This blog post is Part 2 of a series entitled, "May I Ask A Question?" by Pastor Jeffrey Dean Smith of Donelson First in Nashville, TN.
Message Date: May 14, 2023
There is so very much about Jehovah God that we simply do not know. Even within the pages of His Holy Word, there is great depths of mystery that go way beyond the very mind of man. Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?
Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
In the Bible, there is extreme clarity on many issues. In the Bible, there too is a lack of clarity on many issues. In the Bible, God made the main plain.
We know the Bible is clear on many, many “main” truths God wants us to know - - God created all things and we have the Creation story in Genesis 1 for clarity. Mankind sinned and, with this one choice of disobedience, all of humanity is now condemned to forever separation from God in hell. The penalty for sin is spiritual death. Mary is the mother of Jesus through a virgin birth. Jesus, God’s Son, came to earth to die in our place a death He never deserved. Jesus was dead and in a tomb for three days. He then came back to life conquering sin and death forever. If anyone believes in Jesus and chooses to surrender life to Him, He saves them from forever torment in hell and grants them access to eternity in heaven.
In the Bible, the main things God wants us to clearly know, He made clearly known.
The more critical a topic, the more directly the Bible addresses a topic. 16 weeks of our last series, Orthodoxy, is proof of this. God went to great lengths to share, explain and outline His redemptive plan for humanity and the Orthodoxy truths that envelop this plan throughout the Scriptures.
However, there are many, many questions on a plethora of issues that God, for whatever reason, chose not to divulge in great detail, or in some cases, with no detail.
Unfortunately, it is often these very issues to which we are offered little or no answers in the Bible, which some choose to use as the reason for why they do not believe in God, the Bible, and Christianity.
I want to implore you not to be such a person.
Listen, there are always going to be things, situations, places, thoughts, challenges, perplexities, and more for which we have little to no answers.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
I encourage us each: Permit my lack of knowledge and understanding and curiosities about life, creation, the world, and eternity to draw me to God rather than pull me away from God.
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:6
Last week, I shared our three-part goal for this series:
1. Receive God’s wisdom.
2. Discover God’s ways.
3. Obediently follow God’s will.
We have received so very many great questions. Today, I am going to answer 2 of these questions. They are closely related, and to order our thoughts this morning, I am entitling this grouping of questions:
Sharing + Defending Jesus, the Bible, and The Church
The first question today: What is the best way to share Jesus with others in today's world?
This question is really one of evangelism.
Evangelism = the multiplying of the Christian message.
The ministry of “evangelism” is not new to the Church. And we read on many occasions throughout Scripture the responsibility we each have as a follower of Jesus Christ to be ambassadors for the gospel message:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:5
And, we too know, that the very life of Jesus was one of evangelism. The very first act of Jesus once His ministry began which is recorded in the book of Mark was the call of His first disciples to evangelize: Mark 1:16-18
The final words Jesus spoke to His followers were words imploring us to “Go!” and preach the gospel message to the world!
Both the first and the last call of Jesus to His followers was one of evangelism. So it is obvious that sharing the gospel is critically important to Jesus. It too should be important to me.
Answer this question: Do I want anyone to go to hell?
My hope is that you answer this question emphatically, “No!” So then... What’s my plan? I’ll add to this question:
Do I have a plan?
I’ll tell you this Church - - our enemy has a plan! He absolutely has a plan. His plan is the only thing he thinks about. Pause and give consideration to that reality...
Our enemy, humanity’s greatest enemy ever... NEVER stops thinking about his plan to take as many people to hell with him as he can.
Listen to this verse: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
Devour /Greek/ katapinō = to overwhelm
Why is this so important to know? Because it makes perfect sense, does it not? We should be warned about the workings of the enemy so that we are more able to recognize his deception when it manifests in our lives.
Think about it.. when you get overwhelmed, what is often your response? It probably is not to say, “Halleluiah God, thank you for this crazy in my life!” And, when you feel that you are overwhelmed to the breaking point, the last thing you are most likely thinking about is, “I want to point others to Christ in this moment!” No, instead of such thoughts, I can be honest and say when I am overwhelmed, I often turn my focus inward to me... I get selfish... I can become irritated...
And, in such moments, my focus is NOT on, as we just read in 1 Peter to...
“... be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks me to give the reason for the hope that I have. And... to do so with gentleness and respect!” And my focus is also NOT to, as we read in 2 Corinthians, “...be an ambassador for Christ!”
Nor is my focus to, as we read in 2 Timothy, to “...keep my head in all situations, to endure hardship, and to do the work of an evangelist!”
You see, if you are a Christ-follower, there is nothing the enemy can do about this. You will forever spend eternity in heaven with Jesus. However, what the enemy does do so well, is work to “devour you”... “to overwhelm you” ... so that your focus is one that is selfish and is not focused on the, as Paul said to Timothy, the “... duties you hold as an evangelist”
This is why Paul warned, both the church in Ephesus and in Corinth, of this...
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3
How ironic this is the one reason Jesus Christ came to earth – to save the lost. This was the first call He gave to His disciples. The command to “Go!” was the last thing Jesus said to His followers before ascending to heaven.
Yet... for most Christians, I would say this is reality as it relates to evangelism: Sharing my faith, actively looking for opportunities, praying for such opportunities, experiencing brokenness over the lost, and developing a strategy to evangelize the world is something of which I rarely consider, focus, plan and pray.
This is why this first question of our new series is such an important one. So let me give you some practical thoughts that I hope will strengthen within you a resolve and eagerness to be a sharer of your faith:
What is the best way to share Jesus with others in today's world?
This may seem like an unlikely attribute of evangelism. But I am of the belief that: How I feel shapes how I love.
Whether you realize it or not:
My outlook on life, particularly during the difficult days of life, impacts how I look at others, choose to treat others and respond to others who come in and out of my day.
I am of the belief the apostle Paul clearly understood this dilemma. This is why we read so very many times such thoughtful and encouraging words Paul offered to the early Church:
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16
Paul is reminding the Church then and the Church today that this message of Jesus can “richly” dwell among us as we what...? ... as we teach and admonish one another!
Therefore, the opposite is also true:
If I do not possess and carry within me a tremendous appreciation for all that I have and all the good God has done for me, such a lack of appreciation will impact my willingness and ability to speak about the love of God with another.
Paul also writes to the Church in Colossae: Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:2
He too writes these words of encouragement to the Church in Philippi: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4:8
Now, I too know this to be true... there are many things along the journey of life that come our way for which you and I are less appreciative.
Just this week, a friend called me to tell me she and her husband are filing for a divorce. Another friend of Amy and I, as I have shared with you, has cancer. And yet another friend of mine just this week lost her job.
Such things are not things for which we as humans have an appreciation. I get this!
What I have to work at ...and this takes great intentionality and focus and a whole lot of prayer... is to direct my appreciation for all God has done for me to supersede my frustrations, hurts, sadness, and loss for all this broken world brings to me.
I think this is why Paul wrote these words as well: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
A heart of appreciation understands that, even during the dark and difficult, absolutely nothing touches my life that God does not first acknowledge and that does not come without some benefit to me.
And it is this, my appreciation for a good God in the midst of life’s less-than-good moments, that can be used as a tremendous evangelistic opportunity toward those in my life who have no such peace upon which to rely when life falls apart.
Secondly, the best way to share Jesus with others in today's world:
Answer this question: Do I desire, truly desire, for people without Jesus to find Him? If yes, what am I willing to do about it?
I’ve always been amazed and truly humbled by the words of Paul in Romans. This one passage just very well might be the most convicting to me personally of all the Scriptures. Paul is writing about His desire to see others come to know Jesus as Savior.
Romans 9:1-3 (How convicting... I can’t say I am here yet... but I sure want to be.)
I shared with you earlier: How I feel shapes how I love. Let me add to this thought: What I desire determines what I do. And if you do not have such a desire, what an important question for you to take to God: “Why? God, reveal to me why I do not have a desire to ‘Go!’ to the world and share the message, “Jesus saves!”
Let’s let such passages change the way we feel if need be, about sharing our faith:
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might. 2 Thessalonians 1:9
They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Matthew 13:42
But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Revelation 19:20
If anyone had a reason for expressing gratitude for all that God has done, it was Paul. This man was a Christian killer! And God, deservingly, could have killed Paul. Instead, God offered Him forgiveness and gave Him a new life.
