Intimacy with God Reveals Secrets for Reaching the Lost
The Modern Pilgrim #34-Pilgrim persuades her sister to join the Good Shepherd’s journey. On their way to meet up with the other pilgrims, a group of friends from their village, confront the two sisters on the road out of town. They are on their way to a party and work on persuading the sisters to come also. Pilgrim’s sister wavers. She pleads with Pilgrim to delay their departure for just a bit. Pilgrim refuses. She knows how wild village parties can be and feels shame for the times she attended. Her sister chooses to leave with her friends and assures Pilgrim that she will catch up later.
Ever found yourself somewhere sketchy because you followed unsaved friends or family too far? I’ve found myself in some embarrassing movies and places populated with drunk people because I was afraid to say, “No thanks,” or, “What if we go do this over here instead?” Or stuck in a gossip circle because I lacked the courage to speak up. I remember my silence around a break table, saying and doing nothing while crude jokes and stories were told about my superiors. I’ll never forget an interview I did with a grieving mother about this topic, some years ago. Her 19-year-old son was murdered in front of a notorious night club, a known gang hang-out. The drive by shooting was intended for the man behind him. Her boy merely got in the way.
The mother pleaded with her son not to go out that night with his old unsaved friends, during his weekend home from college. His new commitment to Christ had him on an entirely new path of opportunity with a miraculous scholarship and doors opening everywhere for him. He told her that it was just one night. She begged him to invite them to go somewhere other than this night club where gang fights broke out frequently. Fights he’d been part of in the past. His last words to her? “It’ll be fine Mom, and I don’t want to let the guys down.”
The friends we choose and the company we keep will either nudge us closer to God or pull us into the world. AND how we interact with the people in our lives will either draw THEM closer to God or encourage them into worldly behavior. We’d like to think there’s lots of neutral territory in between those two points, but that is not the perspective of heaven or hell. Creating authentic relationships with unbelievers is a large part of our mission on earth. Discernment and courage are must haves however, if we want to draw them towards Jesus instead of being drawn into their world, away from our Father.
Discernment and listening to the Spirit is what will guide us into the places where we can connect and hang out with lost folk without compromising our values. Courage is what will help us to say “No,” to activities and places where they might invite us that make Jesus uncomfortable. It’s a tricky business and that’s why too often Christians, afraid to offend, wind up going places they don’t belong and doing things they probably shouldn’t. Or they simply avoid friendships with lost folk and spend most of their time with believers.
Jesus is our perfect example of hanging with unbelievers without being dragged down by them AND creating intimate relationships with fellow believers. He expects the same of us. I fear I’ve failed to keep my balance in this area. How about you? Look at this example of Jesus mixing it up with lost folk.
15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” Matthew 2:13-17 NIV
Jesus went right into a sinner’s home and broke bread with notorious people. And when criticism came from church folk, he rebuked them. So how did Jesus manage to dine in a wicked man’s home without being drawn into sin himself? I think the secret is in a key verse where he told his disciples how he knew what to do, with whom and when.
“Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” John 5:19 NIV.
Jesus’ intimacy with the Father enabled him to go places and do things with unbelievers that drew them towards God instead of drawing Jesus towards sin. He listened to the Father carefully, consistently.
I want to up my game in this area. I don’t want to spend all my time with the saved, not impacting the world for Christ. On the other hand, being in compromising situations is not cool either. I believe I can only grow in this area as I become more deliberately intimate with God so that I can recognize where he’s working and moving and join him in those places. Being like Jesus means we can flow between worlds seamlessly, drawing the lost closer to the Father while building up fellow believers in the body. We can do this! What about you? How’s your track record in this area? Maybe you want to improve your game too?
Recognizing you’re not playing your best game is the first step. Discerning the details of your callings to the body of Christ and the world is step two. Why did God choose you to live in this time and place? What people did he have in his mind when he created you to connect with them authentically? Answering those questions is critical to understanding your purpose and destiny and being in the right places at the right times. Step three is one word, easy to say, tough to do. Obedience. Jesus watched and listened to the Father and then obeyed.
How different would our culture look if EVERY believer or even just half of us committed to the kind of lifestyle Jesus demonstrated for us?