WHAT NOAH TEACHES US ABOUT EASTER, AND ABOUT OURSELVES

noah_ark_01Most recently I invited Bill Watson, Criswell College’s Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Research, to Mission Dorado Baptist Church to preach our Palm Sunday service. Bill is a two time graduate of the Criswell College and is working on his PhD at the University of Texas in Dallas.

Bill preached on Noah, which wasn’t inspired by the recent movie of the same name. It was inspired by Easter, a holiday on which the church celebrates our great hope–the resurrection. His message was simple: The story of Noah teaches us that we are all really messed up and that, without the resurrection, we will always be messed up.

I imagine you’re asking, “How in the world does the Flood teach us about the resurrection?”

Bill’s take on Noah suggests that Noah is a second Adam, not to be confused with Jesus, the “last Adam” (1 Cor 15:45). As the second Adam, the story of Noah is a second story of creation. In fact, it’s astounding how much the story parallels the creation story in Genesis 1. Consider these parallels:

  • The darkness in Genesis 1:2 parallels the sure darkness from the rain clouds in Genesis 7:17.
  • The dry land appearing in Genesis 1:10 parallels the tops of the mountains becoming visible in Genesis 8:5.
  • The vegetation sprouting in Genesis 1:11 parallels the freshly picked olive leaf in the dove’s beak in Genesis 8:11.
  • God’s first command to Noah after leaving the ark parallels his first command to Adam, which is to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28; 9:1).

There is little doubt that there are striking parallels between the stories. When reviewed more intimately, the order is even the same. But the question still remains, “How does this teach us about Easter?”

In short, Bill argues that the story of Noah reveals the tragedy that Adam’s sin in Eden impacted mankind so deeply that even Noah, the sole man on earth who “found favor in the eyes of the Lord,” was still incapable of overcoming it (Gen 6:8). The story reveals that even when God started over with the very best among us that creation was still doomed. Consider what Noah did upon leaving the ark:

“Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent” (Gen 9:20-21).

Like Adam, Noah ate fruit in a forbidden way and then became ashamed through nakedness. And like Adam, Noah failed to live up to God’s standards. And we should learn that, if given the same opportunity, we too would fail.

This is where the message of Easter comes in. Peter writes that the “present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire” (1 Pt 3:7a). The backdrop of this statement is Noah’s Flood, teaching that in the same way that God destroyed the ungodly in Noah’s day, so will God destroy the ungodly on the Lord’s Day.

” … kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (1 Pt 3:7b)

The only difference is that when God walks these proverbial Noahs out onto the earth, of which you and I through Jesus (our ark) are part, that we don’t have to worry about messing up in the way Adam and Noah did. We don’t have to worry about following in the footsteps of the first or second Adam. This is because we will, at this point, have followed in the footsteps of our last Adam, the resurrected Jesus Christ.

Therefore, Noah teaches us that, apart from Jesus, although we may find favor in God’s eyes, without the resurrection we are doomed. Without Jesus we can’t help but follow in the footsteps of our ancestral Adams. We will always fail. But with Jesus we can not only make it through the Flood, we can succeed after it.

Bill’s sermon was phenomenal, and I encourage you to take 30 minutes to listen to it as you prepare to celebrate the resurrection this Sunday: Bill Watson’s The Story of Noah.

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THE UNBIBLICAL CALLING OF THE PASTOR

dr_pepper_logo_288x288How would you respond if asked, “What does Dr. Pepper taste like?” It’s hard to answer, because Dr. Pepper’s taste is the result of a blend, a marvelous blend mind you, of 23 flavors. And while the blend of flavors for this “DP” is outright amazing, there is another “DP” whose blend of flavors is downright stressing. I’m talking about what I like to call the “Deacon-Pastor,” a completely fabricated term, but a totally realistic thing, although it shouldn’t be.

You’re probably asking, “What is a Deacon-Pastor?” A “Deacon-Pastor” is an unbiblical hybrid position that merges the biblical responsibilities of the deacon and the pastor. The result is an expectation for the pastor to perform the responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacon, but often results in him not being able to do either.

Unlike Dr. Pepper, this is a dangerous concoction of flavors.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DEACON

The “deacon” is first found in Acts 6, when a complaint arose in the church over the neglect of widows in the daily serving of food. The twelve disciples called the church together and requested that they select seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, who could be put in charge of the task.

And thus the deacon was created, or at least the proto-type. In fact, the English phrase translated “serve tables” in Greek is diakonia, which is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3 for the English word translated “deacon.”

What’s interesting about the Acts 6 episode is that a strong distinction is made between the responsibilities of the twelve disciples and the seven men of good reputation. Of course the twelve disciples aren’t suggesting that they are better than the seven men of good reputation, only that they have a different responsibility, one that should not be jeopardized.

The responsibility is clearly laid out in their response to the complainers: “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

The word “desirable” implies that it wasn’t “proper” or “right” that they sacrifice their study time to serve tables. It’s almost as if the very thought of adding extra “flavors,” regardless of their importance, is morally wrong for the early church pastor. While it’s obvious that both studying God’s Word and serving tables are important, the response highlights the disciples’ calling to focus on God’s Word, and, for fear of diluting that, it wasn’t wise to to even consider doing both. So they delegated the responsibility to a newly formed role–the deacon. And if this isn’t clear enough, after implementing the deacon role, they said, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4).

In other words, the disciples emphasized their God-ordained responsibility both before and after their command to create deacons.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PASTOR

The disciples were essentially the pastors of the early church, and thus the modern day pastor’s primary responsibility is biblically outlined as “praying and studying God’s Word.” And, likewise, the deacon’s primary responsibility is outlined too, which is to serve the needs of the congregation, especially the widows.

One focuses on the spiritual and the other on the physical. Together, both needs are met, the latter delegated so that the pastor’s responsibilities aren’t threatened.

But somehow, somewhere, the church reverted back to pre-Acts 6 and started expecting its pastors to wear a myriad of ecumenical hats. On top of prayer and studying for sermons, (and note that “sermons” is plural), the pastor is expected to do things like visit hospitals, homes, nursing homes, cast visions, implement new ministries, develop missional strategies, and sometimes even water the flowers.

This isn’t to say, of course, that a pastor shouldn’t visit. And it’s certainly not to say that he is too good to water the flowers (I’ve been there). By all means, a pastor ought to do these things if necessary. It is to say, however, that the expectation of doing this on a daily and weekly basis is, for the pastor, biblically unwarranted. And perhaps even egregiously sinful. Yet, many churches expect their pastors to do just that. It might even be in their job descriptions.

Biblically, there are certain “flavors” that belong to things like the deacon ministry, not the pastoral ministry. This frees the pastor to seek the Lord through prayer and study, instead of tying him down to what might well be described as public relations. One focuses on meeting the spiritual needs of the church, while the other focuses on meeting the physical needs. Both are good, but the pastor is called to do the former over the latter. Demanding that he do both is like adding uncomplimentary flavors to God’s recipe for the pastor.

TOO MANY FLAVORS

The unbiblical “Deacon-Pastor” is, I believe, one of the greatest reasons for pastoral burnout. One source cites that 50% of pastors feel unable to meet the demands of their job, and that upwards of 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout. 

Suffice it to say that many churches are decorated with the tread marks of burnt out pastors.

Pastors are often hired with the expectation of performing all of the ecumenical roles laid out in Scripture, although Scripture clearly details that even the twelve disciples–the guys that walked and talked with Jesus–were incapable of such a feat.

These guys could cast out demons and heal the lame, but they couldn’t serve tables alongside their prayer and Bible study.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the church that cultivates this mentality, it’s also sometimes, of all people, the pastor. Many pastors turn Acts 6 upside down by choosing to focus on everything else besides prayer and Bible study, such as chasing ambulances or honing leadership skills, both of which are good, but secondary things.

