Matthew 28:19 (NLT) Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Mark 16:15 (NLT) And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.
In the Gospel of Matthew the last thing that Jesus told His disciples to do was to go out and make other disciples everywhere. In Mark’s Gospel it was a little more specific in that He told them to go preach the Good News (gospel) to everybody.
While most Christian don’t make a habit of sharing the gospel at every opportunity many of us do look for the opportunity to share. We're so excited and grateful that Jesus has paid for our sins that we can’t wait to share the Good News with our family, friends, acquaintances, and every person we meet.
Psalm 96:3 (NLT) Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NLT) So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
What we often fail to realize however is that in our excitement and eagerness, to share the gospel, we can sometimes come on too strong, be overbearing, or convicting. In short we can become pests. The cornerstone of the Gospel is God’s love for mankind shown through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. When we share the gospel, that love needs to come through loud and clear. However, I’ve seen unbelievers "turned off " by an over aggressive believer that came on too strong. There must be a happy medium between the desire to see everyone, we know and come in contact with, accept Jesus as their Savior, and knowing when to back off.
We also need to remember what Jesus said about the harvest of souls.
John 4:37 (NLT) You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true.
Paul also talked about us working together in sharing the gospel.
1 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NLT) 7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.
The Game Plan
I found an excerpt from Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by Gregory Koukl, that gives you eight ideas “to remove obstacles that get in your way as an Ambassador for Christ.”
How to Put a Stone in a Non-Christian's Shoe
On a flight back from the Midwest, I listened while a Christian brother in the row directly behind me vigorously shared his faith with passengers on either side. I was glad for his effort (my wife and I were both praying for him), and he made some fine points. But some of his tactics were questionable. Here are some things I learned from that experience that might make your own efforts more effective.
These eight ideas remove obstacles that get in your way as an ambassador for Christ. They will make it easier for others to focus on your message without being distracted by your methods. The irony is that when our method is skillful, it fades into the background. But when our method is clumsy or offensive, then it becomes the focus instead of the truth we want to communicate.
1. Be ready.
The Christian brother behind me was clearly on the alert for chances to represent Christ. Seated between two other passengers, he had a captive audience on either side for almost four hours, and he was determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Though you do not need to squeeze each encounter dry (as he seemed to be doing), you should be willing at least to test the waters to see if there is any interest. Good ambassadors are vigilant, always watchful for what might turn out to be a divine appointment.
2. Keep it simple.
On the way to sharing about the cross, our Christian passenger ranged from young-earth creationism to Armageddon. That is a lot to have to chew on to get to Jesus. The basic gospel is challenging enough. Generally, you will have to deal with a few obstacles that come up. But if the listener is interested, why complicate things with controversial issues unrelated to salvation? Remember, you want to put a stone in his shoe, not a boulder. If other issues don’t come up, don’t bring them up.
3. Avoid religious language and spiritual pretense.
Our dear brother was obviously a Christian. His dialog was littered with spiritual lingo and religious posturing. Everything about his manner screamed “fundamentalist.” Even when this is genuine, it sounds weird to outsiders. Words and phrases like “saved,” “blessed,” “the Word of God,” “receive Christ,” or “believing in Jesus as Savior and Lord,” may have meaning to you, but they are tired religious clichés to everyone else.
Experiment with fresh, new ways to characterize the ancient message of truth. Consider using the word “trust” instead of “faith,” or “follower of Jesus” instead of “Christian.” I try to avoid quoting “the Bible.” Instead, I quote the words of “Jesus of Nazareth” (the Gospels), or of “those Jesus trained to take his message after him” (the rest of the New Testament).
Avoid spiritual schmaltz like the plague. Even though a person is attracted to Christ, he may still be reluctant to join an enterprise that makes him look odd. Don’t let your style get in the way of your message.
4. Focus on the truth of Christianity, not merely its personal benefits.
I appreciated our evangelist’s focus on truth rather than on experience. When one of his fellow passengers said he liked reincarnation, the Christian noted that “liking” reincarnation could not make it true. The facts matter. By focusing on the truth claims of Jesus instead of making a more subjective appeal, he gave his message a solid foundation.
