Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Three

In our preceding article, we talked about how there can be no greater motivation for believers to live out their new lives in Christ as a BIG THANK YOU than to have a growing understanding of the grace of God. That is certainly the experience described in Scripture on more than one occasion.

Remember the immoral woman who came to Jesus quite unexpectedly in the home of a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)? Braving probable scorn and ridicule, she came to express her love and gratitude for what she had experienced of the grace of God in her life—forgiveness. She was well aware of how undeserving she was but nevertheless God had forgiven her and for this she was supremely thankful.

Rather than drawing back in disdain from this woman with the tarnished reputation, Jesus expressed what was at the heart of her outpouring of emotion: she loved much because she had been forgiven much.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47 NLT)

Possibly a prostitute, this woman recognized how needy, how undeserving she was of Christ’s forgiveness. In fact, she was conscious of her abject spiritual poverty—totally incapable of doing anything to merit God’s forgiveness. Yet, the Bible assures us that…

He [God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. (Psalm 103:10 NIV)

That’s grace—undeserved!

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Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part Two

“No longer…!”

In the context of the message of the Gospel, these two words hold tremendous significance. They are words that ought to prompt an overwhelming sense of wonder and gratitude as to what Christ accomplished on the cross on our behalf. Consider that we, as believers, are no longer…

  • slaves to sin but free (Romans 6:6-7,14,18).
  • strangers and aliens but members of God’s family (Ephesians 2:19).
  • servants but friends (John 15:15).

These statements represent powerful, new realities for us who have been transferred at the moment of salvation from the “kingdom of darkness” to the “kingdom of light”—the kingdom of God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:12-13).

Each of these declarations holds a wealth of meaning but all hold in common a fundamental fact of change as to how God perceives us, brought about by God alone. Understanding how God now sees us—the new position we have been granted in Christ—is a key principle for living the Christian life.

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Going Deeper: No Longer a Stranger! Part One

Most of us have experienced the uneasy feeling of being in an unfamiliar setting where we’re conscious of being outsiders who have very little in common with those who “belong.” After finding ourselves in that environment, it’s a welcomed relief to come to a place where we are “no longer a stranger,” but where we’re known and accepted.

As Christians, we can identify. There was a time in each of our lives when we were separated from Jesus Christ—strangers to Christ and everything God desires for us (Ephesians 2:12). This separation came about as a result of sin.

Your iniquities have separated you from your God… (Isaiah 59:2 NIV; cf. Romans 3:23; Ephesians 4:18).

However, for believers, a time came when all that changed as a consequence of what Jesus did on the cross. When we put our trust in what he accomplished by dying in our place, the Bible says to us as believers:

You are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19 ESV).

Whereas previously we were separated from God, “without hope and without God in the world,” we have now “been brought near through the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12 NIV).

No longer a stranger! What welcome news that we have been brought back into a right relationship with our Creator!

And yet, if this is true…

…why is it that so many professing Christians live as if Christ is still a stranger to them? Why is it that many new believers and even others who are not-so-young-in-the-faith experience so much difficulty in growing spiritually, seemingly falling back two steps for every step forward? (If the truth be known, perhaps most of us can identify with those questions because they are part of our personal experience.)

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Using the Worldview Survey, Part II: Discovering your friend’s worldview

In Using the Worldview Survey, Part I: Sharing the gospel when time is short, we shared how the Worldview Survey questions can be used as a springboard to sharing the gospel when you only have a short time with an individual (perhaps in a waiting room, interacting with a door-to-door salesman, or in a street evangelism context). In this second article, we share more specifically on how you can use the questions to discover the beliefs of the individual before moving on to share the gospel.

The conversation was going so smoothly. The young woman in front of me seemed to be eagerly digesting each point I made as I walked her through the gospel message. She was nodding her head, agreeing with me when I’d ask her questions and assuring me she understood. Great! Next up, the sinner’s prayer, right? We’d been conversing for some time when she finally began to open up more about her own worldview, extinguishing my optimism. Apparently she was exploring a pagan religion. She worshipped the earth. She wasn’t terribly bothered by her sin. Surely God could be expressed in many forms and there were many ways to seek him.

It was surprising to me that she could both agree with what I’d been saying, while at the same time hold to these very opposing viewpoints. She was, by definition, a post-modern thinker.