If the pastor says it’s okay to dilute prayer and study in exchange for serving tables, then we can’t blame the church when they expect the same.

As a pastor, I must confess that I find myself the most profitable whenever the church cultivates an environment for me to spend more time in prayer and in God’s Word. I’m less stressed, less overwhelmed, and, more importantly, I’m able to do precisely what I’ve been called to do, which is preach the word.

This is, as the old adage says, the epitome of quality over quantity, and it’s a far more refreshing beverage!

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HOW YOUR MARRIAGE CAN TEACH PEOPLE ABOUT EASTER

wedding-rings-setYou likely know the story: God caused a “deep sleep” to fall on Adam and then took one of his ribs and fashioned Eve out of it (Genesis 2:21-22). There is an incredible typology embedded into this event about the true message of Easter. 

The sleep in which Adam enters is well described as a metaphorical death. Adam didn’t physically die, but his “deep sleep” made it appear as if he did. It was symbolic of it. The idea, therefore, is that Eve was able, and only able, to live because Adam, in a sense, died.

His “deep sleep” foreshadows the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf.

Christ died on the cross and was pierced in his side for his bride (John 19:33-37); Adam “died” and was pierced in his side for his bride. Like Jesus, Adam gave of himself so that his bride could live. And similar to Jesus, Adam rose from his “death” to live again with his bride.

But the message doesn’t stop here. Immediately after this event Moses writes:

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

The term “one flesh” has permanence. It suggests marriage is designed to last a lifetime, which is an incredibly important notion.

There is a theological concept called “the perseverance of the saints” that conveys this thought well. This doctrine teaches that “once saved, always saved.” This is to say that, once a person has been “married” to Jesus, that Jesus will never divorce him. This is because, once a person accepts Jesus, he and Jesus are like “one flesh.” And like literal flesh, it cannot be divided. In Ephesians 5:32 Paul says that this idea of “one flesh” is a “great mystery” and that he is speaking about “Christ and the church.”

This conveys how a marriage, when functioning properly, can serve as a testimony for the gospel.

So marriage represents more than a lifelong earthly relationship between a husband and a wife. It illustrates God’s everlasting relationship with the church, a relationship that nothing can divide.

Paul writes:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

Not long ago a woman in our church lost her wedding ring, which she had for more than 50 years, and was understandably devastated. She found it, but she could have easily gone down the street and purchased a new one. Losing the ring, for this woman, meant losing the testimony of her marriage. While losing it held no affect on the union of her marriage, it was important because it testified of her marriage in a way that no other ring could.

By itself, marriage is an amazing institution. But we cannot forget what it represents.

We should value the meaning of marriage as a testimony of God and his people. When a husband sacrificially loves his bride, that bride is empowered to live for her husband. And this love points upward to what Easter Sunday is all about—a sacrificial love brought about by a savior named Jesus Christ for his bride the church.

And this is a “ring” that can never be lost!

Clearly, this is why divorce so devastates. Divorce is more than a piece of paper allowing you to legally separate from your spouse. It completely destroys God’s witness. It communicates the exact opposite of God’s relationship with his church. It tells the world that there are things that can separate God’s love from his bride instead of the biblical truth that there aren’t.

God has had every reason to divorce mankind. He instead decides to unconditionally and sacrificially love us. This is well showcased after Adam and Eve’s disobedience in Eden, when he took an innocent animal, slayed it, and used its skin to cover their shame, which, like Adam’s proverbial death, points towards Jesus—the Resurrection and the Life.

Have a wonderful Easter.

 —This article is adapted from my book “Marital Roles” (978-1481151238).

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THREE QUESTIONS I’M ASKING MYSELF AFTER WORLD VISION’S REVERSED DECISION

WorldVision-LogoIt’s been a busy week for World Vision. On Monday, March 24, they announced a new policy that would allow “gay Christians” in legal “same-sex marriages” to be employed with their organization. And on Wednesday, March 26, they announced that the policy had been reversed.

