Few words are as powerful as ‘why?’ When it comes to what our neighbours think, ‘why?’ helps us understand. When discussing issues of importance with our neighbours without a Christian worldview, it also helps us, and maybe them, to see that the worldview they hold is founded on shifting sands.

Consider your average secular Aussie. They believe people are the result of millions of years of chance mutation and natural selection. In this worldview, we are no different from the animals, simply more highly evolved.

But if that is the case, why do they believe people have value? It is still innate in our neighbours to believe that people should be treated well, and they are outraged (rightly) by the abuse and violence they see. They are horrified by atrocities like child sexual abuse, rape, murder, and other acts of violence.

In the issue of abortion, there are women out there offended that their ‘rights’ over ‘their bodies’ are even being discussed, that abortion is still something to be debated. They believe that they should have bodily autonomy.

But why believe this? They have strong moral beliefs (some of them right, and some – like their commitment to abortion – is tragically wrong). But where do these come from?

According to their worldview, we are a random collection of molecules. Our thoughts are random chemical reactions in a random brain. So why do they act as if their belief about morality is so right? How can they trust it?

Their instinct that there is a true morality we should uphold (even if their understanding of it is woefully wrong) only makes sense in the Christian worldview, where people are made in God’s image (Gen 1:26). The next time you speak with someone and they make a morality claim, try asking them why.

Divine Addition

It’s always important to know what your role is. When you know your role, you know what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. When I worked at the front office of a building company, I knew my job. I sent out and paid invoices, took calls, and other minor tasks. My job was NOT to arrange a tradie to attend a job.

When it comes to evangelism, we can often be overwhelmed because we forget what our responsibilities are and what they are not. We are quick to be disheartened when we fail to see positive results, feeling like failures when invitations to church are rebuffed, or people remain as hard as ever despite our best efforts at answering objections.

But don’t feel discouraged. Consider Acts 2:47‘And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.’

Who is it that adds people to the church? Certainly not us. It is the Lord who adds to our number. It is him alone who brings people from their natural state of rebellion to humble submission and joyous reception of the gospel. Only he can bring the dead to life and give faith to his enemies.

All this happens in the context of gospel proclamation and loving, self-sacrificial service of course. God has chosen to act through his church. But what a comfort. My role is to proclaim and leave the results to him.

Does this mean we don’t need to evaluate our efforts? No! We should always be evaluating whether we are clear on the gospel, answering questions as well as possible, being kind and loving. But even when we do all things perfectly, it will always be up to the Lord to add to our number. May he add many.

The way to God

‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’ (1 Pet 3:18).

There are many opinions on how people can come to God. The more religious opinion is that you must work hard to balance the scales between your bad and good deeds. Every day is spent striving to be better than the one before, and spent worrying about the sins you committed. Whether you’re Catholic, Mormon, Muslim, or anything else, coming to God is based upon our works. Tragically, because it’s based on our performance, there can never be any assurance that we have done enough.

The more secular, or loosely religious, opinion (if they accept a God), is that coming to God is easy. It’s the belief that God will accept us (almost) no matter what we’ve done. His standards aren’t so high as those religious fundamentalists always suggest, he knows we’re not perfect, and he accepts us as we are.

But neither opinion is helpful, because both misrepresent God’s standards and our ability to reach them. God is holy, and he expects his people to be holy. He will accept nothing less than moral perfection. Despite what the secular/loosely religious thinks, God will not just brush off our sin like it’s nothing. This is a standard none of us can reach. We are all sinful, and a lifetime of good works will never outweigh one sin.

But there is a way, not earned by us, but provided by God. In his mercy he sent Christ who suffered for sins. By his death on the cross he bore the punishment for sin. He died for sinners, the unrighteous. Coming to God is a gift for those who trust Christ. This is a revolutionary message for us to proclaim.

Will you believe?

‘Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:36).

The Bible presents all people with a stark choice between two options. Only two. Will we believe in the Son, or not? Will we obey him, or not? And this choice divides humanity.

Of course, this choice isn’t what the world around us is insulted by. It’s the stated outcome of each choice that gets people up in arms. Believing in Jesus results in eternal life, but disobedience to the call to believe results in God’s wrath, judgement and hell.

This is unacceptable to our society, and illogical to a world that is increasingly moving away from believing in a binary, believing things are either A or B, and there is and nothing in between.

There were numerous times when I was in university ministry, presenting this verse to people. I would ask them which they were – were they believing in Jesus, or not? Were they living God’s way, having trusted in Jesus, submitting to him as King, and repented of sin? Or were they living their own way?

Repeatedly, people would say they were in the middle. They could see that the preferable option from this verse was to believe, because that resulted in life. But they were convinced they could have life without submitting to Jesus. So, they thought, they were in between. Not trusting in Jesus but getting life instead of wrath.

When we present the truth of the gospel to our neighbours, this is one belief we must undermine. You can’t be half pregnant. You either are or not. Binaries exist. Truth exists. You either have Jesus, or you face God’s wrath. What an important message we have.

Death or life

Death. It’s an event that fills people with fear, uncertainty and grief. Many around us are desperate to shut their eyes to it. While we include it in movies and TV shows to attempt to lessen our fear, we avoid thinking seriously about it as much as possible.

The way we deal with death is vastly different from our past. Death has been placed in the hands of the funeral industry. Caskets are closed. Funerals are a celebration of life but no longer also a time to mourn their loss.

But, as always, the Bible refuses to let us hide from the truth. Death is not merely a tragedy. As Paul says in Romans 6:23, ‘For the wages of sin is death.’ No matter how far we run, death is coming. It is the judgement of a holy God against sinners. All of us have rebelled against this life-giving God, which led to the entirely appropriate judicial sentence of death.

