Posts Tagged ‘sharing the gospel’

Ruth 2:1-23 (Part 2 of 5)
Ruth Gleans in Boaz’s Field

Our church motto is “missionaries where we live, work, and play.” The intention of the motto is to demonstrate to our people that we should be on-mission, Jesus’ mission, all the time no matter where we are or what we are doing. So often, we think of mission as being someone being sent to a foreign land to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, our church motto reminds us that our mission field is not limited to foreign lands. Acts 1:8 tells us to be Jesus’ witnesses in Jerusalem (here we live), in Samaria (in our region and nation), and to the ends of the earth (foreign lands). We are called to be missionaries just as much locally, regionally, and nationally as we are called to be missionaries in foreign lands. Each of us has a mission field in our normal everyday lives. We each have a sphere of influence that is our mission field. We each have a sphere of influence where we work. We each have a sphere of influence where we live – in our neighborhoods and in our sections of town. We each have a sphere of influence in our leisure pursuits and just normal everyday interactions with people with whom we come in contact not at work or in our neighborhood.

The motto is to encourage our LifeSong folks to be mindful that each one of us is part of the kingdom’s work each and every day no matter where we are or what we are doing. We should be “on-mission” all the time. We should consider ourselves ministers of the gospel. It’s not just the preacher’s job. Having full-time pastors in a local church is a recent development in Christendom. For most of the early centuries of the church, the job of what we call a preacher today was shared among the elders of the church and each and every member of the church was not excused from carrying the gospel just because they were not an elder. So, our church motto is one that reminds that we are a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:6) as part of God’s people. Church should not be a compartmentalized thing that we do on Sundays only or at special events at other times that require us to volunteer. We should be missionaries when nobody from church is looking. We should be missionaries when the preacher is not there to pat us on the back. We should be missionaries where we live, work, and play because we are playing for “and audience of one”, as my pastor often says. The “audience of one” is God and He is the one whom we must please and not necessarily so we can gain favor with our preacher or the people that we want to impress at church. We should be doing the work of the kingdom, spreading the gospel, because we love the Lord with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and because we love others so much that we want them to have the opportunity to encounter a real person who has been saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. We want people who do not know Jesus to come to know the joy and peace that comes from salvation in Jesus Christ. We should care so much about the eternal destination of all the people we come in contact with in our spheres of influence that we are on-mission every day. We think about it. We pray about it. We act upon it. We give glory to the Lord because of it.

That’s the intent behind the motto. But at the same time, if we do not live out Christlikeness in our everyday lives, then, all of the above is meaningless. I think part of the intent of the motto is also to remind us that being a Christ follower is a full-time 24/7/365 calling. It is not some box that we pull out of the storage rack in the garage on Sunday and play with its contents for a few hours on Sunday and maybe at special events of the church here and there and maybe at some small group setting on a regular basis. Being a missionary where we live, work, and play is a reminder that we are Christ followers all the time – from the time we get up in the morning until the time we go to bed at night and even while we are sleeping. During our day, we should remind ourselves that we are Christ’s representatives here on earth. We should NOT be like the old saying about church hypocrisy of “go to church on Sunday and live like hell the rest of the week.” Not that we should try to be some paragon of virtue, we are flawed, fleshly human vessels on this side of heaven, but there should be real life change as a result of salvation. We should be through sanctification by the Holy Spirit from the inside of us out becoming gradually, gradually more and more like Christ every day. We should be different from the rest of the world because Jesus sure was. We should be so different and have such different values from the rest of this fallen world that people are drawn to us and want to know why we are so different. We should live our lives in such a way that we have good reputations and people can count on our word being our word. We should be people who value integrity and honesty. We should be people who demonstrate those qualities in everything we do. We should have demonstrable faith. We should be people who are unafraid to live out the gospel in their daily lives. We should be unafraid to share our faith with others. We should have such a reputation for being a Christian that people are drawn to us and want to know how Jesus changed our lives. We should have a reputation for being ethical people even when we don’t have to be. We should have a reputation for being a hard worker. We should have a reputation for being a person that can be counted on to go above and beyond what is required. In our neighborhoods, we should be seen as people who are uncommonly kind and who care about our neighbors. All in all, we should be on-mission not only in intentional acts of evangelism but we should let our lives reflect that we are missionaries each and every day where we live, work, and play.

That was the thing that struck me when I read this passage/chapter of Ruth for the second of five reads through this morning – how Ruth was a woman of character all the time, every day. She was an example of a missionary on-mission all the time. Let’s read through Ruth 2:1-23 for the first of five blogs today:

2 Now there was a wealthy and influential man in Bethlehem named Boaz, who was a relative of Naomi’s husband, Elimelech.

2 One day Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go out into the harvest fields to pick up the stalks of grain left behind by anyone who is kind enough to let me do it.”

Naomi replied, “All right, my daughter, go ahead.” 3 So Ruth went out to gather grain behind the harvesters. And as it happened, she found herself working in a field that belonged to Boaz, the relative of her father-in-law, Elimelech.

4 While she was there, Boaz arrived from Bethlehem and greeted the harvesters. “The Lord be with you!” he said.

“The Lord bless you!” the harvesters replied.

5 Then Boaz asked his foreman, “Who is that young woman over there? Who does she belong to?”

6 And the foreman replied, “She is the young woman from Moab who came back with Naomi. 7 She asked me this morning if she could gather grain behind the harvesters. She has been hard at work ever since, except for a few minutes’ rest in the shelter.”

8 Boaz went over and said to Ruth, “Listen, my daughter. Stay right here with us when you gather grain; don’t go to any other fields. Stay right behind the young women working in my field. 9 See which part of the field they are harvesting, and then follow them. I have warned the young men not to treat you roughly. And when you are thirsty, help yourself to the water they have drawn from the well.”

10 Ruth fell at his feet and thanked him warmly. “What have I done to deserve such kindness?” she asked. “I am only a foreigner.”

11 “Yes, I know,” Boaz replied. “But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12 May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.”

13 “I hope I continue to please you, sir,” she replied. “You have comforted me by speaking so kindly to me, even though I am not one of your workers.”

14 At mealtime Boaz called to her, “Come over here, and help yourself to some food. You can dip your bread in the sour wine.” So she sat with his harvesters, and Boaz gave her some roasted grain to eat. She ate all she wanted and still had some left over.

15 When Ruth went back to work again, Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her gather grain right among the sheaves without stopping her. 16 And pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her. Let her pick them up, and don’t give her a hard time!”

17 So Ruth gathered barley there all day, and when she beat out the grain that evening, it filled an entire basket.[a] 18 She carried it back into town and showed it to her mother-in-law. Ruth also gave her the roasted grain that was left over from her meal.

19 “Where did you gather all this grain today?” Naomi asked. “Where did you work? May the Lord bless the one who helped you!”

So Ruth told her mother-in-law about the man in whose field she had worked. She said, “The man I worked with today is named Boaz.”

20 “May the Lord bless him!” Naomi told her daughter-in-law. “He is showing his kindness to us as well as to your dead husband.[b] That man is one of our closest relatives, one of our family redeemers.”

21 Then Ruth[c] said, “What’s more, Boaz even told me to come back and stay with his harvesters until the entire harvest is completed.”

22 “Good!” Naomi exclaimed. “Do as he said, my daughter. Stay with his young women right through the whole harvest. You might be harassed in other fields, but you’ll be safe with him.”

23 So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. And all the while she lived with her mother-in-law.

In this passage, we see that Ruth’s life exhibited admirable qualities. She was hardworking, loving, kind, faithful and brave. These qualities gained her a good reputation, but only because she displayed them consistently in all areas of her life. Wherever Ruth went or whatever she did, her character remained the same. Your reputation is formed by the people who watch you where you live, work, and play. A good reputation comes by consistently living out the qualities that you believe in – no matter what group of people you are around or what surroundings you are in.
So, when you wake up this morning and go to work, and then interact with people all day at work, and then you come home to your family, and when you are out in your neighborhood, and then when you go out to eat and interact with people all along the way, will there be enough evidence of you being a Christ follower for people to notice that you are a Christian. Are you a missionary to the people you work with? Are you a missionary to your family? Are you a missionary to the people you come in contact with when you are not at work and not at church? Are you a missionary all the time? Does your life reflect that you love God and love others? Does your life reflect that you are part of the kingdom of priests and the holy nation of God’s people? Does your life reflect that you are an ambassador of Christ? Are you on-mission all the time? Are you a missionary where you live, work, and play by the actions that you take and how you live your life? Am I? Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit reveals to us where we are failing Jesus in that regard.

Amen and Amen.

Luke 16:19-31 — You know, for several weeks now, as we have progressed through Jesus’ teachings in His parables, one thing that pops out is that a lot of these parables are about possessions and money. Today is no different. Today, we look at the Parable of the Rich Man and the Beggar. Many of us think that there is always more time. Just give me a little more time to live as I want to and then I will come to Christ.

It is a bit ironic that we run across this passage today. Last night, my wife and I were sitting on our back porch (our favorite spot at our house, especially in the spring and summer), and it was raining. My cat, Flash, was out there with us. It was raining pretty hard outside but yet my wife does not like to let my little buddy in the house too often. So, there sits Flash on the porch. Can’t go outside because of the pouring rain. Can’t go inside because of Elena. So, he just sat on the floor stairing aimlessly outside. I said “Poor lil Flashy! He’s in porch purgatory.”

That got me to thinking. Where did the Catholics come up with the doctrine of purgatory? According to Catholic tradition, this belief has existed since the beginnings of the church (remember the Catholic church was the original church of Jesus’ disciples, catholic is Latin for universal. The church did not get this official name until it became the official religion of the Roman Empire around 300 AD). Research shows that Judaism believes in it as well. Islam does too in a sense with Islam’s levels of heaven. So, the Catholics are not alone in this belief that there is some type of cleansing that goes on for a period of time before we get to go to “real” heaven where we are cleansed of our imperfections. It is said that half of all Christians have this concept as part of their beliefs and most all other religions do too. Only we Protestants (all non-Catholic) believers dismiss the concept as having no basis in God’s Word itself. Man has developed this belief that there is always more time. More time to get ourselves straight with God. The dogma of purgatory almost gives us the idea that we do not really have to get it right while we are here on earth. We have a chance to get it right after death and before our final eternal destination. What a crock this is? It almost eliminates the need for Jesus and eliminates the urgency to come to Him. We’ve got time, always more time. I can put off til later dealing with this salvation thing.

This passage reminds us that purgatory is not biblical. This passage reminds us that hell is real. This passage reminds us that we are not guaranteed tomorrow so salvation and evangelism are essential.

As we see here in this passage, the beggar went to heaven and the rich man went to hell. This means that there is an immediate assignment of our soul to its eternal destination. There is no purgatory. There is no second chance. Purgatory is just an invention of man to make himself feel better about his loved ones who have passed on or about our own lifestyle as it is lived out day to day. It takes away the urgency of evangelism and it takes away the need for salvation. Jesus never spoke of purgatory. He only spoke of heaven and hell and we see it here clearly that there are only two options. Live a life of hard-heartedness. Live a life of rejection of God and His Word. Live a life of never accepting Jesus as your Savior and you will get your answer about the afterlife immediately.

This passage reminds us that hell is for real. There is no purgatory. There is the “hell express” immediately upon death for those who do not come to Christ in this one life chance that we have. Hell is not a pretty place. The rich man complains of the unquenchable thirst that he has and that he is in anguish. Let’s get this straight first. The rich man did not go to hell because he was rich and had much wealth. He went to hell because selfish. He refused to help the beggar right at his doorstep, a man so sickly that even the dogs licked his sores. Let’s remember first century Jews had no love for dogs the way we do. They were considered mongrels and were considered unclean, nasty animals and were never kept as pets. To be so sick that dogs would feed on you meant that you were lower than low. The rich man would not care for the beggar at his doorstep who begged for food. He refused to take the beggar in or even care for him. The rich man was hard-hearted despite his many material blessings. This man went to hell because his wealth was his god. He was blinded that Moses and prophets preached that God wants us to show love to the less fortunate. In the caring for the less fortunate, we learn not to love our things and make them our God. Caring for the less fortunate helps us to show the world that there is a God who loves them and will give them hope. Yet this man probably felt that his wealth and the maintenance of it was more important than helping his fellow man. When we make anything else other than God our god during this one chance at life that we get, we destine ourselves to the anguish of hell. It is a place of eternal suffering, pain and thirst and fire and the gnashing of teeth and bone and burning flesh and stench and emptiness. It is real and it is immediate. Do you want to keep putting off your coming to Jesus, the only way to the Father? The only way! No other way! Is living this life with some sense that you have time to get this right later on really a good bet? The rich man in this parable probably thought he had a long life to get things right but He didn’t. How much time do you think you have? Hell is for real. It is permanent. It is immediate when you die. I am not trying to scare anyone into salvation. That never works but it is so common for us when we are non-believers to think that we have more time to deal with our eternal destiny.

Why is it that we think that we always have time to deal with Jesus later? We think we are going to live forever. All of us, even Christ followers, do not like to think of death as being right around the corner. As Christ followers we know we are secure in heaven at death but we do not like to think it could be when we step our door to go to work this morning. The reality however is that we are not guaranteed one more minute in this temporal life that we are living now. We could indeed step out the door this morning to go to work and never make it there, even if you live less than two miles from work like I do. Death is always out there. We do not know when it comes. Why is it then that non-believers think they can put off dealing with Jesus until later. I put it off for 39 years. Let me live my life the way I want to right now. I can deal with Him after I have sowed all my wild oats. I am having too much hedonistic fun right now to deal with Him. I am too busy reveling in my sins right now. I will deal with Jesus later. We are not guaranteed one heart beat more than the next beat. Don’t put off coming to Jesus. Come to Him now. The rich man in this parable thought he had all the time in the world. We think we will live forever. Tomorrow I will deal with Jesus. Tomorrow. But tomorrow may never come. We may die today. Come to Your Savior now. As the captain of the space shuttle on Armageddon said, “We’ve got no time. No time!” Today may be your last day. Don’t put off knowing Jesus as your Savior. The rich man thought he had more time but died suddenly and putting off and putting off landed him in a place of eternal anguish known as hell.

The fact that we are not guaranteed tomorrow not only should give the non-believer a sense of urgency to deal with Jesus but as Christ followers it should give us a great sense of urgency to share the gospel message. We put off sharing the gospel but it has been statistically proven that a person typically has at least 8 gospel encounters before they finally accept Christ. If we miss our divine appointments because we feel uncomfortable sharing, we are stretching out the time frame that a person has before the come to Christ, if at all. We are not guaranteed tomorrow as Christians but non-believers are not either. Hell is for real and is immediate upon death as we see in this parable. That raises the stakes for us as Christ followers. We must share the gospel when the opportunity arises. We must have a sense of urgency. Now. Now. Now. Hell is at stake. Souls are at stake. One chance at this life. It is short. Non-guaranteed long life. Today is the day. We should have that urgency on our mind when gospel opportunities are laid before us. Let us live with gospel urgency!

Earlier this week, I read this quote from Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional by Alvin Reid:

If you have attempted to witness, you about this fear, “I don’t know what to say, What if they ask a question I can’t answer?” The fear of failure is real. How do we cope with it? This fear may exist because we misunderstand our task. We are called to faithfulness. Faithfulness to share is our measure of success. Our Lord Jesus did not win every person with whom He shared. We are ambassadors. Ambassadors do not speak on their own authority, but for another. We must remember that God holds us accountable for obedience, not perfection. Remember, Jesus called us to follow Him, and if we did so He would make us fishers of men (Matthew 4:19). If we enjoy fishing as much as catching, we will experience a lessening of this fear as we focus more on the joy of telling good news and less on our “success.”

This quotation resonated with me because it speaks to the fact that we are not personally responsible for winning souls to Christ. That is the Holy Spirit’s job. We are, however, called to be witnesses wherever we are (Acts 1:8). We are to be obedient and share the gospel and rely on the Holy Spirit for the rest.

I have read from various sources that the average number of times a person will hear the gospel before they come to faith in Christ is, depending on the source you read, as low as five (5) times and as many as eight (8) times. Thus, if we are keeping statistics, with all other variables being equal, it equates to an evangelistic batting average of .125 per unsaved person. When you factor in the fact that not all Christians share their faith ever, the batting average for the sharing person is less than that. If it takes that many (i.e., multiple) encounters for the hardened heart to be softened to Jesus Christ, when we do not share our faith, we are stretching out the salvation time line (first encounter with the gospel until the last where conversion occurs).

One of my friends from the time that I lived in California once compared this time frame to teaching basketball to a person. In teaching basketball, we start with dribbling and as the person progresses to the stage where they can dunk the ball in the basket (yes, I know not all people can dunk but allow some poetic license in the illustration). She compared the first sharing of the gospel with an unsaved person to teaching them to dribble. Something effective has been shared but it is just the start. We have planted the seed of salvation. Another person teaches them to dribble and drive toward the basket. Soil is softening and the person is actually thinking about God. Eventually, someone teaches them how to dunk. They are there for that final leap of faith and into the basket of salvation. We all often think that we are supposed to be there for the slam dunk. But, sometimes we are there simply for the dribble. We do not determine where we are in this basketball analogy. We simply must share. The command is obvious (Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19) that we must do this. We are not given any additional clause that we have a role with whom the gospel is shared. Our command is to share, share, share.

In the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23), the seed of the gospel was sown indiscriminately on all four soils. The sower is generous with the seed. While it is true that only one of the four was good soil and brought fruit, it did not change the fact that the seed kept falling on all four. Instead of being generous with the seed, we are being selective. I think there is a temptation to be discouraged from sowing the seed because we focus more on the fruit (harvest) than being faithful with the seed. The sower’s responsibility is not to determine the outcome of the seed. In that, we are trying to take God’s place by being selective with whom we share the gospel and worse yet not sharing it at all. We are commanded to be obedient to Jesus Christ. We are not required by Scripture to be a Bible know it all. We must though know what matters – the change that Christ has made in our lives. Sure, as we mature in faith, we can learn how to improve our witness by learning how to witness to baby boomers vs. Gen-X’ers, but that has to do learning what motivates people spiritually – the story remains at the core. When the earth was formed, the core formed first and then the layers of crust and earth developed after that. It is the same with our witness. The core of any witness is our story – how Christ changed our lives (what it was like before, how we came to Christ, and how our life has been radically changed since). To close out, I quote from Will McRaney’s book, The Art of Personal Evangelism:

You do not have to possess the attributes and gifts of Billy Graham to share Christ. You do not have to be an extrovert, meet strangers well, have a booming voice, be courageous in every circumstance, or speak eloquently before a crowd to tell God’s story in your life. Sharing Christ involves faithfulness to report for service in the Lord’s army. God desires to use you, which includes the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of you (p. 195)

If we wait until we have lived the perfect life to share the gospel, then the gospel would never have been shared beyond Jesus. We are commanded to share. We are to share the good, the bad, and the ugly side of us. Therein lies the power of our testimony. God redeems imperfect people through Jesus Christ. We are the tools He chooses to share the gospel through. It makes the story of salvation all the more powerful. God changes us from the ugly lostness of sin and its effects into imperfect beings made perfect in the covering of Jesus Christ before God. Your story of salvation is your personal evidence of how God redeems. That is the substance. That is the meat. That is what we are ultimately to share, as obedient believers. Every time we share, we shrink that person’s salvation time line. Their eternity is worth stepping up to the plate and taking a swing. It is worth being on the court, dribble or dunk.