Push Pull

How Jesus draws people to Himself


Almost daily, a push or pull nudges or tugs us toward many of our decisions. It could be as simple as taking a vacation: pushing away from our daily routine and stresses and getting pulled toward rest and fun. When we stop and think about it, we’ll notice most of life’s activities come down to these two opposite forces: push and pull.

As believers, we might observe that we, too, push and pull as part of our faith lifestyle. Think about what we really hope deep down for those both inside and outside the faith community: to be redeemed, restored, freed, and healed—reconciled to the God of the universe. To this end, which do we choose? To push or to pull?

Is one better than the other? Is one driven by our own internal drive and fortitude, or is the other perhaps a more Spirit-led activity?

The Cycle of Push

Over the years, I’ve excelled at pushing: pushing to start a business, pushing to grow it, pushing to sell it, and then doing it all over again. Faith also has been a push: pushing to be good, to press in toward God, to push others to be good, to get near God, and to fix stuff. All of it was exhausting!

In the past, I read John 14–16, where Jesus speaks of sending another Comforter, the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t get it.

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:26–27).

The pushing I knew didn’t seem too peaceful, and it sure yielded “troubled hearts,” which don’t come from the Spirit.

Years ago, I attended a church trying to embrace community and life groups as an integral part of its church culture. After months of pushing and trying to encourage the formation of Bible studies and prayer and fellowship groups—all with minimal impact—the leaders went ahead and assigned the entire church membership into life groups. The big push created nearly 90 groups! They had hoped that once everyone was in a group, an Acts 2:42 type of community might take off—“they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

As you might imagine, the result of this push looked nothing like the Early Church.

Most of us desire for humanity to be redeemed, restored, freed, and healed. We want people to come to Christ and to know the kind of church life we read about in Acts. I have believed in this vision, and like the church launching all the groups, I’ve pushed for similar good things.

To the unbeliever, I’ve pushed as if witnessing was a business transaction of finding a prospect and then offering the features and benefits of God or mentioning the “special opportunity” at the end of a friendly evening of warm conversation.

To the believer, I’ve pushed answers and solutions to everyday problems. It was like a personal “rat race in the name of faith” that I developed to get results.

A life of pushing is hard, so I ask, “Does God have a better way?” Let’s move toward Jesus and see.

Come, Follow Me

Jesus invited fishermen to become His disciples. “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). Throughout the Gospels, we read many times the invitation “come, follow Me.” Whether it’s the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus in the tree, Matthew the tax collector, or people who were forgiven of much, healed, etc., the call is still the same: follow Me.

Jesus led; He proceeded; He called. Those who believed followed. He pulled by His invitation, pulled by His message, pulled by demonstrating God’s power. Every action was a pull that directed toward God the Father, toward the Kingdom of God, and toward righteousness. Jesus pulled mankind toward eternity. And, ultimately, His death on the cross drew toward forgiveness and the Father’s great love.

When Jesus wasn’t pulling, He was pushing—not pushing toward eternity, not pushing toward the Kingdom of God, not pushing toward Himself or the Father—rather, pushing away evil.

Jesus’ strong words toward the Pharisees exposing their hypocrisy was a pushing away of ungodliness (Matt. 23:33). When Jesus cleaned out the temple of the money changers and religious profiteers, He was pushing out the evil present in the house of God (Matt. 21:12).

Thus, pushing—which should be reserved for removing evil—seems to produce a counter effect even when we try to push spiritual redemption and freedom. Think of the example I mentioned previously: Giving everybody in a church the opportunity to experience community was laudable, but the way it happened produced anything but community.

Jesus pulled toward godliness and pushed away evil.

Try It

Recently, while on a business trip, I was seated on a plane next to a woman who was a scientist from Germany and a self-proclaimed atheist. Next to her was a Muslim man. For an hour, he did all the kinds of things I would have done years ago.

He said to the woman, “You need to read this book. You need to see this video. You need to believe in the prophet, believe his words. When you get home, you need to go to this particular meeting place.” It was the kind of stuff we all have done, in the name of Jesus, to get someone to believe.

Finally, I had my opening to speak and address her comments that “people have tried to get me to go to church and have said they are praying for me, but I just don’t believe.” Something beautiful was happening, and I didn’t want to reduce it to a features-and-benefits sales presentation.

I said, “It doesn’t make any difference if you say that you don’t believe in God, because He believes in you. He reaches out to you every day when you see the beautiful sunrise or the splendor of the mountains and the oceans. He communicates His love toward you when people tell you they love you and they are praying for you. He uses your friends and strangers and all things to draw you to a life of faith and relationship with Him. So you can say you don’t believe, but it will not change God and His love for you.”

Essentially, I said, “Here are different lenses to see how God might see you.” Afterward, she seemed calmer; whereas previously, with the Muslim man, she was continually combative, not specifically about Islam but any faith in any god. The pull was an invitation to see her friends differently and perhaps see God differently.

Encouraged to Pull

Pulling is an invitation of freedom and comfort from the Holy Spirit. Pulling brings people nearer to us and to the Holy Spirit. Pulling helps us invite more and listen more and perhaps preach less. Pulling helps us rest more.

Some friends of my wife and me came alongside us when they showed up at our door on a Christmas Eve to drop off a few gifts for our young children. From there we joined them for meals, graduations, weddings, and dedications as they pulled us to experience together a life of graciousness. They freely gave away a part of their lives to us.

Pulling is a lifestyle of trusting God to lead. And it’s freeing! We have the good news of Jesus. We have the Person of Christ and the ever presence of the Holy Spirit to lean and call upon. Let us draw people and their hurts and problems to the risen Savior. After all, isn’t this our calling as believers?

Let’s leave pushing to the things that Jesus pushed away and not try pushing even good things with the best of intentions. Rather, let us learn to feel the pull of the Holy Spirt and draw others as He, Jesus, draws us.

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