How to Witness Without Compromise

Peggy's Cove Lighthouse

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse. Photo by archer10@Flickr

When witnessing to unbelievers by our lives and our words, we must be careful not only to avoid offense, but also to not compromise the gospel message. The focus of this article will be on how to witness without compromise so that we can stand unashamed before the Lord on the Judgment Day.

This is a companion article to “How to Respond to Haters as a Christian.” That article was primarily about creating a favorable context for sharing the gospel. I wrote it after having seen too many Christians causing offense for the wrong reasons. I explained that we should befriend, not offend non-Christians so that the Lord may grant us an open door for the gospel message. Paul wrote, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).

Let’s keep the essentials in mind and communicate the true gospel, which points people to Jesus and His cross. I alluded to this in “How to Respond to Haters” when I wrote, “We can’t lead people to Christ by offending them in matters that aren’t directly related to the cross of Christ.”

The Bible says the message of the cross will cause offense (Rom. 9:33, 1 Cor. 1:21, Gal. 5:11). If our message, when communicated, doesn’t challenge, and often offend every non-Christian in some way, we’re doing something wrong.

I’ve written this “how to” guide in order to clarify what matters are “directly related to the cross of Christ.” The purpose is to explain how to witness without compromise so that you can stand unashamed before the Lord on the Judgment Day.

With regard to this important topic, I’ve discerned that each of us must fulfill seven primary responsibilities in order to be an effective witness for Christ. The “essentials” include your speech and behavior, and I’m assuming you know the gospel—see John 3:16 for the ultra-short version.

First, we must…

1. Pray

If you’re a born again Christian, it’s only because Jesus prayed for you. Even while hanging on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Even now, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us (Rom. 8:34).

We see a pattern in the Bible, in which God spared people’s lives and even granted salvation in response to the prayers of faithful servants such as Abraham (He almost spared Sodom), Moses, Samuel, David, Hezekiah, Nehemiah, Daniel, Stephen, and Paul. As we see in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul urged Timothy to pray for, and thank God for “all people”:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

I often see Christians speak evil of other people, especially politicians, as if they’re beyond any hope of redemption (cf. 2 Pet. 2:10-11). This impairs their Christian testimony, especially among people with different political beliefs. In fact, God can save anyone, especially if Christians release any grudges and pray for them.

As God’s ambassadors, we should pray for the people we encounter in our daily lives.  If you have to forgive, it may appear to go unnoticed by the person who offended you, but it won’t go unnoticed by the Lord. When you love other people for Jesus’ sake, it makes your witness that much more effective.

2. Don’t Deny Your Faith in Christ

This one is obvious, and you probably can’t imagine doing it. Barring unforeseen circumstances, the people most subject to this temptation would likely be young Christians, and any Christian who is weak in the faith and easily subject to temptations and peer pressure. That said, none of us should take anything for granted. Peter was equally certain that he would never deny Jesus. The Bible warns us, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

This is not only about verbally denying knowledge of Jesus as Peter did, but about denying the faith. Christians sometimes do this by intentionally walking away from the faith, or by having such weak faith that it makes no difference. The Bible describes this as fellowship with the world, or as being “yoked” with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14, Jas. 4:4). I believe this refers to close friendship with one or more unbelievers, with the offense of the cross removed. That is, the Christian doesn’t call sin “sin,” nor talk about Jesus’ call to repentance.  Often, there’s a flagrant, mutual sin such as a sexual relationship, drinking, or drugs.

The main verse that inspired me to come up with this definition was Paul’s teaching that Christian fellowship is centered on the Lord’s table, but the fellowship of unbelievers is centered on the “table of demons” (1 Cor. 10:21). God calls believers to His table so that we may partake of the Lord’s body and blood with repentant hearts. We bring Jesus’ life into this world (for we know He is already resurrected and alive in heaven) by symbolically ingesting His body and blood and inviting Him to live through us. On the other hand, unbelievers don’t fellowship with Jesus, but with demons. They are unrepentant, and celebrate the phony life of sin, not the Lord’s life. For these reasons, I think fellowship with unbelievers involves leaving the cross, including the gospel and its offensive message, and participating in sinful behavior with unbelievers.

Example & Consequences:

The Sorrow of Saint Peter Wikimedia

Again, we have Peter as an example. You probably know the story of how he denied that he knew Jesus (Lk. 22:54-62). Peter later repented, and the Lord was more than willing to forgive. Still, none of us wants to hurt Jesus, bring shame on His name, and feel as horrible as Peter must have felt.

Peter’s denial was momentary, and was based on genuine fear. Afterwards, he wept with shame and remorse.

The Sorrow of Saint Peter by James Tissot

Throughout this section, I’ve talked about “Christians” who temporarily deny the faith. For anyone who might permanently turn away, however, Jesus warned that He will deny those who deny Him (Matt. 10:33).

3. Don’t Be Ashamed of Jesus

Nearly all of us are subject to this temptation, including mature Christians who may feel pressured by a group of non-Christians.

If someone asks whether or not you’re a Christian, it calls for a “yes” or “no” answer. Either you are or are not a Christian, right? This isn’t a “maybe” kind of thing. God isn’t amused if we waffle on this issue, or launch into a story such as:

“My parents always took me to church…” [Are you blaming them?]
“I went up for an altar call one time…” [How many times does it take?]
“I used to go to church…” [Up until last Sunday, right?]

You shouldn’t act “holier than thou,” but neither is it a time for excuses such as:
“Hey, we’re all sinners!” [And God’s okay with that?]
“I’m not judgmental or anything.” [So you don’t like most Christians either?]

Any of these responses would involve a compromise of your witness. Obviously, you would be trying to fit in with non-Christians instead of taking advantage of this perfect opportunity to take a bold stand for Jesus.

One way to respond directly to them (and indirectly to Satan) would be to reply, “Yes. I’m a Christian, and I’m not ashamed of Jesus.” Such bold and powerful words could really silence a room.

I once heard a great evangelist named David Allbritton (1953-2011). He led millions of people to Christ during his lifetime. I believe the key to his power and effectiveness rested in the fact that he was utterly unashamed of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:16). In fact, he was very proud of Jesus.