World Vision’s policy matters to a lot of people. I happen to be one of these people. First, the organization is one of the largest and most established Christian charitable organizations in the world. And second, it’s one through which I have sponsored a child for many years. Therefore, any policy change of this magnitude will undoubtedly impact my decision to either continue or discontinue my partnership with the organization.

Ultimately these events have forced me to ask three questions concerning World Vision. They are listed below, with some insights into each. My hope is that they provide some kind of aid in how we view the organization from here on out.

CAN I STILL TRUST WORLD VISION?

World Vision’s Statement of Faith includes, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” This is perhaps why the original policy change was so confounding. The word “infallible” is one of the most profound ways of affirming the Bible, and those who usually use it tend to be on the more conservative side of Christianity.

Thus, a policy change that is vehemently against the Word of God by an organization that claims it as infallible is absolutely astounding. And, in my opinion, lends reason for concern. Even after the reversal.

This morning, on my way to work, I listened to a radio program that discussed some of the behind-the-scenes events leading up to the original policy change. The hosts detailed how this was a decision that was discussed for years, and one that was prayed over constantly. In short, the leadership felt that God’s hand was in it. Richard Stearns and the Board of Directors were, according to the CT article, “overwhelmingly in favor” of the policy change.

This means that the current leadership of World Vision, in some capacity, probably does not view Scripture as “infallible,” at least in the same way a conservative Christian might, which is that it is “incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.” This is extremely important because it reveals the philosophical mindset of the organization’s leaders’ view of Scripture.

In the very least, it’s safe to say that they were willing to overlook their beliefs for the sake of cultural unity, which, one might argue, threatens the integrity of their beliefs.

God’s Word didn’t change on Tuesday, March 25. That is, the single day in between the policy change and the policy change reversal didn’t include an event in which God edited his Word. It was the same before the change, during the change, and after the change, which begs the question, “Why did World Vision renege on their original policy change?”

One can’t help but consider that it was because of pressure. According to Christianity Today, World Vision lost thousands of sponsorships after their initial announcement. Moreover, Christian bands like Casting Crowns, according to one radio broadcast, were ready to dissociate themselves from the organization if the policy change remained in tact.

These are huge hits that undoubtedly threatened the future of the organization. While it’s true that some actually enhanced their support of the organization because of the change, one cannot deny how hard it would have been on World Vision to lose platforms like a Casting Crowns concert.

Personally, I am thankful that the policy change was reversed. And I’m grateful for the brokenness expressed by Richard Stearns in doing so. But I cannot help but be concerned with what appears to be a pragmatic decision, in both of the policy changes. Pragmatism is a philosophy that stresses the practical outcome as the primary criterion of determining truth. Therefore, if World Vision acted pragmatically to reverse their decision, then it reveals a dangerous philosophical element within their leadership. If the leadership is willing to change their minds from pressure on one side, then who is to say that they won’t change it from pressure on the other side?

Our faithfulness ought to be to the Lord. And the aim of our faithfulness is discovered through his Word. World Vision claims that they view it as infallible, but it seems that they were willing to ignore that conviction in their original decision, and even perhaps in their latter conviction. Both seemed to have been made because of what people said, not because of what God said.

It is important to note that I am not suggesting that World Vision reversed their decision because of pressure. I am simply pointing out that the leadership, through this event, might have revealed some dangerous philosophical tenets that should cause us to be concerned for how they might function in the future.

For this reason alone, I would be lying if I said that my trust in World Vision hasn’t waned.

CAN I STILL ENDORSE WORLD VISION?

In short, I don’t know. This is a question that I am asking, but one that I have yet to answer. As of now, my wife and I still have a child sponsorship through World Vision. We agreed that we would forego that sponsorship after reading about the original policy change. There are plenty of organizations that offer the same opportunity without the unbiblical affirmation. Now that the policy has been reversed, I’m not sure if I should continue or discontinue my relationship with World Vision.

