Leading Seekers to Christ

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After all the questions and the process of searching to find Jesus, you’ve reached the final stage. This is where your friend wants to follow Jesus. It’s the most exciting part of the entire process! It’s not that all the questions have been answered. It’s that the seeker is getting closer to understanding God better.

But this is also the point of contention for many Christians. You’ve heard it a thousand times from the pastor at church. At the end of every service the pastor asks for people who want to commit their lives to Christ. If anybody response, he prays the “salvation prayer.”

All you can think of in your mind is, “This is a prayer for professionals. How would I ever be able to lead someone on my own? What if I mess up the words or miss something important?” The salvation prayer must be genuine and customized to each person. It is a profession of faith, not a grocery list.

If you mess this up, is the person really saved? These are the kinds of matters that run through the minds of Christians who want to lead others to Christ but are afraid of getting it wrong on the goal line.

No worries! You’re right in thinking that the salvation prayer should be customized to your seeker and it must contain certain confirmations of faith. But you’re wrong in thinking only a professional pastor can lead someone to Christ in this prayer. Any Christian can and should know how to lead someone in the prayer salvation.

It’s not as complicated as your thinking. In fact, if you overthink it, it will never be genuine. Like all prayer, it must be from the heart and your own words. Using the template is not wrong, but it’s not as authentic. God wants to hear from the seeker, not someone else’s prayer.

Remember, formulas don’t work well in Christianity when we are trying to speak to God. Templates help us start the conversation with him, but we must also mean what we say.

To lead the seeker in prayer, tell them to repeat after you. Include the fact that they must believe in their heart what they are saying with that mouth. So what should be included in the salvation prayer? Here are my thoughts on the essentials:

  • An introduction – you want to introduce your seeker to Jesus for the first time. You can address him as Jesus. The name Jesus means “The Lord saves.” Just introducing him or her to Jesus is the introduction to salvation itself.
  • A confession – the confession can be of sin but it is also a confession of faith. The seeker isn’t only confessing that he or she is a sinner but also that Jesus is the only one who can save them from sin. It could be anything simple like, “I know that I am a sinner and have done things against you in my past. But I want to know and serve you from now on.”
  • A proclamation – this is the transition from death to life in your seeker. This is where Jesus changes all things. This is the formative “But God” in Scripture. It shows the transition from the old self to the new self. I usually declare, “You are my Lord and Savior. You are the Boss of my life. I will follow you from now on. You are the King on the throne of my heart.” Anything along these lines is just fine.
  • A declaration of gratitude – lead the seeker in thanking the Lord for what he is doing in their life. Thank God for salvation and the opportunity to live for him. Thank him for leaving the seeker to the Lord.
  • The first request – the seeker is no longer seeker. They have been found by Jesus. As a new member of the community of faith, the first request is the beginning of many. I usually have the first request to be for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. “Lord, lead me by your Holy Spirit and open my ears to hear and obey him. Help me to grow in your Word.”

End the prayer as you would yourself. I usually say, “In the name of Jesus, Amen.” As you can see, these guideposts not only help you lead the seeker and a genuine and custom prayer, but they also show the new Christian how to pray.

After the prayer, greet this new brother or sister in Christ. Let them know that they have a community and a family in Jesus. You have prepped them for the next step, the beginning of the rest of their life in Jesus.

In our next post, we will talk about the next steps for this new believer to enter God’s family and grow in the faith. Leave a comment and let me know what you include when you lead someone to Christ.

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Divine Word Smorgasbord

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All around you brothers and sisters in the midst of the morning sunrise gently whisper to one another, “He is risen!” while their counterparts respond, “He is risen indeed!” The common Church greeting part of a beautifully woven orchestra of worship, prayer, and teaching from the apostles. You stand for the whole service, knowing also that you will be on your feet in the fields on this first day of the Roman work week, Sunday. So you and your fellow believers in Christ have gathered earlier than ever to worship Christ before your work.

You settle in to some beautiful hymns, some old from the Psalter and some new because of the change that Christ has wrought in the world, but that’s not the best part. The time of prayer is well-felt by all, but that is not the best part. No, the most exciting part of this very special service today is that one of the apostle Paul’s letters has finally arrived in the church! You have been waiting to hear from his letter to another church which is being passed around because it is the only new news you get to hear for a while until another letter makes its way to your church.

