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Not Beyond Reach - Softening Hearts with Spiritual Conversations, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram
The Truth Network Radio
September 12, 2023 6:00 am

Not Beyond Reach - Softening Hearts with Spiritual Conversations, Part 1

Living on the Edge / Chip Ingram

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September 12, 2023 6:00 am

Have you ever heard of a sole plate before? In the construction world, it’s a small but integral piece of wood that sits on top of a home’s foundation. Without it, you couldn’t build the floors or walls above. In this program, our guest teacher Aaron Pierce continues his series, Not Beyond Reach. Hear the vital step we need to take to connect our lost friends to the anchoring hope of the Gospel.

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Have you ever heard of a soul plate before? In the construction world, it's a small but essential piece of wood that sits on top of a home's foundation.

Without it, you couldn't build the floors or the walls above. Today, we're going to learn about the vital little step that can connect our friends and family to the anchoring power of the Gospel. You're not going to want to miss today's message. Welcome to this Edition of Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram. Chip's our Bible teacher for this international teaching and discipleship ministry, but for the past several programs, he's passed the mic over to a new teacher, Aaron Pierce. He leads an international ministry called Stiger, whose mission is to share the hope of Jesus Christ with today's youth. In this program, Aaron continues his series, Not Beyond Reach, illuminating to us a method to share the Gospel with the young people in our lives who've walked away from Jesus or have no faith at all.

Well, there's a lot to get to, so here's Aaron with today's talk, Softening Hearts with Spiritual Conversations. So far, what we've covered is understanding the post-Christian shift and the whole idea that we live in a post-Christian culture in which most people no longer either identify as a Christian or have positive views of the church. And they've bought into secular ideology.

The religion of secular culture is secular humanism, which is essentially the religion of self, and that identity, purpose, and morality is self-constructed. And unfortunately, the consequences of that worldview is very devastating. And so we have a culture that is extremely lonely, anxious, sexually broken, and sadly, are not walking into the church building because they have rejected that idea. They have a false idea about who Jesus is and what it means to follow him, and so the whole paradigm shift is we can't wait for them to come to us. We've got to go to them, and we have to adopt a missionary mindset. What we want is to go into the world, to transform the world, to be part of the world but be distinct.

And we talked about that doesn't necessarily mean all about flaunting our moral superiority, even though we don't compromise on that. It's about people seeing our supernatural hope and love and joy and peace. And I have that because my hope is in Jesus, and the Spirit gives me that.

And that is what people will then say, show me the reason that you have that hope. And then you're building those friendships, you're harnessing the incredible power of listening in order to develop the relationships and the trust in order to speak into people's lives. Today, we're going to get into the idea of how to start a spiritual conversation as the first step towards introducing people to Jesus. So the question then is, what is a spiritual conversation? What is the difference between a spiritual conversation and a gospel conversation? So a gospel conversation is the biblical narrative of creation, fall, and redemption that is centered around the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. That's a gospel conversation. That's the gospel message. A spiritual conversation, on the other hand, is presuppositional, which means that it addresses the underlying assumptions that the gospel is built on. And so the key to effective communication is that we need to know our audience's assumptions, so that when I communicate, I'm either challenging or building on their assumptions. So let's watch this video as an example, and then we'll dig into how that looks and how we apply that in our life.

So take a look. Time is a strange thing. We measure it. We savor it.

Most of the time we waste it. Sometimes it goes by slowly, but more often than not, it flies by. I think of my own life. Every day I wake up, drink coffee, have meetings, chase my son, sleep, repeat.

I'll have the thought, oh, it's Monday, and suddenly it's Monday again. But then I think about all that has happened in the last year or the last 10 years, and it's a lot. But then there are those things that make time stop, like when someone you love dies. Though we know death is a part of life, it's always such a shock when it happens.

But why? Why does death shock us? I think it's because deep down, we don't believe that life should end. We feel like we should go on forever. Death feels like a defect, so we work furiously to fix it.