Example & Consequences:

Saul-Rejected-as-King

King Saul compromised by doing what he wanted to do instead of obeying God’s command (1 Sam. 15). He told Samuel he had obeyed the Lord, only to make excuses when he was caught red-handed. As a result, Saul had to forfeit his privilege of being able to reign as Israel’s king.

Saul Rejected as King (Wikimedia Commons)

Christians who are ashamed of Jesus will find that He is ashamed of them on the Judgment Day (Lk. 9:26). Also, if you water down the gospel lest you offend someone, Jesus may dilute His rewards, lest He be seen as honoring someone—you. Even though that isn’t written in the Bible, it makes sense to me. If we refuse to “rock any boats” for Jesus, why should He do so for us?

4. Abstain From Sin and Worldliness

The gospel message, in order to be complete, must include a call to repentance. God calls sinners to forsake their old way of living so that they may partake of the resurrected life of Christ. However, if you live as if you’re not a Christian, non-Christians will see no need to repent of anything.

Our life message is invariably mixed with the gospel message. How can we call sinners to repentance if we ourselves haven’t repented, even of conspicuous sins? We will only repel nonbelievers if we live like them while adding a veneer of religiosity. In fact, there’s nothing worse than the uncrucified sin nature combined with legalism, which is hypocrisy.

Christians no longer agree broadly on what is sin, and yet the Bible leaves little room for doubt. At a minimum, we should refrain from either endorsing or practicing these sins:

  • Sensuality, pornography, sexual immorality
  • Gluttony, alcoholism, drug abuse, smoking
  • Materialism, gambling, covetousness, theft
  • Lying, slander, gossip, profanity
  • Pride, envy, judgmentalism, divisiveness
  • Hatred, anger, violence, warmongering

I’m not suggesting that Christians should expect perfection. For example, most of us have some excess weight, and it isn’t always due to gluttony. Our goal should be to please the Lord so that we may better know Him, and so that our lives may exude the aroma of the risen Christ. Paul described the process of spiritual renewal in this way:

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. – Rom. 12:2

Sinners loathe the sin nature in others, but are attracted to the life of Christ. They can easily recognize the sin nature because it’s the governing principle in their own lives. They’re inwardly frustrated with it, and want to be free. They need to know that Jesus is for real; that He’s alive; and that He cares for them. Your life and words may be the most crucial testimony that some people will ever receive.

Example & Consequences:

King David Playing the ZitherKing David is a prominent example of a fallen leader in the Bible. His sins of adultery and murder gave God’s enemies the occasion to blaspheme His name. Even though David repented, he had to reap many negative consequences. All of Israel suffered along with him. God told David, “The sword will never depart from your house, because you have despised Me” (2 Sam. 12:10).

King David Playing the Zither by Andrea Celesti

When Christians live like the world, we become guilty of despising the Lord, and of bringing reproach on His name. Salvation isn’t only about the altar call, but about our daily walk with the Lord. The Bible says, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

5. Don’t Accept Another Gospel

If you don’t understand, or have rejected some of the Bible’s core teachings, you have a compromised or false gospel. Even though I’ve used some theological terms below, you will already be familiar with these popular teachings, and might have accepted some of them yourself.

A. Legalism

Christian legalists think every Christian should agree with them on both essential and non-essential doctrines. If you disagree, they may call you a “false teacher” who teaches “doctrines of demons.” This implies that you’re going to Hell, together with anyone who accepts your teachings.

I wrote that from experience. I was recently judged in that way for the sole reason(since the self-appointed judges knew nothing else about me) that I think the earth has been around for longer than six to ten thousand years. I told my would-be judges that Jesus is my Savior, not the earth. They had no response.

Unless you’re able to turn to the Bible and clearly articulate your reasons, do not judge another Christian.

Moses-Breaks-Tablets-of-Law

Many Christian Fundamentalists (found among conservative evangelicals) have succumbed to the false gospel of legalism, even while claiming to believe in salvation by grace alone. They believe in Jesus and in themselves because of pride. Inwardly, they think they’re better than most people. This, in turn, makes them feel that they have a right to judge other people. They may even see themselves as vessels of God’s righteous anger against godless sinners.

The first attempt to keep the Law ended with

broken Law tablets (Wikimedia Commons)

 

Sadly, many people who wanted to follow Jesus have felt rejected by Him, and turned away from the faith. Why? Because legalists told them they couldn’t be a Christian. Legalists think we need Jesus and their teachings, and their “seal of approval” to be saved.

Paul made it clear that nobody can be saved by what they either do or refuse to do. On the contrary, such misplaced confidence can result in their condemnation. He explained this in his letter to the Galatians:

…if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (2:21)

You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (5:4)

You may think we should accept that everyone who professes to believe in salvation by grace alone actually believes that. I disagree, especially when evaluating pastors, teachers, and churches. We must look at people’s speech and actions instead of relying entirely on their profession of faith or their appearance of sincerity.

Here are four reasons why a doctrinal affirmation of salvation by grace is insufficient when grace is lacking in a believer’s life and ministry:

  1. Psychologists have learned that it is possible for people to simultaneously hold two conflicting beliefs, such as salvation by grace alone and salvation by works. The psychological term for this is cognitive dissonance. That’s a fancy way of saying these people are a little crazy.
  2. More importantly, the Bible affirms that people can subject to powerful deception (2 Th. 2:11). It could involve some combination of self-deception, mass deception, and demonic influence. Jesus referred to Satan as the “father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).
  3. Grace is much more than a doctrine that we profess with our tongues. It’s a miraculous gift that nobody can receive, unless it be through the express will of God. The natural state of every human being is one of pride, self-trust, and self-sufficiency.
  4. All who have repented of sin and received God’s forgiveness and grace will supernaturally want to be gracious to others. Anyone who consistently refuses to be gracious and loving either doesn’t know the grace of God, or is in need of repentance (Mt. 18:21-35). Either way, such people aren’t qualified to be treated as role models or teachers.
B. New Age Beliefs