Throughout the years, the Bible has been kept between the priests, cardinals and popes. And why not? You cannot read it. You only know your native tongue. What would you do with a Latin Bible? Beyond that, the priest has made it well aware the Scriptures are much too weighty for you to interpret. The Bible is something you learn about at church, but don’t take home with you.

All of these are examples, the first of the early church in the second and even third generations, and the second up to the 1500s right before the Reformation. In fact, the invention of Guttenberg’s printing press catapulted not only the Bible, but other literary works as well into the limelight of copydom.

Along with this technological jump came the theological jump that Luther blasted into full explosion when he stated that the Bible should be written in the common language so that the normal person and the layman could understand it. This was not an original thought, for the English had already started moving in this direction, but unlike England, Germany was in the Roman Catholic Church’s backyard.

But there was one more innovation this overachieving little monk demanded, that the theological arguments also be made available through the common language of the people. No longer would a theological argument shut out the common person by being argued only in Latin, a dead language.

We live in a world that does not even come close to understanding the precious commodity of God’s Word. We have ready access to the Bible. There is no hindrance to having a full copy in book form of God’s love letter to each of us. So I often receive the question by many, “What is the best translation of the Bible?” Such a question takes discernment, for some people wish to start an argument about the KJV Only while others are genuinely searching for a helpful version to read and study the Bible.

I start with,  “It depends on your needs.” they usually look at me quizzically and wonder why the pastor didn’t give them a straight answer. But as you can imagine, this question of the “best” version of the Bible takes on several facets, mainly translation methodology, translation philosophy, the needs of the individual, and the purpose of the Bible version you choose. Let’s look at these so I can help you choose the “best” Bible for you.

Translation Methodology

First of all, consider translation methodology. By this I mean the way a Bible is translated, the original language manuscripts that are used, the amount of translators, the way they interact, and how much interpretation comes with the translation. Each version is either produced by an individual translating the whole Bible (e.g. Wycliffe, Young’s Literal), or it is done by a committee in which a group of scholars gathers and assigns different books and sections, and then deliberates the individual work as a group until a consensus is reached.

You must also take into account the basic theological leanings of each person or committee. Some translations are meant for a certain denomination, like the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) for the Baptists, or maybe the comments and notes are aimed at a certain group, such as the Fire Bible for Pentecostals.  A certain leaning will weigh into the interpretation of passages where decisions must be made not just in translation but in meaning and interpretation to make sense to the English reader.

Another important point, and one of the reasons we continue to see new versions of the Bible, is the growing amount of Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic manuscripts, the contributions of other ancient writings and Scriptural works such as the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament), the Vulgate (Latin Version) and the Dead Sea Scrolls. So much of these help us to gain an even more accurate translation and closer to the original text and intent of the authors.

Translation Philosophy

Next, we move on to the second element of comparing Bible versions, the translation philosophy. There are two polar opposites with balances in between. You can translate extremely literal on one side, word-for-word comparisons (KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, YLT), or on the other side of the extreme, a completely concept-for-concept based translation (NIV, NLT, CEV).

My opinion is that believers should grow word-for-word versions for deeper Bible study. Concept for concept versions help new believers understand the main points of Scripture, the forest instead of the trees, the general instead of the specific. Both have their place.

There is a third type called a paraphrase. A translation attempts to stick with the thought patterns and concepts of a text, and go down to word-for-word. But a paraphrase will be even less specific than a concept-based translation; a paraphrase is designed for very basic use. The paraphrase may attempt to neglect the culture of the day and replace our own cultural norms to help us understand more easily.

A Translation That Fits You

The needs of the individual seeking a good Bible version are also important. For instance, if you are a new Christian, a good study Bible with notes that explain what’s happening can be indispensible. If you are an older Christian, word study Bibles can be of great help in cutting down study time. If you just want to read the text, there’s no need for chain references or study Bibles. But if you like chasing themes and types around as they develop from Old to New Testament, you want to have a chain reference Bible.

Your Bible should also fit your reading ability. There are special Bibles written at certain grade levels for children through teenagers and even a couple from beyond college level reading grades. You must pick a translation you are comfortable reading and that you understand. Don’t get a Bible with thee’s and thou’s if you don’t get those. Since English is a living language, you need to keep an updated English Bible. For those who are partial to older Bible versions, like the KJV, the NKJV is a good update. A Bible is no good to you if you cannot read or understand what is said to you by the Lord!

Purpose for the Bible

Finally, what is the purpose for getting a Bible? Is it just for devotional reading and for toting to church? Is it for study and in-depth analysis of God’s Word to grow deeper in your relationship with Him? Why do you want a Bible?

If it is for word study, a more literal translation is better, because when you look up a word, it is almost certain that word will be in the original and you can study it. However, in a concept based Bible, like the NIV or the CEV, you may want to study a word that is added to help with context and concept that may not be in the original. I will never forget looking up the word “guaranteed” in Ephesians 1 where the Spirit is a seal “guaranteeing” our salvation in the NIV and finding that this word did not exist in the original! It was added by the translators to give the concept of the text. So find out what the purpose of your Bible is. If it is for devotional reading, make it so that it flows well and is easy to read, and at a good reading level that suits you.

You can find out about some of these elements in the introductions to most Bibles shortly after the Table of Contents. Most Bibles tell you who contributed, their backgrounds, whether it was a group or person, whether it is a word for word (formal) translation or concept for concept (equivalent) translation. It never hurts to ask your pastor or a knowledgeable person who won’t just push their favorite on you. Seek advice before making your choice. Much more important than the version of the Bible you choose is that you get into God’s Word with an unmatched fervor. Don’t let discussion for comparing Bible versions be greater than your desire to love God and His Word all the days of your life! Happy hunting

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A Host of Questions

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When you share your faith with a seeker, they will no doubt have questions. You don’t have two fear questions. They are only natural when a person is unfamiliar with religion and God. They are probably more afraid to ask their questions of you, a believer, then you are to answer them.

In my recently released guide, “A Short Guide to Sharing Your Faith,” I took a survey online of social media groups and the kinds of questions seekers ask them. Based on that and a helpful list in one of Kenneth Boa’s books, I came up with 18 questions seekers may ask you. You can find the book on Amazon and other platforms, as well as paperback on Amazon.

We need to make ourselves available for inquiries of any kind. How will people learn about our faith or be interested in it if we don’t? Your best option is to be open and honest, genuine, with every answer. There are some great resources out there for gaining proficiency in answering the tough questions about Christianity.

One very extensive book is “Evidence Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell. There are many other great books that will help you with question answering. The key is to never stop learning yourself.

Maybe you have questions about your faith that have never got answered. Chances are, asking yourself your own questions will help you to understand what kinds of questions you may get from seekers.

This is probably the most feared part of the process of sharing your faith with someone. But it doesn’t have to be. Christians have been answering questions for centuries from people who want to understand.

Always approach it from the perspective that people want to know more about what you believe. They generally come from a kind and curious heart. They’re not out to get you or to see you fail in expressing your faith.

So if answering questions is your hard part about sharing your faith, step out there and give it a try. If you think you need more resources, check out some of the ones I mentioned for starters. You can do it! Leave a comment and tell me some of your favorite resources for answering questions about the faith.

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A Vast Kingdom

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Deep in the sand and muddy waters half a man reflects off the surface of the Jordan River. With fists in the air and a loud voice announcing repentance for all, this prophet reminding everyone of Elijah and his friends way back in history took people under the water, proclaiming at the same time, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” This strange creature who lived in the desert, eating the delicacies of the wilderness, locusts and honey, like a madman in the darkest night called for repentance because the Messiah had arrived.

Isaiah prophesied about this very event! He proclaimed that the way should be made straight for the Lord’s coming, for the Messiah. The straight way calls people to righteousness through repentance and humility. John the Baptist did not fit the mold of the temple priest like his father. He blazed his own trail without institutional affiliations. He was not a fixed star, but a chaotic explosion. This in itself characterizes the Kingdom of God.

