1 John 1

1:1 That which was from the beginning [emphasize the eternal nature of Christ], which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched [Jesus had a physical body; some false teachers claimed that He did not have a physical body but only appeared to have one] — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

1:2 The life [from the Greek word “zoe”] appeared [was revealed or manifested]; we have seen [Jesus was seen by thousands of people] it [Jesus] and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father [Jesus was face-to-face with God; they enjoyed an intimate relationship] and has appeared to us [the incarnation].

1:3 We [John and the other apostles] proclaim to you what we have seen and heard [John and the others actually walked with Jesus], so that you also may have fellowship [from the Greek word “koinonia”; the twelve enjoyed intimate fellowship with Jesus] with us [through a personal relationship with Jesus others could also enjoy this fellowship]. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

1:4 We write this to make our [there is a mutual joy among believers] joy complete [wandering away from Christ or embracing false teaching cancels this joy].

1:5 This is the message [essentially the gospel] we have heard from him and declare to you [we are trustees of the gospel and must pass it along to others]: God [see also John 8:12] is light [light enables us to see what we otherwise could not see]; in him there is no darkness [a metaphor for what is sinful and evil] at all.

1:6 If we claim to have fellowship with him
[God’s people live in the kingdom of His beloved Son, a kingdom of light (Col. 1:13-14)] and yet walk in the darkness [it is hypocritical to to claim to belong to the kingdom of His beloved Son while walking in darkness (Col. 1:13-14); we cannot claim to belong to the light while displaying the behavior of the dark], we lie and do not live out the truth.

1:7 But if we walk in the light [means that we must have constant fellowship with God and not tolerate the things that can distance us from Him], as he is in the light, we have fellowship [the result of walking in the light] with one another [this phrase used 35 times in the NT; living out the 35 “one another” passages is evidence that we are in right relationship with God and others], and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies [cleanses] us from all sin.

Note: There is a legend told about Martin Luther that, during a serious illness, the Devil entered his room, and, looking at Luther with a triumphant smile, unrolled a vast roll which when unwound filled the room. On that roll was a detailed and complete record of all of Luther’s sins.

The story says that Luther trembled when he saw it when he suddenly remembered that there was one thing that was not written there.

And so, looking at the Devil, Luther said, “One thing you have forgotten: the rest is all true; but one thing you have forgotten…The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin.” (I John 1:7)

As he said this, the Accuser of the brethren and his heavy roll disappeared.

1:8 If we claim to be without sin [this lie was propagated by false teachers], we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

1:9 [The Condition of Cleansing…] If [introduces the condition] we [who must meet the condition] confess [the condition that must be met; translates the Greek work “homologeo” from “homos” = same and “lego” = to speak; the word means “to say the same thing as another” hence “to agree with or to assent to a thing”] our sins, [The Certainty of Cleansing] he is faithful [the grounds of our assurance is the character of God; He never changes and is utterly reliable] and just [God is straightforward in His dealings with us and will do exactly what He says He will do] and will forgive [deals with the judicial side of cleansing; healing for the past] us our sins and purify [deals with the personal side of cleansing; hope for the future] us from all [You can call sin what you like… bondage, guilt, uncleanness, crime, iniquity, vice, evil, misdemeanor, wickedness, failure, stain, wrong, filth, or transgression. These are just some of the many names and aspects of sin, but they are all covered by the word “all”] unrighteousness.

Note: The word “confess” also carries with it the idea of a contract, an agreement, a coming to terms (as used in both Classical and Koine Greek). According to its usage in 1 John 1:9, confession is more than just a mere admission of sin to God. The act of confession includes the act of the Christian:

A. coming to terms with God in regard to his sin
B. then of agreeing with God as to what He says about that sin and what the Christian ought to do about it.
C. then entering into a contract or agreement with God that if He will cleanse us from the filth and defilement of that sin, we will not repeat it.

In other words, we must first own and then disown our sins. We must first acknowledge them and then abandon them—or in the words of Proverbs 28:13, we must confess and forsake them.

1:10 If we claim we have not sinned [an audacious claim of some of the false teachers; if we have not sinned then there was no need for God to send His Son], we make him out to be a liar [because God says we have all sinned; Romans 3:23; 6:23] and his word [the message of the gospel] is not in us.

Source of Power

God gives the Holy Spirit to believers to empower them to witness boldly. Witnessing is sharing and showing your faith in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God. Determine to rely on the Spirit’s power as you witness.

The Story Continues

As I traveled on a train from Kiev to Donetsk in 1995 I opened my Bible to the book of Acts. Eager to share the gospel in Ukraine, I read through Acts with renewed enthusiasm. As the train rhythmically swayed down the tracks, I became absorbed in Luke’s account of the birth and expansion of the church. Over the next several hours I marveled again at how the Holy Spirit empowered ordinary men and women to turn their world upside down (see Acts 17:6). In a small way, our short-term mission team was continuing the story of Acts. You don’t have to travel to another country however, to participate in the ongoing story of Acts. The Holy Spirit can empower you to witness boldly right where you live.

Promise of Power (Acts 1:4-5,8)

The book of Acts opens with a brief account of the events between the resurrection and ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:3-11). After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples at various times “over a period of forty days” (Acts 1:3). During that period, He spoke to the disciples “about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Jesus used the Old Testament (Luke 24:27) to help the disciples understand the necessity of His death and resurrection (Luke 24:45-46). He also commissioned the disciples to share His message of salvation with all nations (see Luke 24:47 and Matt. 28:19-20).

Imagine being among the first to hear Jesus say, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15). How would you have felt? What would you have thought about such an enormous assignment? Perhaps you would have felt overwhelmed. Perhaps you would have thought, “I am inadequate for such a task.” How then, did Jesus prepare a group of ordinary human beings for the enormous task of sharing the good news with the world?

On one of the specific occasions when Jesus appeared to His disciples, He shared a meal with them (v. 4). During the course of that meal, Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the gift promised by God (see also Luke 24:49). The gift promised by God is the Holy Spirit. The disciples had heard Jesus speak about the Holy Spirit during His farewell address in the Upper Room (see John 14-16). The Holy Spirit is essential to the task of sharing the good news with the world. That is why Jesus instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem. He told them that in a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Spirit (v. 5). As a result of this baptism, the disciples would be empowered to take the gospel to the world.

Just before His ascension from the Mount of Olives, Jesus unveiled His simple plan for reaching the world. He instructed the disciples to share the good news in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). The book of Acts tells the story of how the gospel spread from Jerusalem to other parts of the world in a thirty year period. The story of Acts also teaches us that evangelism should have no geographical or ethnic boundaries. We owe Christ to all people (see Rom. 1:14). The greatest crime we can commit is to withhold the gospel from others.