5. Give reasons.
This brother understood that making assertions without giving evidence would be an empty effort. He was ready to give the support needed to show that his claims were not trivial. Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and all the prophets did the same. Even in a postmodern age, people still care about reasons.
6. Stay calm.
Don’t get mad. Don’t show frustration. Don’t look annoyed. Keep your cool. Our friend stayed composed the entire time. The more collected he was, the more confident he appeared. The more confident he seemed, the more persuasive he sounded.
7. If they want to go, let them leave.
When you sense the one you are talking to is looking for an exit, back off a bit. Signs of waning interest — wandering eyes, a caged look, darting glances toward the doorway — are clues she’s probably not listening anymore. Don’t force the conversation. Instead, let the exchange end naturally. Remember, you don’t need to close the sale in every encounter. God is in charge. He will bring the next ambassador along to pick up where you left off. When the conversation becomes a monologue (yours), it’s time to let it go.
8. But don’t let them leave empty-handed. If possible, give the person a tangible way to follow up on what you challenged him to consider.
Our friend had an arsenal of tracts, booklets, and Christian paperbacks to leave behind to keep the thinking process going. You might offer your business card, a Christian Web site, or something to read. A copy of the Gospel of John is a good choice. It’s small, inexpensive, and focuses on Christ. Offer it as a gift, suggesting, “It might be best for me to let Jesus speak for Himself.”
Last Sunday I preached a sermon,“God Created You To Be A Good Works Machine”. In it I said that we perform those good works when we obey the law of Christ.
Mark 12:28-31 (NKJV)28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.30 And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.31 And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
To love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is the law of Christ. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others.
When we bear one another’s burdens we obey the law of Christ and perform good works.
Galatians 6:2 (NKJV) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
The Greek word rendered burden is bareos meaning something that makes an overwhelming demand, that which brings sorrow or grief.
God bears our burdens so that we can in turn bear the burdens of our brothers and sisters.
Psalm 68:19 (NKJV) Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation! Selah
The early church did this. To lift the load of poverty, they pooled their resources so that no one was in need.
Acts 4:32 (NKJV) Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
To bear someone’s burden is to really put the love that we say we have for one another into action. It means more that just having sympathy for someone. Sympathy is just an emotion and emotion is not enough. Emotions fail but love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:8 (NKJV) Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
To fulfill the law of Christ is to exhibit the love shown in bearing one anothers burden. It’s the same thought that James had when he said that we show that we have faith by our works.
James 2:18-20 (NKJV)18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
Burdens May Be...
Whatever the cause, bearing the burden means carrying the load until the brother or the sister can walk unburdened on his own again.
How Do We Bear Someone’s Burdens?
Bearing one another's burden begins with us dealing with another person’s sin.
Galatians 6:1 (NKJV) Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
The burdens we need to help carry for one another include guilt, worry, sorrow, anxiety, and all other similar spiritual and emotional issues. A sinful habit is much more harmful to a person than sickness, or unemployment, or loss of a loved one, or loneliness, or rejection.
If the burden is emotional, you bear it through counsel, hugs, listening and prayers. You may do that day after day after day, as long as that brother or sister carries the burden. If the burden is financial, the burden can be carried by giving your money or other assistance. If it's a physical burden, you bear it through your time, effort, compassion, and energy.
We can give a caregiver a weekend off; make a mortgage payment for a family who is in financial difficulties; sitting with an Alzheimer's patient whose spouse needs to run an errand; just listening to a brother or sister who’s hurting when it's inconvenient (When Serving God Is Inconvenient). The Holy Spirit has given some believers the spiritual gift of mercy by all Christians are called to bear one another's burdens (Motivational Gifts).
5 Tips On How To Bear One Another’s Burdens
Galatians 6:1 (NKJV)1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
You don’t want to become a crutch for someone. For example, if a friend has lost a job you may want to help them financially but you want them to actively do what they need to do to become financially secure. If it is finding employment you want them to actively seek it. Bearing a burden does not need to turn into a co-dependent type of situation. So make sure to prayerfully consider what role God would have you play in bearing your brother or sister’s burdens.
