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Message Books

The Unexpected Adventure

By Lee Strobel

2061 08/02/2021

I remember I was a fairly new Christian when someone asked about my faith in Jesus Christ for the very first time. I was a newspaper editor in Chicago and it was quite a busy day with a lot of breaking news, a lot of excitement going on. I prayed to God that day, asking Him to get me through that one day without losing my cool. Sure enough, God answered that prayer.

At the end of the day, my boss came up to me and he said, "Lee I've been watching you today. You really kept it all together when people around you were kind of losing their minds today. I'm just curious, I know you go to church. What's this Christianity thing to you?"

I froze. I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to embarrass myself. I didn't want to say the wrong thing. I didn't want to, you know, become known as the holy roller of the newsroom or something and hurt my career. I mean, I didn't know what to do. Finally, I said to him, "Well do you really want to know?" When he nodded, I said, "Well, then, let's go in your office." So we went into his office, we closed the door, and for 45 minutes we had the most remarkable conversation about Jesus. I talked with him about having been an atheist and the evidence I uncovered to convince me about the truth of Jesus being the Son of God. We discussed some of his objections to the faith and we had a wonderful conversation.

I wasn't trained in this. I didn't know what to do. I rather fumbled my way through it. Nevertheless, as I walked out after those 45 minutes, it was as if my entire life up until that conversation had been a motion picture filmed on 16-millimeter black and white grainy film with scratchy sound. However, those 45 minutes were in Technicolor with Dolby stereo.

I thought then that I needed more of this in my life. This is the missing ingredient in my Christian life, having conversations with people about Jesus. What I've learned through the years is, when we're motivated to talk to people about Jesus, when we make ourselves available to do that, especially when we don't know what's going to happen, what starts out to be an average and routine day, can become a life-changing opportunity to share something that could permanently change someone's eternal destination.

I remember another time this happened. Again, I was at the newspaper as an editor. At the end of the day, I was collecting my things to go home, but I felt the Holy Spirit prodding me. I felt him kind of kicking me in the pants. I felt him urging me to invite my atheist friend who worked in the business office at the newspaper to come to my church for Easter services. I thought, well, if God is really urging me to do this, something wonderful is going to happen. My friend is probably going to receive Christ right now. It's going to be great. So, I walked over to his office with great confidence, saw him at his desk, and I thought, "Perfect." I started a casual conversation and worked up to saying, "Hey. Easter's coming up…"

He interrupted, saying, "I don't believe that stuff, I'm an atheist."

"I know you are," I said, "but this is when we celebrate Jesus' return from the dead.

"He didn't return from the dead," said my friend.

"Well, actually there is good historical evidence that He did," I said, adding a little bit about the evidence for the resurrection, but he wasn't interested. And so I said, "Well, listen, why don't you come to church with me this Easter? I think you'd really enjoy it."

He said, "I don't want to come to your stupid church."

I asked, "Do you have any questions about God?" When he said no, I asked, "Ever wonder about God?" When he said no again, I started to get embarrassed. He was shutting me down whatever I said, so I said, "Okay, you know where my office is if you ever have any questions." I walked out thinking, what was that about? Did I get my wires crossed? Why did God prod me to share my faith with this guy who just shut me down whenever I brought up anything? It bothered me for years. However, let me tell you the rest of the story.

A few years after that, I'd become a pastor at Willow creek Church in Chicago, and I had just spoken one weekend. A guy came up to me afterwards and said, "Can I shake your hand and thank you for the spiritual influence you've had on my life?

I said, "That's very kind, but who are you?"

He answered by saying, "Let me tell you my story. A few years ago, I lost my job and I didn't have any savings in the bank. I thought I was going to lose my home, my car, everything, I didn't know what to do, so I called a friend of mine who ran a newspaper and asked if he any odd jobs I could do to earn some money. He asked if I could tile floors, and when I said yes, he gave me a job to repair and install some tiles at the newspaper office. So, one day I was working at the newspaper, not long before Easter, and I was in the business office on my hands and knees behind a desk in a corner, working on some floor tile when you walked in. I don't even think you saw me there. But you start talking to this other guy about God and about Easter and about the resurrection. You talked about Jesus and your church and you invited him to Easter services. This guy didn't care, but I'm on my hands and knees behind this desk on the floor and I'm thinking that I need God. I need to go to church. My heart was beating fast and, as soon as you left the room, I picked up the phone, called my wife, and said, 'We're going to church this Easter.' Even though at first she resisted, I convinced her and we came to your church at Easter. I came to faith, my wife came to faith, and our teenage son came to faith. I just wanted to thank you."

I thought, here's a new form of evangelism, ricochet evangelism. You share your faith, it bounces off a hard heart, and you don't know where it's going to land!

Friends, this is the unexpected adventure of the Christian life. This is where the action is. This elevates every other aspect of your Christian life. When you're living in anticipation that God is going to use you to have conversations with people who are confused about God, your prayer life takes on a whole new dimension. It's because you're praying, "God help me. I don't know what to say." It's when our Bible study takes on a whole new relevance because we're not just looking for abstract theological truths; we're looking for something that will help us reach our friend. It's when our worship takes on a new fervency because we're worshipping the God of second chance who loves our lost friends even more than we do. It's when our dependence on God is at its greatest because we know that, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit, there's nothing we can do in and of ourselves to lead anybody to Christ.

Friends, this is where the action is and Jesus told us this is what we need to do. Jesus, in Matthew 5, looks out over a group and he said, "You are the salt of the earth! You are the light of the world." What was He talking about in that sermon? He was saying that he wants us live Christian lives like salt that causes people to thirst for the truth about God. He wants us to live lives that are like light that shines as hope and compassion and love and grace and redemption into dark places of despair.

I think about that. That is a great privilege and honor we have as followers of Jesus and its where the action is. So, how do we get more of this in our lives? One way is to ask ourselves, "How would Jesus do this if Jesus physically lived in my house? How would He reach out to the neighbors who are confused about God?"

So, as I studied the life of Jesus, I came up with many things. I'm just going to mention briefly three things I think we could learn from the Master in terms of interacting with other people about Jesus.

First, before Jesus would talk to His neighbor about their heavenly Father, He would talk to His heavenly Father about His neighbor. Right? He would pray. Of course, He would. It's a pattern of Jesus' life that, before He embarked on anything of importance, He would bring it to the Lord in prayer. In fact, if you ever thought about the fact that Jesus' prayers for spiritually confused people continued right up until His final breaths on the cross. The British pastor John Stott has pointed out that, if you read the New Testament in the original Greek in which it's written, the imperfect tense indicates that Jesus didn't just say it once, but He kept repeating it all through the torture of the crucifixion. While the nails are being driven through His hands, while the nails are driven through His feet, He kept repeating, He kept praying, "Father forgive them, Father forgive them, Father forgive them for they know not what they do."

If Jesus' prayers for people so spiritually depraved that they were torturing and causing the death of the Son of God, continuing right up until His final breaths on the cross, then how can we justify not praying consistently and fervently and specifically for people we know and love who are confused about God? Yet, so often we give up.

I think about my father-in-law who was an atheist. After I became a Christian, when I tried to tell him about Jesus, he looked at me and said. "Never bring up the name of Jesus to me again. Are we straight on that?"

"Okay. Great, Al. No problem."

So, what can we do? I prayed for that man for twenty years. Finally in his 87th year, in his last cogent conversation of his life, two hours before he had a stroke that destroyed his mind, my father-in-law, the most unlikely candidate you've ever seen for conversion, gave his life to Jesus Christ and became a born-again child of God.

Who have you given up on? I wanted to give up on him a thousand times. Who is it you used to pray for but you've given up on? Jesus would say to bring that person to your mind, pray consistently, pray specifically, and pray fervently. One of the things you can pray is, "God, use me as salt and light in that person's life. Help me to get into a spiritual conversation that might clarify his or her understanding of who Jesus is so that they, also, may receive His forgiveness and grace. I think if Jesus physically lived in my house, He'd pray for His neighbors who were confused about God.

Second thing, I think if Jesus lived in my house physically, He wouldn't just talk about His love for people. He would put His love for people into action. Why? Because words are cheap. Jesus didn't just say He loved people. He demonstrated that. How? By becoming a servant. He served the blind by restoring their sight. He served the lepers by restoring their health. He even served the wedding guests by turning water into wine. Then, in the greatest act of servanthood in the history of the universe, He gave His life as a ransom that we might find forgiveness in eternal life through Him.

Friends, when we serve others as Jesus did, when we sacrifice for others as Jesus modeled, when we put our love into action following the example of Jesus, this penetrates the hardest of hearts. In fact, when Jesus, in Matthew chapter 5, was encouraging us to be salt and light, he added in verse 16, "Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." And when He used the words "good deeds," he didn't just mean good deeds as opposed to bad deeds. The word "good" in Greek also has a connotation of being winsome and attractive. And so what Jesus is saying here, I want you to serve other people in a winsome and attractive way that causes their eyes to drift heavenward, toward your heavenly Father who motivates you against this grain of this narcissistic "me first" world, who motivates you to put other people first, and to serve other people. That's what Jesus was saying.

