Friday, July 4, 2008

The Word Will Not Fail

Scripture will blow your mind. I recently read through the book of Matthew & Acts and have been deeply transformed by the mission and intentionality of Jesus and the apostles. As I read, their zeal for evangelism and proclaiming the Gospel was impressed upon me more than ever; while at the same time, I've been convicted by my own faithlessness. Why do I think that I would respond to the Gospel, but someone else wouldn't? What makes me different from the guy who serves lattes next to me on a daily basis? What do I have that I did not receive? God may save anyone! And the Father has been reminding me lately that I need not shrink in my faithlessness anymore.

When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, he responded with an exhortation to love God (Deut. 6) and to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19; Mark 12). So what I want for myself, I want for neighbors and those I love. If I desire to love God with perfect affection, I will want that for my neighbor as well. Here's the realization that struck me: But I am not loving my neighbor as myself If I am not trying to persuade him toward the greatest and best aspect of my own life--my reconciled relationship with God. (Augustine once wrote, "For you do not love him as yourself, unless you try to draw him to that good which you are yourself pursuing.")

How much evangelism do we find flowing out of our mouths? What does that suggest about our love for God? (Matt. 12.34)

These are the questions that have been convicting me this month.

I ask that you please be in continued prayer for me in the coming days/weeks/months that my life would commend the Gospel with word and deed.
I plan for so many less important things. Pray that I will plan for evangelism.
God doesn't use gifts so much for evangelism but faithfulness. Pray that I would remain faithful. Pray that God will sustain such faithfulness.
Pray that I do not fear my own ignorance.
Pray that I fear the Lord.
Pray that I would not protect my pride at the cost of their souls.
Pray that I can balance my honesty with urgency and joy.
Pray that I will continue to pray for those whom I love and are lost.
Pray that I will be able to wield the Sword of Truth in a way that will be winsome and give glory to God.
Pray that I will ask good questions and listen.

Pray that God will use me as a faithful messenger of the good news. Pray that I will see others saved from God's good punishment from their sins because they accept the good news of Christ's substitutionary death.

When the message of the cross captures your heart, then your tongue--stammering, stuttering, insulting, awkward, sarcastic, and imperfect as it may be--won't be far behind. As Jesus said, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12.34).

What is your heart full of?
What do you spend your words on?

We cannot fail in our evangelism. God has said that his Word will not return void; it will accomplish his purposes. We fail only if we do not faithfully tell the gospel at all.

Preach the Gospel to yourself.

This week I have been reflecting a lot on the past few years of my life. They have been, for me, very formative years. In fact these two years have been among the most stessful of my life. Jesus said that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it cannot bear fruit. What a great image for us to cling to when we feel like the earth is swallowing us.

It is in days like these that I realize how much I need to preach the gospel to myself. Oh, how soon I am to forget! Like the old hymn sings, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; Prone to leave the God I love!" If there is one thing I've learned in the recent years about knowing Christ and growing in grace is that it doesn't come from reading books. It's not from books on theology and spiritual formation/discipline that spiritual growth comes comes through leaning into the gospel and trusting in the person and work of Jesus Christ in the midst of everyday hardships and trials. Through the testing of our faith we will know that we are his, and with that knowledge comes confidence and hope and peace and joy and life everlasting.

All of this being said, I'm curious as to how you guys "preach" the gospel to yourself on a daily basis. In your own words, what is the gospel? I love hearing/reading from other people when they speak about the gospel, so please, don't be afraid to be passionate. :)

I'll end with a few quotes I read earlier today that helped spark this email...

"If Christ has borne my punishment, I shall never bear it. Oh what joy there is in this blessed assurance. Your hope that you are pardoned lies in this, that Jesus died. Those dear wounds of His blessed life for you. Now we know that sin crucified Christ. Now we know that we stabbed our heavenly Lover to His Heart. Oh let us bless that dear Son of God who has put away even such sins as ours! Now we see our sins, and yet we do not see it, for God has pardoned it, blotted it out, cast it behind His back forever." - Charles Spurgeon

"The Gospel does not require anything good that man must furnish: not a good heart, not a good disposition, no improvement of his condition, no godliness, no love either of God or men. It issues no orders, but changes man. It plants love into his heart and makes him capable of all good works. It demands nothing, but it gives all. Should not this fact make us leap for joy?" - C.F.W. Walther

****I love reading good theology, don't think I'm knocking reading good Christian scholarship. Read as much as you can. Read some of the bad stuff too...history tends to repeat itself if we're not careful/faithful.