Over the second half of last year I was spending a lot of time doing saturation reading where I would pick a book from God's Word and read it over as many times as I could over a few weeks sometimes a month. Typically once a day, sometimes twice. During this time many things stood out to me but one became so very clear to me as I read over and over many of Paul's letters including but not limited to: Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 and 2 Timothy among other books throughout God's Word. We are to strive to live differently, to grow in our walk with the Lord. In a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called. As we are growing closer to God, as we are being sanctified. We should be growing in how we interact with those who don't know the Lord. That is what has been on my heart and what has really stood out to me over these months.
I have been really trying to model a few verses specifically over the last 6 months or so. I made it a point of focus in a recent Evangelism class that I taught to share and spell out these verses to them over and over week after week. These verses are so important as a model and way for us to engage the lost. It is so crucial in how we interact with those who don't know the Lord. The first of two sets of verses I would like to focus on today and share with you is:
Colossians 4:2-6 -  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Let's look first at Colossians ... We should "continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful...", we should be in prayer as a believer regularly so that we are looking for opportunities to pray for and about because we know and understand the power of prayer and being dependent upon God. We should be during this time of prayer, praying for opportunities or doors to be opened by God "to declare the mystery of Christ", the Gospel, to those God would put in our path. "Praying that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak", essentially praying that the words that would fall out of our mouth would be clear and concise, speaking the truth of God's Word about the Gospel to those who may not know Him. Verse 5 tells us to "walk in wisdom towards outsiders", this word outsiders refers to unbelievers. It goes on to tell us "making the best use of our time". This is where the wisdom comes in as we are engaging the unbelievers we should not be doing so in an argumentative fashion that is causing strife or arguments but look to verse 6 for further instructions. "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." We need to be exercising discernment in our conversations, in prayer for boldness and opportunities to share the Gospel with unbelievers, demonstrating wisdom and grace towards those we engage that God has put in our path.
Now let's keep these verses from Colossians in mind as we examine the next set of verses. These verses have been a focus and drive as I interact with others and a gut check if you will as I have had conversations. Since they have been such a deep focus I wanted to help establish a baseline with my class so they are thinking about how they are to interact with the unbelievers they come into contact with. The second set of verses I wanted to draw your attention to is:
2 Timothy 2:24-26 -  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,  and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.
As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ we are servants of the Lord and as such God has given us guidelines with how we should interact with those as we represent Him. We see in verse 24, Paul says we "must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,". So as we are being "gracious" we must not be argumentative, which is what quarrelsome means. In our graciousness we should be kind, kind to who? Everyone, the unbeliever and the believer alike! We should be kind, polite, respectful, willing to listen. 24 goes on to say we should be "able to teach, patiently enduring evil" so what are we to teach? The Gospel, what God's Word says to both unbelievers and to those who might be false teachers or those who have an incorrect understanding of God's Word. The words "able to teach" are one word in Greek which means "skilled in teaching". How do you think we become skilled in teaching? By being in God's Word, by striving to be more like Christ and less like the world. By memorizing God's Word and knowing what it says so that we can explain it, teaching others what it says and pointing people to God! We should be patient as we are teaching, it says, "patiently enduring evil". We know that there is opposition to God's Word and towards us who proclaim and share it. Well we need to be patient with those we are talking with and trying to teach as we know not who are God's elect. While we demonstrate patience, not arguing, but being kind teaching God's Word we should be "correcting opponents with gentleness". We should be kind and listening to what they say and respectfully pointing them back to what God's Word says, not waiting for them to stop talking so you can blast them with some verse or apologetic to show them how smart you are and that they are wrong and you are right! That’s NOT how we are to live out these words, rather it says in verse 25, "correcting with gentleness". This next part of verse 25 is so key in that this is God's work not ours. Our prayer should always be that "God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth". You see without God opening their eyes or their ears, removing their hard hearts and giving them a fleshy heart they will not experience salvation. It is in fact God who "grants" repentance and that leads to a knowledge of the truth, an understanding of God's Word. God grants salvation, not them or us. So while we are patiently enduring evil, teaching, being kind to those who do not know God, keep in mind that if God has not granted them repentance leading to knowledge they do not understand God's Word. So be patient and take the time to listen and explain pointing to God's Word so you can show them what God says versus relying on just what you say. Finally we see this chapter conclude with verse 26 "and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" We know that "the snare" is Satan's trap, and that God frees us from that.
My heart is heavy with writing this as far too often I see posts on Facebook where these verses are not being modeled by professing Christians. I see videos of professing Christians witnessing and engaging the lost without modeling these verses. I hear stories of how professing Christians interacted with unbelievers. All of these observances have been really disheartening, it does not seem like the path that the Lord would have professing Christians on. I think we need to take time to examine our hearts, examine our motives, examine them against God's Word in how we should act and if it is not in alignment with God's Word than we need to get on our face before God and repent.
We as the Lord's servants should be noticeably different than those who are unbelievers yet then why do we hear such awful stories of how professing Christians are representing our King? I feel this is because we have steered away from God's Word as our truth and our desire to be in God's Word has been stifled by things of the world. We have put idols in front of God's Word, we have put material things in front of God's Word and tend to have more time invested in these material things versus the study of God's Word and how we should treat others and what God has called us to do. While we do this we lose the focus of what God's Word says and so we treat others as we see in the world on TV shows or movies without kindness and gentleness. We want the last word and the first word and we are going to talk right over that unbeliever because we know it all and they don't! That is quite a shame and disappointing, it is not how God would have us represent Him. We should be respectful, mindful, discerning the conversation and recognizing that if it wasn't for God's grace and His granting of repentance to us, we would still be just like the person we are talking to, lost and heading for Hell. Yet far too often we don't think about those days before Christ. I think we need to remember they, the unbelievers like us are image bearers of God. So why do we feel the need to talk down on them? Ridicule and defile them because of their sin that they may be involved with? Were you without sin? Are you without sin now? The answer is no, so why do we forget that we were once there? Yet God used someone to extend kindness and patience to share God's Word with us and call us to repentance. So why wouldn't, why shouldn't you model God's Word and extend that same patience and kindness to all we interact with being gracious, seasoning our speech with salt. I like what I found in my John MacArthur Study Bible while examining these passages: "The Christian's speech should act not only as a blessing to others, but as a purifying influence within the decaying society of the world."
My prayer for each of you reading this article is that you would resemble as an image bearer of God and your interactions with other image bearers would be that is in alignment with God's Word rather than acting in direct violation or contrary to what it says. May you esteem the Holiness, Perfection and Authority that is God's Word and strive to live by it. Strive to be in God's Word everyday without fail. May you strive to learn more and memorize God's Word, study it, seeking to be obedient to what it says. My prayer is that you would seek to fulfill the great commission, witnessing to the lost, making disciples and baptizing them as you are commanded to do; yet doing so with gentleness, patience, kindness, taking the time to teach them. My prayer is that if you resembled what I described above which was contrary to God's Word you would repent and get right with God. My prayer is and yours should be that God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. May we be obedient and strive to bring glory to God in all that we do!