Posts Tagged ‘unbelievers’

The title may seem counterproductive and even in opposition to what Jesus said in Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19-20. In Mark 16:15 Jesus told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation. The Greek word used for “preach” is kēryssō, and means to publish or proclaim openly something which has been done. And in Matthew 28 the Greek word used for “make disciples” is mathēteuō, and means to teach. (Notice Jesus did not say to make converts, but disciples)

And yet in all cases where the apostles “preached” the gospel or made “disciples” there is not one instance of any of them inviting an unbeliever into the Temple or a “Home Church” in order to hear the gospel preached by others so they could be saved.

We are commanded to—openly proclaim something which has been done for us; AND to make disciples—teach others about the Jesus we know and who saved us. WE—not the preacher or minister at our church—WE are to go.

I have heard many say that they invite unbelievers to church services so that they can hear the gospel. I say that they need to repent of their laziness and proclaim the gospel themselves.

The role of the pastor is to to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:12)  And also to give instruction in sound doctrine. (Titus 1:9) Nowhere does the Bible teach or even allude to the pastor having the responsibility of preaching the gospel to unbelievers—-that’s our job. The pastor’s job is to equip US; so that WE can go into the world and proclaim the gospel and make disciples.

In Haggai 2: 12-14 we read, ’If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the Lord, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. (Haggai 2:12-14)

Let me put it this way: If you were recently showered and smelled fresh and clean, and attempted to hug a skunk—would the skunk smell fresh because of you, or would you begin to stink from the skunk? And if you were healthy and went to visit someone who had a contagious disease—would your healthiness make the sick person well, or would you become sick from the disease?

Christians today have this idea that if they invite an unbelieving friend to a church service and at the end of the service, their friend walks down in front of the congregation and parrots some prayer, that they have done their part. But the actions of some can sometimes be deceiving.

In Acts 8:13-24 Simon Magus professed to believe, and was baptized, yet he was declared to be in the bonds of iniquity. In Matthew 7:21 we read, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”

Many complain about how weak the Church has become. The reason is simple. First we invited unbelievers to worship with us a God that they don’t believe in; Then we wanted to make them feel more like part of us and accepted, so we invited them to join the choir, or teach Sunday school, or work in the nursery; And before we knew it, they were preaching doctrines of demons from our own pulpits!

In 1Corinthians 15:33 we read, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” And that is exactly what has happened in many congregations after inviting unbelievers into their church services.

I don’t know of any parent who would allow someone they don’t know anything about to care for their child—and yet, many people drop off their children to the church nursery or Sunday school class without knowing anything about the person watching over their children, or what they’re teaching them.

By now I know that there are many reading this who are shouting at their computer screen about the many people who were saved because they invited them to a church service.

I do believe that God can draw unbelievers into a church service by His spirit and get them saved right then and there. But I also believe that God’s spirit is not limited to only reaching people in a church service. I know of people who were saved at rock concerts—one at a Led Zeppelin concert, the other at a Black Sabbath concert! Many more have been saved from talking to Christians on the street, at work and at homeless shelters.

I am not suggesting that we post guards at the doors of our churches to test people for salvation. For even the apostle Paul was sensitive to the unbeliever who may be in the midst of the believing congregation:

“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” – 1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Paul assumes that there exists a possibility of unbelievers in the midst of our church services, but nowhere does he advocate believers inviting them.

So how should we behave toward unbelievers? 

Should we like them? Hate them? Tolerate them? Do we act like them when we aren’t in Christian company? Or do we snub them if we don’t agree with their lifestyle?

Some Christians think that being kind to unbelievers is like throwing pearls before swine and declare how sinful unbelievers are. Others just don’t care one way or another…But shouldn’t we still be concerned about their salvation?

The Bible is very specific about how we as Christians, are to conduct ourselves toward the unbeliever: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6)

God wants us to conduct ourselves with wisdom toward unbelievers. First and foremost, we need to keep focus on the cross of Christ. Because the sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, forgiven us our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us. As we were once against God in our unbelief, God was gracious and kind to us. Because of that, we are able to be kind to others who don’t yet know Him.