I do know two things, however.

First, I know that children will gratuitously suffer. As Trevin Wax writes, “Children will suffer. Needlessly.” Damage has been done, and some of it is irreparable.

Second, I know that anyone who desires to forego their relationship with World Vision is not, as one social media commentator says, “minions of Satan.” As followers of Jesus, we are accountable to God for how we handle our resources. Sponsoring a child in an unfortunate situation is a good thing. And it’s a good thing that World Vision gives us the opportunity to do that. But a policy that affirms an unbiblical lifestyle in what is considered a biblical organization says a lot about the organization’s philosophy.

I want to help children, but I also want to do so in the right way.

World Vision will have to answer to God with how they handle their business. And I will have to answer to God with how I handle mine. While I grieve that I might forego my child sponsorship with World Vision, I also know that I am liable to God with who and what I support.

My advice is to endorse child sponsorship, and to do it with an organization with which you have no qualms. That organization might be World Vision, but it also might intentionally not be World Vision. Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations out there that offer the opportunity to spiritually and physically help kids in need.

CAN I FORGIVE WORLD VISION?

Absolutely.

It is a rare thing for a professional organization, like World Vision, to essentially act so unprofessional. It reveals that even the best of us mess up. And sometimes it can be on the public stage. As Christians, we have the opportunity to respond either the right way or the wrong way. If we choose to respond the wrong way, then we are guilty of ungodly behavior, just as much as World Vision was on Monday.

I am grateful that World Vision reversed their policy change decision, even if I do have concerns as to why they did it. At the end of the day, they are a conservative Christian organization that helps people, and does so because of the love of Jesus.

Richard Stearns asked for our forgiveness. As Christians, we ought to give it. This doesn’t mean that we need to support a child through World Vision, or even continue to do so if we have been. It means that they acknowledged their mistake and asked for forgiveness, and now we have the option of giving it.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that our resources go to organizations that advance the true and unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the vision Jesus had for the world, and the vision that we, as followers of Jesus, ought to have as well.

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A VOICE CALLING IN THE WILDERNESS: MY NEW BLOGGING ADVENTURE

Content-Marketing-BloggingThe Gospel of Mark opens with a quote from the prophet Isaiah, describing that John the Baptist is the fulfillment of his prophetic “voice calling in the wilderness.” One can argue that, while John is the voice calling in the wilderness, any voice that advances Jesus in a world contrary to him is also a voice calling in the wilderness.

It is my honor to share with you that I have been invited and have accepted the opportunity to join the blogging team at SBC Voices (sbcvoices.com). SBC Voices’ philosophy is embedded into their name. That is, it’s a blog designed by Southern Baptists to share their hearts concerning happenings in the world.

It’s basically a variety of voices calling in the wilderness for and about Jesus.

I will still be blogging here as regularly as I usually do, but my posts will sometimes also appear on SBC Voices, and there might be the occasional blog that is original to their site. If and when that happens, I will make sure to post a link here in the case that you are interested in reading it.

Thank you for your continued readership. I’ll never get over the fact that people actually read what I write! And if you have time, go check out my first post, “The Gospel is for Christina Uguilera.” Also, John and Kathy Hall of 101.5 FM, The Word, in Pittsburgh, PA will be interviewing me about this particular blog on Wednesday, March 26 at 3:40 CST. You can listen to the interview here: www.wordfm.com.

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SON OF GOD MOVIE: A REVIEWED PREVIEW

Son of God movieThe movie Son of God arrives in theaters this Friday. And, like any Christian movie, it’s caught the church’s gaze. The major question surrounding this movie is, “Is it accurate?” That is, does it accurately portray the Jesus found in the scriptures.