Another man, cut from the same cloth as John the Baptist was not as strange, but still uniquely discharged His ministry. One day as the wacky John the Baptist continued to shout about repentance and God’s Kingdom, this man came, and he immediately sensed the purpose of his life coming to its zenith. John understood this man was inaugurating God’s Kingdom. In a solemn wilderness pool Jesus was baptized by His forerunner, and the Kingdom of God began its move.

Taking this phrase as it stands, one might think that it is quite archaic. But a closer analysis of kingdom’s meaning brings clarity. Kingdom is a place of rule, where a sovereign king has jurisdiction and authority. This can be by force, as in the Medieval Ages, or by a kind King. A kingdom is a designated governance by someone over a group of people. It can become political, social, economic, spiritual, or whatever category humans enjoy making. But we must also be careful not to limit the Kingdom of God to these. For sure, God is the Sovereign King of His Kingdom, His domain. So where is God’s domain? Where does He rule?

God’s kingdom is wrapped up in one Founder, but also in his vision and work in each of His disciples. The Kingdom of God was inaugurated by Jesus. Jesus is the Kingdom, which is why He could proclaim that the Kingdom of God has arrived (Matt 4:17, Mark 1:15, where the verb for “coming at hand” is the perfect tense, meaning its action continues to this day). But what’s it like to be in his Kingdom?

Is the Kingdom a place, a physical location? Is it an idea or a dream? Scholars and theologians around the world discuss these points. Different Christian groups tend to put their own identity and nature on God’s Kingdom. This is why I say God’s kingdom is not tied to any institution, but rather to a Person.

Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom, characterizing it as something that would have surprised the religious leaders in His time. The Kingdom of God viewed by them was synonymous with the Day of Judgment, the Day of the Lord. But this is not what Jesus preached in total. The Day of the Lord will finalize the Kingdom, but it was not the Kingdom. Jesus read out of the Isaiah scroll, letting Isaiah proclaim the characteristics of the Kingdom. Jesus was the fulfillment of the Kingdom because through Him literally His sacrifice on the cross and the ministry released God’s kingdom on earth.

But what’s God’s kingdom look like according to Isaiah? He says the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord controls the Kingdom. He will come upon people, anointing (setting apart for the Lord’s service). The Kingdom comes through spoken and active proclamation of God’s good news. God’s Kingdom influences the poor, captives, and people on the fringe. His kingdom is for the humble who bow to God’s reign in them.

God’s kingdom rests not only in the Person of Jesus. He demonstrated the kingdom throughout his ministry. His kingdom is the opposite of the world’s label for kingdoms. The Beatitudes marked the character of the kingdom’s citizens. Its power lies in human meekness and obedience. It’s about humble surrender to God’s will. It’s not about outward righteousness only, but inward holiness. We need to please God and follow the Spirit. His kingdom starts in the human soul and is enacted around us. It spreads from the inside to the outside one person at a time.

The Beatitudes mark the character of Kingdom citizens. Further in the message, Jesus challenges the people who understand the subversive nature of this Kingdom that its power lays in human weakness and obedience. This is the time where God can fully reign in His people, when they humbly surrender to His will.

When people practice not just outward holiness, but inward righteousness, to not follow the letter of the Law but the Spirit inside their hearts who glorifies and pleases God, then they are in God’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of God starts on the inside of the human soul and is enacted in our surroundings. The Kingdom is first internal, and then external through service out of love for our King.

God’s kingdom dwells in the human heart. God influences each of us. It spreads through influence, service, word, and deed. The kingdom violently takes back the darkness with its light. It opposes wickedness of all kinds. It concerns attitudes and intentions, motives and thoughts. These leak out into our hands and lips. God’s kingdom is an invisible army of his righteous people.

Since Jesus arrived on the scene, God’s kingdom has been taking back those lost to the enemy. We subvert the world’s systems through ignoring pride in choosing humility, love, and service.. We pass God’s message and good news. God’s kingdom comes in a cup of cold water given to a parched soul in Jesus’ name. It comes through deliverance and the reversal of the curse, and breaking down barriers. It operates in the midst of the devil’s playground. It brings a message of freedom, site for the blind, and God’s gifts.

