Christianity has a long history of reference to the Ten Commandments to identify sins that need to be exposed, confessed, and repented of. This is basic to a biblical view of sin and salvation.
But in the new post-modern culture, holding unbelievers to this standard does not work so well as a starting point. Better is to work with Paul’s distinction between our old nature and our new nature in the Spirit. His biblical word is according to the “flesh” (old nature). Luther picked up this distinction. He writes that baptizing with water “signifies that the Old Adam should be daily drowned and die with all sins and evil lust and, again, a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live before God in righteousness and unity forever.”
Paul contrasts the two natures in Romans 8:13: “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). To the Galatians, he wrote, “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.”
Now pour into the natural life all that comes from being self-centered without a relationship with God. In our old nature without God, we have no sense of purpose in our lives and we experience loneliness and lack of fulfillment. That sense of community and fulfillment comes from living the purpose God created us for. The Spirit brings such purpose into our living and strengthens our feeling of love, joy, and peace. You live fulfilled by keeping in step with the Spirit.
The contact with post-moderns is to ask, “How’s your current life working for you? I gather not well. Let me tell you a better way to live.” Shaming post-moderns for not living according to God’s standards will not accomplish much. That approach makes sense only after the Spirit motivates them to become more like Christ. Then with such motivation, the relevant question becomes, What Would Jesus Do?
A basic discussion format could begin with your question, “When people ask who you are, how do you answer? Do you identify yourself by stating your job, or by your relationships with family or friends, or by your hobbies, or by some other identity? Does that identity bring you full life satisfaction? Or are you still looking for something more?”
Then a convinced believer can profess that his or her basic identity is as a follower of Christ. Explain, then, the satisfaction you find in this identity. That will leave them wondering whether and how they might grow in this life-fulfilling identity. They might very well ask you. Be ready to answer. If you are not sure, check out Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life.
So many people out there walking the streets today live with a lot of fear: fear that they will not be successful, or that their inadequacies will be discovered, or that their friends and family might abandon them. Of course, almost everybody fears death. The biblical message offers a powerful answer to the basic fears of life. In Christ, we have forgiveness and God’s acceptance. In Christ, we will have a fulfilling next life after this one ends.
Offering tired biblical clichés will not earn you much respect. Just tell your personal story of how you overcame your basic fears and discovered a greater sense of fulfillment. If your story includes discoveries through a growing Christian identity, you will have made a great witness that is most effective in the current post-modern culture. The rest is up to the Holy Spirit.
How helpful to you is the distinction between sins, which can be listed, and sinful nature, our underlying condition. Do you agree that describing our old nature is a better starting point for witnessing to others?