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Connecting Their Story to the Gospel, Part 1

From the series Not Beyond Reach

Have you ever had a chance to share Jesus with someone but got too nervous or scared in the moment to do it? In this program, our guest teacher Aaron Pierce assures us that we've all been there. As he continues his series Not Beyond Reach, he’ll teach us some easy steps to boldly talk about Jesus, even with those with whom we disagree.

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Message Transcript

Last session we talked about how to bridge the gap from friendship to the gospel by having spiritual conversations. And this session we are going to be talking about how do we introduce Jesus and the message of the cross to non-religious people and then start a discipleship relationship?

The first point in all of this is that we need to remember that our only hope for this world is Jesus and the message of the cross. Like, there are no other answers to the pain and suffering and brokenness of this world than Jesus and the message of the cross.

We always need to remember that, because while our goal is to connect with people relationally and build authentic relationships, and while our goal is to challenge the assumptions that stand in the way of the message of the cross, ultimately the goal is that we introduce them to Jesus and the message of the cross, because that is the only hope.

So, if we fall short of that, we are falling short of offering the real answer to the real problems of the world.

So, for me, this is very personal. I grew up in a missionary home as you all know, and experienced personally the power of God at work in my life. Like, my parents started this mission, I got to see God’s work in people’s lives, transforming people’s lives outside the Church in powerful ways. And so, that was a super privilege for me, because God was not just this nice Sunday tradition that we did. It wasn’t just this kind of religious thing. It was real and it informed every part of our lives. And so, that was the privileged environment in which I grew up.

But my parents were always cool about saying, like, “You need to go and do what God has called you to do. It doesn’t have to look like us, it doesn’t have to be in vocational ministry, it’s about being faithful and obedient to whatever He has called you to do.

And so, I went to college and I studied international business and economics and I wanted to get into the business world and also I was on my way to law school and I had visions, some of them were just kind of selfish ambition, of, like, politics and how I was going to change the world through that.

And that was kind of the path that I was on. And then when I was at college, I went on a mission trip. Which is kind of interesting, because my whole life was a mission trip. But I went on a classic, you know, church mission trip.

And what’s great about mission trips is that you just, it broadens your perspective and you see things. And like a classic mission trip, I was exposed to the brokenness of this world. And I saw poverty, I saw injustice, I saw people who didn’t have what I had and I just saw a lot of, just pain and suffering.

So you can react to that in one of two ways. One is, like, you get inspired. You know, like, “I’m going to do something about it.” The other way is you kind of just feel overwhelmed and you feel like, “Man, what can we, how do we solve the problems of this world?” And frankly, I felt like that, the latter.

And I felt like, what, you know, drop in the ocean can I make in terms of impact? And I remember essentially complaining to God and saying, like, “God, how do You, why do we have a world like this that is so messed up?” And I was struggling with that and I was seeking God in that and I was wrestling about how do we solve the problems of this world?

And then I had this deep revelation from the Lord. And the revelation was that all sin, all suffering, all pain in the world is the result of just one thing and that is sin. And there’s only one solution to sin and that is Jesus and the message of the cross.

And so, at that moment it was like, “Alright. I’m done with everything else. My life is going to be about addressing the root cause and communicating the message of the cross to a world that is broken and suffering and that that is the only hope for this world.

In every context, in every culture, no matter the situation, Jesus is the hope and the answer of what people are looking for. And so, we need to start by reminding ourselves of that and perhaps having a revelation of the message of the cross and how that is ultimately what people need to hear.

Now, here’s the thing. When you commit to making your life about the message of the cross, you better expect some spiritual opposition, because there is nothing that the enemy hates more than when we begin to commit our lives to communicating the message of the cross.

And so, you’ve got to recognize that the enemy is going to do everything in his power to try to stop you from communicating the message of the cross. So, the first thing is recognizing that. Recognizing that that is going to be the case.

And then the key, you know, when it comes to spiritual opposition, we stand on the truth, right? Jesus modeled this in the desert. He stood on the Word of God and He confronted lies with biblical truth. Right? So, we need to know the biblical truth, we need to stand on the truth.

And then we also need to make sure we are not doing this alone. Right? I said this before, but this is not just an individual sport, this is a team sport. And so, we want to commit to do this with others that are going to hold our arms up in the battle, that when I am feeling weak, when I am feeling like I can’t handle it, they can stand strong with me. And so, I am doing this with a community of people together.

And then the whole, the last thing is just to not give up and to persevere. So much of success in ministry is just not giving up. Showing up, persevering, and not giving up.

