Study Guide: I Can Relate

Sunday February 22, 2015 | Brianna Millett

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

This week, Brianna Millett addresses how we are to respond to the “mixed signals” we get from the multitude of competing viewpoints in our modern world. How do we state our beliefs effectively? And what does the Bible teach about sharing the Gospel with unbelievers?

Extended Summary:

Our world presents us with a constant barrage of “mixed signals,” which can make it difficult to know which messages are true and which are off-track. How should we respond? How do we add our voice into the mixed messages out there? Do we get louder so our voice will be heard, or are we better off just keeping our viewpoints to ourselves?

The first thing we need to do is to dismantle our notion that we need to find the right dogma to defend. The Bible clearly shows that God has a better way to present His message, and it’s nothing new – God wants His children to love one another.

In Acts 17, we see that Paul was “deeply distressed” by all the idols that surrounded him when he was in Athens. Yet even in his distress, Paul didn’t try to convince the locals that their mixed signals were wrong by making his message louder or more forceful, nor did he remain quiet. Paul knew from personal experience that God is for people even when they’re off track, and that God meets people where they’re at, so Paul simply began to dialog and build respectful relationships with the locals. That, in turn, led to them inviting Paul to stand up and share his beliefs right in the epicenter of the philosophical culture of his day. And what Paul shared served to build a bridge by finding some commonalities between them rather than focusing only on differences, (“I see you’re very religious people…”). Paul was also then able to present the Gospel to them through their worldview. For example, Paul specifically used one of their pagan idols as a familiar frame of reference for them, from which they would be better able to understand the uniqueness of the God of Israel. Sure, some scoffed at Paul’s beliefs, but other Athenians became committed followers of Jesus that day.

Similarly, Jesus did not send his disciples out with instructions to use “my way or the highway” conversion tactics. Rather, He sent His disciples out to build relationships with lost and broken people. In one instance, Jesus sent 70 of his Jewish disciples, two by two, into Samaria. Samaria was a hostile place towards the Jews, but Jesus did not send them to confront the Samaritans – He sent them to love the Samaritans. He told them to bring peace into each house they entered, and when they found a house that welcomed them, they were to stay right there with that family. They were to eat what the family ate – meaning some mutuality and reciprocity was instructed, as building genuine relationships requires a two-way connection to be established. It was only after the bond of a caring relationship had begun that Jesus instructed his disciples to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had come to them.

So we find that when we serve one another and build loving relationships with each other, it is then that we will both see Jesus Christ in one another. And that is God’s plan that is free from mixed signals.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Can you list some of the “mixed signals” (confusing and/or conflicting messages) you’ve received from the world?
  2. Can you list some of the “mixed signals” you’ve received from Christians?
  3. How have “mixed signals” negatively impacted your relationships with God? With other people? With yourself?
  4. Can you clearly state the truth about what God says about you and your relationship with him? If not, you may be suffering from some “mixed signals” that are competing for your allegiance – how might you sort through the deceptions and learn the truth about God’s love for you?
  5. How might you have given “mixed signals” to others in the past? What are some specific ways you can begin to build genuine, loving relationships with others so they can witness the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through you?