But despite all of our creams and pills and surgeries and cures, we can't seem to stop the decay. Maybe this deep longing isn't about our bodies and this life. Maybe it's about what comes next. Every tribe and every nation throughout history has conceived of a life beyond this world, beyond our bodies in time, a place where we will go on forever. Maybe this is a myth or wishful thinking, or perhaps it points to something that binds us all together.

Maybe we dream of a world beyond time because we were never meant to die. All right, so that video right there, that's not the gospel, right? That's not the gospel. But what that does is it gets at some assumptions, and it connects with people at a place where I can begin to have conversations that build the foundations for the gospel. Because a lot of people, they struggle with the idea of death.

They struggle with the idea of what is next. And so this is something that allows you to engage in a conversation that opens the way for the gospel. And so this is actually part of a new tool that we have called Spiritual Conversations for the Non-Religious. That's actually the first video in a series of spiritual conversations that you can go through with someone. It's like a small group for non-Christians, and that you watch a video and then you have a series of questions that you answer. So again, people are skeptical, but they're also open to spirituality. That's the cultural moment that we're in. And often Christians fail to realize that when they share the gospel, when we share the gospel, we are drawing on assumptions that secular people do not hold to be true.

And so that's why we're not able to connect. So for example, consider the classic model of the four spiritual laws, which is kind of a classic model of evangelism. Now let me be clear. This is true. This is gospel truth. Number one, God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. Number two, all of us sin and all our sin has separated us from God. Number three, Jesus Christ is God's only provision for our sin.

Through him we can know and experience God's love and plan for our life. And four, we must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and then we can know and experience God's love and plan for our lives. That is the four spiritual laws. But the key here is that this makes a number of critical assumptions, right? Embedded into that is assumptions, assumptions about the existence of a relational God, that there's an objective moral framework, or that there's a transcendent purpose for your life. All these assumptions are built into the communication of the four spiritual laws, but none of these assumptions are universally accepted in a post-Christian culture. And so the purpose of a spiritual conversation, therefore, is to set the foundations that we can build the message of the cross on.

And then we can remove maybe some intellectual barriers and move from the secular to the spiritual. And so there's really three types of conversations that you have when you engage someone. It's a friendship conversation, it's a spiritual conversation, and then a gospel conversation.

Of course, the purpose of a friendship conversation is to build that deep relational connection and the trust to speak. And the purpose of the gospel conversation is to introduce people to Jesus in the message of the cross. It used to be appropriate in the past to go from friendship to gospel. Today, we've got to contextualize it by going through spiritual conversations.

That's the bridge that we've got to go through to go from a friendship to the gospel. And so sometimes people reject that because in the name of God's sovereignty and being unashamed, I'm just going to preach the gospel and however it lands, that's on them. And I would challenge us that we should not pit our dependence on God and his sovereignty against our attempts to be understood.

It's not one or the other. We absolutely need God's power, and we need him to speak, and we need him to open people's hearts, but we should also seek to be understood in a relevant way. And that, frankly, we're constantly doing that. Every time you open your mouth, you're speaking in a way in which you're trying to contextualize ideas.

So we do that all the time anyway. We're trying to get people to build a bridge from friendship to the gospel, and we're going through the lens of the spiritual conversation. Now, this is a helpful framework, but this isn't perfectly linear when you're talking to someone.

It tends to all kind of mix together, so you don't always have a perfectly clear distinction, but it's a framework that helps you think. Because what happens is you'll be developing a relationship with someone, you're having spiritual conversations, and now all of a sudden you're talking to them about Jesus, and all of a sudden you realize, whoa, there's something like a thing that they believe that is standing in the way of them understanding the message across. So I've got to go back to a spiritual conversation.

I need to challenge something that they believe about truth or morality, whatever, something that stands in the way. Other times you'll be engaging someone, and all of a sudden maybe you hit on a nerve, like a personal pain or history that they have, and it evokes a really emotional reaction. And you've got to go all the way back to friendship, right? And just pause and go way back to friendship and begin to build that trust so that you can speak into their life. So this isn't a formula, but it's a framework for understanding that when I'm engaging someone, I'm either developing a relationship, I'm building the assumptions that will lead to the cross, or I'm introducing someone to Jesus.