New-Age-imagery

New Age imagery (Wikimedia Commons)

The New Age movement is similar to an ancient heresy known as Gnosticism. This isn’t just a different gospel, but a different religion. The movement borrows the following, non-Christian ideas from eastern religions:

  • There is no personal Creator God (or the issue is irrelevant).
  • God is an impersonal Spirit or Force that is intertwined with the Universe.
  • Jesus was a messiah figure and teacher, much like Buddha, Krishna, Zoroaster, and others. This means Jesus didn’t have a unique and exclusive claim to being the Son of God.
  • The Bible is a source of truth, but isn’t “the” truth. It’s only one perspective, which we must read in the context of sacred writings from other religions. Anyway, we must find our own truths, and traditional Christians don’t have a “lock” on what the Bible says.
  • The material world is evil and/or inferior. Mankind must evolve from our physical awareness to attain, and ultimately merge with a spiritual, “cosmic,” or “higher” consciousness.

Even though the above teachings are neither biblical nor Christian, both “New Age Christians” and “evangelicals” influenced by this movement try to mix them with traditional Christian doctrines. The packaging may look Christian, but there’s no way to “Christianize” paganism.

C. Prosperity Gospel

Jesus-Moneychangers

Jesus Casting Out the Money Changers (Wikimedia Commons)

This is also known as the “health and wealth” gospel or the “name it and claim it” gospel. Wikipedia defines prosperity theology as follows:

the Christian religious doctrine that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth.

God has proven on countless occasions that He is able and willing to bless His people financially. Also, the Bible does give us promises of financial blessing. However, nowhere does the Bible teach that God wants all Christians without exception to be wealthy.

Many Bible passages actually throw ice water on our natural desire to accumulate wealth and material goods. God is far more interested in seeing us prosper spiritually than in helping us win the lottery or getting us our next promotion. The following Bible verses address this topic:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. – Matt. 6:19-21

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. – Matt. 6:24

…people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. – 1 Tim. 6:5

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you. – Heb. 13:5

D. Therapeutic Gospel

Psychiatric Help

Photo by bdunnette@Flickr

We are seeing various mixtures of psychology and Christianity in our time. For instance, you may have heard some of the following teachings:

  • Derogatory terms such as “sinner” are old fashioned. This demeaning language damages people’s sense of self-esteem.
  • It’s not our job to judge other people. That would also hurt their self-esteem.
  • God wants us to feel good about ourselves, not to feel bad.
  • Your words have power, so proclaim what you want and have faith in what you say.
  • You can also get what you want by visualizing and imagining it.
  • We must help ourselves and everyone around us reach our full human potential.

Some of the above statements contain half-truths, but these teachings come mainly from psychology and the occult. As with the New Age movement, we can’t take something that’s not Christian, add Christian terminology, and claim that it’s Christian.

E. Pietism

You may know that I’m a kingdom-oriented Christian, in the sense that I believe God’s Word provides essential guidance in all areas of human life, including cultural, economic, and political issues. As an example, for anyone who’s interested in this topic, I presented a proposal for a more honest and stable monetary system here on this blog (in part 1 and part 2). Even if you don’t entirely agree with me on this, I hope you’ll at least agree that the opposite extreme, known as pietism, is much worse.

Christian pietists perceive an enormous distinction between the sacred and secular realms. They teach that Satan reigns on the earth, in and among non-Christians. Meanwhile, Jesus reigns only in Heaven and in the hearts of believers, to the extent that we allow it.

Christian pietists teach that Jesus is Lord over all the Universe, but this is a deistic kind of confession. In practical terms, they believe God is remote, and mostly powerless in this world. In theory, Jesus would have more influence in this world if more people would follow Him. However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear (since they can’t deny that Christ’s redemption is greater than Adam’s fall), pietists are convinced that the “world” (i.e., the majority of the world’s population) will always reject Christ.

Pietists try to withdraw from the sinful world, and yet they have little idea of what to withdraw to. In Return to Genesis (ch. 22), I explain that Christians should seek to transform our culture and make it more like heaven (Matt. 6:10), not to seek to withdraw from it, even through a “rapture.”

By the way, a 3-page table, “Worldviews Compared,” is included as bonus material with the two free chapters that you can receive by signing up to the newsletter on this website. This table explains the kind of moral and cultural influence that Christians should be bringing to this world. I refer to this biblical worldview as “biblical premodernism.”

As I was saying, Christian pietists have little idea of what to withdraw to. Consequently, they tend to idealize a past era, such as America in the 1950s or earlier. In our global and multicultural world, pietists often stand out as provincial, anti-intellectual reactionaries.

I know this section (#5) is titled, “Don’t Accept Another Gospel,” but I don’t mean to sound like I’m condemning all pietists. In fact, most Christian pietists seem to be genuine Christians unless they’ve become legalists (5A above).

The main problem with pietism is that, out of a false sense of spirituality and holiness, pietists often choose to be impotent and irrelevant in this world. We see this played out whenever a pietist Christian speaks against Christians who seek to glorify God in the “worldly” realms of culture and politics. They prefer to see Satan rule since that confirms their opinion that Christ’s Lordship does not extend to this world. As much as they don’t want to see evil prevail in the world, they’re confident that it’s all according to prophecy, and that God will save us in the end.

I have three closing comments about pietists who are content to see themselves as God’s remnant of saints in an unredeemably evil world:

  • Since pietists take pride in their sanctification, perhaps they imagine themselves as being like diamonds shining radiantly on a dark background. However, God put us here to shine His light, not to glorify ourselves at the expense of others. Our desire should be to turn all the dark “rocks” into shiny diamonds.
  • Even Satan, who has no love for his minions, is intelligent enough to not oppose them (Lk. 11:18). Therefore, Christians who oppose and defame the legitimate ministry efforts of other Christians are without excuse.
  • If we love the Church, including the least of God’s children, we should be concerned about the environment that surrounds them. Unless we completely withdraw from the world, that environment is the world. Even though we aren’t of this world, we need to be actively engaged in it (Jn. 17:15, 1 Jn. 5:4-5). In addition, if we love sinners, we should try to reduce the injustice and poverty in the world. For these reasons, anyone who says, “The ‘world’ will always be evil, so let’s let evil run its course” faces huge questions, beginning with, “Are you really willing to sit on your ‘fat’ bottom in this life and later try that excuse with God?”