When the Day of the Lord comes, the kingdom will have its physical home. In his second coming, the Anointed One will touch down upon this earth and administer the kingdom. He will rule with goodness, righteousness, and holiness. Although humanity will reject his role in large numbers, he will fulfill every prophecy and the kingdom will be everywhere. To you secret agents of the explosive kingdom of light, I leave this challenge, this call to arms against the forces of wickedness around us. You are not alone. God has a great army. The enemy’s propaganda is weak compared to God’s kingdom message. God calls us to rise up and service kingdom. We teach our neighbors about God’s grace, mercy, and power. His life-changing message is for them. The kingdom has come!

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Questions Not Worth Answering?

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Many of us are not ready to answer people’s questions about Christ. It’s not that we don’t understand our faith. But some of the questions people ask are not things we would have thought of. When a question comes unexpectedly, it can do one of two things. It can challenge us to research and find the answer, or it can paralyze us in the moment.

No one likes to look like the person who never thought of asking that question. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. One of the best ways to approach it is to be honest. Tell them, “I never really thought of that before. How interesting!”

Almost every question you will face about your faith is worth answering. But it may surprise you that there are certain questions that are not worth your time or effort. That sounds very harsh, but the truth is that if you are facing a New Atheist (Hard Atheist), they are not interested in hearing your answers.

They will ask you questions that don’t matter at all. The last questions about angels dancing on pins, God creating rocks so big you can’t lift them, and deeply philosophical questions that are contradictory. They will rail against the Bible and say is full of contradictions or lacks any proof in history or archaeology. They will try to sound more academic than you.

The problem is that most of their red herring questions are based on false premises. A red herring question is one that is meant to take you off guard, put you off your game, and create a paradox that will leave you in the lurch.

They will take what you give and try to turn it on its head. They work hard to be confusing and condescending. They will make fun of you for believing in a book written 2,000 years ago. They will call you an infant or childish. And they will enjoy every minute of it.

You don’t have to take that. You have to answer their questions. But you don’t have to be angry or return the favor either. You can say something like, “I realize you’re not really interested in what I have to say. Since you insist on disrespecting me, I prefer to talk with someone less rude.”

Standing up for yourself will make them think twice. And if it doesn’t, there’s no love lost anyway. What experiences have you had when you’ve come against a person like this? Leave a comment and let me know how you dealt with it.

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ANNOUNCING A SHORT GUIDE TO SHARING YOUR FAITH!

My latest book will be available on Amazon and other stores Monday, July 29! I am running a preorder for the Kindle book and discounting the price for the first two weeks of the launch. There will also be a paperback version!

Do you have hurdles or struggles sharing your Christian faith? The short guide will encourage and challenge you to take a step of faith. It guides you through the process of gaining confidence and answering common questions people ask.

You can get the paperback version right now! The Kindle version can be preordered and for the first two weeks, it’s only $0.99. Its regular price will be $3.99. Grab it fast before the price goes up!

Here’s what people are saying

“A Short Guide to Sharing Your Faith” by Jonathan Srock is a book for Christian believers who seek guidance in fulfilling their duty to share their faith in Jesus Christ with non-believers. It challenges the Christian believer to take action, equips him with a step-by-step approach to overcome misgivings and feelings of inadequacy, and to share his faith in Jesus. In the end, the reader will come away with a useful and personal approach to this essential mission.

Cathy Ryan, Author
www.cathyryanwrites.com

“In his book, Srock examines the facets of sharing the faith.  His intellectual approach will leave the reader equipped in the face of any potential response to the presentation of the Gospel.  The brevity of the book will allow for regular review and evaluation of one’s own witnessing experiences.”

Matthew Niebauer

“I really enjoyed reading A Short Guide To Sharing Your Faith.  It contains a great deal of very meaningful information. The parts of the book that clearly spoke to me was hurdles to sharing your faith. Hurdles are very real and the ways to overcome them were helpful. Creating your own approach and sharing your own story verses a canned high pressure approach is very important. The portion on apologetics is very informative. That information is typically not included in evangelism books. Thank you Jonathan is encouraging short story.”

