The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
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John 3:1-2, 12
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God...” ... “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things.”
I had been attending a course on the Bible given by a person from a different Christian tradition. As I attended, I determined in my heart not to ask the question: “Are these people Christians?” I am too used to a mentality that there are two modes of operation with people. If they are Christians edify them, if they are not Christians convert them. Since these people would all consider themselves to be Christians, they had after all been baptised into the church at birth, then to approach them in this way would be seen as an assault and raise barriers. It seemed more appropriate to not ask this question but rather to walk with them and keep pointing at faith in our Lord Jesus. I hoped that by this means that some, by grace, might take steps of faith and live.
After some time of attending this group and having had a number of opportunities to share along the lines of faith, it seemed that I was making progress, receiving acceptance in the group both for myself and for faith. Then came an issue that was dear to my heart. Not just that it was special to me, but if this point goes then my faith goes with it. I really struggled as a I saw this group, despising something which I felt was of God himself and so ultimately that they were despising God. To add fuel to the fire the question was being raised by someone who had doubts and instead of trying to give this person some sort of foundation from which to go on, they seemed to be undermining any form of foundation that was there. I felt really frustrated and disillusioned. I did share my point of view, and indeed when I did so, they thought it was so crazy that they assumed I had misunderstood the question! In hindsight however I had done just that, shared a doctrinal view. There had been an opportunity to share a step of faith and an encounter with Jesus, but all I had really shared was a doctrinal viewpoint.
Later, I was studying John 3. There I was struck by this encounter with Nicodemus. If I had met Nicodemus, then I think I would have been struck by his spirituality. There were after all few people of his position who had been able to see Jesus as he really was. I would have been struck by his positive attitude towards Jesus. I would have been struck by the risk that he took to go and see Jesus. After all this I would have assumed that this man was a believer. Yet Jesus, by pointing him to his need to be born again is clearly indicating the opposite.
I realised that in my care not to question whether these people were believers or not, I had drifted over to the opposite position and assumed that they were. They were friendly, they displayed a measure of spirituality, they were positive towards Jesus. All of these, I took as indications of life. Jesus had met just such a man and concluded the opposite! Following this situation and others like it, I began to share how I experienced God in faith. Rather than try to present some doctrinal point, which could be agreed with or disagreed with, I shared my experience of God at work. This made no assumptions of where people were spiritually, but always pointed to life in Jesus.
RESPECT IS NOT LIFE