Sharing the gospel with others is the responsibility of every believer. However, we cannot effectively share Christ with others apart from the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The divine work of evangelism can only be accomplished in dependence upon divine power (Acts 1:8). The Holy Spirit plays a key role in every aspect of evangelism. He guides believers as they communicate the message of salvation with unbelievers (see Luke 12:12). The Holy Spirit also convicts unbelievers “of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8). He persuades unbelievers to place their faith in Jesus for salvation. You can count on the Holy Spirit to empower you to share the gospel with others. But, can the Holy Spirit count on you?

Gift of Power (Acts 2:1-6)

After the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:9-11), the disciples returned to Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). They gathered in an upper room (Acts 1:13), along with other believers, and spent time together in prayer (Acts 1:14). Peter also spoke to those assembled concerning choosing a replacement for Judas (Acts 1:15-22). Matthias was chosen as Judas’ successor by means of prayer and the casting of lots (Acts 1:23-26).

As the Day of Pentecost approached, Jews from every nation made their way to Jerusalem (see v. 5). Pentecost, or the Feast of Weeks, was one of the three annual feasts which Jewish males were expected to attend in Jerusalem (see Deut. 16:16). The name Pentecost literally means fiftieth. Pentecost commemorated the completion of the grain harvest and was observed fifty days after the Passover. God strategically chose Pentecost as the day to send the gift of power that would enable the disciples to initiate a great spiritual harvest.

The day of Pentecost came ten days after the ascension of Jesus. On that day, the disciples and other believers (see Acts 1:15) were again assembled together (see Acts 1:13) in one place (v. 1). As they prayed, an overpowering sound like the blowing of a violent wind (v. 2) suddenly announced the Holy Spirit’s arrival. The sound was so intense that it caught the attention of those outside the house where the believers were assembled (see v. 6). Along with the sound, they saw what seemed to be tongues of fire come to rest on each of those present (v. 3). Both wind (see Ps. 104:3) and fire (see Ex. 3:2) are associated with God’s presence.

All of those present were filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 4). God’s gift of power is for all believers, not just a select few. The Holy Spirit empowered the believers to speak in foreign languages not previously known by them (v. 4). Imagine the bewilderment of the Jews gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost when they heard the believers fluently “declaring the wonders of God” (v. 11) in their own languages (v. 6). The Holy Spirit certainly hastened the spread of the gospel on the day when Jerusalem was crowded with Jews from every nation.

The Holy Spirit still empowers and uses ordinary people to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. Perhaps you have thought, “Surely, God can’t use someone like me to tell others about Jesus.” The same Holy Spirit who empowered men like Billy Graham to preach to millions can empower you to effectively share the good news with your neighbor. God needs lots of someones just like you and me to reach the people that may never attend an evangelistic crusade or darken the door of a church. The question is, will you make yourself available for His use? Will you allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to declare the wonders of God to others in words they can understand?

People of Power (Acts 2:17-18)

Luke recorded the responses of those in Jerusalem who heard Christ’s followers speaking in other languages. Some of the people who witnessed the remarkable events on the day of Pentecost were bewildered (v. 6). Others were “utterly amazed” (v. 7) and likely stood around with their mouths opened wide. Still others were curious (vv. 8-11) and asked one another, “What does this mean?” (v. 12). And, as always, some scoffed and said, “They have had too much wine” (v. 13).

The charge of drunkenness became the occasion for Peter’s first and perhaps most influential sermon. Peter, filled and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, stood up and addressed the crowd of people (v. 14). He dismissed the charge of drunkenness as unreasonable, pointing out that it was too early in the day for someone to be drunk (v. 15). Peter then offered an explanation of what had happened.

Peter anchored the miraculous events of Pentecost in the Old Testament (vv. 16-21). He told the crowd that what they had witnessed was the fulfillment of the prophecy found in Joel 2:28-32. Joel spoke of a time when God would pour out His Spirit on all people (v. 17). As a result, they would all prophesy, or proclaim God’s saving message (v. 18). The time Joel had spoken of had finally come. The Holy Spirit was now available to empower all of God’s people for service, without regard to sex or age (vv. 17,18). The Holy Spirit, Peter said, was responsible for transforming ordinary people into people of power.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a person of power? Wealth and material possessions make some people feel powerful. Others feel powerful because they occupy positions of authority. But, as a believer, you have the greatest power of all available to you. And, the best part is, you do not have to be wealthy or in a position of authority to tap into this power. The Holy Spirit resides within you and stands ready to give you the power to have a part in advancing the gospel.

Results of Power (Acts 2:36-39)

As the crowd continued to listen attentively, Peter spoke about the life and works of Jesus (v. 22). Many of those listening knew of the “miracles, wonders and signs” (v. 22) which Jesus had performed through God’s power. Many of them also knew about the recent arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, which was part of God’s divine plan to redeem sinful humanity (v. 23). Death, however, could not hold Jesus (v. 24). Peter presented various proofs to support the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead (v. 25-35). Peter called upon his listeners to know with certainty that God declared Jesus, whom they crucified, both Lord and Christ (v. 36).

When Peter finished preaching, the people who heard him were cut to the heart (v. 37). The Holy Spirit had used Peter’s words to pierce their religious armor. Stunned by the pain of conviction, the people asked Peter and the other apostles, Brothers, what shall we do? (v. 37). Peter had a twofold answer to their question.

First, Peter told his listeners to repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ (v. 38). Peter’s words ring with the urgency that says, “Do it now.” Repentance means more than feeling sorry for past behavior, it involves turning away from our sin and turning to God through Jesus. Second, Peter told his listeners to be baptized. . .in the name of Jesus Christ (v. 38). Baptism was a way of publicly acknowledging that they had indeed repented and believed in Jesus for salvation. Those (v. 39) who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus for salvation will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 38). Remarkably, about three thousand people responded to Peter’s message on the day of Pentecost (v. 41).

The day of Pentecost began like any other day for Peter and the other followers of Christ. By the end of the day however, their lives would never be the same again. The Holy Spirit empowered these ordinary people for the divine task of sharing the gospel of Christ. As a result of their witness, the church was born and a fire ignited that has swept across countries and centuries.

How did this day begin for you? As a believer, you have the same power available to you that transformed the followers of Christ on the day of Pentecost. You too, can expect people to respond positively to the gospel when they see the results of the power of God’s Spirit in your life and hear your testimony. Will you allow God’s Holy Spirit to govern and guide your life today? Will you allow Him to use you to share Christ with someone today? If so, by the end of this day, your life may never be the same again.

Remember: You Can Participate in the Ongoing Story of Acts

Be Aware | Multiplied millions of people are still waiting to hear the message that has changed our lives. Many of the people you see every day have not had the opportunity to hear and respond to the gospel of Christ.

Be Sensitive
| Ask God to remind you daily that Jesus died for every person you see. Someone prayed, “Lord, help me see in those I meet, on country road or city street, not just people passing by, but those for whom Jesus came to die.”

Be Available
| God uses ordinary people like you and me to share the gospel with others. Allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to share the good news with others.

Called to Tell the Story

Every Christian is responsible for sharing the good news about Jesus. Those who know Christ owe Christ to all people.

