Monthly Archives: February 2017

Gospel Planter versus Salvation Dispenser

I remember one of my favorite bow-tied college professors continually telling us that once we left the world of academia the first question that we would be asked when meeting a new person would be “What do you do?”  

Perhaps this was meant to instill fear in his English students notorious for having a most impractical major or perhaps he was just gently reminding us to soak in those last few days of carefree student-hood, even if it didn’t feel that way at the time.

Like much of what that professor said, his words later rang true.

As my friends and I have all entered into the world of adulthood with the poplar #adulting at every turn, our answers to this question are different: teacher, nurse, adviser, engineer, etc.

When asked that question, I have never once said “seed-planter” (and if you’re a guy that could have a different innuendo entirely so I’d really suggest not giving that response), yet that is what I am.

As Christians, God gives us the privilege of having a job in His kingdom.  Jesus makes this pretty clear when He tells His disciples the parable of the sower planting seeds in Matthew 13 and Mark 4.  What are the seeds?  The Word of God.  Who is the Word?  Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).  What is it we are supposed to share?  JESUS!  Jesus, who came to the earth, lived a sinless life, yet died on a cross bearing the weight of ALL of our sins so that we might have the opportunity for a relationship with God and eternal life through Him (1 John 5:11)!

It’s so simple really.  The message is simple.  My job is simple.  If Jesus is truly Lord of my life, then I will share Him with those I meet.  I used to think that it was up to me to determine if the state of a person’s heart was right for receiving the word, if a situation was good, finding the perfect words and timing etc. before sharing.  It’s not.  Just because I know that I won’t be able to invest and disciple a person who I have only briefly met, it is no excuse for not sharing the heart of the gospel and praying that another believer will come along who can guide him or her further.   If I am given the opportunity, then it is my job to sow generously.

I have read Philippians over and over again, but recently as I have been memorizing chapter one I was struck by the number of times Jesus Christ, Gospel, and imprisonment are used.   Paul’s whole focus is on Christ and the gospel and his imprisonment is not an inconvenience but rather a tool used to further the message of grace.

Not every encounter with someone is going to lead to sharing the gospel, but my new year’s challenge to myself is that the focus of every encounter is Lord, if possible, allow me to share about Your Son with them.”  This drastically changes the focus of a situation from one of annoyance and irritation to gospel-centered, Christ focused one and puts the pressure on to “live a life worthy of the Gospel” (Philippians 1:27).   After all it’s hard to share about the love of God to your seatmate right after you have just been very vocally complaining about the stupidity of the flight attendants  (ummm yes this is spoken from personal experience).

BUT, this is where our job ends.  And this is where I have a problem with some evangelism methods.

I was so blessed to be in Bible-based churches growing up.  One thing we were taught when it came to evangelism was to succinctly present the gospel (which is great!) and then we were taught to follow that up with a question if the person would like receive Christ in their heart and lead them in a prayer of salvation if they answer was yes.
NO, NO, NO.

The Gospel is a seed.  So much of the images used in Scripture are those of a plant, illustrating growth over time.  Salvation is a one-time event, but just as sanctification after salvation is a daily process of growth, so is the time leading up to salvation.

The danger with this method is that it turns us into salvation dispenser instead of gospel planters.  Then we leave somebody who knows basically nothing of the Word-Jesus-with the idea that they are saved.  Salvation is huge.  Salvation is life and death.  Salvation is not something to be checked off the list with “Person X said the prayer.”

There may come a time when we have invested deeply in somebody’s life, sharing the Word with them, and after having the seed of faith take root in their heart and grow they are ready to believe and confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior and we might get to be with them when it happens.  And hallelujah!  Or their time of salvation might happen when we are not present, when all of the sudden that budding seed sprouts from their heart’s soil and the angels rejoice and we could be snoring in our bed when it happens.  It doesn’t matter.  Salvation is God’s work.  For some unfathomable reason to me, God entrusts this incredible message to us frail, weak, sinful humans and commands us to go carry it to the ends of earth.  We plant the seeds but it HIS power working in hearts that saves.  My favorite verse to help unravel the mystery of salvation is Ephesians 3:7 when Paul writes, “I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power.”  

God’s power.  The Cross of Christ.  That’s what it all comes back to.

Easy Answers and Smooth Transitions

“This one is for all you girls, about 25

In little apartments just trying to get by

Livin’ on, on dreams and spaghettios

Wonderin’ where your life is goin’ to go”

I remember listening to the Martina McBride song as a child and thinking, “Wow, 25, that’s so old!  Shouldn’t these girls already know where their life is going to go?”  

Now, at age 25, change ‘spaghettios’ to rice and noodles, and this verse sums up my life.

Recently a friend made a comment about how life doesn’t happen with the “easy answers and smooth transitions” that we would like.  That phrase stuck out to me.

I have been reading in 1 Samuel and am struck by how David is constantly fleeing from Saul.  Here he has clearly been selected by the Lord through Samuel to be Israel’s king, yet prior to his kingship his life is spent on the run.  If I was David, I would be saying, “Excuse me Lord, but am I really supposed to be king?  If so, why is my life constantly in danger at the hands of foreigners and my own people, why did you allow my best friend Jonathan to die, why must I always be hiding and hanging out with a band of discontent, desperate, in-debt men?  Doesn’t being a future king mean a free pass and an easy ride?”

In 1 Samuel 23, David asks the Lord if he and his men should go to Keilah to rescue the city from the invading Philistines.

God says go!

David and his men rescue the city but the plot thickens as Saul hears of David’s whereabouts and seeks to kill him.  David then inquires of the Lord if the citizens of Keilah will hand him and his men over to Saul.

The Lord says yes.

At that point, I would be questioning the Lord about bringing me to rescue a city where the citizens would traitorously turn me over to my enemy.

God reveals the plan to David one step at a time.  David was a man with no easy answers and smooth transitions that most of us long for.  And as a result, we get some of the most beautiful cries of man to God in the Psalms.  These Psalms come out of the heat of the fire not from a flower-lined garden path.

Like my friend, I am yearning for easy answers and smooth transitions.  The second half of 2017 will be much different from the first half.  I will be leaving my China life and heading to where I know not and be surrounded by whom I know not.

So many of the Psalms proclaim, “Sing a new song to the Lord.”

Like David, I want to learn how to sing a new song to the Lord in part 2 of 2017!