I have been reading through the book of Acts over the past couple of weeks. It’s amazing how these men of God in the early church were radically risking their lives to speak of the goodness of Jesus. Throughout the New Testament, we see acts of persecution come by way of imprisonment, physical beatings, and stoning, but time and time again, we see persistence and zeal for Jesus prevail over these fatal risks. Nothing could stop these guys. They all assumed that they were going to lose their lives for the sake of sharing the gospel, and most of them did.
It’s rattling to me that Christians today can read such stories and testimonies of power and boldness without admitting that there is something misconstrued in the way we follow Jesus. We often stand amazed at the way Paul and Silas sang praises to God in a jail cell. We admire the joy that Stephen died with as he was pounded by heavy stones. Where have we missed the mark in being so in love with the Lord that it doesn’t bother us that we aren’t living the same way? What are we not getting?
Some would say that we need more of the Holy Spirit, that we need more of His supernatural boldness to go share the gospel without the worry of repercussions. As I ponder that idea, I can’t help but disagree. Others would make the argument that in our western culture, we don’t have to worry about being imprisoned or murdered due to our Christian beliefs. In a nutshell, they are asserting that we don’t live that way because we don’t have to. I disagree here as well. Lastly, people make the argument that it is easier to invite people to church than it is to tell them their gospel story experience. Not everyone will say this with their mouths, but it’s what we do. Inviting people to church has become the most used form of “evangelism” in America.
Here is why I disagree with all three of these.
I am a firm believer that we need more Holy Spirit. We must live in a state of obedience that is always submissive to the spirit of God and His direction. We should constantly be asking the Spirit for more of His boldness and power. That isn’t the issue here. The problem isn’t that we aren’t bold risk-takers. It isn’t because we aren’t willing to lose something valuable to gain or increase in another area. We spend valuable time at the gym to obtain muscle mass or long hours at our jobs to see a bigger paycheck. Most of us would even be willing to step in front of a bullet to save a loved one, at least we say we would. I don’t think we are lacking boldness. I do believe it is hard to tap into the supernatural boldness we have already been given when the increase is in an area that we care nothing about.
I value my time more than I value money. You will rarely see me extending my hours to see a bigger financial gain. Many obese men and women in our country don’t value their health enough to risk time in the gym or the taste of a bland salad. Most Christians don’t see the value of building the kingdom as greater than the sacrifice of their desires or conveniences. We don’t take risks in telling people about Jesus because we don’t feel it is worth it to give up something of our own. The more value we see in advancing the gospel, the more we will sacrifice of ourselves to see it happen.
Paul, Silas and the other disciples knew that their lives would be sold out to sharing the gospel. They weren’t afraid to lose their lives because they valued the outcome. When do we get to a place as Christians that we value the salvation of others over the expense of something important in our lives? Whatever it is, we aren’t there yet. We lack compassion, we are swallowed up in selfishness and ultimately have yet to learn what it means to die to ourselves and carry our crosses daily. We can ask for more spirit, but that will do us no good if we fail to obtain the apathy towards the lost world to put it into action.
If we aren’t willing to lose our friends, our jobs or our statuses for the sake of the gospel, we will never be ready to risk our lives. We may not have to face death or imprisonment for our faith in America or the western church, but how do you think we would face those things if they came knocking on our doorstep? Seeing that we aren’t taking the risk on the small things that we face, I’m guessing we wouldn’t handle it very well. We would probably fold under pressure.
I’m a firm believer that we use this idea as a justification for not living with crazy faith. We think that we don’t have to go big because it isn’t necessary. When Paul and Silas were released from prison, scripture tells us that they were honored to have been considered worthy to endure such shame. They found joy in being spit on and rejected. They knew because they were asked to endure it, they were worthy to carry the gospel message. Paul and Silas didn’t find joy in being persecuted because they were asked to take the gospel to the nations, they found joy in knowing they had favor in the sight of the Lord. They found joy knowing that they had been given the highest honor on earth to be a vessel to carry this sacred message.
We may not face the risks that Paul and the other disciples did by preaching about Jesus. We do, however, have the similarity that we must learn what it looks like for us to give of ourselves for our calling to evangelize. That may look different for all of us. The question you have to ask and resolve in your heart is, “what am I willing to give up that is of tremendous value to me to tell others about Jesus?” Is it your children, your job or even your life? We aren’t spreading the gospel with abandon because we haven’t identified what we are willing to lose to do it. You may think God would never ask you to give up something that big in your life. You have to answer that question though. One day He might.
Just Come and See
If you believe this, you are correct. But just because something is easy doesn’t mean that it is always the right thing to do. It’s always appropriate to ask someone to come to church with you. There is a time and a place for that. When it becomes a crutch for not telling your story is when we start swimming around in dangerous waters. Scripture tells us we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony, not our ability to gather people into a building.
I have heard it preached from the pulpit that inviting someone to a church should be the first thing we do when we get into a conversation with an unbeliever. This does three things. First, it hinders what the Holy Spirit is wanting to do in that conversation through the believer. Second, it strips away the authority that you have been given to tell your testimony. And lastly, it disempowers you. It makes you believe that your conversion story isn’t convincing enough to bring someone else to Jesus. This is what disturbs me the most about the seeker-sensitive movement in America. We have put more stock in our services and church aesthetics to bring the lost closer to God than our personal love stories with Jesus.
It’s hard to put something of value on the line when we feel that the weapon, we are using isn’t very powerful. I would never make a bet with someone that I would win a golf tournament because my golf game is terrible. The more efficient I believe my golf game is, the more I am willing to take that risk. When we believe our story can pierce the heart of an unbeliever and draw them closer to the Lord, we will be willing to share it with more confidence. It’s sad, but the current state of the church’s growth strategy has left believers feeling as if their story doesn’t matter. I’m here to tell you that it does, and it carries the weight and conviction that scripture says it does. It is indeed much easier to invite someone to church, but you will find so much joy in your purpose as an evangelist when you know that the Lord has called you worthy enough to sacrifice for the cause of spreading the gospel.
There is so much more here to tell and dissect. Books have been written on this topic. I want to leave you by encouraging you that sharing the gospel with someone who doesn’t know Him is THE most important thing that you could do today. It’s the most important thing you could do tomorrow, and it is the most important thing you could sell your life out for. We have been called to tell others about Jesus at any and every cost. My question for you is, what are you willing to give up to do it? What are you willing to put down to pick up your cross and fully follow Jesus?
There are lost souls out there who need the compassion that is buried deep inside of you. They need the power of your testimony to speak the truth of Jesus into their lives. You may have never been told this before, but you are powerful and qualified. I am rooting for you! What joy it is to know that you are worthy to sacrifice for the gospel!
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