Engage People Where They Are With The Gospel

The City

Acts 17 provides one picture of how Paul evangelized the lost. In the city of Athens, we learn he went to the synagogue to engage the Jews on the Sabbath, and the rest of the week he went to the marketplace to engage the more secular minded.

The Market Place was this huge open air area in the middle of town where everyone gathered for business, arts, buying and selling, or just to hang out with their friends. We don’t really have anything like it today. Technology has allowed us to spread out and do all these things from the comfort of our office or home.

However, in Paul’s day, the Market Place was were everything happened. It was where everyone gathered. I would imagine Paul walking around the Market Place, getting to know folks there, and then engaging small groups here and there with the gospel.

Today we should do the same.We should reach out, build relationships with folks, and engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis. Our Market Place might look different than Paul’s. Instead of everything huddled into one area, it’s spread out. We work in one part of town, shop in another, eat and drink our coffee someone else.

Even though our Market Place looks different than Paul’s, I believe the principle still applies. We should do what Paul did — reach out, build relationships with folks, and then engage them with the gospel where they are on a daily basis.

Question for Reflection

  1. How do you build relationships in your market place?

Resources

Post adapted from the sermon: Spread the Gospel – Growth Through Discipleship – Week 5

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How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 4

This last week, I have been discussing conflict. I have dealt with where conflict occurs (Part 1), why we need to get rid of conflict (Part 2), and I gave 8 ways to get rid of conflict (Part 3). In this last post, I want to provide you with encouragement.

Conflict Doesn’t Mean We Will Lose Our Salvation

We know that conflict is going to happen. We are sinners, who will disagree and argue with each other. Just because conflict is going to happen doesn’t mean that we should not deal with it. We have already seen that we should. Even though conflict is going to occur, it’s occurrence doesn’t mean we will lose our salvation.

In other words, we don’t have to be perfect. Notice at the end of in verse 3 Paul tells us that these two women’s names are in the book of life.

Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

What is the book of life, how do we get our names in it, and what does the existence of the book tell us?

First, what is the book of life?

You all have seen the cartoons where Peter is standing at the Pearly Gates as people come to enter heaven. What is normally before him is a book. In the cartoon, the book acts like a guest list to a party. If your name is on the list, then you are in. If it is not, well, you are excluded. While the cartoon’s depiction of Peter standing at the Pearly Gates checking to see if your name is in the book of life is probably not how it happens, the book of life is a reality.

Revelation 20:11-15 says,

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

From this text we learn that the book of life is a list of all those who will experience eternal life. If your name is in it, you will experience eternal life. If it is not, you will experience eternal damnation.

Second, how do we get our names in the book?

There are criteria that need to be met. We must believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

We must understand why Jesus came to die.

The reason He had to die is because we are all sinners. We all have rebelled against God. We have all turned our back on Him. None of us are righteous, not one of us. We can’t earn that righteousness. There are no amount of works that we can do to make ourselves righteous. The only way that we can be made righteous is through our belief in Jesus Christ.

We have to admit we are sinners, repent of our sins, and trust in Jesus Christ.

All those who believe that they are sinners and repent of that sin. All those who believe that Jesus by His sacrifice on the cross paid the price for our sins, and all those who confess that Jesus is their Savior, trusting that His sacrifice on the cross was sufficient to pay the price for their sins will be saved, their relationship with God will be restored, and they will experience eternal life.

All those who understand why Jesus came to die, admit they are sinners, repenting of that sin, and trust in Jesus Christ will have their names written in the book of life.

Third, what does the existence of the book tell us?

It tells us that once our name are written in the book of life, they are not removed. They are just as permanent as the words on the page in the Bible sitting on your shelf at home.

The permanence of our names is important to remember as we experience conflict with others, because conflict, or any other sin that we may commit as Christians, doesn’t remove our names from the Book of Life. God doesn’t have a cosmic eraser He takes to the page every time we mess up. In Christ our relationship is secure.

