gospel

St. Francis of Assisi is rumored to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” This is an oft cited comment to insist on living out our faith actively and only speaking rarely. The problem with this quote is that to fulfill our mission, we must speak.

The Greek word for gospel is euangelion, and it means “good news.” News is shared verbally.

Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching. One cannot teach without speaking.

The early church spread, not only by being a good deeds community, but by sharing the good news. What is this news? It is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is the gospel account that Jesus is Lord and Savior.

According to J. I. Packer in his book Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, the gospel is made up of four specific truths.

  1. The gospel is a message about God and his holiness.
  2. The gospel is a message about man and his sinfulness.
  3. The gospel is a message about Jesus Christ.
  4. The gospel is a summons to repentance and faith.

Understood in this description is the reality that the gospel is a message. For the gospel to be shared, there are some things that must be said. God is holy and demands righteousness. Our problem is that we are sinners and cannot fulfill God’s standard of righteousness. God knew our dilemma and sent Jesus Chris to solve our sin problem. As the perfect Son of God who became our substitute on the cross, Jesus died for our sin and rose from the dead that we might have new life. This news invites a response. When we hear this news, we should repent (turn) from our sin and believe in Jesus alone as Savior and Lord.

The good news is something that we must share.

Our mission at Wilkesboro Baptist is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. In order for us to fulfill this mission, we must share the good news about Jesus with others.

You may be wondering, “But what do I share? Where do I begin? But what if I’m rejected? I’m afraid of what might happen?”

Remember this. The temporary discomfort you and I might experience in public witness is minuscule when compared to the permanent suffering unbelievers will experience in eternal separation from God.

Here are some basic practices we can all engage in to be more evangelistic.

Obey the Lord. Being evangelistic is a command. Instead of thinking about sharing the good news based on how we feel (nervous, afraid, unsure), we need to base it on obedience. When we share the gospel, we are obeying Christ. It is a spiritual discipline and a matter of growth. By the way, success in sharing the good news is sharing the good news. When we obey by sharing the gospel, we are successful. The results are up to God.

Pray for people. If you are unsure where to begin in your journey of being evangelistic, then pray. Pray for wisdom, discernment, courage, and opportunities. But even more, pray for unbelievers. Here is a post from a couple years back that highlights how we can pray for those who are lost. I have an ongoing list of unbelievers that I pray for. And God is faithful to regularly give me opportunities to reach out to them and talk with them.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities. Our circumstances provide numerous opportunities for evangelistic witness. When we suffer and handle it with patience and grace (the context of 1 Peter 3:15), we open the door for people to question why we have hope. Friendships, interactions, and opportunities abound for evangelistic encounters. Walks through your neighborhood, the sport or dance events of your children and grandchildren, conversations with co-workers, eating out, and many, many more situations are potential opportunities for gospel conversations. Our problem is not lack of opportunity. Our problem is that we are too often distracted by other things to consider the opportunities in front of us. In Acts 8, Philip offers us an evangelistic example on which we can model our witnessing. You can read some observations about Philip’s example as a witness here.

Ask questions. How do we transition from opportunity to gospel conversation? We can transition from “Hello” and “How are you?” to the gospel by asking insightful questions. Here are some examples although there are countless options: “How are you doing during this past year? What things are you doing to stay at peace? What do you think about all the difficulties we’ve experienced? What do you think about Jesus? Do you attend a church? If so, has your church/faith been helpful for you in the past year?” Open ended questions are preferable. Questions that engage the mind and heart of others open the door to gospel conversations.

Share who you know. I could have written, “Share what you know.” Both are appropriate. But ultimately, we are sharing not just the facts of the gospel, but a person-Jesus Christ. What is it you must share? J. I. Packer’s outline above is a good starting place. But if you’re not sure how to explain those truths, then just share Jesus. Tell how Jesus forgave you and redeemed you. Share about the new life you have and the eternal life you anticipate. Sharing the gospel can be as simple as sharing the Jesus that you met when you became his follower.

If you’d like more information on what you can share about Jesus as Savior, scroll down through my blogs here in 2021. Every Wednesday this year, I’ve posted a weekly word. Most of them have been theological terms related to our salvation. These terms provide helpful content for sharing the good news.

If you’d like to go a little deeper, then follow the link to this podcast from my friend Dr. Craig Thompson. Craig regularly hosts the Ordinary Christian podcast where he addresses specific relatable issues within Christian life. In episode 42, Craig interviews Dr. Timothy Beougher, a professor and mentor of mine and Craig’s from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Beougher explains and relates personal evangelism for ordinary Christians. Craig’s podcast is helpful and relatable. Consider subscribing.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Our culture preaches a narrative that we are able, capable, and only limited by the imagination of our minds. We don’t have to listen too closely to the voices around us to notice the overt emphasis on self-help and human capability.

