Staying connected! It is one of the things that I most appreciate about the technology that fills my life. My phone signals the arrival of text messages dozens of times each day; everything from the mundane, “Won’t be home ‘til 6” to the urgent, “Call me, it’s an emergency!” I can be reached anywhere, anytime, with that amazing little device that I carry everywhere. Facebook keeps me aware of what’s happening to my friends and relatives scattered around the country. (Yes, it also keeps me aware of a lot of nonsense, too, but I’ll wade through the political rants and the silly memes to enjoy the smiles, family pictures, and personal updates.) Yes, I like being connected in this way.
There is a responsibility that comes with having all those connections. Paul says that a priority for me, and all Christians, is to work at connecting people to their Creator. “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. … If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5: 11,17-18, NIV) We love and respect our Father, gaining from Him the gift of eternal life through Jesus. Because we are changed, inside out, to love, to serve, to hope; we want others to know Him, too.
How do we offer Jesus’ love to our world?
Yesterday I had a brief conversation with some teens who complained about a friend who was so ‘religious.’ Her “God-talk” was counter-productive, obscuring the offer of God’s love with what they saw as her personal agenda to ‘make some converts.’ Christians must be bold in faith, to be sure, but also take care that we do not come off as trying to ‘sell’ Jesus.
The Gospel needs a context. That is why Paul says that we are a ‘new creation.’ If our lives are not marked with a genuine love for others, if Christ Jesus is not known by us in a way that is producing real and observable change, we are mostly wasting our breath when we ‘preach.’ We cannot live with hate and division, behind walls that cut us off from those with whom we differ, and then preach the good news that Jesus brings people together in the family of God with authenticity.
The aim of our work at presenting Jesus to others is not just to get them to make a ‘decision.’ We are to make ‘disciples.’ The Church, in my opinion, too often is content with having a person say the right words, making a verbal acknowledgement of Jesus and ‘accepting Him into their heart.’ The ‘sinner’s prayer’ has become something of a sacrament to many of us. That’s a start, but our goal is not just to lead someone in a brief prayer of decision. We want to help them form deep faith, to make a real connection with God, and begin to experience the change of heart and mind that the Spirit desires. Discipleship may begin with a prayer, but it continues for life, one choice after another as a person grows in grace and faith!
Here is a pointed question for us:
Does my life create a hunger and thirst for God in those with whom I am connected?
Asked another way: Is my Christianity authentic, my love for God and others real, my heart surrendered to God, and my hope on things eternal?
Nothing in life compares to the joy of seeing a person who does not know the Lord come to faith, become a disciple. It is something like becoming a parent. When my children were born all those years ago, the delight was incomparable. When someone is born into the family of God, there is a similar reaction in me. How about you?
Here is a word from the Word. I pray it helps us all to get our priorities aligned with the desire of our God. “For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.” (Colossians 1:27-28, NLT)
Abba, help me to be connected to You,
Intimately, deeply, and honestly.
As the Holy Spirit works in me to lead me to love,
to help me to serve without self-interest, and to
hope in things eternal,
I pray that the Goodness of Jesus will be evident.
Let Your radiance shining through me, invite those who live around me,
to love and trust You.