There are several reasons it is important for us to remember our names are permanently written in the book of life:

  1. It is important to remember so we don’t fall into a works based righteousness, thinking we have to do something to keep our names in the book.
  2. It is also important to remember so that we will not try to hide our conflict with others.
  3. Lastly, it is important to remember because this knowledge should free us up to admit our sin because we know that Christ has paid the price for our sins, and we know that our sins will not remove our names from the Book of Life.

So then the existence of the book creates a sense of permanence, which should keep us from acting self-righteously, and it should free us up to deal with our conflict head on.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Do you believe your name is written in ink in the Book of Life and cannot be removed?
  2. Have you ever thought conflict or other sins would remove your name from the book of life?
  3. Have you trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior?
  4. Do you understand why He had to die in your place?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

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How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 3

In part two of this series, I gave 5 reasons we need to rid conflict from among ourselves. Today I want to give you 8 ways to rid conflict from among us.

8 Ways to Rid Conflict from Among Us

Here is where the gospel comes to bare on our everyday lives. Up to this point in our letter, Paul has been explaining and expanding on the gospel. So let’s take some of what Paul has taught us in Philippians and apply it to this situation because that is exactly what Paul wants the Philippians to do.

In Chapter 2 Paul gives us the means by which we can be unified with one another. There he grounds his exhortation in the example of Christ, and in verses 5-11, he essentially gives us a gospel outline. Let’s look at the gospel outline before we dive into the 8 ways to rid conflict from among us.

The Gospel Outline:

INCARNATION – Jesus left heaven, came to earth, where He was a servant and lived a perfect life as a man. The king took up residence with those in His kingdom.

THE CROSS  But not only did the king take up residence with the people in His kingdom. He also went to the cross for them. So we have the second part of our gospel outline, which is: Jesus’ death on the cross

THE RESURRECTION/EXALTATION/REIGN – But things did not end there. Jesus was resurrected after three days, after which He was exalted by the Father to reign over His people. So we have the third component to our gospel outline: Jesus’ resurrection, exaltation, and reign.

As we look at this outline, and the text there in chapter 2 we learn a number of things about how to handle conflict and be unified with one another:

(1) We are to humbly count others to be more significant than ourselves

Jesus counted us to be more significant than Himself. So much so that He left His heavenly abode, took up the body of a man with all its sufferings, hardships, diseases, heartaches, and death. Then He willingly went to the cross to pay the price for mankind’s sins when He could have skipped out on it. But you remember what He said to the Father in the garden,

Not my will, but yours.”

And with that, He subjected Himself to beatings, ridicule, and death.

So then, because Jesus counted others to be more significant than Himself. We are to do the same. When we do, we remind ourselves that everything is not about us, which is often why there is conflict in the first place. You see, counting others more significant than ourselves kills our pride and shows us that others do matter.

(2) We are to do nothing from selfish-ambition

Jesus’ ambitions were not for Himself. He went to the cross for us. He told His disciples that the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve. We too are to be about the business of serving others, which means everything we do should not be for our own benefit.

Selflessness is important to practice because conflict occurs or continues when we seek our own benefit.

Occurs – It occurs because we want things our way. When someone hinders us from getting our own way, we feel offended and conflict ensues.

Continues – Conflict continues because we are not willing to concede our desires and wants. As well as it continues when we are not willing to confront the person who has offended us because we don’t like how uncomfortable it makes us.

When we do those things, we are allowing our own selfishness to take over. But that is not what the gospel models for us. Jesus died to Himself, so that we might live. We are to do the same. We are to die to our own wants and desires and feelings of uncomfortableness.

So, if we want to rid conflict from among ourselves, we have to kill our selfishness.

(3) We are to be humble not seeking to puff ourselves up

The gospel should humble us. Especially, when we think about salvation, because we did not save ourselves. When we are humble, we can admit our wrong, because we are not worried about our pride or our appearance.

Why?

Because we know that we are saved through the gospel and not through our own self-righteousness. We know that we are accepted in Jesus as sinners through faith alone. As sinners, we can admit our wrong. We can admit we have sinned against another and ask for forgiveness.

