Friday, May 05, 2017

Inviting people to see Jesus (Quiet Time reflections)

Here's my journal entry from my quiet time with God this morning. To see the format I use for these regular encounters with the God we see in Jesus, go here.
Look: “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:46)

Throughout chapter 22 of Matthew’s gospel, opponents of Jesus try to trap Him into saying things that will give them an airtight argument for His excommunication and/or execution. But at each trap, Jesus responds with explanations of what His kingdom is truly like. Caesars (governments) will exist on this earth until Jesus finally and fully establishes His kingdom on His return to the earth on the last day; until then, all citizens, including followers of Jesus, should pay their taxes to Caesar. There is no marriage in heaven; so the woman in the Sadducees’ illustration won’t have to choose among her seven husbands in the resurrection. And King David had, in fact, called the Messiah his Lord.

Jesus’ arguments were airtight and logically unobjectionable. It didn’t matter. Jesus’ opponents still saw to it that He was executed. (Not knowing, of course, that they were playing into the plan of God in doing so. The Messiah had to die and rise, to destroy the power of sin over the human race and to rise in order to open up eternity to all who repent and believe in Christ.)

Listen: Human beings don’t always act rationally. They tend to believe what they want to believe--I tend to believe what I want to believe, to be honest--and we’d rather not be confused by the facts. People can, because of our sinful nature, rationalize our ways to almost any decision or construction of the facts.

The facts, drawn from compelling language; ancient literature, Christian and non-Christian; the consistent witness of more than 500 believers in Christ’s resurrection, even in the face of persecution and death; the transformation wrought in the lives of those first followers of Jesus, not to mention the billions of people who have followed Jesus Christ in the centuries since: and many other facts argue in favor of the Gospel. This Gospel tells us that God created this universe, entered it to save us from sin and death, died, rose, and ascended to heaven, and sent His Holy Spirit to help previously timid, unreliable people to trust in Christ and share Him with others. The factual evidence for the Gospel is overwhelming.

Yet, there are people who choose not to listen to these facts, who refuse to believe. They prefer what some call "alternative facts."

Clearly, an airtight logical argument is insufficient to bring someone to repentance and faith through Jesus.

It must be done with our lives.

It must be done with the simple invitation issued to friends, neighbors, and co-workers to “Come and see Jesus.” Come and see Jesus at work in His people. Come and see how Jesus changes my plans, projects, desires, living. See how He’s working in this imperfect life to help me to love God completely and to love others as much as I love and care about myself.

We need to invite people to experience Christ for themselves.

I’m firmly convinced on factual grounds that Jesus, His life, death, and resurrection are all facts. But Jesus is more than just a fact. And faith in Him is more than a set of facts to be learned. Jesus is the foundational Word on which the universe is built. He shows Himself to those willing to see and believe in Him. (He will not force Himself on those who refuse to see or believe in Him.)

Our faith is in a living God and the mission of every Christian is to invite people to come and get to know Jesus for themselves.

“Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, ‘What do you want?’ They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means “Teacher”), ‘where are you staying?’ ‘Come,’ he replied, ‘and you will see.’” (John 1:38-39)

Respond: Jesus, You have given me my mind. So, I must use it to the full extent possible to present factual arguments for the gospel. Help me to do that. But, help me to realize that the most important thing I can do to help others to come to faith or to experience a deepening faith is to invite them to spend time with Your Word, in the sacraments, in the fellowship of believers, and even in my own imperfect life. Help me to show YOU to others in all that I say, do, and am. Get me, my desires, my sins, and my imperfections out of the way so that people can see YOU. Because life can only be found in You. In Your name.
[Blogger Mark Daniels is pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]

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