If you would like to learn more about pietism and its origins, see my article, “Do You Serve Two Masters?” (Part 3 of Dominion in Genesis).

Review of #5

This was only a partial list, summarizing some of today’s most popular false gospels. Think of how we could not only lose our effectiveness as Christ’s witnesses, but possibly miss out on God’s gift of salvation if we:

A. Become judgmental, intolerant, self-righteous, and perhaps politically obsessed.
B. Are “Christian” in name, yet open to other “Christ” figures, gods, and religions.
C. Are motivated primarily by the Bible’s promises of financial abundance.
D. Try to fit Jesus and the Bible into a “feel good” psychological system.
E. Worship an other-worldly Jesus and withdraw into a kitschy, “Christian” subculture.

6. Be Careful What You Say

This one is not about sinful things we might say, such as profanity or angry words. That was all covered under #4. This is about being careful not to compromise our testimony by agreeing with non-Christians, mostly in religious matters where they seek our understanding.

For instance, someone may say to you, “I think there are many ways to God.” Even if you say nothing in response (perhaps not having heard them), they may assume that you agreed with them.

Even seemingly casual questions can be more important that you think. For example, a co-worker may ask what you think of Joel Osteen. Even if you disagree with much of Joel’s theology (as you should, based on 5C and D above), you could be busy or have something else on your mind. So you may simply reply, “He’s okay,” while thinking to yourself, “Whatever – I have stuff to do.” The person may then conclude that you’re a fan of Osteen’s “I’m OK – You’re OK,” prosperity gospel. Though it may seem unfair, nonbelievers will be inclined to think what they want to think about you as a Christian.

By the way, you can try to turn the tables on non-Christians by getting them to confess biblical truths. For instance, suppose a co-worker does something that could be considered sinful. If you have a good sense of humor and a rapport with the person, you could say, “You know, Jesus can forgive you of that.” Even if they say “Yeah right” with sarcastic intent, they will have made a good confession. Smile

If you’re a more serious type, you can ask unbelievers questions about what they believe, then listen, and try to persuade them concerning biblical truths. Or you can use both approaches.

Once, a co-worker asked me what I thought of Ned Flanders on The Simpsons. I wasn’t enamored of Ned, and fortunately neither was the questioner. I suspect that like me, he didn’t like Ned’s pietism (5E above), shallowness, and fundamentalist beliefs.

Many Christians think that Ned Flanders presents a positive portrayal of Christians, and in some ways he does. Still, if for some reason I had given Ned two enthusiastic thumbs up, it would have hurt my Christian witness with that person. I would have had to overcome the stigma of having acted like a Christian nerd. Sad smile

As these examples show, we should seek to be attentive, effective communicators who pay particular attention to what the people around us think about God and Christianity. So be careful how you respond to unbelievers because they will test your character and beliefs. If you walk in the Spirit, you’ll bear the fruits of the Spirit, and the Lord will help you know what to say (Matt. 12:35-37).

7. Be a Vocal Witness

mega megaphone

I just wrote about the way non-Christians may try to reach some kind of agreement with you so that they can reduce the offense of the gospel. One suggestion they may want to make, either subtly or overtly, is that you not talk to them about “religion.”

Mega-megaphone. Photo by gruenemann@Flickr

For the most part, we should respect people’s wishes. Anyway, it seldom does any good to tell people things they don’t want to hear. If you know someone isn’t open to the gospel, let your life be a testimony by letting the light of Christ shine through you.

Having said that, should we ever make up our minds to never talk to a particular person or group of people about the gospel? No! Sooner or later, spoken words become essential for anyone whom God is calling to Himself, to deliver them from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light.

Peter described how non-Christians often react to the resurrected life in believers when he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have (1 Pet. 3:15). As we live by faith in the Son of God, we should expect unbelievers to approach us with some curiosity. As Peter said, we should always be prepared to tell them about our Savior.

The biggest problem is not that we fail to share the gospel because of resistance from nonbelievers. Rather, it’s that we choose to remain silent out of fear, or because of excuses that we make for ourselves.

Our most popular excuse would likely be the idea I just mentioned, of letting our lives be a witness. As we learned in #4 above, our behavior is important. Moreover, as I explained in my post about bearing the cross, even suffering can help make us better witnesses by building our character. The problem is that people can’t be saved if we as Christians never talk to them about Jesus. Paul made it clear that God intentionally leads people to faith through our spoken words:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? – Rom. 10:14

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. – 1 Cor. 1:21

Paul referred to this as “preaching.” However, in those days, each congregation didn’t have only one person whom they called a “preacher.” In this context, God has called each of us to preach.

Conclusion

I’m repeating the outline below for your convenience. I suggest that you review it to consider what areas you’re strong in and what areas you need to work on. What can you do to strengthen your Christian walk and testimony in the weak areas?

  1. Pray
  2. Don’t Deny Your Faith in Christ
  3. Don’t Be Ashamed of Jesus
  4. Abstain From Sin and Worldliness
  5. Don’t Accept Another Gospel
    A. Legalism
    B. New Age Beliefs
    C. Prosperity Gospel
    D. Therapeutic Gospel
    E. Pietistic Dualism
  6. Be Careful What You Say
  7. Be a Vocal Witness

By the way, I understand that the failure to be a faithful witness may be a source of immense guilt for some of you. That’s not the intention behind this article. I’ve tried to help you pinpoint any problems you may be experiencing so that you can begin to deal with them. Reject any sense of guilt or condemnation because God has already forgiven you. Replace it with faith, joy, and enthusiasm. Know that you can please God in these areas (1 Jn.  5:3-4).

Also, please bear in mind that the responsibility doesn’t rest entirely on your shoulders. Only God can save a person’s soul. The Lord desires to save many, many people. If you have a burden for lost souls, you can be privileged to participate in His glorious plans.