At some time or another, we all struggle under tremendous burdens and some of them are more than we can bear alone. I wrote a post in which I said that God will allow us to experience circumstances that we are not able to bear alone, but He will help you bear it if you’ll only trust in Him (That’s Not In The Bible - God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Bear).
Jesus Is Our Example
Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
Since God predestines believers to be conformed to Christ’s likeness, we must imitate His care for and concern for others.
Romans 8:29 (NKJV) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Charles Stanley said in one of his devotions; “A believer cannot wait until his life is clear of obstacles before reaching out to others, since that day may never come. Even though we have our own needs, we can do all things through Christ’s strength—including sharing someone else’s adversity.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV) And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
"When someone staggers, we help steady the load. If he is straining, we help bear the burden. And if he stumbles, we lift him up. Helping fellow believers carry the weight of their worldly troubles is one of the chief practical duties that ought to consume every Christian.
When you’re willing to wade into someone else’s troubles to help that person hold up under the weight, two things happen. First, he or she receives desperately needed blessings in the form of aid, support, and love. When we bear one another’s burdens we fulfill God’s command to love a neighbor as yourself."
Mark 12:31 (NKJV) And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Not only this but in bearing one another’s burdens we become witnesses to the world that we are Jesus’ disciples.
John 13:35 (NKJV) By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Every time something bad happens, a disaster, a death, an illness, or a financial catastrophe, many people either ask “Why would God allow this to happen” or why did God do this”? When things happen that don’t appear to make sense, or go against what we think is good, we say God did it or allowed. It probably doesn’t surprise you that many Christians who don’t like Donald Trump or voted for him try to rationalize it by saying that “God put him in”. I’ve heard that very thing more times than you think. We say that God does or allows bad stuff because we don’t understand how a God that we know loves us can allow us go through situations that stretch our abilities as human beings to handle or understand. Why are we struck with a debilitating illness in the prime of life, why does one of our children die young, or why do we lose a job right after we sign a big mortgage? What about facing foreclosure because we haven’t been able to find a job? Why is your spouse stricken with a chronic illness ending in death. When these things happen in succession we search for answers. When we Christians say that God does or allows these things, without any explanation, why would anybody want to become a Christian? Think about it. If on the one hand we say that God is love, merciful, faithful, compassionate, and forgiving, and on the other hand say that God took a loved one, or caused a natural disaster just to punish, or teach us a lesson what kind of message are we sending?
Christians and nonbelievers alike might wonder, “What do you think they did to deserve cancer?” If someone’s wife walks out, insensitive churchgoers might think, “If he had been a better spiritual leader, his wife wouldn’t have done that.” If a teenager is rebellious, hardened onlookers might privately reflect, “If that kid’s parents had been more involved, this never would have happened.” When we are going through a tough time, or have a tragic loss our well meaning Christian friends say “This was God’s will,” and that, “we don’t always understand why God does what God does, but we must accept God’s will.” What a terrible thing to say! I don’t believe that it is God’s will that we face disaster. I haven’t been able to find anywhere in the Bible that God wants His children to suffer.
1 Thessalonians 5:9 (NLT) For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us.
How about turning the question around and asking "Why would an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God allow good things to happen to bad people?" After all, if seeing good people suffer is horrible, it's not much fun seeing evil people having fun either.
Being a Christian doesn't exempt you from suffering. Jesus Himself assured us that there will be trouble in our lives.
John 16:33 (NKJV)33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
1 Peter 4:12 (NKJV)12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you;
God is sovereign and He knows everything that has or ever will happen good, bad, or indifferent. That means that, in a sense, He allows everything. However allowing and doing are two very different things.
God Does Not Do Evil
James 1:13 (KJV)13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
Job 34:12 (KJV)12 Yea, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert judgment.
If God doesn’t do anything that hurts us what does it mean then when it says in Job that God gives and takes away?