(4) We are to look out for the interests of others

Jesus looked out for our interests when He went to the cross to pay the price for our sins. He was not thinking about Himself. Rather, He was thinking about others and how He could benefit them. We are to do the same.

However, when there is conflict, we are not looking out for the interest of the other party we are in conflict with, nor are we looking out for the interest of those who need the gospel. We are only thinking of our own interests.

When conflict occurs or continues because we are only thinking of our own interests, accountability and growth in the church body will decrease, and we end up being a hindrance to the spread of the gospel.

All this means that if we want to remove conflict from among us, we must look out for the interests of others.

(5) We are to keep our gaze on heavenly things, not earthly things

In Philippians 2:10-11, Paul tells us that one day every knee will bow to Jesus when He returns. As well in Philippians 3:20 he tells us that our citizenship is in heaven and we are to focus on that citizenship.

When our focus is on heavenly things, we see this world for what it really is:

(1) Sinful – By realizing this world is sinful, we know that others will sin against us. This knowledge doesn’t make their sin any less hurtful, but it does mean that we don’t expect perfection. And when others do sin against us, we can forgive them knowing that they are not perfect just like we are not perfect.

(2) Temporary – By realizing this world is temporary, we know that a greater hope awaits in the future – a life everlasting. Those things that we put all our hope in on this earth are revealed for what they really are – temporary! So why argue and fight over temporary things? Our citizenship is in heaven. Our hope is there.

(6) We are to pray for one another

Paul is always praying for the Philippians. He opens his letter with a prayer for them. He tells them that he prays for them every time he remembers them.

We should use Paul’s example of prayer as a model. When conflict arises, we are to pray for the other person and ourselves. We are to pray that God would reveal our sins to us, and that God would reveal their sins to them.

(7) We are to include a third-party to help us mediate the conflict

In verse 3, Paul tells another person in the church, presumable an elder, to assist in the matter. This is important because when it comes to conflict, we often think that we are right and the other person is wrong. We don’t see our fault. We only see theirs. So we need a third party to help mediate the conflict, further the conversation, as well as provide scriptural counsel.

(8) Lastly, we are to preach the gospel to ourselves

By reminding ourselves of the gospel:

  • We remind ourselves of numbers 1-6.
  • We remind ourselves of Christ’s actions, which we should follow.
  • We remind ourselves that this world is not all there is.
  • We remind ourselves that God forgave us, so we should forgive others.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Can you think of another gospel-centered way to deal with conflict?
  2. Have you experienced conflict in your church? If so, which one of these points relates to your experience?
  3. How might you counsel someone who is currently dealing with conflict?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

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How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 2

In part one of this series, I brought out the fact that conflict can and does happen in the church, even among solid believers, who are laboring for the gospel.

Today I want to give you five reasons we need to rid conflict from among ourselves.

5 Reasons We Need to Rid Conflict from Among Ourselves

In verse 2 of Philippians 4, Paul strongly appeals to Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mindset in the Lord. Then in verse 3, he asks the person he calls a “true companion” to help these women work out their differences. The fact that Paul includes this specific situation in the letter, appeals to these women publicly to work on their disagreement, and asks the church’s elder to help, tells us it is important for us to rid conflict from among ourselves.

So let’s ask and answer the question: Why is it so important for us to deal with conflict when it arises?

(1) Conflict hinders family unity

Those who are in the Lord should be united because they are family. The same Lord has died for all of us. The same Lord has called us to Himself. The same Lord will return for us, and it is this same Lord that we will be united to and live forever with in the new creation.

So then, we all experience the same thing because we are all in the same family, and those in a family should not be in conflict with one another.

(2) Conflict hinders our care for one another 

As family, we are to take care of each other, looking out for one another’s well being. When there is conflict, we cannot and do not properly care for one another. Nor do we hold each other accountable, or minister to one another’s needs, whether they be physical or spiritual.

So then, we need to rid conflict from among us so we can properly care for one another.

