faithful

Expert Opinions and the Truth

Unsplash.com_JApplegate

Unsplash.com_JApplegate

What is it about experts that make us want to hear what they say? Is it their intelligence? Their experience? Their authority or recognition as an expert?

Many years ago I realized a couple things about experts. They are often self-appointed, and too often their expertise is knowledge-based rather than experiential. And, oh yeah, they can be wrong. Sometimes more wrong than they're right.

For example, take the experts in the (Mosaic) Law when Jesus' came. They were wrong, way wrong, but would never admit it. (Mark 2:16-17 GW) They couldn't see past their self-righteousness to see the real need of people, but Jesus did.

I believe we've been held captive by the opinion of experts far too long. (Click to Tweet) For starters, the earth is not flat. Draining someone's blood doesn't get rid of a disease. Humans can travel faster than the speed of sound and run a mile under four minutes.

Experts and Jesus

The experts of Jesus' time, people who should know better than anyone, missed what they were looking for—the Messiah. Why? For one thing, they didn't like who He had as His followers. They also didn't like much of what He did and said.

My definition of arrogance is the resulting combination of pride and ignorance. (Click to Tweet) Sadly, my experience with (so-called) experts has born this out way too often. BTW, I'm no expert.

I can only guess why you would want an expert opinion. The expectation is that an expert will deliver an authoritative and true opinion. But alas, opinions are opinions, regardless of who gives them.

Jesus had real authority and He spoke truth, not opinion, and His view of discipleship was simple and practical. (Click to Tweet)

Jesus had real authority and He spoke truth, not opinion

An expert example

A considerable amount of books, pamphlets, and messages on discipleship have been generated over the years. All try to capture the essence, purpose, and value of discipleship.

One book I can recommend is The Master Plan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman. It is a classic and well worth the read.

One of the simplest views of Jesus' model of discipleship can be found in Paul's epistle, 2 Timothy in Chapter 2. Here is where I find the essence of discipleship. Not so much a how-to plan, but a process. Discipleship is an ongoing process. It's a way of life.

Discipleship has a beginning but ends when we see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12).

Where do we start?

The foundation for all true discipleship is God's grace—His kindness poured out for all humanity through Jesus.

My child, find your source of strength in the kindness [grace] of Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 2:1 GW)

The foundation for all true discipleship is God's grace

How does the process of discipleship begin?

First, we need to become a disciple and follower of Jesus.

We need to be faithful and consistent in our personal relationship with Jesus, and our relationships with others.

Then we are to pass onto other followers of Jesus what the Lord has worked into our lives. How has Jesus worked His life and truth into your life? This is what we are to share with others.

You’ve heard my message, and it’s been confirmed by many witnesses. Entrust this message to faithful individuals who will be competent to teach others. (2 Tim 2:2 GW)

We need to be faithful and consistent in our personal relationship with Jesus

What is the primary message?

The essential gospel should always be the basis for sharing our faith with others. The essential gospel, as I wrote about in my book, is simply— He (Jesus) came, He died, He rose. Here' one way Paul expressed it—

Always think about Jesus Christ. He was brought back to life and is a descendant of David. This is the Good News that I tell others. (2 Tim 2:8 GW)

The essential gospel is always the basis for sharing our faith with others

How can we be ready?

How can you and I be ready at all times and anywhere to share the gospel in our own words? And how can we share what the Lord has worked into our own lives?

We need to know the truth of God's Word ourselves. How can we share with others what we don't have a firm grasp of ourselves? (Click to Tweet)

Do your best to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker who isn’t ashamed to teach the word of truth correctly. (2 Tim 2:15 GW)

We need to know the truth of God's Word ourselves

Two essential elements

In a previous post, I asked— What are two essential elements of true discipleship? Discipleship the way Jesus did it needs to be both relational and intentional.

It begins with our own personal relationship with Jesus and continues through personal relationships with others.

Discipleship requires commitment on our part. We need to be intentional and faithful in discipling others, even when the results aren't encouraging (see Matt 15:15-16 NIV). (Click to Tweet)

Discipleship the way Jesus did it needs to be both relational and intentional

How? That brings us back to the beginning—being strong in God's grace (2 Tim 2:1).

Discipleship is an ongoing process, not a task to accomplish. It's an intentional, continuing relationship with Jesus and others. (Click to Tweet) Discipleship is a way of life.

Ready to Engage

Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash
Photo by–Jordan McQueen_Unsplash

Faithfulness is a virtue. That's what I was taught when I was young. But as I grew older, I wondered why I didn't see much of it. Now I wonder if it's considered a virtue worth valuing.

