It would be easy to see the book of Ruth as a love story: A beautiful young woman, who has tragically lost her husband, meets a rich, handsome, and godly man who marries her and they live happily ever after. But that’s a modern fairytale, not a biblical story. Romance and beauty are important themes in our stories, but the important themes in this story are things like showing kindness to the dead and caring for destitute immigrant workers and widows (things most Christians hardly think of as important biblical themes). So, let’s take a closer look.
But here’s the secret I want to share with you: people like to see a little vulnerability. If you come across as the skilled professional with all the answers, you set yourself apart from the person you’re talking to. If I’m talking about astrophysics with a NASA engineer, I’ll probably learn some things, but I won’t come away saying, “I can see myself being like them.” If we present ourselves as sinless saints who know everything there is to know about Christianity, we project an image that people can’t relate to.
In evangelism, we want to show ourselves as imperfect people who are trying to become like a perfect Jesus. We don’t want them to see us as perfect, or they’ll feel like they can never really join us. We want them to see Jesus as perfect and understand that they take a lifelong journey down the road to being like Jesus, just like we’re doing.
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Teaching Because You Love
Love and acts of love are important to the Christian life. John 13:34–35 says that our loving service should be the defining trait that separates us from the world, and teaching others about Christ is one of those acts of love. No one can know about Christ and salvation unless we share it with them, so if we love the world the way Jesus loves, then we’re going to teach. John 3:16–17 says that all who believe in Christ will be saved, and Romans 10:14 rhetorically asks how anyone can believe in Christ if they have not been taught about Him.
We must feel urgently compelled to teach. When we fail to teach others about Christ and salvation, then we are failing in that labor of love. We are instead showing indifference toward the fate of their souls. Being a Christian and claiming you’re not called to teach is self-contradictory. We should always be finding opportunities to help each other grow and help the world grow closer to Christ. We teach because we love.
Teaching When It’s Hard
We must love others enough that we’re willing to teach them about Christ and salvation even when those teachings aren’t popular.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1–5
“If you love me, you’ll just accept me for who I am.” This is a common dismissal of Christian teaching, but we don’t argue this in any other context. If you or I see a loved one living in a self-destructive way, we’re going to try to intervene. We naturally want to show them a better way because we love them. Likewise, if we know a beloved friend is putting their soul in danger, we will also want to show them a better way. If we care for each others’ bodies, how much more should we care for each others’ souls?
Yes, Jesus receives us and forgives us just as we are — with all our faults, our sins, and our struggles. But then He calls us to do something with those faults. He calls us to mature, grow closer to Him, and put those impurities behind us. In Colossians 3:5–9, Paul says those who have been raised in Christ should put away immorality, impurity, covetousness, deceit, malice, and other imperfections. He then says we should replace those things with compassion, kindness, humility, and forgiveness. To do this, we have to be open to the correction and guidance of other Christians who love us.
James 5:19–20 says the one that corrects another’s error saves their soul from death. 2 Timothy 2:24–26 says that a servant of God must be able to teach patiently, correcting those in error with gentleness. The goal of this teaching is repentance. Even when it’s uncomfortable or unwelcome, we should be willing to teach. Love drives us to do so, understanding that we are helping Christ save souls. This is love.
If I love you, then I care about your spiritual health as much as anything else about you. In fact, I should care about your soul even more than anything physical and transient. Teaching about Christ and His ways is a natural extension of that love. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. That doesn’t mean we’ll never disagree. But it does mean that I want what’s best for your eternal soul. We’re often willing to overcome a great many things for the sake of love in our lives. We should also be willing to overcome whatever is standing between us and teaching those we love about Christ.
We may also rebel against submission because we fail to carefully distinguish it from another term: subjection. Submission is not the same as subjection. What’s the difference between the two? Subjection describes actions taken by the one with authority where submission describes actions taken by the one under authority. When it comes to marriage, church, and our shared life with other believers, we are instructed to submit, not to subject.
