What is the most important thing in life? Is it how you treat others? Is it how well you love people? Is it living life to its fullest? Is it being true to yourself? Is it having no regrets? Is it preparing for the next life? Is it what you do with Jesus?
It seems to me that “what you do with Jesus” will affect all of the other potentially most important things in life. One thing is for sure, nobody gets any of these things right all of the time.
This discussion brings me smack dab into the middle of me doing a personal faith check-up. I hope that my thinking through and writing about these things is helpful to you as well.
I grew up in an evangelical culture that put a lot of pressure on people to be “soul winners”, personal evangelists, and/or witnesses for Jesus. The goal was to lay out the basic facts of the Gospel and try to get people agree with you and pray a prayer to “accept Jesus as their Savior and Lord”.
Those basic facts:
- We are sinners. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
- The consequences of sin is death (eternal separation from God). “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ Our Lord.” Romans 6:23
- Christ’s death paid the price for our sins. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
- We need to verbally confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him form the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Through the years, the popular evangelical approach got a little more nuanced with programs like lifestyle evangelism and Contagious Christians, but they were basically the same at their core.
Back in the day, I did this kind of evangelism and felt guilty that I didn’t do it more. I still believe these points to be true, but incomplete, and perhaps, misused.
I remember using the presentation in salesman-like manor, doing my best to trying to convince the person I was talking to that it is true and then trying to get them repeat a prayer after me on the spot.
The salesman-like approach is distasteful to most people and ignores the individual way that God deals with people.
The Gospel was presented as a very personal thing that you do for your own good.
The Gospel is good news for everyone. Placing our faith in Christ affects much more than where we spend eternity, it affects how live our life in relationship to others.
It is joining with Christ’s kingdom, here and now, living life as he did. Jesus lived a counterintuitive life, challenging the religious leaders of his day and defying their rules by reaching out to common people and those who totally disenfranchised.
Follow up for the newly persuaded converts was always about learning more. I believe following Jesus is more about living than learning. I am not sure how much all of those classes I took and all of those notebooks on my bookshelf have contributed to my growth.
Relationships and simply living life in the way of Jesus is a more effective means of spiritual formation that classroom learning.
This seems like a good time to bring up the question, “What is the goal?” It my Evangelical circles of years gone by it was to learn more and sin less. My experience has revealed a huge gap between knowledge and behavior. Even the Bible warns about knowledge leading to arrogance.
Sinning less seems like a worthy goal, except such efforts always fall short, and lead to frustration, if not desperation. The Christian life is more about grasping just how much we are loved and accepted as we are.
Love and grace are more transformational than guilt and striving.
Jesus made belief or faith the central issue:
- believing that he is exactly who he said he was
- believing that he is God
- believing that he bore our sins
- believing that he wants us to join him in his work today
- believing that he brings an end to our efforts to try to gain his favor
- believing that nothing can separate us from him
Now, that is good news!