Welcome to another session in our Essential Disciplines series. In this session, we address what, for many people, is perhaps the most challenging aspect of their spiritual journey. It is one thing for us to work on our own spiritual development, but how do we invite others to join us on this journey? What happens when our private faith must go public? This line might be difficult for some people to cross, but tremendous growth and fulfillment awaits those who are willing to take this challenge. In this session, we explore why God has commanded us to share our faith, and, in the next session, we will make some practical suggestions about how to do this, even for introverts like me!
Beginning, then, with the why question, let’s look at three foundational, biblical truths:
- The Plight of Our Neighbor
- The Call of Our Lord
- The Power of Our Story
1. The Plight of Our Neighbor?
As we learned in our Essential Truths session on “Why the Cross?”, sin is the root of the problems in our messed-up world. By rejecting God’s will and ways, people have created an avalanche of destructive consequences that have damaged our bodies, our relationships, and our spirits.
Apart from God’s intervention, therefore, humanity seems destined over time to destroy itself. In the meantime, oppressors and victims, the innocent and the guilty, all do battle within the same world, and we, who desire to follow Christ, must find our place within this struggle.
1.1. The Example of Jesus
In defining this role, we turn first to the example of Jesus who cared deeply about the plight of His neighbor. The Gospel of Matthew says:
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” Matthew 9:36-38
On another occasion, He looked at a lost and rebellious city and cried out:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” Matthew 23:37-38
Notice that these cries are targeted and specific. Jesus wants His people to know Him, because He is the only one who can save them. While He is certainly concerned with their physical suffering, He is even more concerned with the root of their suffering. The only real solution to their broken and hopeless lives is to know Him as their Lord and Savior.
Jesus intends for us to have this same compassion for the “harassed and helpless” that surround us. As followers of Jesus, we must share His concern for the lost neighbors of our world, and we must share His conviction that, only by knowing Him, will they find a genuine release from their plight.
1.2 The Apostles’ Teaching
The apostles whom Jesus appointed reinforce this compassion for our neighbor. We hear the Apostle Peter’s passion in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost:
“‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’” Acts 2:38-40
The Apostle Paul goes ever further, saying:
“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” Romans 9:3-4
Now this is deep and unqualified compassion! And, he cares not just for the physical children of Israel, but for all people. To the Ephesians, he writes:
“I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ….” Ephesians 3:7-8
Paul regards himself as a “servant of the Gospel”, which he believes contains the “boundless riches of Christ”. He wants these riches for the spiritually poor crowds around him, whether Jew or Gentile.
In his letter to the Romans, he says:
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” Romans 10:12-15; compare Isaiah 52:7; Joel 2:32
Here we have an unbroken chain of logic from need to solution. To be saved from their sinfulness and brokenness, people must call on Jesus. To do this, however, they must know about him, and they cannot know about Him unless someone shares this knowledge with them.
So, let me ask you directly, are you willing to be part of the solution? Do you honestly care for the spiritually broken people in your world? Do you earnestly believe that Christ is the answer for their deepest hurts and wounds? This need itself should motivate us to share what we know about the riches of God’s gospel.
2 The Call of Our Lord
Jesus, however, adds another layer of motivation. As our Lord, He calls and commands us to share our faith. On one occasion, He says:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
If we hide the truth that God has given us, by keeping it private and hidden from the world, then we are of little use to those walking in darkness. How then will they come to know and glorify the Father?
Before Jesus ascends to be with the Father, He repeats this call to his disciples in a passage known as the Great Commission. He says:
“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
This call becomes a command for the entire community of disciples. Together, they must go, baptize, and teach. Each person in this community is responsible for some part of this commission. Everyone must go into some part of this broken world. While not everyone will actually do the baptizing, everyone must help others see the need to be baptized, as symbol of turning their lives over to Jesus as Lord and Savior. And, while not everyone will teach in a formal classroom, everyone must nevertheless share in countless personal conversations what they have learned as they lead others into a relationship with Jesus.
3 The Power of Our Story
The Lord’s command to make disciples, then, must become personal. Faced by this command, we may wonder, “why us”? Who are we to do this big and difficult job of leading others to God? You may remember that Moses asked this same question, when He was asked to lead the people out of Egypt:
“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” Exodus 3:11
But this is the wrong question. It really does not matter who Moses is. It only matters who God is:
“And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.’” Exodus 3:12
God says he will go with His servant, and the sign of His powerful presence will be the people who will worship on the very mountain on which Moses now stood.
Do you need a sign that God is with us? Look at the people worshipping next to you at church. Or, consider your own story. Chances are that we are all here because somebody did the big job that they were asked to do. Maybe it was parents who fought the culture to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Maybe it was a grandparent, an aunt or and uncle who went the extra mile. Maybe it was a friend, a co-worker, or a neighbor who dared to invite us to join them. Maybe it was a random, casual acquaintance that turned out not to be so random. The point is that God used somebody’s story, some average, ordinary somebody, to lead you out of the mess into a place of worship. All of us together, assembled to worship here, are a sign that God is with us.
We therefore should not underestimate the power of our story. One of the things I appreciate so much about the scriptures is the way that God uses other people’s stories to impact us. And not just the perfect stories, but also the less than perfect stories. How many people have been challenged and encouraged by the story of David, even with his failures, or the story of Peter, even though he denied Christ? Our story does not have to be perfect to be effective. Our story matters precisely because it reveals the powerful work of God that forgives, heals, and restores us.
Paul famously makes this point in his letter to Timothy when he says:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:15-16
God’s effective working in us shows others that God can also work in them. No matter how average or how messed up our stories might be, they can be and, in Christ, will be redeemed and used for God’s glory.
These then are three primary reasons for sharing our faith: the plight of our neighbor, the call of our Lord, and the power of our story. So, we hope you are inspired to take up the challenge and become part of the solution. In the next session, therefore, we will offer some practical recommendations for how to share your faith. In the meantime, we pray that God will lead you even deeper in your relationship with Jesus.
- Spend time this week reflecting on the scriptures listed in this session. In prayer, ask God to use these scriptures to strengthen your resolve to share your story.
- Share with a trusted friend your desire to share your faith more faithfully. Give that person permission to pray for and encourage you in that mission.
- Begin to pray for at least one person, that God would give you the courage to share your story with that person.