(PODCAST) DAVID’S STORY, ARRESTED FOR EVANGELIZING
SAYING YES WHEN WE SHOULD SAY NO
I guess you are a lot like me in at least one regard, and that is that you know of at least one person who has died within the past two or three years, not from disease, other natural causes, or even suicide, but from overdosing. Perhaps that person was in your immediate family context as it was in mine—hard stuff.
I have talked with various people throughout my workday who have told me their stories of addiction and how terrible it was, especially trying to get clean. The people I had talked with said how the journey down that dark road began with “prescribed” narcotics that were given to them for the pain they were dealing with due to surgery they just experienced.
They told me that the Vicodin or OxyContin worked great for a time, but then the prescription would have to be adjusted to a higher dose to achieve the same effect. Eventually, the doctors would want to stop the narcotic, but these people had now developed an addiction to it, and “quitting” wasn’t as easy a task as it sounded.
So bad became worse. Rather than saying no to what could eventually kill them, the pattern of saying yes had begun. Yes, to some other form of drug that would produce the same effect. Yes, to a behavior that would harm them.
But remember that using narcotics isn’t the only harmful activity or choice that can harm us, even kill us. Alcohol and pornography are up pretty high on the scale as well. Pornography may not kill us like a narcotic might, but it is “certainly lethal in its own way in that it kills relationships and deadens the soul.”
Hold on for a minute, just one minute, lest we begin to think this issue doesn’t relate to us. Sure it does. Our addictions may not be with a prescribed drug or an illegal one. It may not even be alcohol Or pornography, but ALL of us are dealing with some form of addiction: eating issues, social media, your particular brand of soda, coffee, etc. The list can quickly go on, but you get the gist. Like it or not-admit it or not, this problem of saying yes to what can kill you is more far-reaching than we’d like to admit.
“Saying yes to what can kill you” is the title of an article by Ed Welch. In it, he gives three aspects of our humanity that can help us with our addictive tendencies.
To be human is to say NO to temptation
“One of the first questions posed in Scripture is about temptation: When temptations come—and they will—will you trust in the words of the Lord and say no? The Wisdom Literature intends to help us with this question. The relentless message of the book of Proverbs is that our desires are not a reliable judge of which paths lead to life and which paths lead to death. In fact, our desires can suggest life is unexciting and that death can satisfy. Proverbs aims to sharpen our discernment. It helps us to consider the consequences of our decisions. We all need discernment and power to turn from temptations. We all need to see Christ as more beautiful than the beckoning trio of the world, the flesh, and the devil.”
- To be human is to turn to the Lord during suffering
“Temptations are more pronounced when we feel discomfort or pain. The pain is actual physical pain among those who fight against narcotics, yet this is joined by the pain of broken relationships, dashed expectations, and other miseries that create a jumbled mass of hopelessness.”
If you have been a Christian for any time, you have learned, perhaps the hard way, that being a Christian (in Christ) does not mean that you will have fewer struggles, trials, or hardships. We may have more of them because of our relationship with Christ and His kingdom. But, as Christians, we have something the world does not; we have Jesus and the certainty of all His promises for us!
Rather than turn away from Him amid our troubles, we need to be calling out to Him. He is the ONLY one that can manage all our struggles, fears, and despair in ways that will conform us more to His image! We don’t usually fare well when seeking to control them independently.
- To be human is to speak openly with each other about trouble and temptation
We struggle with this one, don’t we? I can write all I want to about it. Your pastor can preach many messages on the importance of it, but still, the thought of others knowing that we aren’t perfect, that we don’t have it all together, is just appalling to us, to our pride.
It’s hard to admit what we truly know about ourselves and everyone else-we are all broken! But God has instructed His people, His church, to be loving, compassionate, Christ-imitating people, which means that we need to open ourselves to God AND others. That truth is central to the scriptures (Romans 3:23, for example).
“We prefer to keep our struggles to ourselves, especially when they are shameful struggles. The kingdom of God, in contrast, invites us to be open before God and others. The challenge is that this is both alluring and impossible: to be known and accepted is peace, but who volunteers to talk about temptations and sins? And what if someone opens up to others and then is met with rebuke and unhelpful judgment?”
That is the challenge we face when being honest about ourselves with others. We need churches with pastoral leadership that understand these biblical teachings and work hard, with much prayer, to build an inviting and loving community of people who understand and care for the brokenhearted.
I hope this makes sense. I trust that if you are dealing with some form of addiction (saying yes to something that can kill you), you will follow God’s prescribed plan for overcoming it. Look to His Word. Call out to Him in prayer. Find a church where you can be open and honest with some mature Christians who understand brokenness and Christ’s compassion for the hurting.
WHERE IS MY CHURCH FAMILY?
Feeling like you don’t belong.
“*I was just there to be with my friend.
As we grew older, we decided to move on to the youth service. It was during a youth camp that I had a personal encounter with God. A lady came up to me on the last night of camp and prayed for me. As she prayed, I felt God’s presence for the first time. At that moment, I decided to accept Christ. Since then, I have become more involved in serving at church.
Over time, I have experienced much spiritual growth, but there is something I continue to struggle with—feeling like a stranger in a place that was meant to provide a sense of belonging. For years, the feeling of loneliness never went away despite being surrounded by people. Often, I found myself thinking:
“Everyone seems to have a church family. Where is mine?”
Might this scenario describe how you are feeling today? Perhaps you have been attending a local church for a few months or have been a “member” for some time, and every Lord’s day is becoming harder and harder to justify even going through the effort to attend church. After all, “know one would even miss me.”
Most likely the sermons are very good and have played a role in your spiritual growth. The praise songs always seem to lift your heart in praise to God, but outside of those things, you constantly feel like you don’t belong; no one bothers, and no one cares whether you are sitting in your usual pew or not.
