Assignment to Obscurity

.... In our previous posting we discussed how the Corinthians kept hearing the message of Jesus, preached by the apostles, yet they kept leaving Jesus out of their perception. Somehow, in their minds, they were skipping over the part about Jesus, no matter how purely or how often He was emphasized to them. But how could this possibly be?
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Apparently they had come to regard Jesus as they might a past President, a founding father, or some other important figure from history – just as we might regard Martin Luther, John Wesley, or Charles Finney today. Those were great men of God, but that was a long time ago.
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In a similar way, they'd reached a subtle mentality that said, ‘Jesus? Yes, we've heard those stories. He certainly deserves a place of honor.’ And with that, they'd assigned Him a place in the past. And thus His present significance had started to grow obscure.

.... "I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death."

(Revelation 1:18)

.... The Corinthians had surely heard that Jesus had risen from the dead. But apparently that understanding was beginning to lapse with them, as well. After all, it had been a long time since then. Had He eventually died again? Maybe a subtle thought of that nature began to settle in their mind. Because in practical terms they were looking for a successor now, and they seemed to think that Paul, Apollos and Cephas were contending for that title:

.... "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one?"

(1 Corinthians 3:5)

.... In any case, when they took their eyes off Jesus as the center of their faith, having preeminence in all things, as Head over all things to the church, and they began to focus on the preachers themselves in that role, they began to divide into factions. The Greek word is ‘schismata’ as in the word ‘schisms’ (1 Corinthians 1:10). Because without a focus on Jesus, they could no longer maintain a unified testimony among themselves.
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Let's examine this principle from another direction. Paul told us in Colossians 1:17-18 that in Jesus ‘all things consist’; that is to say, in Him they hold together, He Himself is the source of unity and cohesiveness of all. And the very first application that Paul gave, in the following verse, is to say that Jesus "is the head of the body, the church."

.... It is the testimony of Jesus that holds the church together, and when our eyes drift away from Him we begin to divide. We’ll continue this discussion in our next posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 22

The Source of Division

.... In our previous posting, we discussed how the Corinthians had gotten side-tracked in their Christian learning. They were still learning things, but they were no longer looking for the testimony of Jesus in the things they learned. Instead, they'd come to focus on the preachers themselves and their personalities, saying: "I am of Paul", "I am of Apollos", or "I am of Cephas".
.... Now it is particularly astonishing that something like this should happen in Corinth, of all places. Because Paul went on to remind them:

.... "when I came to you . . . I determined not to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified"
(1 Corinthians 2:1-2)

.... From the beginning, Jesus was all that Paul ever spoke to them about, and they still missed the point! From the very onset, they were too busy looking at the preachers themselves, and missed out that these men were talking to them about Jesus:

.... "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus' sake."
(2 Corinthians 4:5)

.... After Paul left Corinth, other preachers came, and they, too, had tried to focus on Jesus:

.... "Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed."
(1 Corinthians 15:11)
.... All of these men had focused on Jesus, but somehow the Corinthians kept missing their emphasis! They skipped the part about Jesus and focused on the preachers themselves. Because of this, they were missing the true message and making false distinctions. Divisions followed amont them, and denominations began to form: a point over which Paul would protest earnestly:
.... "For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive?"
(1 Corinthians 4:7)
.... In other words Paul is saying, "What is it that Cephas taught you that was different from what I taught you? Or what is it that Apollos said that was different from what I said, so that now you are making these distinctions? For now you are saying, ‘This is the School of Paul; we are the Paulites.’ Or ‘This is the School of Cephas; we’re the Cephasites.’ Or, ‘We are the people of Apollos’?" What did we teach you that was different, so that you’re making such false distinctions?
.... Paul reminded them that those preachers taught them exactly the same things! So in other words, that’s all that Cephas ever preached to them about was Jesus; that’s all that Apollos ever preached about was Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and they still missed the point! Somehow, they still left Jesus out of it! In fact, Paul would say to them later, when Titus came to them:
.... "Did we not walk in the same spirit? Did we not walk in the same steps?"
(2 Corinthians 12:18)
.... Titus came to them, and that’s all he ever preached to them about was Jesus, and they still missed the point! That’s all they ever had preached to them was Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and they still left Jesus out of it! They caught everything except: "How does this show me Jesus?" Everything except Him! So Paul is telling them now, in 1 Corinthians:
.... "I will send Timothy to you, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."
(1 Corinthians 4:17)

