Okay, so I have been in vocational ministry for 30+ years. I have “led” hundreds of people to the Lord. But I got the distinct impression this is going to be much different. While I still do not know God’s complete plan, I am beginning to get an idea.
Last week a friend from my past contacted me. We have been friends for almost 20 years. I baptized his mother, but he is not one of the hundreds I have led to Christ.
He has gone through some tough times lately. He has been physically broken. He contacted me to let me know about his daughters’ achievements, to thank me for being his friend and to encourage me to continue to be a man of integrity.
We have plans to have lunch this week. For all I know, my friend may be reading this. I have been praying for him. I hope to enjoy our lunch. I hope to share with him the grace I have in Jesus.
To be honest, not all my “religious” friends would find my friendship with this man okay. He just doesn’t fit the profile of the kind of person a pastor should hang out with. I am okay with that. Jesus was accused of being a glutton and a drunk. He wasn’t, but He was guilty by association in their eyes.
This man is my friend. No matter what others may like or dislike. No matter if he chooses to follow Jesus. He is my friend. And I consider it a privilege to be his. He has always been real with me. He has always been honest with me. And I can be myself with him.
In Acts 11:1-18 Peter was given some grief by a group of religious believers. They had heard that Peter had eaten with a Gentile, shared the Good News with them, and had baptized them! Can you believe it? Peter didn’t even make them convert to Judaism first. How dare he?
So Peter tells them the story of what God was doing. He sent an angel to talk to this Roman Cornelius. He gave Peter a vision about unclean animals. And He told Peter to go with these Gentiles. So when Peter began to tell them about Jesus, they were all baptized in the Holy Spirit. So not wanting to stand in God’s way, Peter ordered the whole household to be baptized in water. After hearing the story, the religious believers, got on God’s side too.
There are three lessons in this story. If I were a good communicator I would only tell you about the one. But I am me so you will get a synopsis of the first two.
#1 – Fruit Follows Immediate Radical Obedience.
Peter was told to go with the messengers and he did. When we are prompted by the Holy Spirit, we have to choose to obey. We will see God’s awesomeness when we follow through on what He is leading us to do. Where do you need to be obedient?
#2 – When someone is ready to receive the Good News, they still have to hear it.
“Faith comes by hearing. Hearing the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Cornelius was ready to follow Jesus. He just had never heard. Even though God sent an angel to prepare him, Peter still had to be the one to share it. Who needs to hear the Good News from you?
#3 – When you are confused, don’t criticize, commune.
The mission statement of the church we are planting is “Following Jesus and Inviting Others to Come Along.” This statement is inclusive. Being inclusive is not dumbing down the truth. It is not wimping out on what is right. It is keeping love the priority. It is having a passion for people and living out authentic relationships.
An inclusive community is defined by following Jesus.
There is an old hymn that says, “Jesus, friend of sinners.” I love that line. Not because it makes it okay for me to be friends with sinners. But because it says Jesus is my friend!
When the religious believers criticized Peter, they did something that we don’t see enough of in our culture. They listened. What a concept? They listened. They wanted to know why he did what he did.
When we are confused. When we are trying to make a decision about what to do. We must stop and seek to understand what God is doing. If we do not seek God, we will be left to make our decisions by human traditions and opinions. And this is how we get into big messes.
How do you discern what God is doing?
- Look for Love – Love is our priority. Jesus said you can sum up the entire scripture with two commandments: Love God and Love your neighbor. God is love. Let Him define it. Where God is there is love.
- Listen to the Story – Peter listened to Cornelius’ story. The religious believers listened to Peter’s story. Listening to the story gives context and insight into the what and the why. Listen to understand not combat. Listen for God being in it.
- Link to Scripture – Peter immediately looked at what was going on through the lens of scripture. The Bible says that Peter remembered what Jesus had said. That is how he came to his conclusion and ordered them to be baptized.
Look for Love; Listen to the Story; Link to Scripture. If it is consistent with scripture, who are you to stand in God’s way. If it isn’t consistent with scripture, what does scripture say? Then make the course correction to join God there!
It takes humility and availability to accept what God is doing and to join Him. But these are part of who you are when you have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer you but Christ who lives in you (See Galatians 2:20).
Will you pray for me as I am on this journey to learn what God has for me in becoming a “Fisher of men”?