We Are Debtors

Every Christ-follower, without exception, is called to be share the good news. We cannot escape this call. In his letter to the Romans, Paul described himself as a debtor (Rom. 1:14). A debt is an obligation. So, to whom was Paul obligated? He was certainly obligated to Christ for his salvation. But, he was also obligated to all who do not know Christ —“both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.”

The terms Greeks and Barbarians refer the Gentiles, among whom Paul hoped to have a harvest. However, Paul also desired to reach the wise, those who were lost because of their worldly wisdom, and the unwise or those considered unworthy to receive the gospel. All of these terms define the broad scope of Paul’s personal mission field.

Paul understood that Christ had already “broken down the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:14) between Jews and Gentiles. And he believed that God had called him to carry the message of reconciliation through Christ to all peoples. He owed it to them. Those who know Christ are indeed in debt or obligated to take the gospel to those who do not know Christ. In other words, those who know Christ owe Christ to all people.

A Call From Above

When it comes to evangelism, Christ-followers have a two-fold responsibility — to show Christ (incarnation) and to share Christ (proclamation). Both are essential. Like two wings on an airplane, we need both incarnation (our ways) and proclamation (our words) in order to get our witness off the ground.

According to the Bible, evangelism begins with a call from above. God Himself calls, commands, and commissions us to tell the good news to the nations. Evangelism begins with a call from above because that is where evangelism began — in the heart of God. He sent His Son into the world (John 3:16) to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).

The last command of Jesus was a command to evangelize (read Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8). We are still under obligation to obey this command; it has not been repealed. There are no exemptions to obedience by virtue of our age, gender, rank, race, or riches. Nor can we substitute anything in place of this command. Regardless of whatever else we may do in the church and for the kingdom, these things are to be done in addition to but not in place of evangelism.

John R. Mott, a leader of the Student Volunteer Movement at the turn of the twentieth century, understood what it meant to be a debtor. In a speech that he gave in April 1901, Mott challenged his audience to come to grips with the fact that not only do all people need Christ, but that we owe Christ to all people. “To have a knowledge of Christ,” Mott said, “is to incur a tremendous responsibility to those that have it not.”

Unless we understand that the gospel concerns all people, we will likely never feel the weight of our obligation to the nations. Mott reminded his audience, “You and I have received this great heritage, not to appropriate it to our exclusive use, but to pass it on to others. … What a colossal crime against two-thirds of the human race to withhold this surpassing knowledge!” Withholding the gospel from others is indeed a colossal crime, one with eternal ramifications.

Mott was right. Think about it. If we were not called to evangelism, then we would not have to concern ourselves with telling others about Jesus; we would not have to make evangelism a personal priority; we would be able to call every missionary home; we could stop the publication and distribution of tracts and evangelism materials; and we would not have to concern ourselves with the spiritual welfare of others.

But, that is not the case. There is a divine call to evangelism that comes from above and is directed at every Christ-follower. We are called to go and tell and to tell as we go.

A Call From Below

The Bible teaches that there is a call to evangelism that originates from above and is directed at every Christ-follower. According to Luke 16:19-31, there also is a call to evangelism that originates from below.

Jesus told a parable about an unnamed rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. Lazarus was a sick man whose body was covered with sores. He was so poor that he longed to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table.

One day Lazarus died and was carried away by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died, but he went to hell. While in hell the rich man saw Lazarus being comforted in the bosom of Abraham, far away across a chasm. The rich man then cried to Abraham, asking that he send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his parched tongue and thus relieve a little of the agony he was experiencing in hell’s flames. But, his request was denied.

The rich man then made another request: “Then I beg you, Father, that you send him to my father’s house — for I have five brothers — that he may warn them, lest they also come to this place of torment” (Luke 16:27-28). This request was also denied.

This parable paints an awful picture of the terrible reality of hell. If we could intrude upon the fiery depths of hell with a listening device we too would hear a distinct call to evangelism, pleading with us — “Go and tell my brothers…”. If you and I could hear the cries of those in hell we would hear familiar voices calling us to go and tell.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said the following in a speech to the first class of graduates after they had completed two years of intensive study and training: “Young men, I’m sorry that it has been necessary to keep you here for two years before we could send you into the world to preach the gospel. What would have been better is if you could have had five minutes in hell! That would have been all the preparation you would need in your zeal to reach the lost.”

Booth was right. Many will never see heaven because we have never seen hell. Many will never hear and respond to the voice of God because you and I have not heard and responded to the cries from hell.

As Christ-followers, we cannot escape the call to tell others the good news. If we look up to the heights of heaven, we will hear a commanding call to evangelism. And, if we look below to the depths of hell, we will hear a distressing call pleading with us to go and warn others lest they go to that place of torment.

A Call From Without

There is yet a third call to evangelism that we cannot escape — the call that comes from without.

Luke’s account of Paul’s second missionary journey starts in Acts 15:36. Immediately prior to the start of this second journey, Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement regarding whether or not to allow John Mark to join their team. Paul did not want John Mark on the team because he had deserted them in Pamphylia on the previous journey. Barnabas, the encourager, wanted to give John Mark a second chance. Since Paul and Barnabas could not agree about what to do with John Mark, they agreed to go their separate ways. Barnabas took John Mark with him on another journey and Paul chose a new traveling companion named Silas to accompany him on his second missionary journey.

As Paul and Silas traveled, the Holy Spirit shut doors along the way and redirected them to Troas, a city on the extreme western shores of Asia Minor. While there, something significant happened (Acts 16:9): “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

This is the call to evangelism that comes from without — an urgent call from lost humanity, pleading with us to come and help. This was a significant call for Paul because Macedonia was on the continent of Europe and represented the place where the gospel had not yet been preached. And, the man in the vision represented and spoke for all who had not yet heard the gospel.

Like the Macedonian man, there are billions of people in the world today who are urgently crying out for help, asking for someone to show them the way out of darkness into the light and out of condemnation into forgiveness. People everywhere are looking for answers to life’s deepest questions. If you will listen, you’ll hear the cry of the Macedonians in your world, pleading for help.

Are you sensitive to the cries of those who are still waiting to hear the good news? Ask God to help you to tune out distractions so that you can hear the cries for help from others, cries woven into daily conversations with words that signal confusion, hurt, despair, and lostness. And when you hear these cries, do what Paul and Silas did — share the good news of Jesus Christ.

A Call From Within

There is a fourth call to evangelism, a call that comes from within. If we fail to hear and heed this call, then all of the other calls will also go unanswered. This is the call that ultimately stirs us to action. Isaiah heard this call in the year of King Uzziah’s death when he heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8).

Centuries after Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord, another young man heard God’s voice. In the 18th century, churches throughout Europe had become indifferent to the spiritual needs of the world. During this time there lived a young English pastor who served as a part-time teacher and shoemaker. This young man was under the conviction that the Great Commission was directed to every believer and still operative. Many of his contemporaries felt otherwise.

