For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles, pray to God. 2Surely you have heard that God in his grace has given me this work to do for your good. 3God revealed his secret plan and made it known to me. (I have written briefly about this, 4and if you will read what I have written, you can learn about my understanding of the secret of Christ.) 5In past times human beings were not told this secret, but God has revealed it now by the Spirit to his holy apostles and prophets. 6The secret is that by means of the gospel the Gentiles have a part with the Jews in God’s blessings; they are members of the same body and share in the promise that God made through Christ Jesus. Eph 3:1-6 GNT
There is in God’s judgment no greater sin on earth than when pious men and women despise those who lie in their sin.
Sin is, of course sin.
Let’s take the sixth commandment – it covers all sexual sin, where the blessing that God gave to a wife and husband is misused, and sexual intimacy is shared between any two that are not married. (in thought and word–as well as deed). Sin is sin.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, it has the same consequence, it divides us from God, each other, and even shatters who we are. Using the 6th commandment again, it doesn’t matter who the contact is between, or whether it is just in words – or thoughts. It is sin.
Luther claims to know that God’s #1 issue is when His people, or those who appear so, hate their brother and sister so much that they leave them in sin, unaware that the Lord has provided a cure and healing for the sinner, and will gladly transform them (2 Cor. 3) into the likeness of Jesus. To leave someone, helpless and unaware of this, to not have this basic level of compassion for them, is wrong. It shows a lack of love that is contrary to the love of Christ dying on the cross.
Compare that to Paul’s words about bringing the Gentiles into the Kingdom alongside the Jewish believers in Christ. He would work with everything he had, with the extent of making this mystery (which wasn’t really–the Old Testament tells over and over that the Gentiles would be called home.) known.
It is our responsibility now – not just pastors and missionaries–our responsibility as the church, to welcome everyone into the Kingdom of God, to see them cleansed from their sins, to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
Does that mean that all my Church needs to move to Ephesus – and walk in the footsteps of Paul? Or all go to seminary? No, but we can pray for these people, love them, and be guided by the Holy Spirit’s love to share with them the hope we have, because of Jesus, and the cross.
Ask God to show you who is ready to hear, Ask Him to give you the words, that they would come to know Him, and be transformed as God promises, as God planned. Listen, love, share… and realize you are a co-worker of Jesus, a person He shares His harvest with, and His glory.
Martin Luther and John Sander, Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern, 1915), 282.
1 “Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. 4 Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.Matthew 6:1-4 (NLT)
“941 Shun public display! May your life be known to God, for holiness passes unnoticed, even though it is most effective.
942 Try to ensure that people don’t notice when you lend a helping hand; try not to be praised or seen by anyone… so that, being hidden like salt, you may give flavour to your normal surroundings. And thus, as a result of your Christian outlook, you will be helping to give to everything about you a natural, loving and attractive tone.”(1)
These quotes from the Bible and from St. Escriva’s Forge may not seem to be about the mission of God, the work of evangelism that the church has been entrusted with, but, they are at the core of the life of evangelist, at the core of every believer’s call to be an apostle – to speak for God, to share the desire that God has, for prodigals to come home, to see beggars and hungry clothed and fed as we are baptized, as we commune with the feast that is simultaneously celebrating our sacramental homecoming, and the wedding supper of the Lamb that was slain to make the feast possible.
I will contend that being an evangelist is more about our lives lived in service to others, especially to those who do not know God’s love. It’s not about who can shout the loudest, or make the most intellectual points in a philosophical debate. It’s not done with a camera following you around, so it can be posted on YouTube. That’s not really evangelism, it is not a message focused on Christ’s love.
Evangelism is difference in substance, greatly different, even as almsgiving and prayer is different than those who make a show of it. Putting it bluntly, the greatest almsgiving is found in giving people what they need the most – and nothing is needed more than a relationship with God. We aren’t called to batter down walls and overwhelm minds, but we are called to be salt and light – things which change what exists by their existence. Evangelism in our lives is done as we bring our flavor to the area we are in, not dominating but simply revealing what is absolutely true. We are called to share… to encourage, to assist and be strength, all the very things God is for us. To realize God’s love to the depth where we realize that it is our life’s vocation to share it.. because of the great need. As we come alongside to help – the gospel is there as well, for Christ is there.
And that is why the evangelist may go unnoticed, why our left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, because the action is so normal, so natural, so there…
And there, not drawing attention to ourselves, but serving others, reflecting God’s love, we will find joy in the midst of the mundane, or the traumatic..
It is being
(1)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 3325-3329). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Devotional Discussion thought of the day!
You wake up, role over, hit the snooze alarm, and get out of bed to creaks and groans – not just you voice, but it seems the muscles groan as well… It’s Tuesday, and you wonder how your body will make it to Friday – you body know this as well – why do you think it groans and aches and cracks and creeks!
It’s not always just physical either – if Monday slams home the (false) reality that breaks our restful break from life that is Sunday…Tuesday makes us wonder if we’ll make it to our next sabbath rest! Tuesdays, especially overcast ones like this morning.. ugghhh will this week drag on! It seems like all of Creation is groaning – and yes it is…. so says Paul!
8:20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:20-23 (NLT)
The futility we know is just physical, as I noted above – in some ways it is very spiritual. How do we survive? I believe it is as we are reminded by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – as we are giving foretastes of our future glory, as we are awakened from spiritual slumber and see the glory of God revealed.
One of my favorite authors speaks of such:
” The world is waiting for us to wake up those who are asleep, to encourage the timid, to guide those who have lost their way; in other words, for us to enroll them in the ranks of Christ….. (Escriva, Josemaria . Furrow )
If we need a reminder of the glory that awaits us, such is easily seen as people are woken up, as they are freed from the burdens of their own sin, as they are healed from the sins committed against them, as they too learn to forgive. As they realize they are welcome in the presence of God, as God comes to them and makes them part of His family.
The joy of that moment – that rebirth and renewal as they are baptized (TIt 3:2-6) that moment when they realize the promises of Christ are theirs – as they realize that He does come to them and sups with them… such are the foretastes of glory, as the Spirit reminds us…”you are mine…”
And Tuesdays, we realize, are as full of mercy and grace.. and His resting/basquing in His love… as Sundays…
Godspeed you through this week!