1Pe 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
As I read 1 Peter 1:13, I had a thought go through my head that only registered briefly, “Okay, we are done with the salvation message, let’s get on with how I grow as a believer!” It registered in my mind, but I pushed it aside. Not the kind of thing I wanted to think about as it makes me feel guilty. I don’t feel like evangelism is a gift that I have, so why bother? I should focus on what I am good at, right? It reminded me of an exchange earlier in the week.
I was meeting with my mentor friend, Lou the other night, and he sat down with me and said that there are three things that a good disciple needs to teach those he is working with:
• How to study God’s Word and make it real in their life. How to develop their character and conduct through honest meditation on God’s Word
• How to develop relationships that are open and healthy
• How to share the saving grace of God with others
He followed that up by saying that he didn’t see himself as one that was gifted in evangelism. He struggled with it early on, but eventually was shown a way that he felt comfortable with doing. That made the difference. Someone discipled him in that third thing, and he decided it was time to do that with me. I listened and learned it, even went so far as to practice delivering it with my wife and a friend, but I will admit that I still had that feeling of it not being who I am.
So, back to reading 1 Peter 1:13. I saw a cross-reference to 2 Timothy 4:5 and thought I would look at what that said:
2Ti 4:5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Then it really hit me. I have always thought of Peter as the epitome of what a disciple should be, and I thought Paul was the perfect picture of an evangelist. (I say perfect picture because growing up hearing evangelists at my church the examples were pretty much all the same – overweight, loud, red-in the face men in three piece suits with vest buttons straining with each breath and/or pound of the pulpit.) I never wanted to be a Paul, just as I never wanted to be one of those evangelists. I wanted to be something different. I wanted to be a disciple like Peter. I mean, yes, he did speak to some large crowds and saw literally thousands come to Christ at a time, but he still just seemed like a “normal” guy.
When you look at these two verses though, their message is almost identical, but you can see the personalities of the individuals in the way they present it. As I reflected back on this for a couple of days, it started to hit me that they are two sides of the same coin. Both men wanted nothing more than to bring others to Christ. That was their passion. They just did it in different ways
Paul speaks as one driven toward reaching others for Christ. There is a need that exists, and we need to get to work at it. He was an amazing missionary! In reading the epistles of Paul I also see that he places a high value on growing in Christ. We need to discipline our bodies and minds for service. He tells his readers about the importance of growing in faith and enduring trials and experiencing grace. I see Paul as a guy that sees discipleship as an essential step toward evangelism. Evangelism is his goal, and discipleship is the path.
When I look at Peter, I see a man that is open with is failures and embraces them. He sees his need for Christ and has experienced, both before and after Christ’s death, the power of Christ working in him and through him. He has sat at the feet of Christ and learned. I see proof in his life that he did not see that as his only source of education as he quotes the prophets when he would preach. Peter was a learner, and he was about relationships too. In Peter I see evangelism as an outcome of his discipleship. Discipling others in the life of Christ will eventually and naturally lead to evangelism. Discipleship was his calling and his goal. Evangelism was the fruit of it.
I have always liked Peter. He has just been the guy that I identified with because I have been headstrong and bungled things badly. I speak up being sure that I have the answers that people are looking for, but I find out I am speaking out of myself and my desire to be heard. I make mistake after mistake in my desire to do what is right. The nice thing is that I want to follow Christ like Peter did.
So, now I see that evangelism is not something I can ignore. It is part of what I am striving for as a disciple of Christ. It should not be viewed as a separate thing; it is part of the Christian life. Others might be called to it specifically, but as a believer it is something I need to learn and do. So, as a disciple of Christ, I need to:
• Grow deep in God’s Word. Read it and study it to allow it to permeate every aspect of my life and to change my character and conduct.
• I need to build strong relationships with others. I need people who know Christ in my life so they can challenge me and help me. People who want me to grow! I also need to build relationships with people who don’t know Christ yet. Not acquaintances, but real relationships. Having them will give me opportunities to speak to the most important need they have in their lives.
• Share the Gospel. Share it with an attitude of grace and concern for them. Show them the love of Christ that I have been able to experience.
When that is done, teach them how to do it too! That was how Christ did it. What better model do I need?