I think if Jesus physically lived in my house, He would always be scanning the neighborhood with His compassion radar, looking for opportunities to serve other people. Friends, we can do that, too. We can scan our offices, our workplaces, our neighborhoods with our compassion radar, and we can look for ways that we can bring the love of God in a tangible way to someone else. There might be an elderly widow in our neighborhood. If you would offer to take her to the grocery store once a week, what a blessing that would be. You might have a single mom in your neighborhood who's working two jobs, trying to survive, just killing herself to support two little kids. You and your spouse could babysit her children on a Friday night to give her time for herself. That would be such a blessing. There may be a teenage kid down the block who always shoots baskets alone in his driveway. You could ask to join him. Friends, when we scan our world with compassion radar, and we begin to see ways we can put our love into action as Jesus did, it penetrates hearts that otherwise are impervious to the gospel.

Finally, one last thing I'll mention is that if Jesus physically lived in my house, He would above all else be authentic in the way He related to His neighbors. He would be authentic. In other words, what you see is what you get. There would be a consistency between His beliefs and His behavior, between His character and His creed. Is that true about us? Because I can guarantee you something. If your neighbors know that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, I can guarantee you that they have a different kind of radar that's scanning your life and your house 24/7. It's called the hypocrisy radar. Beep, beep, beep, beep. You know they're looking at you. You know they're watching your life. What are they looking for? False piety. What are they looking for? Holier-than-thou attitude. What are they looking for? A phony Christian happy face that you paste on and pretend like everything's always great when you know it isn't. What do people see when they scan your life with their hypocrisy radar?

Jesus said, "I want you to be salt and light." He obviously meant that in a positive sense. The truth is, some Christians are like salt in a wound. They hurt, not help. Some Christians are like light, like the high beams of an oncoming car coming at you in the dark on a two-lane highway. You have to divert your eyes because they hurt, not help. Some Christians live the kind of inauthentic lives that makes people divert their eyes from God.

That's the ugly truth. It happened to my friend Maggie. She grew up in a home where people who claimed to be followers of Jesus Christ abused her. Understandably, she became very poisoned against God and against the church because they were to her like salt in a wound. The were to her like the excruciating light of high beams on a darkened night

Let me read you what she wrote to me in a letter. She said, "Lee, the Christianity I grew up with was very confusing to me, even as a child. People said one thing but they did another. They appeared very spiritual in public but in private, they were abusive. What they said and what they did never fit. There was such a discrepancy so I came to hate Christianity and did not want to be associated with the church." Friends, that is the power of inauthentic Christians to repel people from God. But, guess what happened? At our church in Chicago, we had a debate between an atheist and a Christian on the existence of God. Maggie read about it in a newspaper and she came because she wanted to see the Christian humiliated in this debate. However, the Christian won the debate clearly. Now she had all kinds of questions about God and Christianity. She started writing these long letters to me: "Dear Lee, here are my first 50 questions about God," boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. I'd do my best to answer them. Finally, I said, "Maggie, we have little groups in our church, each made up of a Christian couple and half a dozen people like you who are on a journey. If you join one of those groups, you can make some friends and get your questions answered over time." She thought that was a good idea.

So Maggie joined one of these little groups, and I want to read you what she wrote me about the two Christians who led that group. It's such a great example of what people who are unconvinced about God are looking for from us. Listen to what she said: "When I came to church into my small group, I needed gentleness. I needed to able to ask any question. I needed to have my questions taken seriously. I needed to be treated with respect and validated. But most of all, I needed to see people whose actions match what they say. I'm not looking for perfect, but I am looking for real. Integrity is the word that comes to mind. I needed to hear real people talk about real life and I needed to know if God is or can be a part of real life. Does He care about the wounds I have? Does He care that I need a place to live? Can I ever be a whole and a healthy person? Well, I've asked questions like these of the two Christians who lead my group and I've not been laughed at, ignored, or invalidated. I've not been pushed or pressured in any way. In fact, I don't understand the caring I've received from the two Christians who lead my group. I don't understand that they don't seem afraid of questions. They don't say things like, 'You just have to have faith,' or 'You just need to pray more.' They don't seem to be afraid to tell me who they really are. They just seem genuine."

