Green Light Christians

False assumptions can be a dangerous thing.  Our world is full of them.  Old is better, new is better, change is good, change is bad, bigger is better, smaller is better, all rich people are proud, all poor people are lazy.  All of these are false assumptions that can lead to actions that aren't particularly helpful.

One of the most unfortunate false assumptions that believers make is the assumption that people don't want to hear the Gospel. If we view people as closed to the Gospel or that they wont want to listen, we will act in accordance with that false assumption and we won't tell others about Jesus.  When you assume someone doesn't want to hear what you have to say, why do you bother saying it?

What would happen if we simply changed our assumption and believed that everyone wanted to hear the good news about Jesus?  I believe that Jesus and Paul were green light people.  They acted as if they believed every person that heard the Good News was going to respond so they told everyone the good news.  That is an act of faith, believing that every time the gospel gets shared, someone will respond.  The Bible says that the Word of God will not return void (Is. 55:11).  Yet we act as if it is chained when it isn't (2 Tim 2:9).

What if we committed ourselves to be "Green Light Christians"?   What if we were to assume everyone wanted to hear about Jesus until they give us a red light that they don't?  Would this change our actions, our behavior in telling others about the Lord?  We can only pray that is does, because we live in a dark world that needs us to push back the darkness with the Light of Life.  Pray that just this week we might live as "Green Light Christians" as see how it impacts those around us.

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Overwhelmed by the Lostness…

Do you ever have times when you are just utterly overwhelmed by the lostness that surrounds us?  I had one of those moments this evening.  I was at the grocery store and was waiting in line to check out and just stopped to watch the people as they went through their routines at the store…gathering items, waiting at checkout…dozens of people walking past in just a few minutes.  I was very heavy of heart, realizing that most of those people were lost and did not know Jesus, and were bound for an eternity without the Lord unless they heard the Good News about Jesus.

We make many assumptions about the lost that stifle our zeal to share the Gospel.  We often assume they may not be interested, or that they might respond negatively.  Our lips are often shut in fear or complacency or apathy.  How can I do this?  How can we do this?

As I walked to the parking lot, the lyrics of Steve Green’s song "People Need the Lord" flooded my heart.

Everyday they pass me by,
I can see it in their eyes.
Empty people filled with care,
Headed who knows where?

On they go through private pain,
Living fear to fear.
Laughter hides their silent cries,
Only Jesus hears.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?

We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right.
What could be too great a cost
For sharing Life with one who's lost?

Through His love our hearts can feel
All the grief they bear.
They must hear the Words of Life
Only we can share.

People need the Lord, people need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He's the open door.
People need the Lord, people need the Lord.
When will we realize that we must give our lives,
For peo-ple need the Lord.

People need the Lord.

The problem is not that we get overwhelmed by the lostness, but that we don’t get overwhelmed enough by it.  It is an easily fleeting feeling that too often vanishes like a vapor in the wind.  Oh, that our hearts would be so burdened and overwhelmed by the lostness that it would forever change how we live our lives.

The Church’s E.D. Problem

It seems that each year in my denomination (Southern Baptist) we lament the fact that we remain stagnant in the number of people we baptize during the course of the year.  That number has remained flat lined for the better part of a a decade or more.  We develop new methods of telling the old, old story.

The simple conclusion I’ve come to is that we are suffering from E.D….Evangelism Dysfunction.  We don’t do enough of it, we don’t plan for it, we don’t believe that the message of "Jesus Saves" is important enough for the world to hear.

We come up with all kinds of convenient reasons and excuses for not going as the Great Commission tells us to.  It’s too hot, too cold, too late, too early, too far, too close…the list goes on.

At the heart of it though, I don’t believe the church really has an E.D. problem.  Not telling others about the One who saved our souls is merely a symptom of bigger problems.  Our hearts have grown cold.  They need revival, pure and simple.  When our hearts are warm, we won’t be content to let people spend eternity apart from Jesus.  We’ll say something, ANYTHING, so they have a chance to hear.  More important, they will SEE the life of Jesus flowing out so richly, they will be drawn to Jesus in us.  There is no better witness than the joy of Jesus in us.

Oh, if it were only so easy to take a pill to solve our E.D. problem.  However, the solution is spelled out by God all throughout Scripture.  Pray, repent, sell out to Jesus, get rid of all that distracts and entangles us in this world, don’t compromise, open your mouth, let your light shine before men, strive to know nothing but Christ crucified, die to self.

Are we willing to pay the price to see the world saved?  If we were, most of our churches wouldn’t be stagnant or shrinking in size, and our baptisms, which are supposed to reflect lost souls saved, would be skyrocketing through the roof. 

Caring Enough to Look

I was watching a new show on the USA network last night, "In Plain Sight".  It’s a show whose main character is a US Marshall that works with people that end up in the Witness Protection Program.  The show was ok, but the main character shared a quote that caught my attention.  I’m not sure if the quote was from someone famous, or just written into to the show for her character, but here it is:

"We all live in hiding.  In one way or another each of us conceals pieces of ourselves from the rest of the world.  Some people hide because their lives depend on it.  Others because they don’t like being seen.  And then there are other special cases…the ones who hide because, because, because…they just want somebody to care enough to look for them"

At how many levels and in how many ways is that statement true in the Christian life?  Hiding is one of the first things that Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden.  "Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"  (Genesis 3:8-9, NIV).  Man’s instinct was to hide, God’s was to go look for them.

So many of the people Jesus encountered were "in hiding".  The woman at the well was hiding by coming to draw water at noon rather than sunset because of the embarrassment of her life.  The woman in Luke 8 that touched the border of Jesus’ garment to be healed from her 12 year flow of blood, cam trembling and falling down before Jesus because she "…saw that she was not hidden…" (Luke 8:40, NKJV).  I even get the sense that Zaccheus in Luke 19 was in hiding.  His status as being rich and a tax collector left him with few friends, and left the crowd complaining that Jesus had "…gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner". (Luke 19:7, NKJV).  I don’t think it is any coincidence that Jesus said at the end of this encounter that "…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10, NKJV, emphasis mine).

This is the reason that outreach, contact, visitation is so important within the life of any church.  We need fellowship, we need connection.  That is what people are looking for.  People just want someone to care enough to look for them.  Churches die and shrivel up when we stop calling members and guests if we try a couple times and they don’t respond.  People hide for a reason.  They are embarrassed because of their sin.  They are hurt and are waiting for someone to find them so they can talk about it.  They are scared they will be rejected by someone when they try to reach out and connect.  Churches can be so unforgiving sometimes.  In many of them, if someone doesn’t dress the right way, or say the right thing, or act the right way,  they will be shunned, ridiculed, made fun of, talked about behind their backs when they are still in the building.  Or we’ll at least make our disdain silently obvious.  A set of rolling eyeballs or a snarly face or a certain tone of voice speaks volumes.

Consider the lyrics of the song "If We Are the Body" by Casting Crowns;

It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in
Trying to fade into the faces
The girls’ teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat
And quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances tells him that his chances
Are better out on the road

CHORUS
But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the Body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the Body of Christ

Chorus (2x)
If we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching
Why aren’t His hands healing
Why aren’t His words teaching
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going
Why is His love not showing them there is a way

Jesus is the way

We need to ask, "Do we care enough to look?"  How much time does it really take to make a phone call, or write a card, or send an email, to make a visit?  Imagine how much good we could do in an hour that we’ve wasted doing something that will make no eternal difference.