.... Will they listen now?
.... Of course, our point is that maybe we are not so very different from the Corinthians, in the church of today. So please think about that! And we’ll continue this discussion in our next posting.
To proceed to the next lesson, click here
Daily Bible Reading: Luke 21

The Corinthian Disorder

..... Paul's letters to the churches, called epistles, were weighty and powerful, and he seemed to have a flare with his opening remarks (‘Grace to you and peace’, etc.). To many of us, this may have seemed like flowery speech and nothing more, but he wasn't trying to be flamboyant. There was always a carefully chosen point behind those words. Paul was setting forth the basic position he intended to speak from throughout the rest of the epistle. This basis was called his premise, and Paul’s premise in 1 Corinthians was that Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of our faith (1 Corinthians 1:1-9).
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.... Now, why would Paul need to emphasize Jesus to the church at Corinth? They’re Christians aren’t they? Yes, they’re like many of the Christians we know today. (They're zealous for spiritual gifts, for example--1 Corinthians 14:12). But they are Christians with a problem. And their problem is that they are starting to draw away from the knowledge of Jesus, and to leave Jesus out of their Christianity.
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Now, it is true that the Corinthians were still learning things, but they were no longer seeing Jesus in the things they learned. So even though they thought they were getting ahead, they were actually degressing in their walk with Him. We find the same concept at the junction of Hebrews chapters 5 and 6:

.... " . . You have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food"

(Hebrews 5:11-12)

.... For all of their learning, these Corinthians needed someone to teach them again the elementary principles of Christ (Hebrews 6:1); because a fundamental departure had already taken place, and they were leaving Him out of their beliefs more and more.
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.... The reason this happened was because their focus had shifted to men, to the preachers themselves, instead of focusing on Jesus; and of course, this was completely unintended by the preachers (2 Corinthians 4:5). In fact, if we follow the whole train of thought (1 Corinthians 1:1-9), Paul is reminding the Corinthians that Jesus is the author and finisher of their faith because they’ve now begun squabbling in terms of "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas." (v 10).

.... "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

(1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

.... It isn't about man, it's about the Lord! But with the ascension of man in their esteem, the Lord Himself took more and more of a back seat until, in their own minds, He had actually begun to fade into the past. 'Church' was about the preachers and their personalities now, and the ‘ministry machine’ that was perceived through them.
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.... How different than that are we, today? We'll continue this discussion in our next posting; but between now and then please think of what consequences this would bring, and how our living relationship with Jesus might suffer as a result.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 20

The Author and Finisher of Our Faith

..... If you’ve already read our previous posting on the spiritual test, and the ‘comments’ that were posted afterward, you know the results of the test by now. So below is the proper reading of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, with the ‘missing points’ restored and emphasized:

.... "Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."
.... What we’d like to show you is that the chief testimony of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 doesn’t have to do with blessings, it doesn’t have to do with an appeal for unity, and it’s not talking about spiritual gifts. The central focus is on God’s Son, Jesus Christ! In fact, let’s arrange these points chronologically to illustrate this testimony properly:
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.... Paul tells us in verses 9, 1 and 2 that we were called into the fellowship of God’s Son, Jesus. As soon as we bowed the knee and confessed Him, and the testimony of Christ was confirmed in us, we were enriched in every way – in all utterance and knowledge – by Jesus. Now Jesus is the one who has done this. The grace of God was given to us by Christ Jesus; Jesus is going to confirm us in the faith; Jesus Himself is going to keep us blameless in the faith until the day when He, Personally, returns, in the day of His revelation, to present us to Himself.
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.... From one end to the other, from the time we are called until the time He returns, Jesus is the answer. In other words, the true testimony of this passage is that Jesus Christ is the author and the finisher of our faith, and He is everything in between!
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.... Now who agrees that this should be the subtitle of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9?