Subjection is the act of a ruler to force obedience. He uses fear or force or intimidation to break the will of the people so they eventually surrender to him. They give up and wave the white flag. They’ve been conquered. They are now in subjection to this leader.
Submission is the act of someone who acknowledges legitimate authority and willingly arranges himself or herself accordingly. Submission is voluntary, never forced. It is responding to the divine order of things first in the heart and then in the life.
The church is not in subjection to Jesus Christ; we haven’t been ruthlessly conquered by him. No, the church has been won by Jesus Christ, so we willingly submit to his rule, guidance, and instruction. We acknowledge his right to govern, we acknowledge his overwhelming love, we respond to his Spirit, and we arrange ourselves accordingly.
This is a thoughtful article on a touchy subject. I recommend you follow the link to read the rest.
The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16 – 20
This should be the basis of every Christian’s faith, conduct, and attitudes — that Jesus Christ has all authority in our lives. This is our foundation and our goal. We should build on Christ alone, and we should be striving to live like Christ alone. Everything we say, do, study, or meditate on should go through the filter of Christ; is it drawing me closer to Him, or is it pushing Him aside?
When we put Christ foremost in our faith, all other labels fall away. Too often we become like the Christians of 1 Corinthians 1, allowing worldly loyalties and causes to come between us and Christ, us and one another. This should never be. We are not the Christian Right; we are not the Christian Left. We are not defined by political allegiances, ecumenical creeds, secular identities, or celebrity preachers. We are Christ’s alone, and we cannot supplant Him with any other influences or alliances.
Christ Through His Apostles
So what does this mean for the words of the apostles? Do we reject the writings of Peter, Paul, and His other disciples because they are not the actual words of Christ? John 16:5–15 records Jesus promising His apostles the Spirit of truth who would guide them in truth, declare what is to come, and glorify Christ. I believe this is what Paul is talking about in Galatians 1:11–12 when he says:
Now I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel preached by me is not based on human thought. For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ.
That revelation comes through the Spirit that Christ promised His apostles. Paul and the other apostolic authors wrote by the authority of Christ; they give us all truth as promised through that Spirit. Believing the words of the apostles is believing the words of Christ. They are inseparable. Accepting the words of the apostles is accepting Christ; rejecting them rejects Christ.
Christ Through Other Christians
What about others like Max Lucado, Franklin Graham, or even Martin Luther? John has this to say about how we should view the words of others, and I include myself in this:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. But every spirit who does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist; you have heard that he is coming, and he is already in the world now.
You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world. Therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Anyone who knows God listens to us; anyone who is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deception.
1 John 4:1–6
When someone else proclaims to speak for Christ, do their words and conduct line up with what we see in Jesus Christ? If they harmonize with Christ and His apostles, then they are worth listening to. If they contradict Christ in any way, then they are not of Him. Paul has a sterner warning in Galatians 1:8–9, going so far as to say that any angel from Heaven that contradicts Christ should be rejected.
And I expect you to hold me to that same standard. My goal here is to write about things that will help Christians get closer to Christ and non-Christians discover Christ. If my foundation is in anything but Christ alone, then my words are empty.
Putting Your Faith In Christ Alone
All of this requires study and self-examination. James 1:22 – 25 compares studying Christ’s law to looking into a mirror. We should be able to see ourselves in the words of Christ and His apostles. We should be able to see where we are growing, where we struggle, what we accept, and what we reject. Putting our faith in Christ alone requires that we look into that mirror with self-honesty and then change accordingly. We should always be changing to be more like Him, to do what He wants of us, to share Him with others. Being in Christ alone means we sacrifice self to submit entirely to Him, and we expel anything from our lives that make us put our hope and faith elsewhere.
My faith is in Christ alone. He is my light, my strength, my song. Won’t you let Him be the same for you?
“In Christ Alone,” song written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend
The Bible Project is a collection of visually engaging explorations or accounts, stories, and themes from the Bible. Not only is there a good wealth of well organized information here, but (as a bonus) the design quality and production values of the videos are better than I’m used to seeing.
Check it out. You might find something you can use in a future study or you might even learn something yourself.