Baptism/Amazing Grace: A Conversation Over Lunch, Part 23

So there’s a line but not a line?

Exactly. We love each other — fellow believers — with a special intensity, the kind of love known only among families.

But we love unbelievers, too. But can’t share the same intimacy and relationship with them that we share with our spiritual family. We don’t share the same worldview. We don’t share the same King. We have different faiths. We worship different gods.

In a sense, that makes our love for unbelievers all the more special, because it reaches across lines that are unbridgeable without a miracle. And so we love unbelievers by the power of God, and therefore we love them in a way that reveals God in us.

The love itself reveals God, but only if we share our story — our part in God’s story. Indeed, to us, sharing the story is the greatest of all blessings we can give to those we love.

But there are countless ways to mess this up. We can share Jesus in judgment, condemnation, and arrogance. We can share Jesus selfishly, for the good feelings we get out it or the congratulations we receive for being a soul-winner.

We can share Jesus inarticulately, failing to express what’s really in our hearts, because we aren’t so sure. Maybe we don’t really much understand our faith, having lost true understanding somewhere amongst the tract racks and attendance counting.

Maybe we need to occasionally take inventory, re-evaluate why we’re even doing this, and radically rethink the world and where we fit.

And when we do that, maybe we need to start by thinking really hard about faith in Jesus. Because I think we all need the occasional reminder about where it all begins.

You see, we tend to think our faith walk began with faith and moved on from there to ethics or church organization or missiology or something. But it’s really all just faith.

(Rom 1:17 ESV) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

And faith is deep — really, really deep — but not so deep that you can’t learn something new about it over lunch.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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30 Responses to Baptism/Amazing Grace: A Conversation Over Lunch, Part 23

  1. Alabama John says:

    I know folks that believe differently, but, I don’t know an unbeliever.

  2. Doug says:

    AJ, that’s almost unbelievable! I bet you know some functional unbelievers?

    I know of only one way to connect to an unbeliever and that is by sharing my story. If I am brutally honest in sharing my story, sooner or later I’ll find a connecting point with the unbeliever. Then, I can begin to share Jesus with the person. Leading with Jesus doesn’t work as well until you have established a connection with an unbeliever.

    Incidently, the book foreworded by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee entitled “The Story” would be a great way to bring Jesus to unbelievers. It’s not the bible but it is a walk through the bible in 31 lessons or weeks. It’s easy to read and the church we are now attending is using it currently with all teenagers and adults. This church has baptized many new believers and is using “The Story” to acquaint these people as well as unbelievers to the whole story of God working with His people. I am not in either of these two groups but I have been enjoying reading from the book and the related sermons on it too. Of course, CofC people would have to get past the Lucado name.

  3. Alabama John says:

    Doug,

    If an unbeliever is someone that believes in God, but differently from me, then I do know a lot.

    If an unbeliever is someone that doesn’t believe in God then I do not know one.

    What is your definition of an unbeliever?

  4. Jerry says:

    I recently had breakfast with a preacher who has just moved to my area. He told me that his objective is to bring the congregation to the point that it finds its identity in its mission, not in the issues. Since many of us see faith as “what we believe” instead of “whom we believe,” this preacher’s objective seems to be right on target. When we understand faith to be “faith in Jesus” instead of “faith about Jesus” we will become more missional as well.

    In the course of our conversation, we also talked about how we have Jesus’ statement that “the gates of hell [hades] will not prevail” against His church backwards. We tend to look at it as defensive – as hell not being able to overpower the gates behind which we hide. Instead, this statement views the church as being on the offensive – and hell will not be able to stand against us. But this is true only when we march against hell with faith in our king.

  5. Charles McLean says:

    I know more and more unbelievers all the time. Some by meeting new people, and others by just talking to the people I know. Some of them are really fine, upstanding people. They just don’t buy into the whole Jesus-died-for-your-sins thing, or the Genesis thing. I find that many of them are quite conversant with Christianity. I think most Christians know more people like this than they really are aware of, because we swap “church talk” instead of talking about our core beliefs. Many non-Christians can talk church code right along with us. They don’t know Jesus, but lots of ‘em know church.

    I think WE are the ones who often can’t tell the difference.

  6. Charles McLean says:

    AJ, I tend to think of an unbeliever as someone who does not have faith in Jesus. Muslims and most Jews believe in God, but reject Jesus as the savior of mankind. Millions of people believe in a supernatural creator, or divine spirit-beings, but such “belief” has no eternal significance.