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 19

The ‘Spiritual Test’

.... Before beginning this posting, we're assuming you’ve read the previous one. If not, it would be better to return
and read it first, so you'll understand what we're trying to do . In this lesson we're going to begin a 'Spiritual Test', based on the passage below:

.... "the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
(1 John 2:27)
.... In other words, the Holy Spirit teaches you the truth, as the truth is in Jesus. And if something comes along that would draw you away into error, He'll send up some red flags in your heart to warn you. So with that basic understanding, it's time to put your own heart to the test. (For this, you may want to open your Bible to 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 and review it.)
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.... First, an introduction. As you may have noticed, many modern Bibles include subtitles every 10 verses or so, for the purpose of announcing the chief testimony of each passage. So one day, we looked at the subtitles of this passage in different Bible translations to check the opinions of the editors, and to see what they considered that chief testimony to be. And we were surprised that they didn’t agree with each other.

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The New American Standard Bible claimed that the chief topic of this passage was an 'Appeal for Unity'. In other words there was a problem with division, and Paul was addressing the problem. But The New International Version said that 'Paul was giving thanks to God', which sounds like just the oppostite: "No problems here!"
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The Today’s English Version said this passage is about 'Blessings in Christ'. The New King James said it was about 'Spiritual Gifts at Corinth'. But we’d like to show you that all of those subtitles are wrong – they have completely missed the point – and we're going to demonstrate this by putting your hearts to the test: ‘that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.’ (Luke 2:35).
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Please close your Bibles at this point!
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.... Below is a corrupted rendition of 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, having at least ten things wrong with it. We would like you to read it carefully, and in doing so please keep your heart on the Lord and ask Him to show you what is wrong with it. After you've done this, an explanation will follow in the ‘comments’ section:

.... Paul, called to be an apostle by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified, called to be saints. Grace to you and peace from God our Father. I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God that was given to you, that you were enriched in everything, in all utterance and knowledge, even as this testimony was confirmed in you; so that you fall short in no gift, eagerly awaiting for the day of revelation, confirmed to the end, that you may be blameless on that day. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of the Lord.
.... Now please understand, we're not asking you to find all ten things that are wrong with this passage, just one or two might be enough. But after you’ve prayed about it and you think you’re ready, please check your conclusions against the explanation in our ‘comments’ section.


To proceed to the next lesson, click here
Daily Bible Reading: Luke 18

Abiding in the Truth

..... When I was a young Christian, a friend called on the phone and said he wanted to read something to me, to see what I thought about it. (He was an even younger Christian than I was). So I told him, Okay, go ahead and read it.
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.... As he began, his words seemed to be coming from the Bible. He spoke in King James English and the passage was about water baptism. But as I listened, something about it disturbed me and left me unsettled in my spirit. I thought to myself, "Man, I'd swear he's not getting this from the Bible!" Yet it sounded like the Bible, so this was confusing.

.... "Is the Spirit of the LORD restricted? Are these His doings? Do not My words do good to him who walks uprightly?"

(Micah 2:7)

.... When he finished reading he asked, "Well, what did you think of that?" and I answered, "Man, I'd swear you didn't get that from the Bible!"
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.... "What do you mean?" he asked.
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.... "The word of God is like a fire; it's like a hammer that breaks in pieces." I answered (Jeremah 23:9). "But the passage you just read sounded cheap; it sounded tinny, like someone was trying to imitate the Bible . . . it just didn't have the power of the word of God . . . it sounded like something was missing . . ."
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.... I hesitated, then added suspiciously, "I'd swear you got that from the Book of Mormon or something."
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.... On the other end of phone, he suddenly caught his breath. "You're right!" he said in a rasp. "I just read you from the Book of Mormon!"
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.... But how did I know that? I was just a young Christian; it might simply have been a part of the Bible that I was unfamiliar with. Yet somehow I knew in my spirit that it was wrong:

.... "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."

(1 John 2:27)

.... In other words the Holy Spirit teaches us to abide in Christ; and in the days that follow, if something else comes along that would draw us away, He will teach us to remain in Christ. Because the context of that passage was: "These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you." (v 26).
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.... So if you have the testimony of Jesus in your heart, the Holy Spirit is going to make sure you abide there; and if error does come along, you're going to feel an uneasiness about it in your spirit, a red flag, a tremor of warning. With that as an introduction, we'll present ‘the ‘Spiritual Test' in our next posting, to open our discussion on the Foundation of Jesus Christ.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 17

Introduction to the Foundational Modules

.... With this posting we'll begin a new series on the ‘Foundational’ topics of our faith. But especially, we're interested in how these topics can point us to Jesus: "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11). As Jesus Himself would explain:

.... "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great."

