FOUR MOTIVATIONS TO SHARE MY FAITH

by Roger Severino

 

I have a confession to make. Though I work in vocational ministry as a minister in a church, I am not drawn to canned approaches to evangelism, or programmatic ways of sharing my faith. I’m not saying God cannot use these approaches, and I do believe there are Christians who are gifted in using these methods. For me, I often feel like a salesman or someone peddling his wares. Having said that, there are things that motivate me to engage in sharing my faith. Here are a few:

  1. God is both Holy and Merciful. The holiness of God is a reminder that He is perfect and perfectly just. The apostle John put it this way: “God is light and there is absolutely no darkness in Him.” God’s perfect justice is good news because we know that righteousness will ultimately prevail in this world, but it is bad news in that my sin and evil thoughts, intents, and actions must be addressed. There is a Judgment Day in which everyone will stand before a holy God. Fortunately, there is more good news. “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”[1] God was in Christ providing the way of forgiveness and reconciliation, and now gives me the privilege of joining with Him in this ministry of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).
  2. God Values Lost Things. I think I heard pastor Bill Hybels first share this phrase in unpacking Luke 15. In this passage, we learn about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (or sons, if you factor in the older brother). When the lost sheep and lost coin are found, there is celebration. Jesus teaches that “in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”[2] When the prodigal son comes home, the father (or Father, if we remember that this figure represents God) celebrates because his son was lost and is now found. These stories Jesus told remind me that God cares about my unbelieving friends, neighbors, and family members even more than I do. He loves them and longs for them to be found.
  3. Jesus’ Example of Loving Sinners. Whether it was joining a party with Levi (Matthew) and his friends known as sinners (Luke 5:29-32) or allowing the “sinful woman” to wash his feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), there is ample evidence that Jesus loved sinners. This truth is a reminder that unbelievers are not the enemy, but rather victims of the Enemy. Christians can distort this truth when we develop an “us vs. them” mentality and treat unbelievers as opponents to be fought against. There is one Adversary. Question: Do we love those who have different beliefs, morals, and values than we do? Do we love those who vote differently or advocate for causes contrary to what we believe? Do we show them the love of Christ and pray for their salvation?
  4. I am Commanded and Privileged to Work with God in Reaching the Lost. Jesus commissions all believers to share the good news with the entire world (see Matthew 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8). Why would I withhold this from anyone I love? My only responsibility is to be a witness; not a prosecutor. I can leave the results to God. He promises to be with me and to empower me by His Holy Spirit. It is a privilege in that I have the opportunity to participate with God in His work in the lives of others. I must, however, be willing and obedient to join Him in this work.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ro 5:8.
[2] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Lk 15:10.

A WORKING DEFINITION OF WORSHIP

by Roger Severino

When I was in seminary, I was encouraged to develop a working definition of worship that I could modify as needed over time. What I came up with is probably not original to me. Here’s my definition: “Worship is a response to who God is and what He has done for us.” OK, let’s break that down.

  1. “Response.” A response means that worship is the “effect” side of a cause-and-effect relationship. Many of our modern worship songs want to rush us to the “effect” side of the equation without giving proper focus to the “cause.” The lyrics express some feeling of emotion (love, gratitude, awe) without showing us the reason for this type of reaction. We have not yet contemplated who God is nor what He has done for us, and yet we are guided into a response. There is nothing wrong with emotions; at some level, our emotions should be touched by genuine worship. Worship, however, is not merely an emotional catharsis to make us feel better. It’s not about us. God is the focus.
  1. “Who God is.” Idolatry is when we worship something or someone other than the one true God. God is not merely an abstract notion such as Love or Peace. Yes, God is love (1 John 4:8) and we have peace with God through our faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). Yet, when we limit God to one characteristic, we can end up with a God who is love but not holy, or a God who brings peace but not division. When we worship, we need to make sure that we are responding to the God revealed by Jesus Christ and by Holy Scripture, and not merely a God I have made in my own image.
  1. “What He has done for us.” Often, the Psalms offer worship and praise to God by recounting His saving acts, whether reflecting on how God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt, or a more personal remembrance of God’s salvation in the life of the psalmist. When we worship God, we too remember all He has done for us. For those of us on this side of salvation history, we reflect on the saving act of God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. We recount how He raised us from spiritual death to new life in Christ. We tell of the sufficiency of the cross to pay for all our sins and to reconcile us to God. We praise God for the gift of His Spirit who indwells us and empowers us for God’s work in the world. Worship is being appropriately astonished by God’s grace and voicing gratitude and praise. Genuine worship should not merely be an experience but should lead to spiritual transformation.

Finally, worship is not limited to an event (i.e. Sunday morning worship) or to singing.  Worship is much, much greater than a church service or merely singing psalms, hymns, or spiritual songs. Worship is a lifestyle. Offering our lives to God as living sacrifices is perhaps our greatest spiritual act of worship (see Romans 12:1).

FIVE REASONS TO GIVE GENEROUSLY FROM 2 CORINTHIANS 8

by Roger Severino
  1. It is a joy and privilege to participate in God’s work by giving generously of my resources (2 Corinthians 8:1-4). Paul tells the Corinthians that the Macedonian churches gave generously during a time of affliction. They gave beyond their ability and out of their joy begged “for the privilege to share in the ministry to the saints.” We will spend our money on something, and there is no shortage of wants and needs begging for our attention. Giving to the Lord and His work, however, is such a privilege and joy because we have the opportunity to participate in God’s work in the world and invest in something that has eternal dividends.
  1. Giving generously can be evidence that I have given myself first to the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5). It is possible to be a generous giver to the church and be outside the Kingdom of God. Perhaps someone believes he can “buy off God” to cover for his sins and wrongdoing. This is impossible. The only payment worthy of paying for our sins is the unblemished sacrifice of God’s Son, and we must respond to this invitation by faith. But if I am someone who has given my all to the Lord, one evidence of this is to give sacrificially of my resources, recognizing that it all belongs to God. That is what the Macedonian Christians did. They gave themselves first to the Lord, and then gave of their resources for God’s work.
  1. Just as I should strive to excel in all areas of spiritual growth, I should also excel in giving generously (2 Corinthians 8:6-8). Sometimes we try to separate our money from other areas of life, like faith, speech, knowledge, and love (see verse 7). But Paul says that we should not only strive to grow and excel in these areas, but also to abound in the grace of giving. Sometimes our spending decisions and habits can tell more about our values and faith than just about anything else. It can be a test of our genuineness (see verse 8).
  1. Jesus is the example of sacrificial and generous giving (2 Corinthians 8:9). “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: Though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.”[1] In what sense was Jesus rich and then became poor? Perhaps Philippians 2 says it best: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”[2] Because of Jesus’ poverty, many are made rich.
  1. Generous giving is not measured by equal gifts, but the equality of sacrifice (2 Corinthians 8:10-15). In giving generously, we don’t have to worry about what we don’t have; we are only responsible for what we have (see verse 12). Some will have more resources than we do, others will have less. As each one gives generously to the Lord’s cause, the pooling of our resources will result in greater work for God’s Kingdom.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), 2 Corinthians 8:9.
[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Philippians 2:5–8.