Use Your Tongue to Communicate, Not Impress

 Acts 2:8-14 (NASB)       “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

             And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”  But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.

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                    The Holy Spirit’s role in a believer’s life is illustrated here at Pentecost.  It is very clear that He is committed to enabling the follower of Christ to speak to others in a way that can be understood (“our own tongues”).  He is also concerned about the substance of our communication.  He wants us to talk about Him and what He has done (“the mighty deeds of God.”)  There you have it!  God’s intent is always to empower followers of Jesus Christ to communicate more clearly and effectively to others and to insure that the focus would be on God and His activity (“speaking of the mighty deeds of God”).

On the other hand, we want to make it all about the sensational – the ability to instantaneously speak another language.  We want to focus on God’s methods of communication rather than the substance and goal of the conversation. 

                  God’s miraculous intervention should enhance, not cloud God’s purposes. Something is wrong when people are more concerned about their, and your, ability to “speak in tongues” than in connecting another person to Jesus Christ.  These “tongues” were given to draw attention to the message that Peter would give at that moment.  This gift was not given as a way to rate one’s spirituality.  God’s purpose is to draw all men to Himself…and He will do what is necessary in and through His people to make that happen.

FOCUS VERSUS FEELINGS

 

John 12:27-30 (NASB) “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes.

 

         Jesus was fully God and fully man.  He was perfect and innocent, yet vulnerable and emotional.  He also never forgot why He was here.  Jesus knew He had come to sacrifice His life so that we might live.  This doesn’t mean that He carried out this mission stone-faced and without feeling.  In fact, the Bible says He was “troubled” within.  So troubled, that He considered asking the Father to save Him from this hour. 

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But Jesus refused to alter His course or make decisions solely based upon His feelings and emotional status.  He admitted that His soul had become “troubled” as He thought about the journey to the cross.  He seriously considered the option of asking His Father to stop this train from going any further, but did not.

 

He was able to stay the course and select the right path by choosing to stay focused on His purpose for being there. “But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.”  He made the decision to proceed by remembering why He was there.  He made the decision to live out God’s perfect plan, one that would result in His death; but also glorify His Father in Heaven.  And because He denied Himself and chose to die for us, we are now able to live.

 

Following Jesus as a “Fisher of Men” will cost you personally.  There will be many times when you will not feel like going where God leads.  Emotions are important but they cannot be the determining factor on whether you will share your faith and live like a “Fisher of Men.”  It will often require that you change your personal plans and agenda in order to fit into God’s Divine appointments.  Are you willing to stay focused on the Great Commission?  Even if you don’t “feel” like it?

Following Jesus Is a Journey Down Relationship Road

Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”  (Matt 4:19)  That means if you follow Him, it will require spending time with others.  Your life, as a follower of Jesus, must involve proactive investments in people.  Being an introvert or task-oriented person doesn’t excuse you from this God-given mission.

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Below are some tips on developing and cultivating relationships that I’ve found helpful.  Investing your life in others tends to produce a lot of new friendships.  As you become a friend to others, you’ll discover that it is so much easier to tell that friend about your other FRIEND, named Jesus.

 

TIPS ON DEVELOPING RELATIONSHIPS


1.     Get interested in others and initiate conversations.

Philippians 2:4 (NLT) Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.

Proverbs 18:1 (MSG) Loners who care only for themselves spit on the common good.

                                                                                                      

2.     Be a good listener and try to understand.

James 1:19 (TLB) Dear brothers, don’t ever forget that it is best to listen much, speak little, and not become angry

Proverbs 20:5 (NIV) The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

 

3.     Be a cheerful person and be sure to tell your face that you’re happy.

Proverbs 15:13 (MSG) A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.

 

4.     Accept people unconditionally and be patient as you let God do the changing.

Romans 15:7 (NIV) Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God..

 

5.     Help people feel significant by valuing them and pointing out their value to God.

Romans 12:10 (NIV) Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Philippians 2:3 (HCSB) Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.

                                                                                                    

6.     Sympathize with people and demonstrate your care for them.

Romans 12:15 (HCSB) Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.

Romans 12:15 (LB) When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow.

 

7.     Stick with them during the tough times.

Proverbs 18:24 (TLB) There are “friends” who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 17:17 (MSG)  Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families stick together in all kinds of trouble.

 

8.     Be ready to point them to Jesus when they admit their need.

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB) But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.

Simplifying the Life of a Fisher of Men

Luke 24:45-53 (NASB) Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 “You are witnesses of these things. 49 “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising God.

 

                  Jesus, in His last moments with the disciples, summed up the significance of His life on earth and their future purpose for living.  These final words of Jesus are very significant…as is the response of the disciples.

 

                  Jesus first reminds them of His intentional role in fulfilling Biblical prophecy.  He also reiterated how He met the demands of sin’s judgment by sacrificially offering Himself on the Cross and that He arose again on the third day. 

 

Next He spells out the mission of His followers.  They are to proclaim the need of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  This message is to be taken to “all the nations” and that it be delivered in the “name” of Jesus.  They are to begin immediately where they were, Jerusalem, but to wait until the Holy Spirit would “clothe them with power from on high.”  He next took them to Bethany, blessed them, and then ascended into heaven. 