(Luke 6:47-49)

.... Those who come to Jesus and learn of Him find a living foundation, to build a relationship that will carry them through every tempest in life. And the broader context of this passage describes the tempest as well:

.... "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."

(Matthew 7:13-27)

.... When Jesus spoke of 'the broad way that leads to destruction', He was basically telling us that "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." (Proverbs 14:12). In other words, our own thoughts and ideas on how to please God (however good they may seem to us), will never suceed in building a relationship with Him. The only way to experience God's life is to come to Him by Jesus, learn to hear His voice, and learn to apply His thoughts in our lives (1 Corinthians 1:21). .
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.... This is to be contrasted with false prophets or false teachers, who offer their own, subjective philosophies in ministry. Through their doctrines, a relationship with Jesus Himself can simply never be formed:

.... "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"

(Matthew 7:23)

.... So coming to Jesus humbly, and learning to seek His heart and mind as the basis for His teachings, is how an actual relationship can be formed -- and this is how to please God in truth. It will also keep the relationship pure, and prove itself a sure foundation for our future growth in Him. In fact, everything we ever learn again as Christians will stem from this foundation as we continue to learn and grow in Him.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 16

Gospel Sharing Drill #4

.... Now it’s time to practice our evangelism again. Let’s begin by reviewing the four points of the gospel:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)
2. Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.
3. Jesus was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
4. Jesus was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

.... In this lesson, you’ll interact again with your classmates or Christian friends through role-playing drills. Depending on the size of your class or your circle of friends, you’ll have the chance to observe the gospel being shared, to actually share the gospel with others, or to play a person you know as someone else shares the gospel with you. Or possibly, to do all three in turn.
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.... To begin, one participant will think of a person whom they know, with whom they hope to share the gospel one day. Then they'll set the stage by describing this person, and describing a scenario in which they might actually approach them.
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.... Next, one of their class mates will volunteer to participate in the drill by striking up a conversation with them, leading to a gospel presentation. Our first volunteer will answer as they believe their friend or acquaintance would answer in real life, and the other volunteer as they feel the Lord leading them, but this time we’ll include a special twist. This time, they’ll raise an objection that puts the evangelist on the defensive, that requires their personal testimony to be shared.

.... "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

(Revelation 12:11)

.... During this drill, the teacher will take notes. Afterward, he may ask the participants to express what was on in their minds at certain points of the conversation, affording each other and the rest of the class a glimpse of how the Lord might have been working at these points. Seeing both sides of the conversation explained will help everyone in the class put together the episode in their mind, like the pieces of a puzzle.
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During this process, the classmates, the teacher, and even the participants will offer constructive critiques and coaching, with special attention to the following areas:

1) Were the four points of the gospel shared as the highlight of their personal testimony?

2) Through their testimony, did the evangelists do their best to return the conversation to a focus on Jesus?

3) Did the evangelists refrain from mixing in worldly wisdom, such as philosophy or psychology, as a part of their presentation?

4) Did the evangelist maintain a servant’s attitude, and was he sensitive to the listener?

5) Did the evangelists do their best to answer questions?

6) Did the evangelists offer a ‘next step’ for the listener, such as offering to pray with them, encouraging them to seek the Lord further, offering them literature or insuring they already had literature, exchanging contact information, or actually leading them to the Lord?

.... For the sake of future readers, please feel free to discuss your drills in the 'comments' section.

You have now completed the Evangelism 2 Module! Go out and lead some people to the Lord, and God be with you! Meanwhile, if you are ready to proceed to the Foundations 1 Module, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 15

Effective Personal Testimonies

.... In our previous posting, we saw that personal testimonies should only be reserved for a secondary role, when the evangelist finds themself in a defensive position:

.... "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."

(1 Peter 3:15)