Oddly enough, it is the same feeling you experienced when you walked into that church for the first time. A new church, new surroundings, new order of worship, new people. Very intimidating.
In your discouragement, I want to encourage you and lay out some food for thought, if you will, along with some practical counsel to help you as you move forward. Sadly, you are not alone. Sometimes, I don’t feel “connected” at church either. Throughout the broad spectrum that we call the “church,” untold people are going through the same struggle as you are, so no, what you are experiencing is not abnormal, and neither are you!
That said, we need to recognize both sides of the coin, so to speak, and then be honest with ourselves regarding which side of that coin our situation fits into. So, let’s begin by focusing on why people don’t feel a sense of belonging in their local churches.
1. An unfriendly church
2. An unfriendly church attender
I know, it seems too simple, doesn’t it? But as we move forward you will quickly learn that there are many subgroups under each heading. Let s focus on the unfriendly church for now.
Some churches are just not friendly. Let’s be honest about that fact. I experienced some myself when looking for a new church home. I have been pulpit supply for one or two unfriendly churches over the years of my ministry. The church where no one engages you unless seemingly pressed to do so. When you finally work through the awkwardness of finding a place to sit, someone from the church tells you that you are in “their” seat. Even so, you put on a smile each Sunday and try to engage some people there. Time passes, perhaps a year, and not one friendship has been developed! A place where the overall environment is just not very welcoming to new people.
That’s one scenario, and the issues within that church body and leadership need to be acknowledged and dealt with prayerfully. But what about the type of church that is welcoming to you on your first weeks there? Greeters greet you at the door, and you are often engaged in superficial conversations as you enter and leave church each week. The environment seems friendly enough. The worship time is edifying, and the preaching is convicting and equipping. Yet, you do not “feel” a connection like you think you should. Relationships never seem to move beyond the superficial type, and the church “doesn’t even call or send me a ‘miss you’ note when I’m not there.” Could the problem possibly be with US more so than the church sometimes?
That leads us to the other side of the proverbial coin. What if our attitude is the problem? What if our “preconceived notions” about how the church ought to feel to us are getting in the way of actually experiencing the koinonia (the fellowship) we so desire?
The first simple fact we must consider is, what if the disconnect we feel, the problem we face, isn’t the church ministry or the people? What if it is the consequence of our selfishness and a persona of “isolation” that we exude from ourselves each Sunday? We must be honest with ourselves if we hope to continue experiencing the joy and fellowship we desire within our local churches.
I have known many “church people” like that. They would come in a bit late each Sunday and, therefore, not have any communication with others. They would sit down and go through the service but then get up and leave early (during the last hymn) before anyone could speak with them.
The Lord created us for community. The opportunity was there for them, but willingly or not, they seemed to isolate themselves from others. Yet, these same people would eventually leave the church without talking with the pastor or elders and tell others how unwelcoming or unloving that church was.
So, what are my words of counsel to anyone struggling with this issue? Below is some biblical guidance that I believe may be helpful:
- 1. Seriously consider why you feel like an outsider.
Honestly, there are many reasons that any one of us could feel this way. There could be one or two bad church experiences in your past that have gone unaddressed, and possibly the offenses you experienced have created a pessimistic or bitter spirit within your heart. Maybe you are experiencing some complicated and challenging life experience, and just getting by daily is trying enough, and that might make it even harder for you to feel like you’re a part of anything.
So, first, Make an intentional effort to recognize if a work of grace needs to be accomplished in your heart that will enable you to move forward with joy. Prayerfully lay out your plea to the Lord. “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
2. Associate (be present)
Make every effort to be at church each Sunday. Regular attendance helps us feel more comfortable around people and them with us, opening doors for communication to happen! Just like anything else, the constant repetition of something makes it easier and more comfortable for us.
“Healthy and growing churches pay close attention to the people they count as members, as well as those who are not yet a part of the flock. These churches do not want to impair or cut off the flow of new people to the church.” New people are the “lifeblood” of a church and ensure its existence in the future.
But ironically, even though churches claim to be “friendly” on their signs or radio spots, many prove otherwise. The truth is that many church members are friendly to the people they already know but not to guests, so be prepared to make a conscious effort at consistent communication with others; eventually, the awkwardness fades, the walls come down, and friendships are established (Hebrews 10:24-25; Philippians 2:1-11).
- 3. Participate (be involved)
This point is vitally important for anyone wanting the sense of community the church should foster. Serve the church body! Ask the church deacons or elders what you can do to serve in the church, even while contemplating whether you will make this place your church home. The quickest way to “break the ice” and establish new and long-lasting relationships within the local church context is to serve alongside others.
Become a greeter, help serve meals to widows, help set up for VBS, and participate in VBS. Actively seek ways to serve Christ by serving your church, and you will find that the sense of isolation you are experiencing will fade away and be replaced with sweet fellowship (1 Peter 4:10-11; Mark 10:45).
- 4. Communicate (be vocal)
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). I mentioned earlier in this post about the sad reality of some people who don’t engage people at church and yet judge others for not engaging them. I remember the adage: “if you want to have friends, be friendly.”
If some people do not engage you, engage them. Be kind and gracious to others, and you might find out that they will be the same towards you (Proverbs 16:24). But remember that the church is a hospital for the broken and wounded, for sinners like you and me. Some people may not respond positively to you. First, that’s ok; that’s where grace comes in! “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
5. One more possibility needs to be contemplated: Does God want to place you somewhere else? This may be the hardest of all those mentioned to determine. This church may not feel right to you because God doesn’t want it to. Be honest with yourself and God, and double-check your motives for wanting to leave so you do not deceive yourself into thinking that you are doing the right thing when you aren’t.