 

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The disciple’s response was to worship Him (there was no doubt that He was God), return to Jerusalem with “great joy” (it affected their attitude and disposition) and then regularly meet in the temple to praise God together (they saw the importance of corporate worship). 

 

                  These 8 verses illustrate the simplicity of life for a fisher of men.  Jesus took care of our sin, we are to pass this message on to those who don’t know what He did and continue to praise and worship God with other believers. So, what are you waiting for?

If The End Is Near…

  “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint.”                   1 Peter 4:7-9 (NASB)

This passage is an important reminder of the urgency of the times.  We dare not waste a moment.  We are to exercise “sound judgment” and maintain a “sober spirit.”

A “sober spirit” means we never lose sight of the countdown until His return.  Every second past is gone forever…it means one less second to connect people to Christ.

“Sound judgment” means that we do not presume to know exactly when the last second will occur.  So we continue to move forward while maintaining a winning pace.  A long distance runner will save his final sprint to the finish line until he knows exactly where the finish line is.  To sprint earlier is to run out of steam early in humiliation and actually result in losing the race.

This passage also says that  “Sound judgment” and a “sober spirit” should produce a “fervent love for others” and ultimately “cover a multitude of sins.” As people respond to the gospel message we share there will be much forgiveness and cleansing of sin.  We thus become a people who are known for our commitment to a “ministry of reconciliation.”  (2 Corinthians 5)  The end times should expose our urgency to connect people to Christ rather than efforts to remodel the ministries of a church.

As we move forward and follow Christ as a “fishers of men” three attitudes need to be maintained.  As we proactively nurture a “sober spirit” and “sound judgment” we dare not allow ourselves to be distracted from three attitudes that significantly enhance our ability to lead a person to Jesus Christ.

 

1.  “fervent love” –  this is an intense desire for others to experience God’s call and plan for their life.  A willingness to sacrifice personally in order for others to experience it will be required from every fisher of men.

2.  “hospitable” – this a willingness to initiate relationships.  We cannot wait for relationships to just happen.  A welcoming and inclusive attitude are absolutely essential.

3.  “without complaint” – this is not allowing a person’s initial rejection of your love and hospitality to detour you from the ultimate goal of connecting a persona to Jesus.  Unconditional love is just that…unconditional.  Our willingness to share the Gospel must not be determined by the anticipated response.

We are called by Jesus to be “fishers of men.”  The end is near…when will you start fishing?

Does It Hurt?

Acts 4:1-4 (NASB)
1 As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, being greatly disturbed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them and put them in jail until the next day, for it was already evening.
4 But many of those who had heard the message believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.

The apostles, Peter and John, experienced persecution for following and talking about Jesus Christ. It was the norm as you can see in this passage from Acts 4. Twenty centuries later, nothing has changed.

Globally, it is not unusual for followers of Jesus to be persecuted for their faith. When I say “their faith”, I am not merely referring to what one believes in his mind or heart but also how his faith affects his lifestyle. Jesus, in no uncertain terms, told his followers that following Him would involve “fishing for men” (Matt 4:19). They were to “make disciples” (Matt 28:19) and to “be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the world (Acts 1:8). Bottom-line: followers of Jesus tell others of Jesus and encourage them to follow Him.

Following Jesus involves sharing the Gospel. This past week, in a conversation with a missionary our church supports, I was told that followers of Jesus in Southeast Asia expect to be persecuted. They believe the Bible clearly mandates the sharing of their faith and that, by doing so in their country, they should expect to be persecuted. Doing so in their country is illegal…yet following Jesus requires loyalty and obedience to Him.

I was told that followers of Jesus in those areas are suspicious of others who claim to be Christians but are not persecuted. If they are not persecuted, they assume, it is because they are not sharing their faith. They rightly wonder how one could be a follower of Jesus and not share his faith.

Followers of Jesus in the United States have religious freedoms that so many others do not. Yet, with these freedoms, we often elevated values such as political correctness and tolerance above our mandate to share the truth of the Gospel. Followers of Jesus have unfortunately become a “silent” believers, with a few exceptions. In fact, I hear people excuse their silence with “I don’t have the gift of evangelism.” Unfortunately, too many believe that this is acceptable. It is not. In fact, it is tragic for this nation.

Followers of Jesus are to be spokesmen and ambassadors for the King. We are called to speak out. The message may be rejected and often the messenger along with the message. It may hurt. But it is our calling on while on this earth. Will you allow the possibility of pain determine your obedience to the King that you profess to follow?

BEWARE OF THE GRACE DOOR SLAMMER

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” James 4:6 (NASB)

 

Grace is that one ingredient that enables a person to change. Once received, it changes your heart, empowers you to change your behavior, and enables you to live out the life you were made for.  With it, intimacy with God is a reality.  It is the key to eternal life.  And the best part – GRACE is easily obtained and freely given by God.

