When you are excited about something, what do you do with the news? Maybe you’re getting a new gadget that you’ve saved for. Maybe you get to see your favorite music artist after years of waiting. Or maybe, you came across an incredible deal that has you overly excited… What do you do with that news?
If you’re anything like me, you tell people about it. When I get a deal I look for even the slightest opening in the conversation to tell the other person about the deal I got. When I found out that my wife and I were pregnant (both times) I was filled with excitement and had a hard time not dominating the conversation with others about the good news.
When you have good news, it’s natural to share it.
I once heard N.T. Wright talk about his excitement when watching England defeat Australia in a rugby tournament. He was so excited that he rushed down to his hotel lobby to celebrate with others. While in the lobby he encountered three men… The first was from Australia - it was the worst day ever for him. The second was from Britain - It was the best day ever for him. And the third was an American - he didn’t care at all. Wright concludes, “News means different things to different people.”
Regardless of how that news is received, it doesn’t make it wrong to share the news. Most people could care less that I went to a country music concert. Many people were excited about the birth of my two boys. People respond differently to different news.
So, when you decide to share the news that Jesus has resurrected from the grave and that victory over death and evil is made possible through belief in Jesus… You will get different responses. Some will try to say “Quit trying to shove your religion down my throat.” Others might respond with, “I’m skeptical.” While others will be overjoyed at the news and respond with excitement and acceptance.
No matter how they respond, you are never wrong to share good news with the world.
In fact, sharing good news is essentially what Jesus tasked each of us to do if we have chosen to follow Him. Here were his exact words,
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NLT)
What’s it mean to be a witness? It means to confirm or attest to something on the basis of personal knowledge or belief. In other words, Jesus is literally telling his disciples, “Go tell everyone (the ends of the earth) about your personal knowledge of me… Go tell them the good news, which had over 500 witnesses (no fake news here! - see 1 Corinthians 15:6), that I’ve conquered the grave!”
We share the good news of life in Jesus, because we care for others and want them to experience and realize the same good news that we have. When we share Jesus, it’s really no different than bragging about the vacation, the promotion, or whatever we deem to be good news. When we share the good news of Jesus, it’s like getting a deal of a lifetime and not being able to shut up about it. Except this time, it’s the of deal of eternity.
So let me encourage you today. If you share the news of Jesus’s resurrection from the grave, you are giving witness to what you’ve seen and experienced in Him. You’re sharing the news that you have found life in Him. You’re not forcing anyone to believe. You’re not trying to change anyone by your own power… You’re simply sharing what you’ve seen and experienced with Jesus because it’s been good news in your life. And you can pray that they will receive it as good news as well. But how they receive the news, is ultimately up to them.
Keep sharing the good news.
Growth takes time. We know this from a biological standpoint. Humans spend their first nine months of existence in the womb growing and being nurtured by their mother. Once we are born our growth continues through our teen years. We learn to roll over, then we walk, then our parents are sizing up our diapers and clothes. Year after year we have to get new clothes and new shoes because we can’t stop growing. We grow taller and bigger until we finally slow down between the ages of 16-20… It’s a lot of growth. But it takes a lot of time.
I think we can agree that growth takes time biologically, and most of us would probably admit that growth takes time professionally. Rarely does anyone wake up one day to realize that through no effort of their own they have achieved greatness and become the very person they dream of being. Rather, most people have an idea of where they want to end up in life and then they take the necessary steps to achieve that end. That takes time. In his book Outliers Malcom Gladwell records that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you are considered an expert at any skill or talent. That’s a lot of time.
We understand that growth takes time physically and professionally… But few us like the idea of growth taking time spiritually. We often have that conversion experience where we feel God’s presence like never before, but it quickly fades and we soon realize that we have very little connection or relationship with God. And we begin to ask ourselves, “Why don’t I know all the answers? Why do I still struggle with this sin? Why am I still angry? Why don’t I feel God?”
When it comes to spiritual growth, we want the results immediately. Most of the time it is because the time associated with spiritual growth requires pain. We feel pain as we have to say goodbye to some relationships. We feel the pain of no longer reaching for the bottle to relax. We feel the pain of confronting the hurt we caused in someone’s life because of the way we lived before Christ. We feel the pain of sacrificing 10% of our salary so that the mission of God can move forward.
And often times, when confronted with these growth pains, we choose to not grow because the pain of staying the same is less than the pain of change. And then, we look at our lives and say, “Why haven’t I grown? Why am I not where I want to be spiritually?” And more often then not, it’s because we get impatient with what growth requires… So we quit and throw in the towel. But as we said at the beginning, growth takes time.
Rich Villodas tweeted the other day,
“If Jesus spent 8 hours a day, every day, for 3 years with his disciples, he would have spent over 8,000 hours with them. And after all that time, they still had significant gaps! Peter still denied him. Thomas still doubted. James and John still wanted power. 8,000 hours with his disciples and they had gaps.
Yet, we think 1 hour a week on Sunday morning is gonna change us?”
That convicts me! So often we don’t grow because we don’t put the time into grow. We never develop a consistent and steady prayer and Bible time. We don’t make it a priority to communicate and connect with other believers. We pack our schedules so full that we never have time to serve others. And all of these are steps to spiritual growth. And we often don't make the time for those steps. Which means we aren't growing by our own doing.
Please understand, when we feel distant from God and we feel like our spiritual growth is stunted, the problem is not with Him. It’s always with us.
So here's my suggestion: If you want to grow in your faith like never before this year, anticipate making sacrifices (pain!) so that you can spend more time with Him.
It should be no surprise to anyone that simply having knowledge about someone or something will not automatically dictate behavior. For example, I know that I should work out more because it’s good for my health… But that doesn’t mean I will. I know that I don’t need to upgrade to the iPhone 12 because my Xr works just fine… But that doesn’t mean I won’t. I know that I should turn off the TV and pick up a book… But it’s probably not gonna happen.
At the same time, the things I don’t know can also hurt me. As a kid, I didn’t know that broken glass could hurt me… So, when I picked up a broken shard and sliced my finger open, I really wish I had known that glass was sharp. For many of us, we wish we had known about those hidden dealer fees before buying a new car, but now we are out 500 bucks and there’s nothing we can do about it.
Knowledge can be a conundrum. And this knowledge conundrum especially extends into our faith. I know that I should sacrifice for and love my neighbor… But that doesn’t mean I will. On the flip side, I’ve known many who love to talk about themselves, yet had no idea that it was a prideful sin. You can be wrong and know everything. You can be wrong and know nothing.
I’ve seen lots of people who “know” God in the sense of pure data. They can tell you every story, every character, every law, and every interpretation, yet they have never learned how to apply that knowledge and live that knowledge out. And so, what we discover in this tension is that they don’t really know God… Because to know God is to obey his commands (1 John 2:3).
On the total opposite side, there are many who profess to know God, but their lives don’t reflect that knowledge because they have made no effort to know Him. They’ve let the pendulum swing to the other side and rather than learning everything about God, they’ve decided to know nothing about Him. And they are still just as far from God as those who have lots of knowledge but do very little. Their claim to follow Jesus is really just empty words.
It really is a conundrum. It shows us that you can know all the answers or know none of the answers and still be wrong. And at any point in time, every single one of us could swing to one side or the other.
So how do we know if we truly know God? If just the facts isn’t enough and if claiming belief but failing to learn about Him isn’t enough, what’s the answer?
I think it’s simple really… Let your knowledge of God transform you to be like God. To those who know everything, you have to be open to the power of that knowledge so that you can change for the better. To the one who puts no effort into studying and learning the things of God, you have to make an effort to learn about Him in His word so that you can be transformed.
Learning about God is an essential process to knowing God, but it can’t stop there. That knowledge must be applied to everyday life. Your knowledge must transform the way you think, live, and act. It must transform you to be like Jesus.
Colossians 3:10 says, Put on the new self, which is being renewed IN KNOWLEDGE after the IMAGE of its CREATOR.
Your new self, your transformed self is renewed in KNOWLEDGE after GOD! You’ll know you know God when you begin to experience the thrill of transformation in Christ. You’ll know you know God when you begin to respond differently and act differently and think differently than you did before.
So here’s the application for all of this: When (not if!) you study the Bible and the things of God to know Him more, you should always ask, “How then should I live?” Because the answer to that question should always be a reflection of Jesus and His way of life. And if it’s not, then you’ve missed the point and you might not know God as well as you think.
I think it’s really easy to read the Bible and see all the incredible stories and great acts of faith that people like Abraham, Rahab, Peter, Paul, Moses, and Noah made and say to ourselves, “Yeah… But that was a long time ago. God doesn’t really expect such faith from me.” And by simply writing off these stories as “Different day and different culture,” we actually end up missing out on all that God has in store for us.
I believe with all my heart that Christians are to live into the same type of faith that we see throughout Scripture. We are to be risk takers and world changers because we believe that the Creator of this world has called us to participate in his redemptive purposes for the world. But so often, our faith is little more than mental assent… We believe in Jesus, but we don’t always live for Jesus. We believe that Jesus lived, died, and resurrected, but how many of us only believe that to make sure we are covered when we die? So that we can avoid the bad place and get to the good place?
When following Jesus exists in mind only, with no action and discipline to actually follow Jesus in the way we structure our lives, we miss out on the purpose for which we were called. Jesus lays that purpose out pretty clearly for us in Matthew 28…
18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 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.”
I don’t know if you were paying attention or not, but that’s a purpose of action. Go… Make Disciples… Baptize them… Teach them… Five actions that Jesus outlines as our purpose. And for sure, these actions are often fulfilled in different ways. Sometimes its fulfilled with community service, intense prayer experiences, rigorous Bible study, or just showing up for your neighbor’s party… But, however the purpose is fulfilled, it’s fulfilled with some type of action. Praying for your friend to know Jesus is action. Studying Scripture to know God so that you can answer questions for others is action. Serving your community is action. Showing up is action.
Faith in Jesus requires action. It’s not enough to let our faith exist in mind only. We have to actively pursue God and pursue others if we are going to fulfill our purpose. The Bible is not just about people who took great risks so that we could be amazed… The Bible is full of stories about people taking great risks so that we could be encouraged to do the same.
Justo Gonzalez is a Christian Historian and in his book, A History of Christianity he writes,
“…Evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather in kitchens, shops, and markets. Sure there were some who held more academic type debates in their education centers… But the fact remains that most converts were made by anonymous Christians whose witness led others to their faith… It is clear that the enormous spread of the Gospel in those first centuries was not due to full-time missionaries, but rather to the many Christians who traveled for other reasons — slaves, merchants, exiles condemned to work in the mines, and the like.”
The good news of Jesus spread because common everyday people got active in their faith. The purpose, “To go make disciples,” was fulfilled because people like you and me got off the couch, out of the chair, turned off the TV, and took Jesus with them to the marketplace, to their jobs, and to their friends. And the risk they took to share the love of Jesus with their world, changed the whole world.
Friends, our purpose as followers of Jesus demands action. Don’t let 2021 pass you by without making an effort to help someone find and follow Jesus. Commit today to living an active faith so that the world might see Him.