How do we force atheists to love Jesus?
How to we convince non-Christians to follow the Bible?
If someone doesn’t know God, how do we make it clear they should act a certain way?
Telling a non-believer not to lie/cheat/steal “Because the Bible says so” is about as effective as telling a teenager it’s so they don’t end up on Santa’s naughty list.
Non-Christians have no concept of life with the Lord
And without knowing God, they’re not particularly inclined to do what He says.
For many non-Christians, it’s not a question of “Why do you choose not to believe in God?” It’s simply the default mode. It’s unrealistic for a person to willingly devote their lives to a deity they have no experience with (or only negative experiences with).
It’s very similar to how I imagine the Israelites felt before Moses’ return. No one in this generation, or any recent generation, had met Abraham. No one had spoken to God.
God hadn’t been heard from in 400 years.
The Israelites had no concept of life with God
If anything, their association with God was negative. All they knew of their forefathers was the story of God’s promise to bring the children of Abraham and Joseph out of Egypt…eventually.
But for now, they were under the rule of a new king “who did not know about Joseph (Exodus 1:8).”
Because of this king, their ancestor Joseph and God’s faithfulness in multiplying their numbers, they were now slaves in a foreign land.
So, they’re slaves under the most powerful kingdom in the world at the time. Their slavery is attributed to the will of a God they’ve never seen any evidence of.
To be honest, I’m not sure I’d be too faithful in their position. If there was a God, I don’t think I’d want much (if anything) to do with Him.
So how did God bring the Israelites to Himself?
In the book of Exodus, God brings the Israelites out of Egypt and appoints them His holy nation.
He takes a group of 2 million people who had very little, if any idea who He truly is, and He made them His treasured possession.
How did God force the Israelites to follow Him and to love Him?
God never forces His love on anyone
God doesn’t pop up in Egypt one day and demand the Israelites follow His rules or die.
He doesn’t show up after 400 years without any communication and demand their love and respect.
In fact, The Lord doesn’t demand anything from the Israelites.
Instead, there’s a straightforward, 3-step process God follows.
Step 1 – God rescued the Israelites
God proved His character by bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. After more than 400 years of vague hope, He showed up.
Over and over again, through the plagues and the Red Sea and their time in the wilderness, The Lord was faithful to the promises He made. He was their salvation.
And the entire time, the Israelites did nothing but grumble.
They went so far as to ask, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst (Exodus 17:3)?”
A bit dramatic for my taste, but who am I to judge?
And yet, God was patient with them. He continued to love them through it and to provide for their every need.
It’s the same today. He saves us from our own Egypt before we even know Him.
Whatever kingdom we’re slaves to – addiction, pride, greed – He sets us free.
He doesn’t wait for us to be made right before Him; the price has already been paid.
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”
Step 2 – God gives the Israelites a choice
God doesn’t just tell the Israelites, “Ok, I saved you from Egypt. Now, you owe your undying love and obedience forever.”
Who wants to be in a relationship of obligation?
Instead, He offers them a choice. He has Moses remind the people of their rescue and tells them, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5).”
He requests obedience in exchange for the chance to be His holy nation. Yes, He’s asking for a lot. But He’s offering eternity in return.
We have he same choice today. We’re not locked into blind obedience just because of Jesus’ sacrifice. Yes, He died for our sins to rescue us from slavery. But this is where free will comes into play.
We can say no.
He blessed us with a choice.
You must surrender every part of yourself, but in exchange you’re receiving eternal life and glory with Him.
But honestly, it’s tough.
Once we agree to live for Him, we must “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind (Romans 12:2).”
It’s hard to live fully for Him. It’s why so many of us fall so short every day.
But His grace is greater.
Step 3 – God established the laws for the Israelites
It wasn’t until after the Israelites agreed to His terms that God set the law. And they didn’t just agree half-heartedly. The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said (Exodus 19:8).” They went all in.
Then, and only then, did God set the ways of righteous living.
Even today, we are free from the legalism of the laws but not from the standards God has set. He still expects us to live completely for Him.
However, He holds us to a higher standard than those who haven’t chosen a relationship with Him.
That’s why we need to be very careful what we speak or write, especially to an unbeliever.
For as He warns, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name (Exodus 20:7).” This is one of the few commandments to follow with a warning.
When we speak to someone in the name of God, or use the Bible as justification for our words or actions, we’ve established ourselves as a representative of God.
And yet, “some have wandered away… They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm (1 Timothy 1:6-7).”
Those who call themselves ‘Christians’ can do far more damage to His name or reputation than non-Christians ever could.
So, how do we make it clear to an unbeliever they should act a certain way?
Nobody’s going to hear a list of moral rules condemning their current lifestyle and say, “Now that sounds like something I want to be a part of!”
But it’s ok – you can’t earn Christ’s love by meeting a convert quota.
If you truly want to bring others to God – for the sake of their soul and not so you can “correct” their behavior – you have to start at step 1.
- Know and believe that Christ died for your salvation. Understand that He died for the salvation of all humans – not only those whose lifestyle you approve of.
- Live in a way that demonstrates His love and makes the choice a little easier for others. Give Him the glory and show His redeeming power in your life.
- Make it clear the standard they’ll be held to once they’ve made the choice. Do this by living up to His higher standard yourself.
It starts with your heart. It doesn’t begin with force or coercing someone into submission, but through a representation of life with Christ.
As we live by example, representing Christ in all we say and do, others will begin to notice.
Positive associations begin to form as we become like Christ.
“I want to live with integrity. My Christian neighbor lives with integrity. I wonder if there’s a connection?”
Then, other connections become evident.
“The woman who told the cashier he gave back too much change was wearing a cross necklace…”
Eventually, the characteristics of God are easy to recognize.
“Wow, Jeff in Accounting always comes in on time and produces high-quality work. I never hear him gossip or complain… I bet Jeff’s a Christian.”
Once God has opened an individual’s heart to His true character – shown Himself to be the faithful rescuer and provider – then they have the choice.
After the choice is made, then (and only then) can we expect them to take “Because the Bible says so” seriously.
Why don’t we all follow God’s process with every non-Christian in our lives?
Because it’s hard.
Bringing someone to Christ is not a quick-fix solution. It can take years. For some, it takes a lifetime.
And who wants to wait for that?
It’s far easier to picket an abortion clinic or shout at a stranger on the street or post a passive-aggressive Facebook status.
But that’s not the life we’ve been called to.
Christ came into the world to save us – the worst of sinners.
He died so that in us, “Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life (1 Timothy 1:16).”
We’re called to patient perseverance (it is a fruit of the Spirit, after all).
No, it’s not easy. And yes, there will be those who reject His grace and mercy and continue to live as they are.
“Finally, brothers, good-bye. Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11).”
This may be my last blog post for a while. I’ll try to keep up with Magnificent Mondays, but I need some time to re-prioritize. I promise to let you all know as soon as I have the time to give this blog the attention and love you all deserve.
Photo Credit: Neal Fowler
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