Pastor Joe Hollen
Hollentown Assembly of God, Hollentown, PA

“Sharing the good news of Jesus Christ is at the heart of the call on every believer’s life. Jon Srock has written a fantastic tool to help guide the newest Christians and the most seasoned saint in sharing the hope that they have in Jesus. This is an easy read with very practical steps to sharing your faith as well as straight-forward advice on how to give answers to the genuine questions people have. I highly recommend both this book and the ministry of Jon Srock. This will encourage, equip and inspire you!”

Pastor Marvin Nemitz
Harvest Community at Church, Jupiter, FL

“I highly recommend Rev. Jonathan Srock’s short guide to sharing your faith. This practical resource gives you the tools needed along with the confidence to be able to articulate your faith to others without fear. The 18 common questions that seekers ask and Jonathan’s response to those enables the reader to be thoroughly equipped in sharing their faith.”

Pastor Zac McDonald
State College Access Church, State College, PA

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Sin, An Alien Among Us

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Have you ever noticed all the personification in the Bible? Personification is a literary device authors use to give human traits to inhuman things. Sin is an interesting example. It’s viewed in several passages almost like a force or a master. Especially Paul treats it like a human being that can act and react. But sin is an action, a thought, and attitude.

Throughout the Bible, one interesting personification is that of sin. Sin is viewed in several passages almost like a force or a master. It is spoken of as if it were a human being that could act and react. But sin is not a person or even a spirit. It is an action, a thought, an attitude that does not glorify God or obey His divinely ordained principles.

Genesis begins using personification with sin. Cain is unhappy with God’s rejection of his sacrifices while Abel enjoys God’s favor. Cain lets sin grasp him and boss him around. In Genesis 4:6-7, Cain’s countenance falls when God rejects his sacrifice. God says that sin is crouching at the door.

Sin can’t crouch. It certainly can’t rule a person, as God says it will rule over him, with the same phrase used earlier when Eve wants to rule over Adam (Genesis 3:16).

Sin is crouching like a tiger, waiting to strike. It waits for its opportunity to catch Cain off guard. It’s hunting its prey. These are only things living creatures can do.

Scripture also personifies death. It’s almost as if God’s adversaries include Satan, his minions, sin, and death. Jesus defeats all of these enemies through his death and resurrection. Paul writes that God has won the victory through Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

Paul will say in Romans 6 that sin and death can reign in our mortal bodies. They are masters that rule over the human race because of Adam’s disobedience. Sin and death work together (Romans 6:9). Sin reigns in people’s hearts under the influence of spiritual death. These two abstract ideas are given personal attributes.

We would expect personification to be used by the poets of the Bible. But we find it used in deep theological discussion by Paul and Genesis. It’s a favorite device in wisdom literature. Proverbs describes Lady Wisdom as desirable and beautiful. Lady Folly is described as a prostitute and vulgar woman. These are abstract principles, not people.

Many people seek folly, more accustomed to her whiles. Lady wisdom comes at a premium. Wisdom is hard to find and more precious than riches or anything else because it produces those things. Poetic and wisdom literature often take it of personification.

Even the prophets are full of vivid imagery and personification. The art of personification to show nature and functions can impress and student of literature.

In the New Testament, James, the wisdom teacher, also uses personification. He outlines the way sin creeps into our lives (James 1:13-15). It tempts, entices, and lures us. Enticing and boring are hunting terms for entrapping and snaring us. Temptation and desire work against us.

Personification is ineffective literary toll in the hands of master storytellers and poets throughout Scripture. And master theologians like Paul and James use it also. They cause us to think more deeply about these abstract forces. Is sin a power or force? Is death a person or a force? Please Wisdom a woman or perfectly represented in Christ? They teach us about Christ, Enjoy the literary devices of Scripture without neglecting the lessons they teach us. They bring richness to our thoughts and studies in the Scriptures. Let us thank Jesus that he has dealt with all of them for us. He has been victorious and we have victory over them through obedience to him.

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Atheism in America

Atheism has become quite the movement in America and the Western world. It’s always been around, since before the Bible was written. The Bible refers to those who don’t believe in God in some of the Psalms and other books.

But it seems to be making quite the comeback especially in America. Fueled by naturalism, science, and secularism, atheism has been emboldened. Like no other time in history, religions of all kinds have had to explain themselves and fight for the right for existence.

A new wave of atheism is now taking root, called New Atheism. Rather than simply be the choice to not believe in God, New Atheists have become a form of activism against all religion. Rather than proclaim the philosophical view that religion is not for them, they have become evangelists for atheism.

They have actually stated that religion is a cancer in society, the crotch for the week, and detrimental to human existence. They seem to ignore the fact that every culture has ever existed has had some form of spirituality and religion.

People like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris are big proponents of this new atheism. They have done everything but become flat-out violent against anyone that is religious. They fight against religion in general, but are specially hostile toward Christianity.

I would call this “hard atheism.” Their goal is to campaign against your religion, to challenge every facet, and to personally attack you as being stupid for believing in God. They will take everything you say and twisted around so many times that it will look nothing like what you said. It is their goal to get you off your guard and make you doubt every belief you ever held. They want to tour the world upside down and watch it burn.

Another form of atheism is “soft atheism.” These are people who have by default chosen atheism as their worldview. They are very closely related to agnostics, people who did not take a stance on the issue of God or theism. “Atheist” is best defined as stating for certain that there is no God. The problem with hard atheism is that they would have to be all-knowing to make such a statement. It’s impossible to know for certain that God doesn’t exist unless you know all things, which happens to be one of God’s attributes! Atheism in its purest form is self-defeating.

A softer form of atheism is agnosticism. Agnostics are slightly more humble in giving their opinion that as far as they know God probably doesn’t exist. A soft atheist is a person who is open to the possibility that they are wrong. They are open to evidence we can give that God does exist. They are willing to listen to what we have to say and seriously consider it.

Hard atheists are very hard to share our faith with. If they were completely honest, they would tell us that they don’t evilly hear our story or anything about our religious views. They see anyone who is religious in any way as unintelligent, uninformed, and behind the times. They see religion as something to cover up the truth of science and make us feel better about meaningless living.

Although it’s never impossible to get through to anyone about Jesus, and Jesus can save even those who are the farthest from him, you will find your efforts to witness to hard atheists almost always unfruitful. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stop trying!

Soft atheists and agnostics, however, are a bit more down to earth. It will allow you to provide evidence and tell your story. They will listen with interest, seeking to understand the truth if it is out there. You will find more success speaking to these types of people.

No matter who you speak to, know that the Holy Spirit is beginning to soften them to the gospel. Whether the soil is hard as a rock or more like sand, you should never be afraid to share your faith with anyone. If the Holy Spirit directs you to that person, you have a mission and they have a need to hear your story.

What have you come up against as you’ve shared your faith? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think about these different groups in our society today.

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Who Are We?

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In the church I hear all kinds of different explanations of who and what a Christian is. From the simplistic to the complex, some are accurate and some are not. But what does it mean to be a Christian? How do you know you’re “saved”? What does a Christian think and do? What does a Christian believe? What tenets or doctrines of faith must a Christian adhere to?

The beauty of the Gospel is that it is simple enough for a child to understand and accept, and yet it will take more than a lifetime to fully plumb the depths of its rich meaning and implications.  There are several ways of explaining the difference between the believer and unbeliever throughout the New Testament. But we must take these images and explanations to heart or we will find ourselves in sin because we believe that we are sinners instead of believers.

The word “Christian” has its origins in a persecution of people who followed Jesus. In Acts 11:25-26, followers of Jesus were first called Christians in Antioch. It means “Christ one,” or “one like Christ” (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16). The apostles describe the change in a Christian as being born again by John, the new life or new creation by Paul, saints by every New Testament author, child of God by John and others, and a host of other terms.

Let’s unpack the significance of these images. “Saints” is the universal term for followers of Jesus throughout the New Testament. Most letters open with this word to describe Christians in different communities. What is a saint? Well, a Saint is a football player from New Orleans… No really, saint means “holy one.”

I sure many Christians often say, especially if they have sinned, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” This saying is true at the moment of salvation. But after salvation, it’s not true anymore. Because of the change in us, it’s better to say, “I was a sinner, but Jesus saved me by his grace.” Calling yourself a center after the transformation by Jesus weakens the power of his sacrifice.