It seems to me that the apostle Paul was more concerned about the sinfulness inside the Church than he was about unbelievers:

“But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)

Yes, we want to reach out to the world. Yes, we want to touch the world. Yes, we want to lead them to Christ. But we have to stop short of a full acceptance of their lifestyle which could lead to a spiritual disaster—for them and for us.

So let us go beyond the church walls, go out quickly to the streets of the city—to the “poor and crippled and blind and lame”, and  proclaim to them the gospel. THEN invite them to your church so that they can be discipled. Do this, and you will fulfill the great commission of our Lord.

Advertisements

Recently I had posted an article on Face Book with the intent to bring awareness of the fact that many children and young people in the United States are trapped in the human sex trafficking trade and how organizations such as Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) https://ourrescue.org that use undercover teams of former CIA and Special Ops personnel go into the darkest corners of the world to help local law enforcement rescue  enslaved children and dismantle the criminal networks.

I was a bit disturbed and amazed when a Christian left a response to my post voicing his opinion that he does not believe that Christians should have anything to do with trying to help those who are caught up in the world’s evil because we belong to the kingdom of God and nothing we (Christians) do will ever change the evil that remains in the world.

He ended his response by insinuating that anyone who tries to help those who are caught up in the world’s problems, (poverty, homelessness, abuse) has a humanistic view of the world and is not what Jesus or the apostle Paul taught.

I have since discovered (To my dismay) that there are many Christians who believe that we should only help those who belong to the Christian faith. That when Jesus said that we are to love our neighbor, he was speaking about only our Christian neighbor—our brothers and sisters in Christ.

But what does the Bible teach about this?

In Luke 10:25-37 we read about a lawyer who tried to test Jesus asking, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus asked him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” (Or how do you understand it?) The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”

But the lawyer, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told him the parable of the good Samaritan, a story about a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him for dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road and when he saw the man he passed by on the other side. Then a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side as well. 

But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he gave money to the innkeeper and told him to look after him, and said, “When I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.” Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” The lawyer replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”

So according to Jesus, EVERYONE is our neighbor. And if everyone is our neighbor, how is refusing to help someone in need when we have the power and resources to do so, showing love to our neighbor? And how is obeying Jesus by responding to the needs of the poor, the downtrodden or those caught in the trap of human sex trafficking considered to be humanism?

Mistakingly believing that loving our neighbor refers to only other believers is nothing new. It was also a problem in ancient Judaism because of the people’s self-consciousness of being the chosen people and sealed in the rite of circumcision. This set Israel apart, made the people particularly loyal to their own kind, but at the same time, led to the tendency to neglect, and even condemn, those who were not Israelites. With such tendencies, it is not surprising that commandments had to be given to Israel to encourage compassion and justice for the non-Jew. Thus, Moses prescribed rites of conversion for the foreigner who wanted to eat Passover with Israel. (Exodus 12:43-49) He also commanded that some crops were to be left for the poor and the alien. (Leviticus  19:9-10)

In the New Testament period the Jews understood the biblical laws of the Old Testament that speak of neighbors as a command for special treatment of fellow Jews. Jews showed special love for fellow Jews because they were covenantally and racially bound together. There was a general social friendliness to Gentiles, but Jewish prejudice still remained. Even early Christianity showed a similar kind of “prejudiced love”. (Gal 6:10)

Jesus sought to expand the concept of “neighbor” to include non-Jews and even unbelievers. This was clearly challenging to many in Judaism as well as the early Church. Jewish practice had come to the general conviction that a “neighbor, ” in purely legal terms, was a Jew or proselyte to Judaism. For Jesus, a neighbor was anyone with whom you came into contact with—whether Jew, Samaritan, Gentile—or even pagan!

