Why Does The World Need Jesus?

“On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ [ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Matthew 9: 12-13

That was Jesus’s response to the question about why he was eating with sinners. It’s easy to get into debates about what the Bible says about this or that and we forget that it’s not a book of philosophy or merely rules. It’s our introduction to God, and Jesus. Those pages show what Christianity is about, a person, Jesus. We just have to find a way to introduce him to those around us.

To be able to do that, we have to see how willing we are to introduce Him to our friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and family. It’s going to take some hard questions that we’ll have to ask ourselves. Starting with…

Does the world need Jesus?

Best-High-qulaity-Jesus-Christ-Wallaper-15He is the center of Christianity. We believe what Jesus said in John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. He bore our punishment as God unleashed His wrath on His Son in our place. Then He rose again three days later. Take Him away and our faith is the same as the other religions, man reaching for God.

Take away all our traditions, the music, the sermons, and you’ll find the risen Christ at the core. Christianity is the only religion where God reached for man. He is our non-negotiable; you cannot be a Christian without Christ.

Ask yourself this as you look around, what IS the eternal fate of those around you? Any one of your family, friends, classmates, or coworkers? Are we really convinced? How would we know? Is our faith actually reasonable or is it superstition? We have to look at some critical issues, because if we find them to be true, then we can trust the rest as well. If not, then Paul said it best in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Why is it hard for people to believe that Jesus is the only way?

It is partly because of pluralism-where people think that no religion has absolute truth, they all lead to God. How do we respond to that? With love, we relate to them patiently, kindly, and gently. Remember the verse we started with? They’re sick, and we can’t verbally abuse a sick person. We also cannot be afraid to tell them who has the cure. There is no cure for the cancer that is sin other than Christ.

Now it can get awkward, you’re talking to a friend, and they challenge you with the following statements:

  1. “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.”
  2. “As long as it works for you and makes you happy.”
  3. “There is no such thing as an absolute truth.”
  4. “I believe there are many ways to God.”
  5. “It’s rude to say one person’s religion is better than another’s.”
  6. “It takes everyone’s truth to equal the truth.”
  7. “What makes you think your religion is right, and everyone else’s is wrong.”

Any of these sound familiar? Historically, our faith has been summed up in creeds. 1 Corinthians 15: 1-8 is an example of a creed.

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

The Importance of Creeds

They direct our beliefs and influence our actions. Every one of them proclaims Jesus as the only way. These aren’t new questions, though. Christianity grew in the Roman Empire where they had an altar to an unknown god just in case they missed one. Paul based a sermon on that in Acts 17: 16-34, it was a great example of bridge building. In the 2000+ years since the birth of Christianity, the church hasn’t budged on Jesus’s divinity.

The idea of many gods predates the Roman Empire. In the Old Testament, the Jews started worshiping the gods of other cultures in the temple of God. That didn’t make God happy and the Jews had the Promised Land taken from them for a time. Was that harsh? No, by his nature, God has no equal; if He did then He wouldn’t be God.

We have God in three persons, the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit, and many apologists have made the case for Christianity. My recommended places to start are Cold Case Christianity and The Case for Christ. Logically, this means other religions are false. They’re either products of imagination, or manifestations of demonic entities-fallen angels masquerading as gods to deceive.

The Breakdown

12002967_811035205683153_3382720795925210517_nDo the logic: God is God, or He isn’t. If He isn’t then it’s a matter of personal preference. If He is, then He wants a relationship with us, we are made for Him. The incompleteness, the search for…something to fulfill you, that’s us recognizing we need Him to complete us. Jesus is how that happens; He bridged that gap.

We’re not talking about which sport’s team is better or the best restaurant in the area; these aren’t life changing. The God of the Universe is and does. Noted author C.S. Lewis said it best:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

If you want the words straight from The Fi5th Gospel go here to http://thefi5thgospel.com/. This is just what I took as a reader and ran with it.

We Read The Bible, Others Read The Christian

“There are five Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the Christian, but most people never read the first four.” Rodney “Gypsy” Smith, 19th Century Evangelist

Gospel Power

10422528_794711780632606_2088819777424735679_nWe can all admit to the power of the Gospel proclaimed, read, and lived. With a simple sermon, I watched Billy Graham bring a football stadium full of people to Christ. Peter in Acts 2:14-41 brought about 3,000 to Christ. The Good News of Jesus is beautiful in its power to change the lives for anyone who believes, without exception. John 3: 16-18 sums it up nicely from the mouth of Jesus:

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

“There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.