And again, that kind of tends to go back and forth. So how do we then start these spiritual conversations? I'm going to go through some key principles in doing that. The first thing we have to understand is that we're not actually doing intellectual or apologetic work. This is actually first and foremost a spiritual issue, and that we require the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit for it to be effective. And the reason is because 2 Corinthians 4 says, the God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers. It's a spiritual blindness issue. And so we're dealing with a culture and a generation that is spiritually deceived. And so it doesn't matter how many times I point over at that direction and ask you to look at it, if you are blind, you can't see.

That's why it's not just about having the perfect persuasive argument or the formula, right? There's a spiritual blindness that we've got to overcome. And so that's why prayer and recognizing that we're actually dealing with the spiritual opposition first and foremost that we have to overcome. Chip here, and you are listening to Not Beyond Reach, our newest series taught by my friend Aaron Pearce. Before we get back to him, I want you to know that listeners like you help us support pastors globally, develop discipleship resources, and spiritually engage the next generation. I want to invite you to join us today by going to livingontheedge.org with a gift that can make a difference.

Now, back to Aaron. And so as we engage in our conversations with people, we need to be asking the Holy Spirit for supernatural discernment, to see what is going on and to be able to discern that beyond the natural. Like to be able to discern what the real issue is or what the lie is that they're believing and to be able to discern that in a way that is actually discernible beyond just human natural comprehension. We need the Holy Spirit for that. And that when He does that, when the Holy Spirit illuminates those things, you're actually able to get to the heart of things.

And whether those are lies or idols or felt needs that people have. So, to give you an example, last year we were doing outreach, what we did is kind of a barbecue, we had music, we had games on the lawn, and it was a warm summer day on a Saturday. Lots of people around. And I was sitting there and I was just asking, Lord, Lord, give me one good conversation. Would you lead me to one person that I can have a really good gospel conversation with? And I was praying and waiting and just expecting that the Lord was going to give me that person at the right moment. And as I was sitting there and waiting and praying, a couple that had rented one of those rentable scooters, the two of them were on one of them, and they were scootering by and then they stopped right in front of our spot to see what we were doing. And I saw them. I was like, that's them.

Those are the ones that I need to talk to. And I felt that sense. And so, I kind of waited and then came up to them and I began to engage them and talk to them and said, hey, come on, come in and invited them to hang out with us. And it was a guy and a girl and their name were Kat and Ryan. And I remember looking at the girl and having this sense from the Spirit, like, ask her if she wants to sing. And I know nothing about this girl. And so I said, hey, are you a singer? You should go up on her stage and sing. And she's like, I am.

I am a singer. And I had this sense from the Lord, like what she needed, this girl, is to be seen. That she felt invisible.

We talked about how people are so lonely and there's filtered reality and no one really sees you. And I felt like what she needed was to be seen. And so I was like, come on, come on stage. And we rallied our whole crew to watch her. And she sang some songs. We were like her biggest fan. And she was just beaming because she was noticed.

She was seen. And then they came off the stage and we sat down and we talked and we end up engaging in deep conversations. And they end up staying with us.

It was early in the night when they arrived. They end up staying with us the entire night. Just stayed with us the whole night. And at the end, we did a Bible study.

They stayed through that. And in the end, Kat prayed to receive Jesus. And just because God gave me the word that she wanted to be seen and that she was a singer, I had no knowledge of that.

And it's not some weird thing. It's just the sense that we serve a supernatural God who's pursuing his children and he wants to give you more than natural discernment. I don't know about you, but I don't want to rely just on my human efforts.

That's not good enough. I need something beyond to soften the hearts of these people. And so when I saw that with Kat and the incredible things that God did, it reminds us how much we are dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit to open people's eyes and open our eyes to what's going on in their reality. So that's the first principle here is we depend on the power of the Holy Spirit. The second thing is we want to be really wise about our communication.

And we want to avoid certain pitfalls. So for example, humans, we think in categories. It's the way that we think, right? And so we categorize things, we organize things, and when we engage people, we put people in boxes. It's just how we do it. And part of that is because it's easier, right?

It's quicker, it's more efficient. Our brains can just simplify things that way. And so we tend to put things in boxes. And so as we're engaging with people in spiritual conversations, there are three boxes you want to avoid being put into.

