'. . . be filled with the Holy Spirit.' -Ephesians 5:18With our American holiday of Thanksgiving only one week away, perhaps you could use some advice on how to engage your family members who seem to have a strong aversion to Christianity. Maybe they grew up in the church and for whatever reason left it long ago. Maybe you have tried to get into the gospel with them before and they shut you down pretty quickly. Perhaps you have a homosexual family member who will bring his “partner” to dinner. Maybe you have a cousin or nephew who is dabbling in transgenderism. What can you do without causing a scene at the dinner table?
May I briefly suggest four things? Perhaps I can enlarge on them later. First, remember who you were before you received God’s mercy in Christ (Eph.2:1-13). You were dead in your sins. You were under the control of the devil. You were controlled by your lusts in mind and body. You were without hope and without God. You were a child of wrath, just like your lost family members are, but God had mercy on you. He may have mercy on them too. Ask God to give you a heart of love and compassion for these folks and to take away any vestige of self-righteousness or feeling of moral superiority. If God had not shown you mercy then you could be right where they are at this present time.
Secondly, begin praying now for them. And what should you pray? I suggest three things. First of all, ask God to give you an open door to speak to them. Paul asked both the Colossians and Ephesians to pray for an open door to preach Christ with boldness (Eph.6:19,20, Col.4:3,4). You don’t have to knock the door down and cause a disruption. How might you engage your nephew or cousin? Ask questions. Take a genuine interest in his life, his job, his hobbies. Ask him what he is thankful for and then ask him about any challenges he might have in his life, offering to pray for him. If he opens up with specifics then you have an open door.
The second thing you should pray for is an open heart. In Acts 16 Luke tells us that God opened Lydia’s heart to receive the things spoken to her by Paul the apostle. Remember, all people who are not yet united to Christ are dead in their sins. They have no interest whatsoever in the things of God and Christ. They often are exceedingly hostile to them. Only God can begin to draw them by the Spirit. Pray for God to do so. How will you know He has done so? More about that shortly.
And the third thing to pray for is power, Holy Spirit power in your speech. In Acts 4 we are told that those who were gathered together had prayed and then they were filled with the Holy Spirit and they began to speak the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:31). Boldness of speech is not harshness. It is straightforward. It is speaking the truth in love (Eph.4:15). Paul says that when the Thessalonians received the word from him, they accepted it not as the word of men but for what it really is, the word of God which also performs its work in those who believe (1 Thess.2:13). May I state the obvious? You have no power in yourself to cause your cousin to receive the word which is able to save his soul. You must have the Holy Spirit working through your words of gospel truth.