Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers? When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most...
Following one of the most controversial election cycles in modern history, where the political drama was only amplified by the voices of our friends and family online, the social media bashing of one another’s views has not stopped. It’s easy to get swept away in it all. Convictions...
Greater love has no one than this:to lay down one's life for one's friends. (John 15:13) The greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends. Certainly we aren't called to die for our friends...are we? Well, yes. We are.If we mean to show the love of Jesus to the...
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.(1 Peter 3:15 ESV) Most of us claiming the resurrection of Christ act like we...
Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers?
When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most about…our own! What wonderful changes we could make if we were better able to allow others, including non-believers, to see our daily walk with Jesus. We would be able to change lives by introducing them to a faith that is real and alive. One Severn Runner, Hillary, was willing to share her story about how she did just that.
“I was working as a therapist in a prison. I was ready to make a career move and had applied and accepted a conditional offer for a new position, but was waiting in a holding pattern for almost two years. It was easy to write it off as the pace of the federal governments hiring system, but in hindsight, I think God was keeping me there for a reason. Over that time other coworkers left only me and my coworker, Emily, on our team. Working in prison you find any reason to get out during the day and we regularly began getting afternoon coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I was under the assumption that Emily was a Christian, not the “I believe in God” type, but the active Christ following type. I am not really sure why I thought this, but I did. Our conversations over coffee were about relationships, family, and daily life. Our conversations got deeper and turned to issues of faith. I thought I was having deep conversations with a person who shared my beliefs and was coming from the same place of faith. I openly shared my thoughts, questions, and experiences. We talked about our churches and I was surprised how little she seemed to know about hers, but didn't think much of it. After several months, Emily shared with me that she had gotten baptized. I was so happy for her, but it was also the first time I recognized that she hadn't been in the same place of faith as me during our conversations. She told me how our conversations had been a part of her journey. Shortly after, I got a start date for my new job and left Patuxent [Institution]. It is hard to think that God didn't keep me there to have that experience with her – to share my faith freely and without inhibition because I didn't know I was sharing with someone might reject it.”
Wow! What a great misunderstanding that turned out to be. But there were a lot of ways that God was moving in Hillary's life to orchestrate the seemingly coincidental relationship she developed with Emily.
“I think God was working through me to share faith with her and draw her into the accepting community of faith. She got into a dating relationship that quickly became an engagement during that time and my marriage, Wes' and my involvement in YMP (Connect Group at Severn Run), and the other Christ centered couples we knew were able to be examples to her of what a Christ centered relationship can look like. Because she was my friend, I shared with her some messy and vulnerable times Wes and I walked through – and I think that realness was impactful for her. God was working through her and the situation to teach me to be bold in sharing my faith – I never would have spoken so openly if I had known there was a risk that she wouldn't be receptive.
Another thing I think is important is that in sharing with her, I talked about struggles, questions I had, barriers between sharing faith with my family, etc. A lot of times I feel like when sharing my faith I need to have the perfect thing to say or have it all wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow, but real faith is evolving and is sometimes difficult which is just as important to share.”
It’s easy to relate to Hillary's feelings on why we hold back when sharing our faith. We are worried about how we will be received, but the person on the other end really just needs to hear Jesus speak through our life's story. When we think we are “improving” our story by focusing on getting everything just right, we are probably just getting in the way.
“My main takeaway from the experience is how differently would I talk about my faith if I was never worried about rejection. I hope that others would hear that too – how differently, how much more frequently, how much more vulnerable would we be talking about our faith if we acted like everyone we talked to was a believer?” - Hillary Battle
Let us know: How does this encourage you to be more bold about sharing your faith in everyday situations?
Following one of the most controversial election cycles in modern history, where the political drama was only amplified by the voices of our friends and family online, the social media bashing of one another’s views has not stopped. It’s easy to get swept away in it all. Convictions, opinions, emotions and confusion are still running rampant online and it can lead to moments of regret or moments of inflated pride. It’s time for us, as Christ-followers, to take a step back and reassess our witness on social media.
How do we do this? Remember this truth: if you claim to follow Jesus, you represent him. Everything you say and do should represent his heart. Here are some practical ways you can be sure that you a representing Jesus well.
Take a break.
If you have spent a lot of time on social media lately, chances are your head is spinning. Maybe because you’re actually confused on where you stand, or maybe because your convictions are being tested so much that it leaves you in a borderline or all out rage. No matter where you stand on this spectrum, it’s healthy for all of us to step back from the keyboard for a time.
There’s a simple test you can give yourself to see if it’s time for a break; let’s call it the Fruit Test (Galatians 5:22-23). After you spend some time online, assess what you are feeling. Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, or self-control? If you wrote some things yourself, are these fruits present in your words? If the answer is no, it’s time for a break!
Jesus often retreated from the chaos to align His heart with His Father. (Matthew 14:13 is just one example, what others can you find?) When you find your fruit is not of God step away and realign your heart with His. Spend as long as it takes to move your heart close to His once more.
Remember that behind every post and comment is a person whom Jesus loves and wants to have a relationship with.
Let’s face it. Our newsfeeds are full of people who are not yet in relationship with Jesus! This means that we are definitely going to see something that does not line up with our beliefs. So what do we do when we see those posts? Remember that those who do not yet know Jesus do not yet understand our beliefs because they do not have the Holy Spirit at work in them helping them to understand.
1 Corinthians 2:10-16 emphasis added
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
How will our friends begin to understand? Only through a relationship with Jesus! Did you catch that? They aren’t going to understand a Spirit point of view unless the Spirit is in them! This means that arguing your point until you are blue in the face (or fingers) is not going to change them. Only a relationship with Jesus can do that!
There is a reason Jesus said “Go and make disciples!” (Matthew 28:19-20) and not “Go and prove your point!” It is our job to be in relationship with those who need a relationship with Jesus.
Arguing with strangers on a comment thread is not going to reveal Jesus, because a comment thread is not a relationship. If you’re ready to make disciples, go and be in relationship with the people you are most offended by online. Tell them about Jesus and who He is, and allow the Spirit to inform their viewpoints once they enter into a life-changing relationship with Him.
Learn how to have a discussion.
The biggest issue with social media is the strange social construct it creates. The more time we spend online, the less grounded in actual truth we tend to be. We build ourselves a network of people who mostly agree with us, we follow pages we like, and we ignore or hide the ones we don’t. This creates a phenomenon called an “echo chamber” where our own perceptions are solidified by what we are seeing online.
These echo chambers can cause us to stand more firmly behind our personal perceptions than on the Word of God.
Take the time to understand what is informing your opinions. Is it social media or Scripture? If you are spending more time online than you are in Scripture, then go back to step one and dig in to the Bible. Align your heart with Jesus’ and then come back and see if your opinions still stand through the filter of God’s Word.
Once you have a clear picture of where your convictions lie, you might start to feel compelled to share, post, comment or reply again. The healthiest thing to do before posting at all is to take a beat and pray before you even begin typing. Then after you’ve typed up your post, pray again. Reread your words and allow God to speak to you about them. And remember the Fruit Test: is the post full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If it meets this test, you might be able to share it.
Another test you should give yourself is the relationship test. If you are about to comment on another’s post, ask yourself, “Do I have a meaningful relationship with this person?” if the answer is yes, then ask, “Can I look this person in the eye and say this to their face?” If the answer is no, delete it and move on, my friend! You are not called to be a keyboard warrior, you are called to be in relationship with other broken people. Use social media only as an extension of relationship, not a fabrication of relationship.
Finally, get educated!
Be sure you have a full understanding of topics you are discussing. Understand the bias you are bringing to the conversation. Research and learn from multiple outlets (and dare we say, books!) before chiming in.
Times of online strife are no fun for anyone, and it is in those times more than ever that we should be prepared to represent Jesus in real ways. This call requires a lot of work on our part, but it is a work that can please our Father. If you feel you’ve already tarnished your witness online, remember there is grace. Spend some time in confession offline with God in prayer, and then allow Him to do a new work in your life.
And when the next online war is waged, remember that Jesus can and will be glorified through you if you seek his heart!
Greater love has no one than this:
to lay down one's life for one's friends.
The greatest love is to lay down your life for your friends.
Certainly we aren't called to die for our friends...are we?
Well, yes. We are.
If we mean to show the love of Jesus to the world then we must die!
We must die to self.
We must lay down our own lives -- set aside our prejudices, our rights, and our own desires -- for a better way.
A way of love.
There is no other option in Scripture.
If we want to live we must die to the desire to put ourselves first.
We must lay down our busy lives for our friends...
- We can lay down our To Do List and help a friend in need.
- We can turn off Netflix and be with our neighbors to start relationships.
- We can set aside our prejudices and instead show empathy and share God's love.
Laying down your life and helping someone else pick up theirs is the beginning of a relationship that shows the love of Jesus.
Laying down your life and helping someone else pick up theirs is the beginning of a relationship that shows the love of Jesus.
And in case you were wondering, God has equipped you to lay down your life. He has equipped you to share his love. He has even put someone in your life who needs to know about Jesus.
What are you going to do?
Love has called your name and gifted you. Love is sending you and offering you the greatest joy of eternity--leading the lost home. Love asks you to lay down your life.
For whom will you lay it down? Who will you lead home?
But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.
(1 Peter 3:15 ESV)
Most of us claiming the resurrection of Christ act like we don’t have a story to tell. We might think we can’t be a witness for Jesus because our story isn’t “good enough.”
That is simply not true.
A witness is an "attestation of fact, event, etc., from personal knowledge;” (source) Witnessing has nothing to do with our goodness, or our imperfections. Each of us can speak with authority based on our personal knowledge of the situation.
Personal knowledge is an important element of a Christian witness. And personal knowledge is something God promises us as we pursue a relationship with him.
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
What is your personal knowledge of Jesus? What is your personal knowledge of the hope that Jesus’ resurrection gives to you? This is your story. This is what you can share.
As a Jesus follower you have personal knowledge of what Jesus has done in your life. You have personal knowledge of how Jesus changes your heart. You have personal knowledge about why you trust him. You have a story about giving up your life and following after him.
Your story doesn’t have to be dramatic. It certainly won’t be like anyone else’s story because you’re unique. But you do have a story...a story about the day you invited Jesus into your heart...a story about how he reveals himself to you. This is what we must share.
Have you prayed prayers and seen answers? This is your witness.
Have you seen miracles - even small ones? This is your testimony.
Have you seen Jesus revealed in and around you? This is your story.
Your witness, your testimony of fact from personal knowledge and relationship with Jesus, is your story about how Jesus is real to you.
No one can refute it.
As a disciple you must share it.
And God will use it to bring glory to himself.
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