Motivation - Part 4
People are Worth the Effort
It is easy to speak in glowing terms about saving the lost without remembering that such a task does have a cost. One writer noted, “has anybody bothered to check lately to see how much these all-out-searches cost? The price on the tag doesn’t seem to be the bargain it might once have been! The truth is, it never was. While reaching out to irreligious people may sound good on the surface, you don’t have to look very deeply before you realize the actual rescue effort is going to entail significant personal expense” (Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg, p. 26). In the parable of the lost coin and the lost sheep, Jesus reminds us that people are worth the cost of an all-out-search-and-rescue. Notice the language that Jesus used, “does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” (Luke 15:8). “Does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4). Jesus Himself demonstrated that seeking to save souls of men and women is worth tremendous personal sacrifice: “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
We Are On A Mission
“Deep in every true Christian, there is an awareness that we are on this planet for purposes greater than having a career, paying the bills, loving our families, and fulfilling our role as upstanding citizens” (p. 23). “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15).
The Personal Rewards
God certainly does reward the faithful (Matthew 5:12; 25:21; Mark 10:28-30). In addition, to our final reward in heaven, I believe that a case can be made for the fact that there are inherent or built in rewards that naturally come from patterning ourselves after Jesus.
“This might surprise you. You’ve probably thought of communicating your faith as an important obligation, something you may feel guilty about not doing more. But until you really dive in, you won’t realize that extending Christ to others can give your relationship with Him an exciting sense of the unexpected” (p. 27). Simply reflect upon your past. Often when we try to play it safe, our spiritual life becomes stagnant. When you are intent upon sharing the gospel with others, daily tasks that once seemed mundane (getting groceries, taking the kids to school, and so on) take on new meaning. “Trips to the health club, muffler shop, or your workplace become, in your mind, thinly-veiled excursions into the realm of divine possibility. You will start asking yourself, ‘Just what might God be up to in this situation?’” (p. 28). If your spiritual life is lacking some action, then don’t complain that Christianity isn’t working; rather, you are probably not working. Look at the people around you who are living exciting spiritual lives, and you will find people who are placing themselves in situations where God can use them (2 Timothy 2:20-21). “It is incredible to realize that what we do each day has meaning in the big picture of God’s plan” (p. 29).
Purpose and Fulfillment
“As we begin to throw ourselves into rescuing irreligious people and looking for purpose in everyday events, we start to feel a sense of fulfillment that transcends the realm of everyday human experience. What else could compare to being an instrument in God’s hand, used to communicate His love and clarify His truth to people He cared enough to die for?” (p. 29). (2 Corinthians 5:20).
When we are seeking to reach others with the gospel, it is amazing what happens in other areas of our lives. Scripture reading and Bible study take on new meaning. “They used to pull out the Bible once in a while, partly to see what they could learn from it and partly to alleviate some guilt. But now they’ve got to read it, even memorize parts of it in order to know what they’re talking about in the next exchange of spiritual ideas” (p. 30) (1 Peter 3:15). Similar changes happen in the area of prayer. “Talking to God takes on new purpose. Stale recitations get displaced by impassioned pleas for the salvation of destruction-bound friends”(p. 31). With enthusiasm we will thank God for those who respond to the gospel, we will rejoice at their spiritual progress and growth, and we will pray fervently as we see critical concerns in the lives of others (2 Corinthians 11:28-29; Galatians 3:1; John 4:34-38).
If we are looking for the motivation to overcome a habitual sin, then we will find it in seeking to save the lost. “What about personal purity? A benefit of becoming a contagious Christian is that it helps you maintain a high standard of conduct. You gain a heightened awareness that you’re God’s representative and that what you do really matters because it positively or negatively impacts the lives of others (Matthew 18:7 “Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks”). There’s another important aspect of this area of personal purity: When you start going on record with those around you that you’re a serious Christian, they begin immediately and instinctively to watch your life. Some do it out of curiosity, others out of a desire to find fault. Either way, it provides a highly effective system of accountability. Your irreligious friends actually assist you in becoming a more godly man or woman” (pp. 31-32). Have you ever noticed how easy it is to avoid temptation when you are around people who know you are a Christian? If you have a hard time avoiding a certain temptation, then ask yourself, “Am I a secret Christian?” Or, “ A Christian in disguise?” Do we have a number of friendships in which people are unaware of our faith? Christians can get in danger when they have developed an entire lifestyle or interaction with people where no one knows that they are a Christian. On a practical level, this means that the bank teller, grocery clerk, espresso operator, and so on, need to know about our real identity (Matthew 5:13-16).
Talking to people about Jesus can go a long way toward strengthening confidence in what the Scriptures teach. “This is true, in part, because talking to people who have different spiritual perspectives will force you to take steps to ensure you are speaking accurately about the Christian faith. We automatically increase our own knowledge when we try to communicate our faith to friends who are skeptics, or Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or New Agers, or even church-going non-Christians. And when we successfully hold our own in the face of opposition, we gain a heightened sense of spiritual confidence” (p. 32). (1 Timothy 5:16 “Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; preserve in these things; for as you do this you will insure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you”).
The Right Perspective
Every generation has faced false teachers, who try to convince God’s people that the truth isn’t important (2 Timothy 4:3), or that grace is a license to sin (Jude 4). If you want to keep the right perspective, and realize the importance of doctrine, sound preaching, exposing error, following the Scriptures, and insisting on Bible Authority for all that we do or practice, then start talking to people who are outside of Christ. You will find that all the warnings in the Bible of apostasy are absolutely true, and that God’s truth cannot be stressed often enough. The devil is always trying to convince us that people in the religious world are far more spiritual than faithful Christians, and that you can be really spiritual without following the Bible, but repeated encounters with “real people” (not imaginary situations), will give you the true story.
The Cost (Luke 14:28)
· Time and Energy: “You know and I know that reaching wayward people will not be easy. It will involve the expending of time and energy, our most valued resources, in order to build relationships. It will involve explaining and re-explaining the seemingly simple gospel message, waiting patiently while they ‘think about it’ (knowing that in many cases they’re really running from it), trying to cope with a myriad of challenging questions, and, in the back of your mind, realizing that they might end up rejecting Christ” (p. 36).
· Reading and Study (2 Timothy 2:2,15) “Sure, it takes effort to make certain you know what you’re talking about, but you’d want to be up on what you believe anyway, wouldn’t you?” (p. 36). In addition, such careful study benefits us, because in trying to help people or answer their questions, we typically find that we are answering many of the questions we have had. Every time we study with someone, we have a chance to double-check our own beliefs to make sure that they are Scriptural. Be thankful when people challenge what you believe, because that gives you a chance to see if your belief is credible. After all, would you rather be examined by men, or examined by God at the judgment when there are no opportunities to change?
· Money: Lunches, long-distance phone calls, books, study materials, gas, having people over for dinner, and so on, are some of the financial costs in investing in the spiritual welfare of another human being. Yet, this is part of storing up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20-21).
· Risk of Embarrassment, Rejection, Persecution: Some of us shy away from sharing the gospel with others for the fear of being rejected. What we need to realize is that people who reject the gospel were never our real friends to begin with. Sharing the gospel with people “tests” relationships, to see if they are genuine or not. Would you rather go through life with a bunch of superficial “friends” or have real friends and real enemies? “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26). Jesus plainly taught us that embarrassment, rejection and persecution will come our way if we let our light shine(Matthew 5:11-12; Luke 6:22; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).
· It Will Complicate Your Life: It will encroach on your independence, yet who wants to spend their life in isolation?(Ecclesiastes 4:8).
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017