Faithfulness is valuable, more than ever. Its value is seen in two important ways—our character and in relationships. In a world where we may wonder if integrity counts for anything, those who are faithful, those who can be counted on, are especially valuable.

And then there are relationships. Faithfulness in relationships may seem naive, but oh how valuable it is. Anyone who has been wounded by unfaithfulness or violated trust knows this.

The world is looking for people who are faithful in life and relationships. This should be commonplace for people of the Christian faith—for God is always faithful.

Keep alert for opportunities

Last week, we looked at the value of getting personal and connecting with people and their life stories. I've posted about this before, but it bears repeating. It's easy to discount the value of our life story, but over the years I've been enriched hearing the stories of other people.

There's always more to people than first impressions and appearances. When we're able to connect our own life story and that of others to God's story of redemption, a wonderful depth and dimension is added.

This week, I want to wrap this series up by looking at how to be alert for opportunities to engage people, and be ready to share your faith.

Look for opportunities in everyday life

The routine of every day life can lull us into a dull stupor, if we're not careful. If you find yourself sleep-walking through life, it's time to stop and look around at life passing you by. When you do, you'll start seeing the people you cross paths with in a different light. But this requires an additional step.

This additional step needs to be intentional. It's a step requiring us to look beyond ourself. There's a place for introspection, a small place in life. When we look inside for too long, we lose perspective and all we begin to see is our self. Jesus calls us to deny our self (Luke (9:23), not study our self. Once we get our eyes off our self, we'll be able to see people in our life.

As mentioned last week, we need to be open to getting personal with people. Not nosy and getting in their business, but interested in them. This means asking questions about them and showing genuine interest in them and their life story. This usually opens up opportunities to share our own life story, or better, God's story.

Get more familiar with various stories in the Bible

Bible stories aren't just for children in Sunday School. When I tell people about biblical storying, the first reaction is often dismissing it as too simple and childlike. Funny, I remember Jesus saying we need to become like children to be included in God's kingdom (Matt 18:1-5).

But stories are loved by everyone—everyone. I shared last week about my experience overseas and in a village church in Ethiopia. My first awareness of the power of telling stories came while teaching children, and especially overseas. And then there's Jesus who often taught with stories called parables to convey the truth of God's kingdom.

How do you become more familiar with the stories of the Bible? Again, we need to be intentional. You can start by reading and listening through the Bible. I recommend using various Bible versions so you can hear it in other words than whatever version you normally use.

There are several resources for learning stories in the Bible, and for learning how to tell biblical stories well. Here's one online site where you will find several resources—International Orality Network (ION)

Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash
Photo by– Nicolai Bernsten_Unsplash

Pray and trust God for opportunities

One simple way to be alert for opportunities to engage people with stories is to pray. It's amazing how simplistic this may sound, and yet how effective it is. In our DIY era, we sometimes overlook the simplest, most essential things. Prayer is one of those simple essentials in the kingdom of God.

Start each day with a simple prayer for God to open doors with people. Once you pray, trust God to do so. Then be alert to the people He puts in your path. They may not be the people you expect. When you're aware of the people in your day's path, look for opportunities to engage them in conversation.

If you're not sure about this, refer back to last week's post—Getting Personal. Once you engage people in conversation, silently pray for God's guidance when He opens the door for you to share your life story of faith and God's story.

Follow up with people

You need to follow-up with the people with whom you share your faith. This should be obvious, but just in case it's not, it is important. This is not a one-and-done effort, we need to see it through beyond casual encounters. People talk about wanting genuine community today. Community requires long-term commitment. There are no short cuts.

The kingdom of God on earth is seen in the early church (Acts 2:42-47) as they learned how to live out their new life as believers. Sharing about their faith was natural for them. When my wife and I were new believers, no one needed to prompt us to share our faith with others. It came out of us naturally. Our life changed and we told others about it.

Not everyone we engage in conversation is ready to hear our story or God's story of redemption. It may require us to continue talking with them on various occasions, to build relationship and trust with them. Your genuine interest in people will do more to open doors than clever things to say.

So, pray, trust God, step out and engage people and build relationship with them. When opportunities come up, step through the open door. Be a good friend. And be a faithful friend, first to Jesus, then to others.

Give it a try. Even when things don't go as you want or expect, remember—the example of your life speaks loudest of all.

This is the final (for now) post on how to be an evangelist without really trying. I may do a follow-up post on how to learn and tell a biblical story to fit with your own life story or the life story of others.

If you'd like to know more about learning and telling biblical stories, let me know by sending me an email through my contact page.

Thanks for reading and feel free to share this post with others!