Do You Remember When You Were Lost?
Did you know that we have official titles once we have given our lives to Christ? In 2 Corinthians 5:20 we learn from Paul that as a Christian, we are Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God once we have become reconciled to God.
“Now then we are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.”
I do not know about you but that is an awesome job title to have on our life resume that we are a representative for God. We have a great opportunity to serve a mighty King! However, before anyone gets a little too attached to the title, we must see what this position asks of us.
In Matthew 28:19-20 we are told about the great commission. This is a command for us to follow so that others will hear the word and seek Christ.
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
His promise of remaining with us is more than enough incentive for me to continue this journey. Yet before we can put one foot in front of the other and begin to start the walk, let’s take a step back and heed some good advice regarding what is required of us. I am going to continue to repeat a word and I just want you to listen to see if it resonates with you. Remember, remember, remember, remember, and let it sink in. I am not just asking you to do this, but I am also warning the Christian not to forget this word. Remember who you were and where you were before you found Christ. Now take that memory and apply it to the way we are perceived by a huge portion of the world. We are perceived as being judgmental, intolerant, and wary of those who are still lost. It may take a minute to register and I will wait.
Christians today have lost the ability to put themselves in the shoes of the lost person. We are quick to point out their flaws or question their sincerity, yet some of us (and I am being polite by stating only some), have been there and have felt the intensity of a stare or scrutiny of a behavior. Once again, I pause and wait and will continue to do so. I am not trying to be sarcastic by waiting, but I want us to see how the effects of this tool when used properly, will provide a sincere desire to instill wisdom, compassion and patience towards anyone who is lost. Sometimes when we become a Christian we lean on selective memory and forget how painful it was for us when we were lost. It is for this reason that we need to draw on that previous experience so that we can be more effective to the lost souls we are trying to reach.
So, let’s address all of this today by examining ourselves as Christians, who we are, why we have selective memory, and how to expand the boundaries of our memory by changing our outlook first.
There are two groups of people in this world: Believers and Explorers. One has faith and the other is in search of something unbeknownst to them. Believers call them lost, but to that group they do not consider themselves lost. We need to keep our eyes open to that perspective.
How do we recognize a believer? In Romans 6:6 we learn that once we shed our former selves and repent of our sins, we then, in John 1:12 can receive Christ, and become united with Christ in spirit as we see in 1 Corinthians 6:17. However, before we can become a part of the body as a whole, we must recognize that we are to work with one another as pointed out in 1 Corinthians 12:27. To become a part of the family you are either born into it or adopted (such as the believer) into it.
“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”
“But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
Once we can recognize a believer, we now can see why remembering who we were, and now are, is important to what we do.
As a believer, our ability to remember is a key component of our life as a Christian. We have been advised on the importance of remembering (the purpose) in 2 Timothy 3:16, and in Deuteronomy 11:18 and Proverbs 6:21-22 we are instructed how to meditate on His word, and what meditation brings to, and gives us, in Jeremiah 15:16.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction.”
“Therefore shall ye lay up my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.”
“Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakes, it shall talk with thee.”
“Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by thy name, O Lord God of hosts.”
To only remember bits and pieces does no one any good. Why tell parts of the story when you can tell the whole story? It serves many purposes when told fully. One, we need to understand our history. Our history, as we find out in Ecclesiastes 1:9, repeats itself.
The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; and that which is done which shall be done, and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Humans get stuck in a vicious cycle when they keep making the same mistakes. Why? Because we fail to learn from them. When we forget our past mistakes or history and just rely on our time as a Christian, we are stripping the necessary texture from the beginning of the trail that led us to where we now are. Our trail began as being lost, having questions about purpose, seeking and then finding answers, repenting our sins, developing a personal relationship with Christ when we decided to believe His word, our struggles and falls, while continuously desiring to follow and align ourselves through spiritual growth in Christ. It has become the fabric of our testimony and it is vital in relaying our story when we witness to others. Like it or not, we must show the entire package/picture for others to see and possibly learn from. It helped us become the believers and disciples that we were designed to be and keeps us accountable and honest about who we now have become. The recipe does not work if all the ingredients are not added in. When we change our outlook to entail all of this, only then can we understand and remember how hard it was for us too.
When we lose perspective and do not keep a system of checks and balances, we can fail to recognize our areas that still need cleansing and refining. In Matthew 7:3 we are told to check ourselves first before we dare assist others with identifying their issues.
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
Once we have gained internal perspective and balance, we can now look towards others. The other group I want to examine is what I call “Explorers” or the lost. These are those who do not have a rock to lean upon – yet. Their trail is just beginning. They know that something undefinable is missing, they feel disconnected and do not understand why, they run to man for the answers to their questions, they fall prey to the traps of this world (like vices/addictions that never deliver the long-term happiness they seek), they are susceptible to false practices such as consulting with psychics, intrigued by alternative religions such as Buddhism, and do not know what their purpose is. They may be in a state of flux, uncomfortable, ambivalent, resistant, bruised and afraid of who or what to believe. They may be filled with regret and guilt and perceive all eyes are on them and judging them. They desire to make a connection with someone or something and yearn to feel comfortable. We need to help them by treating them with kid gloves.
Our next step is to examine our motives for reaching these lost souls and how we determine what approach we use to reach them. Our approach, if not conveyed with care and concern and moved by love, could harm others instead of doing good. It can also damage our own testimony. When we fail to listen to the concerns, clarifications, or questions that someone else asks of us, we can come across harsh, insincere or half-hearted about such an important message of hope.
