Life On Purpose

Life on Purpose, from Matthew 28:16-20

Why in the world am I here, today, on this planet, at this point in time? That is a question that people spend a lifetime trying to answer. For many, they discover their gifts, talents, and passions early in life and spend their lives pursuing their dreams. For others, they constantly drift from one cause to the next, which spills over into their work life, their marriage, degrees to seek, new relationships… where does it end? They question the point of life.

After all, it IS a very good question. Why we human being spend some 70-80 years on this planet, struggling through hurts and difficulties, enduring suffering and injustice and poverty, and health issues? What is the point of life?

The writer of Ecclesiastes had the same observation, that life is pointless, all vanity, chasing the wind. There is nothing new under the sun; and just when you think you see something new, like a vapor, it’s is gone.

That, in fact, is my testimony.

While in high school I thought about the purpose of life and I came to the conclusion that THIS temporary life was preparation for the everlasting NEXT life. If there is no heaven at the end of this life, then there is actually no purpose for our existence other than to eat, breathe, sleep, and procreate. Life is then no better than a dog, a flea, a monkey, or an amoeba. If preparation for everlasting life is the purpose of our lives, basically, God’s original intent, then it is extremely important to tell other people about how they can prepare for heaven.

Enter the Great Commission.

These famous words are not just for pastors and missionaries, they are for every follower of Jesus Christ. The question then becomes, will I accidentally carry out the Great Commission or will I approach it with intentionality? By accidentally, I mean going through life and reacting to others around, putting in a good word for Jesus only if someone asks us a question. By intentionality, I mean walking through life with an agenda, no matter what our vocation or position in life, seeking ways to get involved in spiritual conversations with unchurched people.

One clear fact in the early days of the Christian movement is that disciples shared the story of Jesus with other people.

The passage at the end of Matthew’s gospel can be divided into three sections:

  1. The Mountain (Matthew 28:16)
  2. The Mixed Reaction (Matthew 28:17)
  3. The Mandate (Matthew 28:18-20)

MOUNTAIN: One of the last meetings that Jesus had with his disciples was this mountaintop meeting in Galilee. The angel told the women at the tomb on that first resurrection morning to go tell his disciples that he had risen from the dead and that he was going ahead of them into Galilee where he would meet them. Some people interpret this event to be the appearance of Jesus to more than 500 of his followers (1 Corinthians 15:6). But from the mountain in Galilee we get a mixed reaction.

MIXED REACTION: The text says that when they saw him, they worshiped, but some doubted. The fact that Matthew 28:16 says that, “some doubted” is evidence to me that this gathering was probably with more than his eleven closest men. The text mentions the 11 present, but it does not exclude the possibility of more being present. It doesn’t say ONLY the eleven. But the phrase jumps off the page at me because these guys spent so much time with Jesus, had seen the miracles, heard the teaching, failed to understand the predictions, but witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection appearances…

HOW COULD SOME DOUBT? I suppose for the same reasons that many of US doubt today. It’s an incredible story. It’s hard to believe someone is actually raised from the dead. I choose to deny the reality of what I see in front of me. I think I could come up with a better plan to connect with God than this resurrection and faith thing. But the point of the passage is that we have in our possession, GOOD NEWS, so this leads me to the mandate of Jesus.

MANDATE: Have you ever considered why this passage is called the Great Commission? Is this information any greater than the other stuff Jesus taught? Like the Sermon on the Mount? The parables of the kingdom? His prophetic words to his disciples that he was going to be mistreated, abused, and killed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem?

Perhaps it is because this is the last statement of Jesus before the ascension? It is so true that his last command needs to be our first concern. This declaration applies directly to believers, sort of giving us marching orders, explaining the reason and purpose, and the procedure for the task before the church. By the church, I mean those who are born again and who make up the body of Christ. The task is given to each of us, not just to a select few who are deemed to be professional ministers or exhibit a special call of God in their lives. The Great Commission is for ALL of us, but what is the key information that Jesus leaves for us to understand and obey?

