Sermons

Sermons

How Can we Help our Friends?

Series: Effective Evangelism

As we look at the world around us, we are surrounded with religious people. They may go to a church of some kind, believe in God and the Bible, or be religious in some way, but sadly, they are not following the word. We might then ask: “What can we do to help our friends?”

This is very similar to a question I received from a young people one time. She was concerned about her boyfriend at the time and wanted to help him come to the truth. What I did was prepare a class over similar material to give them an example of what they could do with others. However, this is not just a question a young person has. This is a question many of us have when we interact with our friends, family, neighbors, etc. We care about our religious friends that live in error and we want to help them understand and follow the truth in the Bible. So today, let’s walk through a lesson based on the material I prepared to answer her question.

The Problem Today: Man-made Religion

We live in a world that is full of religious confusion. There are so many different groups teaching different things that it can be hard to know which one is right. Yet, this was anticipated in the first century. For example, in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 the Spirit said some would depart from the faith and devote themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. As well, in (Acts 20:29-30), Paul anticipated error would come in through the leadership of local churches and that they those wolves would attack the flock.

This is a predictable pattern that repeats itself through human history. It’s not that the truth has fallen out of existence, it is that people have left what is revealed. For example, when God made the covenant with Israel at Sinai, he established their identity as a nation, gave them laws to obey, taught them how to worship, etc.  But, it was this same group in Exodus 32 that asked Aaron to “make us gods who shall go before us.” Then, Aaron made the golden calf and said “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt”, and they offered a feast to the LORD the next day.  They had deceived their hearts into thinking they were worshipping the Lord, when in fact they were following their own will instead of God.

This behavior repeated itself later in the days of Jeroboam. In 1 Kings 12:25-33, Jeroboam was afraid the kingdom would go back to David’s house if they offered sacrifices in the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, and that he would be killed.  In response, he does the same thing as Aaron and made two calves of gold to be worshipped in Dan and Bethel. Notice verse 28 - “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” He also allowed the people to worship on the high places instead of in Jerusalem where God said. He allowed priests to come from any tribe instead of only from Levi. He offered the sacrifices on the altar. And, he made a feast that imitated the feast of booths in Jerusalem that was a month earlier. Verse 33 says that this feast was devised from his own heart. All of this came from Jeroboam, not from God. This was man-made religion created by that imitated God’s true order.

Despite the fact God specifically rebuked Jeroboam for his actions through a prophet, Jeroboam and Israel did not turn away from their sin 1 Kings 13:33-34. Jeroboam’s idea was for self preservation instead of pleasing God, and the solution was convenient and appealed to the people. Tragically, this was a sin that became tradition that went on for 300 years!

This example is written for all generations. This is a pattern that repeats itself over and over. Sometimes people are not content with what God’s word says, so they abandon what he has revealed. The same kind of errors can happen: it might be a change in doctrine. It might be a change in the leadership and organization of the church. It might be a change in to worship. It might be a change in the lifestyle of people. And if we look around our culture there are many, many examples of this, and we need to be specific with our friends. Then, tragically, the sins and errors of our parents and grandparents can become tradition that is passed down over time without question.

The Solution: A Spirit of Restoration

Despite the bad news we saw in Jeroboam’s story, there was a glimmer of hope. 2 Chronicles  11:13-17 says that the priests and Levites presented themselves to Rehoboam, the Levites left their common lands and holdings to come to Judah and Jerusalem, and those who set their hearts to seek the Lord came to Jerusalem to sacrifice. This was a great sacrifice by the priests and a powerful example by the people who remained dedicated to the Lord. See, the answer is to have a heart that seeks the Lord - is that you? Is that me?

In addition this, the answer to the sin of Jeroboam is given to us later in the book of 2nd Kings. King Josiah comes to the throne, and in part because of Jeremiah’s commission, he began reforms and restoration, starting with repairing the temple of the Lord. Later, they found a copy of the law and Josiah has it read to him. Upon hearing it, he humbles himself, weeps over what it contains, and then commits to obeying the Lord himself. Josiah then brings the word of God to the people and charges them to obey the Lord and make a covenant with God 2 Kings 23:1-3. Notice this key phrase of the covenant “to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and testimonies and his statues with all his heart and all his soul”, that was the key in the people of 2nd Chronicles 11. What was the answer? A fresh reading of scripture and a heart that wanted to please the Lord.

After this, Josiah goes through the land clearing out the idols that had been placed in Israel. He destroyed some things that went back to Manasseh his grandfather, and even Solomon (23:12-14)! But, he especially did away with the sin of Jeroboam (vv. 15ff). Then, in 2 Chronicles 35:1-6 he established worship in the way that God had intended and observed the passover. This included elements like rightful sacrifice, rightful priesthood, and rightful teaching. It says things like “as prescribed in the writing of David and Solomon” v 4, and “according to the word of the Lord by Moses”, vv. 6, 12. The answer was simple in theory, but challenging in practice. That generation had to come back and see what God’s word said, humble themselves in repentance, commit to following the ways of the Lord, and step through the areas that needed to change.

This restoration mindset is what every generation needs. This was the concept behind the “restoration plea”, to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent”, “To do Bible things in Bible ways”. That’s the essence of what Peter taught (1 Peter 4:10-11).

The challenge we have is like the one in Jesus day, the traditions of men have come in and supplanted the word of God - Mark 7:5-13. The temptation today is to say that we honor God, but our hearts are far from him and this results in vain worship and teaching the doctrine of men instead of God. The challenge with these people is that they rejected God’s word in order to follow their tradition (v 9, 13). In this way, they were more zealous for their tradition than the Bible and they end up rejecting the word of God to establish their tradition. The answer for us then is not to throw up our hands and say we cannot know the truth. To say, “we just need to be accepting of various viewpoints and beliefs.” Or to mock and look down on others who are in error. The answer is to go back and look at what God’s word says, humble ourselves, repent before God, and be zealous for what His word says.

Much in the same way as Josiah, we need to go back to Jesus’ teaching in the new covenant as revealed in the gospels. We need to go back to the establishment of the church. We will find the authority of the Apostles as Christ’s messengers (Acts 1:4-8, 15-26). We will find one gospel of Jesus Christ for all nations (Acts 2:1-41). We will find one church or group of saved people (Acts 2:41, 47). We will find people transformed by God to live radically different (2:42-47).

Remember, we must make sure to reform more than the structures and processes of the church - even though those are needed. God is wanting our hearts to return to him and for us to imitate him in the way that we live individually as well - it is comprehensive. All of us have traditions that are handed down to us; some of them are good and some are not, some are helpful and some are not. But regardless of who we are, we need to have the mentality to discuss and question everything in light of the word

Practical steps for the conversation

Ask questions and listen - John 3:1-15

Notice this familiar story of Jesus and Nicodemus. Have you notice how many questions are in this text? There are questions from both Jesus and Nicodemus and they are patiently walking through Jesus teaching and what the scripture says. That’s what we want to do with others. Questions have a way of generating discussion and causing others to think in a different way.

One simple way you can do this is by asking a person “how you end up at that church?” or “how did you come to believe that teaching?”. Often times it is based on what they were raised, family or friends, or other factors. But, that will open up an entire story and background where you can ask questions about their church or their beliefs like: The name of their church. The founder and establishment. The differences on things like communion, baptism, organization, music, etc. The teachings on salvation, the church, the kingdom, etc. In those moments then, you can mention Jesus’ prayer for unity in (John 17:20-21). Open a bible and read through the scriptures, working through the two chapters of Acts is a good place to start.

During those discussions, commend the good and shun the bad (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Encourage them to test what they’ve heard with the word of God and strive to make changes where needed (Acts 17:11). And remember, discussions like this are always easier with someone (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Why not bring along another christian to these conversations?

Be ready with answers - 1 Peter 3:14-17

Be zealous for what is good (13). Make sure that your goal is what is good before God, and good for the person you are speaking to. Your focus is on what is true and right.  The goal is not to put someone in their place or shame them. Focus on doing good - plant a seed.

Be willing to suffer for righteousness (14). Not everyone will be open to the truth. Sometimes you may be tempted to compromise. Be like Christ who was willing to suffer for the right thing in order to bring us to God - do that for those around you (3:18). Be inconvenienced, and even suffer to help someone see the truth.

Do not be afraid or troubled by those around us, honor Christ as Lord (14-15). It is very easy to be afraid of what people think, what people will do, how they will answer, etc. Remember, they are simply people like you and they are not the judge. Jesus has the the seat of authority and He is holy. Set him apart in your heart. He will give out the ultimate blessings and punishments.

Offer your answers with gentleness and respect (15). There will be times that people ask, in those moments we need to be prepared (2 Tim 2:15). You cannot teach someone the truth if you don’t know it yourself, that takes effort. A lot of the preparation is in our attitudes - gentleness and respect. Be gentle and humble in your responses, bring them back to the scripture. Make sure that you care about the person, that you respect their efforts, intelligence, sacrifices, and character.

Strive to life the lifestyle as best as you can (16-17). We need to make sure we have a good conscience, that we are not sinning ourselves, and that we have the goal of being right before God. There will be times we are slandered and attacked, let’s make sure that it is because of our behavior in Christ and not because of our evil actions. Perhaps, over time even our enemies will be ashamed of their actions and eventually come back years later to apologize and repent. Remember to be patient, people do not end up in their situation over night and they do not come out of it over night. By patiently loving and caring for that person you can help them come to see what the scripture says.

Conclusion

Remember that our goal is to bring them to God, even if that means we suffer for them (3:18). Why would we do such a thing? Because we love and care for the people around us.  But further, it is because that is what Jesus has done for us. He went even to the point of death in order to bring us to God, will we do the same for others to be saved?

That can be a challenging concept, but if we slow down and take the time to appreciate what Jesus has done for us, if we honor honor in our hearts as being holy and our Lord, then we will have the courage to gently and respectfully help others come to God. Then, they can, like those who have gone before us, be saved by that appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus and the authority he has in heaven (3:21-22).