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Speaking Up About Jesus: Four P's

This past Sunday we talked about speaking up about Jesus. One way of speaking up about Jesus is evangelism: telling those who don't yet know the good news of Jesus about him. But speaking up about Jesus comes in other forms too, like praying for each other and encouraging each other. Both of these involve speaking the truth about what God has done in Jesus to one another: reminding each other that God has reconciled us to himself in Christ, and approaching God with the openness and boldness that comes from knowing that in Christ he has welcomed us into his family.


In other words, all of the things we might say when we speak up about Jesus point to the goodness and grace of God toward us. As people estranged from God because of our own sin, we have not deserved the kindness God has lavished on us in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But God is loving and merciful and he wants to restore us to life.


This grace at the centre of our life is why we don't have to be afraid to speak up about Jesus. Even though many of us find it scary to have to say things to others (whether publicly or privately), here as everywhere in the Christian life our impressiveness or unimpressiveness is irrelevant. In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the apostle Paul makes a special point out of the fact that he didn't worry about being an eloquent speaker when he initially proclaimed the good news to that church. He merely pointed to the cross: "I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."


As people who have received the "wonderful grace of Jesus," one way to respond to God is to learn how to speak up about Jesus, how to point to the grace that we have come to know and receive. With this goal in mind, on Sunday I suggested four “P”s that can help us:


1.     Ponder what Jesus has done for you on the cross. This is different than “counting our blessings” the way we often think of it (health, happiness in our jobs, flourishing family life). Certainly we should be thankful for all of God’s good gifts, but Scripture reminds us that supremely we have been blessed with “spiritual blessings in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). To ponder this is to grasp that the God who created us in love reached out to rescue us when we had totally fallen away from him in sin. We “were dead in our transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and “deserving of wrath” (2:3) but now we have been “made alive with Christ” (2:5) because of God’s great love. This is the fundamental story of our lives. If we fail to see it, we are confused at best, and may be relying on our own goodness to get us through life. At worst, we might be missing Jesus entirely, only praising him when he’s giving us gifts like a genie. What he has done for us is a glorious thing, and when we see it we are changed people.


2.     Pore over the Scriptures. Both before and after his resurrection, Jesus told his followers and others that the Scriptures of the Old Testament pointed to him (Luke 24:44-47; John 5:39-40). The New Testament has come to us as the testimony of Jesus’ significance for the world and for the community that carries his name. We cannot know Jesus apart from reading the Bible. It is God’s wonderful gift of self-revelation. He doesn’t want us to sit back speculating about what we think he might be like. He has communicated to us in words. And God’s Holy Spirit who inspired the Scriptures and ensured that God would speak through them (Acts 4:25; Hebrews 3:7; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2 Peter 1:20-21) now lives in us, not so that we can do without the Bible but so that we can understand it.


3.     Partner with fellow Christians. The Christian life as we see it in the New Testament is always set in community. It’s not so much that we are commanded to gather in groups as that to be alone in Christ is inconceivable. The whole point, according to the majestic passage in Ephesians 2:14-22, is that God has a purpose to create in Christ a new humanity, no longer divided by the kinds of cultural and ethnic divisions that have caused so much havoc. The life we practice—a life of loving one another, forgiving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, praying for one another, and so on—simply cannot be done on our own. God is creating “a people for his name,” as the apostles said in Acts 15. The personal side of this, however, is that we simply benefit and receive life from the partnerships God gives us in the church. Like leaves that depend on the tree for their colour and life, we become fully what we are made to be when we truly abide in Christ’s body. Sharing the news about Jesus with the world around us is something we are all called to do, but some of that sharing happens best in the gathered and sent church community.


4.     Pray for the Spirit to continue his work of leading people to Jesus. In the Psalms, we often notice people who ask God for things on the basis of his prior promises. They recount God’s promises and then point out the way their current situation doesn’t yet line up with those promises, so they call on God to “rise up and help us” (Psalm 44:26). This pattern of prayer encourages us to do the same today. If we are going to share Jesus with the world, we should ask for God to work through the Spirit to lead people to respond. After all, Jesus said that this is what the Holy Spirit would do: make us his “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). It’s all too easy to neglect to ask God for what he wants to do. Let’s make sure we don’t make that mistake.

 

 

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