The problem is many won’t look in the Bible for truth, instead, they learn misconceived notions about God, Jesus, and Salvation. They get their theology from a Facebook meme without checking the source.

The second problem is we’re not sure how to display the Gospel in our lives, not just the Bible. When Jesus said, Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations,] baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” in Matthew 28: 19-20, there wasn’t even a New Testament for people to read. It was through the message and lives of the disciples that people learned of our Lord. I love the “I have decided” shirts that FirstNLR has started giving to those who are baptized with the Matthew 28: 19-20 noted.

It’s a proclamation, and it’s scary, especially for an introvert who is perfectly happy to be behind the scenes like me. However, in light of what Jesus did for us, shouldn’t we live for him and introduce others to him?

Choose Your Method Wisely

There are two extremes in sharing the Gospel. One is the legalists, who condemn everything that is wrong. Truth without love just pushes people away. If they perceive hate from our attitude, then they will lash out. Think of one of the most common charges leveled against Christians.

Hateful judgmentalness.

The other extreme is fear of offending people. So we water down the Gospel, tone down the language, and redefine Biblical truths to accommodate a shifting culture’s morality. Except it doesn’t work, humans have a basic animosity against God and his Word. In John 3: 19-21, Jesus tells Nicodemus why this is the case:

“And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.”

Think about it, do you like it when you’re caught doing something wrong? Do you get annoyed or angry that you were busted? That is our sinful nature reacting. We have that working against us, but also having to face temptation. Satan is real, and he’s working against God’s plan to bring people back to Him. Satan will do it to keep unbelievers in darkness, and do it to us to weaken our message and testimony.

You Are The Light of the World

It is hard to find a way to communicate and live out our faith. It’s a command, though, even if you thinkearth_lights_lrg the Great Commission is just for apostles, preachers, and missionaries. Peter in 1 Peter 3: 15-16 tells us otherwise:

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

We do have to work on that. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus called his followers the ‘light of the world’.

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

We are his followers. We should be careful that our light isn’t so dim where no one can tell the difference between us and the next person. Not by throwing Bibles at them, instead by showing them what life with Jesus is like. To show the world He is real, and that He is Lord.

The Problem and Solution To The World

paris-attacks-promo-where-attacks-occurredSometimes we’re shockingly reminded of the evil in the world. I sat in our office listening to my supervisor read aloud the articles from the attack in Paris as it unfolded. In defiance and support, people on Facebook rallied with profile picture changes and threats. I sat, rather unsurprised, considering it all.

It’s a problem that starts with the darkness in an individual’s heart (Romans 6:19) that multiplies exponentially with every person added to the world. We all struggle with it and tragedies happen when someone gives into it like in Paris.

The Darkness In Our Hearts

“So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7: 14-20 NLT

The only way to eliminate evil is to remove free will from everyone. No one has the freedom to choose love or hate. However, with our autonomy in place we’ll continue to fight against it.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am!” Romans 7: 21-24

Have you ever been in a moral dilemma or had to choose between the lesser of two evils? In a quiet dark_side_of_my_heart_by_blackidus-d87viaqmoment faced the darkness inside of you. Or had to apologize for hurting others? What can be done about it?

Dealing With The Darkness

“Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Romans 7: 24-25

You kill it before it kills you.

We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God freely and graciously declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3: 22-26

“In fact, it says,

“The message is very close at hand;
it is on your lips and in your heart.”

And that message is the very message about faith that we preach: If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” Romans 10: 8-10

Jesus takes the punishment due to you and me freely if we let him. To get an idea of how radical that is, consider this: remember how you felt seeing the Paris attack. Now you find yourself the judge in the terrorist’s trial and their future is in your hands. They’re evidently guilty, no evidence is needed to even be presented, and they stand in front of you awaiting your verdict.

What would you do to them?

3489316498_96c87dedbd_zInstead of death or prison, imagine you served their sentences for them and then pardoned them. Insane, huh? They don’t deserve it and they should die. “For the wages of sin is death…” as recognized in Romans 6: 23.