  7. aBasnar says:

    Jesus’ statement that “the gates of hell [hades] will not prevail” against His church backwards. We tend to look at it as defensive – as hell not being able to overpower the gates behind which we hide. Instead, this statement views the church as being on the offensive – and hell will not be able to stand against us. But this is true only when we march against hell with faith in our king

    It’s neither nor (defensve or offensive), Jerry. Gates are no “enemies” to fight against, but barriers. Either they are are locked or opened. The gates of Hades are the gates of the abode of the dead. And they cannot prevail against us because of Christ’s promise of the resurrection and the eternal life. Christ has the keys to the gates of Hades.

    So while we have to wait for our resurrection in Hades (until all are completed) – we won’t go straight up to heaven – we are assured of our bodily resurection and the new Heavens and the New Earth to dwell in.

    Alexander

  8. Jerry says:

    Alexander,

    You are, as usual, “right” in the literal sense of that passage. It was just after this that Jesus told His disciples, for the first time, that He was going to die – and be raised. The context certainly supports that “the gates of Hades [death]” would not prevail against His building His church. By extension, here is also the promise of the resurrection of those who are in Him. It was implicit and explicit faith in this promise and in the one who made it that enabled the pre-Constantine Christians to face death with joy, not fear.

    Yet, I believe there is also a metaphorical significance of those words. The gates of a city are barred against intruders and invaders. The attacking army would attack the gates – because this was one of the weakest points of the walled defense. My comment above has this metaphorical aspect of the statement in view. We tend to put ourselves on the defensive, hiding in our assemblies where we are sure we will be safe from the Prince of Darkness. Instead, we need to realize that when Jesus goes with us (or more precisely, when we go with Jesus) we can overcome all of the powers of darkness and they cannot stand against us.

  9. Alabama John says:

    Charles,
    I find many that buy into the Jesus and Genesis thing but are still labeled by the COC, which they don’t buy into, as unbelievers. Core beliefs sure differ as this and other sites clearly demonstrate.
    I too find many who believe in a supernatural creator and don’t count them as unbelievers. It is sure a good place to start talking with them about the rest.
    We all believe in degrees and we even waver at various times but even at our lowest point we are still believers.

  10. hank says:

    According to the Bible, everyone who is not a member of the church is an “unbeliever” (1 Cor. 6:6; 2 Cor. 6:14).

    So one is either a brother or sister in Christ, or he or she is technically an “unbeliever”. Regardless of how much they “believe” in God and his Son.

    All who have yet to by faith repent and be baptized into Christ are “unbelievers” until they do.

  11. Doug says:

    AJ, I assumed you meant someone who didn’t believe Jesus was the son of God when you mentioned “unbelievers”. I guess that term does require some definition. I can only think, and I’m not going to think about it much, of Roman Catholics and CofC as Churches who might consider a person an unbeliever due to the name on the sign in front of the building but there are probably more.

  12. Alabama John says:

    Doug,

    I was bouncing off what Hank or someone else was bound to post.

    I don’t see all that are not members of the Church of Christ being unbelievers. Believing differently, YES, but still believers.

    In my life I have seen members of the COC change in many of their salvation beliefs. Many believed were the only believers back then and all else that disagreed with their beliefs were unbelievers, so, if they came back today they would consider all of us unbelievers. The same will be true of those that come after us in the next 25 or more years.

    We cannot be the only believers, those of us in this time zone of life and all others be unbelievers in the time zones behind us and those after us.

    If so, we are sure blessed to be the bunch living in this just right place and time.

    Gods blessings are not that narrow.

  13. hank says:

    Still, in the Bible, “unbelievers” were non-Christians.

    There were people “who believed” that were non Christians (Jn. 12:42 for example).

    But technically, in the book of God, all non Christians (non members of the church) were “unbelievers”.

    And whenever the Bible speaks of “believers” it is referring to those who through faith in Christ had repented and been baptized into Christ.

    Pretty sure that the Bible never speaks of anybody outside of the church as a “believer”.

    Perhaps I am forgetting a passage?

  14. Doug says:

    Hank, I wonder what you would have done if you had been born with only four fingers?

  15. hank says:

    If I would have been born with only four fingers, I would have been missing 6 (unless you don’t count thumbs as fingers?), and not as good are fishing.

    I wonder what you would have done if you had been born with a…..

    Nevermind, this is getting silly.

  16. aBasnar says:

    Last thursday we had Bible Study – it’s a group of brothers from different denomination, some of them without any other fellowship at the moment. And this time an unbeliever attended as well. And participated, And voiced his questions.

