Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Rejections- It's Promised to Come

Finally, after two events at work and a “flu-like” sickness kept me away from the keyboard, we are back. I will try and finish out the last 3 topics in the next week and a half or so. 

So to recap where all the last five posts has been heading, we’ve walked through what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is and looked at how some of the disciples shared and took some guidelines from Scripture to aid us in effective evangelism. We have now arrived at the “after” stage. What happens now that I have laid out the Gospel? Is my job over? What do I say next? Over the next three posts we will look to Scripture to guide us through what to do when people respond to the Gospel. As we saw at the end of Acts 17 there are generally three ways people can respond; some will mock, others will ask more questions and some will believe.

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them. Acts 17:32-34
Today we will look to Scripture to help equip us for the outcome of rejection of the Gospel by those we share it with.

As those who follow Christ, we are promised difficult times and a hard road; Jesus Himself says as much.

Matthew 10:22 (When sending out the Disciples)- “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.”

Mark records this as well in Mark 13:13- “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”

John 15:18-21- “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

I highlight these passages to say that we have been warned that rejections will be apart of our lives as we live for Christ, so we should be prepared for what is guaranteed to come. Now to bring this back around to evangelism, when the unregenerate heart hears the Good News its reaction is to push back and reject it. I want to look to God, Jesus and the Disciples as examples of how to deal with rejections. (side note: I know God and Jesus are both one in the Trinity but I separated out Their reactions as “big picture” and “relational rejection”)

To know how God dealt with rejection we have only to look to the history of Israel in the Old Testament. Hundreds of years waffling back and forth in their loyalty and worship we see God constantly show His long-suffering, patience and faithfulness to pursue His people. One of the passages that sums this up well is Hosea 2:14-23 as God talks of how He will restore His people after constant rejection.

14“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
15 I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
16 “And it shall be, in that day,”
Says the Lord,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’
17 For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals,
And they shall be remembered by their name no more.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
With the birds of the air,
And with the creeping things of the ground.
Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth,
To make them lie down safely.
19 “I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In loving kindness and mercy;
20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the Lord.
21 “It shall come to pass in that day
That I will answer,” says the Lord;
“I will answer the heavens,
And they shall answer the earth.
22 The earth shall answer
With grain,
With new wine,
And with oil;
They shall answer Jezreel.
23 Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth,
And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy
Then I will say to those who were not My people,
‘You are My people!’
And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’”

Here we see God continuing to show His love and faithfully pursue those who have rejected Him and He continues to show mercy in the midst of their rebellion.

We can also looked to the books of 1 & 2 Kings. It won’t take you long to see a pattern in the reigns of the Kings of Israel and Judah. With few exceptions the Kings of God’s chosen people are described by these words, “And he did evil in the sight of the Lord”. Even through their rejection and desire to do as they pleased, God remained faithful to His people as He promised Abraham and Moses He would. Our God is patient, and faithful to pursue.

To bring this a little closer to home, most of us who are in Christ have only to look to our own lives to see that God is good, loving, patient and faithful. Each of us has our own stories but think on this, to what lengths did Christ go to find you and bring you to Himself?

So, if God can show love, patience and faithfulness in the midst of rejection we then should do the same. We are to continue to love, and treat well those that have rejected the Gospel. We are to do this because we are commanded to do so, but also because it’s not given to us to know if or when someone will be born into the family of God and I would never want to drive them further away from God with my own sinful words or actions towards them.

Many things changed when Jesus come onto the scene of human history. One of the things that changed was how we were to regard other people.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48

To me, one of the most wonderful things about Christ is that He does not ask of us anything He Himself did not do. He was rejected by His own people in John 6:41-71. Even through rejection by His own people, just as God was in the Old Testament, Christ continues to stay faithful to the mission He’d been given by His Father. He continues to disciple those who followed Him, healing those in need and teaching of things to come.

Despite this rejection, and in the midst of His crucifixion, He prays for them, “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do’” (Luke 23:34). If Christ can pray for those who took His rejection so far as to crucify Him, we can certainly pray for those that mock our belief.

Like God showed Himself to be in the Old Testament, Jesus Christ left the door open for restoration for those that sought it. After Peter’s outspoken denial of knowing Jesus, He restores Peter and is open to have him return to Him. John 21:15-19 lays out Peter’s restoration.

By this point you may begin to notice a pattern. And you may be saying, “yeah but that was God, Who has infinite patience and foresight, I’m just human”. So I'll turn us to other humans to see that it is indeed possible to follow the example of God.

After receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the disciples began to preach Christ crucified to the Jews. Word got to the Sanhedrin and Peter and John were called before them; “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:18). In spite of this, they continued to preach, knowing that their mission was God-given. Knowing that they were opposed, yet wanting to be obedient, they prayed, “‘29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word,30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus’ (Acts 4:29).

Stephen (the first Christian martyr) continued to stay faithful to his mission up to the point of death. His account can be found in Acts 7. Stephen believed the mission of Christ was worth enduring to his end and was not hindered by the rejection of the high priest and Jewish people. He faithfully carried out the mission God had for him. Stephen’s execution was carried out in the sight of Saul, who later became Paul- one of the most influential Evangelists of the early Church and writer of the majority of the New Testament letters.

In 2 Corinthians 11:22-28 Paul gives a rundown of some of the opposition he faced as he carried out his mission-
22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.
Despite the rejections, beating and imprisonments, Paul continually drew on his belief in Christ and that sharing the Good News was worth much more than he received in physical pain.

We in America, have yet to truly understand persecution the way these early disciples did and how many of our brothers and sisters in other countries are currently fighting, but there will come a day where our faith is tested and we will be rejected as we share the Gospel. As we prepare ourselves for evangelism and walking out our faith with Christ Jesus we can look to scripture to give us confidence to continue. So I remind you, we must stay focused on the mission given to us by Jesus Christ, pray for those that reject the Gospel because we do not know if they might come to saving knowledge of Christ later in life, love them through your words and actions and trust in the sovereignty of our God.

Encouragement from Scripture:

1 Corinthians 16:13-14- 13 Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done with love.

1 Corinthians 3:5-8- 5 Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

John 10:25-30
- Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

"Don't take my word for it, be like the church at Berea, “[They] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Paul Proclaims Jesus. Be Like Paul.

Beginning with a short recap of last week- We looked at three common threads we see in Scripture as the disciples share the Good News of Jesus Christ- Listening/Observing, Introduction to the Truth of things, and Telling them the Good News. This time around we will look at one particular account, also in the Book of Act. This is actually the passage that originally helped spark the idea behind this Bible Study and my interest in Evangelism in general. We will take a look at Paul’s sermon to the Athenians at Mars Hill. Some of your translations won’t necessarily denote the location as Mars Hill, but rather refer to where Paul preached as the Areopagus (a word I’m very glad to be typing and not speaking because I pronounce it differently every time I try).

Now that we’ve established the Three Threads in the previous post we will break Acts 17:16-34 up into three sections, and observe how Paul intertwines the threads as he shares the Gospel.

Section 1- Listening/Observing: Verses 16-23a
“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentiles worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “what does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak?” 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription TO THE UNKNOWN GOD….”

We can split this first thread into two separate threads: Listening and Observing. First and foremost, we see Paul listen to the Holy Spirit within him; “his spirit was provoked within him(v16). This is the most important part of listening, I find that I tend to be really good at messing things up when I am leading the task at hand, but when God is leading, it is a much different story. Our story might not make sense as we walk through it, but I am confident He knows the way far better than I. So Paul not only listens to the moving of the Spirit but he acts on it, going to the synagogue where people would already have a context he could speak the Good New into (the Jews and Gentile worshippers). Then as he continues to teach and he goes out to those that might not have an context of the Good News (the marketplace). This attracts the attention of some of the people in Athens, enough so that they approach him and begin to ask him questions.

 Paul then listens to his audience as they ask him questions; “What does this babbler want to say?”, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods(v18) and “may we know what this new doctrine is?' (v19) and they wanted to know what he meant (v20). By listening to the questions that are asked of him, Paul is better able to direct the information he has, to their particular questions.

Here we see some pretty direct and open ended questions, in our lives the questions might not be this obvious or direct but if we listen to those around us and to the Holy Spirit for prompting, we will both know when it is time to speak and what should be said (Luke 12:12).

The second part of this thread is Observing; which Paul does as he walks through Athens. Through his observations, he learns some very important things, first that they are a very religious people (v22), that they spent their time discussing new ideas, or in my context sittin’ in the kitchen just talkin’ (v21) and that they had many different temples to different gods (v23). It is in this last bit of observing that Paul finds his “doorway” through which he brings Jesus Christ into their context.

For us, that might look like answering questions like, “we keep getting screwed over on this job, why are you so calm about it? or “why don’t you get into political debates?” and we can answer, that’s because our contentment and provision comes from Someone bigger than our boss, and we’re not worried about politics because we know Who is sovereign over our government. Look for the little opportunities to tell what Christ has done in your life, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big melodramatic story but perhaps the simple ways that God has provided for you, sustained you, brought you joy in a time where it was hard to find; things like that.

Section 2- Introducing them to the Truth of things: Verses 23b-31

“Therefore, the One Whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

Here we see Paul set the record straight so to speak. Their knowledge of God in some areas was incomplete and in others flat out wrong and when I read this passage I tend to read it with a matter-of-fact tone rather than an angry accusatory tone. I don’t think Paul was pointing a finger and condemning them for what they believed but rather explaining the Truth of the matter. We touched on it last post, but it bares repeating; how we say things in just as important as what we are saying. Typically, it’s hard to get someone to listen to you when you in their face about something, especially when it comes to religious matters. And besides, the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not need us to defend it. My dad shares this quote by Charles Surgeon with me and I think is applicable here-
“A great many learned men are defending the gospel; no doubt it is a very proper and right thing to do, yet I always notice that, when there are most books of that kind, it is because the gospel itself is not being preached. Supposed a number of persons were to take it into their heads that they had to defend a lion, a full grown king of beasts! There he is in the cage, and here come all the soldiers of the army to fight for him. Well, I should suggest to them...that they should kindly stand back, and open the door, and let the lion out! I believe that would be the best way of defending him, for he will take care of himself; and the best “apology” for the gospel is to let the gospel out. Nevermind defending Deuteronomy or the whole of the Pentateuch; preach Jesus Christ and him crucified. Let the Lion out, and see who will dare to approach him. The Lion of the tribe of Judah will soon drive away all his adversaries.” Christ and His Co-Workers, June 10, 1886
The Gospel can stand on its own truth and does not need us to prove it right, but merely to share it in its completeness. This is what Paul was doing with the men of Athens. If we look closely we can see him laying out three of the four points in the Gospel context we talked about at the beginning of this study. He introduces (1) God the creator in v24 and lets them know that (2) we were separated from Him and are His children in v27&29. Then Paul introduces (3) Jesus Christ to them in v31 as the Risen One, Who will judge the world in righteousness.

Something that should be noted is this, Paul sees and praises common ground rather than solely focusing on correcting them. He finds where both Scripture, and their philosophers, are in agreement and builds from that point (verse 28). This is important for us to try and do when we get the chance to share the Gospel; we want to build up what they know that’s right and help correct what is wrong. Correction without praise is often taken as tyrannical. Sadly, sometimes there might not be any common ground with those we share (outside of all of us falling short in God’s eyes) so we must teach with humility and kindness; as Jesus did.

Section 3- Tell them the Good News: verses 30 & 31
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

The Good News of the freedom found in Christ’s death and resurrection is not explicitly included in this passage but it is danced around, and from the next couple verses the assumption can be made that Paul did tell them how they could be saved.

Paul does show that there is a need for something to be done. He tell them that God overlooked their ignorance until now (implying it’s time to do something) and that they need to repent (remember this means turn away, not be sorry for) in v30 and gives the qualification for why repentance is necessary (v31).

So all the elements of the Gospel Context are present and scripture shows that the people respond in three different ways; they mock, they question (v32) and some believe (v34). In our adventures of sharing the Gospel I believe we can expect much of the same reactions. Some will make fun of what we say and outright hate and refute what we share about Jesus Christ, others will have their curiosity peeked enough to thinking about what we share and ask to know more, and then there will be those who believe on Jesus Christ for their salvation. I’ll also note that in our culture, we might come across those who will reject the Good News in a less aggressive way by merely ignoring it or claiming Jesus just isn’t for them. Once we share the reason for the Hope within us, our jobs have not been completed; in many ways they have just begun. We will deal with each of these different groups and what our responsibility to them will be in the coming posts.

"Don't take my word for it, be like the church at Berea, “[They] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Three Threads of Evangelism

We’ve now come to the VERB portion of our Bible Study; the part where we learn to DO Something. We’ve looked at what the Gospel is and its complete context, which is necessary to be able to share. In college I learned that if I could explain something to someone else, then I knew it well enough to pass the exam or paper we would have to write, so I would lead review sessions and study groups for my classmates; and if I could effectively lead the review session, then I knew I would do well on the exam and if I did it right; so would they. I’ve found this to be true for biblical study as well. Something I heard Francis Chan say about discipleship helped take that lesson from something simply secular and apply it to my walk with Christ. To paraphrase what he said: we should be studying Scripture with the intent to share what we learn. Don’t just read until you understand, study until you understand it well enough to share and for that very reason I added in the REAP session to this Bible study (Part 3 of this Bible Study). If we can effectively communicate what we know to someone else and then they can communicate it to another, we together, are fulfilling the Great Commission and making disciples. So we study Scripture all our lives, taking in as much as the Holy Spirit will pour out, until we can explain the story of Jonah to a room full of Kindergartner or room full of pastors.

Now, the privilege of telling people about Jesus is not just given solely to pastors, but all who follow Christ. And personally, I feel if I’m going to do something for my King, I want it to be my very best and to the Glory of God; “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God(1 Corinthians 10:31). So in order for me to give it my best, I aim to be ‘effective”. I want to be used in a way that makes a difference to others. Although God does not need us to help Him save souls, He has given us the privilege of introducing the One who does.

From the outset of our lesson, I want to be very clear, this is not a magic formula, the only formula or a formula at all. God is the One who does the work. Like I said before, we are simply given the privilege of making the introduction. Paul puts it like this, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). He continues to say that we receive our reward for what we have done (v7). So we get “graded” on what we do, not what happened because of what we do. Also, I want to remind us that Evangelism is not typically a short process. We will look at a few examples from scripture that are less than a chapter long and if we are not careful, could be misled into thinking from the introduction of Jesus to their salvation is always so quickly accomplished. Know that sometimes it may be that quick, but it also could take months, years or an almost complete lifetime. We need to speak up as the Spirit prompts, trusting Him to know the timing of things.

Now to Scripture, God graciously gives us examples of how to be effective. Again,we will look to Peter and Paul. We will see three common threads of Evangelism throughout the passages we will examine. If you’ve got your Bible handy -and I encourage you to always have your Bible with you as we study together- please read Acts 2:1-39.

