“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turneth their plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really no one is against us” -Chrysostom
Last week we talked about opening our eyes to see windows of opportunity to share the gospel. This week is Part 2 to that blog post as we learn how Jesus and the apostles chose to walk through those doors opportunity presented to them.
See in Acts 3, shortly after Peter and John heal this beggar, they continue to use that opportunity to share the gospel with courage as the crowds approached to see what was going on after the beggar was miraculously healed.
Sometimes for us, the most difficult things could be knowing what to do when you finally see an opportunity you may have been praying for.
Walk Through Doors of Opportunity
1. Break the “us-and-them” mentality.
Concerning Acts Chapter 3, Peter and John could have done anything to avoid this situation with this expected beggar, but they didn’t avoid him. They stepped into this man’s life. Every human being deserves the dignity to be engaged. and more importantly, the opportunity to see the church at work in loving in extraordinary ways.
I had to break through my ‘us and them’ mentality the other day as I passed a beggar on the street. Immediately there seems to be that feeling you get and all that self-talk about why, how, and for what purpose is this person here asking for money, food, gas…. I think we all know what I’m talking about. There are so many different reasons why our minds race during this moment of questioning; I would even argue that this feeling is not necessarily a ‘Christian’ self talk. You know… ‘do I roll my window down to say hi’… ‘well that’s stupid’… ‘do I ask what they will use the cash on?’… ‘nope’, …’can I ask them about Jesus in 22sec before the light turn green’?… ‘impossible’. So…. what do you do?
What I do was sorta weird. I pass her, with all those knee jerk responses in my mind, I drive away. It wasn’t really till a few miles out that I really felt conviction and knew that I could not justify my way out of this. I need to preach Christ to her and give her food. I have to confess that I have been jaded and therefore I have not always listened to the Spirit as He asks me to respond.
So, and this point I felt quite compelled at this moment to stop, get her food and get her permission to talk about Jesus. The truth is, is that there is no ‘us-and-them’. That idea of this feeling is the root sin of class and racial divide and needs to be quenched by God’s love. Believe me, none of are as special as we may think.
Anyway, there was no real profoundness about it at all. God does the saving, we just obey and go into the world to preach good news.
2. Listen like a friend
I’m convinced that most people don’t just want someone to be courteous and friendly. People want friends.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, you can just imagine His level of engagement as He meets with her at a place that Jews and Samaritans would not normally cross paths. (John 4:5-32)
If you ask someone how they are doing, mean it. Don’t just ask then walk off. You never know whether this conversation may have content and value that could greatly affect your life.
Be vulnerable, listen, respond and interact with people that is categorized by authentic engagement.
3. Give hope for a future
Jesus or the apostles did not excuse sin, instead they practiced mission living by offering compassion –into-repentance. Through relationship we can best understand how we can assist in need, pray, and walk with people through their sin as well as our own.
When Jesus visited the woman at the well, He didn’t just leave her hanging after bringing up her obvious sin and brokenness. He let her know that there will be a time when people would worship in Spirit and in truth. That even as she was hopeless without Him, that He is the living water, and without Him she would dry up.
Do we leave hopeless those we are helping? It’s like when mission trips and service projects are done with no end to the means. The greatest gift we could ever offer those is the love of God by letting them know of a Savior in the midst of our and their wretchedness. Don’t just string people along. There should be a genuine concern for one’s well being, and ultimately one’s soul.
4. Contextually convey the Gospel
Sometimes we get tied up in method when most of the time you will get to share the gospel in ways that are directly associated within all the normal rhythms of your daily life.
The most prominent questions I get from stay-at-homes mothers is how do they live this out when their around only their children 24 / 7? My response is this. “Be the most loving mother and fill your children with faithfulness by allowing the grace of God to be most evident in your life. Then as you mess it up, share the Gospel of grace”.
Contextually sharing the gospel doesn’t mean getting cool hipster clothes and always drinking coffee while reading some dead theologian. It means being faithful to open your eyes to see the broken world around you and then approaching it knowing the Gospel can really break any chain of bondage, sin and death. That is how strong the cross is, and I believe with every fiber of my being.
What we learn in Acts Chapter 3 is that God has empowered His people to be witnesses preach and live ‘Jesus’ to the whole world with courage and boldness in the midst of persecution and even death. At the name of Christ, there is authority when represented with clear concise belief and true faith in Jesus Christ; the way the truth and the life.
Can we put gospel lenses on? Can we view the world through the vision of the Word of God and see lives change? Can we see the pain and heartache? How can we play a role in this process? Through Christ and His redemptive work, we can see the love of Christ for broken sinners evident everywhere we look if we just open our eyes.
In this case (Acts 3) we have a crippled man, probably most of his known life, raised up again to walk. Imagine your whole life (and you may very well have experienced this or take care of one who has physically experienced this) completely unable to do anything without the help of another. Your usual story is brokenness, disappointment and pity. There were probably times, many, where the expectation was higher than what you could accomplish. And walking into the temple would have been something to want to be included in…This man is in need of a doctor, outside help to have the power to do anything. He needs a savior.
This is like us, but more extreme. The bible says we are dead in our sin. Dead. And through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, if we believe in him we can walk in newness of life. In the same way we must be brought back to life again by the cross and the awakening of the Holy Spirit.
Thankfully I am alive in Christ. Do you have Jesus today? Are you dead in your sin. If you do not know Jesus, are than you need of Christ and His accomplished work. Repent, be saved, and walk in newness of life.
Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,
Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.
-John Bunyan (probably)
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:1-10
Peter and John probably had places to go and people to see, but who they saw here gave them opportunities to share the gospel, as people empowered by The Spirit to be on mission.
In the general sense of the continuation of the Church, this is not just their story; this is our story. If we are to do ministry in Christ’s name, we need to see how Christ and the apostles did the work. The apostles were emulating Christ by the power of the Spirit just as Christ promised. And the whole book of Acts is about Christ!
The beauty and power of the gospel always speaks for itself. Methodically there are always new ways of immersing ourselves in our particular culture, and the method changes. To find these new methods we must have the eyes to see the need.
We see several times in scripture where before Jesus teaches he either heals someone or feeds them. It almost seems to be systematic in a way of understanding missiological method per culture. If we look at this and focus on Jesus we can then use this as a framework for us whether it’s working to build relationships or as a community trying to make change around us.
What are the needs of those needing Jesus. Do you have particular giftings that just come naturally to you?
There are two things you need to know to start. First, you need to see the doors of opportunity, then in my next blog we’ll talk about how you must walk through those doors.
Seeing Doors of Opportunity
These needs are things that we need in order to survive. Is there a child that you come across often and seems as if food comes rare? Is there an elderly person that seems to have a hard time getting around because their health needs aren’t being taken care of properly?
This need is connected to the things we need in order to feel secure in our self, jobs and resources. Is there a neighbor that has recently lost a job and you may have connections to start the conversation of new employment? Is there a counsel you could give a co-worker who is experiencing a particular difficulty such as an abusive relationship that you may be able to speak life into because you’ve experienced the same?
Making people feel like family is probably the biggest hurdle we have if we are honest with ourselves. I’ve been realizing more and more that people don’t want you to be friendly; they want a friend. Who is ‘that’ person that you may ignore, but you know deep inside they just need someone to talk to? Who is the individual around you that is hurting just because they simply have no one to talk to?
Next week we’ll talk about how to walk through these door of opportunity…
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas