Friday, 19 September 2014
How Fluent am I with the Gospel?
The last time you got together with a friend what did you talk about?
Friends chatter about anything and everything–hair products, food, the latest movie, their love life or lack thereof. But sometimes it feels like there’s a disconnect between our faith and our chatter. Between our knowledge of the Bible and the level of gospel conversation in our real life.
You know how it is. You’re out for lunch with the gang, catching up on life, when someone tries to turn the talk toward spiritual things. “So, what is God teaching you these days?” Awkward silence. “Anybody?” Crickets. “Um…not sure…not much. Well, gotta go!”
Just mention Jesus and the party shuts down.
Which is pretty funny if you consider that Jesus was accused of being a friend of sinners because his presence didn’t shut down their gatherings, it transformed them.
The good news is that God has provided three realities to increase our fluency with his gospel. In Christ we have
- a shared room
- a shared vocabulary
- a shared experience
A Shared Room
Have you ever been to a really fun party and tried to tell someone about it the next day? You start recounting some of the situational humor and end up doubling over with laughter while the other person is still staring blankly at you. “Well, I guess you had to be there…” you say weakly.
Faith in Christ solves that problem. He brings us into the same room, not just with each other, but with the triune God. He himself is the context of our fellowship. The apostle John talks about this in his letter.
“…that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3
Picture a room where a lively party is going on. You hear conversation inside, laughter, music. It sounds exciting, but as long as you’re outside, you can’t join in. Then the guest of honor shows up. You decide to sneak in behind him, but the bouncer puts out a hand to stop you. Suddenly he turns and looks at you.
“She’s with me.” You gulp, then break into a grin. “I’m with him!”
He brings us in. The basis of our fellowship isn’t up to us.
A Shared Vocabulary
Faith in Jesus gives us a new vocabulary, too, one that starts small but grows as we grow. There are two ways to talk about our faith. I like to call them the warp and woof of our gospel conversation. Picture threads running horizontally and vertically, like on a weaver’s loom.
- the timeline of Jesus’ saving work runs horizontally
- the theology of our salvation runs vertically
Together they make for a strong fabric of faith. Our understanding grows as we learn the facts of our faith in both directions, through sermons, Bible studies, and our own reading. For example, when Jesus was conceived and born, he entered our world– a point on the timeline. Theologically, we come to know this as the incarnation. These threads weave together to increase our understanding.
Our vocabulary grows. But that vocabulary will remain largely passive until we begin to use it in daily conversation. We must learn to talk along the thread lines of our faith.
But how? Practicing gospel conversation feels forced–as awkward as a first year French class. Even worse, we feel disqualified by our failures. After all, how can I talk about Jesus when my life is such a mess?
Bingo. Our need is what brings our gospel vocabulary into active use.
A Shared Experience
You wake up one morning in a slump. It’s day 154 in a mysterious illness that has sapped your energy and affected your mood. Your friends try to be sympathetic, but they don’t understand why you keep cancelling on them and having to bow out of commitments. You’re tired of explaining and are slowly giving up hope that this will ever resolve.
No one seems to understand. I feel so alone.
Then you remember the teaching you heard about the incarnation. Jesus took on our flesh so he could save us. He must have felt tired sometimes. Weak. Limited. He knows what it feels like. He must have been tempted during those times, too. Maybe he even struggled with moods.
He understands. I am not alone.
When I apply the work of Jesus to my own struggles, the gospel becomes active in my life. I want to talk about him. As I do, my gospel vocabulary goes from passive to active.
How is Jesus saving me today? That is the topic I’ll be primed to talk about. That’s the topic which makes me sympathetic to those around me, too. It opens my heart to this next question:
How might Jesus want to save my friend today? I’m ready to help her.
Question: What makes it hard for you to talk about Jesus?