Unlike Christmas, I find the run up to Easter less overwhelming from a worldly perspective.
We are not inundated with music. There are no television ads encouraging us to buy ourselves a luxury car. And, if you have kids, I expect navigating expectations around the Easter Bunny’s visit are much lower than the expectations associated with that wintery red-suited-character.
Yet for me, as someone trying to follow Jesus, it is Easter, more so than Christmas, when the reality of the depth of God’s love, hits home.
I come from a tradition where we “practiced” Lent. As Easter Day drew near, the intensity increased. The week before Easter we call Holy Week. We literally try and “walk the week with Jesus”. I spent part of most every day in the church.
I took in all the services and activities as a child. The cadence of services matched Jesus’ week. Their intensity and enormity grew. They reached a fever pitch level when the weight of all sin was unleashed upon Jesus that “Good” Friday.
I certainly understood that Jesus bore the sins of the world and that Jesus had endured more pain than anyone else on earth. The irony was that it took to age 30 for me to realize that the grace which flows from the Cross was FREE and for me.
By God’s grace, there was that day “the penny dropped” and “the scales fell from my eyes” and “the door opened” into the reality of what God had done through Jesus Christ. That He did it for me. He did it for you.
To say I grasped the depth of God’s love that day would be a gross overstatement. I believe the depth of God’s love is infinite. I am more comfortable saying that day Jesus walked through my doorway. And most days since, if I let him, He is taking me deeper into his love.
And so, I want others to know how much God loves them. I want them to know how they can “come home”. How they can receive healing and freedom.
The question is “How?” How do I share my faith, especially with my family and friends, when the world has created ugly caricatures of Jesus’ followers?
I want to suggest as Easter approaches that we consider three distinct steps:
- Preparing our minds and spiritual lives: we must be biblically grounded in what activity we are engaging in.
- Preparing our hearts: in midst of the battle, we must keep our hearts full of love and compassion.
- Pursuing others intentionally in love: the battle may not be won with one interaction; we must be willing to intentionally love again and again.
Today, let’s look at preparing our minds and spiritual lives:
Reflect on what the Bible teaches
I am not sure if what I am about write is true for you, it is for me.
I get “target fixation”, or perhaps you might say “overly committed to the goal”. In other words, I get super focused on the person believing there is a God, and that Jesus is God come to earth to save us from our sins. Now this is a GREAT goal.
The issue for me becomes when the goal becomes so BIG that I stop seeing the person. Instead of seeing what is going on in their life, or perhaps how the “idea of God” is intersecting their heart—all I see is the goal.
But this goal is mis-directed.
Consider what the Bible clearly states.
We do not have to convince people to know of God. They already know God exists.
Romans clearly states that everyone knows of God.
- Romans 1:19-20: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them…ever since the creation of the world…so they are without excuse.”
Why then might my family and friends not know God? Again, God’s Word provides the answer.
- Romans 1:18 states: “They suppress the truth.”
The concealment of God’s truth happens many ways. Perhaps they have never heard the story. This reality is becoming more and more true in America. They are overwhelmed by a world filled with noise, entertaining them, and inviting them to pursue any number of things.
Perhaps they know they are rebelling, but they refuse to turn and repent. This is the person who you will hear say, “I want to have fun.” You and I know “this fun” leads to death. Under all their activity and distractions, so do they.
There are a myriad of reasons. (For a fuller treatment, see Every Believer Confident, Dr. Mark Farnham).
Regardless the reason, the effect does not stop with merely restraining and censoring God. At some point there are long-term consequences.
- Romans 1:25 states: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie.”
They are no longer suppressing the truth – they have exchanged what is true for a lie.
They believe their lie.
I expect you have met people committed to the lies. I have. They are deeply held captive.
Romans go on through verse 32 unpacking the consequences of this situation. In verse 28 states, “…that God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not be done.” And in verse 32 we read, “though they know God’s righteous decrees that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
These are heavy words to read.
I write them not to discourage or dishearten you – for God’s hand is never too short to save.
I write them that we may be sober-minded and aware of the great work, the difficult work, indeed the battle we are engaging in.
Therefore, we must spiritually prepare.
This probably sounds like standard religious advice: inviting you to pray before you spend time with your family and friends. But can I just ask you to ponder the reflect on the Bible teaching above.
We are engaged in a spiritual battle. A battle that is seeking to open people’s eyes to the truth. Those we love may be so entrenched that they are held captive.
Engaging someone about Jesus is a spiritual endeavor; a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:12).
In the end, literally the Third Person of the Trinity will be present, when the eyes of their hearts are opened, and they are convicted of their sin.
We must pray.
When we pray, let me suggest:
- We picture the person in our mind’s eye.
- Pray for the love of God to break into their lives and fill them.
- Pray for their life.
- If we know what is distracting them, or what they have given themselves over to, pray for God’s intervention. Pray that God will send a multitude of messengers and “coincidences” into their lives.
- Are we willing to pray this prayer – “Lord, do whatever it takes to bring home to you.”
- I have, and do, pray this prayer – and in some ways it frightens me. I know what God had to do to me, to get my attention. I love them so much. I want them to be in eternity. I fear what He will have to do in their lives on earth to overthrow the strongholds.
- Pray for our words, the words we hope to speak to them.
- Pray for God’s leading. Ask God to show us when to speak.
- Listen – after we pour out our hearts – sit and listen for God’s voice.
I find when I do these steps, then when I later come into that person’s presence, I am much more likely to see them as a person I care about, rather than as a task to be accomplished, and have a better sense that God is leading.
Equip Yourself with His Word: Read It – Be Ready to Share It
Perhaps what you read is not important. If you have a reading discipline and plan that is working well, I suggest you not change it.
If you need some suggestions, consider reading the narrative of Jesus finding Philip (John 1:43-51), or the woman at the well (John 4:1-42), or the healing of the man at the pool on the Sabbath (John 5:2-17).
I suggest these three because they are three times Jesus engaged another person (as compared to someone coming to him).
In each of those three events, Jesus is making some huge theological points. However, in each we see how Jesus approached people in three different ways.
Read these and other texts. As we read, be asking Jesus to show us how we might engage the person(s) on our hearts. All of this will draw us closer to Jesus.
Finally, be armed as Ephesians 6 instructs us, including the “sword of the Spirit” – the Word of God – a Gospel of John to share.
Closing Thought for Part 1
Earlier I mentioned that any effort to reach the lost is not a mere human one. We are embarking on a spiritual quest, but we are not going alone.
God is with us, and I suggest we invite others to pray for us.
Part 1 is all about spending time with God. Moses’ face glowed after he spent time with God. May ours glow as well.
Go Deeper Resources
- Share the true Easter story with pocket-sized Gospels of John. As plastic eggs and chocolate bunnies start to fill the shelves of our grocery stores, we are reminded that the celebration of our Risen King is right around the corner! One great way to prepare for the holiday is to stock up on pocket-sized Gospels of John.
- Let God Speak: A Timeless Method for Sharing Jesus. Overcome obstacles to sharing your faith by learning a time-tested, simple process! Let God Speak is full of good news for you as it unpacks the simple reality of the power of God’s Word—all while providing 100 practical, real-world examples in a myriad of situations.