Talk to the pastor; with other spiritually mature believers about what’s happening. Be honest about your thoughts and feelings. And if they prayerfully come to the same conclusion, leave with Grace and don’t burn any bridges.
“If you are struggling to belong in your church, the fact is, you already belong because of your identity in Christ. Being in church is not about being in your comfort zone, and sometimes disappointments with one another is inevitable. But it is also through these processes that we learn to love, forgive and build up each other, just as Christ did for us.”
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP, IS IT MORE THAN A FORMALITY?
I have been a member of various churches over the years and am currently one now! Sadly, most of the churches I was a part of over the years didn’t do very well at teaching the members of those churches how important being a “good” church member was.
Sure, they occasionally taught about the value of church membership, i.e., community, accountability, sacraments, and voting rights, but not so much how to be a faithful, engaged church member.
I feel cheated. Cheated out of so many years in which I could have prospered in my walk of faith personally as a member, I also feel a sense of loss for the opportunities I might have had to bless other members in fulfilling my proper role as a member.
I am not sure what your experience may have been like. Perhaps you are on the other side of the spectrum and have benefited from sound teaching on church membership. Maybe you have had good and faithful role models in your church that were outstanding examples of effective church membership. I hope so.
That is my motivation for this post. I want to discuss with you, the reader, what good and healthy church membership looks like in the life of a believer.
I will not be exhaustive on the topic; you’re welcome. But I hope what I share with you will be instructive and encouraging. I pray that we will take these truths to heart and prayer so that we will grow in this area of our Christian walk.
The first and most important aspect of being a good and flourishing church member is SALVATION!
Redemption creates a distinction between God’s people and not God’s people. Please do not misunderstand what I am saying. I am NOT saying the church, any church, can save you. Only repentant faith alone in Christ alone can redeem a person from the depth of their iniquity.
What I am saying, however, is that the church was instituted for God’s people, redeemed people who have been justified by the blood of their Savior Jesus Christ.
It is not the gathering of the unredeemed but THE redeemed! The local church is the place where other redeemed sinners gather to worship, pray, participate in its sacraments (baptism and communion), and serve one another. It is where they are edified and equipped for their work of service to the Lord throughout the week.
So, for a Christian to become a member of a local church body, it should be observed is not a decision that he/she should take lightly.
“Church membership is about a church taking specific responsibility for a Christian, and a Christian for a church. It’s about “putting on,” “embodying,” “living out,” and “making concrete” our membership in Christ’s universal body. In some ways, the union which constitutes a local church and its members is like the “I do” of a marriage ceremony, which is why some refer to church membership as a “covenant” (9 marks).
So before we say “I do,” we must ensure we have the gospel right.
You and I live in a world God created (Genesis1-2). As such, He deserves and is worthy of glory and honor (Revelation 4:11). He made human beings in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:27, 21-25) and put them in charge to be fruitful and multiply the earth and subdue it, they were created to live and rule the creators’ world under His loving authority. As the creator of mankind and all that mankind enjoys, He is the supreme authority over all His creation.
But sadly, Adam and Eve fell into sin. Eve bought into the lie of Satan and ate of the tree in the garden and then gave it to her husband, who did the same (Genesis 3:1-7). Now the sad testimony, ever since, is the fact that through our first parent’s sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned (Romans 5:12). In rejecting God, Adam, and Eve made a mess of their lives (Genesis 3-4), and the lives of all those who follow after them. They rejected the loving creators’ authority and instituted one of their own. Sadly, we are all like this too. We all rebel against our loving creator and seek to do what we desire, not what He desires. And as a result, we make a terrible mess of our lives.
Even though we rebelled against Him and have sought our own way, not His, He is gracious towards us in that He will not let us rebel forever. God, our creator, will give us all justice, what each of us deserves. God takes our rebellion against Him seriously. He is not indifferent to the way we treat Him. It would be horrifying to fall under the sentence of God’s judgment. This reality all of us as sinners will face (Hebrews 9:27).
Because God so loved us and was not willing that any should perish (John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:8-10), He sent His one and only son, Jesus, to pay the debt we owe; the righteous for the unrighteousness, the innocent for the guilty (1 Peter 3:18). He became our substitute, died in our place thereby taking on our punishment and purchasing our forgiveness with the Father, our creator (Philippians 1:5-11).
But the story does not end there. Jesus rose to life again, conquering death, and because He lives, we too will live, with Him, forever, our Savior (John 20-21; 1 Peter 1:3)! God accepted Jesus’ death as the total payment for our sins, and He is now seated by His right hand in power (Hebrews 12:2; Romans 8:34). So, now because of Jesus, we can have peace with God (Romans 5:1)!
Take Him at His word, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord, will be saved (Romans 10:13)!” Talk with Him. Acknowledge your guilt and ask for forgiveness.
This is the essential aspect of being a healthy church member. With this as our foundation, what should we consider next?
The second aspect of being a flourishing church member is YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH.
Really? Why does it matter whether or not I’m growing spiritually? It matters a lot. You are not the lone ranger church; you are involved with a group of people that make up your local church.
As the wedding analogy mentioned earlier, you have become one within your church body. The well-being of the church begins with each member.
Guard your heart against pride – this sinful pleasure will lead a person away from humility before the Lord and others. Pride stifles our ability to truly comprehend greater biblical truth while hindering us in our service to the church body. It gives us a false assurance that we “know” what we need to know while falsely judging others around us.
Apathy- “Spiritual apathy, coldness, or indifference can affect even the most sincere Christian at one time or another. Human emotions being as fickle as they are, feelings of apathy or disinterest can sometimes replace the fervor we once felt for the things of God.”