    We are right at the beginning of Matthew, and so I could answer most of the questions with: “This will be dealt with by Jesus a few chapters ahead, we’re getting there in a few weeks.” This satisfied him and we proceeded. Yet, interestingly, some for of the brothers obviously this was the first unbeliever they had in such a setting, and so they “had their chance” to explain the gospel right away. I tried to stop them.

    Why? We are reading the gospel right now! We don’t need to jump ahead at the cross and the resurrection when Matthew took the effort to introduce us to Jesus Christ and the Kingdom-message first. Matthew hat 25 other very important chapters that precede the chapters 26-28.

    I tell this, because I was abit puzzled at some statements above that some don’t even know unbelievers. Where do you spend your time, brothers? Certainly NOT eating and drinking with sinners. And in this, I agree with Jerry, that we re far to defensive, hiding behind thick wallsd. And if – IF – once in a while an unbeliever enters we “show no mercy”, but present cross and resurerction right away, without giving time for getting acquainted with the visitor (where does he come from, what language does he speak, what are his ideas, needs, questions …?) – and we also skip the first 25 chapters of the Gospel presenting only the cross and the resurrection. Why? Because we seem to be in a hurry! Here is an unbeliever, you know! Right here and right now! Who knows whether he’ll ever come again! Hurry! Cross-Resurrection! … And I suppose he will not come again if he is treated just like a fish is treated by a fisherman.

    Well, our visitor enjoyed our meeting – he even did not know what it means to pray. And he said, he’ll come again for part three of Matthew 3. I only hope that my brothers enjoy the journey as he does without pressing onward to the last chapters …
    … hm, and what about brothers who get impatient during the first 25 chapters of Jesus-presentation? Weren’t they written to know and love Him ever deeper and better? There’s so much more to the story than His last week on earth …

    Alexander

  17. Alabama John says:

    Alexander,
    I have never met an unbeliever and rather than living behind walls of good, I have been with some of the worse sinners among us.
    Just let them get in trouble, I mean serious trouble, and see if they don’t cry out for help and who they cry out to is who we believe in. I’m not talking theory, I’m talking seen many times with my own eyes fact!
    Its the ones that feel they don’t need God that say they are unbelievers. not the other way around.

  18. Doug says:

    Hank, in case you missed it, I meant it to be silly. I assumed you have heard of the 5-finger exercise of the restoration movement because you go it very frequently?

    Alexander, one of the most humble prayers I’ve ever heard began when an unbeliever began it this way… “Lord, if you are there, this is Bill. We haven’t ever talked…”. Reminded me of “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief…”. But considering where Bill began, this was a giant step for him.

  19. Bruce Morton says:

    Jay:
    Some good thoughts in your essay. I noted this: “But there are countless ways to mess this up. We can share Jesus in judgment, condemnation, and arrogance.”

    THE WALLS
    Absolutely. In the balance as I do know quite a few unbelievers (in the NT sense of people who do not believe Jesus is the Son of God) I will note an experience of late. It is easy for people to use the “judgment and condemnation” label on our efforts to share the Gospel when they have heard the word “sin” and want nothing to do with it. Not easy to get past that as it becomes a means to stop listening. So, we can speak kindly and really listen to where they are, but once we talk about the cross and resurrection… well often there goes the neighborhood (people like the “Jesus was a good man” part of the conversation).

    The numbers are growing in a nation that seems to be increasingly embracing an Aleister Crowley-like lifestyle (I do what I want to do). More people depend on “social networking tools” versus what was the community of a church. So, they get to have their own private “god” — the reason a practical Wicca is growing — and they are just fine with that.

    BREAKING DOWN WALLS A LITTLE
    So, how do we get beyond that? I have noticed that people with children see more acutely than others the need for more than “social networking tools.” They notice that their children want more, need more and it makes them more sensitive to their own needs. Giving attention to those individuals, whether by reaching out at a sports event or just casually saying something kind about children in a shopping mall can open a conversation that goes somewhere. Not surprisingly, our children sense spiritual needs deeply. When we reach out to them we will see more and more parents beginning to listen.

    In Christ,
    Bruce Morton
    Katy, Texas

  20. Alabama John says:

    Doug,
    Thank you!

    I have heard that expressed just like that and then they died.

    We sometimes paint God as such an uncaring terrible being many times without thinking.

    I have said it before, but, we need to think of God more like the God we sing about than the God we preach about.

    One by Gordon Motes I like that I am quoting from memory is:

    The Judge said guilty and I said I have no defense.
    That’s when mercy walked in and pleaded my case.
    Called to the stand Gods saving Grace.
    The Blood was presented that covered my sin.
    Forgiven when mercy walked in!

    We have a merciful God! Jesus blood covers a multitude of sins. Mercy triumphs over judgment James 2:13.