One last thing to keep in mind is that even if you’re a faithful witness, you can’t always expect to see the results. God may have another Christian “reap the harvest”by leading a person to whom you’ve witnessed in the “sinner’s prayer.” By the same token, you may reap where other Christians have sowed. So don’t assume that you’re starting from “scratch” every time you meet an unbeliever.

The Benefits of Bearing the Cross

Jesus-on-the-cross

Photo from Mathieu Formisyn, Flickr

Through the experience of bearing the cross as Jesus commands, we learn that suffering is not only inevitable, but a desirable and beneficial aspect of our earthly existence.  Jesus made it clear that God calls every Christian to bear his or her cross:

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:27

For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. – Matthew 16:25-26

Jesus set the example through His excruciating suffering and death on a Roman cross. Even long before that day, He had given of Himself and suffered daily. We read in Philippians that Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (2:7-9).

Your Cross is Not Unlike Jesus’ Cross

Recently, as the Lord reminded me about the need to bear my cross, I felt inspired to send this tweet from my Twitter handle, @RTGbook:

There’s no great distinction between the personal cross that God wants you to bear and the cross of Christ.

I quickly realized that this needed further explaining. After all, Jesus paid for our redemption through His death on the cross. None of us could ever hope to match that. To avoid giving anyone the wrong impression, I followed it with this:

There’s a big difference between Christ’s blood and yours, but not between His cross and yours (Rom 8:17, Col 1:24, 1 Pet 4:13)

It’s incredible, isn’t it? The thing that probably every Christian admires most about Jesus was His willingness to suffer and die for us. What an honor it is to be able to emulate our Hero in this way!

But is our suffering actually comparable to that of Christ, our Savior and Lord? Let’s look at the verses that I just quoted:

…we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. – Rom. 8:16-17

This says that if we suffer with Christ, we will also be heirs with Him and share in His glory. Next, let’s turn to Colossians…

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. – Col. 1:24

This verse has led to confusion. Jesus’ suffering was not insufficient for our salvation. In fact, we know that “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25). Even so, we only received the gospel because Paul and countless other Christians passed it on through tears, hardship, and even martyrdom. Their suffering became an imperfect illustration of the great price that Jesus paid to save sinners. In fact, it seems that the gospel doesn’t go forth in the world apart from brokenness and suffering.

Finally, Peter wrote that as we are privileged to share in Christ’s sufferings, so we will also share in His great joy!…

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. – 1 Peter 4:13

With these truths in mind, I composed and sent the following tweets:

We spread the gospel not only through our words, but also through our silent suffering. (Col. 1:24)

That statement is loosely based on Colossians 1:24. Even if you suffer alone, it’s a character-building experience that makes you more Christ-like, and prepares you to be an effective witness for the Lord.

When our heavenly Father sees a Christian suffering, He remembers Christ’s suffering on the cross.

The context here is that we must be suffering for a good cause, not for our own wrongdoing (1 Pet. 3:17). Our suffering also reminds Jesus of His own suffering. Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Is it really true that we can associate our suffering, which is often trivial by comparison, with Christ’s suffering on the cross? I am further questioning this idea because I don’t want you to have any doubts about it.

First, let’s be clear about one thing. This isn’t something for any of us to boast about. I know that Jesus suffered immeasurably more than I have, or likely ever will. Even so, regardless of our circumstances, we can all make the comparison for at least four reasons:

  1. As explained in the verses quoted above, through our suffering we share in our Lord’s suffering, and extend His redemptive work in the world.
  2. Our suffering seldom seems trivial while we’re enduring it. As Hebrews 12:11 states, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” The Bible promises that God won’t test us beyond what we’re able to endure (1 Cor. 10:13). However, that doesn’t mean He won’t test us to the very limit of our ability to endure.
  3. Our Lord Himself made the comparison by calling all who would be His followers to bear the cross daily.
  4. God doesn’t belittle our suffering in the least. The cross is a symbol of death, and suffering involves dying to ourselves (1 Cor. 15:31). The psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. 116:15). The word “saints” should remind us that even though we’re all sinners, God sees us as innocent through the blood of Christ.

How We Gain From Bearing the Cross

Why did Jesus command us to bear the cross daily? Let’s consider three primary benefits that we gain through patient suffering:

  1. We become like Jesus. As Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10 NIV). If we suffer for Jesus, we will also experience His resurrection life (2 Cor. 4:8-10). Suffering also opens the door for the Holy Spirit to comfort us in our afflictions (2 Cor. 1:4). This verse directs our attention to a second benefit…
  2. We learn to identify with those who suffer. We read in 2 Corinthians 1:4 that God “comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (ESV).
  3. We will share in Christ’s glorification. We learned this from 1 Peter 4:13, as quoted above. Paul also wrote, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him” (2 Tim. 2:12). There will be no “spectator” seats in Heaven!

Notably, the first two benefits listed above help us extend the saving work of Christ in the world.

I hope you’ll keep in mind all the benefits of bearing our cross for Christ. Any suffering that enters our lives comes by God’s permission, and should be endured for His sake.

Much temporary sorrow and suffering will result from denying our sinful desires to pursue the will of God. We can also choose suffering through a voluntary discipline such as fasting. We can intentionally mourn for our own sins and failures, or for “neighbors” in need. I don’t want to meddle with doctor’s orders, but if Christians today shared a more enlightened, biblical perspective on pain, we might not be so quick to medicate ourselves for every minor ache. We all need a balance of both joy and sorrow in our lives (Eccl. 7:4, and see this article).

As we have seen, the early Christians encouraged one another with the truth that their suffering was an extension of Christ’s suffering on the cross. We seldom hear such moving encouragement today, which is one reason for this post. When I’ve seen other Christians teach on this topic, it has usually been in an intellectual context of explaining Paul’s difficult words in Colossians 1:24, rather than with a focus on the encouragement that we can gain from that and similar passages.

In summary, your suffering, like that of the Lord Jesus Christ, touches the very heart of God. It is never in vain, but will bring great rewards both in this world, and for eternity.

