Why did you become a Christian? Why do you stay a Christian? Why would anyone you know become a Christian and why would anyone stay a Christian? How important are these questions to you?
Every working day billions of Christians rub shoulders with billions of non-Christians. You have really good colleagues whom you would consider close friends, with whom you interact, plan, and strategise. They are assistants upon whom you depend to oil the wheels of your work or they are managers for whom you want to deliver because they treat you well. They are humble, arrogant, caring, selfish, kind and rude – they are human.
And if you are honest you would love them to meet Jesus of Nazareth and, like you, become a follower of his.
So how does it generally happen? It’s got to be a good question – and there has to be a good answer.
I am going to suggest to you that there is; it involves bringing together three of the roads best travelled and turning them into a spiritual super highway – or maybe just a way – along which people can travel. So here goes……
People become Christians because they become convinced that it’s true. Hold on before you challenge this; it’s not the whole story; it’s the first part. Somewhere in the process you became convinced that this Jesus story was true. Now it may not have been the only factor leading to your conversion, but you certainly needed it somewhere, and you won’t stick with it unless you become increasingly convinced it is true. The tough times challenge you and you will need to hold on; so when you wake up depressed or discouraged you can ask yourself ‘have I received any new evidence in the night that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, was not the Son of God, did not die for my sins and that the bible is invalid?’ No? – then carry on.
This is the message of the Emmaus road. Jesus gave the two travellers reasons – the same reasons that Peter describes when he talks about “reasons for the hope within you”. Christianity has to make reasonable sense for you and anyone else.
Secondly, people become Christians because it works. It is not enough to have a set of elegant, rational arguments in your brain if it makes no difference to your life; if it doesn’t set you free or impact your issues it will remain a theory and a dissatisfying one at that.
This is the message of the Damascus road; Jesus, by his Spirit, intervened in a real life situation; things which were not seen became seen. Power invades the individual life and the believer can walk by faith – a faith that works – that changes – that revolutionises. Thirdly, people become Christians – and stay Christians because they experience love and feel loved. Reasons are essential, life-giving power is essential, but if Christians are rude, offensive and discourteous, the noise of that behaviour drowns out the message. If someone feels insulted, abused, patronised, or ignored they will not respond and neither would you.
This is the message of the Jericho road. It was a road of pure, selfless, relevant, consistent, unconditional love. This is the love that expresses itself in sacrificial acts, designed to meet the real needs of the wounded traveller. The Samaritan showed the love which overcomes all barriers.
So there you have it: the Emmaus road – people need reasons; the Damascus road – people need power – to know it works; the Jericho road – people need love – love from God, love from you and love from others.
So if you want people to become Christians you will need to equip yourself always to be ready to give the reasons for the hope that is within you; you will need to demonstrate in all your working practices the transforming power of faith and you will need to love people in small, medium, and large ways. These are the dynamics of the spiritual journey. This is why you became a Christian, this is how you will grow as a Christian, and this is how you will bring others with you. Emmaus, Damascus, Jericho – if you have been reading carefully you will have noticed that each road is characterised by one word:
Emmaus – Hope; Damascus – Faith; Jericho – Love; so we know we are on the right track because we have seen that these three remain – but the greatest of these is Jericho . Walk on.
13Now that same day two of them were going to a village called
Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14They were talking
with each other about everything that had happened. 15As they
talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came
up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from
recognizing him. 17He asked them, “What are you discussing together
as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of
them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem
and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19″What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the
people. 20The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be
sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21but we had hoped that
he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it
is the third day since all this took place. 22In addition, some of our
women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning 23but
didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a
vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24Then some of our
companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had
said, but him they did not see.” 25He said to them, “How foolish you
are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken! 26Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then
enter his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he
explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning
28As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus
acted as if he were going farther. 29But they urged him strongly,
“Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he
went in to stay with them. 30When he was at the table with them,
he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.
31Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he
disappeared from their sight. 32They asked each other, “Were not our
hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and
opened the Scriptures to us?” 33They got up and returned at once to
Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them,
assembled together 34and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and
has appeared to Simon.” 35Then the two told what had happened on
the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the
1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against
the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for
letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there
who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take
them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his
journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to
the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you
persecute me?” 5″Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus,
whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6″Now get up and go into the
city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7The men traveling
with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not
see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his
eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into
Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink
anything. 10In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The
Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11The Lord told him, “Go to the house of
Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul,
for he is praying. 12In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias
come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13″Lord,”
Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all
the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14And he has come
here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your
name.” 15But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen
instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and
before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must
suffer for my name.” 17Then Ananias went to the house and entered
it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus,
who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent
me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he
could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some
food, he regained his strength.
25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
26″What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
27He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;
and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” 28″You have answered
correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29But he wanted
to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to
Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of
his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31A
priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw
the man, he passed by on the other side. 32So too, a Levite, when he
came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a
Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he
saw him, he took pity on him. 34He went to him and bandaged his
wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own
donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35The next day he
took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after
him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra
expense you may have.’ 36″Which of these three do you think was a
neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37The
expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus
told him, “Go and do likewise.”
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