Are you a FANATIC? How would you define it? How does God define it?
This week we complete the short two-part series that considers the question of how God wants us to follow Him. In the love story that is the Bible, we see time and time again how God does not desire for His people to be mediocre in following Him. He calls us to sell out and give all of ourselves in service to Him and to others. Is that what your journey looks like right now? It’s certainly not uncommon that it wouldn’t … but should it?
So, what do you talk about with others? Those you know, or meet for the first time — and maybe, for the only time? Paul has these words of encouragement and challenge relative to what and how you speak with others…
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV)
When was the last time you initiated a conversation about Jesus? Was there a last time? If there was, how did it go? I believe the “average Christian” (if there is such a thing) doesn’t speak the name of Jesus very often either in casual or intentional conversation. We’ve all been cautioned to not bring up things like “politics” and “religion” in specific settings … but why not? Maybe because of the sensitivity of the hearer, but I would also assert, because “we” have failed too often in speaking His and the Good News of who He is and what He has done for us.
So let’s re-frame the speaking part, and maybe in the process chip away at that taboo of talking about “religion” in specific or social settings. Maybe just replacing “religion” with the person of Jesus would and should be enough. But allow me a few minutes also to offer a few things that line up with the wisdom Paul’s speaks of in how our lives should speak.
“Rules” for healthy conversations…
- Zero condemnation allowed (we are all sinners and there is no place from which we can claim “moral” or absolute high ground)
- Don’t get political (think of how quickly things could go “Pharisee” … keep the focus on Jesus)
- Allow yourself to get beat up (even if this was calculated — and it shouldn’t be — the honey that attracts is humility in the form of grace, seasoned with salt)
The way Jesus chose to “communicate” the truth of himself and His kingdom was in the form of story. I don’t believe we should be any different. The most powerful story we can tell is of Jesus’ life — why He came, how he lived, what He did for us in willingly giving His very human life and in His resurrection and return to the Father. The most powerful context in which that story is told (I believe, anyway) is your own life. When you talk about Jesus … Tell your story!
When you’re telling it…
Always honor the person who is listening to your story
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You have permission to speak for yourself.” So Paul motioned with his hand and began his defense: “King Agrippa, I consider myself fortunate to stand before you today as I make my defense against all the accusations of the Jews, and especially so because you are well acquainted with all the Jewish customs and controversies. Therefore, I beg you to listen to me patiently.
Acts 26:1-3 (NIV)
Identify with the person who is listening to your story
The Jewish people all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that I conformed to the strictest sect of our religion, living as a Pharisee. And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our ancestors that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. King Agrippa, it is because of this hope that these Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?
The most powerful part of your story, is your weakness
I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities.
Acts 26:9-11 (NIV)
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NIV)
Your Exact Moment speaks volumes
On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, King Agrippa, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ “ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet.
Acts 26:12-16a (NIV)
Don’t forget The Message
I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Acts 26:16b-18 (NIV)
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.”
Acts 26:28-29 (NIV)
The verses above provide a great example to us of how we can tell our own story to others. The apostle Paul certainly had a story worth listening to … and so do you! I encourage you to share Jesus … start a conversation. And when you do, tell your story. It’s the story God himself has written for your life. There may be others that sound similar, but like your fingerprint there is not another one exactly like it. Reject mediocre … Be a FANATIC!