Because what happens is it's a barrier. That when you get put in that box, it's a barrier for you to speak truth. The box is a personal, religious, and political. And so let me explain that a little bit. In our secular culture, many people, including Christians, believe that faith is purely a private matter, right? And that it should not be discussed publicly, that it's something that you don't want to push on other people, and it's something that is really between you and whatever God you might have.

Right? And so that's a lot of the belief. And so as a result, many people are very hesitant to engage in discussions about spirituality because they put it in the personal box. And so your goal in this case is to challenge that by taking the spiritual conversations out of the realm of the private and connecting it to everyday reality, everyday things, and the implications it has on everyday reality. The fact that what you believe about these big spiritual things, and we'll talk about what they are, actually impact your life.

They actually impact daily things about the way you live your life. So you want to take it out of the box of personal by connecting it to the daily things that we do. The second thing is we want to take it out of the box of the religious, right? So in a post-Christian culture, most people have had some engagement with the church, either growing up in it, or they've just been aware of it somehow, some way, right? Like most people have had some connection to the church. And so, unfortunately, for many people, they have a misconception of what the church is.

For some people, the church has been equated with hypocrisy, with corruption and control. And so a spiritual conversation, when you're trying to deal with these big major questions of life and these things, you want to do it in a way that doesn't evoke the baggage of religion, that will distort their view of Jesus. And sometimes it's simple as saying, I'm not talking about institution. Again, we talked about one of the key assumptions of our culture today is that people have become suspicious of institutional religion. So sometimes we just need to say, I'm not talking about that, right? Or when you're engaging someone, you're not approaching them as a member of a church.

You're just a person who follows Jesus. And you want to get it out of the box of religion. And sometimes that's about the words we use. Sometimes we use very religious words that will immediately put you in a religious box.

So the question is, how can we have spiritual conversations without using overly religious language, which is something you need to practice. And it's something that you need to, you know, as you get, what's interesting is you don't learn this language through a textbook. You learn this language through immersion. Like I grew up in New Zealand for my teenage years. And we as a New Zealander, we speak English, but we have all sorts of slang that when I came to the U.S. was just didn't connect. And quickly I learned like, yeah, I'm not going to use that word because people look at me like, what are you talking about?

Right? But the reason I learned that is because I was around a bunch of other people that didn't talk like me. And I learned to adapt my style so I could communicate effectively. That is how we learn the non-religious language of our culture, by being with people. And we learn it by immersion.

My kids are learning Spanish because they go to immersion school where they're surrounded by it. That's the concept that we need. We need to learn to not speak with religious language that puts us in the religious box. And then so many people, sadly, interpret Jesus through the lens of a political box and a political party. And so they interpret what you're saying when it's in the political box through a political lens. We want to get out of that because it just brings in all sorts of messiness and confusion and false assumptions. So we need to make sure that when we're talking, we're not talking about political ideology. We're not even talking about secondary political things. We're talking about the core spiritual topics. And so it's really important to know how to avoid the political box.

Because the issue here is that even if they agree with your political perspective, to get hung up on the political stuff is just unhelpful in pointing people to Jesus. You've been listening to the first part of our guest teacher, Aaron Pierce's message, Softening Hearts with Spiritual Conversations from his series, Not Beyond Reach. Well, he and Chip will join us here in studio with some additional thoughts about today's program in just a minute. Young people today are often unfairly stereotyped as rebellious, selfish and overly harsh. But in these programs, Aaron's peeling back those generalities to reveal the hopeless, lost and unloved feelings plaguing this generation. Learn why today's youth are primed to hear the saving message of the gospel and how through a step by step process, you can share it with them. If you're a parent or grandparent, don't miss a second of this series. Well, before we go any further, Chip's joined me in studio to share a quick word.

Thanks, Dave. You know, people have asked me recently, you're a discipleship ministry, teaching ministry, why such an emphasis on the next generation and resources and projects like this? And what I tell them is the Bible is absolutely clear about passing on our faith in the next generation. I mean, Deuteronomy chapter 6, 2 Timothy 2 to make it clear it is God's heart for our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren to know God personally. Yet in today's culture, they're bombarded.

