unnamed disciples, these persecuted Christians who first started talking to the Greeks in Antioch — I wish we knew more about them. All we know is that in the middle of trouble they didn’t hide. They didn’t keep quiet for fear of offending someone. They didn’t compromise the Gospel or water down the truth for fear of getting in trouble. In a strange and sinful land, as outsiders in almost every sense of the word, they did not shrink from the mission. They proclaimed the Gospel of Christ!

How? How in the world could they be so bold? So confident? Fearless? Well, it was clear to Barnabas: only by the grace of God, which empowered them to share the Good News.

Do we see that same grace of God in our churches today? Are we even looking for it?

Peace,

Allan

Better Christians

“We don’t need more Christians, we need better Christians.” ~Francis Chan

The world is turned off by “radical Christians.” The world is sick of “Christian fanatics.” People don’t listen to Christians anymore because some of them are “too Christian” and are offending everybody. I can’t become “too Christian” and I don’t want my church to be “too Christian” because we’ll just make people mad.

Yes, we do hear the world complain about “Christian fanatics.” These “radical Christians” get born again and they start hollering, they start screaming against things. They yell and make speeches and forward emails against politicians and parties, same-sex marriage and evolution and abortion, immigration and homelessness. Pick a topic, pick any issue, and Christians can appear to be very judgmental and intolerant and loud. That’s what turns people off.

And when that kind of behavior is done in the name of my Lord, it turns me off, too.

When did those kinds of people and that kind of behavior get labeled “Christian?” Or “radical Christian?” Why do people who act that way get accused of taking their Christianity too seriously?

It’s terrible that the world thinks overbearing and judgmental and narrow and self-righteous is what it means to be Christian. It’s awful. Whose fault is it? How did that happen?

It’s our fault because we are not Christian enough. We don’t take our Christianity seriously enough.

When we’re loud and opinionated and harsh and judgmental, we’re not being radical Christians; we’re really not being very Christian at all. Christians are people who are following Jesus in his ways, imitating Christ, obeying his teachings, and living by his call. Christians should be radically humble. Fanatically sensitive. Over-the-top loving. Extravagantly forgiving. Extremely understanding. Christians should be servants. Just like Jesus.

Some of us can be arrogant and pompous and selfish and actually be a hindrance to the Gospel. We can actually be working against our God as he redeems the world. We say we carry a message of grace, but how will people experience it if we act that way? Sometimes, in the name of Jesus, we’ll just run over people. We can be so narrow-minded and stubborn sometimes that nobody’s right about anything but us.

Our Lord Jesus completely embodied and brought a powerful message of truth that called people to repentance and accountability and change. But he never ran over people.

If we were all really “fanatic” about our Christianity, if we were all truly “radical Christians,” the whole world would fall in love with our God.

What if every one of us made the decision today, right now, that from here on out everything is going to come from and flow through denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following Jesus? Every word spoken is a word of grace and encouragement. Every human interaction is drenched in mercy and goodwill. Every action is motivated by sacrifice and service for others. If the world saw all of us walking to the cross, walking with a cross, serving and sacrificing, dying to ourselves and dying for one another, loving unconditionally, forgiving extravagantly, showing mercy and grace to all, speaking only kind words, the whole world would fall down and worship our Lord.

People wouldn’t know what to call us. But they would more clearly see Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

Daylight from the Lord

When Joshua defeated the Amorites, he prayed to God in the middle of the battle. He was running out of daylight, they were needing more time, and he prayed to God to make the sun stand still.

Joshua didn’t know the sun doesn’t move. If you’re going to get more daylight, you need to ask God to make the earth stand still, not the sun. Joshua didn’t know. He prayed for the wrong thing. He prayed with mistaken assumptions. He didn’t have all the information.

But God still gave him more daylight.

Today, we pray with mistaken assumptions. We don’t have all the information. We ask for the wrong things. But God still gives us daylight.

We engage our neighbors with the Good News, we talk to our friends at work about Christ, and we don’t have all the information. We don’t know the half of everything that’s really happening around us and inside that conversation. We speak with mistaken assumptions. But God still gives us daylight.

Peace,

Allan

Ushers, Not Bouncers

We’re going to get criticized no matter what we do. Our Lord Jesus didn’t do anything non-controversial. The people he touched, the places he went — there were always people talking and griping, somebody always got offended, somebody always fussed.

Jesus starts a spiritual conversation with a Samaritan woman by asking her for a drink and she says, “You’re not even supposed to be talking to me.” Peter knocks on Cornelius’ door and, when the Gentile soldier answers, Peter tells him, “You know, it’s against the law for me to even be here.”

If we’re going to get criticized anyway, let’s get criticized for doing the things Jesus did. Let’s love people. Let’s accept people. Let’s show mercy and grace to all people.

I think Billy Graham said something like: “It is God’s job to judge, it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, it’s our job to love and accept.” But sometimes I think we want to do God’s job. We’re trying to do what only God does.

You and I are not the ones who decide who gets to go to heaven. But sometimes we act like we’re the bouncers at the pearly gates. It’s like we’re standing behind some velvet church rope and checking IDs, letting some people in and kicking others out. We’re not bouncers! We’re ushers! Our God is inviting everybody to his table and we’re ushers, not bouncers. We’re grabbing people by the arm and showing them to their seats that somebody else paid for.

Peace,

Allan

Rocking Our Priorities

“I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the Law I became like one under the Law, so as to win those under the Law. To those not having the Law I became like one not having the Law, so as to win those not having the Law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel.” ~1 Corinthians 9:19-23

Do you really own the Good News of the salvation we have from God in Christ? I mean, do you really have it inside you? Do you understand that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace? Do you comprehend that your salvation is based on Jesus’ righteousness, not yours? Do you get that it’s founded on God’s holiness, not mine? Have you grasped that eternal life is an undeserved, unmerited, by-God gift?

Because, when you do, it changes everything. It rocks your priorities.

Suddenly, church traditions take a back seat to grace. My feelings and preferences defer to the needs of the lost. My idea of justice is not as important as forgiveness. Rules and regulations take their place behind mercy and patience. And love for God and love for neighbor far surpasses all of it!

“I have become all things to all people.”

Depending on circumstances and who was involved and what the issues were, the apostle Paul could come across as really inconsistent. And he was fine with that. Whatever it takes to save people! In one case, Paul insists that Timothy be circumcised and in another case he demands that Titus not be circumcised. Do you have questions and doubts about that? What about Timothy!?!

Paul would do almost anything. He would change his mind, he would adjust his methods, he’d relax his rules, and confront the traditions. He’d do anything to make sure people could hear the Good News about Jesus.

Paul was not a chameleon because he had no conviction; he had a conviction about the Gospel that allowed him to be a chameleon. He would do anything to win people to Christ.

Peace,

Allan

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