As you may know we are moving into a year of emphasis on the Biblical purpose of Outreach, Reaching Out with the life-changing message of Jesus, to do as Matthew 28:19-20 says (if you don’t know it please look it up). As I have been studying and researching for the Sunday sermons, I have been hit anew with an old-time reality. It is not some slick technique in sharing the points of how someone can choose to believe in Jesus (though according to 1 Peter 3:15-16 we should be ready). By the way, do you have an answer if someone were to ask you how they can come to faith? Is it clear enough that they would know what to do by what you shared? One help I like to use are the five key verses from the book of Romans:
Romans 3:23 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:10-11 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
Romans 10:13 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
You see, it is not some cool church program that draws people to hear a message of salvation, although good programs are effective. Bringing someone to church is great also, because it exposes them to God’s Word, God’s loving people, and here at Cypress Church they will most likely hear how they can receive the Lord on any given Sunday. Although God has used that many times in the life of someone seeking to know Him that’s not what has been challenging me.
So what God has been challenging me with is to see all people the way He does. You know that God loves everyone (John 3:16). “Everyone” includes the Believer, to the super sinner, to the most humble saint. Not only that, we are all made in His image (Genesis 1:27), and He as personally designed each one of us (Psalm 139). “Each one of us” is you, me, the person next door, the criminal, the person practicing Islam or Mormonism, and even the person who hates God. He has handmade us all. We are His workmanship…
Ephesians 2:10 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
We are all the handmade creations of God bearing His image and the object of His affection. No mater what we have done or will do God loves us. Even if we don’t care about Him or practice another religion or even hate Him, He still loves us all!
So here’s the point, we are to love all people like God does, not just the Christians. We are to see beyond whatever label we put on people: non-believer, atheist, gay-activist, Mormon, sinner, militant Muslim, unsafe, homeless, addict, or swindler and love them as an image-of-God-bearer, and also because God loves them.
1 John 4:7 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God (read all of 1John 4 to dig deeper).
The problem is that we Christians tend to objectify people who don’t believe like us as a project to work on or a soul to win. We devalue people who are not like us by avoiding them, by so quickly telling them their view of life is wrong, by condemning them, by labeling them. We are to see them as the precious creations of God that they are and value them with attention, conversation, and even relationship.
We will be talking a little more about this on Sunday and more next Sunday, but I want to encourage you to think about this Bible verse:
Colossians 4:5-6 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
How can we do this with the ‘outsiders’ (meaning those who do not believe like we do) that the Lord puts in front or near us? Not cramming a gospel track down their throat, but showing them value. I encourage you to spend a little time asking God how you might apply this verse in light of what we have been talking about.
If you feel so inclined I would love to know your thoughts. Feel free to write back or respond to the blog: https://messagefrommike.wordpress.com/ . I know this has been both encouraging and challenging for me.
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday. I sure hope you can make it.
Grace and Peace,