Job 1:20-21 (KJV)20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
When you start reading at verse one of this chapter you will see that God didn't do anything to or take anything from Job. It was Satan that did and took, but God did allow it by giving him permission. Job knew that he hadn’t done anything to cause what was happening to him so he, like most of us, needed to find someone or something to blame. Most of us “good Christians” blame Satan or God but never ourselves or acknowledge that some bad things just happen because we live in a fallen world.
Romans 8:20-22 (NKJV)20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
God Does Discipline Us
God does discipline but discipline is for good and not evil. Discipline with love does not result in tragedy as long as you don’t fight or despise the discipline.
Hebrews 12:7-11 (NKJV)7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
God warns us throughout scripture of the consequences of sinful behavior. As with our natural parents the warning and then discipline is proof God’s love. Because God, in His sovereignty gave mankind free will, if we continue to ignore the warnings and discipline the results are our fault not God’s.
Here are some examples of warning and discipline.
Leviticus 20:9, 11-13, 16, 27 (NKJV)9 For everyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother. His blood shall be upon him.11 The man who lies with his father's wife has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.12 If a man lies with his daughter-in-law, both of them shall surely be put to death. They have committed perversion. Their blood shall be upon them.13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. 16 If a woman approaches any animal and mates with it, you shall kill the woman and the animal. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood is upon them. 27 'A man or a woman who is a medium, or who has familiar spirits, shall surely be put to death; they shall stone them with stones. Their blood shall be upon them.' "
God even withholds punishment because He doesn’t want anyone to face it.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV)9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
People don’t want to take responsibility when bad things happen instead we like to place blame somewhere else.
Purpose in Our Pain
Here’s an account of a conversation between Jesus and His disciples;
John 9:1-3 (NKJV)1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"3 Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him".
This man had spent years enduring the hardships of a life without sight, and Jesus basically said that God would be glorified through this tragedy. God has a purpose in our pain.
Ephesians 1:11 (NKJV)11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,
God takes the long view. His goal is not to give us temporary, superficial and fleeting comfort, but His purpose is our eternal welfare.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen to people who seem undeserving of them. But God allows things to happen for His reasons, whether we understand them or not. We know that God is good, just, loving, and merciful. Often things happen to us that we don't understand. However, instead of doubting God's goodness, our reaction should be to trust Him.
Joseph is a perfect example of a series of tragic events that included his brothers throwing him in a pit, then selling him as a slave. Joseph while serving his master was falsely accused and then thrown in prison. He was forgotten after doing a doing a favor for a servant of Pharaoh by interpreting a dream. What a series of bad fortune. This same guy became the second in command in Egypt. Instead of becoming bitter Joseph was used by God to save his brothers and his family when they needed food in order to escape the famine. What those brothers originally meant for evil was proof that in His sovereignty could turn that evil into good, proving that nothing that man does can thwart the purposes of a sovereign God.
Genesis 50:20 (NKJV)20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Jesus came from that family.
God allowed the religious leaders, Roman authorities and Satan himself to murder His Son Jesus and it appeared that they won. But, allowed it to accomplish His plan of the reconciliation of man back to Himself.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
As with the life of Joseph, God was orchestrating these unthinkable acts in order to accomplish His plan of satisfying the punishment of sin in mankind through the death of his Son.
When things seem to be coming apart remember that God is not causing those things but He may be allowing them, and if He’s allowing them it’s to accomplish His purpose in you.
Romans 8:28-29 (NKJV)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
We are told in scripture, and by our Christian leaders that we should raise our hands in praise.
Psalm 134:2 (NLT) Lift up holy hands in prayer, and praise the LORD.
Psalm 63:4 (NLT) I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
I agree that it is a wonderful way of expressing our thanksgiving to our sovereign Creator and God. It is also a gesture, when our palms are turned up to heaven, or our request and acceptance of God’s grace and blessings.
Uplifted hands with our palms up can be both, a gesture of receiving and an indication a of releasing. Receiving God's love, grace, and salvation, releasing things like greed, doubt, anger, guilt, and fear.
So while uplifted hands are an outward expression of praise and thanksgiving it is also an opportunity to release the thing that hamper that praise and thanksgiving.