This profound parable of the good Samaritan, with its teaching on the importance of showing love for anyone within one’s reach, along with Jesus’ command to love one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and his love for Gentiles, (as in the case of the Roman Centurion—Matthew 8:5-13) Samaritans, (as in the case of the woman at the well—John 4:1-26) became foundational for the early Church’s missionary efforts and for interpersonal relationships within the largely non-Jewish churches of Paul. Paul urged the Galatians to love their neighbors as themselves and here the implication is that it involved both Jewish and Gentile Christians (Galatians 5:14) and we find in Luke 6:27 an emphasis on loving one’s enemy, (Meaning Jew, Gentile, or pagan) and doing good to them.

There are other Bible verses that confirm this:

Philippians 2:4 – Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Proverbs 19:17 – Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.

Matthew 5:42 – Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Romans 15:1- We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

Allison Stevens wrote a very good article for the Daily Bread website concerning this subject in which she stated:

Jesus’ entire adult life was characterized by a deep concern for the spiritual condition of the nonbeliever. He saw them as desperately lost, and His heart was broken because of that. His compassionate purpose for their well-being was deep-rooted, and He showed this concern specifically in the way He met them where they lived, fed them, taught them, and healed them. (Matthew 9:9-11; Mark 1:33-34)

The example Jesus set for us is to build relationships with people who don’t yet know Him. When we meet a person who has not yet experienced God’s saving grace, we are to have the heart of Jesus and extend a helping hand at their point of need. If they are thirsty, we can give them a cup of water; if they’re hungry, we can feed them. (See Matthew 25:35-40)

Let’s not forget that Jesus came to our rescue when we were lost. So now, out of gratitude and love, we can find opportunities to do what we can to help others who are separated from God. Isolating ourselves from sinners misses the point of sharing the good news of Jesus, and it feeds into a self-righteous attitude.

I think it’s clear that we, in countless ways and opportunities, can and should reach out to non-Christian people. We can show them love by offering them a meal, a job, or friendship, and most importantly, we can introduce them to Jesus, the Savior of our souls.

My heart grieves for my neighbors who don’t know the joy that is available to them through Jesus. I believe that we can do much more to be Jesus’ hands and feet to those who are lost and alone in this world.

Romans 12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

While the motive for the recent shooting rampages remain a mystery, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School especially shook many across this country to its core. Like many other people, I am in shock and disbelief at this horrible tragedy that took so many innocent lives. As a father and grandfather, I cannot conceive why anyone would want to hurt innocent children and their teachers.

While families in Connecticut are dealing with heart ache and grief, the rest of us will be trying to wrap our brain around this madness. We may want to focus blame on something that makes sense to us. The lack of gun control; the broken mental healthcare system; the lawlessness and apathy of this generation; and the list goes on and on. We can debate the reasons for this tragedy but in the end many of us still want to scream, “Why?”

Many Evangelical Christians have been quick to lay the blame for this tragedy on the fact that we have taken God and prayer out of school. It’s true that more and more Americans have moved away from traditional Judeo-Christian values, but I don’t believe the reason for the increasing gun violence is that cut and dry. The fact is, there is evil in this world and there will be things that happen that we have no explanation for.

Years ago my son and his friend were killed in a car accident on their way to work. I grieved and wept and prayed to God, but I never got an answer as to why. I suspect that the parents of these precious children will grieve and weep and pray the same as I did.

When dealing with such a sensitive subject, the Bible is very specific about how we as Christians are to speak: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Col. 4:6) When we speak in public and in private our speech should be kind, gentle, positive, helpful, and insightful. So instead of trying to lay blame for this tragedy on an unbelieving world, maybe we should pray and grieve with them, knowing that our heavenly Father is grieving with them too; and will comfort them as only He can.

The Church needs to be careful not to become ignorant of what it means to be truly godly. We are to be a light to this darkened world. And without it mankind is capable of committing terrible atrocities to both individuals and groups. I pray that Christians will wake up and see how much we need to pray for God’s divine intervention and protection from evil.
In memory of all who left us too soon: