In the Deep End (2)

Six people attended the second session of In the Deep End on Monday evening 18 February at one2one Gillies Street Church of Christ. Four others tendered their apologies.

For three it was the first time they had attended so I invited them to share their stories about how they became associated with the one2one congregation.

Their experiences highlighted the importance of extending an invitation to people to consider attending church, join a Bible study group or participate in a course on Christianity.

I had invited one of the three to attend the evening specifically to share his story. As he did so he acknowledging the wonderful changes that have occurred in his life since he first attended a Christmas Eve service at one2one in 2011. His first time attendance was in response to a personal invitation that came very naturally from someone who cared.

There were two other aspects that were highlighted during the evening.

Firstly, while not excluding others, we have an amazing opportunity to attend to the people who come along and start worshiping at one2one. People turn up for all sorts of reasons to worship at one2one. As far back as I can remember, and that’s quite a few, there has been a steady stream people dropping in. This was most recently demonstrated with the Welcome2Church services on Sunday 17 March where about 30 new folk attended in the morning and a further 20 attended the evening service.

God has placed before us an open door before us or in the words of Jesus, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Secondly, we noted the importance of building a bridge that can be easily crossed to discuss the Christian faith, that is equipping ourselves for this personal work, sharing our faith one-to-one, and leading the way for people to discover faith in Jesus. What a God-given privilege!

With these two things in mind we discussed the Share Jesus Easily material emphasising how we could cross the bridge by knowing what to say e.g. “Could I run something past you? Has anyone sat down with you and explained from the Bible how you can know God personally? I would count it a privilege to be able to explain, can we arrange a time to meet?”

I have asked the question, “Has anyone ever sat down with you and explained from the Bible how you can Know God personally”  on several occasions in recent months and while not unexpected the usual reply was, “No.” The ensuing question then led to arranging a time to share the good news of Jesus, again in accordance with the Share Jesus Easily material.

On one occasion, after a little thought, the person recalled where and when they had made, on their own, a faith transaction with God. I was then able to proceed by saying, “I would count it a privilege to arrange a time to meet so that we could CONFIRM your faith decision.”

Toward the end of our evening together one member of the group recalled from his recent reading of Individual Work for Individuals the following words by the author, H. Clay Trumbull (1901),

” When God brings us alongside of one whom we may help, or may feel responsibility for, we are not to consider the obstacles, or difficulties, in the way. God will take care of them. Nor are we to be hindered by religious or denominational differences that seem to stand between us and him. The question is not whether he is a Roman catholic, or a Jew, a Muhammadan, a Mormon, a Maronite, or an infidel. But the one question is, Can we evidence him, in such a way as to impress on him, and to deepen his sense of their preciousness, the surpassing love of God and the blessed fullness of the spirit of Christ?”

The date of the next In the Deep End session is Monday 18 March, 7.15 pm in the Function Room. Can I encourage you to lock the date into your diary now? Also the Share Jesus Easily blog is coming along with additional material being added each week.

Keep in touch

Blessings

Bruce

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The Scandal of Grace

Bill Hybels in his book, The God You’re Looking For, pp 116-118, recounts a story under the heading of The Scandal of Grace,

I once had lunch with a business executive with whom I’d been building a relationship. I asked for his napkin and his pen. The pen looked as if it cost at least two hundred dollars, so I knew I’d have his undivided attention if I used his pen instead of mine. He wasn’t about to let it out of his sight!

Taking his pen. I wrote GOD at the top of the napkin, then drew a line pointing down. Pointing to the word GOD, I said, “here’s God’s standard of holiness. Here’s a line.” and following the line downward, “and down here are the bad people of the world. Put and X somewhere on this line where you belong on the morality ladder.”

He did, and then I continued, “The gap between you and the holiness of God is the problem. You have fallen short of the standards of God’s holiness by your own admission. That gap is what you will stand accountable for on the day of judgment.”

I turned the napkin over and said, “All people tend to do one of two things with that shortfall.” I drew a line across the middle, then wrote, “The Moral Self-Improvement Plan.”

This is when people spend the rest of their lives trying to bring their X mark up a little higher. The Bible says it doesn’t work even if you give yourself a hundred lifetimes. You can’t get up to the place of moral perfection if you’re a fallen human being.”

Then on the other side of that dividing line, I wrote, “The Grace Plan.”

The guy said, “What’s that?”

“You’re not going to believe it. In the ‘Grace Plan’ God says, ‘I see the gap and I know you can’t make it by your own human strength, so I’m going to send Christ, My Son, to pay for the shortfall. Salvation and adoption into My family will be made available to you as a gift.'”

“Which of the two are you in?” I asked, “The Grace Plan or the Moral Self-Improvement Plan?”

“I’m in the Moral Self-Improvement Plan.”

I agreed. “From all i see of you, I think you are too.”

I’ll never forget what happened next. He looked up and searched my eyes. In that one, five-second glance, he was thinking, If only what you are saying is true. If I felt that today I could just abandon the self-improvement plan and receive grace as a free gift for an undeserving sinner like me, it would change everything.

This “sanctified suspicion” is what keeps so many people away from Christianity. If somebody tells us all we have to do is show up and get a free car, we know it can’t be true, so how can we expect a free ticket to heaven? This grace business just sounds too good, too easy. Successful people who have worked long and hard to obtain their place in society and their nice house and their big office and their imported cars simply don’t want to believe that God would give them a place in heaven. “Nothing gets handed to you on a silver platter,” they insist, and most of the time, they are right. But in this case, they are tragically wrong.

That’s why when you open your life up to Christ and you experience the grace explosion, you will be pelted with the shrapnel of relief. In the back of your mind, you knew you couldn’t earn your way into heaven, and now you realise you don’t have to. Instead of defining your relationship with God by your own efforts, you’ll watch in amazement as God draws near of His own accord. Hope will nourish your soul: Maybe with God’s help I can start my life over again. Maybe I can walk with a clean slate into a different kind of future.

Actually, there’s no ‘maybe” about it. It just comes down to grace, and it’s true. It’s also enduring.


(Note. While Bill used both sides of the napkin in his illustration consider forming a “Cross” on one side drawing the horizontal line through the “X”)