.... The gospel itself should always be our true proclamation, and personal testimonies should be reserved for a defensive purposes. For example, Paul intentionally focused his message on the gospel alone, and he would consciously avoid other subjects if possible (1 Corinthians 2:2), Yet when placed on the defensive, even Paul found it appropriate to share his personal testimony. On those occasions, his 'calling' in the Lord was being questioned so he was ready to give an answer to those who interrogated him.
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In a similar way, if you’re sharing the gospel and someone says to you, "Oh yeah? Then what good has the Lord ever done for you?" -- your relationship with Him has been called in question, so you must give a defense for the hope that dwells within you. The time for sharing your personal testimony has properly come, but even so you should allow your story to form the background for a true gospel presentation (see Acts 26:1-23).
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.... For example, after giving a brief sketch of your story, you might spend additional time on your moment of truth:
.... ". . . and then I finally heard the message I needed to hear: that Jesus is the Son of God, and He died for our sins as the prophets foretold of Him; that He rose from the dead on the third day, and that this, too, was foretold by the prophets. And after His resurrection He was seen by many witnesses. And that gave me a lot to think and pray about, as I tried to apply it to myself . . ."
.... When presented in this way, a personal testimony can be very powerful and it is always irrefutable; and by this sort of approach, you’ll offer the gospel in the form of an example. This way, your listener can use it as a model if they, too, should respond to the Lord:

.... "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

(Revelation 12:11)

.... According to this passage, we overcome the accuser (the devil,) through the word of our testimony. But in this particular sense, it is not talking about the story behind our conversion! But rather, it is the profession of our faith in the Lord, which is the effective point of our conversion: "I have believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and by believing I have life in His name." In fact we may see this testimony, and an example of how it overcomes the wicked one, in the passage below:

.... 'He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

(Matthew 16:15-18)

..... . . by confessing Jesus as our Lord we are joining ourselves with Him, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us (Matthew 16:17-18). This is the information that offers hope to our listener as well, so it should always be the heart of our presentation, even when we find ourselves in a position for sharing our personal testimonies.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 14

Problems with Personal Testimonies

.... In modern times, it has become customary to share your personal testimony as a basis for evangelism. This is the story of how you, yourself, became a Christian. And indeed there is a place for sharing this, but only under special circumstances.
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Sometimes, a personal testimony can be problematic. If you’ll think about it, this is the story of how you became saved, but the information your listener needs to know is how they can get saved. Your two backgrounds may be completely dissimilar, so they may not be able to relate to your perspective at all. In your efforts to paint a before-and-after contrast, you might even reveal something that challenges your credibility, and causes them to look down on you:

.... ". . . that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgment of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus."

(Philemon 1:6)

.... Another problem is that when people share their personal testimonies, they end up talking a lot about themselves instead of talking about the Lord. This may be a well-intentioned effort, but it is better to avoid it entirely if you can:

.... "For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake."

(2 Corinthians 4:5)

.... So here is an important distinction to grasp. In the Scrip- tures, no one ever shared their personal testimony in the form of a proclamation. When given the oppor- tunity to proclaim, they shared the message of the gospel. Personal testimonies were re- served for a secondary role, when the evan- gelist found them- selves in a defensive position:

.... "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."

(1 Peter 3:15)

.... We will discuss this further in our next posting.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 13

Gospel Sharing Drill #3

.... Now it’s time to practice our evangelism again. Let’s begin by reviewing the four points of the gospel:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)
2. Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.
3. Jesus was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.
4. Jesus was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

.... In this lesson, you’ll interact again with your classmates or Christian friends through role-playing drills. Depending on the size of your class or your circle of friends, you’ll have the chance to observe the gospel being shared, to actually share the gospel with others, or to play a person whom you actually know as someone else shares the gospel with you. Or possibly, to do all three in turn.
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To begin, one participant will think of a person whom they actually know, with whom they hope to share the gospel one day. They will then set the stage by describing this person, including a scenario in which they might actually approach them. For example:

.... "In this scenario I am Joan, the assistant supervisor in the call center. It’s lunch time and I’m in the break room munching on a sandwich. Joan is a fair-minded person and she does have a little church background, but from what I’ve picked up she’s not really saved. Joan has an hour for lunch, so she sometimes reads a magazine, or sometimes she talks to the other people in the break room."
.... Next, one class mate will volunteer to participate in this drill by striking up a conversation with them, leading to a gospel presentation. This will be your first gospel-sharing solo. Our first volunteer will answer as they believe their friend or acquaintance would answer in real life, and the other volunteer as they feel the Lord leading them.
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During this drill, the teacher will take notes. Afterward, he may ask the participants to express what was on their minds at certain points of the conversation, affording each other and the rest of the class a glimpse of how the Lord might have been working at those points. Seeing both sides of the conversation explained will help everyone in the class put together the episode in their mind, like the pieces of a puzzle.
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During this process, the classmates, the teacher, and even the participants will offer constructive critiques and coaching, with special attention to the following areas:

1) Were the four points of the gospel shared?

2) Once the gospel was introduced, did the evangelists do their best to keep on track with it?

3) Did the evangelists refrain from worldly wisdom, such as philosophy or psychology?

4) Did the evangelists maintain a servant’s attitude, and was he sensitive to the listener?

5) Did the evangelists do their best to answer questions?

6) Did the evangelists offer a ‘next step’ for the listener, such as offering to pray with them, encouraging them to seek the Lord further, offering them literature or insuring they already had literature, exchanging contact information, or actually leading them to the Lord?

.... For the sake of future readers, please feel free to talk about your gospel sharing drills in the 'comments' section.

To proceed to the next lesson, click here

Daily Bible Reading: Luke 12

Evangelistic Opposition - Part 2

.... In evangelism, we would all prefer the best case scenario in which our listener hears the gospel with an open mind and asks sincere questions eagerly. In the worst case scenario, if they outrightly oppose us and blaspheme God, we must shake off the dust of our feet as a testimony against them (Mark 6:11; Matthew 18:6). But there is also a third possibility:
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.... In our previous posting we introduced another group that is stuck in between those two. Those in this middle category really want to hear more about the gospel, but it makes them feel defensive. Their solution is to appear belligerent and put you on the defensive, in order to hide their own defensiveness. In other words they've adopted the approach that 'the best defense is a good offense' and they've started to give you a hard time about it -- but at least you’re still engaged in the discussion, and deeper down that's what they've intended!
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When you graciously accept this defensive role, you may actually go quite a long way with it, but you may also see them object more strenuously as they grow closer to believing. When this happens, you should understand the deeper conflict that is underway inside them. The Lord may be pulling so strongly on their heart that, in their own minds, they feel compelled to lean very hard in the opposite direction to ‘restore the balance’ and remain non-committal. They may quickly seem more distant than ever. But in fact, they are often within easy reach if you’ll just stay cool, not allow yourself to be ruffled, and answer them kindly:

.... "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

(Proverbs 15:1)

.... "Look, I’ve been where you’re at," you might say, "and I understand that it’s hard to hear some of the things I’m saying, but I do appreciate that you’re taking it seriously. And I think God sees that in your heart. So how about this? Tonight when you get a little time by yourself, why don’t you just talk to the Lord for a minute, and ask Him to come and introduce Himself to you? Because this should really be between you and Him anyway."
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When the tables begin to turn and your listener's facade begins to falter, and they start to feel defensive after all, you have to be very sensitive and know when it’s time to quit. Once you’ve reached that point, if you keep going anyway, they’re likely to pull back (see
Hebrews 10:38). So remember that the Lord is your senior partner in evangelism, leave the next step to Him, and remember to pray for this person afterward. Also, if possible, try to give them some literature as a follow-up before you go.
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And here is one more element to keep in mind. When someone is contentious but you remain calm, the Lord begins working in each of you in a special way that you can always count on. In fact, the effect is so powerful that neither of you could possibly deny it. In such a case you will both know, from deeply within yourselves, that you, the evangelist, are saved, and that they, the listener, are not:

.... ". . . and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God."

(Philippians 1:28)

.... Just remain humble so the Lord can use this, instead of being prideful or having a chip on your shoulder, which could still ruin things.

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Daily Bible Reading: Luke 11

Evangelistic Opposition - Part 1

..... Sharing the gospel is not always easy, and at times it’s easier than it seems. And at still other times, it’s hard to tell which is which! So what should be your attitude if someone becomes contentious? What if they argue and raise objections? Or what should you do if they start to ridicule your words?
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Even though this may be difficult, Paul tells us that a servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance so they may know the truth (2 Timothy 2:24-25). Even if they want to quarrel, there is a way to stay above it all, keep a servant’s heart (both to God and to man,) and perhaps to press on:

.... "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."

