Freely You Have Received, Freely Give

Paul had made a huge u-turn. But this u-turn had not been Paul’s doing. Not at all.

Paul had not chosen to make the turn. Jesus had chosen to take hold of and capture Paul’s heart — and thus turn him around. In fact, he would do more than turn Paul’s life around. He would turn it upside down as well.

As Paul explains many years later to a large crowd in front of the gates of the temple in Jerusalem, he had devoted his life to persecuting the followers of Jesus, “arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison.” (Acts 22:4, NIV). Paul acknowledges he would have been completely content to continue on this track of persecution.

But as Paul was going to a city named Damascus to find and arrest more Christ-followers, Jesus came and personally turned Paul away from this life of attacking his followers.

There on the road, he called for Paul to repent and stop persecuting him (interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus here equates persecuting his followers to persecuting him?). Jesus called Paul to put his faith in him as the true Messiah.

And right there on that dusty road, Jesus gave Paul the very thing he was demanding of him. Jesus gave him repentance and faith.

A few days later, a man named Ananias was sent by Jesus to speak with Paul in Damascus. In his conversation with Paul, he made one thing very clear…

Paul had been freely given a gift. And now Paul was to freely give away that same incredible gift to others.

And turn even more lives upside down.

“Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard'” (Acts 22:14-15, NIV).

Lord Jesus, you have given me the wonderful gift of faith. I know you as my Lord and Savior. This is all your doing, not mine. I would gladly have stayed on my sinful track. But you called me away from a life of sin to a life of following you. Now that I have been freely given forgiveness, faith and salvation, move my heart to freely give away these wonderful gifts to others I meet.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, July 2, is 2 Kings 4:38 – 6:23, Acts 21:27 – 22:21 and Psalm 79:1-13.

Header image based on "Give me..." by Matthias Ripp, CC By 2.0

Powerful Tools and a Thoughtful Process

Paul was now on his second missionary journey. He had developed a methodical process for sharing the gospel.

He knows where he wants to begin. He would start with those who already had a base of knowledge about the true God — the Jews. In this way, he could quickly build up a congregation in a city or town. He would begin with people who were already mature in their faith in God, but simply needed to hear that God’s messianic promises had been fulfilled in Jesus.

He’s willing to invest time. In the case of the Thessalonians, he would devote three weeks showing the Jewish people that Jesus is the long-promised Messiah. His goal was to keep the conversation going from one Sabbath to the next, and then to the next.

He’s clear about his approach. Paul doesn’t argue. He doesn’t preach at the people from on high. Rather he simply “reasons with them” using the Scriptures as the basis for his reasoning. He explains the Old Testament prophecies and their fulfillments.

And finally, his goal is firmly in mind. He desires to demonstrate clearly — “to prove,” as Luke writes — that Jesus is truly the Messiah.

Generally, whenever we are using a powerful tool or instrument, it’s a good thing to have a process. Doctors have processes as they practice surgery. Special forces have processes as they utilize advanced weaponry to carry out a mission. Contractors have processes as they use heavy machinery or power tools to build homes.

Christians have powerful tools at their disposal too. The Bible. Baptism. The Lord’s Supper. These are supernaturally filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. And they have the capability of conveying the Spirit into the hearts of the people who listen to them and put them into practice.

Do you have a process, like Paul did, as you go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20, NIV)? 

Consider using Paul’s process…

  1. Know where you want to begin. Write down the names of some people you want to start with. Put that list in a place where you will see it regularly. Pray for them. And then, when the timing is right, begin to share your faith with them. Or, like Paul, think of a place that might be conducive to sharing your faith. At CrossWalk we have Bible classes at Starbucks, and guests sometimes just come and join us!
  2. Be willing to invest time. The Holy Spirit often does his work slowly and gradually. Just keep the conversation going. Use today’s conversation to set up the next one.
  3. Be clear about your approach. And there is no one right approach. The power is in the word and sacraments, not the approach. That being said, there is a lot to be said for an approach that is not argumentative or “preachy.” Use Biblical truth and reason with people on the basis of the Scriptures.
  4. Keep the true goal firm in your mind. You want people to hear about Jesus, about his grace, forgiveness, mercy and steadfast love. You may need to set this up by showing people their need for a Savior. But the goal is never to moralize or show someone how to be better in their own strength or wisdom. The goal is always to bring the grace and peace of Jesus to troubled hearts.

“As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,’ he said” (Acts 17:2-3, NIV).

Jesus, help me to carry out the Great Commission you have given us to make disciples. Thank you for the powerful tools you have put at my disposal — the word and sacraments. Help me to have a wise and thoughtful process for putting them to use in my life, so that I can glorify you in the world, and share the love of Jesus with others.

Our Bible reading for Friday, June 26, is 1 Kings 16:8 – 18:15, Acts 17:1-21 and Psalm 78:9-16.

Header image based on "Black & Decker Circular Saw" by Mark Hunter, CC By 2.0