The Calf, the Caretaker, and the Prodigal Brother

Prodigal Son Parable-New Born Calf by Van Gogh 500

My retelling of Jesus’ Prodigal Son parable is told from the elder brother’s point of view. I have titled it, The Calf, the Caretaker, and the Prodigal Brother.

New Born Calf Lying on Straw by Vincent Van Gogh

 

The cattle lowed as Abihu entered the shed. Piggy was the loudest.

Abihu groaned, “You have no idea how much trouble you are.”

Piggy mooed again.

“So you don’t care. Is that it?” Abihu went to the hay bin. He filled his arms with hay, and set it in front of Piggy. “Eat your fill.”

Abihu fed the other animals, but even the older cows got less than Piggy. He had to reach deep into the bin. “The bin’s gettin’ low, Piggy!”

Abihu sat and watched the cows. He thought about where he could find more fodder. “It’s your fault,” he told Piggy. Even when the grass had begun to dry up for lack of rainfall, he had blamed it on Piggy.

Abihu liked to complain about Piggy, especially in front of his father. Secretly, however, he liked the calf. Abihu thought Piggy had been a perfect specimen from the day he was born. Now he wondered whether it had been a mistake to mention this to his father. He had hoped that his father would give him the calf. Instead, father had told Abihu to keep that same calf fattened up.

Abihu had replied, “If you plan to give the calf to the priests as a sacrifice, there’s no need to fatten him.”

“No Abihu,” said his father. “We must fatten this calf for a family celebration.”

“What celebration, father?” Inwardly, Abihu also wondered, “What family?”

His father had simply replied, “We never know when the Lord might give us cause to celebrate.”

Abihu knew that if anyone needed to celebrate, it was his father. He had been hopelessly morose ever since Matthias had left.

Abihu still resented that day. His younger brother Matthias had never done his share of the work. He’d had a wanderlust, but never had an opportunity to leave the farm until… until he arrogantly made one for himself. Unable to wait for his father to die, Matthias had brazenly demanded his full share of the inheritance! The worst part of it was that everyone knew he only wanted to spend the money on beer and whores.

Even though father must have been deeply hurt, he raised little protest. He had calculated the value of the estate, and given Matthias a bag full of silver.

Abihu’s mind briefly went back to his work. He got up and said to Piggy, “I know where I can get you some more grass.”

Abihu recalled that Piggy had been born not long after Matthias left home. He wondered what special occasion would call for the calf to be slain so that everyone could feast on his tender meat. It had better be a good one, he thought.

An entire year had passed, but his father still hadn’t slain the calf for a feast day. Abihu was most disappointed that his own birthday had passed with little notice. What did an elder son have to do to gain respect in this household? And who in his right mind fattens a calf for an entire year?

Occasionally, Abihu got a sinking feeling in his stomach when he thought about why his father might want to slay the calf. “No, never,” he thought. “That will never happen!”

Abihu realized he had said this out loud, and that he was petting Piggy’s neck. He thought, “What if my father were to see me? I’m not supposed to care about a slaughter animal, especially one that I always complain about.”

Abihu glanced at the cracks in the shed to make sure nobody was looking in. He then stepped outside.

He was surprised to see two people coming up the road toward the house. One of them was surely his father. Father’s arm was wrapped tightly around the neck of a derelict in tattered clothing. His father stopped repeatedly to hug the other man and speak to him. Again, Abihu found himself speaking out loud, “No, it can’t be!”

Abihu couldn’t retreat now. He stood by the shed as the two figures approached. As he feared, the man his father had embraced was his brother, Matthias. Even though Matthias was nothing but skin and bones, Abihu felt no pity whatsoever.

Father was ecstatic—completely oblivious to the fact that Matthias had treated him like dirt and wasted his money. He ran to Abihu and said, “What a joyous occasion this is! Your brother has returned. Aren’t you happy? Let’s slay the fatted calf and celebrate!”

Abihu began to object, “But father…”

His father read his thoughts, and interrupted him. “My son, your brother is sorry for what he did. You must forgive whatever wrong you feel he has done you.” Then, father smiled broadly and hugged both sons while proclaiming, “We’re a family again!”

Abihu looked at Matthias, who glanced down at the ground. “He should be ashamed to look at me,” he thought. Abihu wasn’t about to foolishly hug and kiss him the way his crazy father had. The quickest way to get away from his brother would be to immediately comply with his father’s wishes.

“I’ll take care of it,” was all he said as he retreated back into the barn.

Abihu peered through a crack in the wall until his father and brother had gone into the house. He turned to Piggy and said, “It’s time. This is what your life has been about all along.”

Abihu grabbed a rope and led the still-hungry calf out of the shed. He took Piggy to a big tree. He had previously rehearsed in his mind how he would hoist the calf’s rear end into the air to drain the blood from his neck.

After removing his knife from under his belt, he held it against Piggy’s neck. The calf stood there dumbly, looking straight ahead.

Abihu could already hear music and sounds of celebration coming from the house. He thought about the injustice. “Why should this poor, innocent calf have to die for my guilty brother? It isn’t right!”

He withdrew the knife, steered the calf toward freedom, and slapped him hard on the behind. He shooed Piggy away with loud shouting.

Abihu then headed for the road. At that moment, he had no idea where he was going. All he knew was that he had to get away from there.


My Comments on the Parable of the Prodigal Brother

This story doesn’t match some details of Jesus’ parable, but any differences are minor. In the parable, the older brother came in from the field after the celebration had already started, and the calf had already been slain.

The Hebrew name Abihu means “he is my father.” Matthias means “gift of God.” I had no other reason for choosing these names.

One thing that makes this one of the greatest stories ever is that it’s incredibly easy to identify with either brother.

In the parable, the elder brother had some friends. He was envious, and was surely tempted to party the way his brother had. So I assume that if this had been a true story, that son would have considered leaving home, at least temporarily. However, to remain faithful to the spirit of Jesus’ parable, nothing is revealed about what the older brother will do next. His walk down the road will at least give him time to think about it.

What will we do in similar situations? I hope we’ll always be willing to forgive, and to join in God’s celebration.