And so, again, as we commit, as we recognize, as we remember that the only hope for this world is Jesus and the message of the cross we should expect spiritual opposition. And, frankly, that is a sign that you’re probably doing something that matters. Like, if you have no spiritual opposition, you should question what you’re doing.

And this is what is going to happen when it’s about communicating the message of the cross, which is more than just meeting physical needs. It’s more than just, you know, being a friend to someone. It’s actually introducing them to the answer for the sin problem that they have. And so, that’s the key thing to remember.

Now, the context here is that God has opened our eyes to the problem. We are aware of the fact that we are in a post-Christian context, right? He has opened our eyes and we have, we have rearranged our lives to develop friendships with secular people, with people that wouldn’t walk into a church, and we have begun to engage in good, spiritual conversations. You have done all of this good work, now you’ve got to jump off the cliff. Like now you’ve got to take that moment.

I remember I took my kids a couple years ago to South Dakota to the Black Hills and there was this big spot where we were able to jump off a cliff onto a big, you know, lake.

And we were kinda right up to that cliff and you have that moment, right, where you’re like, you’re standing there and at some point, there’s nothing, you can’t get any closer to the edge, right? Like, you’ve gotten as close to the edge, the only thing left to do is to bail out or to jump. Right?

And so, that is what it’s like when it comes to introducing Jesus and the message of the cross, because at some point you’ve got to just do it, right? And it’s not always going to be perfectly smooth and natural. You’ve got to take that leap.

How do we do it?

So, the first principle: rely on the Holy Spirit, not scripts or tracts. And I don’t mean to judge people that like to use tracts. They have been effective in certain ways and for certain people. But I think in this context for a variety of reasons, it’s better to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you in a natural conversation than using a script or a tract. Part of that is cultural. We live in a time when we are very skeptical of what people are trying to sell us. And so, the script vibe just feels that way.

It also feels far less natural, relationally, because it’s more about me getting my script out than it is about me just having a conversation with you about something that matters to me. It’s about being led by the Spirit in doing this, but as I [engage] in this conversation and He is discerning and leading me, I might go a path that I didn’t anticipate going on. But if I have a formula and a script I follow, then there’s just, there’s no deviating from that.

And the idea here is let’s not vomit our gospel scripts, right? And sometimes the reason for that is that it’s the goal is not for you to share the gospel. The goal is for them to receive it. Those are two different things. And sometimes we confuse the two. And you should feel good that you shared the gospel, don’t get me wrong. But in the end, that is not the goal. The goal is that they actually hear it and receive it. And so, sometimes with our scripts and our formulas and our, like, ticking the box of evangelism, it’s more about, like, “I shared the gospel today.” Which is good, because many Christians do not.

But beyond that, you want them to actually hear it. So, it’s a different mentality. And so, that’s why we need to wait for the right opportunity, be listening and responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

The second that relates to this is that people need to experience the power and presence of God. And especially in a post-Christian culture where people think they know who Jesus is or they have some idea of what the gospel message is about, but it’s become white noise to them at best. You know, it has become something that triggers a sense of hostility at worst.

You know, the gospel is not just about a transfer of information. It’s about a supernatural revelation of God that when I communicate the gospel message, that people sense God revealing Himself through those words, that there is a power and an authority and a sense of presence of God that goes beyond the intellectual arguments that I have had or the misconceptions about who I am. Because in the end, we are not just trying to transfer information, right?

We are trying to introduce them to the living God. And so, that’s why we need to rely on that and recognize that we need to ask the Holy Spirit for boldness and courage.

One of the signs that you are filled with the Spirit is that you are bold and courageous. You look at that through the book of Acts. That was a key sign that the Spirit was moving and that there is authority and power in my words.

I have experienced this in multitudes of ways in which there are times when I communicate and my words fall flat. And then at other times when I communicate the same words, but God’s presence, His authority is on those words and it resonates, it connects. And that’s because we need the Holy Spirit to be moving. So, we need to be praying. None of this can be done in the natural, right?

Throughout all this training we are talking about none of this can be done in the natural, and so, we need to be praying for the Holy Spirit to give us boldness and courage.

And when you’re filled with the Spirit, there’s a conviction, an assurance that gives you the boldness to speak. And then we need to have that authority and power that our words carry weight beyond the words themselves. Those are the things we need to be praying for.