At a ministers’ meeting in 1786, this young man asked “whether the command given to teach all nations was not obligatory on all [believers], to the end of the world.” Upon hearing this, an older pastor is reported to have said, “Sit down, young man. You are a miserable enthusiast to ask such a question. When God wants to convert the world, He can do it without your help.”

However, this young man dared to swim against the tide of apathy in his day because he had heard the voice of the Lord reverberating in his heart, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Like Isaiah, this young man dared to heed this divine call from within and answered affirmatively, “Here am I. Send me!” As a result, this young man named William Carey unwittingly launched the modern missionary movement in 1792 and became known as the father of modern missions.

Can you hear God’s voice reverberating within the chambers of your heart, asking “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” If not, turn down the volume, tune in to God, and make yourself available to beg others on behalf of Christ, “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

The Romans Road to Salvation

God had made the way of salvation clear. The purpose of this lesson is to guide you in learning how to use the Scriptures to explain the way of salvation.

The Romans Road to salvation is a way of explaining the good news using verses from the Book of Romans. It is a simple yet powerful method of explaining why we need salvation, how God provided salvation, how we can receive salvation, and what are the results of salvation.

An easy way to remember the flow of the story is to use the G-O-S-P-E-L acronym.

G = God created us to be with Him.
O = Our sins separate us from God.
S = Sins cannot be removed by good deeds.
P = Paying the price for our sins, Jesus died and rose again.
E = Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life.
L = Life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever.

When engaged in a spiritual conversation, look for an opportunity to ask questions that will give you insight into what another believes about the way of salvation. One witnessing model suggests the use of the following exploratory questions to initiate a spiritual conversation. The answers to these questions will indicate whether an individual is trusting in anything other than Christ alone for salvation.

Have you come to a place in your life that you know for certain that you have eternal life and that you will go to heaven when you die?

Suppose you were standing before God right now and He asked you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” What do you think you would say?

G = God Created Us To Be With Him
When sharing your faith, begin on a positive note. Explain that God created us and loves us (Psalm 100:3). He wants for us to live full and meaningful lives and to spend eternity with Him in heaven (John 10:10). In fact, He loves us so much that He offers us the remarkable gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23b).

O = Our Sins Separate Us From God
Transition to what keeps people from experiencing the kind of life God desires for us to have. The Bible tells us that we are separated from God. According to Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one.” The word righteous means “in right standing or relationship with.” No one is in right standing with God because we are all sinners by nature and by choice. Our sin separates us from God.

Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In other words, we have all sinned. To sin means to miss the mark of God’s standard of perfection. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. There is no one who is innocent. Romans 3:10-18 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives.

S = Sins Cannot Be Removed By Good Deeds
We cannot remove sin by doing good deeds. Some think that when they get to heaven God is going to weigh their bad and bad deeds. If the scale tips in their favor, they reason, then God will let them into heaven. This belief is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. If you could earn your way to heaven by doing good works then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21).

Because we have sinned against God, we all deserve death and hell. Romans 6:23 makes it clear that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The punishment that we have earned for our sins is death. Not just physical death, but eternal death or separation from God!

P = Paying the Price for Our Sins, Jesus Died and Rose Again
The Bible tells us some wonderful news. Because God loves us so much, He provided a way for us to be forgiven. Romans 5:8 declares, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” That is really good news! Jesus Christ died for us. His death paid for the price of our sins and His resurrection proves that God accepted Jesus’ death as the payment for our sins.

God loves us but hates our sin. When Jesus died on the cross, God laid on Him all my sin and guilt (Isaiah 53:6). “[Jesus] was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification” (Romans 4:25).

E = Everyone Who Trusts in Him Alone Has Eternal Life

A gift can only be received or rejected. We must receive God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, we cannot earn it. To receive God’s gift we must repent (do an “about-face”) of our sin, believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sin and rose victoriously from the dead, and surrender to Him as Lord.

Romans 10:9-10 explains “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, all we have to do is believe in Him, trusting His death as the payment for our sins — and we will be saved.

L = Life With Jesus Starts Now…

Ask the person if what you have shared makes sense to them. Ask them if they are willing to turn from their sin and place their faith in Jesus right now.

Clarify that to receive God’s gift of eternal life they must do the following: repent of your sin, place your faith in Jesus, and surrender to Jesus as Lord.

Explain that the Bible says, “‘Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Romans 10:13). We call on the name of the Lord in prayer.

You can pray this simple prayer to receive God’s gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Saying this prayer is a way to declare to God that you are relying on Jesus Christ for your salvation. The words themselves will not save you. Only faith in Jesus Christ can provide salvation!

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I have sinned against you and need Your forgiveness. I believe that You died for my sins. I want to turn from my sins. I now invite You to come into my heart and life and be both my Lord and Savior. Thank you for hearing my prayer and giving me eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

… And Lasts Forever
Romans 5:1 has this wonderful message, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through Jesus Christ we can have a relationship of peace with God. Romans 8:1 teaches us, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Because of Jesus’ death on our behalf, we will never be condemned for our sins.

We also have this precious promise of God from Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” You can also use John 3:16, John 10:27-29, and 1 John 5:12 to explain assurance of salvation.


If you have a smartphone, download the Life In 6 Words Mobile App. This is a useful tool for sharing your faith with others by using the G-O-S-P-E-L acronym.

I am Debtor

Debt is a term that is not unfamiliar to us. Our nation has a staggering debt that we will likely never pay off. The accessibility of credit cards coupled with most people’s inability to postpone gratification has resulted in American households drowning in a tumultuous sea of debt. Delinquent debt has spawned collection agencies that badger debtors at all hours of the day and night with “pay your debt or else” threats. Debt in America is indeed a problem.

As a Christ-follower, I am a debtor. Like the Apostle Paul, I feel the weight of my obligation to all peoples. “I am debtor,” Paul wrote in Romans 1:14, “both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.” A debt is an obligation. So, to whom was Paul obligated? Paul was certainly obligated to Christ for his salvation. But, he was also obligated to all who do not know Christ.

The terms Greeks and Barbarians refer the Gentiles, among whom Paul hoped to have a harvest. However, Paul also desired to reach the wise, those who were lost because of their worldly wisdom, and the unwise or those considered unworthy to receive the gospel. All of these terms define the broad scope of Paul’s personal mission field.

Paul understood that Christ had already “broken down the dividing wall” (Ephesians 2:14) between Jews and Gentiles. And he believed that God had called him to carry the message of reconciliation through Christ to all peoples. He owed it to them. Those who know Christ are indeed in debt or obligated to take the gospel to those who do not know Christ. In other words, those who know Christ owe Christ to all people.

John R. Mott, a leader of the Student Volunteer Movement at the turn of the twentieth century, understood what it meant to be a debtor. In a speech that he gave in April 1901, Mott challenged his audience to come to grips with the fact that not only do all people need Christ, but that we owe Christ to all people. “To have a knowledge of Christ,” Mott said, “is to incur a tremendous responsibility to those that have it not.”

Unless we understand that the gospel concerns all people, we will likely never feel the weight of our obligation to the nations. Mott reminded his audience, “You and I have received this great heritage, not to appropriate it to our exclusive use, but to pass it on to others. … What a colossal crime against two-thirds of the human race to withhold this surpassing knowledge!” Withholding the gospel from others is indeed a colossal crime, one with eternal ramifications.

When considering our debt to all peoples, we must think and act strategically. Today, more than 6,600 people groups are still waiting to hear the good news. We have the resources and the capability to take the gospel to all peoples. In Mott’s words, “God forbid that we should lack vision in these days to take advantage of the tide that is rising to sweep multitudes into the all-embracing kingdom of Jesus Christ.” May we be dominated by the conviction that we must stop at nothing until we have paid our debt.

Sharing Your Faith

Called to Tell the Story | Four calls to evangelism.

Source of Power | The role of the Holy Spirit in sharing the good news about Jesus.

Power of Your Personal Story | Learn to share your personal testimony.

The Romans Road to Salvation | Using selected passages from the book of Romans to share how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I Am Debtor | Those who know Christ are in debt to those who do not know Christ.

I love what Ravi Zacharias, the renowned Christian apologist, wrote about coming to faith in Christ. “I came to Him because I did not know which way to turn. I have remained with Him because there is no other way I wish to turn. I came to Him longing for something I did not have. I remain with Him because I have something I will not trade. I came to Him a stranger. I remain with Him in the most intimate of friendships. I came to Him unsure about the future. I remain with Him certain about my destiny.”

Much like Ravi, the earliest Christian believers talked a lot about Jesus and what He meant to them. John Foxe, the author of Foxe’s Christian Martyrs of the World, shares this insight: “In that age every Christian was a missionary. The soldier tried to win recruits…; the prisoner sought to bring his jailer to Christ; the slave girl whispered the gospel in the ear of her mistress; the young wife begged her husband to be baptized…; every one who had experienced the joys of believing tried to bring others to the faith.”

The late Ray Stedman, a Christian pastor and author, affirms Foxe’s insight. “These early Christians,” wrote Stedman, “never witnessed about the church at all; they witnessed about the Lord — what He could do, how He would work, what a fantastic person He was, how amazing His power was, and what He could do in human hearts.” 

As Christ-followers, we too have a responsibility to speak about Jesus. Psalm 107:2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so…” Like first-century believers, we must include Jesus in our daily conversations. We must tell others how wonderful He is, what He has done for us, how He helps us from day-to-day, and the assurance that we have of spending eternity with Him in heaven.

The lessons on this page will help you to understand the why and how of speaking of Jesus wherever you go. One thing is certain, you can count on the Holy Spirit to help you. Speaking of Jesus is divine work — and divine work can only be done in dependence upon divine power.

I hope these resources will inspire you to speak of Jesus often as you go about your day.

The Power of Your Personal Story

Your personal story of how you came to faith in Christ is powerful. The purpose of this lesson is to guide you to prepare your personal story.

I love listening to stories. Each of us have our own stories — those narratives that define and give context to our lives, that give listeners clues about our existence, frustrations, hopes, and aspirations. Our lives are, essentially, a collection of stories — the personal accounts, however mundane or exciting, of our days.

If you want to get to know someone well, then listen carefully to their stories. Ask questions that prompt the telling of stories because stories are the keys that give us access to the innermost parts of a person’s heart. They bring clarity and sharpen our understanding about the people we know and those we would like to know.

One of the most effective tools you have for sharing your faith is the story of how Jesus Christ gave you eternal life and how He has enriched your life. Some refer to this story as a personal testimony. One use of the word testimony is when a person is brought into a courtroom and placed under oath to tell what they know or experienced with reference to the case under consideration.

Your personal story is important and should be told. The Bible often reminds those who have experienced the goodness of the Lord to tell their story. “Has the LORD redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies” (Psalm 107:2). Telling your story can encourage others and even guide them to the Lord.

Your personal story is also powerful and has authority. Someone wisely observed that a person with an experience is never at the mercy of a person with an argument. The Bible teaches that we should “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Your personal story also communicates and relates to others. Never underestimate how God can use your personal story to touch the heart of someone who is searching for answers. If you will be faithful to share your story, then God will honor your faithfulness for doing so. He can take the words you speak and use them to draw others to Himself.

Learning from Paul

The Apostle Paul understood the power and importance of his personal story — the account of how he came to faith in Christ. He shared his story in Acts 22:1-16 and again in Acts 26:9-23. These accounts of how Paul shared his personal story can help us to frame our own story. Paul used a simple four-point outline to share his story.

Acts 21 records the account of Paul’s return to Jerusalem against the advice of friends who warned him of the danger awaiting him there. Paul was later seized by an angry mob at the temple but was rescued by a Roman regiment stationed in a fortress adjacent to the temple. Paul asked the Roman commander for permission to address the angry crowd. Paul used this opportunity to tell his personal story of coming to faith in Christ (Note: Paul’s conversion experience is recorded in Acts 9).

My Life Before Jesus (I have not always been a Christian…)
Your personal story should start with what your life was like before coming to faith in Christ. Paul talked about where he was born and educated and how he zealously followed God. Many people will relate to this part of your story. Keep it simple and set the context for what follows.

How I Realized I Needed Jesus (…but God showed me my need of Jesus Christ).

Paul shared how he had been going about his business of persecuting Christians when Jesus got his attention. Everything changed when he had an encounter with Jesus. Only then did he fully realize the depth of his separation from God.

When you share this part of your story remember that the point is to talk about how you came to the realization that you have sinned against God. Do not use this as an opportunity to go into great detail about your sin.

How I Received Jesus (I committed my life to Jesus…)
When Paul encountered Jesus, he recognized Him as Lord of all and then asked an important question, “What shall I do?” Paul then obeyed without reservation. He entrusted himself to Christ without reservation.

Be sure to share that you made a personal decision to place your faith and trust in Christ alone for your salvation. Avoid using churchy language that will not relate to an unbeliever.

How Jesus Makes My Life Meaningful Now (…and now my life is different)
Paul continued by sharing what the Lord had done in his life and how he had used him after conversion. Your testimony should not end with the conversion experience, but should also include what the Lord is doing in your life today. For example, perhaps you can share about how He helped you through a difficult time. The focus of this part of your testimony should be on the Lord and His faithfulness to you.

A Sample Testimony

Keep in mind that the purpose of your personal story is to put into words some of the important and interesting details of your conversion. God can use your story to open doors that will lead to a deeper discussion of how to come to faith in Christ.

While your conversion experience may not be as dramatic as Paul’s, you can still talk about some specific ways in which your life is no longer the same. Share what has changed in your life since you met Jesus — perhaps changes in attitudes, values, behaviors, the way in which you interact with others, healed relationships. All of these are things that others can relate to.

This is Pastor Omar’s personal testimony.

My Life Before Jesus | I was born in a small town in South Texas. My family placed a great deal of importance on living a good life, doing good things, being kind to others, and going to church. I faithfully attended church services every week, not because I had to but because I wanted to.

How I Realized I Needed Jesus | When I was in the ninth-grade, I began to sense an emptiness in my life that all of my good deeds and church attendance did not seem to fill. No matter what I did, I had a nagging feeling that something was missing in my life. I became concerned about where I would spend eternity. When I asked one of the adult leaders at the church I attended how I could know for sure that I would go to heaven when I died, he told me not to worry about such things.

How I Received Jesus | For the next two years I continued to sense the emptiness in my life. Then I met some friends who took an interest in me. I noticed a difference in their lives. One of them gave me a copy of the New Testament. I started to read it and soon realized that Jesus was the only one who could fill my emptiness and give meaning to my life. So, I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and committed myself to following Him. Jesus made a difference in my life, just as He had in the lives of my friends.

How Jesus Makes My Life Meaningful Now | I have lived everyday since I started following Jesus knowing that I will spend eternity with Him after I die. That gives me so much peace. I also live with the daily assurance that I am loved by God and that He walks with me — guiding me and helping me to live in a way that pleases Him.

Preparing Your Personal Story

Keep in mind that when the Apostle Paul stood before the people (Acts 22:1-16) and later before King Agrippa (Acts 26:9-23), he spoke simply, logically, and clearly about his life before salvation, how he met Christ, and what his life was like after coming to faith in Christ. His testimony takes just a couple of minutes to read aloud in a conversational manner. As you prepare your personal story, seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit as you do so. Remember that God honors preparation. Keep your story short and simple and to the point.

2 Samuel 23

About David
From his youth in Jesse’s household through adulthood, David was known for his relationship with the Lord. The story of David’s life and his many psalms affirm that he was indeed a man after God’s own heart.

David cultivated intimacy with God while tending sheep in the silence and solitude of desert places. Silence and solitude tutored David in the essentials of a meaningful relationship with God. Silence gave the young shepherd boy the opportunity to listen to God. Solitude gave him the opportunity to speak with God. These essential disciplines helped David maintain a lifelong relationship with God.

David went from the sheep folds to the Valley of Elah where Saul’s army occupied a hill opposite the Philistine army. The Valley of Elah became the setting for one of the highest points in David’s life. David demonstrated the importance of standing courageously for God when others oppose God’s way. Armed with his faith in God, David defeated the mighty Philistine giant Goliath. Faith in God became a distinctive characteristic of David’s lifelong relationship with God.

Later, the roof of David’s palace became the setting for one of the lowest points in his life. The decision David made on the roof led him to commit the sins of adultery and murder. Through that experience David discovered that God holds people accountable for their sins and forgives those who genuinely confess their sins. He discovered that confession of sin is essential to maintaining a lifelong relationship with God.

When David learned that God would not allow him to build the temple, rather than insisting on his own will, David humbly followed God’s will. He sacrificially invested in the project he would not personally see through to completion. David demonstrated that following God’s will is essential to maintaining a lifelong relationship with Him.

23:1 These are the last words of David:

“The inspired utterance of David son of Jesse,
    the utterance of the man exalted by the Most High,
the man anointed by the God of Jacob,
    the hero of Israel’s songs:

We can learn much about David’s relationship with God by reading the psalms he wrote. David’s psalms are a personal record of his intimate relationship with God. David’s final words also help us understand that he had made his life count for God.

David’s last words (v. 1) may have been his last official pronouncement but not necessarily the words he uttered before dying (compare 1 Kings 2:1-10). David’s oracle affirms that he was chosen by the Lord to lead Israel, was loved as a singer (v. 1), and that God spoke through him (v. 2).

One day we will speak our last words. Perhaps we will have the opportunity to share our last words with those closest to us. Regardless of whether we have that opportunity or not, we should live in such a way that the words others speak about us affirm that we had a meaningful relationship with God. One answer to the question, How can I make my life count for God? is that I must live each day in intimate fellowship with Him.

23:2 “The Spirit of the Lord spoke through me;
    his word was on my tongue.

23:3 The God of Israel spoke,
    the Rock of Israel said to me:
‘When one rules over people in righteousness,
    when he rules in the fear of God,

23:4 he is like the light of morning at sunrise
    on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
    that brings grass from the earth.’

The Lord had instructed David that Israel’s ruler must be characterized by righteousness and by a reverence for God (v. 3). Such a leader would bless others by his shining example and have a strong, positive influence on others (v. 4). David had a positive influence on others while he lived and after his death. His life became the standard against which the lives of subsequent kings were measured (for example, see 1 Kings 15:3). His example continues to influence and bless people today as they study the record of his life and read his many psalms.

We too must live each day with the understanding that our example and influence can either bless or harm others. Whether we realize it or not, some people look to us and to the example we set for the nourishment to make it through another day. Think about it. There are people whose lives are nourished by ours. People who eat the bread of our influence, long for the fruit of our praise, and drink from the fountain of our example. There are people who watch us and notice what we do and how we do it and why we do it. There are people who look to us for the encouragement to go on, for the reassurance that life’s obstacles can be overcome, and for a greater understanding of how to live life in a way that is pleasing to God.

On occasion we are made aware of how others have been refreshed by us through expressions like: “You are a blessing to me,” or “I have been greatly encouraged by you,” or “I appreciate you.” These are indications that other people’s lives are indeed nourished by ours, that others draw from the well of our example, and that many drink from the stream of our influence. It is therefore, incumbent upon us to carefully guard our influence.

Jesus said that salt that has become tasteless “is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matt. 5:13). And so it is with our influence if it becomes polluted. We must determine to live our lives in such a way that we are a blessing to others. In addition to living each day in intimate fellowship with God, a second answer to the question, How can I make my life count for God? is that I must live a life that blesses others.

23:5 “If my house were not right with God,
    surely he would not have made with me an everlasting covenant,
    arranged and secured in every part;
surely he would not bring to fruition my salvation
    and grant me my every desire.

23:6 But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns,
    which are not gathered with the hand.

23:7  Whoever touches thorns
    uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear;
    they are burned up where they lie.”

David recalled that God had made an everlasting covenant with him (v. 5). God promised David that his dynasty would endure — all the way to the Messiah, the King of Kings (2 Sam. 7:12-16). David indicated he was sure God would keep His promise. After David’s death there were times when people questioned whether God would actually keep His promise to David (see Ps. 89). However, as David had indicated when he spoke his final words, God did indeed keep His promise (see Ps. 89:34-36).

Old Testament prophets like Isaiah (9:6-7), Jeremiah (23:5), and Ezekiel (37:24-25) understood the significance of God’s promise to David. They looked beyond the immediate fulfillment of God’s promise in the person of Solomon and David’s descendants on the throne of Judah. They understood that the Messiah would come from David’s line. When Jesus was born, the angel Gabriel affirmed that He was the One whom Israel had been awaiting since David’s day (see Luke 1:32-33). The salvation (v. 5) David and other Old Testament believers looked forward to was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Like David, we too need to realize that God keeps His promises. God has promised that those who are in a right relationship with Him will be saved and those who are evil will be punished (vv. 6-7). We can make our lives count for God by believing His promises and receiving His salvation. And, like David, we should take measures to insure that our house is right with God (v. 5).