This is why we fear death. We know it is wrong, an intruder on what should be our experience of this world. We have an innate sense that we should live forever, which expresses itself in beauty products and medical technology.

Death is the wages that all of us are owed and will one day pay. But Paul continues in Romans 6:23, ‘But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Here is our hope. This is what a world full of people ignoring the realities of death need to hear. We all deserve death, but we can escape it. God in his mercy has provided a way. In Christ he died our death, so we could have life. But only if we are in Christ. What a story we have to tell the nations.

The only answer

Anyone who’s spent more than a second really thinking about life in this world knows there is something wrong. Live long enough and everyone’s experience is full of pain and heartbreak.

After recognising this pain, our question becomes, ‘how can it be fixed?’ We look to education and we wonder, if it were better would all the ills within society and me be eradicated?

One of our society’s greatest problems is that we don’t stop long enough to really consider what the cause of our problem is. This means that the ‘solutions’ will never be appropriate.

We must turn to the Bible to understand what the cause of our pain and heartbreak is, because it is there that God speaks and reveals what we would prefer hidden. And in the Bible, we find that the cause of our problems is sin; our own and others’.

And because we are the problem, we can’t be the solution. Anything we do will only continue to exacerbate the problem. More education only results in smarter sinners. Technology relieves some pain but is used to inflict other kinds of pain. We need someone else to deal with the cause (our sin) so the symptoms (our suffering) can be alleviated.

And that’s what God did. The whole of the Old Testament was promising and leading up to the solution, until finally we see Jesus on the cross. Taking our sin upon himself he cries, ‘It is finished,’ (John 19:30).

It could be said the cross was stage 1 of the inoculation; stage 2 is Christ’s return, when not only is sin forgiven but is completely removed along with its ill-effects. For those desperate for a world free of suffering we have an important message; ‘come to Jesus.’ He is the only solution to our problem.

What love!

One of the most beloved verses in the Bible is John 3:16. They are waters that the youngest child can paddle in, and yet the most mature Christian never reach the bottom. And they are words in which the unbeliever could find life, if only we shared it with them.

‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’

God loved the world. Incredible! This is the world that had rejected him and hadn’t recognised him when he came in the flesh. This world was dark, with no knowledge of God, and no desire to know him either. Yet, God loved the world. He loved us.

Why did he love us? Not because we were lovable! Our hearts, our inner being, was totally corrupted by sin. Sin oozed out of every thought, word and action. We worshipped and served created things, living for them even when outwardly it seemed we were doing the right thing.

Yet he loved us, and his love led to him giving his Son. The Son who had been with the Father for all eternity, who had never rebelled but had only honoured and adored his Father, was given up for the rebellious and rotten world. This love is beyond comprehension.

This Son was given over to die, so that those who believe in him wouldn’t perish themselves, but instead would find eternal life. In Jesus’ death he takes the punishment, shame, guilt, anger of God which our sin brought on ourselves. In him we have the offer of eternal joy and peace, eternal life with God.

God loved the world, gave his Son, and offers eternal life. This is our message. Who can you share that with this week?

The Greatest Servant

Can you imagine the Queen cleaning a toilet? The very idea might be scandalous to some. The Head of the Commonwealth could hardly be expected to clean the toilets of her palace. That is a job for servants, and those without servants!

And yet, one far greater than the Queen has come who did something far more shocking. The Son of Man came, that glorious figure in Daniel 7:13-14. The ruler, not only of a nation, or a Commonwealth of nations, but of all peoples, nations and languages. The Great King came.

What did this Glorious One come to do? In his own words: ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).

He didn’t come expecting the people to bow before him. He didn’t come to show his splendour and have the crowds grovel at his feet. Instead, he came to serve.

But what does it mean that he came to serve? He came to give his life as a ransom for many. Our rebellion against God had made us debtors to him, and we would pay with our lives. His judgement was inescapable and terrifying.

And Christ came to be the ransom, to pay the price we couldn’t so we could go free. The Glorious One came to serve, to die for many. The one who is most holy and pure came to have our filthy sin placed on him and to suffer in our place.

This is the shocking gospel we have to tell. To a society that prizes self-sufficiency, they must come relying on the work of another. To a world that dismisses the horror of sin, they must see its dreadful cost, and come in faith and repentance.

Peace through chastisement

The Bible is unique. Though written over many generations by many different authors, there is one unified story. It’s the story of God’s work to save his people from their sin. How ready are you to explain this gospel to any who’d ask you ‘for a reason for the hope that is in you’ (1 Pet 3:15)?

Wondrously, because the Bible is a unified story there are numerous verses that act as glorious summaries of that good news and are enormously helpful in proclaiming that good news to others. One of those is Isaiah 53:5.

‘But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities’ – This was written 800 years before Christ’s birth, yet it could have been written by the apostles themselves. A man would act as a substitute. The painful reality that so many want to ignore is that we have all transgressed God’s holy law. We have sinned and are full of iniquity. We all deserve God’s holy justice.

But Jesus was pierced for us. He suffered on our behalf. It’s the tragic news of the gospel, that someone needed to die. It’s also joyous news, because Christ was willingly crushed for us.

‘Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.’ The good news of the gospel is not only that the punishment for sin has been borne by Christ, but also that through him we have incredible blessings. We now have peace with God; something that was impossible while we still carried our guilt. That rupture in the relationship has finally been healed because Christ suffered those wounds.

The good news of the gospel is simple: Christ died our death that we could have life with God. Who could you share that message with today?