I cringe when I hear well-meaning Christians so easily revert to a previous life of sin with that phrase. It doesn’t forgive stumbling in your walk with Jesus. It doesn’t forgive flirting with sin. All believers momentarily fall into sin. But we are saints trying to live God’s high standards, not sinners with painted faces of holiness.

We are dead to sin and we ignore it. It has no effect on us. We keep our flesh in check and our desires toward God rather than the world. Don’t let sin so easily change your mind about who you are.

Paul uses the image of the new life or new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). The change Jesus makes in each of us is so dramatic that all Paul can do is call us a new creation. God makes everything new. For starters, your mind, body, and spirit have have been completely reconfigured. You were born into a sinful world, and that’s all you knew. But now, your heart only searches for God and is sensitive to his presence and work in your life.

Your mind is renewed daily as you think on the good things of God. Your body is commanded to do God’s works and glorify him in everything. Your spirit has been enlivened by the Holy Spirit and now shares a connection with God (Ephesians 2:1-6).

The new life follows on the heels of the new creation, your whole person and nature new, reacting to him. But we still live in a fallen world. But because we are dead to send, we ignore anything that is not of God. Don’t give sin an open door to reenter. You can choose not to sin. We listen to the Holy Spirit instead of the world.

Another image of our identity in Christ is the metaphor Jesus uses, being born again (John 3:3, 5). Being born again doesn’t make sense to the unspiritual mind. Before we can be a new creation and enjoy our new life in Christ, we must be born again to glorify God.

Finally, Paul and John both describe us as being children of God. I prefer to use this image when I talk to Christians who occasionally sin. They feel so broken and guilty. They question their salvation. But this is why God inspired the image of being one of his children. We are adopted into his family and given full privileges to his inheritance in heaven.

When you are a child in your family, you are tied to that family. You can’t change the family you have. You can’t have someone else’s blood or features. You can legally disown or be disowned by them, but you were still born into that family. You will always be so-and-so’s son or daughter.

The same is true when you become part of God’s family. No matter what you do, you are still one of his children. Jesus’ love goes deeper than anything else in creation, including sin (Romans 8:35-39). If a child breaks a priceless family heirloom, do the parents throw the child out into the street and say, “You’re not my kid anymore”? No. They might punish the child, but they still love him or her.

You have to work very hard at losing that privileged state and relationship with God. He doesn’t let us go so easily. He disciplines us for our sins. But he doesn’t disown us. We never stop being part of his family or reaping the benefits of his grace and love. The world struggles with identity, but our identity and destiny as God’s children is certain. We know our place in Christ. It’s a place of grace and privilege. It’s a place of growth and conforming to Jesus’ image (Romans 8:29). It’s a place of joy, a fun and exciting adventure to know him more fully. Happy trails!

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Driven from Religion

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Why do people shy away from religion? Or even worse, why are some people bitter and angry against religion? Every case of rejection of religion has its own reasons, but one of the most common reasons is that people have been hurt by the church or Christians in their past.

The church is generally seen as a safe place for people to explore their faith. The only problem is that the church is full of people. People can hurt one another, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident, and sometimes without even knowing they have done it.

I’ve known of people who were hurt by the church because of what they interpreted it as saying about them. They became offended without even making sure that it was meant as an offense. Some have been accused of things they did not do. Some have not felt accepted or welcome when they visited.

Most people have very little problems with Jesus and his teachings. The problem is with the people that call themselves Christians or the church as they go to. This should never be! I always pray that I am open with anyone I speak to. I want them to feel like they could talk to me about anything.

If you run into someone who doesn’t want to. Hear what you have to say, or is even combative and angry with you, this may be the reason. We must be prepared for whatever we may face when we begin to speak about Jesus. If someone is angry at you, ask them why. See if they will open up for the first time in a long time.

Because we identify with Christ and his church, we may face the hurt and anger of people who don’t even know us. We must have thick skin and big shoulders. If we don’t try to get to the bottom of other people’s hurts and anger, we lose the opportunity to show them the true love of Jesus. Be gentle, loving, and kind. Be open and genuine. Show them what a Christian should be!

What do you think? What kinds of hurts and anger have you run into when you’ve shared your faith? Leave a comment below and talk about your experiences.

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