Guarding against apathy is vitally important. Such indifference will draw us away from faithful attendance. It will pull us away from acts of service to others within the church. But if we find such a coldness within our hearts, overcoming apathy is necessary for continuing our walk with God.
Unconfessed sin- Proverbs 28:13
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
“We are called to live by the standard of Scriptures, walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16). With the presence of the Spirit, we experience conviction when we sin overtly and neglect our duty. Often we are convicted for our attitudes and thoughts.
Sin always leads to pollution, disintegration, and perversion; worse, it hinders our fellowship with God. While we are disappointed and hurt when believers sin, we should not be surprised that it occurs. The Christian life is a struggle against the temptations of the flesh, the world, and the forces of Satan. We are all familiar with the internal war we feel as we seek to live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:13-21).
In short, the remedy is confession (1 John 1:9- Erwin Lutzer)
We may be tempted to hide our sins. Sometimes, we secretly hold onto a particular form of sin that we enjoy. “If we choose to remain in our sin, then we choose the consequences that go with that choice. Broken fellowship and lack of growth result. However, those who persist in sin need to reexamine their true relationship with God (2 Corinthiansofpture is clear that those who know God do not continue a lifestyle of unrepentant sin (1 John 2:3–6; 3:7–10). A desire for holiness is a hallmark of those who know God. To know God is to love Him (Matthew 22:37–38). To love Him is to desire to please Him (John 14:15). Unconfessed sin gets in the way of pleasing Him, so a true child of God wants to confess it, change it, and restore fellowship with God” (got questions.com).
Short, honest accounting with our Lord regarding our sins will be a blessing for us personally in our relationship with Him and our relationships with others!
A third aspect of being a flourishing church member is YOUR PRAYER LIFE
Our prayers shouldn’t be an afterthought, a last resort when nothing else has worked. Prayer should be our default mode, our day’s most crucial and sought-after conversations.
Prayer is how we converse with God and how our relationship with Him blossoms. Through prayer, our heavenly Father works in our hearts and lives, aligning them with His will.
Prayer strengthens us against temptation. Matthew 26:41
41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Our praying is being obedient to God.
18 “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
Praying is the pathway to godly wisdom
“James 1:5 tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. Through prayer, we access God’s wisdom, which is unlike that of the world. It comes to us through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13).” Internet
In the local church, we are allowed to be obedient to the Lord in this way corporately! Praying together encourages other believers, comforts them, and plays a part in strengthening them thru their struggles.
For you and I to have a steady walk with the Lord; for the local church that you are a member of to flourish and be helpful in gospel ministry, it has to be a praying church. Prayer not only changes things, it is the main thing!
I hope these words will be found to be beneficial in your Christian life, especially regarding your life in the local church in which you are a member.
Much more could be added, but I leave that precious time to study for you. What may be some things that you have found necessary for a Christian’s life regarding their flourishing in the local church?
FEARING WORKPLACE EVANGELISM
We are all familiar with the scripture from Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd (wise) as serpents and innocent (blameless) as doves.” Luke expresses that same sentiment differently (Luke 10:3). Yet, that’s the beauty and power of the Word of God. The same counsel given to the disciples when Jesus sent them out to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” applies to us today as we go into our places of work as Christians. We need wisdom and innocence as we traverse the muddied terrain of workplace protocol!
We want to be faithful witnesses for our King, King Jesus, but it appears to be more complicated these days, right? After all, Human Resources (HR) seems to be systematically changing the rules we must follow regarding our interactions with customers, management, and other employees. Many laws are changing and becoming more “inclusive.” The woke culture has erupted onto the scene infiltrating every aspect of our society; its tentacles are far-reaching and relentless.
Scary stuff, right? Has our current climate hindered or perhaps even stifled your witness for Christ in the workplace? Your workplace? Are you confused about how to effectively evangelize your co-workers without being fired or, worse, thrown in prison?
“*The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) requires believers to spread the Gospel to the four corners of the Earth. We spend 8-10 hours a day at work, potentially eight hours or so sleeping, with the remaining eight hours divided between family, church, and other responsibilities. We are at our jobs 40-50 hours a week, that makes it our biggest ministry field for evangelism! Increasingly, people are realizing that this means that we are to be witnesses in our places of work.”
Even so, many Christians fear speaking about their faith at work. The fear of being ridiculed, scoffed at, ignored, or even disciplined or fired are powerful harbingers that tend to keep them silent among their peers.
The inescapable reality, however, is that “there will always be opposition to the spreading of the Gospel. Some in our society want religious people to keep their convictions to themselves and leave their religion at home. The law, however, does not require that religious employees and employers check their religion at the office door or the factory gate when they come to work.”
“Federal and State laws protect the religious freedoms of employees and employers. Employers can run their business in conformance with godly principles and employees cannot be forced to act in a manner that conflicts with their religious beliefs. For instance, Christian employers may hold and participate in voluntary chapel services and prayer meetings for employees, and employees can share their faith with co-workers during breaks or free time so long as it is not disruptive. In short, there is no law requiring the workplace to be a religion-free zone.”
That’s a breath of fresh air! You and I are not breaking any laws when we live out and share our faith in Jesus Christ while working. We are in full-time Christian ministry, no matter where we are or what our occupation is. As ambassadors for Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we must be faithful messengers representing the King of heaven with the Gospel.
With all that being said, that nowhere implies that it will always be easy or without consequences. So, what principles can we apply here that will help us act with wisdom as we not only live out our faith but vocalize as well in the workplace?
As with building any solid, long-lasting structure, I guess you always begin with the foundation. The foundation holds everything that comes after it. Our foundation for workplace evangelism starts with our integrity as redeemed children of God.