We must focus on our presentation of the gospel. What is our tone? Are we welcoming when we invite them to come to church? Do they sit all alone and possibly feel the stares positioned their way? Are we sarcastic or angry when we encounter them? Are we unsure of what to say or display a lack of our own self-confidence? Are we condescending? Can we answer their questions, or do we avoid the questions the explorer asks? Is our emotional or physical posture overpowering, judgmental, or non-existent? Are we intolerant or impatient? Do we lack compassion? Are we unwilling to share our testimony? Do we apply what we preach or just make it all up as we go along? Whew! That is a lot to ponder before we tackle the presentation! Yes, we must look at how we come off to them as well. Scrutiny is not aimed at only one side – it can and sometimes does, go both ways. Both sides operate from a viewpoint of perception. So be on guard. Study yourself and examine your weaknesses first, and then be prepared as all ambassadors are asked to be.
We start by learning how we reach the lost as shown to us in the Bible. In Matthew 9:37-38 it begins as a work of love, next, Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 9:22 to adapt ourselves to each individual and their specific circumstance, and Romans 1:16 advises us to be bold when sharing the word. We must realize that this is challenging and not easy. Finally, we must remember that many will not come to Jesus, but rather reject Him, as Luke 19:10 points out.
“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.”
“To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak. I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.”
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”
Keep this in mind as well when presenting the good news. When we are stern and expecting a one-time preaching of the word to convict someone and follow an unrealistic expectation that they should receive and act on it immediately, we are going to be sorely disappointed. Think about how receptive you would be if someone comes to your door and demands you to stop what you are doing, listen and then expect you to quickly receive? A little presumptuous isn’t it? We can produce a more abundant harvest if we listen and explain in a gentle caring tone instead of a fire and brimstone style approach. Let the seeds of hope take root and get used to the soil first so that they can soak it in. The fruit will come at the appointed time of God’s choosing.
Next, think about your approach. Does pounding someone on the head really help bring them closer to God? Does a laundry list of past transgressions continuously being tossed in the face of a lost person point them towards a desire to search for Christ? Did Christ not die on the cross for everyone? Ponder this and again, I will wait. Yes, I get it that we are all sinners and I understand we all live in a broken world heavily laced with sin. I even understand that it is getting worse every day and as Christians we want others to see the gift Jesus offers us and to receive Jesus into their life. However, one gain I must re-state that it is how we approach others and proclaim the good news that plants a seed only God’s hand can bring to fruition. We cannot save anyone, nor can we transform them – only Jesus can. He asks us to share the good news, not to clobber someone over the head with it, not to judge them for their sin, not to determine their worth or set expectations no one can meet and then wonder why they fall short. Leave that to God! Our job is to testify, gently explain what sin is, how it all began and how we were sent a savior that paid our debt in full. What’s that word again? Oh yeah remember. Remember how you responded the first time you were told the truth? Not everyone believed or accepted it at first. Some believed immediately, but a high number of people came to know Christ later in their personal journey. We must lean on His timing and trust in that. We share the news, happily proclaim the news, but do not determine how the news will be received or if it will be accepted.
Think of it this way: it is an invitation that is open to all of us. The invitation must be answered with a R.S.V.P., but not all will respond accordingly. Due to our stubborn desires and our free will, some will need time to think it over, some will procrastinate and feel there is plenty of time to respond, some will make excuses as to why they do not want to accept this invitation, and some will toss the invitation out and reject it altogether. You did what was asked of you. Now pray on this and wait until we meet Jesus face to face to see if anyone you reached out to responded and received this gift of grace.
In the meantime, shift your focus on whoever is in front of you now and continue to witness. To effectively witness we need to first understand His word. It is crucial in edifying, so we need to delve deeply into the word by studying it and reading it daily, having fellowship through worship, group bible studies and daily devotionals that will teach us how to sharpen our skills and utilize our gifts. We must exude patience, empathy and compassion.
We are, after all, impatient people. We may feel helpless, but don’t give in to that train of thought. All who know Christ have an open line to talk to Him anytime we are in need; therefore, we are should not feel helpless, but be hopeful. He hears the fervent prayer of His children and He answers them according to His will. Pray for boldness, and the ability to answer questions when posed. It is okay to not have all the answers, but follow-up by researching the topic and then getting back to that person. Be patient if the explorer is overwhelmed and needs more information to digest.
Concentrate on the following verses in Ephesians 4:2 and Colossians 3:12 to guide you.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.”
“Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.”
Be empathetic by putting yourself in their shoes and let them tell you their story or voice their concerns. Finally, keep the following verses in Ephesians 4:32, 1 Peter 3:8 and 1 John 3:17 on hand to strengthen your resolve and remind you to show compassion towards others.
“And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous.”
“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”
Here is the recipe to follow: Drop the excuses as to why we shouldn’t share and do as we have been instructed in the Great Commission, pray for those who are lost (for there is never enough souls to reach), become all things for men (meet them where they currently reside), never be ashamed of the gospel or of Christ, and remain in Christ so that we can be fruitful for His quest to reach all mankind. Extend your hand in love, listen to your audience and hear where they are coming from, be compassionate and empathetic, and share the good news with enthusiasm. True wisdom is to speak in love and gentleness, remembering where we once were, discard judgment, and let God work through you to reap the harvest down the road. Set your expectations low and aim high. And remember, “we once were lost, but now are found. We were blind, but now we see.” Let His amazing grace shine the way He intended it to. Best wishes and God bless!