Friday, July 24, 2015

Radical Rules

It has been nearly a month since I have begun my experiment in "Radical" living.  I absolutely, 100% believe and stand by everything I wrote in Rules For Radicals.  It's the carrying out this Radical Christianity that has befuddled me.

In the past month I have jumped into the middle of every Internet fray I could find.  I called total strangers to repent and believe the Gospel.  I engaged all sorts of people, from Universal Unitarians to Atheists and Agnostics, in brisk dialogue as to why they were wrong and headed to hell.

All in the very nicest way possible.

They still got mad.

I have had other, more positive encounters.  Most of these were in a personal setting where I could actually see the person I was speaking with.  Or, I had something positive to say to a random stranger.

This has all got me thinking.  What does God want me to do?  Am I doing things with the right heart, but in the wrong way?  I am just as determined as ever to use my freedom of speech to glorify God, but could there be some rules or guidelines that would help me be more effective?

The truth is, I wore myself out.  I felt like I was literally taking on hell with a water pistol.  I was getting into things way over my head and losing my peace.  My family was feeling neglected.  These are all huge signs that I'm on the wrong path.

When my friend, Brother Sam Pitrone posted a favorite scripture verse, I felt this wave of longing wash over me.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Yes, I have been laboring in my own strength.  I am heavy laden and wearied by the results.  I have need of this rest that Jesus promises to those that come.

I have fond remembrances of Bro. Sam and the Evangelism conference he preached at my home church when I was just a teenager.  I figured he might have some wisdom for me.  This is what he said:
"I try and focus on what God is doing in the people I know, not on what he is NOT doing in others."

That makes a lot of sense.  We know that God is Sovereign.  The results of Evangelism are up to Him.  And I'm so thankful!  I would be a basket case if I thought someone's eternity was resting on my tact or debating skills.  I would be a basket case if I thought that their eternity was resting on their own free will to choose or reject the Gospel.  The truth is, we are all dead in our sins.  As dead men we cannot stir ourselves up to cry out or to take the first step.  Jesus has to impart life first before we can even begin to respond.  Lazarus did not realize he was in a tomb until Jesus called his name.  As he opened his eyes, realization of his state took hold and he said, "Yikes! Get me out of here!" (A loose paraphrase.)  He obeyed his Master's call and stumbled towards the light.  His neighbors in the surrounding tombs slumbered on.  Why?  Because they had not been called.  They were not glancing longingly at Lazarus and wishing they too could leave the abode of the dead.  They were insensible to their condition.

So, what does this mean for Christ followers who take the Great Commission seriously?

What do you do when you want to stand against evil in high places and call the world to repentance?

How shall we then live?

Here are a few principles with scriptures that came to my mind this week.  I am already feeling more peace about my feeble, free-speech-as-evangelism efforts.

1. Don't be shocked by how wicked America or the world in general is.  The majority of Americans are no longer born again believers.  The natural man is at war with God.
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." 2 Timothy 3:12-13 

2. Don't be discouraged.  You may think it over the top that there are so many verses about suffering tribulation.  Thanks to my dealings with a couple of Atheists, my eyes have been opened.  They really do hate me.  It's because they hate God.  And really, if haters of God all loved me, I would be concerned.  But still, I had never experienced someone's literal hatred of me before.  Looks like I better get used to it, though.
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!" John 16:33  

3. Don't get all high and mighty with your "martyr status". There's a fair amount of pride and rebellion in me that gets all stirred up when I see injustice in the world.  I love to champion the underdog and the Lost Causes.  My inner pugilist is just dying for a fight.  But this is not my fight.  I represent Christ and He certainly does not need me throwing my weight around to accomplish His purposes.  Paul reminds us:
"Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Philippians 2:3

4. Don't go looking for trouble.  This is a tough one for me.  My modus operandi was to speak to anyone that crossed my path (in the real world or on the Net) about Christ and how they need a Saviour.  While that may be true, I am not necessarily the best person to reach them.  Unless they reach out to me with a comment or question (a true sign of Providence), I probably should not be waylaying friends of friends.
"He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." Proverbs 26:17

5. Pray without ceasing!  This might should be number one.  I just finished reading Unplanned, by Abby Johnson.  Her story of God's dealings with her is a prime example of the power of prayer and kindness.  Throughout her entire tenure at Planned Parenthood, she was surrounded, literally, by prayer warriors.  These people prayed for her by name.  They built a relationship of mutual trust and respect.  When the time came for Abby's delusions to crash down around her ears, it was smack dab in the middle of a 40 day prayer vigil.  She ran out the door of the abortion clinic and around the corner to the door of the Coalition For Life clinic.  It was the one place where she knew she was unconditionally loved for exactly who she was.  So, how should we be praying?  Paul gives us a handy list:
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good acceptable in the sight of God our Savior . . . I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." 1 Timothy 2:1-2 

6. Kill them with kindness.  Abby stresses time and again that Planned Parenthood has no defense against kindness and openness.  They depend on a victimhood status to get sympathy and to get funding.  Whenever a crime is perpetrated against an abortion clinic or abortion worker, it strengthens the martyr narrative. (Besides being terribly wrong and against Christ!)  And so it is for every evil cause and movement.  Peter tells us how to demolish this tactic:
"For so is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.  Honor all men.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king." 1 Peter 2:15-17 

7. Do speak up.  Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words!  People aren't going to telepathically look at us and figure out by our lifestyle what they must do to be saved.  They might look at us and wonder why we live the way we do.  Hopefully they will feel drawn to come ask us questions.  Be ready!
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15

8. Be thankful!  "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18  

Something that surprised me this month has been the opportunities to be outspoken in thanking others.  I am convinced that a large part of standing up and speaking out needs to be positive recognition of those who are doing well.

Thank a veteran, who gave the best years of his life and watched his brothers give their lives for our freedoms.

Thank a friend of a friend on Facebook who has gone the extra mile to respond with grace to hateful comments.

Thank a friendly cashier or the young man that carries out your bags and tries his best not to squish the bread.

Thank your Congressman who is taking fire for standing for his constituents convictions.

Thank your Pastor.

Thank your Mom.

Thank the best friend that has always been there for you.

 It is in this way, living the life God has given us in the best way possible, day in, day out.  Being faithful in prayer and in love.  Being respectful and thankful.  This is how God will work to touch the lives you invest in every day.  The people you witness to, in word and in deed, may not ever come to faith in Christ.

Or they might!

Either way, God is glorified.

And that is whole purpose of man!