How to Respond to Haters as a Christian

Anger_by_Dosso_Dossi

Since all Christians are called to be God’s witnesses at all times, we must know how to respond to haters when they question or ridicule us for our beliefs. Christians are being marginalized and viewed as extremists on many important social and political issues simply because we believe in the Bible and accept its teachings. As America is increasingly becoming less Christian, more people are becoming openly anti-Christian.

None of us likes to be despised or rejected for our beliefs. Still, we must not compromise on biblical truth, nor neglect to tell people about our Lord and Savior.

The Tussle by Dosso Dossi

(This is not how to handle conflicts).

Since God calls us to be His witnesses, we can’t simply go into defensive mode and ignore those who disagree with us. Instead, we all must know how to respond to haters when they question us and ridicule us for what we believe.

I will explain in this post how we can often avoid being attacked in the first place. I’ll also tell you what kind of people we can safely ignore; and how we can quickly defuse tense situations. The information in this post can not only help you on the Internet and social media, but also when talking with people face-to-face.

Though it’s unfortunate that Christians are becoming a persecuted minority in the West, there’s a silver lining when unbelievers go on the offensive. They give us the opportunity to show Christ’s love by responding with compassion and kindness. Even while they accuse us of being intolerant, they show by their words and actions who are the real haters.

Paul’s admonishment to Timothy describes the attitude we should display toward all people:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…
2 Timothy 2:24-25

I’ve come up with four steps which cover both keeping the peace by avoiding arguments, and dealing with any conflict that may occur.

1. Try Not to Provoke People

Even if you only intend to address other Christians, you should assume that non-Christians will also be reading or watching your public posts in forums such as Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, and YouTube.

Many Christians don’t seem to appreciate the fact that Jesus called us to be peacemakers (Mt. 5:9). Peace must begin on a personal level, in our hearts and in our relationships (Jas. 4:1). Paul wrote, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Rom. 12:18).

In the interests of keeping the peace, I would suggest that we shouldn’t write or link to something that might appear to stereotype, disrespect, or show intolerance toward homosexuals, liberals, Muslims, or any other group of people. We need to be sensitive toward all unbelievers. We don’t know what bad experiences they may have had with Christians in the past. Don’t add to the perception they may have of Christians as judgmental people who don’t have the love of God in us.

We should also be careful when mentioning controversial topics such as:

  • Hell (an inflammatory topic, no pun intended)
  • Young-earth creationism (especially if you believe in this)
  • Evolution (if you don’t believe in this)
  • America having been a “Christian nation”
  • Christian dominion, or taking back America for Christ
  • Other religions
  • Feminism (whichever side you’re on)
  • Politics

I’m only suggesting that we be careful, not that we refuse to discuss these topics. People on the other side of the issues, even if they’re mistaken, feel as strongly as we do. We can’t lead people to Christ by offending them in matters that aren’t directly related to the cross of Christ. I explained the need to not abandon the offense of the gospel in How to Witness Without Compromise.

2. Don’t Take Offenses Personally

If you’ve done your best not to offend people, but someone still reacts in a discourteous manner, don’t get upset. The person probably has nothing against you, even if appears that way. Think about it…

  • Do you stereotype and hate people such as gays or Muslims?
  • Do you want anyone to be arrested, enslaved, or killed because of their group identity?
  • Do you want to subjugate women and make them obey men?
  • Are you anti-science?
  • Do you think the government should enforce Old Testament criminal laws in our time?
    You surely don’t support any despicable position such as the ones above. They’re based on extreme examples and outdated stereotypes. The demagogues who spread hatred depend on caricatures like these to dehumanize and demonize us.
    To be fair, there are also Christians, as well as people with large Christian audiences who spread hatred. Please keep your distance from them. Guard your heart (Prov. 4:23).
    If you find it difficult to care about some people because of their beliefs or practices, repent and ask God to change your heart (Mt. 6:15). It’s not our job to judge people who don’t know Christ (1 Cor. 5:12-13).
    Every Bible-believing Christian accepts some truths that are not politically correct. For example, we confess that whatever the Bible calls sin is sin; that Christ is the only way to God; and that unbelievers will face an eternity apart from God. Even though this isn’t what everyone wants to hear, it doesn’t mean we “hate” anyone.
    Some people will be offended by any Christian who upholds the Bible’s teachings, worships God, and isn’t ashamed to discuss their faith. So, again, try not to take it personally.

3. Assess Who You’re Dealing With

Before you can know how to respond to criticism, you should try to assess what kind of person you’re dealing with. There are two kinds of people who may go on the offensive in this way. The first are people who may be having a bad day, or may have misunderstood you. Generally, we should try to engage these people in conversation because they’re “real” people.

The Princess and the Trolls

The second type of person is what’s known on the Internet as a “troll.” A troll is often an anonymous individual who, in this case, may only want to criticize Christians, the Bible, and God Himself. Trolls may pretend that they want to better understand us. In reality, they only want to provoke us, twist our words, ignore our best points, discredit us, change the topic as they please, make their own points, waste our time, and slander us. That’s their idea of fun, but I’m sure it’s not yours.

The Princess and the Trolls by John Bauer

That’s how Satan works, but we’ll succeed as Christ’s witnesses by doing the opposite.

Atheists can often be seen trolling the Internet and social media. However, anyone who has a problem with Christianity could be a troll. Even a fellow Christian may act like a troll if they have doctrinal differences, and only want to attack your beliefs.

Again, try to find out as quickly as possible what kind of person you’re dealing with. Non-trolls may appear to be trolls when you first meet them, and vice versa. Even so, if the person’s first remark appears trollish, you may want to proceed directly to “B” below. This will depend on your available time, your priorities, and your mood or temperament.

A. Ease the Tension

Don’t assume that everyone who appears to be a hater is actually a troll. If you’re uncertain, the Bible gives us a way to quickly defuse a tense situation. It works better and quicker than any medicine.

I must warn you that this will seldom be easy. For me, this can easily be the last idea that comes to mind unless I make a deliberate effort to remember this verse:

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1

A gentle answer is effective because it disarms the antagonist. It confounds them when you don’t respond to their harsh words with harsh words of your own.

