Chapter 18 – Speaking Gospel Truth

 

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

– Matthew 28:18-20, NIV

This is a passage most of us know quite well, having had it preached at us time and time again: the Great Commission. Jesus gives us this command – and He makes it clear that it is a command – to spread the word about Him, tell people about Him, invite people into the life that He died in order to offer. There are groups of people, some of whom you have probably encountered, who believe that commands such as this should be taken as an instruction to go knocking on doors and “converting” as many people as possible in order to get into Heaven – and that this is a duty in order to earn a prize. Somehow I do not think that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about. Since the rest of His life and ministry was fuelled by and drenched in holy love, surely this final command is no different. Our responsibility as His people is not to bash everyone on the head with Bibles in order to “convert” people and win a place in Heaven – but to really know God’s love for His created people and let that love lead to sharing the Good News, and “making disciples”.

I remember when I first really committed my life to Christ, realising that this life that Jesus offers is true and real and gives us purpose, I was filled with a deep longing for all my friends and family and everyone I come across to know this meaningful life too. The deeper I explored this relationship with God and lived with the knowledge of Him by my side, the deeper this longing became, and the more passionate I felt about praying for people to know His love and presenting God’s invitation to them.

We have all experienced what happens when you shake up a large bottle of fizzy drink and then remove the lid. In the Bible we are told that “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of”. (Matthew 12:34 NIV, for example, as we saw in the previous chapter). If our hearts are full of HIM and His word and a passion for Him and a longing for His Kingdom – then we cannot help but speak the truth of the Gospel. In a prayerful life seeking God, when we come to Him He shakes up our lives and our love for Him just like that bottle of fizzy drink. And when we surrender to Him our mouth and allow Him to speak His words of truth and life and light through us, letting Him use us to spread the Good News about the invitations He offers to all, He removes the lid. We cannot help but speak out the glorious truth about Him – passion for His word and for who He is overtakes us. It is “Good News” – and as such it deserves to be shared.

If…we know Him by the revelation of the Holy Spirit and in our daily experience of Him as a personal loving heavenly Father, and are acquainted with both His gentleness and His awesome holiness, we will run to Him as children with open arms and yet deepest respect. The most important Person who ever existed loves you and me! The Creator of the universe has revealed Himself as having the tender heart of loving Father, and has by his Spirit made us His true-born children. He knows your name, He knows my name, He laughs and weeps with us! In Him we have discovered that we are valued infinitely far above our worth. How can we keep quiet about such a God?

– Graham Kendrick

Proverbs 18:21 (NIV) tells us, “the tongue has the power of life and death”. We have the opportunity to offer life to people whom God loves. How dare we refuse to share it? If we found the cure to a disease that was rapidly killing off hundreds or thousands of people, wouldn’t we share it? Or if we received news of some incredible new technology which was free and made life easier and more worthwhile, wouldn’t we want to talk to people about it and invite others to benefit from it? May we surrender our mouths to God and let Him speak His words of life through us. Is the life that He has given good enough to share? Is it important enough to us that we would take risks in order to offer it to others too? May we allow God to use us to speak His words of encouragement over people, or words of prophecy, or whatever else He may want to say. May we surrender our mouths to Him and let Him use us to speak His truth into people’s lives.

People say that actions speak louder than words. This is a true and powerful statement in that what we do can point towards the One for whom we live, and that if we live in a way that contradicts what we say it can just confuse and offend people. However, if we live by ‘actions speak louder’ in a way that means ‘don’t speak at all – just act’, then our lives are preaching a message of good deeds rather than salvation and life. If we refuse to mention the One we live for, who gives us life, then our actions and lifestyle simply make ourselves look like good people rather than pointing to the greatness of God and the life that He wants to invite people into.

People can try hard to do good deeds all they like, but ultimately it is not the good deeds that will bring them into a living relationship with God – good deeds are wonderful and necessary but do not by themselves give life meaning: only God holds our purpose, and our purpose is to live in loving relationship with Him. If all we show of our relationship with God is our good deeds and never speak of God Himself, how can He be known and glorified through our deeds? It is only we ourselves who would be glorified – which may seem counter-productive. As John White puts it, “A good witness isn’t like a salesman, emphasis is on a person rather than a product. A good witness is like a signpost. It doesn’t matter whether it is old, young, pretty, ugly; it has to point the right direction and be able to be understood. We are witnesses to Christ, we point to him.”

Our words and lifestyle must match. Just as we should not simply live for good deeds (without mention of God Himself), we cannot live the other way around either – talking endlessly about God and yet living a life of careless behaviour or wrongdoing. What we say must be consistent with the way we live. I once worked with someone who confused me every time I worked with her. I would have wonderful conversations with her about God’s greatness and who He is, and about glorifying Him in life – and her words were eloquent and inspiring. But it confused me because she seemed to live in a way that quite obviously dishonoured God in the workplace, and this confused and upset me. What do beautiful words MEAN, if God’s lifestyle isn’t lived out in the workplace? Surely this would give God a bad name, if we speak of how great God is and then live in a way that contradicts our words.

I am not trying to imply that if ever we sin we should no longer speak of God ever again. Of course not – we all sin and we cannot let this hold us back from the commission that God has given us. However, we must let God lead us and try to live with integrity, living in a way that honours Him in all we do as well as in what we say. Richard Woodsome points out that “It does not take a perfect church to introduce a man to the perfect Christ”. May we surrender to God our mouths and let Him shape our words. May we allow Him to guide us so that we live in a way that is consistent with the way in which we speak.

A wise person truly said, “It ought to be as impossible to forget that there is a Christian in the house as it is to forget that there is a ten-year-old boy in it.”

– Roger J. Squire

In 2 Timothy 1:8 (NIV), Paul counsels us in this: “Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord”. Why is it so normal, so common, to feel ashamed to talk about Christ? Sure, sharing our faith risks losing people’s respect, but is that not worth it? Surely it would be better to share about Christ and lose someone’s respect, than to never share and have people never really know us, never know about the single most important thing in our lives, the Person our whole being revolves around? Surely it would be preferable to take a risk and play a part in someone possibly being one step closer to knowing our Father for themselves, than never tell them and live a secret life, hiding the truth that is so dear to us? In Mark 8:38 (NIV) Jesus tells us that “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels”. Are we ashamed of knowing Christ…?

We must remember that someone once told each of us about this Good News. Otherwise, how would we know? Maybe your parents brought you up going to church. Maybe a friend or next-door neighbour or family member or spouse or colleague told you about Him. Maybe even a poster on a wall or a street preacher or a song you heard made you think; brought to you the awareness of this strange group called “Christians” – and told you what they believe. Maybe someone told you that it is true and that you are invited into this relationship too. For each of us there was someone, somewhere, at some point in life, who was not ashamed to share God’s Good News with us. So what right do we have to hide it from others?

So may we surrender to God our mouths and allow Him to teach us to do the same – to unashamedly tell our friends and family and colleagues about our life’s purpose, our true love, our closest friend. We are not all called to become street preachers or doorstep-preachers or any kind of recognised preachers – but we do have a responsibility to deliver God’s invitations to those we know, in a way that people can understand. May we be open about our faith so that people can recognise what God is doing in our lives and know that they also have opportunity to get to know Him personally.

When I was 11, a friend of mine who was two years older than me had a brain tumor, and in the end she knew she was going to die. But she expressed such excitement about going to be with her Father, and this confused me. I thought about it often. Even now it challenges and inspires me, her eagerness to be with God even though everyone else was upset about her dying slowly and painfully. It made me wonder how she could think that way. She was an incredible witness to the love and the life that God offers – she was unashamedly talking about her purpose and her joy and her true love, regardless of the possibility of offending or upsetting people, and regardless of her pain.

When I was 12, a friend from church used to urge me to come to things – to the youth group, to sleepover parties with other Christians, to the church weekend away where I made that commitment to follow Christ for myself. Though I appreciated her friendship, her invitations meant little to me, at least at first. But if she had not been that way, regardless of my responses, who knows where I would be now. The church youth leader at the time used to talk almost non-stop about a living relationship with God. If he had been ashamed or afraid or tried to cover up the truth of the Gospel message instead of speaking out this life-giving truth the way he did, I dread to think how different so many people’s lives would be now. May we surrender to God our mouths, and be open to Him speaking His truth through us – regardless of what people may think!

 

O Love of my life,

Thank You that You have called me by Your incredible grace!

Thank You for those who first invited me into Your Kingdom.

Thank You for loving and accepting me, and giving my life purpose.

I’m sorry for sometimes not wanting to share this with those I know.

Please give me a life-consuming passion for Your Name, so that I can’t help but speak out this truth!

I surrender to You my mouth – please use me for Your glory.

I’m open to You speaking through me Your truth and life and light.

I surrender to You any barriers that may be stopping me from wholeheartedly sharing about You.

Once again, I surrender to You – please teach me, Lord!

I surrender to You the way I live as a result of Your truth, and this passion for Your truth within me.

I give You my mouth and I ask that You’d replace it with Your own.

May I live in Your ways, speaking what You want me to speak and not trying to hide Your truth!

Amen

 

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