“1 When you live out your faith, your life becomes convicting to those around you. Your words and actions can cause a non-Christian to ask, “I wonder what makes him behave the way he does. I’m impressed.”
Your witness at work includes anything, and everything people may observe about you — the integrity you exhibit by the promises you make and keep, the way you treat people you dislike or dislike you, and even the patience you show at meetings or during times of stress.
You don’t come to work at 8:15 if you’re supposed to be there at 8. You work just as hard five minutes before it is time to leave as you did in the middle of the morning. Your performance is the same when your employer’s back is turned as when he or she is facing you.
Here are some questions for reflection about your witness at work:
Are you a good worker? Your employer is God above, not a boss below. You should live and work each day with the knowledge that you are accountable to Him. This includes how you spend your time at work, even in evangelism. You are paid by your employer to work, not to witness. After-hours or break times can be great opportunities, but you need to be careful not to steal time from your employer.
Do you act and react with self-control? You cannot always control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it. The way you react to countless stresses and conflicts in the workplace is evident every day — in conferences, lunchroom conversations, client negotiations, budget planning, service calls and sales meetings and on the factory line. Your reactions catch people’s attention.
Do you tell the truth? Truth needs to be seen in sales reports, endorsements, expense reports, budget analyses, client negotiations and the way you repeat what others say. And not only do you need to speak the truth, your motives should be sincere.”
Without this solid foundation godly integrity, most, if not any co-workers will listen to you sincerely when you talk to them about the difference Christ makes in peoples lives!
Another principle to consider is what I underlined above: You are paid by your employer to work, not to witness. After-hours or break times can be great opportunities, but you need to be careful not to steal time from your employer. Please take all the opportunities you have during break or lunch, but recognize they will always be short-lived. Ten-minute breaks and thirty-minute lunches do not allow us much time to converse seriously with our co-workers.
Recognize that while your workplace produces some opportunities to share your faith, it comes with many limitations. My suggestion, although not original with myself, would be to consider fostering relationships with your peers outside the work environment. Invite them over for dinner. Go out for coffee or breakfast together, etc. In these venues, you will have more time to talk. During these times, you are outside the workplace environment and not under those rules of engagement; you are on your own personal time!
“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things” (Romans 10:15). This is not about our feet, dear Christian, but the message those feet deliver!
*ACLJ website, Christian Rights In The Workplace
1 Beliefnet, Witness in the Workplace
(PODCAST) SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS
THE PRAXIS OF THEOLOGY
One of the first things you will notice on my blog site is the 7waysfromsunday logo. Directly underneath those seven fingers are these words: “Where theology instructs our daily walk.” Those words are at the very top of the page because they define the purpose of this website. That purpose is to take the “knowledge” of God gleaned from His holy Word and rightly apply it to our everyday lives.
That is the “praxis” you read in the title of this post. Praxis is the practical application of learned theology. “*The overall importance of Practical Theology is that the study of Christian beliefs as found in Scripture involves more than merely knowing what the Bible teaches but also how its teachings apply to life’s situations.”
This particular sphere of theology is most noticeable in the arenas of pastoral ministry, biblical counseling, and Christian education, to name a few. As well as blog sites, podcasts (like this one), and parachurch ministries that are constantly and purposely seeking to help the body of Christ (the church) actively live out in their lives and areas of influence the knowledge they have gained by studying the Word of God.
So then, my aim in all I do, whether written or in audio format, is to take what we learn in scripture from other areas of theology, such as Biblical theology, Historical theology, and Systematic Theology, and bring all of that down to a place that focuses on the everyday or modern day implications of Christian theological beliefs because theology is the application of theological truth to all of life, particularly the life and work of the church.
So how does that work? The answer to that question involves some level of understanding of the various aspects of theology. First, Biblical theology focuses on knowledge about God that is relayed to us in the Bible. Its focus begins by looking at scripture book by book. To say it another way, to gain a biblical theology, one has to study each particular book in the Bible carefully to learn its place in the unfolding process of redemption. We want to take careful notice of various distinctions that are present (Israel and the church), different vocabulary usage (John contrasted to Matthew), and the different genres (poetical, prophetical, historical, etc.) and so much more. All of these are interwoven, so by asking various questions relating to all these things, we can connect the dots, if you will, and form a cohesive biblical theology.
But along the way, we realize this book has many themes that run from cover to cover. Those need to be tracked and understood in light of the whole trajectory of the Bible. By doing this, we can see “1the wisdom of God in unfolding Scripture in these ways, and we sometimes, as we see these themes unpacked before our eyes, bow in worship as we begin to glimpse something of the mind of God in putting these stories together when individual writers along the line themselves could not see all that they were contributing to, even if they could see the current bit where God was using their words to speak with infallible truth.”
Second, Historical theology is the study of Christian history, the development of Christian doctrine, and looking at how Christians throughout history have understood and applied various biblical truths to their lives, such as the nature of God, the nature of man, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, government, and much much more.
Third, Systematic Theology takes all the parts (Christology, Pneumatology, Anthropology, hamartiology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, Angelology, and Eschatology) and “systematizes” them. In other words, rather than studying each part (as referenced above), systematic theology focuses on bringing all the biblical teachings mentioned above into a self-consistent, coherent whole. This “bringing together” is not haphazard. Instead, it provides order and defense of these truths in a systematic, understandable way.
So what practical theology does is take all that was learned from the various elements above and exegete the theological significance of how we live our lives today in light of these truths.
These truths apply to every sphere of our existence. Our personal lives, relationships in and out of the church, work, and our relationship with government, employers, and other authority figures. Our view of life and death, the world and everything in it. They guide our thoughts and help form our opinions. They give us an understanding of the God who created and redeemed us so that we can walk in a manner worthy of Him. And so much more!