(Isaiah 26:3)

.... Here’s a little background that is helpful to understand. Some people are really very interested in hearing the gospel because God has been preparing them for a long time. He’s finally brought them very close to believing and they feel it strongly, so now they’re starting to get scared. After all, the consequences are momentous. Or maybe they’re just shy, or perhaps they’ve gotten nervous because of their sins. Or maybe they still have an issue with pride. But in any case, deeper down, they know they're approaching the moment of truth of their entire life! And because of these factors they are in an emotional quandary. They do want to hear more about Jesus, but they’re afraid to talk about Him.
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So in the midst of this quandary, if their interest has gained the upper hand, a curious paradox can emerge. As you share the gospel, they may answer with a series of objections and give you a bit of a hard time about it. But when this happens don’t be discouraged! Take a moment to step back from it all and consider the broader picture, and when you do the truth will emerge:
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You’re still talking to them about the Lord, right? They still seem willing to discuss the gospel, and deep inside this is what they’ve intended. By putting you on the defensive, they’ve found a way to overcome their own defensive feelings. Therefore, under the auspice of your humble attitude, information is still being received and the gospel is still being preached to them:

.... "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice."

(Philippians 1:18)

.... When this seems to be the case, try talking about the Lord Himself, and how the gospel applies to people in general, without singling out the listener personally. They will already be doing that part anyway – and for that matter, so will the Lord in helping them apply your words; for He, too, desires with all His heart to see them saved (John 16:8; 1 Timothy 2:4).

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Daily Bible Reading: Luke 10

Gospel Sharing Drill #2

.... Now it’s time to practice our evangelism again. Since it has been a while, let’s start by reviewing the four points of the gospel:

1. An understanding of who Jesus is (see Romans 10:9)

2. Jesus died for our sins, according to the Scriptures.

3. Jesus was raised again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

4. Jesus was seen, after His resurrection, by many witnesses.

.... In this lesson, you’ll again interact with your classmates or friends through role-playing drills. Depending on the size of your class or your circle of friends, you’ll have the chance to observe the gospel being shared, to actually share the gospel with others, or to play the role of a person whom you actually know as others share the gospel with you. Or possibly, to do all three in turn.
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To begin this drill, one class member will think of a person whom they actually know, with whom they hope to share the gospel one day. They'll set the stage by describing this person, and describing a scenario in which they might actually be approached. For example:

.... "The person in this drill is named Karen. She’s a music major. I see her in the cafeteria sometimes, usually sitting alone – she’s kind of a quiet girl. Karen is a nice person but she has no religious background that I know of.

.... "In this scenario, I am Karen, and I’m in the dorm cafeteria after hours. I’m sitting alone eating my dinner and I’m almost finished. Sometimes I read during this time, but not today, the book is lying open. I’m just kind of taking it easy."

.... Next, two others will volunteer to participate in the drill by striking up a conversation with 'Karen' (or whomever the first volunteer chooses to role play), leading to a gospel presentation. Our first volunteer will answer as they believe their friend or acquaintance would answer, and the other two as the Lord leads them.
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During this drill, the teacher will take notes. Afterward, he may ask the participants to express what was on in their minds at certain points of the conversation, affording each other and the rest of the class a glimpse of how the Lord might have been working at each point. Hearing both sides of the conversation explained can help everyone in the class put together the whole episode in their mind, like the pieces of a puzzle.
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During this process, the classmates, the teacher, and even the participants should offer constructive critiques and coaching, with special attention to the following areas:

1) Were the four points of the gospel shared?

2) Once the gospel was introduced, did the evangelists do their best to keep on track with it?

3) Did the evangelists avoid adding worldly wisdom, such as philosophy or psychology?

4) Did the evangelists maintain a servant’s attitude?

5) Did the evangelists do their best to answer questions?

6) Did the evangelists offer a ‘next step’ for the listener, such as offering to pray with them, encouraging them to seek the Lord further, offering them literature or insuring they already had literature, exchanging contact information, or actually leading them to the Lord?

.... For the sake of future readers, please feel free to discuss your drills in the 'comments' section.

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Daily Bible Reading: Luke 9

Initial Church Contact

..... When someone accepts the Lord and the subject of attending church is introduced, we must understand that their initial issue may be trust. The Lord has earned a place of trust in their life, but the church, as an institution, has not. Yet certain members of the church may well have earned such a place by now, so let’s begin by focusing on that; and let's start by expanding our concept of the church itself, as it is seen through God’s eyes.
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To God, the church is a universal body of all those who have called on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in truth. It does not know human barriers such as nationalities, ethnicity, denominations, church walls, or even a barrier of the ages. In this sense, the church is all around us in the lives of many persons whom we talk to each day. Church on Sunday morning is one thing, but church, in its truest sense, is where you find it.