First thing I want to draw your attentions to are the questions the men of Judea ask the disciples. Verse 6 shows them to be confused about what is going on and verses 7, 8, 12 are their questions based on what they have observed and verse 13 is their assumption about what’s happening. Peter hears these questions and begins to answer each of them, as he gives the first New Testament Sermon. The first of the three common threads is Listening/Observing to those around you, whether that be friends, coworkers, classmates, the lady on the train next to you during your commute, etc. So often I think we (and I am loudly including myself in that “we”) want to jump right to the telling about Jesus part of Evangelism and I believe that’s partly due to the lack of training and instruction in the American churches. We tell people to go out sharing the Gospel but that usually is taken as “tell them about Jesus and their sin”. Sadly, this isn’t how we see Jesus, the disciples and other is Scripture do it. They walked alongside those they intended on sharing the Good News with. Jesus went and ate in their homes, Paul stayed in different town for months at time, Jesus sent the disciples out with the instructions of stay in their homes with them (Matthew 10:11-12). They did not practice “drive by evangelism”; shouting “You need Jesus!” as they ran through the towns. They walked among, lived with and listened to the people around them.

Paul gives us a glimpse into how he helped share the good news of Jesus Christ in 1 Corinthians 9:9-23-

“For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under the law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak that I might win the weak, I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

It is important to note, that he did not become them, but like them. This is a very important distinction, because we are to always act “under the law toward Christ”, as Paul puts it. He did not sacrifice his own walk with Christ for the sake of others, but befriended those he shared the Gospel with in order to be in a position to introduce them to the One who saves. Something that sums this passage up well came from the pastor of Life.Church, Craig Groeschel, who said earn the right to be heard by those around you. And that’s exactly was Paul was doing as he came alongside the different people he shared the Good News with.

Now back to Peter and Acts 2-

After Peter heard the men of Judea asking questions and observed what they were saying, he got up and began to explain. In other words he took the time to introduce the truth of what was going on (Acts 2:16). This is the second thread in Evangelism- Introducing the Truth. After we have spent time listening, walking alongside those around us, opportunities will arise where we will be given the opportunity to share Truth with them. That truth may be that there is a God, or that no matter how “good” a person in they still need a Savior, or that Jesus is the answer to the questions they have been asking, there will be too many scenarios to count. The truth that needs to be shared will them will arise from the questions they ask, the conversations you have with them, by life in general, but we won’t know what to speak or when to speak if we do not first listen.

When we get the opportunity to speak truth into the situation we need to be conscious of the fact that the way we says things is just as important as what we say. There is nothing more frustrating to me than a person that sees me struggling with something (currently in the office we are implementing a new computer system so I’ve been observed struggling more often than usual lately) and have them step in and take the task from me and do it for me; as if to say, “move out of the way you are doing it wrong, I’ve got it figured out so let me do it for you”. I am much more appreciative of someone when they come alongside me and say, “do it like this, let me walk you through it so you can learn how to do it on your own”. It is the same when we share truth, it needs to come from a place of humility and desire to see the other person get it for themselves.

A second point that must be considered when we share truth with people is there will probably be a language barrier. I’m not talking about speaking English or Spanish, but a barrier between the “Christian church language” and those that have not grown up in church. BuzzFeed did a short video on this subject, it's pretty funny you can watch it here (warning-mild language): People Guess What Christian Phrases Mean. Just like trying to communicate with someone from a non-English speaking country, we will have a hard time getting details and fine points across the Church terms barrier. So we want to make sure we are speaking in a “language” they can understand.

Even though Paul is talking specifically about speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14:9-11, I believe the principle of being understood for the benefit of others applies.
9 So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be know what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. 11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.”
In order to effectively share the Gospel we must be understood by those whom we are sharing with. This is why we must constantly be in the Word and seeking the truth for ourselves, we cannot, and definitely should not, be sharing what we do not know.

To this end, Peter uses excerpts from the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16-21) and King David (verses 25-28 and 34), both parts of Scripture the men of Judea should have known, to explain the truth of what was going on that day. As Peter shares the truth, notice he is doing so with a purpose; he speaks truth leading to the point where he can introduce Jesus Christ.

Which conveniently leads me to the third thread of Evangelism; Introducing Jesus Christ. Peter has set the table so to speak and once it has been set through the listening to the men of Judea and the sharing of truth, he introduce them to Jesus Christ. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). As part of the introduction, he tells who Jesus is, and what Jesus is. In this case Peter used the terms Lord and Christ; introducing Him as Savior. Peter did this by using the term “Christ” which means Messiah in Hebrew. The people of Judea would have understood this and were looking for their Messiah, or savior and Peter tells them Jesus is whom they were seeking.

As we listen and live alongside those we are intending to share the Good News with we will learn how best to introduce Jesus to them. If your friend is weary they may need to be introduced to Jesus the One who is able to provide rest (Matthew 11:28) or if they are heartbroken they might need to know Jesus who is our Comforter (2 Corinthians 1:3&4) or maybe they are lacking knowledge, they would need to be introduced to the the God who gives wisdom (James 1:5); the list will go on and on. But remember no matter how they are hurting or what they are seeking we all need to know Jesus Christ as Savior first and foremost (Matthew 1:21). Next week will see two more examples of how the three threads of Evangelism are woven together to draw people to Jesus Christ. I want to stress again, that this is not a magic formula and circumstances might not dictate the use of this exact pattern because we don’t know when and where people have encountered Jesus in their past. I want this to be a helpful guideline for those that are unsure of how to go about sharing the Hope they have within. If the idea of sharing the Gospel inspires cold sweets and fear of what to say, remember Luke 12:12.

"Don't take my word for it, be like the church at Berea, “[They] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Monday, February 8, 2016

Where I Share How I Study the Bible, in The Hope That You Do Too

I wasn’t sure where to put this next section of our study. There isn’t an obviously good spot to plug this session in but I feel it’s important to include it somewhere. So, this session is a little different; this week I’ll be sharing one of the ways I study Scripture. As someone with no formal biblical training, I have found the acronym R.E.A.P helpful as I do my personal studying. I got this particular method from a sermon David Platt preached and he got it from someone else (I can’t remember who at the moment), but this method is pretty easily found with a quick Google search.

So before we dive into what R.E.A.P stands for I want to look at why it’s important to study (not just read) Scripture. Looking at 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we can see what Scripture is good for.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-16 NKJV

From this verse we see Scripture is to be used in four distinct areas; Doctrine, Reproof, Correction and Instruction. These four things build on themselves as well as stand alone. Let’s take a look at each of these:

Doctrine- This helps us determine what it is we believe as Christ following people and what should be guiding our thought and actions.

Reproof- Scripture is to be used to show us where we are going wrong in our lives. (And on the flip side of that, we can see what we are doing correctly and in a Godly manner; so it’s not always in a negative light).

Correction- Scripture also tell us how we can get back in alignment with God.

Instruction- Scripture teaches us how to live out what God has commanded and is calling us to do as His children.

These four uses flow from one to the next; Doctrine forms what we stand on foundationally, then we are able to see where our actions do or do not line up with our believes (reproof), then we look to scripture to teach us how our actions can be turned back to what we say we believe (correction) and finally we can look to Scripture to guide us as we live our lives, becoming more and more like Christ (instruction).

To bring this around to be applicable to our current Bible Study as a whole, we need to be in the Word consistently, not only for our spiritual well-being, but also that we may have biblically-based answers at the ready when people approach us with questions as we seek to share the Good News of Jesus and as we live out our individual callings. This isn’t my own idea but Peter says as much.

“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; having good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.” 1 Peter 3:15-16 NKJV

So now back to R.E.A.P. It’s much like what we learned (or should have learned) in a High School Literature class, which probably explains why I like it so much and find it helpful to me.

R- Read

E- Examine

A- Apply

P- Pray

Here is how to apply each letter to our study.

As simple as it sounds. Read the chapter, account, section, passage, whatever you are studying that day. Go slowly, read it out loud, read it a few times, whatever you need to begin building a picture of what’s happening. I suggest reading with a dictionary or the dictionary app on your phone handy for looking up words that you might not know or are unsure of. This is a habit I picked up in college and has stuck with me. As a side note to this, I’d encourage you to find a Bible translation that you can read and understand (and is accurate to the original writings). Personally I use KJV or NKJV, not from any ridge grasp on tradition, but because its grammar and word usage cause me to slow down and focus on what I’m reading. In college as I pursued my BA in Literature I got very good at skimming and flying through page after page, gathering the gist of what was going on, but I don’t want to do that with Scripture, so I use a translation that causes me to go slowly, and absorbing each word and phrase.

Here is where the literature class kicks in. We want to start looking deeper into the passage we are reading. We want to know the Who, What, When, Where, How and Why of the section.
  • Who is in the passage; is it Jews, Gentiles, the Israelites, etc.
  • What is going on; a conversation, a sermon, genealogy, recount of history, etc.
  • When did it happen; before the Cross, while Jesus was in the midst of His earthly ministry, etc. (Questions like this will help us grasp the application of what we are reading.)
  • Where is it happening; on earth or heaven, in Israel or among Gentiles, etc.
  • How this usually helps answer the What question.
  • Why is X happening or why did X say what they did.
We also need to ask what is Normative and what is Exclusive. If it is Normative then what is being spoken about is for all of us for all time. Ex: Christ’s death on the cross was for all God’s Children not just for the people living during His earthly ministry. If it is Exclusive then it would be for the particular person or people in the passage. Ex: God’s command for Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, was exclusive to Abraham; not for all father’s.

This is also the time to do background research or consult commentaries, etc.  The goal is to build the best understand of all that is happening.