That is the praxis of 7waysfromsunday!
Jesus had just been falsely accused of blasphemy, blindfolded, spit at, beaten, and bound; they led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate. Pilate is the representative of the civil government, and whose guilty verdict was necessary to crucify Jesus. The Jews did not have such authority at this time.
“*The resolution (15:1) by the Sanhedrin in the final stages of its meeting was to accuse Jesus before the civil authority, not of blasphemy, but of high treason. The Roman government would not have considered blasphemy a punishable crime.” John tells us (18:30) that these religious leaders wanted Pilate to hand over a death sentence solely based on their accusations against Him. Still, Pilate refused their urgent request and began questioning Jesus for himself.
Mark does not give any information about who Pilate is or why he is in Jerusalem at this time. Perhaps he assumes his readers would already know this information. “1 Pilate was the Roman procurator (governor) of Judea from A.D.26-36. His official residence was in Caesarea, but he was in Jerusalem for Passover.” This man, Pilate, was placed in the awful position of placing judgment upon Jesus, the “king of the Jews.” And even though he “found no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4) and knew that the chief priests were doing this out of envy (Mark 15:10), he handed their messiah over to be crucified.
This is the moment in time we observe through the pen of Mark. Let’s dig into it. Ready? Let’s begin!
15 Early in the morning, the chief priests with the elders, scribes, and the entire [a]Council immediately held a consultation; and they bound Jesus and led Him away, and turned Him over to Pilate. 2 Pilate questioned Him: “So You are the King of the Jews?” And He answered him, “It is as you say.” 3 And the chief priests started accusing Him [b]of many things. 4 But Pilate questioned Him again, saying, “Do You offer nothing in answer? See how many charges they are bringing against You!” 5 But Jesus said nothing further in answer, so Pilate was amazed.
FOCUS ONE: JESUS BEFORE PILATE (1-5)
Mark says that this decision of the Sanhedrin happened early in the morning, most likely around daybreak, between 5:00-6:00 a.m. Jesus was led to the palace of Herod, where Pilate was residing at the time. This was located in the northwestern section of the city. It was there where the bound prisoner, Jesus, was delivered to Pilate. As mentioned above, Pilate refuses to hand down a judgment against Jesus based solely on the Sanhedrin’s verdict, so he begins questioning Jesus for himself (15:2).
Pilate’s questions are twofold: First, he asks Him directly, “are you the king of the Jews” (v. 2). This being his very first question; the one of most importance to him, seems to stem from the fact that the charges against Jesus were probably made known to him already.
“Mark gives us only a summary of the trial. According to Luke, the Sanhedrin brought before Pilate three charges against Jesus (1) He is subverting our nation; (2) He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar; and (3) He claims to be Christ, a king (Luke 23:2). And it is the last charge that Pilate was interested in! Why? Because if true, it would make Him guilty of rebellion against Rome.
Jesus answers the question from Pilate. “It is as you say.” In other words, Jesus acknowledges that He was Israel’s rightful king. His answer, although a positive acknowledgment, appears to be somewhat a “qualified one” as well. “I am, but not exactly in the way that you are thinking.” So this leads Pilate to ask another question: “Do you not answer? See how many charges they bring against you?”
Jesus did not reply, and that amazed Pilate. Most people would aggressively deny the charges against them or make some emotional plea, but Jesus did neither, and that not only surprised Pilate but also baffled him. However, observing that the questioning was not in their favor, the Chief priests took the lead and began harshly accusing Jesus (v. 3). “Jesus made no further answer.”
6 “Now at the Passover Feast he used to release for them any one prisoner whom they requested. 7 And the one named Barabbas had been imprisoned with the rebels who had committed murder in the revolt. 8 And the crowd went up and began asking Pilate to do as he had been accustomed to do for them. 9 Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask him to release Barabbas for them instead.”
FOCUS TWO: PILATE BEFORE THE CROWD (6-11)
The custom refers to releasing a prisoner at the Passover Feast. It appears to have been a Roman custom. Luke tells us that there was an uprising in the city and that Barabbas was involved in it and even committed murder during the uprising. “*Barabbas was probably a member of the sect of Zealots, who deeply resented the Roman occupation of Palestine.”
The crowd began “asking him to do as he had been accustomed to do for them” (v. 8). “1 Pilate undoubtedly saw this annual custom as the way out of his dilemma regarding Jesus.” But it seems that most of the crowd had come to Pilate’s tribunal to ask for Barabbas to be released. But, even if that is true, the chief priests felt they needed to stir up the crowd and incite them to ask for Barabbas to be released, not Jesus.
Pilate’s first question: “do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” The leader’s response: Release Barabbas. So Pilate asks another question. “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the king of the Jews?” The crowds damning response: “Crucify Him!”
We already know that the plan to kill Jesus was hatched earlier in His ministry (11:18), but here we are told their motivation for His murder- envy!
12 “And responding again, Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted [a]back, “Crucify Him!” 14 But Pilate said to them, “Why, what [b]evil has He done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify Him!” 15 Intent on satisfying the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them, and after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.”
FOCUS THREE: THE CROWD BEFORE JESUS (12-15)
How sad, no, how heartbreaking it is to read that Jesus was rejected for a murderer. Pilate’s final attempt to save Jesus leads him to ask, “why, what evil has He done?” But the crowd “*now a mob, ignored his question (v. 14). They had reached a stage where they were beyond reason.” Only crucifixion would satisfy them. Death was not enough for the unruly mob; he had to suffer immensely.