The greatest legacy we can leave is a household of faith. In addition to living each day in intimate fellowship with God and living a life that blesses others, a third answer to the question, How can I make my life count for God? is that I must hold to God’s promises confidently.

23:8 These are the names of David’s mighty warriors:

Josheb-Basshebeth, a Tahkemonite, was chief of the Three; he raised his spear against eight hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter.

23:9 Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty warriors, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim  for battle. Then the Israelites retreated,

23:10 but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

23:11 Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them.

23:12 But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.

23:13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.

23:14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem.

23:15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!”

23:16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord.

23:17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.

Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.

23:18 Abishai the brother of Joab son of Zeruiah was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three.

23:19 Was he not held in greater honor than the Three? He became their commander, even though he was not included among them.

23:20 Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.

23:21 And he struck down a huge Egyptian. Although the Egyptian had a spear in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.

23:22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors.

23:23 He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

23:24 Among the Thirty were: Asahel the brother of Joab, Elhanan son of Dodo from Bethlehem,

23:25 Shammah the Harodite, Elika the Harodite,

23:26 Helez the Paltite, Ira son of Ikkesh from Tekoa,

23:27 Abiezer from Anathoth, Sibbekai the Hushathite,

23:28 Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai the Netophathite,

23:29 Heled son of Baanah the Netophathite, Ithai son of Ribai from Gibeah in Benjamin,

23:30 Benaiah the Pirathonite, Hiddai from the ravines of Gaash,

23:31 Abi-Albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth the Barhumite,

23:32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan

23:33 Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam son of Sharar the Hararite,

23:34 Eliphelet son of Ahasbai the Maakathite, Eliam son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,

23:35 Hezro the Carmelite, Paarai the Arbite,

23:36 Igal son of Nathan from Zobah, the son of Hagri,

23:37 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah,

23:38 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite

23:39 and Uriah the Hittite. There were thirty-seven in all.

Your Legacy

LifeWay Research found that teens, who, at the age of 17, have parents who are authentic examples of Christian faith—proactive and consistent in living out their faith—are more likely to stay in church as young adults. Additionally, “20 percent more of those teens who stayed in church indicated they had parents or family members who discussed spiritual things, gave them spiritual guidance, and prayed together” (“Parents, Churches Can Help Teens Stay in Church,” http://www.lifewayresearch.com).

This study underscores the need for children and teens to see a vibrant faith in the lives of adults. Parents are responsible for their children’s spiritual development, and parents and churches need to be intentional in spiritually influencing future generations.

As much as I hate to think about it, I will die one day. But, my influence does not have to die with me. I can build and leave a godly legacy for my children and those under my influence. In the 30th Psalm, King David complained, “What gain is there in my death, in my descending to the Pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it proclaim Your truth?” (30:9). David’s first question can only be answered by God. However, we can answer the other questions.

For those who have intentionally built a godly legacy, their dust can praise God from the grave and proclaim His truth. What we teach the present generation matters and will outlive us. Our words and example can continue to influence the next generation from the grave. I want to live in such a way that my children will be inspired to build their lives on a foundation of obedience to God, even after I am in the grave.

Deuteronomy 6:1-5

Building on the right foundation is essential to the integrity of any structure, including the structure of our lives. Jesus compared those who hear and obey His words to those who build on a solid foundation (Matt. 7:24-27).

Moses also affirmed the importance of obeying God’s statutes and ordinances (Deut. 6:1). Hearing God’s word should cause us to fear the Lord (6:2) or to have reverence for Him (Ps. 119:138). The way you fear the Lord and show that you revere Him is by obeying Him. The relationship between obedience and blessing is a recurring theme in Deuteronomy. The Bible affirms the general principle expressed in Deuteronomy 6:3 that those who obey God’s word fare better than those who despise it (see Prov. 13:13).

Deuteronomy 6:4 introduces the “Shema” — the great confession of faith of Judaism. The designation “shema” comes from the Hebrew word listen in verse 4. This confession of faith starts with the declaration that the Lord is One. This was an important confession for a people at the intersection of a past in which they had been exposed to the polytheism of Egypt and a future that would expose them to the gods of the Canaanites.

As the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses challenged them to love God affectionately, entirely, and energetically. In repeating this command, Jesus added that we are also to love God intelligently or “with all your mind” (Mark 12:30). There is nothing unreasonable about loving God. Our love for Him is best demonstrated by obeying His commands.

Building a godly legacy begins with establishing the right foundation. The most solid foundation that parents can build upon is a sound biblical worldview. Parents must know what they believe, own what they believe, and then believe what they own. The choices we make every day should be consistent with what we believe.

A legacy is built one choice at a time. All parents leave a legacy but not all parents leave a godly legacy. Parents who proactively and consistently live out their faith are more likely to have a positive impact on the next generation. However, all parents should realize that it’s never too late to begin building on a good foundation. While we can never go back and make a new start, it is possible to start now and make a new end. You can finish well regardless of how old you are.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9

Parents are to be the primary faith trainers of their children. Moses instructed parents to teach their children about God. However, owning the message must precede sharing the message.

Parents and church leaders cannot pass on to the next generation what they themselves do not possess in their own hearts. The home is the most natural place for parents to share the message about God with their children.

My own theological education began at home when I was a child. My parents and grandparents were intentional about teaching me about God. Our family faith talks helped me to develop an awareness of the bigness of God and impressed upon me the importance of loving and obeying Him.

Moses provided practical instruction concerning how to share the message about God and His purposes. First, he suggested that parents employ repetition, which essentially meant sharing the message “line after line, a little here, a little there” (Isa. 28:10). Repetition is a basic learning technique that can help children to memorize key verses and learn foundational truths about God. Parents should also make conversations about God a seamless part of everyday life.

When our children were young, my wife and I looked for teachable moments to talk about God and to model for our children what it means to love God and serve others. Parents must combine instruction with incarnation or living out the truths they are trying to teach their children.

The most immediate legacy we can leave is the life we live before they eyes of our children and grandchildren.

Moses also encouraged parents to bind God’s commands to their bodies and to write them on the doorposts and gates of their houses (6:8-9). In later times, the Jews interpreted literally these instructions and placed the words of the shema in small containers worn on the person (phylacteries) and attached to their homes (mezuzahs). However, over time these outward trappings became more important than what they symbolized.

Even today, it is easy for Christian parents to hang plaques with Scripture messages in our homes and yet never talk about or live out the messages on display. While our children can certainly benefit from what is written and placed on our doorposts and gates, we must live the message if we expect it to become a part of our legacy.