As far as I can tell, the movie is an expansion of the television series, The Bible, a series I happened to watch. It’s also a series I happened to review. Since the movie is essentially an expansion of the television series, I imagine that a review of Part Four of The Bible (the part that concerns Jesus) might provide insight into answering the question as to if Son of God accurately portrays the Son of God.

Thus, here is my reviewed preview of the Son of God movie, based on the Son of God in The Bible television series, as compared to the Bible:

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“Change the world,” a caucasian Jesus answers, in a slightly British accent.

This is how Part Three of The History Channel’s The Bible ends. But The History Channel seems to have a different perception of what “changing the world” means than Jesus. This is revealed not by what is included in Part Four of the series, but in what is left out. And what’s worse, The Bible did not leave important scenes from the Bible out; it left important moments out of the important scenes, essentially reformatting the original context of the events.

Leaving key moments out of Jesus’ life would have been bad, but including the key moments and ignoring their crucial elements might be worse.

Consider these two portrayals from Part Four of The Bible.

THE LAST SUPPER AND JESUS AS THE ONLY WAY

In The Bible’s Last Supper scene, Jesus shares with the disciples that this will be his final meal with them. Naturally, this births fear and sorrow for a group of men who have grown very close to their Messiah.

Jesus quotes John 14:1-6, telling his disciples, “Don’t be afraid. Trust in God, trust in me also. You know the way to where I am going.”

“We don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way?” a balding Thomas declares.

Jesus replies, “I am the way. The truth. And the life.”

And then he stops.

But there is a very important line missing from Jesus’ monologue in The Bible included in the actual Bible. This line is, “No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).

Of the various verses in scripture that reveal that Jesus is the only way to the Father, this one is arguably the clearest. Therefore, if a producer of a series on the Bible wants to accurately depict Jesus’ mission to “change the world,” including a scene dialoguing John 14:1-6 is a great way to start, but leaving out the final portion of the passage leaves the biblically immature audience they are supposedly targeting, well, biblically immature.

Jesus is not just the “way, truth, and life,” but the “only way, truth, and life.”

THE LAST SUPPER AND THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS

In the same Last Supper scene, Jesus takes the bread and says, “This is my body.” He then takes a cup after pouring wine into it and says, “This is my blood.” He closes by saying, “Remember me by doing this.” These are all included in the Last Supper accounts detailed in the scriptures, but The Bible leaves out another line that reveals how Jesus “changed the world.” This line is, “which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26:28).

There is an old adage that captures why this line is important:

Jesus didn’t come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.

To give The Bible the benefit of the doubt, there is a scene depicted from Matthew 9:1-8 in the early portion of Part Four where Jesus heals a paralytic. Jesus met both the physical and spiritual needs of the man, telling him both “Get up and walk” and “Your sins are forgiven.”

The reason the inclusion of the line is important in the Last Supper, however, is because it is directly connected to his death. Jesus didn’t come just to cure the physical ailments that plague mankind; he came to cure the spiritual ailment that plagues mankind. This ailment is sin and the penalty is death. Therefore, forgiveness of sins cannot come without death, the very thing Jesus references at the Last Supper.

While The Bible reveals that Jesus dies, it doesn’t necessarily reveal why Jesus dies.

This is the meaning behind Paul’s statement that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). Jesus didn’t die to inspire bad people to be good, make lame men walk, and put people’s ears back on. He died to make dead people live.

This is clear in the Bible, but not in The Bible.

This is why his body was broken and his blood was shed. Jesus is our substitutionary atonement for the wages that we had earned through our sins. He paid it in our steads, and in so doing he “changed the world” (but probably with more of a Hebrew dialect).

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Finally, I want to add that I find myself a little concerned with Hollywood’s recent fascination with Christianity (some upcoming movies include: Noah, Left Behind, Heaven is For Real, etc.; and this is not to say that even these are all biblically accurate). I would like to applaud the attempt at what I would hope are biblical and wholesome movies, but I’m afraid that the Bible might serve as a mere catalyst to make money and that, in the long run, Christianity might be more harmed than helped in the process. Time will tell, to be sure.