“Crucify Him, Crucify Him” was their mantra, shouted so loudly as to drown out any other plea. We can get a picture of how this scene looked by reflecting on the riots of recent days. Crowds gather to protest, and some people with “other” motives join the group. The volume rises, violence erupts, and there seems to be no sense or reason to it anymore, just pure anarchy. And the loud, violent crowd gets its way! Jesus is scourged and handed over to be crucified.
But don’t miss out on one of many testimonies to the innocence of Jesus throughout the passion narrative. Pilate’s testimony of Christ’s innocence is seen in his statement, “why, what evil has He done.” Also, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4). And again, “having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him” (Luke 23:14).
Sadly, Pilate was a “man pleaser.” He desired to please the Jews because of fear and political reasons. “To save himself from Rome’s displeasure” is what ultimately overcame his desire to set Jesus free!
So, the guilty go free and the innocent to the cross! But do not forget that God was in control of all of it. None of this was a surprise to Him. It was all told to us hundreds and even thousands of years before through the prophets!
Take time to read these scriptures:
Isaiah 53:3-John 1:11: Luke 23:18
Psalm 41:9-Luke 22:47-48
Psalm 35:11-Mark 14:57-58
Isaiah 50:6-Matthew 26:67
Zechariah 12:10-John 20:27
*The Expositors Bible Commentary, pg. 773
1. MacArthur Study Bible, Mark footnotes
IN THE GARDEN
We are about to enter the garden with Jesus and the disciples on the night Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, thanks to Mark and the other gospel writers who take us there through their written accounts of this event. If you somehow missed seeing the humanity of Christ throughout this book so far, you won’t be able to do so in the garden.
In the garden of Gethsemane, we see the humanity of Jesus Christ displayed in jaw-dropping transparency. Jesus is shown to be anything but above temptation. “Far from sailing serenely through His trials like some superior being unconcerned with this world, He is almost dead with distress” (Moule gospel of Mark, pg. 117).
It appears illogical to assume that the early church would have generated a story like this one and then included it in the “written Word” if not for the fact that it is true. Just as the rest of scripture is given to us with “astonishing fidelity,” so is this account of what happened in the garden. How can we possibly fathom what that means, much less what it looks like, without such deliberate honesty from the gospel writers?
Did I grab your interest yet? Let’s dig in!
32 They *came to a place named [a]Gethsemane; and He *said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He *took with Him Peter, [b]James, and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and [c]keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began praying that if it were possible, the hour might [d]pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! [e]Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”
FOCUS ONE: Jesus and the disciples in Gethsemane 32-42
Gethsemane “*was a garden located somewhere on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives, in which there were olive trees and olive presses. It was one of Jesus’ favorite spots (Luke 22:39; John 18:2).” It was here where He faced one of His most crucial tests. He enters the garden with the remaining eleven disciples (remember Judas Iscariot left them to betray Jesus to the Chief priest). At some point and some distance into the garden, He tells eight of them to sit at the spot they are at, and He takes Peter, James, and John with Him.
I cannot say with absolute certainty why He took these men with Him further into the garden, as He is facing sorrow so gripping to His soul. Most people would try to be alone during a grievous time like this, but not our Lord. Perhaps, as MacArthur opines, “Jesus likely had them accompany Him into the garden because they were the leaders of the twelve and had to learn an important lesson to pass on to the others.” Or, as one commentator puts it, “He must have felt the need for their presence in this time of crisis.” Whatever the reasoning, He takes these three men with Him a little farther into the garden.
As they walk, Jesus expresses His feelings to them. Men take note of this. It is not weak, unmanly, or abnormal to share our “feelings” with those we trust. Jesus tells them. “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death.” Was He exaggerating for effect? Doubtful. In these very expressive words, Jesus described an extremely acute emotion. A mix of Fear, uncertainty, and anxiety “that is nowhere else portrayed in such vivid terms as here.”
What He is going through at this time is directly related to what He is about to experience for the world’s redemption. In other words, His sorrow was so severe that it threatened to cause His death as He spoke to them! Don’t just read over that and move on without some pause.
After expressing His feelings, He tells these three men to remain there, and He goes a little further on His own into the garden (v. 35). He tells them to “remain here and keep watch.” A little later, He tells them to “keep watching and praying.” His words were not suggestions; instead, they were imperatives (commands) in the original language (Both verbs in the aorist tense, imperative mood, and active voice). Perhaps He wanted them to stay awake and keep watch for those He knew would be coming to seize Him. At this point in the account from Mark, we get an intimate view of the sorrow of Jesus as well as a “fly on the wall” hearing of His prayers to the Father!
His prayer begins with Him asking His Father if it were possible to let the cup pass from Him (v. 36). Jesus knew that it was within the Father’s power and omniscience to fulfill His redemptive will in any other way, an “alternate plan of redemption.” And, He also knew that whether such an alternate plan was according to His will, He would be obedient, even to death, on a cruel cross.
Again we find much practical application for us in these verses. Jesus knew what the Father’s will was and was deeply burdened by it. So much so that He asks if there could be any other way to fulfill it. He took His burdens over God’s revealed will to Him before His Father in prayer. It is ok for us to bring our burdens before our Heavenly Father. He wants to hear from us (1 Peter 5:7). But just like Jesus (the other side of the coin, if you will), we must be willing to move forward in obedience to His revealed will when it is clear that His divine will has not changed! His will MUST always supersede our own (v.36).
37 “And He *came and *found them sleeping, and *said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not [a]keep watch for one hour? 38 [b]Keep watching and praying, so that you will not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again He went away and prayed, saying the same [c]words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to say in reply to Him. 41 And He *came the third time, and *said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? That is enough. The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being [d]betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!”