As she walked away from me a little later, I realized that I’d spent a long time sharing the gospel to a woman who did not have the foundations in place to understand it. While I knew God could still bless and use my feeble efforts, surely I could be more effective if I’d had an idea of the worldview of my listener before I dove into sharing the Bible’s message.

I realized I needed a method of quickly determining one’s worldview and finding a way to discern their true understanding of the Bible’s message, so that I could know how to proceed with the truths of the gospel

The Worldview Survey (originally published in the book And Beginning with Moses), a list of nine simple and objective questions, is designed to give a person a good idea of what their student believes. It’s a helpful tool for many situations, but especially handy if you’re not sure how to approach sharing the gospel with an individual or what tool would suit them best.

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Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part II

Jesus made seven statements during the final hours on the cross before his death. These are recorded for us in the Gospels, and GoodSeed’s primary tools emphasize three of them. In this two-part Going Deeper article, we examine the deeper significance of all seven statements.

Introduction

Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested in the night on trumped-up charges. Falsely accused, he is paraded through a series of courts. These court sessions are simply a pretext to provide legality to what is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders: a sentence of death for blasphemy. Jesus is beaten and mocked before he is sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

The intent of this barbaric form of execution was to prolong the agony of dying as long as possible. However, the crucifixion of Christ lasted a relatively short time, from the “third” hour—about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) to about the “ninth” hour—3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33).

As a person reads the description of what happened during those six hours, what isn’t found are sensational, lurid details of the physical suffering Jesus experienced as he hung on the cross. The Bible doesn’t indulge our curiosity. There are none of the horrific details that one might expect in tabloid journalism. Rather, the account of the crucifixion is told in a simple, straightforward manner without any dramatics. This is not to minimize the physical agony Christ felt on the cross. His pain was very real, but pain isn’t what Scripture highlights. Instead, the Bible gives us glimpses of Jesus’ heart for humanity through seven statements he made during the final hours before his death. Just as the final words spoken from the deathbed of a loved one hold great significance to family and friends, so these words of Christ are such that they have reverberated down through history.

In the first part of this two-part article, we delved into the significance of Christ’s first three statements from the cross. Now we will discuss the final four statements.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part II”

Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part I

Jesus made seven statements during the final hours on the cross before his death. These are recorded for us in the Gospels, and GoodSeed’s primary tools emphasize three of them. In this two-part Going Deeper article, we will examine the deeper significance of all seven statements.

Bible writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John each give us unique insights into the crucial few days surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion.

Setting the Scene

Jesus of Nazareth has been arrested in the night on trumped-up charges. Falsely accused, he is paraded through a series of courts. These court sessions are simply a pretext to provide legality to what is already a foregone conclusion in the minds of the Jewish religious leaders: a sentence of death for blasphemy. Jesus is beaten and mocked before he is sentenced to death by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

The Crucifixion

The intent of this barbaric form of execution was to prolong the agony of dying as long as possible. However, the crucifixion of Christ lasted a relatively short time, from the “third” hour—about 9:00 a.m. (Mark 15:25) to about the “ninth” hour—3:00 p.m. (Mark 15:33).

As a person reads the description of what happened during those six hours, what isn’t found are sensational, lurid details of the physical suffering Jesus experienced as he hung on the cross. The Bible doesn’t indulge our curiosity. There are none of the horrific details that one might expect in tabloid journalism. Rather, the account of the crucifixion is told in a simple, straightforward manner without any dramatics. This is not to minimize the physical agony Christ felt on the cross. His pain was very real, but pain isn’t what Scripture highlights. Instead, the Bible gives us glimpses of Jesus’ heart for humanity through seven statements he made during the final hours before his death. Just as the final words spoken from the deathbed of a loved one hold great significance to family and friends, so these words of Christ are such that they have reverberated down through history.

Continue reading “Going Deeper: Final words of a dying Saviour, Part I”

Using the Worldview Survey, Part 1: Sharing the gospel when time is short

Five full days of street evangelism! Under normal circumstances, if someone had suggested this idea as a potential evangelistic pursuit, my response would have been, “No thanks! Not for me!” However, here I was in a large van heading to the big city. My husband, Troy, and I were the designated leaders, no less, for a dozen or so college-aged students. And we’d be standing on a street corner in no time at all, attempting to get into deep spiritual conversations with all kinds of scary strangers.