And whether it's in academia or social media, or honestly, the lack of instruction inside their homes, I think some of us moms and dads have to own the fact that we didn't pass it on or we didn't know how. And now what we need is a tool. We need a game plan because the culture has so become anti-Christian to the people that we love the most, our kids and grandkids. We have to have a resource that helps us communicate, connect, share and live out the gospel. And that's why I'm so excited about this brand new book that Aaron Pierce and I have worked on together, Not Beyond Reach.

You need to get it. It'll give you a game plan. It'll show you how to connect with your kids, your grandkids, and even better, how to prepare in advance to keep them connected to you and the Lord Jesus Christ. To order this new book by Aaron Pierce, Not Beyond Reach, go to LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app. Learn what you can do to skillfully and intentionally share the truth of the gospel in this post-Christian culture.

Again, to get your copy of Not Beyond Reach, visit LivingOnTheEdge.org or the Chip Ingram app. With that, here again is Chip and Aaron to share some application. Aaron, as we wrap up today's program, I want to loop back to something you said today. You said the purpose of spiritual conversation is to lay the foundation for the gospel to sit on. Now, for some, that may sound wrong or we should lead with the gospel, so talk a little more about why spiritual conversations are critical in this culture to engage with today's young people. And then second, I'm going to keep asking you this, brother. What advice would you give to maybe parents or grandparents or even some other young people that might be on fire for the Lord that they've got some relationships where they're alienated? Right? I mean, the connection is broken down, the relationship's not going well. Where and how can they step in in ways to build this foundation?

Just any help you could give us would be so great. Thanks, Chip. Those are great questions. Spiritual conversations are critical because we need to recognize that we live in a post-Christian culture. And post-Christian means that usually people have had some interaction with the church. They have some knowledge, often misunderstood or twisted, but some knowledge of the Bible and church. And because of that, it creates communication challenges. So the idea of a spiritual conversation is to address the underlying assumptions on which the cross is communicated, and it's also about removing some of the barriers that obscure the cross so that the message is actually understood.

I'll give you an example. Today, in our culture, we live in a time when many people have a relativistic view of morality. Many believe that morality is essentially a social construct. And of course, that stands in the way of the gospel truth. Because the gospel says, no, there is a moral absolute, and that God is the source of that moral absolute, and that none of us are able to live up to that standard. We're all sinful and we fall short.

And that is why we need a savior so we can use a spiritual conversation to begin to challenge that narrative. One way to do it, for example, is to think about the idea of relationships. When you ask someone, what is the most important thing in your life, invariably they'll say something about relationships, family. And we can say, yeah, I agree, relationships, they're so important. But then we can begin to ask some more questions about why is it that even though we desire these deep connections, we're all dealing with broken relationships.

And we can ask those questions. And what you'll find is that it comes down to selfishness and to, you know, people not caring for others. And what it fundamentally comes down to is sin. And so we can use spiritual conversations about relationships and why is it that we all experience brokenness to illustrate the key biblical concept of sin on which the gospel message, of course, is dependent.

You can't understand the gospel if you don't fully understand the concept of sin. And so this is the idea of spiritual conversation. Now, of course, if you have a relationship that's broken in your family, it's hard to challenge assumptions or to speak truth like this until you've built trust. And so if there are broken relationships, the first thing you've got to do is repair that.

Repair the relationship, build the trust again, and then gently over time begin to challenge these assumptions through these spiritual conversations. Good word, Aaron. As we close our mission at Living on the Edge is to help Christians live like Christians. And one of the best ways we can continue to do that is through programs like this. So when you hear a message that helps you, pass it on to someone else in your life. Now, you can easily do that through the Chip Ingram app or by forwarding them the free MP3s that you'll find at livingontheedge.org. And don't forget to include a note about how it made a difference in your life. Well, join us next time as our guest teacher, Aaron Pierce, continues his series, Not Beyond Reach. Until then, I'm Dave Drouy saying thanks for listening to this Edition of Living on the Edge.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-29 11:23:06 / 2023-10-29 11:34:11 / 11

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