What if they are sorry, promising they wouldn’t do it again and truly meant it? Punishment is due, a debt is owed, and so would you take that upon yourself and pardon them? That is what Jesus did for anyone willing to turn away from his or her dark nature and follow him.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5: 6-10 NIV

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8: 1-2 NIV

How Can I Change?

Then begins the process to pull us out of our holes called sanctification. Except we don’t do it to earn 4f25d89ae82e5052b4d233f8cdcc9751anything or pay back a debt. We do it in gratitude. Imagine your largest debt. How thankful would you be if someone paid it off free and clear?

As the old nature is diminished and the new is being revealed we see our responses are changing. Impatience gives way to patience, unforgiveness gives way to mercy, and hate gives way to love, and so on. Two things are happening that deal with many of the world’s problems.

  • First is our identity struggles, especially in a highly individualized culture like mine. That problem is settled for me now. I am not defined by what I do, have done, or live for something temporary that will be dust in the end. I may not always be a writer, I won’t always have my family, but I will always be a new person in Christ, an adopted son of God. Because I want to do this, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” I can give myself more easily to writing, family, and friends. My identity does not hinge on that so I can be fully there.
  • Secondly, if we loved our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39) like Jesus commanded, we would not do anything to hurt them. The Golden Rule makes sure we cannot use ‘neighbor’ as a loophole. The entire Moral Law that is in the 10 Commandments is encompassed in those two commands and the Golden Rule puts it into action. You wouldn’t kill, take advantage of, or want what others have if you loved like you’re supposed to. If you do, then you’re being disobedient. Doing it would end many problems in the world.

It’s hard, impossible even, and when a true follower of Christ fails, it results in becoming repentant. Then they grow from it. We have help from the Holy Spirit, though.

“The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature] So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” Romans 8: 3-17 NLT

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.” Romans 8: 26-27

Problem Solved

world_in_fireThe problem of evil is solved by first realizing the darkness in our hearts. The fact we recognize it means we acknowledge a transcendent, objective good. Because it is a transcendent perfect standard, we cannot reach it ourselves. Knowing this, God made the way for us. Jesus, either as Savior or Judge, solves the problem of evil; it is an unavoidable choice.

We Have A Mission

Ever since I wrote Represent on a now defunct blog, the burden to equip people to live out their faith has grown. I teach it is by trying to live it myself and share the successes and failures. Picking up The Fi5th Gospel by Bobby Conway after I had read a post here at Cold Case Christianity to learn more. I was going through the book again with a pen in my hand when I had an interesting night at church…

God Spoke

21584471256_46d5117bd9_zWe had ended the teaching part at FirstNLR and a voice rang out in the lull during the music. Echoing against the walls. Suddenly, a man in the back started speaking in an unknown language. I locked eyes on him until he finished, thinking to myself, “now the interpretation” in the pattern that Paul told the church in Corinth.

Seconds later, another voice carried through the sanctuary clearly as another guy started speaking. I hadn’t even heard our pastor’s voice carry with that much authority. I noticed the sound of wind rushing through the sanctuary. The hair on my arms stood up as the sensation moved through me. The Holy Spirit was moving.

The interpretation was about collecting the harvest. The words were familiar but I couldn’t place the passage at the time. He, God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit, had called for workers throughout the ages, and he would be returning soon with his reward.

Looking For Myself

Later, I checked for every time the word ‘harvest’ is in the Bible. I found the one I was looking for in John 4: 35-39 NIV:

Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.

After that, I hit Bobby’s book even harder, wanting to live and train people to live as true followers of Jesus. It makes me nervous, too; I am willing to teach it myself on a classroom level at church, or here. Except it is more than just working within the church, it’s also outside in our daily lives.

Soon after that thought came to mind, a guy at work sat down beside me to talk. I stopped doing my favorite thing, reading, to give him something no one can get back. Time. Another guy was going to California after that night. Out of character for me, I reached out to shake his hand and wish him well. I don’t have being able to approach others down yet.

