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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Read the Bible and Live what You Read

Read the Bible to Strengthen Your Knowledge of Faith

        In a recent sermon, I lamented that when I was in high school, my church urged the teens to be evangelistic.  However, we were not taught how or shown how.  I want to urge our church to share the faith, just as I was urged to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  But I also want to offer some equipping.

        How do we get “good at evangelism?”  One way is to know what we believe.  Gain a solid knowledge of the following terms: salvation, sin, Jesus, faith, disciple (or follower).

        I suggest reading the Bible as one way of gaining confidence in our knowledge of faith.  Select one of the four gospels, and go through it slowly.  Keep a notebook.  Write down everything you learn about sin.  Write where you see these lessons in your own life or in the lives of people around you. 

Write down everything said about belief and faith.  Consider how your life would change if you took these things you’ve written and instituted them as normative practices in your daily ritual.  As you write down observations about sin and faith, think about how your perspective on relationships will be altered.  How will your view of specific people in your life change?  It is important in all these written observations and learned lessons to be very specific.  It is hard to apply general observations in life.  When we are specific, we can see where actual changes in practice and perspective come about. 

After you’ve read through one (just one at this point) of the Gospels and after you have filled many pages of your journal with ideas about faith and sin and God, write down your own definition of the word ‘Christian.’  Try to identify at least five ways your definition is either expanded or different than it was before you started reading.  Also identify ways your definition is right on track with what you thought before reading in such a pointed, deeply thoughtful way.

Remember to pray throughout this exercise.  This practice will take several days or weeks, depending on how long your time of reading and contemplation is.  Remember everything you read in scripture is to be in complete interaction with your life: what you seen media and your own lived experiences.  So, pray before your read, as you read, and after.  Ask God to open your eyes, ears, mind, and heart.  Ask God to give you understanding and discernment.  And pray as you watch the news.  Even pray (in your mind) during casual times, hanging out with friends.  Prayer is essential throughout this process.

Finally, pray for opportunities to apply what you’ve observed and learned in real relationships.  By this I don’t mean you insert theological notions about the trinity into conversations with a friend when the theology absolutely does not fit.  That kind of forced insertion would not prompt your friend to begin thinking theologically with you. Rather, your friend might be quite freaked out or put off. 

What I mean is a natural application of what you’ve learned.  Your friend wants to do some drinking while you play cards and you decide not to drink or to only stop at one.  Your friend is surprised because you used to get tipsy with her. She asks why the change and you respond that you just don't go overboard with drink anymore because you don’t think your master wants you to do that.

She responds, your master?  And you tell her Jesus is your master.  She is likely to be freaked out, but this is in the context of a normal conversation.  You assure her that you are still you and still her card-playing friend, but you’ve been reading Luke’s Gospel.  After your careful reading, you are convinced that to be a Christian is to be totally devoted to Jesus in all arenas of life – even at the card table.  Because of your reading, you are committed to Jesus as your master.  You still enjoy Spades (or whatever is the card game of choice), and you certainly still enjoy your friends’ company.  But you will try your best to enjoy it as a Christ-follower.

This definitely sets you up.  The next time your friend tells a raunchy joke, she’ll be watching to see if the Jesus-follower laughs.  The next time a group of your friends are on the 4th beer, they’ll want to know if their friend who now calls Jesus “master” is judging them.  It is essential that you communicate love and grace.  Simply state with confidence that you love them and you are committed both to friendship with them and to loyalty to Jesus.  And be prepared to share stories from Luke to illustrate why you have changed your behavior.  One example might be the story of Jesus hanging out with Zacchaeus and other tax collectors in Luke 19.

This process is exhaustive because it requires a very involved approach to reading the Bible and then retaining that comprehensive thought-approach even in relaxed, social situations.  Saturating your life in prayer will soften the intensity of this approach.  Prayer will deepen your sensitivity to the Spirit and you will find great enjoyment in Bible reading that previously felt more like a chore than a pleasing activity.  This process is just one way of equipping us, making us ready to speak our faith in appropriate ways.  It is a good start to a life of evangelistic living.  And there is no end the possibilities of a life submitted to reading scripture in the way described here.

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