This devotion is an excerpt from Palms Up: Receiving the Blessing- .Daily Guideposts: 40 Devotions for Lent, copyright Guideposts. Published by Zondervan.
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. — Numbers 6:24-26 KJV
In the closing moments of the Sunday morning service, our pastor raises his arms toward Heaven and calls down the blessing of the Lord upon all of us in the congregation. I bow my head in the contemplative prayer that has become for me a pre-blessing ritual.
I am a greedy child of God — I want every blessing, every gift the Lord has for me; I want nothing within me to hinder His giving or my receiving.
All too frequently, as I put down my hymnal and turn my hands palms-up to receive the blessing, I wince; I find my hands already full. Sometimes my fists are clenched, white knuckled, in unresolved anger, as they were the week a hit-and-run driver fatally injured our small calico cat. Sometimes I find myself holding on to brooding resentments over words spoken to me in the heat of an argument; or worse, I may be holding on to the guilt of harsh words I’ve spoken to others. Sometimes I’m clutching habitual worries I thought I’d let go the previous Sunday, only to find that through the days that followed I’ve picked them up again.
So I begin my weekly ritual of letting go:
Bless me and keep me, Lord.
Let Your face shine upon me, uphold me, and give me peace. —Fay Angus
I was thinking about a blog post for Valentine's Day tomorrow and couldn't come of with anything that I thought was any good. Then in my quite time today I read something from "Letting Go: Rugged Love for Wayward Souls" by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert. In this excerpt from the book they introduce a term that I had never heard before. They call it "rugged love". They define it as "A love that’s bold yet redemptive, forceful yet forgiving, gallant yet gospel-based. Think of it as love with teeth." Rugged love is the love that you have for someone who they call prodigal. I call them someone who is, without help from the Holy Spirit, is unlovable.
While we like to think of Valentine's Day as a day of love between spouses, girl and boy friends, and BBFs, it can also be a day of loving the unlovable.
Here is the entire excerpt.
If you live with a prodigal, you know what it means to love someone. Love is a means of survival. Love is what gets you up each morning and inspires you to serve someone who acts like they hate you. Loving this way means duty, sacrifice, responsibility, and resilience. Many years back, an R&B icon famously crooned a pseudo-love anthem to the world asking this skeptical question, “What’s love got to do, got to do with it?” If you live with a wayward person, the answer is a no-brainer: everything!
But there is a side of love that’s difficult to face. You’ve had a taste of it already if you are persisting in hope that this person you love might change. We want to invite you to go even deeper and join us on a surprising journey that may stretch your understanding of how to love a sinner who strays.
When people talk about love, they tend to think about feelings of attraction, that joy and excitement of being with someone who makes you feel alive. However, most of us know that this attraction is just scratching the surface.
Real love is something deep and powerful, a committed faithfulness that is sacrificial and loyal.
Love is keeping your promises, even when it hurts. It is patient and kind, gracious and forgiving, and willing to speak the truth even when doing so is costly (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). We know this love is tough.
For the most part, this tough love gets us through the tough times. Every relationship experiences struggle. Yet when two people are committed, reasonable, and willing to work things out, love finds a way through it all. But loving a prodigal is even tougher. It’s loving a rebel, someone who isn’t trying to work it out and who doesn’t have your interests in mind. It’s loving someone who is enamored with their sin and does not care about the consequences — the pain and hurt it causes others. As we’ve seen, wayward fools see themselves as the victim, and they are hell-bent on finding their freedom on their terms.
Prodigals need more than tough love; they need a rugged love.
A love that’s bold yet redemptive, forceful yet forgiving, gallant yet gospel-based. Think of it as love with teeth. For prodigals to change, those who love them must exercise a love that is courageous. They need to have conviction and a clear conscience. To love a wayward rebel, you need a rugged love that is rooted in the hope of God’s promises.
We offer the term rugged love not to pioneer a new way of loving but to bring fresh paint to the portrait of God’s unrelenting love in the Scriptures. Rugged love is the way God engages and reaches sinful people. We are all wayward, dead, and trapped in our sin. So the way we love prodigals must be patterned after the rugged love of God.