And then the big idea here is that we’re introducing people to the person of Jesus. The concept is that we are not, it’s not about defending a philosophy or a concept or a set of intellectual beliefs. We are actually introducing people to the person of Jesus.

And sometimes as followers of Jesus, we need to remind ourselves of that, right? Because it gets into, like, how do I convince you to believe these set of principles or this theological framework. All of that is good, but that is based on the person, the real person of Jesus that you are introducing them to.

And that is the goal. And that’s a helpful thing, because a lot of the stuff that comes in terms of, you know, sanctification and their discipleship process and moral behavior and political stuff, all of that comes downstream after they meet Jesus.

And so, it kind of gives you the freedom when you’re engaging a secular person that your goal is not to worry about their behavior, not to worry about the lifestyle that they live or the political view that they may or may not have. Your job is to introduce them to the person of Jesus. And then when they meet Jesus, all that stuff begins to take shape.

So, who is Jesus - as you’re having these conversations now? What do they think? Who – is it accurate? And often what we need to do is we need to begin to reframe Jesus in people’s minds.

Christianity has become synonymous with a political party, right? For valid or invalid reasons. In some circles, Christianity has unfairly been associated with racism and misogyny and bigotry and the tool of the rich and the elitist. Like, this is a view that some people have.

Many also point to, like, the horrible things that were done in the name of Christianity throughout history and they say that, “You know, that’s proof that it’s a destructive, negative thing.”

You know, as we are confronted by these misconceptions and these misrepresentations of Jesus, we have to patiently reframe Him so that all that baggage – we talked about this in the last session – all that religious baggage that they bring to the table gets removed.

And because the reality is that Jesus does not fit into the stereotype that so many people have of Him. In fact, the Jesus that they reject, I reject also, because it’s not the real Jesus. Jesus, in His time, was radical. He subverted the cultural and political norms of His day. He was homeless, worked with a group of uneducated working-class folks, spent time with the diseased and the undesirables, defied racial and gender boundaries, healed the sick, fed the hungry. This is Jesus.

And this is not the picture that many people have of Jesus. It was the religious people of His day that hated Him. The people with power. And while it’s true and we should acknowledge openly that horrible things have been done in the name of Jesus, they are not an accurate reflection of who Jesus is and what His teaching is. Right?

And so, one of the ways, as you’re challenging and reframing Jesus, one of the ways that you can do this is invite people to do a Bible study with you. What you find is a lot of people have heard about Jesus and heard about the Bible, but very few people have actually read it and studied it.

And so, a really cool way, as you have developed a friendship, you’ve had the spiritual conversations, you’re introducing Jesus, to say, “Why don’t you find out for yourself?” Right? And then just pick a book, one of the gospels, and begin to read it together. And you’re reading it in the same way that we talked about how to do the spiritual conversations. Not as a, “I’m here to teach you.” No. Just open it up, read it, talk about it. And create that environment where it’s okay to ask questions, to doubt, to maybe be, maybe they’ll say something offensive and that’s okay.

But what’s amazing is when you begin to expose people firsthand to who Jesus is in the Word, it completely reframes Him in a way that they have never understood before. And so, that is a really awesome way that you can take a next step with someone.

So, next thing after introducing the person of Jesus is we need to recognize no cross, no power. The message of the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus, what He did on the cross for us is where the power of God lies. You know? But the tension is that the message of the cross is both foolishness and the power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” And I think what is really good about that, that tension, is it forces us to depend on the power of the Holy Spirit, right? Because in my natural words, the cross is foolish. But with God’s power, with His authority, it carries His power, right?

So, I can’t communicate the message of the cross just with brilliant intellect. I need God’s power. And so, it reminds us of that and it forces us to depend on the power of the Spirit. And it reminds us that it’s not about our wisdom or eloquence, right? In 1 Corinthians 2:4, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with the demonstration of the Spirit’s power.

And I think that that’s what we need today in our culture more than ever, right? It’s that a lot of people, they have their intellectual problems with the Church and the cross and what they need to experience is God’s power. And that’s why we need to communicate the message of the cross, but we need to do it in a way in which we are fully dependent on God moving, right?

If He doesn’t show up, then all I’ve got is foolish words, right? But if He shows up, then it has the power to convict.

And I can tell you, you know, being in ministry for many years, that I have seen this. I have seen some of the most cynical, hardened people moved by the power of the message of the cross and their lives transformed.

And that power is available to everyone who believes, right? And so, we have to be willing to take that risk, the foolishness, in order to experience the power of God. If we omit the message of the cross, we omit the power of God.