Once we have the best picture we can get of what is happening in the passage we can now ask, what does this mean for me, for us in modern day, and how can we apply what I have just read in my life today? Remember, if you are reading for personal study (not for group teaching) that what you are reading is for you in that very moment, and probably is not for your neighbor. I want to caution us not to starting applying the conviction God lays at our feet as we read to other people in our lives. I don’t want us walking away from our quiet time with thoughts of, I’m going to go tell what I read to Sally Sue down the street because it said we shouldn’t gossip and that’s all she does. That message about not gossiping was for you as you read. We don’t ever want to pick up the lessons and teaching in the Bible and start whacking others over the head with them. We read first to understand how we personally should live, act and think.

I love ending my personal study time with prayer. It allows me time to talk to God after spending time listening to Him through the reading of His Word. The prayer that comes after we’ve read has a particular spin to its direction; we need to ask ourselves, how can we approach the throne of Grace in light of what we have just read? What I mean by that is, does what we have read cause us to praise, or to ask repentance, were we convicted about sin in our life, were we edified, uplifted comforted, etc.? Our prayer should be guided by what God has shown us.

I hope this has helped you in some way. If you have an established routine for your quiet time- Awesome! If you are still searching for consistency, give this a try. But I want to encourage you to read out of a desire to get to know Him more, not out of a duty, or religious rigor. One of my favorite songs right now is You Are Good (That I May) by Tim Timmons, and the bridge goes like this “I’ll praise you, not that I have to / Not that I ought to / But that I may”.  I hope each of us takes that same attitude into our Bible study time. Brothers and Sisters, dive into the Word so that you may know Him more, so we are ready to share the Good News of Christ Jesus with all we meet.

"Don't take my word for it, be like the church at Berea, “[They] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Monday, February 1, 2016

Where News Becomes "The Good News"

Picking up where we left off from last week: 

We concluded with two facts, based on what we have seen in Scripture:
  1. God is Creator and has the authority and right to make rules and set boundaries for His creation.
  2. Mankind, as one of the created, must live within said rules and boundaries but cannot; therefore we have separated ourselves from God via our rebellion (sin).
Unable to get ourselves back in alignment with our Creator, In His grace and mercy, provides a bridge back to Himself for us. That Bridge was Jesus Christ, His death on a cross and His resurrection three days later.

“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out ‘Abba Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” Galatians 4:3-7

From this passage we can conclude five things about Jesus and His mission on earth-
  1. There was a specific time God chose to send Jesus Christ; it was not random.
  2. Jesus Christ is God’s Son; making Him divine.
  3. Jesus Christ was born of a woman under the law; making Him one of us yet without the lineage of sin left by a human father (Romans 5:12)
  4. His purpose was to fulfill the law (which He outright claims in Matthew 5:17)
  5. His fulfillment of the law would be permanent; we see this by the claim we will be adopted as sons and once in the family we are not removed.
Now we have the Who, we need the How and for that we will look to Hebrews 10:1-18:

The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.2 If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared.
3 But instead, those sacrifices actually reminded them of their sins year after year. 4 For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.5 That is why, when Christ came into the world, he said to God,
"You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings.
But you have given me a body to offer.
6 You were not pleased with burnt offerings
or other offerings for sin.
7 Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God—
as is written about me in the Scriptures.’”
8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.
11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 13 There he waits until his enemies are humbled and made a footstool under his feet. 14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.
15 And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,
16 “This is the new covenant I will make
with my people on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he says,
“I will never again remember
their sins and lawless deeds.”
18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” (NLT)

Seeing that there is now no need to offer sacrifices for the remission of sin, the law having been fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross, does that mean we are all good again and can continue to live as we were? No! His death on the cross did pay the penalty of death that was due for sin; opening the door that allows rebellious Mankind to reconcile with God our Creator, but we must come to Jesus in order to be able to walk through that door and reach reconciliation. We cannot walk through that door with alone or with any other. There must be an individual and personal response to the open door Jesus created.

In John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’”. We cannot walk through the doorway to God any other way. So, this raises the next logical question, how does one “come to Him” and what is our responsibility when we get there?

When Christians use the words, “come to Jesus” we don’t mean it as physical walking down an aisle but more like “come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ”; an understanding and accepting of the knowledge that Jesus Christ made, and became, the bridge (or doorway to continue the previous metaphor) between sinful man and a Holy God.

Paul, in Romans 10: 9a-13 writes, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised HIm from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’’.

Now, to see this practically applied we will use Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, as an example. As Peter concludes the first Christian sermon the crowd asks him what to do next. He replies, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (Acts 2:38). Peter reconfirms this later when talking to some of the Jewish men in Jerusalem, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19). Further in Acts, we see Peter tell Cornelius and his household, “whoever believes in Him will receive the remission of sins” (Acts 10:43b).