What is this rugged love? Love is rugged when it’s
Bonnie knows Stan is a serial adulterer, but she looks the other way. Walter believes his daughter is on drugs, but he won’t probe or ask her questions because he fears the truth. Zoe ignores the cruel and demeaning comments her husband makes about her in public and in front of the kids, hoping against hope that things will improve. Though each situation is distinct and complex, they are all connected by a common compromise: Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe are all tolerating evil. If you ask them why, they say they do it all for love.
When someone you love goes wayward, the worst lies are not always the ones you hear from them. They are the ones you whisper to yourself.
Of course, many of these lies stem from not fully grasping the biblical understanding of love. Our own misunderstandings of what love should look like and how to love others affect our well-intentioned responses to sinful behavior. Wayward people tend to pile up collateral damage like a tornado through a traffic jam. And that carnage of hurt feelings, broken trust, and fractured relationships can be so overwhelming that people like Bonnie, Walter, and Zoe just want to close their eyes and wish it away. They tell themselves that time heals all wounds. If they just ignore it and put it out of their minds, then surely things will eventually get back to normal. They hope to outlive the evil. This lie masquerades as hope, and perhaps on some level, it really is a hope that God will do a miracle. But it’s a naïve hope — one that traffics not in reality but denial. And the unwillingness to acknowledge reality only further encourages sinful behavior.
In calling us to biblical love, the apostle Paul says,
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil. — Romans 12:9
True and genuine love abhors evil. This means that we loathe and stand in opposition to it. Abhorrence leaves no room for denial. It means that we have eyes to see evil and the courage to respond to it. Sin and folly are inhabiting the soul of the wayward like unwelcome squatters. If these vices are ever to be expelled, they must be honestly named and exposed, not ignored or hidden.
To abhor evil requires a single-minded devotion to accelerating its downfall.
The most diminutive mom will strike with ninja speed and nuclear force if she sees a Nazi-loving skin-head threatening her small child. Her abhorrence in this case isn’t a mental exercise — “I despise when the strong threaten the weak” — it’s abhorrence in action, an unwavering commitment to eliminating the threat without hesitation or indecision.
The gospel does not deny evil. The gospel shows us God’s response to evil — he abhors it!
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. — Romans 1:18
God’s wrath is His settled and determined response to injustice, sin, rebellion, and evil. He cannot tolerate it, and He will not accommodate it in any way.
Christ did not come to earth to paper over our offenses against God. He was not here to spring God free from having to deal with the wickedness of the wayward. The gospel reveals the sinfulness of sin and showcases God’s hatred of evil.
God poured out His righteous fury on the only sinless man to walk the earth, who was stapled to a tree on a hill called Golgotha. And not just any man — His beloved Son, who willingly accepted His role as our substitute to free us from our enslavement to sin and reconcile us to God. Ascribed to Christ was our evil --
For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin. — 2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus hung suspended, the sacrificial Lamb tarred by our wicked thoughts and actions, and received in his body the full gale force of God’s wrath.
Make no mistake; the gospel reveals a rugged love. When we look at this love, we see our sin and our hatred of God and are confronted by the truth that Christ suffered what we justly deserve. The nails were meant for us; the hopeless abandonment and spiritual separation from the love of God that Christ experienced was deservedly ours. God’s love, displayed for all to see on the cross, was strong enough not only to face evil, but also to act against it.
The cross reveals God’s abhorrence in action.
God’s response to evil is good news because it has a redemptive purpose, but the path to redemption requires that we come face-to-face with our sin and evil. God’s law, given to us in the Old Testament Scriptures, reveals our accountability before God and the rightness of His verdict against Adam and Eve in condemning them to death. Naming our sin and evil is always the first step to experiencing grace and forgiveness. This step cannot be bypassed or skipped. Conviction should lead to repentance, which leads us to forgiveness in Christ.
This gospel is good news because if someone you love is bent on evil, there is help. But repentance is the key that unlocks the power of grace and separates true grace from cheap grace: But true repentance doesn’t come through denial or accommodation. The pretending must end. The delusion that one can indulge evil behavior with no costs must be exposed.
Biblical grace is not a license to sin.
As the apostle Paul says in Romans 6:1-2,
Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means!
It is never loving or gracious to forgive someone simply to accommodate further sin.
Loving like this is not simple or easy. To get here, you need to experience this love yourself, a love so sturdy that it enables you to face your biggest fears — your dread of a loved one leaving you, your anxiety over the unknown, or your unspoken suspicion that this situation indicates you’re one humongous failure. Showing rugged love begins by receiving the rugged love of God and holding fast to the promises of the gospel, knowing that our Lord and Savior will never leave us or abandon us (Hebrews 13:5) and that He is truly with us until the end (Matthew 28:20).
Our love becomes rugged as our motivation moves from “peace for me” to “help for them.” Rugged love faces human messiness head on. Are you facing the evil?
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. — Romans 12:9
Excerpted with permission from Letting Go by Dave Harvey and Paul Gilbert, copyright David T. Harvey and Paul Byron Gilbert.
Last July I wrote a post titled “Let God, Not Others, Determine The Value Of Your Work For Him” . In that post I wrote that when you get discouraged in your ministry God always finds a way to encourage you to keep going to keep working. That’s the good side of ministry but there are those times when you can become overwhelmed. When the pressures of ministry coupled with the pressures of life become too much; your ministry becomes inconvenient; serving God becomes inconvenient.
Lord I want to serve You but, sometimes serving You is inconvenient. As a person in ministry I admit that sometimes I feel that way. Especially when that ministry includes counseling others, or pastoral duties. There are the times that the phone rings when you just get to sleep, or just sit down to dinner, want to watch a television (especially sports), when you’re working on a bible study lesson or studying for a sermon. What about those times that you are trying to leave church and get something to eat, or go to the beach, or take a nap after service and somebody wants to talk to you. Are those really inconveniences or is is that we are reluctant to give up what it is we want to do in order to do what God has called us to do?
To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Required
Luke 12:48 (NKJV) But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Jesus said this at the end of his parable where he was teaching that skepticism about the His return produces misuse of authority and laxity of conduct. Those with authority would be punished in proportion to the level of authority. The more authority the greater the punishment.
The idea of “to whom much is given, much will be required” is that we are held responsible for what we have. If we are blessed with talents, wealth, knowledge, time, and the like, it is expected that we use these well to glorify God and benefit others.
Most of us are quick to declare our love for God, but at times we are reluctant because we think it’s inconvenient.
Why Is It Inconvenient?
Sometimes our schedules are so full that there's no space to follow the Lord when we hear Him calling us to minister in a certain area. We are always busy we have a schedule to keep and todo list to deal with. Places to go and people to see. We all need borders in our lives if we want to abide in God's will. Are you too busy for God?
Ephesians 5:15-16 (NKJV)15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Sacrificial service is never convenient. It may require that we change our plans, give up our comforts, or even make financial sacrifices.
Matthew 16:24-25 (NKJV)24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
“Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. It’s called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender
We Don’t Care Enough
This one is really hard to admit. If we think it’s inconvenient at times because we’re too busy or selfish it may reveal a lack of devotion to the Lord and the ministry He’s called you to.
Matthew 22:36-39 (NKJV)36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'38 This is the first and great commandment.39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'
When we love Christ with all our heart we will joyfully serve Him by ministering to those in our families, workplaces, communities, and churches.
To Whom Much Is Given Much Is Required
God has given us so much and He wants us to use what He has given to further His Kingdom and proclaim His glory.
Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV)19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
The next time ministry becomes inconvenient remember this;
Hebrews 6:10-12 (NKJV)10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
Any service we offer in Jesus' name will not be in vain. You'll experience the joy of giving and the assurance that the Lord won't forget your sacrifice.
Donald Jacobs is an ordained minister with the spiritual gift of teaching. He is the Associate Pastor of a non-denominational church in Los Angeles, CA.