From that moment forward, this man spent the rest of his life, a very hard life, a hunted life, a life often spent arrested, beaten, and imprisoned, expressing his gratitude for God and the need that everyone has in their life of receiving the same life-changing salvation found only through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
My willingness to express my love for Jesus and my gratitude for salvation begins with the realization that I have a story worth telling.
Turn to someone and say: You got a story! You do!
If you are a Christ-follower, then you have the greatest story ever to express! Your story of a life destined for hell... but now, a life destined for heaven!
Of course, parents and grandparents... remember, everything we do here at DF for our First Kids ministry to prepare your kids to champion their faith is secondary to the impact and influence you have every day in their lives as a family member. So, talk about these things. Look for ways to have robust conversations at home, on the playground, on the drive to school, and more about ways our kids can own their faith, live it, and share it!
If you have ever volunteered in our First Kids zone, you know how super excited these kids are to be in church. And they EXPRESS this excitement.
Oh, how I long for us to be a church jazzed to express to the world our love for Christ. Here’s what I challenge you to do..
1. I appreciate what you have done for me. 2. Give me a burning to desire to... 3. Express my gratitude of you and love for you. 4. Give me opportunities to talk with others about you.
One way you can do exactly this is really super easy and it’s actually the next question I have been asked in the May I Ask A Question series: What can I do, as a regular attendee of this church, to share the news about our church to others?
What a great question for us to discuss! Let me too give you some really practical and tangible ways you can continue to share the love!
How do I share the love about Donelson First:
1. Follow Every one of you should be following all DF socials.
A great way to share with others about DF, is to rate and review the podcast.
Your socials can be a tremendously effective marketing tool for the Church. Post images of church events, an invite to an upcoming DF event, or tell your circle of influence about your LG!
If you are receiving The 411, then you have access to all of the latest news about DF. The DF App is also a great way to stay in the know and then be able to share about all things DF.
I want to challenge every one of us to make it your goal each week to post once about DF – an event we are having, a link to the latest messages archived at donelsonfrist.com, an invite to our Power of an Hour prayer time, highlighting an LG or HG... Imagine if 300 of us each week posted on our personal socials about DF!
Likes are nice. Shares are better. Tag my friends!
Every post we post, I want to encourage you to share on your personals.
The story of Donelson First is quite remarkable. This landmark church in Nashville opened her doors in 1912. Since that time, this light on the hill here in Donelson has been a part of tremendous ministry through the years.
Like many, many churches across America, DF took a hit around the time of Covid, and she faced some major challenges to just keep her doors open. Three years ago this week, I was given the privilege of becoming the next Senior Pastor of DF. In 36 months, we have seen tremendous growth with over 200 new members, more than 30 baptisms, and we have added 16 LG’s + HG’s.
As a Ministry Team, we have a strategic focus to see a greater evangelistic footprint here in the community. Every Tuesday of the school year, our Good News Club meets in a local Elementary school where we are able to share the gospel message with kids and their families. We too launched Dollars for Donelson, an opportunity we presented you last year to give a $1/week to impact people within this community. Since its inception, you have generously given almost $20,000 one dollar at a time to help clothe and feed people, provide furniture, vehicle repairs, and housing to families who have lost their jobs and lost houses due to a fire.
In the last two Thanksgivings, we have prayed over and fed more than 200 families through our Turkey to Table ministry, and we have hosted over 3,500 people on our campus for Fall at the Annex, Spring at the Annex and our Good Friday worship events.
We regularly support some of Nashville’s finest and bravest men and women in blue through our Blue Bag ministry to local officers. Many of our officers now stop by on a regular basis to eat, rest, and get refueled in one of our many on-campus connection areas.
We have renovated our Social Hall, The Library, and all of our Life Group rooms, and now have dedicated spaces for both First Kids and First Student ministries to call their space their own!
We are renovating this Worship Center this summer with a completely new audio, video, and light package, as well as, upgrading our flooring and seating on both floors!
So... how do you share the love about Donelson First with others...
Start by celebrating this really amazing story that is unfolding before us in real-time... and it just keeps getting better!
Jeffrey Dean Smith is a husband, father to Bailey & Brynnan, author, and the Senior Pastor at Donelson First in Nashville, TN. If you are in Music City, meet Jeffrey and enjoy iced tea on the front lawn each Sunday at 10:30a.