The Apostle Paul’s Journey to Faith in Christ

Jesus also said,

The Spiritual Journey to the Christian Faith“This is what the kingdom of God is like.

A man scatters seed on the ground.

Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.

All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.

As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

(Mark 4:26-29)

If we think of evangelism in terms of process of a  journey to the Christian faith, what might that have been like for the Apostle Paul?

Allow me to speculate a little.

The Seeds of Faith

First, here are some background events and influences that shaped his journey faith:

  • Jewish scholar (likely with lots of discussions about meanings of texts).
  • Pharisee of Pharisee (Acts 23:6)
  • Of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews (Phil 3.5)
  • Studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22.3).

The Lord uses our our background to shape the spiritual awakening.

One could compare that to lots of seeds that the Holy Spirit can use to awaken faith.

A seed doesn’t bloom to harvest instantly.

There is no “on-off” switch.

The seed needs time to germinate, grow, and mature through a natural organic progression.

Our job as a witness to watch for markers of the journey that our friends are on to faith in Christ and nurture them along into the next phase of growth.  We can look for the seeds that are already there.

Possible Spiritual Thirst that Opens the Door

Then there are the event of the time when Paul first begins to appear on the scene in Acts:

  • Present at Stephen’s speech and stoning (Acts 8:1)
  • Trying to destroy the church, going from house to house (Acts 8:3).

One can reasonably speculate on how Paul interacted with the early Christian believers ready to suffer and die for their faith in Christ. We think highly of the witness of the persecuted church and it’s reasonable to assume that Paul saw that witness.

I can imagine him ruminating in late night hours as perhaps something bothered him about their witness.

  • Maybe he heard them praying for him.
  • Maybe he heard their witness to him.
  • Maybe he even felt their love.

Likewise, if Paul’s teacher is the same Gamaliel of Acts 5:34-39, Paul may have observed that even his teacher may have been troubled by the genuineness of the early Christian movement.

Perhaps he knew his teach Gamaliel was puzzled as well.

This restlessness (speculation, I know) prepared Paul for his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road.

I can imagine how the Holy Spirit was using these life moments to prepare Paul.

This is the drawing process.  (Read John 6:44)

We get to participate in the evangelism process

I’m convinced that the Holy Spirit draws people to faith over time.

Sometimes we get to plant, water, or harvest.

Each story I listen to of a journey to faith had more than one key turning point in the discovery of God.

It might have been a

  • Conversation
  • Sermon
  • Invitation to a church or event
  • Life circumstances
  • Late night musings over deep issues.

So much of our evangelism training focuses on the conversion, we forget to allow for the process of maturity.

We need to allow our seeking friends time

  • to make their decision,
  • find answers for their questions
  • become willing to consider the claims of Christ
  • find healing for wounds caused by Christians or other people that harm their journey.

Evangelism is often viewed only as the proclamation of the gospel.  In a technical sense – it is.

But when I think of evangelism as the process of faith awakening, there is a lot of potentially evangelistic activity.

What about you?

Answer this question:  Is Evangelism a Process or Event?  I invite your commentary below.

Your 50% in the work of Evangelism

Steven Furtick blogs about not putting unnecessary burdens on ourselves while sharing the gospel.

He calls it “Your 50%”.

Essentially, Furtick calls us to remember that

  • We are called to bear witness to our faith.
  • God is responsible for calling people to respond in faith.

The proclamation of the gospel message through word and deed is our part.

The changing of the heart towards repentance is God’s part.

I’ve heard some teaching in the past that puts the whole burden on us:

  • If you don’t share, and they die in hell, it’s your fault.
  • If you don’t communicate the gospel exactly right, they are not converted.
  • If you don’t share the gospel from the right starting point, they are not converted.

Those might be extreme examples, but people carry that guilt.  In my conferences, I run into a lot of them.

We need to remember

Furtick concludes with

It’s good to feel the weight of people’s souls.

It’s motivating to your 50%.

But it’s bad to carry around the weight of their will.

That’s coveting their 50%.

And it will load a weight of guilt upon you that you were never meant to bear. Jesus wants to bear their guilt. If they don’t believe, they will bear it.

For your own sake, don’t take something that’s not yours to carry.

The Nudge of the Holy Spirit

Have you ever felt that Spirit-led nudge that pulls you to talk or pray with a stranger about their spiritual life?

This kind of nudge is more than an intuition.  It’s the voice of God inviting you to join Him in His redemptive work.

It’s God speaking to you through the Holy Spirit.

I think it starts off as a feeling of

“there is something to do, but I’m afraid of taking that step.”

“I’m not sure this is of the Lord, so I’ll just go on with my life.”

This kind of nudge grows heavier.  It is a sense of intense spiritual heaviness that God is underlining this person for you.

