Whether it’s denomination-specific, like baptism or rituals, or whether it’s culturally preferential, like what days to attend church or expected attire, we all know Christians who are on different points of the spectrum.
I think each of us are our own special recipe of Jesus-follower, and that’s the same with our faith, too. I have to remember that we don’t just wake up one day and “get it.” Following Jesus is a lifetime crash-course, and because God reaches out to us in different stages and and ages, it’s pretty unlikely that spiritual maturity levels would be the same in your circle.
Because we’re all in different chapters of our faith, it’s important that we focus on one thing to ensure our growth and how we build relationships with others: making the gospel personal.
To break this down to bite-size, here are five ways that we can make the gospel personal:
1. Decide who God is to you.
This might sound a little existential, but hang with me. There is a multitude of stories that show and describe God differently according to how he presented himself to someone in their time of need.
I think if we did a huge study on this, we’d see different answers according to age, denomination, and even gender. And all of them are right! Why? Because we all need something different from an all-powerful being. If you need more convincing, check out these lyrics from Passion’s “Worthy of Your Name”…
You’re my author, my makerPassion/Capitol Christian Music Group/ Sean Curran/Brett Younker
My ransom, my Savior
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope in the shadows
My strength through the battle
My anchor for all my days
Have you let God take any of those positions in your life? If not, that’s okay. Like I said, we’re all on different chapters of the same book of life. And as we grow older, God will continue to evolve in our eyes based on our circumstance. There’s one way he never changes though, and no matter where you are with God, this is the foundation you should start on:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him…So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.1 John 4:7-9, 16
2. Continue to seek him out.
I’m pretty sure the most contextual evidence we have of someone continually pushing to know the Lord is from King David. We see David pour out his soul to God in 150 Psalms that include every emotion you can think of.
One of the hardest things about praying is that you realize that God knows every detail of your day (and life), yet you’re still encouraged to tell him about it. It seems a bit redundant, but think about your parent (or parent-like figure) for a second. How many times did they ask you, “How was your day?” Or they might have asked, “How can I help you?” How many times did you thank them? Let’s look at David’s words…
In you, O Lord, do I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
in your righteousness deliver me!
Incline your ear to me;
rescue me speedily!
Be a rock of refuge for me,
a strong fortress to save me!
For you are my rock and my fortress;
and for your name’s sake you lead me
and guide me;
you take me out of the net they have hidden from me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.
I will bless the Lord at all times;Psalm 31:1-5, Psalm 34:1-4
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears;
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
David was the king of pouring his heart out with fears, exhalations, and declarations of victory in God’s name. How can you change your prayer life to make it more of a conversation with God instead of a one-sided recitation?
3. Share your story. (Yes, you have one!)
Who better to talk about here than the person who wrote about 28% of the New Testament?! The apostle Paul had a blinding experience (literally) that changed his mission forever.
In Acts 26, we see Paul in Caesarea, pleading his case for Christ to King Agrippa and making his personal testimony:
“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.”…Acts 26:9-10, 13-14
“At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'”…
Paul goes on to explain what Jesus told him was his new mission and how he would have to begin that journey through obedience and massive faith. He went from putting Christians to death as a Pharisee to preaching the very same gospel they did! Talk about taking up your cross! While it’s probably not as dramatic as Paul’s story, how did God first grab your attention? There’s someone that needs to hear your story.
4. Give it back.
If you’ve gotten to this step, you’ve made it over some major mountains. But this step is crucial. Paul tells us that faith without works is dead, so if we’re to follow Jesus, we need to know what’s at stake and where we’re headed.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this in mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8
You cannot follow Jesus and skip this important step: Jesus died so that you could be in heaven forever. Not only is it our duty to share that information with everyone around us, but we’re supposed to live lives worthy of the gospel, too. That means being obedient, even when you don’t want to; that means seeking holy things, even when our friends aren’t; and it definitely means giving back in any way we can through our work, our relationships, and our finances.
Keep in mind that you don’t owe God anything because there’s nothing you have that he could need. After all, he gave it all to you in the first place. You should serve and give back as a reflection of the love in your heart for him.
5. Discover true grace.
Job’s story is legend. As a test, God allowed the enemy to take away everything Job had to prove that he was a true follower of the Lord. His friends and his wife weren’t so great in encouraging him in the valley – actually they basically told him to renounce his faith altogether! But once God responded with a reminder to his absolute majesty in Job’s life and in the universe, here was Job’s response:
“I know that you can do all things,Job 42:2-6
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you,
and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eyes see you;
therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
The lesson here is this: even after accomplishing and understanding everything before this point, you. will. still. mess. up. You will still sin and effortlessly continue to fall short of perfection. And that’s good news because you’re still human.
I truly don’t think we understand God’s grace until we get to the moment that we’ve screwed up after we agreed to live our life for Jesus. It’s a super humbling moment(s). But here’s what Paul says about our weaknesses:
But [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Rest in this, believer, there is eternal grace for how we live our life. But the key to this good news is that we have a responsibility to personalize it and let it change our lives. It will make us more genuine when our friends and family have questions, and it will make us better followers of Jesus, too.