Deuteronomy 6:10-15a

In anticipation of the blessings they would receive in the Promised Land, Moses warned the Israelites not to let the good things they would experience there take their focus off of God. He understood that prosperity and abundance can easily lead to arrogance and cause us to lose perspective.

Our human tendency is to not value the things we freely receive or to convince ourselves that we are entitled to the things we have. Prosperity can cause us to forget that God is the source of “every generous act and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). God’s blessings should humble and inspire us to acknowledge Him as the true source of all blessings. He alone deserves our gratitude.

Moses offered the people an antidote to counteract the myopic effects of prosperity.

First, fear the Lord. Fear is the attitude that recognizes the holy character of God. The fear of God should motivate us to holy living.

Second, worship Him. Service was prescribed as a means of remembering God. Those who fear God and live in close communion with Him will faithfully serve Him. Worshiping and serving Him also helps us to keep things in proper perspective by reminding us of His kindness to us.

Third, Moses prescribed swearing or taking oaths by God’s name as a means of remembering Him. Oaths were not to be made in the name of any other god.

Moses restated the first commandment — Do not follow other gods (6:14). These words apply to us as well. Although we do not have to contend with the gods of the Canaanites, we must constantly resist the lure of society’s gods — gods that tempt us to do and to get and to be something other than what God desires. Our love for God should be unrivaled, undivided, and unbridled.

Moses warned the Israelites to have absolutely nothing to do with the gods of the peoples around them. He offered two reasons for doing so. First, because God is among you — He is not an absent God who does not care, but One who is intimately concerned about the welfare of His people. Second, because God is a jealous God who alone was responsible for their deliverance from Egypt, their survival in the wilderness, and their arrival in the Promised Land.

As we look to the future, we must do more than plan for the financial legacy we will leave. While that is important, it is not the most important thing. The more important and greater legacy is our walk with Christ. Long after we are in the grave, our children will be better served by the lessons they learned from our devotion to Christ than by the dollars we leave behind. The best thing that we can do for our children and those under our influence is to intentionally live out our faith in words and actions. By doing so, we can help them to see God clearly and serve Him faithfully, long after we are in the grave.

Final Thoughts

Most of us do not think much about our ancestors. Nor do we think much about the fact that we will one day be ancestors to those who come after us.

We tend to give little thought to how future generations will be impacted by our words and actions. My prayer is that those who come after me will look back and thank God for my faithfulness. The day is coming when I will join my ancestors, but I pray that my influence will continue to touch the future through those in whom I have invested. Here are some practical pointers for how to live each day with the next generation in mind.

L = Look at your children and those under your influence. Try to envision what God can do in and through them if you will teach them through your words and actions.

E = Do not underestimate the power of your example. Words alone are not enough to influence the next generation.

G = Do not turn your home into a grave for the living, focusing only on yourself and your comforts. Get your children involved in loving and serving others outside your home.

A = Build accountability into your life. Ask your spouse or a trusted friend to keep you from making choices that will hurt the kingdom, ruin your influence, or bring shame on your family.

C = Stay committed for a lifetime. Continue to invest a godly example in your children even after they are grown.

Y = Yield your personal rights for the sake of others. Do not engage in behaviors that might confuse or cause others to stumble.

Not long after my mother passed away, my sister found this sentence written in one of our mother’s journals: “My Legacy: I want to leave the love of the Word of God to my children.” Although my mother has joined our ancestors, her words and personal example of selfless service continue to inspire me to build on the right foundation. I want to live in a way that will lead my children to do the same.

1 Samuel 2

2:1 Then Hannah prayed and said: “My heart rejoices in the Lord;
    in the Lord my horn is lifted high. 
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
 for I delight in your deliverance.

2:2 “There is no one holy like the Lord;
 there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

2:3 “Do not keep talking so proudly
 or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
 and by him deeds are weighed.

2:4 “The bows of the warriors are broken,
 but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

2:5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
 but those who were hungry are hungry no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
 but she who has had many sons pines away.

2:6 “The Lord brings death and makes alive;
 he brings down to the grave and raises up.

2:7 The Lord sends poverty and wealth;
 he humbles and he exalts.

2:8 He raises the poor from the dust
 and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
    and has them inherit a throne of honor. “For the foundations of the earth are the Lord’s;
 on them he has set the world.

2:9 He will guard the feet of his faithful servants,
 but the wicked will be silenced in the place of darkness. “It is not by strength that one prevails;

2:10 those who oppose the Lord will be broken.
The Most High will thunder from heaven;
 the Lord will judge the ends of the earth. “He will give strength to his king
 and exalt the horn of his anointed.”

2:11 Then Elkanah went home to Ramah, but the boy ministered before the Lord under Eli the priest.

After Hannah and her husband returned to their home, Samuel stayed and served “under Eli the priest” (2:11). Her young son continued to “grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and also with men” (2:26). Like Hannah, parents should desire to see their children involved in life-long service to the Lord.

2:12 Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord.

2:13 Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled

2:14 and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh.

2:15 But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

2:16 If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

2:17 This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they[b] were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

2:18 But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod.

2:19 Each year his mother made him a little robe and took it to him when she went up with her husband to offer the annual sacrifice.

Hannah kept Samuel home until she had weaned him and then took him to the tabernacle at Shiloh, the place where she had prayed for a son. At Shiloh, Hannah made a large offering and dedicated Samuel to God’s service. From that point on Samuel lived with Eli the priest at Shiloh. Hannah had the opportunity to see Samuel every year when she and Elkanah would return there “to offer the annual sacrifice” (2:19). And, every year Hannah would bring Samuel a robe just like the one that Eli wore (2:18-19). Hannah praised and thanked God for answering her prayer for a son.

2:20 Eli would bless Elkanah and his wife, saying, “May the Lord give you children by this woman to take the place of the one she prayed for and gave to the Lord.” Then they would go home.

2:21 And the Lord was gracious to Hannah; she gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Meanwhile, the boy Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord.

2:22 Now Eli, who was very old, heard about everything his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting.

2:23 So he said to them, “Why do you do such things? I hear from all the people about these wicked deeds of yours.

2:24 No, my sons; the report I hear spreading among the Lord’s people is not good.

2:25 If one person sins against another, God may mediate for the offender; but if anyone sins against the Lord, who will intercede for them?” His sons, however, did not listen to their father’s rebuke, for it was the Lord’s will to put them to death.

2:26 And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the Lord and with people.

2:27 Now a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to your ancestor’s family when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?

2:28 I chose your ancestor out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod in my presence. I also gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelites.

2:29 Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I prescribed for my dwelling? Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people Israel?’

2:30 “Therefore the Lord, the God of Israel, declares: ‘I promised that members of your family would minister before me forever.’ But now the Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.

2:31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age,

2:32 and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age.

2:33 Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.

2:34 “‘And what happens to your two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, will be a sign to you—they will both die on the same day.

2:35 I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.

2:36 Then everyone left in your family line will come and bow down before him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and plead, “Appoint me to some priestly office so I can have food to eat.”’”