    We shouldn’t worry about the judgment as so many among us do but look forward to it

    We in the COC, who think we have it all right, fear our judgment more than any other denomination.

  21. Doug says:

    Amen! AJ, Amen!

    Sometimes it’s easy to forget that all of us weren’t born to God fearing parents who saw to it that we were in church at least 3 times a week. Some of us were born to boot leggers turned drug pushers who used us to push their drugs. Some weren’t born into loving families but into abusive and incestious families. Some of us never knew our fathers and our mothers were only part-time. Some of us were raised the best they could by grandparents and the street. In short, some of us have a lot higher hill to climb and it’s up to us good Christians to get out and give a hand rather than sit behind our walls saying tsk! tsk!

  22. hank says:

    Alabama,

    According to the way you determine who it is that is an “unbeliever ” it may be true that you’ve never met one.
    But, using the Bible’s definition, most of the people you know are technically “unbelievers”. Surely, you know more people who are not members of the church than are?

    I know a lot of people here probably hate the expression, but it really would be easier if we tried to call Bible things by Bible names. As opposed to making up our own definitions.

  23. hank says:

    As far as “needing to think of God more like the God we sing about than the God we preach about”… if there is a difference between the two Alabama, then either the songs you’re singing are wrong… or the things you’re preaching are.

    Think about it…

  24. Doug says:

    Hank,

    Just to be clear, does “members of the church” = “members of the Church of Christ” in your mind?

  25. hank says:

    Doug,

    Not necessarily. I believe there are members of “the Church of Christ” who are not actual members of the body of the saved. I also believe that there are members of the church, the body of the saved, who are not members of a “Church of Christ”.

    I believe that every sinner which has genuinely repented and been baptized into Christ are members of the church. Whoever has not, is not. Regardless of whether or not thety are members of “the Church of Christ”.

    Make sense?

  26. laymond says:

    Doug, Hank, and Bama John, it is very plain that you know what to do by what you say, Not saying that you don’t, but if you don’t do these things “get to doing it”. or at least try your best. teach by example instead of words. If we all did what we ask others to do, this world would be a better place.
    God bless you all, I know you can do it.We all teach better by example,rather than directions.

  27. Charles McLean says:

    AJ wrote: “I too find many who believe in a supernatural creator and don’t count them as unbelievers. It is sure a good place to start talking with them about the rest.”
    >>>
    Just to clarify, I do consider people whose faith stops short of Jesus as Savior to be “unbelievers”. But I can embrace them as my friends all the same, and NOT exclude them. I don’t try to mark out a barrier between Christians and my neighbors who believe in “God as you perceive him to be”. As you say, this is good place to begin the discussion about who God is. Paul was able to start with “an unknown God” and go from there. That unknown god is alive and well, and is still worthy of introduction.

  28. Doug says:

    Hank, That makes sense to me. I just wanted to make sure you weren’t speaking in CofC code. Myself, I try not to make any determination on people who have confessed Jesus as Lord and been baptized even if their life doesn’t represent the best of Jesus. Some Christian will be saved by a slim margin and my hope is that all will be saved plus I know that at times I don’t represent the best of Jesus myself.

  29. Alabama John says:

    Hank,

    Flip through your song book and study the words and thoughts carefully. or, just read the titles.

    Any I have seen were full of hope and “amazing grace” and forgiving of our sins by a loving God. They are very positive and uplifting. Especially check out “I stand amazed”.

    Preaching in many Churches of Christ is depressing and plain scary. Only a few are going to be saved and all the rest of us are going to burn forever. Narrow is the way, FEW will enter, preaching. This after singing several positive uplifting, encouraging songs and after the sermon a few more hopeful ones about the love of God and how great it will be “when we all get to heaven” or as it is corrected today in many COC “when the saved got to heaven”. Check yours out to see if it is corrected or are you singing error.

    The wording and lessons in these two parts of our worship services conflict but most don’t notice it.

    The way to eliminate this would be to not sing songs written by denominational writers.

    Sometimes we are very confusing to each other, much less to a visitor.

  30. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Alexander wrote,

    Why? We are reading the gospel right now! We don’t need to jump ahead at the cross and the resurrection when Matthew took the effort to introduce us to Jesus Christ and the Kingdom-message first. Matthew hat 25 other very important chapters that precede the chapters 26-28.

    Amen! If we see the “gospel” as limited to the passion, we teach a truncated Gospel According to Matthew as well as a truncated gospel. You’d enjoy Scot McKnight’s The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. He makes the identical point.

    I plan to post a review at some point. It’s an important book and very good read.

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