(3) Conflict hinders our working together to spread and advance the gospel 

In verse 3, Paul reminds these two women that they have labored with him to advance the gospel, giving them a reason they should settle their differences. You see, those who are in conflict don’t have a desire to work with each other. When that occurs, gospel ministry is hindered.

So then, we need to rid conflict from among us so we can work together to spread and advance the gospel.

(4) Conflict hinders our witness to the community

In Philippians 2:14-15, Paul writes:

“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

Conflict hinders our ability to work together, as well as it hinders our appearance to the world. The gospel is supposed to change us. It is supposed to create a community of believers who love and care for one another. If there is conflict, and we allow it to stew, there will be no evidence of love and care for one another. This means that nothing positive comes out of extended conflict in the church. It just gives the world an excuse to write the church off.

Recently, I read an article in a European publication about a church that had major internal conflict. Their conflict was so bad that they had actually hired two preachers.

But that is not the half of it. These two groups still met in the same building at the same time. They constructed two different pulpits. One in front of each of the two aisles in the church.What was supposed to be a time for the church to be fed from the Word of God turned out to be nothing more than a shouting match as these two preachers took the pulpit at the same time.

Of course, the article did not have kind words to say about the two groups. The churches conflict became more of a media spectacle than anything, ruining their gospel influence in the community. While that is an extreme case, it shows that conflict in a the church does real damage to our witness.

So then, if we want to shine as lights in the world, we need to quickly rid conflict from our midst.

(5) Conflict hinders our ability to glorify Christ

As Christians, our purpose in this life is to glorify Christ. If we are in conflict with one another, relationships are hindered, the gospel is not spread, accountability and growth does not occur, and we are not a light to the world. All this means that we are not glorifying Christ.

So then, we need to rid conflict from among us so we will not hinder our ability to glorify Christ, which is our God-given purpose.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Can you think of another reason we should rid conflict from among us?
  2. Have you experienced conflict in your church? If so, which one of these points relates to your experience?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

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How the Gospel Deals with Conflict | Part 1

How do you handle conflict? 

  1. You might be like one guy I know who quickly and rashly confronts everyone who offends him, so much so that his nickname is lightning rod because he attracts so much conflict.
  2. You might be like another one of my friends who stuffs any offense against him, never confronting the person, just letting it stew.
  3. You might be the one who blows up on anyone who offends you. Yelling and screaming is second nature to you. As a result, your house is complete with holes in the wall and broken vases.

While we should and must deal with conflict, we should not deal with it in these ways.

So, how should we deal with conflict?

In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul uses the gospel to deal with conflict between Euodia and Syntyche. Apparently, they were in a disagreement. We are not told what that disagreement was over, or even who offended who. All we know is there is conflict that Paul seeks to rectify. In doing so, Paul does not tell these women to duke it out. Instead, he brings the gospel to bear on their situation. His gospel-centered counsel is exactly what I hope to bring out in this series.

Before we actually deal with how to handle conflict in a gospel-centered way, there are several things I want you to see first, and that is:

(1) Where conflict can occur.
(2) Why we need to rid conflict from among us.

After we look at both of those, we will then focus in on the how by looking at:

(3) How we can rid conflict from among us.

Before we leave the subject of conflict, I want to finish by taking up the subject of the Book of Life. From that discussion I want us to see that:

(4) Even though there is conflict, we are secure in our faith.

Now that you have the roadmap for this series, let’s begin today by seeing where conflict can occur.

Where Conflict Can Occur

First, conflict can and does occur in the church among believers.

It is apparent from the text that Euodia and Syntyche are believers. In verse 2 Paul implores them to be of the same mind “in the Lord.” Then in verse 3, Paul says that they have their “names in the book of life”. These statements by Paul shows us that these two ladies were believers. The fact that they were believers informs us that conflict can and does occurs among believers.

But you already knew that. I am sure you have experienced conflict in your church in the past. Whether it was small squabbles or large church splitting fights. Conflict is nothing new and it certainly is not unheard of.