 

Even though it’s easily accessible it was quite expensive.  So expensive that you and I could never afford it.  That’s why Jesus had to die on a cross.  Holiness demands justice and sin demands a payment of death.  Jesus gave His life in exchange for ours.  Some have therefore defined GRACE with this acrostic:

 

God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

 

So, you may ask, if it does so much and is so easily accessible to us why doesn’t everyone grab it and run with it?

 

The answer is a simple one – we are born sinners.  The consequences of sin in the Garden of Eden have been passed on to all of us and transformed us into self-centered, self-absorbed, and grace-repelling creatures.  The apostle Paul put it this way,

 

“Professing to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures…For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…” Romans 1:22-25 NASB

 

The door slammer to the entrance where grace is distributed is called PRIDE.  The reason we fall short of God’s incredible plan for our lives is sinful pride.  God loves us and offers forgiveness and a new start.  And yet, our pride keeps us from becoming a recipient of His amazing GRACE.

 

PRIDE REPELS GRACE.  But, HUMILITY INVITES GRACE.

 

“Fishers of men” would do well to remember this truth.  Once you’ve received His grace, you can’t imagine why anyone would reject it.  But never forget how long you rejected it before you humbled yourself and received it.  When sharing Jesus Christ with others, be patient, be gentle, communicate clearly, and don’t take their rejection personally.  When they reject the message of grace, they are slamming a door shut that God, not you, has opened.

 

The “fisher of men” must continue to encourage the one in need of grace to go through the door that God has opened.  It will require that they humble themselves before God.  It is never easy…but there is no other way.

 

Grace Compels You To Share The Gospel

“But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24 (NASB)

Grace completely changes you.  Once received, it creates within you the desire and provides the power to live out the purposes of God.  That means your attitudes, your thoughts, your speech, and your behavior is affected.  Once you’ve tasted of the forgiveness of God and experienced intimacy in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ you never get over it.  And you want everyone else to experience it.  That’s what GRACE does.

The Apostle Paul was consumed with a desire to know God and make Him known.  Grace radically changed him.  He went from being a persecutor of GRACE recipients to becoming a GRACE consumer himself.  In fact, grace changed his focus from self to others.  He said, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself…to testify…of the gospel of the grace of God.”

Fishers of men” are followers of Jesus who drink regularly from the faucet of grace.  The great news is that it is freely given by God and without limit.  Living by grace compels you to share the Gospel with others.  You can’t help yourself.

So, ask yourself a question.  Are you really willing to do whatever it takes to introduce others to Jesus?  If not, when was the last time you went to the “throne of grace to receive some grace?” Isn’t it about time to take another drink?

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”   Hebrews 4:16 (NASB)

Grace Given To Those Who Know They Are Needy

“Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.”   Proverbs 3:34 (NASB)

God gives grace to the “afflicted.” The word “afflicted” comes from a Hebrew word, “Anav,” that means, “poor, afflicted, humble, and meek.” Do you see a common theme?  God responds to needy people who cry out for help in spite of their natural impulse to try to fight through or fix their own problems.  To be afflicted is to experience a TEACHABLE MOMENT.

 

The “fisher of men” needs to remember that he cannot convince a person of his or her need for a Savior.  This is something that only the Holy Spirit can do.  Once a person is convicted of their sin and their need for a Savior, then they are in position to repent and receive the gift of eternal life.  That is a TEACHABLE MOMENT

 

A “fisher of men” is wise to watch for “afflicted” characteristics as he shares the Gospel.   Noticing this characteristic will reinforce the urgency of the moment and encourage you as you share the Gospel and encourage a response of repentance and faith.  Never forget that success as a “fisher of men” can be summed up as:

 

Sharing the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;”         John 16:8 (NASB)

Grace Neutralizes Bitterness and Trouble

“See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”                         Hebrews 12:15 (NASB)

Fishers of Men,” by definition, are people who interact with others.  The nature of this God-given assignment called “witnessing” requires the initiation of and development of relationships.  When a relationship is broken, conversations between the two become meaningless, divisive, unfruitful, reactive, and defensive.

Sharing the Gospel requires a conversation between people who have a level of trust.  If the trust level between the “fisher of men” and another person is violated or defiled, then receptivity to the Gospel message will be lacking.  Fishing for men is not simply the exercise of an academic recitation of Gospel truths.  It is always delivered within a package called a “relationship.”  Therefore it is essential that you become GRACE dependent.  You must see that you can’t live without it.

It is so important that the “fisher of men” regularly drink from God’s reservoir of GRACEGRACE dissolves bitterness and replaces it with compassion and mercy.  GRACE prevents relationships from becoming “defiled.”  GRACE actually protects a relationship.  This is because GRACE is God’s empowerment.  GRACE produces the desire and power to do things God’s way.

Where do you get this GRACE and how do you get it?  According to Hebrews 4:16, the name of God’s throne is that of GRACE.  Whenever you approach God and pray, you position yourself to become a recipient of GRACE.

GRACE is necessary for salvation (Ephesians 2:8) and it is also necessary for the successful fishing for men.  Success must always start with God’s GRACE, is accomplished with God’s GRACE and culminates with God’s GRACE.

“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of GRACE, so that we may receive mercy and find GRACE to help in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16