Jesus had a way of rocking a person’s world by turning questions on their heads. The first example that comes to mind is a Pharisee, Nicodemus. He was intrigued by Jesus, but not brave enough to face him in light of day, so he came to him at night. He was, after all, a member of the Jewish ruling council. What would they think of him meeting with this scandalous new teacher?
He recognized Jesus for coming from God, and admitted it that night. Yet, Jesus knew his heart. This was a man still bound by his religious heritage, by the law and opinion of his peers. That’s when Jesus told him:
You must be born again.*
It was in that nighttime encounter that we received the most life-changing verse in the Bible:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.*
We have little information on what happened to Nicodemus after that encounter, but we do know that he joined Joseph of Arimathea in providing the crucified Christ with a proper burial.* He obviously had taken Jesus’ words to heart and put his trust in him.
Those who have spent their lives in established faith communities can be the hardest to reach with the good news of Christ as seen in John 3:16. A missionary serving in Europe recently said:
The vaccine of traditional faith has inoculated them against the gospel message of repentance and belief.
For this reason, he says that their question to people has changed from, “Do you believe in Jesus?” to “Do you trust in Jesus?”
Do you see the difference? A person, who has grown up in a traditional faith community, will easily say they believe in Jesus. How could they not? It’s all they’ve known. The word “Christian” is part of their identity and sometimes even their ethnic heritage.
But where is their trust? If they are honest, most would say in their identity with the church or as a Christian, not in the only One who is truly worthy of their trust.
One time, when we were living in Lebanon, my husband shared the beautiful message of Christ with a Maronite Christian woman. She told him, “One birth is enough for me.” Where was her trust? In a heritage that would fail her in the end.
For those of you who seek to be witnesses for Christ, don’t be afraid to change your approach. You must think about the questions you ask, the words you use, because though they might work with one person, they will not always work for another. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you say just the thing that will rock their world and shake their belief in self and tradition. Only then will hearts be open to trust.
Grace and Peace
*John 3:16 (NIV)