The first day went by much as I expected. Many were closed to hearing about the Lord, a few were willing to get into a discussion and most walked by completely indifferent. That week on bustling city streets was quite the adventure, arming us with stories and experiences that still effect our approach to sharing the gospel when time is short.

Even if you never participate in street evangelism, it’s good to be prepared for the moment when you have a quick opportunity to share the Bible’s message with a passing stranger. Your brief opportunity may come while sitting in front of your hairdresser, or with the salesperson at the door, or while you’re passing time in a waiting room. No matter the scenario, there are certain common obstacles that brief interactions present, as well as good ideas to navigate those obstacles.

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To give or to guide… that is the question

ladies-studyKayla* has three friends who aren’t believers. Because she desired to share the gospel with them, Kayla attended a TERM Seminar to be better equipped. After the seminar, Kayla knew she wanted to use GoodSeed resources with her friends. But should she give them each a book and leave it at that? Or should she offer to guide them through a study?

We encourage believers to share the good news through two primary ways: give and guide. To elaborate, give means to take one of our books, audiobooks or videobooks and give it to a friend. Guide means to take the resources and lead a gospel Bible study. Both methods work. We have numerous testimonies of how people have come to faith in Christ because a friend gave them a book or guided them through a study. But in Kayla’s situation, which option would be better?

Let’s explore the merits of each option in turn.

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The gospel in my heart language

heart languageNelson Mandela once said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Today, a growing number of people understand and speak more than one language. Crossing borders, studying, living and working in cosmopolitan cities, people encounter and learn different tongues. In sharing the gospel with such people, does it make any difference if we use their mother tongue or a new language they picked up?

Siriporn* was given a GoodSeed resource in English and then later a copy of By This Name in Thai, his native language. He said, “I read it in English and I understood. But when I read it in Thai, it was as if the gospel message grabbed me around the throat and didn’t let me go.” He demonstrated by putting both hands around his neck. The impact of the good news was far greater in his native language.

As a businessman, it was important for Siriporn to learn and understand English. He used it daily in his business dealings. It was a language he was reasonably comfortable with. However, English is not the language he thinks and feels in. It is not the language he grew up with—the language his mother sang to him as an infant. Thai is his heart language. Thai is his mother tongue.

Spiritual concepts and vocabulary are extremely difficult to convey and explain in any language, and hearing or reading it in a second language can hinder comprehension. For example, the concepts of justification, propitiation, or grace are not easy to explain in English, let alone to someone whose heart language is not English. While it is definitely possible for a person to come to faith in Christ through a second language, there is simply no substitute for the power of hearing or reading the gospel clearly in one’s own heart language.

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Looking for curriculum for small groups? Here are three suggestions

If you are starting a new season of small group meetings and are looking for a possible curriculum to use, here are three that you can consider.

1. Worldview Rethink with By This Name

DESCRIPTION: What is the main message of the Bible? Who is Jesus? What are the cross and the tomb all about? How is the Old Testament relevant to our understanding of the New Testament? This study takes you on a journey from creation to the cross to explain the core message of the Bible.

AUDIENCE: For people who want a solid biblical foundation, including those who want to learn or be refreshed in the message of the gospel.

TIME NEEDED: 16 hours (e.g., 8 sessions of 2 hours each)

RESOURCES: Leader’s guide, coursebook, workbook, DVD or online videos, visual aids

FORMAT OF STUDY: Dynamic reading. Leaders read the course book narrative. Group reads the Scripture verses. Reading is interspersed with video clips and visual aids. The group also uses the workbook together. Learn more about Dynamic Reading-Leading-Modelling.

REVIEW: “This book and the DVD series and workbook that accompany it are by far the best, most clearly stated overview of the Bible I’ve seen. It is an excellent foundational base that can be used with new Christians, mature Christians, and non-Christians. I used it to start a neighbourhood ladies’ Bible study with ladies from several different faiths. It was so well-received that once we finished it, we were then able to start studying one of the books of the Bible (Mark). I highly recommend this for use by an individual, small group, or large group, or anyone seeking to understand the Bible as a whole.” – Melissa

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