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TEN TIPS TO SHARING YOUR TESTIMONY

TestimonyBlog

Everyone has a story. And everyone who has trusted in Christ has the best story, one that’s worth telling.

Many believers, however, are a bit timid when it comes to sharing their stories. You might be one of these timid believers. This is, perhaps, because your story’s details are somewhat of a discombobulated collection of experiences floating, like an astronaut in space, around your mind. It’s all there, but you just can’t seem to get it in order.

Thankfully we have beautiful examples of a testimony’s composition in Scripture. Paul’s testimony before King Agrippa, for one, serves as a noteworthy tool to teach us how we can share our stories with the lost.

The following includes ten tips to formatting your story, based on Paul’s experience in the latter chapters of Acts. I encourage you to read the corresponding passages to obtain the full intention of these tips:

1. Be Confident (25:23-27): The world treats Christians like second-class citizens. Anyone who believes in God is unscientific and archaic in his beliefs. However, Acts 25:23-27 reveals that faith in Jesus is a justified belief. The Roman government, although in disagreement, counted Paul’s beliefs as warranted. Paul was confident in what he believed, and we should be too. He was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16).

2. Be Respectful (26:1-3): Christians unfortunately have a reputation of being disrespectful to those that disagree with us, especially when the disagreement is over one of our pet peeve sins (homosexuality, for example). However, Paul shows us in Acts 26:1-3 that we ought to be respectful to our audience.

3. Be Transparent (26:4-5, 9-11): Paul didn’t hold back any details of his past. He was open and honest about his sin and how it separated him from God. He was, quite plainly, an enemy of God, as we all were before salvation. This is an important portion of your story. People need to grasp the full notion of sin, and the best way to do that is to explain how you too needed God’s saving grace.

4. Be Honest About Your Intentions (26:6-8): Sometimes Christians are guilty of building pseudo-relationships. That is, we don’t really care about getting to know someone, only making them our project. This is unbiblical. Paul was open and honest about why he wanted to talk to the Roman officials.

5. Talk About Meeting Jesus (26:9-18): This tip isn’t to be confused with #7, which is an explicit explanation of the gospel. It’s the opportunity to talk about how you met Jesus. It’s an opportunity to show the person that Jesus isn’t some mythical, fictional character, but our living Savior.

6. Talk About Experiencing Persecution (26:19-21): In sharing your story, it’s important to share the full story, which includes the reality of persecution. Christianity isn’t a life free from problems. Paul was clear in explaining this and we should be too.

7. Explain the Gospel (26:20b, 22-23): The explicit and clear announcement of the gospel ought to be part of your testimony. No one should be able to walk away after hearing your story without knowing that Jesus is the only answer to sin. This includes his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, as Paul so eloquently illustrates in his testimony before Agrippa.

8. Invite to Believe (26:24-28): I can’t express how important an invitation is to me personally.  It was the invitation that provided an opportunity for me to respond to God’s calling. An invitation is an extremely important part of telling your story. Paul illustrates this for us in passionately pleading to Agrippa to believe in Jesus. And we read that Agrippa was just about persuaded by the end of the experience!

9. Accept Their Response (26:29): It’s important to know that you can’t save someone. Only God can do that. Your job isn’t to save people; it’s to be faithful. Paul didn’t argue with Agrippa for not immediately accepting Christ. He left it up to God.

10. Accept the Consequences (26:30-32): Sometimes there are consequences for sharing your faith. For Paul it was imprisonment. Thankfully we don’t have to worry about that. Yet. But there might be other consequences for sharing your faith, such as the loss of friendships or even the loss of relationships with family. It might even go further, such as discipline at your job or at your school. Paul was willing to die in order that the highest officials in the Roman government would hear.

These are but ten tips we can learn from Paul’s testimony to Agrippa. What other tips do you find in Scripture? What have you found to be effective when sharing your personal story?