We’re The Only Bible Some Will Read

Part of what makes being a 5th Gospel Christian effective is people see it in action, and we don’t knowfifth-gospelwho is watching. Sometimes we do find out who’s watching. A friend commented on a post thanking me for posting the apologetics links. It encouraged him in his own case-making at work. A little later I noticed two people started posting a little of their own stuff instead of just liking what I posted.

It is the proverb “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” in action. Truly, we don’t know who’s watching us. I think we would be surprised at the waves we do make as we travel through life.

It is important to show what life is like in Christ, being a light in the world to draw people to Jesus.
I encourage you to get the book; he goes deeper than I do. I’m just pulling parts out of it. He even preaches on it in the Life Fellowship podcast if you just want to listen.

How To Have Those Hard Conversations

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘telling the truth with love’? It confused me for awhile until an episode of Hoarders. I can’t think of an odder place to get an insight.

The home was messy. Their things piled up like small mountains. Concerned, their immediate family told them some things they didn’t want to hear. There were consequences for ignoring them as well.

They refused to say nothing and do nothing.

That’s the issue, isn’t it? In our individualistic, live and let live culture, we’ll let people jump off a cliff. “Who am I to say anything?” Maybe we’re afraid we’ll lose a friend.

Truth
  • Truth divides.
  • You will have enemies when you speak truth.
How To Have The Hard Conversations

It should be face-to-face. Texts can be read wrong. That’s why emojis are helpful. Phones can be 8578279742_97b39d980b_zhung up, and the body language doesn’t come through over the phone.

The goal is to redeem and restore, not condemn and punish. The exact same goal Jesus has for humankind. Like him, strive for that, motivated by loving concern for their well-being.

Telling the hard truths can only happen in trusting relationships. You cannot walk over to someone you barely talk to and lay it out. You don’t have a social economy with them.
Suppose you’re sitting at your work station, and the new guy walks up. Leaning against the door, he tells you that he’s been watching you.
A little creeped out, you ask why.
“Because you’re doing ___________ wrong and making everyone’s jobs difficult.

How would you respond?
Now imagine it was your friend who told you that. Would your response be different?

A Warning

Before you go tell someone ‘like it is’, do a self-check. Are you excited about the confrontation?

If so, you’re the wrong person. It’ll come off as preachy and a personal attack. It shouldn’t be exciting to tell someone they’re messing up and it’s not going to end well.

Better is open rebuke
Than love that is concealed.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.

Proverbs 27:5-6

It doesn’t always end like  you want. You may lose friends and family. Hopefully they’ll  remember who was there. If you told the truth with the right attitude, they won’t have to worry about you gloating.

Is It Worth It?

We see a lot of celebrities self-destruct. Why? Because they’re surrounded by “Yes Men” and people just there for the ride.

When the dust settles, only those who loved them will still be there. Recognize the people who love you the most that will tell you the hard truth if you want to hear it or not.

Someone We Can Count On?

I hear a lot about Millennials, I may even be one or a Gen-Xer, I’m not sure which, and one thing the younger generation is good at is their B.S. Meters in day-to-day life. Ravi Zacharias, in a Just Thinking podcast, spoke of the teens and young adults in Canada just wanting someone to believe in. That was their top concern over poverty and environment. The thing is people will fail us.

Two Faced?

1692963-profile_twofaceOne day, I listened to someone say they wished one thing had happened to a person. Two weeks earlier, I had watched him help the guy avoid the consequence he was now saying he wished had happened. Was it said for the benefit of the audience?

It does make it harder for me to believe him now. I carry that to the logical conclusion and I’ll end up not trusting him at all. That takes us back to Ravi’s findings and a passage that came to mind.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.” James 1: 22-24 NIV

At the core, James was writing about a lack of a foundation. Rather than standing by our actions, we do one thing and say another. Consistency is lacking these days, easy proof of that is politics and reality TV.

“Am I Guilty of the Same?”

Have you examined yourself to see where you’re noticeably consistent with your values and principles? Does it depend on which group you’re with now?

I fail often, some recorded here. I don’t trust in anyone to not fall short. I do trust in one who hasn’t failed me, the Cornerstone that is Jesus. Isaiah 28: 16 reads that any who ‘rely on him will not be stricken with panic.’

Peter and John before the Sanhedrin warned the religious leaders to “know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” in Acts 4: 10-12.

What do you stand on? Whom can you trust?