Here’s a word picture to help you remember this. Imagine that someone is trying to take you on an up escalator. In this case, up is not the way to heaven! It’s the way to escalated anger, tensions, and stress.

Troll on an escalator

Troll on Escalator

If you reply to a rude person with harsh words, you’ll join them on their “up escalator.” But if you respond with gentle words, you’ll deescalate the situation. In effect, you’ll be inviting them to join you on the “down escalator.”

The best way I’ve found to give a gentle answer is to assume that the other person has somehow misunderstood me. Even though this may feel like lying, how can we be certain that we weren’t misunderstood? Let’s try not to assume the worst about other people.

The method of responding with a gentle answer almost always works. However, if the other person still wants to be argumentative, go to “B”. Otherwise, proceed to #4.

B. Don’t Respond to Trolls

If another person is being disrespectful and only trying to goad you, don’t bother responding any further. Nearly everyone will understand, and anyone who supports a troll may well be like-minded.

You’ll be following the standard rules of “netiquette,” which say the best way to deal with trolls is to not feed them. Proverbs 26:4 also tells us, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.”

Instead of going away quietly, the troll may accuse you of being unable to defend yourself. Be confident in who you are, and don’t take the bait.

4. Follow Up As You’re Able

If you defused the situation by responding with a gentle answer (“A” above), you’re now in a position to engage in a meaningful, productive conversation. The purpose of this blog post has been to get you to this point so that you know how to respond to haters.

I can’t advise you on what to say next since that would depend on the situation. From my experience, however, a web link to a sensitively written article or blog post can speak volumes and save me the time I might have spent trying to convey the same message.

Perhaps you could write one or more articles yourself to explain the issues that you feel most strongly about. Be sure to tactfully address a broad audience, not only the people who already agree with you. You can post that article to your blog if you have one, or submit it to an article directory.

Non-fiction writing is a discipline that forces us to do research, think carefully, and clarify our thoughts about issues. This can benefit you, not only your readers.

Closing Thoughts

When someone offends you, a Christian response almost certainly won’t come easily. As I’ve explained, your best choice will be either to ignore the offense or to respond with a gentle answer. The sin nature doesn’t want to do either. Therefore, unless you have saintly conversation skills, you should probably take a few moments to relax and think before saying anything. Submit to God; ask Him for wisdom; and He will help you with the situation.

It may seem like I oversimplified the situation by giving you only two possible ways to respond. However, the “gentle” response allows for an infinite number of options. Do you have any suggestions for how to respond gently? Feel free to comment and/or share this post.

All My Prayers Are Answered… #JustNotNow

 

Prayer warrior

Whatever you may be praying for, please read this if you need to believe your prayers are answered, even if you haven’t yet seen any outward signs of it.

Finances are a major source of stress for many people in this economy. As someone who is trying to start my own business, I know it can require a long stretch of spending money while seeing little or no income. I was thinking about this while spending money at the grocery store a few days ago.

Prayer is the language by lel4nd on Flickr

I’m working to build a writing ministry, and trusting that one day, God will grant me a sustainable income through it. My heart’s desire is that God will bless many people through His revelation and my feeble attempts to express it in writing.

We often become frustrated when God doesn’t choose to answer our prayers right away. God wants to fill our lives with blessings, but He often asks that we be patient. We must wait to receive His gifts in His timing.

These thoughts inspired me to create a new Twitter hashtag, #JNN or #JustNotNow. In case you didn’t know, a hashtag is a word or phrase prefixed with the hash ( # ) symbol.

After I got home, I tweeted about #JNN. Two people (whom I’m calling “tweeter1” and “tweeter2”) replied. Here’s the dialog:

@Genesis_Guy I believe God will give me nearly everything I ask of Him, #JNN. (Just not now). What do you think of my new hashtag? :)
@Genesis_Guy If I was a parent, I think I’d tell my kid, “Sure thing, #JNN.” (Just not now). This sounds better than “No,” and teaches patience. :)
@Genesis_Guy What’s going on in your life #JNN?
@Genesis_Guy I have a really successful business #JNN. 😀
@tweeter1: @Genesis_Guy God responds three ways in scripture to request(prayers) yes, no, and #JNN..it’s ok to just say no…yes…or JNN
@Genesis_Guy Too often, I think we may take the #JNN as if it’s a “no” – due to our own impatience.
@tweeter1: @Genesis_Guy very true…look at Sarah and Abraham!..to give one example. Many others I am sure!
@tweeter2: @Genesis_Guy I also think we don’t get what we desire because we never ask
@Genesis_Guy: @tweeter2 Also, we don’t always ask persistently. I know I don’t.

I feel it’s important that we take seriously God’s common response: “Yes, I plan to do that for you, but not now.” We take it seriously by expectantly clinging to that hope; not forgetting His promise; and continuing to remind the Lord of our need.

We should never take God’s “Not now” answer as a “No.” As “tweeter1” pointed out, Abraham and Sarah become frustrated by God’s delay. They decided to “help” God answer their prayers.

Parents, especially fathers, represent God to their children in many ways. A “not now” answer can help children understand that God will often delay His answers to their prayers. In the process, parents must not provoke a child to anger or exasperation (Eph. 6:4, Col. 3:21). They should also keep in mind that a “not now” answer is a kind of promise that should be fulfilled if possible.

Whether a parent is intentional about it or not, the “not now” answer is part of every human life. It teaches children to be patient, to accept a temporary state of “poverty” (such as not getting ice cream), and to respect the parents’ wisdom and wishes. Similarly, it’s for our own good that God often delays His answers to our prayers.

What have you asked God for in the past? You might think He answered “No” to some of your prayers. Did He really, or did you just lose patience? If you’re not sure, why not go to God in prayer and ask Him again? In the comments below, feel free to respond to my question, “What’s going on in your life, #JustNotNow?”

May you always live in faith, and never lose hope.

Note: My Twitter name is now @Genesis_Guy. At the time this discussion occurred, the same account went by the name @RTGbook. By the way, I no longer suggest the use of JNN as a hashtag since nobody would understand it.