.... "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

(Matthew 18:20)

.... So when you talk to a new believer about attending a church, please keep this perspective in mind and try to focus on the Lord’s ministry to them personally. Explain that it’s important for them to have friends with whom they can discuss the issues of a Christian life, so they can encourage each other. So, do they know someone who is already a Christian, whom they trust? Perhaps a family member, friend, or neighbor? Or maybe someone they work with?
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.... It is even possible that a special opportunity may present itself at this point. You might also ask if they have a friend who is not yet a Christian, who perhaps would be interested in hearing the gospel as well? This would be especially good for both of them, since they would be starting a new walk with the Lord at about the same time and they could easily relate to each other.
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.... And every person we’ve mentioned would already fall within their zone of trust.
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So if our new Christian friend knows of such a person, and they’re willing to tell them about their conversion, they’ve now gained entrance to the church through them. But if not (and in any case,) offer your own friendship and generously offer to introduce them to some of your other Christian friends. And when you do this, by all means frame it in terms of an equal friendship and in terms of their own approval, so they will be assured that their input is valuable:

.... "I’d love for you to meet some of my Christian friends, if you’d be willing to come over and visit some time. Most of us go to the same church, so if you’re okay with coming to visit at church, we could all go to lunch together after the service."
.... This approach may seem weak as an introduction to the church, but that’s because the average church, as an institution, has its own weakness. Most churches don’t have a basic discipleship ministry so they’re simply not geared for reaching out to new converts. Because of this omission it's much better, for now, to entrust that care to Christian friends.
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We'll discuss this further in the 'comments' section.

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Daily Bible Reading: Luke 8

Salvation, or Church Membership?

..... What is our objective in evangelism? Is it to save souls, or simply to increase church membership? Ideally the two are compatible but they are not the same, and this distinction will not be lost on new believers. So let’s take a moment to consider their perspective:
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As discussed in our pre-evangelism module, God performs a great deal of work simply to draw an unsaved person to Himself (Romans 3:10-12; Acts 17:27). As He turns them completely around, and brings them near enough to hear the gospel and believe, they will perceive His calling from afar and begin to build a rapport with Him (John 6:44):

.... "It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God'. Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me."

(John 6:45)

.... When their moment of truth arrives, all of this preparation will suddenly be fulfilled. Their breakthrough will come in an instant as they are finally introduced to the mysterious suitor who has drawn them with cords of lovingkindness, and whose goodness has brought them to repentance (Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 2:4). Plus, there will be a huge relief as they respond by faith and find their sins rolled away. In its place will come a sense of well-being and joy in their salvation (Isaiah 12:3).
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.... The great purpose and meaning of their entire life has just arrived! After all that preparation, they know for sure that they can trust the Lord! . . . It’s those nutty Christians they’re not so sure about!
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Think about this. Until now, their relationship with the Lord has been mysterious but it has also been very spiritual and very personal. His ‘agenda’ in their life has clearly focused on their well-being. But a church, just possibly, may have another agenda in mind, and this may worry our new friend.
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....Add to this, they know that other Christians are far more mature in the Lord than they, so they know they will be unable to hold their own in a discussion with them. They fear they will have little effective input. The church that reached out to them is already pursuing things they don’t understand, so they fear being caught up in all of this and trading their new-found closeness with the Lord for a ‘program’ of man; they do not want to risk what has now become so precious to them:

.... "You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men."

(1 Corinthians 7:23)

.... This natural apprehension is one of the greatest obstacles in evangelism today. Although many people accept the Lord when they hear the gospel, about 90% of them will quickly recoil and demur when they are invited to follow-up by attending a church. Yet without the support of Christian friends, such as a good church would provide, many of them will wander back to their former ways to be overcome by them (2 Peter 2:21-22). So what is the solution?
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We must realistically anticipate the inward struggle that a new Christian may be facing and realize that this may be the last time we see them for a while. Because this may be so, our invitation to fellowship should always be open, yet we must also leave them on the best note possible.

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First and foremost, we must recognize the Lord’s initiative and use the opportunity to build on His work, rather than seeming to change the subject by a new focus on attending our church. We know they’ve heard from the Lord thus far (John 6:44-45). Therefore, our top priority must be to insure that they can hear from Him again. We need to make sure they have access to the Scriptures, and that they feel confident to talk to Him again in prayer. We’ll elaborate more on this perspective in the ‘comments’ section.

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Daily Bible Reading: Luke 7