FOCUS TWO: The importance of prayer
“Keep watching and praying” are words that are meant for the reader. How easy it this for you and I to become complacent, apathetic, and indifferent in our Christian walk. Yes, they were tired; they had a busy couple of days before they entered the garden with Jesus, but as we read in this portion of scripture, Jesus still commanded them to “keep watch” and to “pray.” Constancy and vigilance were required at this time as prophecy was about to be fulfilled when the betrayer would soon be upon them.
We witness a contrast in Mark’s count between Jesus and Peter, James, and John.
Jesus: Peter, James, and John
Tired but prayed. Tired and slept
Deeply grieved over coming events Indifferent to coming events
Discerning Lacked discernment
Relied on the Father Self-confident
Sought strength from His Father. Spiritually unprepared
Willing to do the Father’s will Spirit willing, but the flesh was weak
We are so much like these men that we would do well in withholding judgment against them. They did not understand that spiritual victory only comes to those alert in prayer, depending on God, and confident in His omnipotence and omniscience in all things. We would do well to learn this lesson.
Jesus was “deeply grieved to the point of death” (v. 34). He was about to endure “the fury of God over sin.” Not for His sins, He had none, but for the sins of the world (John 3:16). But even though He carried this heavy burden, such sorrow beyond our comprehension, His resolve to be obedient to His Father and do His will was absolute! “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (v. 36).
But, as seen above in the comparison I listed, those three men couldn’t stay awake and keep watch for Judas Iscariot and the crowd that was coming for Jesus. “Are you stillsleeping and resting? It is enough” (v. 41).
The hour has come. What does He mean by that? You might remember that at other times Jesus stated that “my hour has not yet come” (John 2:4). Jesus was working on a divine timeline, not a human one. Before the foundations of the world were laid, the triune godhead made the plan for the redemption of fallen mankind. So many things would have to be fulfilled over a vast amount of time before the “lamb which takes away the sins of the world” would be handed over to evil men and be crucified. That time has arrived. Judas Iscariot was on the way with an unruly crowd behind Him (Psalm 41:9).
43 “And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up, [a]accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs who were from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; arrest Him and lead Him away [b]under guard.” 45 And after coming, Judas immediately went to Him and *said, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 And they laid hands on Him and arrested Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and [c]cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a man inciting a revolt? 49 Every day I was with you within the temple grounds teaching, and you did not arrest Me; but this has taken place so that the Scriptures will be fulfilled.” 50 And [d]His disciples all left Him and fled.
51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him.”
FOCUS THREE: Betrayed with a kiss (43-51)
Judas comes with an armed crowd into the garden, where he knows from experience that Jesus would be there. He is not alone. A mob of people wielding swords and clubs is with him. Unlike many “unruly” crowds that gather today and wreak havoc in our cities, this mob was a carefully selected group of people brought together to arrest Jesus so He could be put to death.
This was no small crowd. It consisted of people from among the chief priests, scribes, and elders, as well as a full Roman cohort (could have been as many as 600 soldiers) that sought to arrest Jesus and take Him to Annas first (John 18:12). But how would Judas Iscariot be able to “point out” Jesus? How would this crowd know who to take prisoner? Judas had thought of this and so gave them a signal so that they would recognize Jesus. The signal? “Whomever I kiss” (v. 44).
It seems odd to me that a signal of any type would be needed. After all, Jesus spent a lot of time teaching in the temple, a very public place. They should have known what He looked like! They would have seen Him often.
Notice how Jesus was treated. They come out for Him with violent, hate-filled fury. A man that has only done good for everyone that came around Him. A man, the messiah, filled with love, healing the sick and offering forgiveness of their sins! And none of that matters; they only want one thing-to silence Him for good!
Things have not changed much, have they? When a person speaks out about their faith in Christ today when they stand for biblical virtue in defiance of the current culture and its morality. When they say no to evil and share the only hope of forgiveness-Jesus Christ, they too are hated with much fury, and the “crowd” seeks to silence (cancel) them.
Judas approaches Jesus and embraces Him. He betrays Christ with a kiss, an act of respect and affection. He chose an action that showed “1the closest love and affection, normally reserved for one with whom a person had a close, intimate relationship.” This scene always grieves my heart. It grieves me because such a signal was grossly evil and highly hypocritical. Think about it. Even today, what Judas Iscariot has done is used in a derogatory way when someone betrays us: “you Judas.” The rock band Nazareth released a song entitled “please don’t Judas me” in 1975.
Jesus is seized. Simon Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave of the high priest (John 18:10). Mark leaves out various details such as this in his short account. Jesus expresses a “Righteous resentment” against their seizure of Him, especially how they had one it (vv. 48-49). And then we read these heartbreaking words: “And they all left Him and fled” (v. 52). It is so disheartening to read of the failure of His disciples that day, but even more grievous to my soul knowing that I would have been one of them as well if I were there that day. So would you.
We believe that the young man who fled with nothing but a linen sheet over his body was the writer of this gospel, John Mark! But even the linen sheet was left behind (v. 52)! Fear triumphed over faith at that moment, and they all fled the area, not wanting to be taken with Him.
There is much speculation regarding why Mark was in the garden “wearing nothing but a linen sheet,” That would be an excellent topic for further study on your own.
Lastly, but not unimportant by any means, is the fact that what is happening at this time in the garden is the fulfillment of scripture (Isaiah 53:7-9,12)! The Bible reveals myriads of prophecies about the messiah being fulfilled in Christ (for example, Genesis 3:15-Galatians 4:4; Micah 5:2-Luke 2:4,5,7)!
“do not try to make the Bible relevant. It’s relevance is axiomatic. . .Do not defend God’s Word but testify to it. . .It is a ship loaded to the very limits of her capacity” (Bonhoeffer).
*Expositors Bible Commentary