One of the most challenging thing for me in conversations with others who are on the path toward following Jesus is explaining just what it means to have faith. Often, one of the final obstacles that a person has to pass through is to understand just what she is going to say yes to. Does she have to agree with every doctrine of my church? Does she have to know for sure whether the world was created in seven literal days? Does she have to believe exactly what I do about who God is? Does she have to be convinced 100% without a doubt that the Bible is true and that God is exactly as the Bible describes? So how should we describe faith as we talk about God in today's world?
Jesus, when he was teaching, talked a lot about the kingdom of God. He invited people to join him in bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth. But even that was veiled in story, and his followers didn't really understand the invitation until later, after he'd died.
The apostle Paul had some very interesting conversations, meeting people right where they were at and explaining how the God he followed fit into what they already understood about the world. For example, when he was in the town square and saw a statue to an unknown God, he used that as his starting point and introduced people to Jesus.
As for me, I've adopted the language of relationships to describe what faith is. God is inherently relational because he exists as three persons in one. His actions in Scripture relate the story of how he has related to mankind, and how he still desires to relate. And I have many stories about how God has related to me throughout my lifetime. And as I describe my relationship with God and God's relationship with the world, I try to invite people to begin relating to God themselves.
If they have questions about God, I invite and encourage them to seek answers--first from God himself, then from Scripture. I try to help direct them to where they might find those answers, but I never want to put myself in the place of God. I can only tell them what I believe to be true, what I believe is right, what I've come to conclude for myself. I can help guide and encourage and mentor, but I can't take the place of God in their lives. Only Jesus has the authority to call someone to follow him, to give them a new identity in Christ. And it's only in relationship with God that their emotional barriers to faith can be worked through. I can model for them using my own relationship with God, and I can share the precious stories of Jesus and God's interactions in the world, but it is God who calls and the Holy Spirit who changes hearts.
Ultimately, I don't always know the moment when someone takes that final step into the kingdom of God. I don't always see it happen. But I've seen the results often enough to know that Jesus is still calling people to come and follow him. And I have seen God building the faith of those around me as they learn more about who Jesus is and begin to relate to him, one small step at a time.
What is your relationship with God like? Do you have stores that you can share about how he has related to you throughout your lifetime? When might those stories be appropriate to share with those around you?