But we are more like the dependent child depicted in the prayer image than we are capable adults in control of all our circumstances and situations.

There are times in each of our lives where we realize how insignificant and weak we really are. A cancer diagnosis. Unexpected death of a loved one. Job loss. Pandemic. Work stress. Family illness. Natural disasters. Spiritual death.

If we are honest with ourselves, many things in our lives are outside our control and influence. This sense of personal helplessness is a prime opportunity to find ourselves anchored to God through prayer. This will be the fourth and final anchored post, and it culminates the underlying themes of the previous posts: Anchored in the Word, Anchored in the Gospel, and Anchored in the Church.

Why pray? Our sense of helplessness and inability is a key factor in our willingness to pray. When we are overwhelmed, uncertain, stressed, unable, or facing lack, through prayer we can find ourselves anchored to God who is in control, certain, able, and owns everything.

Prayer is a conversation. Throughout Scripture God invites his people to pray. Think about that. God wants you to bring your requests, burdens, and circumstances to him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

If you are anything like me, you need God’s peace. So, if you are in need of God’s peace and interventions, then read on and learn some of the ways that prayer can anchor your faith.

When we pray, we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty and ability to intervene. There is nothing in this post more important than this truth. Praying reflects dependence on God. When we admit we are unable or that we lack, prayer and faith find their grounding in our spiritual lives. God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). So when we pray, we can express our faith in God alone. It is from this place of dependence that God intervenes and answers,.

When we pray, we are trusting God’s wisdom. There are many things that I’ve prayed about and asked God for that I have not received. We must remember God is not a genie in a bottle. Our prayers are not wishes he is obliged to grant. Rather, God is all-knowing and all-wise. We should bring our burdens and requests to him. He is able to meet every one of them. But since he is Sovereign and in control, he knows best how to answer. We need to trust his wisdom. Remember, even Jesus requested that the Father remove the cup of the cross from him (Matt. 26:39), but submitted to the Father’s will.

When we pray, we are talking to our Father. God designed prayer to be more than a ritual or an event in a worship service. God granted us prayer as a glorious privilege. It is a conversation. Jesus teaches us to call God, Father (Matt. 6:9). Our Father in heaven knows what is best and cares to hear us and spend time with us. Prayer is a relational conversation between you and your Father who loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your privilege of prayer. This alone should motivate us to pray.

If prayer anchors our spiritual lives, then should we pray at set times or for extended periods of time like Jesus (Luke 6:12)? Should we pray for hours at a time like the spiritual giants of old (Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor, and others)? Should we whisper prayers through the day never ceasing our conversation with God (1 Thess. 5:17)? Should we fast when we pray (Matt. 6:9-18)?

Yes.

Yes. To all of the above and to many more questions we could ask about our manner and pattern of praying. Whether you pray in the morning during your quiet times, at night before bed, throughout the day in whispers, or in groups and services at church, prayer is a privilege that we should take advantage of more often than we do.

Here are a few guiding reminders that will strengthen our prayer lives:

  • Pray Scripture. One way you can be assured that you are praying what God wants is to pray phrases and sentences that God has already spoken. After all his thoughts and ways are not our own (Isaiah 55:8). My daily Bible readings often provide the content for how I talk to God. I find myself thanking God for his interventions as detailed in Scripture and bringing requests to God that connect to his work in the past. A helpful resource on this topic is Donald Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.
  • Pray the gospel. What do I mean by this? Well the gospel teaches that we are spiritually bankrupt (Matt. 5:3) and in need of spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-10). Our need for Christ doesn’t change when we receive salvation. We do not need to be saved again, but the pattern of humility and dependence that characterized our entrance into salvation should continue to permeate our spiritual lives. When we remind ourselves in prayer of our need, our desperation, our dependence, we move to an attitude of humility, surrender, and faith that God hears. Praying gospel truths also reminds us that we can approach the Father because of the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Pray with others. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father.” Prayer is a community privilege (Acts 4:23-31). While we cannot pray about everything on our prayer lists with everyone in the church, we can pray together with families, group members (Sunday school and discipleship groups), and close friends. Sharing prayer requests, praying together, and reflecting on answers to prayer will deepen prayer in our lives. Here’s one example. In our family devotions, we have often prayed for the sick and for protection. We also pray for the salvation of friends. Each time God strengthens, heals, and saves, we make time to thank God and praise him for answered prayer. This practice strengthens our faith.

Have you prayed today? I don’t ask to make you feel guilty if you haven’t. I ask to remind you that you can.

If you have a prayer request, I would be honored to join you in praying about it. Feel free to share in the comment section below, and I’ll pray with you about it today. If God has recently answered a prayer you’ve been praying, I would love for you to share that in the comment section as well. God’s answer to your prayer could encourage someone else!