The longer you reflect on it, that feeling moves to

“I think I have to do something and I better do it now.”

The Spirit of God is inviting you to participate in the work of drawing a person to Jesus.

You might call it a prompting, a leading, a nudge, but it clearly seems to be “not you.”

Examples of that Nudge:

My friend Jimmy felt this kind of nudge when he noticed a man standing outside the door of a drugstore.  He simply had to engage the man in a conversation.  It led to a conversation that helped that man move forward in his journey to faith.

Pastor Richard White felt this kind of nudge to talk with a man who’s car had broken down on the side of the road. (See this video Can Pastors Find Time for Evangelism?)

Remember Phillip in Acts 8:26ff, when he was wandering on the desert road, felt that Spirit given nudge to approach a stranger on the roadway (the Ethiopian Eunuch? – Read Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch).

I felt that nudge to go to the swimming pool and there I found my neighbor.  He started a conversation with me about his spiritual life.

Describing the experience

Have you felt that nudge?

How would you describe that?

30 Days of Prayer: Day 12 – The mystery of conversion

This entry is part 12 of 23 in the series 30 Days of Prayer

Mystery of Christian Conversion“Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” – Mark 4:27

How does the seed grow?

I remember science projects I did in elementary school to make seeds sprout.

We played with the variables of soil, light, water, and even gravity (by using a record player) to see what might happen.

I recall the wonder and marvel that the seeds sprouted.

My children have repeated similar experiments with guandu and papaya seeds, and I got joy at watching their excitement over the shoots peaking out from the soil.

Watching a seed actually sprout and turn into something else provokes awe in my spirit at the great marvel of God’s design.

Scientists can probably describe

  • the mechanics of how a seed grows,
  • the right elements that contribute to helping a seed spout
  • how a seed shoots forth it’s roots
  • how genetics help it turn into the right plant,
  • how the chemical interactions with water, soil, and light make the seed sprout.

But the inner workings remain a mystery of wonder to me that seeds sprout and change into something beautiful.

Even without my attention, my care, seeds grow once they are activated.

Silently.

Mysteriously.

Over time.

Transforming into what they were designed to become.

The mystery of Christian conversion

As evangelists, we sow the seed of the word, but God makes it grow.

How the individual seed grows in the life of the person who receives it remains the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.

How did you come to surrender your life to Christ?

Can you remember a day or even a particular moment?  You had come to place in your life where the invitation to follow Christ became irresistible and you surrendered your life.

Or maybe it was more of a gradual awareness and personal ownership.  You grew up surrounded by Christians, in a Christian environment, and somewhere along the way, you owned your own faith.

Either way, your conversion and surrender to Christ was at the end of a quest, a journey, a path of spiritual restlessness and need that led you to see your need for Christ.

A seed had been planted.

The journey began.

Eventually, it led to your conversion.

That mysterious inward journey is the Holy Spirit drawing you faith: “Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.”

That journey is unique

That seed cast by the evangelist or sower fell on the unique soil of your life:

  • the circumstances of your life at the time,
  • the people of spiritual influence around you,
  • your own background, upbringing, and personality.

These elements all make for a totally unique and mysterious process of conversion under the sovereign guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The genuine conversion experience is a work of the Holy Spirit unique to each individual.

We can’t restrict conversion to following a formula.  There is no on/off conversion switch.

There is a mystery of the journey that we must acknowledge.

Today’s Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank You for helping me place my faith in You as my Lord and Savior.

I eventually saw my need for You.  Thank You for that drawing work of the Holy Spirit, bringing me to the place where I have found forgiveness, longing, and a peace that passes understanding.

I thank You for the circumstances that led me to surrender my life into the joy of following You, those trials and inner questions that helped me see my need for you.

Thank You for the people who influenced me to follow You: for their conversations with me, their patient answering of my questions, their trustworthy representation of a Christ follower.

I pray for my friends today that you would help the seeds that have been planted in their life to sprout.

Amen.

Today’s Action

Take some time to day to journal about your journey to faith in Christ.

  1. What circumstances in your life helped you see your need for Christ?
  2. Who were people of significant influence in your journey and what did they do to have that significance?
  3. What was in your upbringing and background that helped you see your need for Christ?

Spend some time writing out your answers.

Image Source: Morguefile.

Links in the Chain Video

One of the greatest insights for my personal evangelism is the realization of the role of the Holy Spirit in Evangelism.

The Holy Spirit is the divine agent the Father uses to draw people to Jesus.

The Holy Spirit Prepares the Way by creating spiritual thirst.  Along the way, various events and conversations form Links in the Chain of Conversion.

To help explain this concept, I’ve started using a little macaroni tool that seems to capture this in a vivid illustration that people remember.