Using these accounts, we can conclude that coming to Jesus involves repentance and belief in Jesus Christ, or as Paul put it, confession with your mouth and belief in your heart . To repent, in today’s American culture, has an assumed definition of being sorry for doing something. Unfortunately that definition is inaccurate and not how the Bible uses the word “repent”. It does not mean to apologize for something but means to turn from what we had been doing; it is a change of heart and direction. We can be sorry for what we have done all day long, then that night go right back to that particular sin. That would not be repentance, but remorse. The author of Proverbs considers a person with this behavior to be a fool. “As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). The way to break the habit of returning to what we know is wrong is to first recognize what we are doing is wrong/painful/unbiblical and that we cannot break the behavioral pattern on our own. So when we realize our actions are running counter to the Creator’s rule and law we must realize we cannot change our hearts on our own and God is faithful to fulfill His promise he gave to Ezekiel, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them (Ezekiel 36:26-27). This heart exchange happens when repentance meets belief that Jesus Christ is capable of changing His creation and that He has every right to do so as the Creator (Colossians 1:16).

Now for what it means to believe. Believing in Jesus consists of two parts- first we believe Jesus is Who He says He is and second, we believe Jesus did what He said He did. In John 8:58, Jesus says, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” and in John 10:30, He says, “I and My Father are one”. Both account Jesus as claiming oneness with God the Father. In Colossians 1:15 Paul writes, Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” He continues to say of Jesus, “For it pleased the Father that in [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself (Colossians 1:19-20a). Furthering Jesus’ claim to be one with God the Creator.

In his letter to the Romans Paul writes, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly...But God demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Romans 5:6-9). Not only did Jesus die for us, justify us, “He as also made us alive with Him and forgiven us of all tresspasses, blotting out the handwriting of requirements that was against us” (Colossians 2:13b-14a). So when we come to Jesus in an understanding that He is God and He has paid the penalty due for our rebellion (sin) against the Creator’s authority and rule and confess this is true and we are in need of His saving grace; we are cleared of the debt of our rebellion (sin) and given a new heart and the Holy Spirit, allowing us to now work towards living in accordance to God’s law. This new lifestyle typically does not happen overnight but God’s grace we are renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

C.S Lewis wrote of my favorite quotes on Jesus:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Mere Christianity

Once we come to recognize Who Jesus is and what He did for us, we then are to act on this understanding (personal response). We are to, “confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead” if we do that, Paul says we will be saved (Romans 10:9). After our belief and repentance, our lives must, and if that confession was genuine will, look different. There will be evidence of a changed heart, mind and life because, “those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:15).

At the fundamental center of all we have just discussed are the 4 pieces of our Christian foundation and have been boiled down to God, Man, Jesus Christ, and Personal Response. The Gospel, or the news we are to share is found in the fact that Jesus Christ came and died for us, creating a way to right the wrong of our sin and the context of that news makes it The Good News.

Don't take my word for it, be like the church at Berea, “[They] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Sharing the Gospel and Being Prepared for What Comes Next Session 1 - The Gospel

I’ve been given the opportunity to teach a Sunday Night Bible Study at my local church home consisting of 8 Sessions over the next 4 months. I will try to get each session posted by the Monday after I teach each that particular session. Here we go:

The authority this Bible Study will stand on and grow from is Scripture. I believe Scripture to be sufficient to navigate life and should be the lens in which we view our world (2 Timothy 3:16; Matthew 4:4), and God’s word has been and will continue to be proven true (Psalm 18:30).

The Question we will begin with, is this: What makes up the foundation of what we (those who claim to follow Jesus Christ) believe and base our lives? Most who are in church would answer that with “the Gospel of Jesus Christ”, but I would ask what do we mean by that? The Good News, of course! I would agree; in part. But the Good News needs a context.So I ask, how can we have good new without bad news? Wouldn’t the Good News just be “news” without some sort of bad news. All this may sound trivial and argumentative, but I believe being able to clearly articulate what we claim to believe is paramount to actually living as Jesus Christ would have us do. Basically, what I am trying to get us to do is contextualize the Good News.

In order to set the stage for the Good News of Jesus Christ, we must back up and begin with God. The following declarative statement will begin the logic stream of this Bible Study:

I believe there is One God, who is the Creator of all things, understand all things, and cares for His creation.

When I say “One God” I do so in a Deuteronomy 6:4 way, “Hear O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one!”, and I say that within the context of 1 John 5:7, “For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.” Now, from this statement, our logic stream will flow, raising questions which we will need to answer; let’s begin.

So if there is a God, and He is the One who created everything, it would logically mean, that as the Creator, He has the right to rule, set boundaries, and reward and punish His creation based upon those rules and boundaries which He has set. We see this specifically in Exodus 34:5-7, as well as throughout the account of Creation in the beginning of he book of Genesis.

So then, the logic flow continues; logically as part of His creation, are expected to abide, by and within, the rules and boundaries laid out by our Creator. We see this proven to be true in the account of Creation and the Garden of Eden (Genesis Ch1-3). Unfortunately for mankind, we are unable to live within the boundaries of God’s authority. We see this hold true with Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, and then we see that this failure extends to all of us (Romans 5:12). Examples of this failure can be found in Isaiah 59:1-15, Psalm 14:1-4, Romans 3:23, and numerous other places in Scripture.

This failure means more than just a broken rule, it means sin has entered into our world. 1 John 3:4 defines sin like this, “Whoever commits sin commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness”. In the Old Testament God expresses His displeasure in Israel’s rebelliousness (sin) in Deuteronomy 9:7 and lays out the punishment for rebellion (sin) in Joshua 1:18. In the New Testament, Paul reaffirms death as a punishment for sin in Romans 6:23.

Now, with the establishment of these two facts; God’s law is to be obeyed, and we are unable to obey it on our own, we now come to the fundamental question of Christianity; how can a sinful people be reconciled to a Holy God, because as Isaiah says in Ch 59:2, “your iniquities have separated you from God; And your sins have hidden His face from you”.

Fortunately for us, God is a good and just God (Psalm 136 & Psalm 25:8-11). Knowing that we as a people are unable to make our way back to God on our own, and because He is good, we see His desire for our reconciliation to Him in 2 Peter 3:9-“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance”. Because God desires our reconciliation, “...when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

God sent Jesus, to make a way for Mankind (His creation; you & me) to reunite with the Creator. Here, I feel I must point out that in no way was Jesus Christ a backup plan; His being sent was not a way to fix an unexpected and unforeseen fall of Man (John 1:1, Hebrews 1:1-3, Colossians 1:13-23 for reference of this). It was God’s intention from the beginning to have Jesus be, “the way, the truth and the life” and that “No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6). Therefore, Jesus Christ became the “bridge” -the way back- between fallen man and a Holy God and He accomplished this through death on a Cross and His Resurrection.

When we use the words, “come to Jesus” it isn’t a physical walking toward but an understanding and accepting that Jesus Christ made and became that bridge. Now we see that through Christ’s death and resurrection, a way was made for mankind to be reconciled to God, but this raises the logical question, how does one “come to Him” and what is our responsibility when we get there?

In Next week’s Session we will examine more closely what it means “to come to Jesus” and how we do that.

Don't take my word for it, be like the church at Berea, “[They] were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11

Thursday, August 27, 2015

His Job Is Not Our Job

"12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection." ~ Colossians 3:12-14

Remember, Paul is speaking to God's Children directly; this is not a message for the masses (though they could benefit from it) but for those whom have submitted their selves, hearts and lives, to Christ Jesus. This command comes on the heels of Paul explaining that there are no national, physical, social, and economic distinctions between us but everyone falls under the authority of Christ. Therefore we, as followers of Christ and children of God, are to treat people differently than the world does and to see people differently than the world does. We have "put off the old man" (Ch3, v9) and have put on the new. This "new man" is not a jacket that we put on for Sundays, Wednesdays, Easters and Christmas', but the eternity-altering mindset of Christ Jesus Himself! There is not a situation in which we are allowed to "take off" the new man. If we are indeed in Christ Jesus, then we are transformed, not merely disguised by a "good person" jacket.

So, Paul's list of the outcome- the evidence if you will, of what someone who has died to self and been raised in Christ should look and act like. Our words and actions should be characterized by these things; to fellow believers and non-believers alike. And yes, we (and I loudly include myself in that "we") do fall short of consistently following this command because we are not yet perfected, but are continuously in the process of becoming more and more Christ-like. This is why Paul reminds us to put on tender mercies, humility, etc..

Paul gives special attention to forgiveness here. In my opinion, in general, we find it easier to be kind, patient and humble than to be forgiving. Forgiveness is predicated on pain and hurt, and when pain in involved it is our natural human tendency to lash out, fight back or run. We have little trouble being kind to someone who is kind to us, but the very second someone is mean, hurtful, or crosses us, the effort it takes to be Christ-like seems almost impossible to muster. And so Paul gives us something to focus on, reminding us it is possible to forgive because our example, Jesus Christ, found it possible to forgive us. Christ did not merely forgive us with His words, but by His royal blood; even His very life, and He is faithful to give us the strength to forgive others whom have trespassed against us.

Saving the most important point for last, Paul encourages us to put on love. Christ-like love is the attribute under which all others fall. Love encompasses all of Jesus' characteristics; it encompasses all of God's character as well, for it is written, "God is love" (1 John 4:8 & 16)

I want to be very careful with what I am about to say, and it is my opinion but believe it's drawn from what I have read throughout Scripture; the World, and those who do not know Christ do not, by nature, hold themselves to these same standards. We, as the church, need to be aware of this and be careful of trying to do the Holy Spirit's work. By this I mean, we cannot hold people of the world to the same standards Jesus Christ hold us, because they themselves do not use Christ as their standard. So then why would we expect them to act like we do?  We are to be the ones who are different from this world. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ, His representatives, in this Enemy occupied territory- to borrow C.S. Lewis' words. So, as we engage with people around us, whether that be at work, school or the coffee shop, remember we represent Christ. Regardless of how people around us act and react, when we meet Jesus Christ face to face, we will be responsible for our own thoughts, words, and actions. In every situation remember God is the Judge, and the One who will change peoples standard.
"Let all that you do be done with love." - 1 Corinthians 16:14

Father, author and perfecter of my faith, thank You for being the example in all situations. I ask for the strength to love those who do not show me kindness, to be Your example in all things. Keep me close to Your side, so that I may not stray. I love You and trust in You and Your promises. In Jesus' Name; Amen.