Then Maggie sent me the copy of a poem that she wrote. She said, "I wrote this poem, Lee, for the two Christians that lead my group." And I want to tell you something, friends, this is for every follower of Jesus Christ on planet earth. Because this is the heart's cry of someone far from God, poisoned against God, poisoned against the church. Imagine that Maggie looks to you as a follower of Jesus in the eye and says these words:

Do you know, I mean do you understand

that you represent Jesus to me?

Do you know, I mean do you understand

that when you treat me with gentleness,

it raises the question in my mind,

"Well maybe He is gentle, too?"

Maybe He isn't someone who laughs when I get hurt.

Do you know, I mean, do you understand

that when you listen to my questions and you don't laugh

that I think, well, what if Jesus is interested in me, too?

Do you know, do you understand that when I hear you talk

honestly about arguments and conflict and scars from your past

that I think, well, maybe I am just a regular person

instead of a bad, no good little girl who deserves abuse?

If you care, then I think maybe He cares.

Then there's this flame of hope that burns inside of me

and for awhile, I'm afraid to breathe because it might go out.

I mean, do you know, do you understand

that your words are His words,

that your face is His face to someone like me?

Please, be who you say you are.

Please, God, don't let this be another trick.

Please let it be real this time, please.

I mean, do you know, do you understand

that you represent Jesus to me?

The first time I read that, friends, I just felt so convicted about all the times I haven't been like Jesus to people around me. So I called Maggie up and said, "Maggie, thank you for that poem. Could I have permission to read it this weekend to the entire church?

She said, "Oh, Lee, haven't you heard?

I said, "What? What happened?"

She said, "You haven't heard?"

My heart sunk. I thought, "Oh no. What inauthentic Christian did she run into now who's repelled her again from God?" I said, "No Maggie, I haven't heard. What happened?"

She said, "It's a good thing. Lee, on Tuesday night, I gave my life to Jesus Christ."

I said, "Maggie, that's fantastic! That's tremendous! I'm blown away. That's great, but I'm curious, what brought you across the line of faith? What five facts have you learned to convince you that the resurrection is true? What ten facts did you learn to convince you that the Bible is the word of God?"

She said, "It wasn't like that with me."

I said, "Then, what was it?

She got kind of embarrassed; she kind of shrugged her shoulders over the phone and said, "I just met a whole bunch of people at church who are like Jesus to me."

I thought, what a lesson. What a lesson for someone like me who wants to pin somebody up against a wall. If you don't like those ten reasons for the resurrection, I'll give you ten more!

Friends, it was important she came to our debate and heard the evidence for the Christian faith, but what was it that God used to bring her into His kingdom? People who were like Jesus to her. Friends, we can do this. We can do it. We can pray for people. We can serve people in a winsome and an attractive way. And the easiest thing of all is that we don't have to pretend we're something we aren't. We don't have to pretend we're smarter than we are. We don't have to pretend we're more spiritual than we are. We can just be sinners saved by grace who reach out with His message of love and redemption to the Maggie's of the world. I'm telling you what, friends, when you do that, God will take you on a series of unexpected adventures that will be the joy of your life.

Let's pray. Father, I pray for all the Maggie's of the world, people who have been confused about You, turned off because of things they've seen or experienced. Father, I pray by Your spirit that You would use us, Your children, as salt and light to bring Your message of hope and redemption to them in Jesus' name, Amen.

Copyright Hour of Power 2009. This message was delivered by Lee Strobel from the pulpit of the Crystal Cathedral and aired on the Hour of Power, August 2, 2009.

Read more about this week's guest pastor, Lee Strobel.

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  1. youngeone writes:

    Thank you again HOUR OF POWER,Thank you LEE SOBELS for your very clear encouraging message .HEAVENLY FATHER please help us to live the Authentic Christian Life being Salt and Light to those we are in contact with ,sharing our lives and our witness as we travel on our journey towards the Celestial City . JMC.

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    08/03/2021 14:57:07
  2. Rosebud37 writes:

    * Today's Prayer * Dear Lord, let your love and grace and mercy, shine through me ... in my thoughts, and words, and deeds! Oh, to be like Jesus, with just enuff salt to season; and just enough light, that I may reflect His face ... Please lend to me your strength and power and wisdom -- and protect me from all neggies ... So that I can make the best choices each and every day! ... Amen and Amen ... Rosebud

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    08/06/2020 13:01:04

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