31 Days of Evangelism Day 6: The 3 Groups Jesus Met and How He Responded

The one-size-fits-all approach of evangelism (or discipleship, prayer, or a myriad of topics) may seem on the surface to work in our path-of-least-resistance approach to Christianity, but it’s not what you see in Scripture. Studying how Jesus interacted with people reveals a multifaceted approach. One can, however, see trends based on the various groups with whom Jesus interacted. In my own study of the Gospels I’ve seen three consistent ways Jesus dealt with three unique groups of people. While this is still a generalization and I encourage you to study all the Gospels yourself, perhaps this will help you to contextualize the gospel in your personal world.

First, Jesus showed COMPASSION to the broken. Considering the reality of the gospel in a nutshell, John 3:16, which shows God’s love compelled Jesus to die for us, this should not be surprising. Yet we, filled with shame and tainted by guilt, need the compassion of Christ. The Gospels abound with Jesus’s compassion toward those very aware of their sin, including the woman at the well, the Gaderene demoniac, the woman with the issue of blood, lepers, and others.

As we share Christ, we will encounter people with little hope, broken people whose lives have been torn apart by sin. Some struggle with emotional pain, others suffer the phsyical consequences of sin from abuse to bad choices. Our response to these precious souls should not be to heap more judgment on them but to proclaim the beauty of Christ’s love and compassion.

Next, Jesus CONFRONTED the self-righteous. Self-righteousness has been as common as warts on a toad as long as there have been people. Our heart defaults to justifying ourselves, and Jesus confronted plenty of those types in his ministry.  He challenged Nicodemus to be born again, a strange request on several levels for a leader of the Jews. He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had. The best example is his diatribe against the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Whether the Pharisees and their venom or the Saduccess and their skepticism, Jesus had no use for spiritual pride. He still doesn’t.

When we talk with someone who is self-righteous, whether from a deeply embedded but false belief system or someone who denigrates your faith, we need not be hostile in spirit toward them. Remember Paul said to treat outsiders with gentleness (Col 4) and Peter reminded us to be honorable toward Gentiles (I Peter 2:10-11). But we shouldn’t sit back and take their ridicule or allow a false portrayal of our faith. We can graciously and yet boldly proclaim the truth and challenge self-righteousness.

Finally, Jesus CHALLENGED those who would follow to surrender everything. Read Luke 9:23; 14:26-27, and many other passages where he expected nothing less than absolute surrender. For those of us who claim the name of Jesus, we would do well to study these and other passages for ourselves and for fellow believers.

I’m afraid the church today tends to show too much patience with the self-righteous and too little compassion to the broken, while allowing for a path of least resistance kind of discipleship. May we never stray far from the Gospels as we learn to share Jesus with others.

Want to Be More Disciplined? Start with Your Daily Routines

Do you ever have conversations in your head with yourself? We all do. Imagine for a minute you are having that conversation: the one where you failed at discipline and you are scolding yourself for once again not keeping that commitment/avoiding that temptation/meeting that challenge/whatever the topic is at the moment. It’s ok, we all have those at times, don’t we?

Discipline matters. In fact, discipline and disciple come from the same root. A person can be extremely disciplined — like an Olympic athlete — and yet not be a disciple of Jesus. But can one really be a disciple of Jesus and not embrace discipline?  I’m not talking about guilt-ridden, legalistic discipline, nor am I talking about discipline motivated by comparison with others. Discipline for the believer flows out of grace, not guilt. Our motivation for grace comes from the wonder, the gratitude, and the joy of living for our Lord with all our hearts because of the gospel. It was Paul, who teaches us so much about grace, who set the example of disciplining himself like an athlete (I Corinthians 9:27). Dallas Willard sets this up well when he reminds us that “grace is opposed to earning; it is not opposed to effort.”

This discipline applies first and foremost to our spiritual lives, as Paul reminded Timothy to discipline himself for the purpose of godliness (I Tim. 4:7). But even as the gospel applies to all our life–spiritual, emotional, vocational, relational, financial, and physical–it’s hard to be disciplined in our spiritual lives and let ourselves go totally in other areas. Is there not a fundamental problem when a person seems disciplined in his daily devotions and yet is wildly irresponsible with spending money?

A question for me all my life regards growing in discipline. In recent days I’ve found a very helpful way of thinking about discipline from a different perspective. I came across a book by a Pulitzer Prize winning author named Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. Then I watched a TED talk on the book from a new habit I’ve started–riding my exercise bike 10-20 minutes when I finish my daily devotions while watching a TED talk or other video.

Duhigg talks about the HABIT LOOP:

It seems researchers have found a consistent pattern in people who practice both good and bad habits. Something cues us to a particular routine, followed by some kind of reward. One researcher found about 40% of our daily lives are controlled by habits. It’s why you can get in your car and drive to work, arrive, and ask yourself whether you closed the garage door, or can’t seem to remember much about the drive. It’s such a habit you don’t track every second.

What if you replaced one bad habit with a good one? What if instead of treating yourself to a cookie or other unhealthy snack in the afternoon, which you probably only eat out of habit, you began to bring to work your most favorite piece of fruit to enjoy then? Let’s say you are a young man who as a habit comes home and plays video games for an hour. First, WHY? Okay, sorry, it could be watching Sports Center or the Weather Channel, or wasting an hour on social media, or grabbing a bag of chips. What if you put a cue that reminded you first to do something productive, like homework, or going for a jog, or reading for 30 minutes. Then, reward yourself with a focused, shortened time watching a screen, and eating something that’s not processed to the nines.

Let’s say you want to start exercising. Before going to bed, place your workout clothes where you can’t miss them. That’s a cue. Planning ahead with a new cue is a start. Have your water bottle filled up and in the fridge. And then exercise. Find (ahead of time!) a youtube video with bodyweight exercises and get after right there in the living room. Duhigg even mentions giving yourself a reward that seems counterintuitive, like a small piece of chocolate. Studies show over time your mind will start cueing you that candy is not the reward, but long term health is.

Most of us have habits that are good for us. We brush our teeth (I hope!) without so much as a thought. But we also have bad habits. You don’t really abolish a bad habit; you replace it with a good one. Duhigg and others argue to make the change, you keep the cue and a reward, but change the routine.

Personal testimony: here are two I’ve done for my own health long term. One is the biking with a TED video, which I started again today because I’ve had some health stuff keeping me on the sidelines for a week. But it’s already become such a habit I couldn’t wait to get back on the bike this AM. A second is eating 5-7 (7 is the goal) servings of healthy fruits and vegetables a day. Don’t judge me, low carb people. Each of us is unique, and after a lot of experimenting this seems to be both more effective for me at controlling weight, staying satiated, and lets me not hate what I eat (which is not sustainable). And I feel good!

My 96.00 bike from Walmart. 

I encourage you to watch the TED talk (below), and if you can, get the book. The video below ties together rats, Starbucks, and marshmellows in an interesting way. But what I really want to ask you to do is to find one annoying habit that keeps you from growing in an area you care about, and replace it with a habit that moves you forward as a follower of Jesus.