But conflict not only occurs in the church among believers, conflict also can occur:

Second, among solid believers who are laboring for the gospel. 

Paul tells us in verse 3 that these two women

have labored side by side with him for the gospel”.

You see, Euodia and Syntyche were not your average back row Baptist quietly slipping in and out of church. They were involved. They worked side by side with Paul for the advancement of the gospel. They were in the trenches. Out proclaiming the gospel to their neighbors. They were probably persecuted, and maybe even jailed. And some commentators even considered them to hold places of leadership in the church.

All this tells us that conflict between Christians not only happens in the church, but it also happens among those who are working and laboring to advance the gospel to the community.

Conclusion

So then, we see that no matter our position, we must not think ourselves to be above conflict. It can happen to everyone. No matter how committed of a Christian.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you handle conflict? Do you resonant with any of the three scenarios in the introduction?
  2. Do you recognize that conflict does happen in the church?
  3. Have you ever thought that conflict doesn’t occur among committed Christians? Could that thinking be a form of denial?

Resources

A helpful resource to consult would be: Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Conflicts by Robert Jones

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10 Ways to Imitate the Godly

In Philippians 3:17, Paul commands us to imitate him. What are we to imitate about Paul? We are to imitate his mindset and actions. Paul’s letter to the Philippians gives us a good picture of who Paul is, how he thinks, and what he does. So let’s look at Paul’s minset and actions up to this point in the letter. In doing so, we will see 10 ways to imitate the godly.

 10 Ways to Imitate the Godly

(1) Paul constantly and fervently prays for others (1:1-11)

  • He thanks God for the salvation and growth of the Philippians. As well as he prays for the Philippians growth and perseverance.

(2) Paul proclaims the gospel (1:12)

  • He knows the gospel is the only means to renewal and restoration, so he relentlessly and continually proclaims the gospel, even in jail.

(3) Paul’s all consuming passion is to glorify Christ (1:12-30)

  • He doesn’t care what happens to him as long as the gospel is proclaimed he rejoices, which is why he can rejoice even when he is in jail, beaten, or killed for the gospel.

(4) Paul holds others accountable (2:2;14)

  • He rebukes the Philippians of their disunity, urging them to be unified with one another.

(5) Paul takes up the mindset of Christ (2:5-11)

  • He humbles himself, counts others more significant than himself, looks out for the interests of others, and he takes up the Father’s will for his life.

(6) Paul knows God is the One who empowers him to work in the Christian life (2:12-13)

  • He does not seek to live in a manner worthy of the gospel in his own power. He recognizes God is the one who empowers him, which keeps Paul humble and not prideful, and it also keeps him from becoming discouraged and quitting.

(7) Paul watches out for others souls (3:2)

  • He warns the Philippians of the dogs in their midst, taking care to inform them of their behavior and their error, so they will not be deceived.

(8) Paul sees the gospel as the only means of salvation (3:2-9)

  • He does not trust in his own achievements. Instead he sees his achievements as rubbish, and he counts everything he ever gained as a Pharisee loss for the sake of knowing Christ.

(9) Paul doesn’t believe he has arrived (3:12-13)

  • He knows that he still has room to grow, knowing that he does not fully know Christ yet.

(10) Paul strives and strains forward to Christ (3:12;14)

  • He keeps his eye on the prize, removing all distractions. He does not allow others to beat him into submission. He is constantly moving forward towards Christ, constantly straining forward.

That is the picture we get of Paul so far in Philippians, and those are the qualities and actions we should imitate. Second to Jesus Christ, he is to be our guide as to how we are to think and live because he reflects Christ.

Questions for Reflection

  1. Does your life resemble Paul’s?
  2. Is your life one that someone could imitate?
  3. Do you know that if your life does not resemble Paul’s, the Holy Spirit will empower you to grow in your Christian walk, so you don’t have to despair or beat yourself up.
  4. Do you believe all Christians should strive to imitate Paul, or do you think living sold out for Christ is reserved for the super Christian?

Resource

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