Monthly Archives: September 2016
Just as my feet touched the Main Street sidewalk, I was awakened out of my blissful walk by the most unusual of feelings. The town had virtually no crime and there wasn’t a soul in sight. Nevertheless, I was suddenly certain that someone was watching me. Immediately, the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, as if to warn me of danger. As paranoia captured my senses, a rustling of leaves filled the air and a cold gust of wind split through the otherwise warm and still night sky, shaking the trees on every lawn as it did so. My heart pounded and I quickened my pace…
It’s pretty easy to imagine the danger of walking alone at night. There is something very comforting about having a trusted human being accompany us during times of danger or vulnerability. However, this lesson is not a reminder of the practical advantages of using the “buddy system.” This is about something far easier to overlook, but something that is infinitely more important. This is about the problems that come when we walk alone in our spiritual life.
It is true that some people are introverted. I happen to lean that way, myself. Some people simply don’t like crowds, and many people just like to work alone. Sometimes, due to natural personalities, or even past hurt, some don’t feel a deep need for other people to constantly be around. God, of course, understands all of that; he made you, after all. So is it really that big of deal if you want your relationship with God to simply stay between the two of you? For two very important reasons – very foundational, in fact – it is.
Among the many characteristics that God put into the crown of His creation (humans), He created us with desires, needs, and purposes that are designed around relationships with other human beings. As previously discussed, the purpose of life is to bring glory to God. But how do we bring glory to God? Some ways are obvious: we can bring glory to God through prayer, witnessing, worship, living a pure life, etc. Honestly, the number of ways a Christian can bring God glory are nearly inexhaustible. However, most of the methods can be broken down into three groups:
- Christians can bring glory to God through our actions toward God
- Examples: Worship, righteous living, prayer, study, faith, growth, etc.
- Christians can bring glory to God through our actions toward the lost
- Examples: Evangelism, love, our conduct/example, etc.
- Christians can bring glory to God through our actions toward Christians
- Examples: Companionship, partnership, accountability, love, etc.
When I have taught these three things previously, I called them the “triune purpose” of humanity. That is, as people who have been saved by Christ, we have obligations to God, to lost people, and to saved people. You can see how nicely the three groups filter the small sampling of methods for bringing glory to God listed above. I would contend that most, if not all, other potential methods would fit into these categories as well. Given the fact that groups two and three deal with our actions toward other humans, it’s pretty easy to see the surface level problem of walking our spiritual walk alone. Let’s dig a little deeper, though, by looking at two specific commands from Scripture that teach of our need to involve ourselves with other humans.
The Lost: What is the problem with walking alone?
If our primary purpose in this world is to bring glory to God, then the primary manner in which we bring Him that glory is through obedience to His commission found in the Gospel of Matthew:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
While Matthew 28:19-20 makes clear that the expectation and the primary goal of Christianity is for Christians everywhere to propagate the Gospel message throughout the world, we often like to push this duty off onto the “professionals”; that is, someone who is a professional minister. The reason for our disobedience to this command is two-fold. First, if we are honest, we know that as humans, when we don’t want to do something, we can quickly find a reason NOT to do that thing. The second reason we disobey the command to evangelize the lost, comes from our misunderstanding of the nature of evangelism. In Ephesians chapter 4 (which we’ll look at in Part 2), evangelism is listed as a spiritual gift that God will give to some Christians, and therefore, He will presumably not give to others. This notion has prompted us to pass the duty of evangelism off onto preachers. Unfortunately, this understanding conflates the gift of evangelism with the command of evangelism.
Matthew 28:19-20 makes no distinction of who should be spreading the Gospel message. It does not say, “bring lost people to the preachers so that the ‘professionals’ can tell others about Jesus.” In fact, Scripture often does exactly the opposite. 1st Corinthians 4:1 tells us that God has chosen to put the awesome responsibility of His Gospel into the hands of Christians, saying that we are “Stewards of the mysteries of God.” Matthew 9:37-38 teaches that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. This means that lost people are ready to come to Jesus, but God needs more Christians to go get them! These are but a few examples of the clear directive in Scripture for ALL Christians to share the Gospel.
Perhaps one reason we turn away from our responsibility of sharing the Gospel is that we are worried that we don’t know enough. While I believe we are all supposed to continue learning, to better be able to defend the faith, our real responsibility in evangelism is to simply tell others what Jesus has done for us. 1st Peter 3:15b says, “…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” I might not be able to answer every question about macroevolution, the Cambrian explosion, King Cyrus’s cylinder, or the cosmological argument; however, every Christian should be able to tell others the reason that they have hope inside of them. In case you don’t follow what that verse is saying, let me make it personal with these questions.
Q: What is the hope that is in you?
A: A Christian has the hope of going to heaven when they die.
Q: Why do you have that hope?
A: A person can only have the hope of going to heaven if they have confessed and repented of their sins to Jesus and put their faith in Him, believing that He died for their sins, and rose again from the dead.
Do you believe that? Is that your hope? THEN TELL THE WORLD!
We MUST tell the world, because it is a common sense reality that preachers cannot reach everyone. Therefore, far less people will be reached if only preachers share the Gospel. I have seen this demonstrated at a church by placing a physical cross at the base of their stage. Initially the pastor would pull people from the audience, one by one, bringing them to the cross. This symbolized the strategy that supposes only preachers are called to evangelize the lost. Slowly the stage filled up with people who were “reached with the Gospel,” but it took a while, and when the pastor stopped, there were a lot of people left in the audience. However, once everyone went back to their seat, the pastor went back down into the congregation and brought one person to the cross. Upon reaching the cross, both this person and the pastor went back into the audience to get another person; again, and again, and again. Each person they brought to the cross quickly joined in on this process of multiplication. The stage filled up quickly, and a far larger number of people were reached than when the pastor had been doing the work all alone.
This philosophy passes the common sense test. Preachers cannot reach everyone. Relationships are key! You and I know people that our preacher might never know. You and I know many people BETTER than our preacher will ever be able to know them. Therefore, YOU and I need to try to reach the people we know and the people we meet with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is the gift of evangelism – certainly not everyone (including me) is going to be gifted with great evangelistic prowess. However, there is also the command of evangelism. Every person who has professed the name of Jesus Christ as their Savior is commanded to tell the lost about their Lord (including me). So what is the problem with walking alone? It falls short of obeying God’s command to tell the lost world about Him. If we fail to evangelize the lost, then we have also failed to bring Glory to God. So if we walk through life without telling the lost world about Jesus Christ, then we have failed at two of the three primary purposes in our life – bringing glory to God, and evangelizing the lost.
It is rarely easy, sometimes we don’t get to see the fruit of our labor, but the investment of evangelism is the most important work a Christian can do. Don’t walk through life in Spiritual solitude. If you know Jesus, then introduce Him to someone else; again, and again, and again.
To be continued in Part 2: What if I just live my life evangelizing the lost, but I don’t really want to associate with other believers? Can I just do that? We’ll explore that question in Part 2.
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