In this mandate, we have three sections to chew on…

We have Jesus’ Authority (Matthew 28:18)

The word POWER actually means authority, the right to use the power. Some people actually leave this part out of the Great Commission, choosing to quote only Matthew 28:19-20, but the authority of Jesus cannot be left out.

The entire gospel of Matthew stresses the authority of Jesus to the primarily Jewish audience of Matthew’s gospel.

  1. There was authority in Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 7:29) for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
  2. There was authority in Jesus’ healing (Matthew 8:1-13) There is the story of the Centurion who was under authority, just say the word and my servant will be healed.
  3. There was authority in Jesus’ forgiving (Matthew 9:6) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He *said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”
  4. There was authority in Jesus’ dealing with Satan (Matthew 10:1) Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
  5. Here Jesus declares that he has ALL authority (Matthew 28:18)

What is a good reason to emphasize the authority of Jesus?

  1. If he has all authority and power, what do we have to fear?
  2. Wherever he leads, we really can go. No matter the circumstance, we know that we are covered by his authority.

Christianity is a missionary faith, and his last command must not be taken lightly.

  1. He does not desire for ANY to perish but ALL to come to him in faith.
  2. We have a message that the whole world needs to hear, even those who live on our streets, in our neighborhoods, offices, community centers, co-workers, classmates, and friends.
  3. We really have the “good news” that a lost world needs to hear. They may not accept it, but they need to hear it.

In the early church we see that they operated on the basis of Jesus possessing authority.

  1. They ministered in his name.
  2. They depended on his power and his guidance.
  3. They did NOT engage a lost world in their own power.

We have Jesus’ Assignment (Matthew 28:19-20a) the activity in which we must become involved.

GOING – this is actually NOT the command in the sentence, but a present participle (going). The only command in the Great Commission is to “make disciples.”

  1. “While you are going, make disciples of all nations.” The definition of a disciple – a learner, not an expert.
  2. No matter where you are, we are to seek ways to witness for Jesus and lead others to him (Acts 11:19-21)

BAPTIZING – Baptize them, in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

  1. Evangelism – sharing the gospel, the gospel cannot be mimed, it must be spoken.
  2. What is the gospel? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
    1. The Gospel is Missional: we must not keep this good news to ourselves. We are under direct orders from the head of the church to share the gospel with every created being (Mark 16:15). “I PREACHED to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, said twice).
    2. The Gospel is Christological: It is about Jesus – HE died, HE was buried, HE was raised, HE appeared, HE appeared, HE appeared.
    3. The Gospel is Historical: The gospel is an undeniable fact of history, even referenced in non-biblical sources (Josephus and Tacitus) (note the verbs) – he died, he was buried, he was raised, he appeared…
    4. The Gospel is Theological: Theology is the study or talk about God. The gospel is theological because it addresses the offensive nature of man’s sin toward a holy God (Habakkuk 1:13)
    5. The Gospel is Scriptural: The good news about the death and resurrection of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament, two times in this text it says, “according to the Scriptures” (Romans 1:1-2, Isaiah 53:5, 10-12, Psalm 16:10)
    6. The Gospel is Personal: Christ’s death was for “OUR sins.” Jesus died for my sins and your sins, that is why it is good news… it must be personally appropriated: “I preached to YOU, which YOU also received, in which also YOU stand, by which also YOU are saved, if YOU hold fast the word which I preached to YOU, unless YOU believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2)

TEACHING – TEACH all that I have commanded you…

There are scriptural models.

  1. The example of the early church (Acts 2:41-47)
  2. The example of Paul (2 Timothy 2:1-2)

It is fine to have a systematic discipleship program, but let’s face it, many people in the church are educated far beyond their obedience.

  1. We make it to all these Bible studies and small groups, but we have made them an end unto themselves.
  2. The goal of any believer and any small group is to be missional. That simply means that we embrace the Great Commission and seek to advance his kingdom with intentionality.
  3. How can we get involved with lost people around us? Or impact those in our circles of influence? There is no impact without contact.

Teach what Jesus has commanded – faithful teaching from the Scriptures. Why teach the commands of Jesus?

  1. John 15:14 – to be Jesus’ friend
  2. John 15:10 – to enjoy God’s love
  3. 1 John 3:22 – to see your prayers answered
  4. John 14:15 – to prove your love for God
  5. 1 John 2:3 – to experience security of salvation
  6. John 14:21 – to know Jesus more deeply
  7. John 14:23 – to have close fellowship with God
  8. 1 John 5:2 – to genuinely love others
  9. 1 John 5:3 – to avoid many of the burdens of life
  10. John 13:34-35 – to be known as a disciple of Jesus Christ

Teach what Jesus has commanded YOU – this makes it personal. We are able to teach only that which Jesus has taught us. How are you growing individually? Personal devotion time? Personal Bible study and worship? How do you talk with other people about the things God is teaching you?

Perhaps a tool can help: The Bible App Initiative… you can find it in the Information Center and online, notice the web address in your outline (www.tiny.cc/groupquestions). Here is a quick list of what you can do with the Bible App Initiative this week:

  1. Attend worship and take notes on the pastor’s message.
  2. Sunday afternoon or evening, go to this webpage and select the proper page of questions (choose by book, then chapter or section of chapter).
  3. Print the questions to have handy throughout the week, perhaps leaving the page near the family dinner table.
  4. At a meal (for example) intentionally read the Bible passage, and then ask several questions to have a discussion with your spouse or family.
  5. You might have a question in mind to ask someone during the day (perhaps at school, at work, or in the neighborhood).
  6. Bible knowledge is one thing, but strive to discover the “take away” of this weekend’s passage, asking, “How can I apply this truth to my life?”

We have Jesus’ Assurance (Matthew 28:20b) which gives us an ability to get the job done.

  1. Jesus is not only in our midst when we get together, but he is with us when we scatter all over the world.
  2. Had Jesus stayed on earth, he could not have fulfilled his promise of sending the helper, the Holy Spirit to guide and remind us of all that Jesus said and did.

Biblical examples of Jesus being with his followers:

  1. While obeying this Great Commission, Paul came to Corinth (Acts 18:1) and won many and baptized them (Acts 18:8) and taught God’s word (Acts 18:11). When it got tough, Paul got a special visit from the Lord (Acts 18:9-10) “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
  2. The end of the age: this indicates that the Lord has a plan, he is the Lord of history.

One way to be able to TEACH others is to be a LEARNER ourselves.

  1. Who are your favorite Christian authors?
  2. What are you reading in order to grow spiritually?
  3. Leaders are readers…

All this is designed to lead us into making disciples of all nations, to help others to know God and to love God; to be intentional witnesses and disciple-makers. We will not win the world by accident, we will not make disciples by simply inviting them to church. In our society today, we often equate evangelism with an invitation to church; but in reality, the Christian faith is more caught than taught.

Right now, as we think about the significance of the gospel message and our part in the Great Commission, we are moving into a time of reflection before taking the Lord’s Supper. This is a time of confession of times that we have fallen short, times when we have failed to be all that God desires for us to be, times when we have served ourselves before considering the needs of others.

As we partake of these elements, they represent the body and blood of Jesus. It is a meal that reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus during that special Passover celebration, and that Jesus had now become the sacrificial lamb who would take away the sins of the world. No longer would our sins be covered, our sins would now be cleansed.

These elements, and our participation in this ordinance, proclaims the death and resurrection of Jesus until he comes back. This is the first step toward our proclamation of the gospel to a lost and dying world.

Lead through the Lord’s Supper…

Now that we have experienced communion together as the body of Christ, may we make the commitment to continue the proclamation of the gospel until the second coming. The times are urgent, and short, may God challenge us to make a difference in the lives of those around us, for his kingdom sake. Let this be a purpose for existence, to know Christ, and make him known.

Next Steps:

  1. Get involved in the Bible App Initiative – www.tiny.cc/groupquestions
  2. How is it that we continue to doubt, (which keeps us from being missional)?
  3. In what ways are you making disciples, and fulfilling his last command?
  4. What specific teaching of Jesus do you need to obey more consistently?
  5. How might you become more bold at putting in a good word for Jesus?
  6. In what ways are you a continual learner, yet living out your faith in practical ways, passing on faith to others?

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The Keys to the Kingdom

Perhaps you have asked yourself questions like these: What does God want from me? How does he want me to live? I remember my early days as a believer, and I would often ask God to show me his will, reveal what he wanted from me. I remember finding verses like Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” or 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification;” or Romans 8:29, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” The goal back then was to be the best Christian I could be, walking in faith, walking in the light, walking in purity, but notice that the emphasis was always on ME.

But there are much bigger questions that believers must wrestle with. What is God’s global purpose and how do I fit into that? How does God expect me to do the work of evangelism? How am I making disciples? The preacher is always talking about the Great Commission and the need and responsibility that we believers have to be an intentional witness for the risen Savior Jesus Christ. I’m no Peter or Paul or Timothy; I’m just an average Joe who believes the story of Jesus, his work on the cross, and have put my trust in him alone for my salvation. I’m not ambitious enough to think that I can change the world, nor clever enough that God would use a person like me to make a difference. So, where do I fit in the Kingdom of God? How will I find my place in the Kingdom, which is our theme for 2015?

Perhaps you have been watching the NBC series on Sunday night called AD, the Bible Continues. While there are some portions embellished for story sake, the main story of the early days of the Christian church is great to watch. Those people had to stand up for what they believed in while the threats of imprisonment and death were constantly on their minds. God can’t expect us to live that way in this modern society.

Today, we seek out every possible way to be free from discomfort, and when we sense the need to go deeper with God, we use phrases like, “getting out of our comfort zone” or “if you want to walk on water, you’ve got to get out of the boat” or we read books like “radical.” In actuality, we are NOT called to be RADICAL, but rather “radical” is a term that should describe the NORMAL Christian life. When we are not radically sold out to Jesus, we are living out some other gospel, not one that we read about in the New Testament.

Let’s get into First Thessalonians:

The first thing I want you to see in this passage is that Paul brought to the church a message with kingdom authority.

  1. Kingdom Authority:

For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain, 2 but after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. 3 For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts.

The first thing I want you to see in these verses is…

The Manner of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2, 4)

  1. Paul was not a quitter (1 Thessalonians 2:1-2) He spoke with boldness, he suffered, he was mistreated, but he was dedicated to God, he continued to preach with a lot of opposition or contention.
  • He was jailed in Philippi (Acts 16:16-40) so he was a man with a police record, an ex-con, a jail-bird.
  • He was accused of being a man on the run from justice, and who would listen to such a man? There were people who twisted his message, his motives, and his methods.
  1. Paul was a steward (1 Thessalonians 2:4) he was entrusted with the gospel.
  • A steward owns nothing, but possesses and uses everything that belongs to his master.
  • A steward possesses faithfulness to his Master (1 Corinthians 4:1-2), we are not to aim for pleasing men, but pleasing God.

The people had no less than three charges against Paul. Let’s take a look at…

The Message of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3a). Paul’s message did not come from error; it was true and contained no deceit. This message came directly from God. People would accuse him of being mad, a crazy man, like…

  • Early in Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21), “When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.
  • Later in Paul’s life when Festus thought has was insane (Acts 26:24), “While Paul was saying this in his defense, Festus said in a loud voice, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.

We need to have the same burning passion of constantly talking about Jesus, what he has done for us, and sharing what we know and have experienced.

The Motive of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3b). Another accusation came that Paul was preaching with impure motives. It is possible to preach the right message with the wrong motives. The early church had a practice of what is called “agape meals” which had been called “love Feasts” according to Jude 1:12. You can imagine how critics could take that term and reduce it toward something immoral, but Paul’s motivation was clean; it was pure.

The Method of Paul’s Ministry (1 Thessalonians 2:3c). There was no guile or trickery to win converts to faith in Jesus. The word has an image of “baiting a hook;” yet Paul did not trap people with cleaver salesmanship. Salvation does not come at the end of some cleaver argument or subtle presentation, salvation is the result of God’s Word connecting with the power of the Holy Spirit … for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. (1 Thessalonians 1:5). In this passage, we see there was no deceit in Paul’s method.

His message of kingdom authority came out of his kingdom authenticity.

  1. Kingdom Authenticity:

5 For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness— 6 nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.

First Thessalonians tells us that Paul invested his life into this community, and made a difference. People knew the truth of his word and his words. He was not a cheap peddler of elixir, or a feel-good gospel, or a prosperity gospel. People accused him of flattery speech and being greedy, but Paul’s readers knew that he told the truth, just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you (1 Thessalonians 1:5).

Paul also appealed to the witness of God (1 Thessalonians 2:5, 10) and to their witness as well (1 Thessalonians 2:11). A person with flattery speech will manipulate rather than communicate. In America, we are getting used to being manipulated and lied to, especially during an election year. We see this regularly happening today in the mainstream media, if you repeat a lie often enough, and loudly enough, it will be accepted as the truth.

Authenticity means being who you claim to be as well as being who you ought to be. This is a challenge for all of us. There has to be authenticity in our pulpit ministry, corporate worship life, and in our individual and family lives, too.

Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened while possessing a kingdom attitude.

  1. Kingdom Attitude:

7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. 8 Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. 9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children,

This section begins and ends with two great illustrations: he behaved as a mother with her child and a father with his children. This reveals the care and concern that parents have for their kids, and as kingdom people, we should have toward those inside and outside of the faith. A kingdom attitude understands that we do not live only for ourselves. The church does not exist for itself. The church is probably the only organization that exists solely for the benefit of those who are not members.

Think about how Jesus treated his disciples. He lived among them, coached them, taught them, challenged them, encouraged them, all these things are done in close proximity, as the body of faith. Babies are not birthed only to let them fend for themselves; neither are we to do the same with the children of God.

Believers in Jesus Christ must invest their lives into the next generation; it is imperative for human families, it is essential with our spiritual family. We must be of the same attitude, to work day and night, proclaiming the good news of Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:9). This type of investment of life and involvement in the lives of other people is different than church business as usual.

Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened while possessing a kingdom attitude; so to make this happen, we need a kingdom approach.

  1. Kingdom Approach:

12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.

This verse tells us that the way in which we walk (meaning, the way we live our lives) must be in a manner worthy of God. The old approach is that we simply believe in the facts about Jesus whether we end up living according to that standard or not. It was all about right belief and praying a prayer of salvation. This approach has led us to the point we find the church today.

Think about the evangelism of the past, we were taught to go to strangers, knock on doors, or go to the unchurched people you know to make sure they hear a clear presentation of the gospel. We want them saved, to believe in the resurrected Jesus, the only way to the Father (John 14:6). That may be well and good, but I question the effectiveness of this approach. A kingdom approach involves living our lives in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into his kingdom.

I’m not talking about lifestyle evangelism, which is generally translated as, “I won’t speak up and say anything about Jesus, I just let my life speak for me; after all, my actions will speak louder than my words.” The problem is that no one is perfect and lost people will be disappointed in other human beings in the long run.

While it is true that Jesus said to let your light shine before me so they will glorify the Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16), Paul said in Romans 10:17, that faith comes from hearing. People need to hear you putting in a good word for Jesus. Lifestyle alone is not sufficient.

St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” It sounds good on the surface but let’s think about this logically. Doing acts of kindness for others will not invite them to fall on their knees and repent, it takes our speaking up so they can HEAR the gospel and follow Jesus. As an example of the importance of action, consider this, “Feed the hungry at all times, and if necessary, use food.” Being an advocate for hunger issues is different from feeding hungry people. How will people taste of the Bread of Life if we don’t provide the necessary food?

So, this new approach is all about getting involved in our community and impacting our circles of influence, more than creating the next great event designed to attract people to our church in hopes they hear the gospel from a professional pastor. In this attractional model, evangelism has become synonymous with an invitation to church.

So finally, Paul had kingdom authority and lived his life with kingdom authenticity; which could only happened when possessing a kingdom attitude; employing a kingdom approach, and being involved in kingdom activity.

  1. Kingdom Activity:

13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. 14 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews,

Paul sums up this entire section by thanking God that the Thessalonians received his message and accepted the message for what it was, the Word of God, and not the word of men. The challenge he has in this section comes right out of verse 14, that they would become imitators of the churches in Judea (1 Thessalonians 2:14). So, what is the church supposed to be doing?

One of the best places in Scripture to read about the activities of the early church is in the book of Acts 2:42-47. Back in April I was able to preach about Praying for the Church’s MVPs (the church’s Mission, Vision, and Proclamation) so I won’t revisit that today, but the point is, we are to be on mission in this life. The church must be active and on the move, we have marching orders, and HIS last command needs to be OUR first concern.

We have been entrusted with the gospel, and we must be good stewards of that which the Father has given to us. We are gifted in various areas, different people are able to serve in different capacities. It is important to find a place to give back, make a difference, and impact the kingdom of God.

We have kingdom authority and are challenged to live with kingdom authenticity; which can only happened when we have a kingdom attitude, employing a kingdom approach, and being involved in kingdom activity. This is how we make a difference in the lives of others, for the kingdom’s sake. These five things really are the keys to the kingdom.

Next Steps:

In what ways can you BLESS your neighbors and co-workers each week? Remember this means to

  1. Begin with prayer, then
  2. Listen, or
  3. Eat a meal that week with an unchurched person, or
  4. Serve someone in Jesus’ name, or
  5. Share YOUR story or HIS story.

How can you make sure that you are trying to please God rather than trying to please yourself or other people?

Into whom, and how, are you imparting the gospel of God and your own life to others (1 Thessalonians 2:8-9)?

What is the difference between accepting a message as the Word of God and responding to it? (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

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Make Friends to Make Disciples

The idea of living the Christian life is to impact those around you for the kingdom of God. Check out this challenging word from Rick Warren, based on Romans 12:16.

Everybody’s looking for a true friend — not just acquaintances but people who are there with you when you need them most. God wants you to build true friendships with the people that are already in your life so that you can share the gospel with them. God has put these people — your co-workers and classmates, neighbors and teammates — in your life specifically so you can share with them about the most important decision they will ever make. If you don’t tell them about what Christ has done for them, then who will?

The Bible says to “Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” (Romans 12:16 NLT)

Christians tend to fall into one of two extremes: isolation or imitation. Some Christians say, “I don’t want to get polluted by the world. I’m just going to isolate myself. I’ll build a wall and my own little culture.” Isolation doesn’t work! How are you going to build any friendships that way?

The other extreme is imitation, which says, “Let’s be just like the world. We’ll dress like the latest pop star. We’ll say whatever we want about other people. We’ll have whatever values and goals popular culture tells us we should have. We’ll be no different from the world.” That’s not what God wants you to be, either. He doesn’t want you to give in to the lowest common denominators of society.

The answer is not isolation or imitation. It’s insulation and infiltration. The Bible says you’re to be salt and light in the world. You’re to penetrate the world with God’s goodness.

When I go out to dinner and order sea bass, the first thing I have to do before I can eat it is put salt on it. That fish has lived its entire life in salt water, yet I have to put salt on it. What’s going on? That fish is insulated. If God can take a fish and keep it in salt water its entire life and not have the salt permeate the fish, then certainly God can take any believer, put us in the world, and keep us from being corrupted by the wrong values.

God wants you to be holy and secure in your faith. He also wants you to walk out your door into the world and get to know the people he’s placed in your life. As you build relationships with people around you and share Truth with them, you are to be in the world but not of the world.

“The Holy Spirit, God’s gift, does not want you to be afraid of people but to be wise and strong and to love them and enjoy being with them” (2 Timothy 1:7 TLB).

Talk It Over:

  • Why is it sometimes easier to isolate ourselves rather than get to know other people on a deeper level?
  • What are some ways you have fallen into the trap of becoming an imitator of the world?
  • If you were the only representation of Jesus Christ that someone had in his or her life, how would they perceive Christianity? How does that make you want to change?

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The Optional Gospel?

What part of the gospel is optional? This is our mission, God’s global purpose…

This book takes you on a transforming journey in authentic discipleship. During his time as pastor of a large and wealthy congregation, David Platt began to see a discrepancy between the reality of his church and the way Jesus said his followers lived. In Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, Platt examines how American Christianity has manipulated the gospel to fit our cultural preferences and challenges us to rediscover the path.