In his talk "The Power of the Articulated Gospel," (available here in audio and here in video), Al Mohler reminds pastors that it is their responsibility not only to publicly display the Gospel in their actions (though that is a fine thing to do), but to share it in their words. The power of the Gospel to transform lives, the tool by which the Holy Spirit effects conversion in the heart of a believer, is, at the end of the day, the spoken Word. It is only through the declaration of the forgiveness of sins accomplished by Christ on the cross that the Gospel advances, grows, and spreads from the dark parts of our soul to the corners of the earth.
This was yet another convicting talk for me, since I am regularly in contact with those who do not believe the Gospel. Perhaps less so now than in the past, but in contact nonetheless. I have far too often failed to articulate the Gospel to strangers and friends alike, and relied overly much on "just being a friend to them" or "showing in actions (implied: but not in words) what Jesus has done for me", all the while telling myself and others that I was hoping they would ask why I act the way I do, even as my much deeper hope was that they would not.
Why is this the case? Why do I so regularly doubt the power of the Word that saved me and that I has saved so many of my brothers and sisters? What should I do about it? Hopefully reflecting on this will help me modify my life accordingly...
Why do I doubt?
Ultimately of course, the answer is "sin." But within that broad category, there are specific sins that keep me from trusting in and sharing the Gospel.
- Fear. Not so much fear that they'll look down on me (I am, sadly, arrogant enough that I rarely fear anything like that: who would look down on someone as awesome as I am? I know, I know, my wife's working on it), as fear that the Gospel won't work. If I never share the Gospel with them, they'll never reject it, and we can both go on our merry way. If I do share the Gospel with them and they intentionally say "no", well, then I've just sent someone to hell. Of course theologically I know that's not how it works, but it doesn't change my subjective perspective.
- Pride. This one's kind of cheating, since it's the root of all sins and therefore must be what's driving my failure to articulate the Gospel. And yet, there is a kind of pride inherent in waiting on someone to ask me why I act the way I do, instead of just telling them. "Oh, you noticed that I make it a point to go to church every Sunday? That I just give away x% of my income, without expecting a return? That I drive a little old lady around when she needs it? Of course I'd be happy to tell you what's happened to me and why I do all those things that you see in my life." Even before sharing the Gospel, there's the subtle (even if only internal and, well, unartiuclated) idea that it is somehow about me. By forcing them to ask, I've shifted the attention even further off of God and put it on myself.
- Laziness. Sharing the Gospel is hard work. It's easier not to. I don't like hard work, ipso facto I don't share the Gospel much. I could write more about this but, hey, I'll get around to it later. Maybe. Unless the game is on...
Fortunately, even in all of this sin God has provided the answer: believe the Gospel more.
Three things to remember:
- God is ultimately the one who does the work. The Gospel is the good news that Jesus has paid for the sins of all who would repent and believe in him. I am not a part of that equation when it comes to someone else, at the very most I am a facilitator, and even that is only a limited and temporary role. Rather than leading me to inaction, this should set me free to share the Gospel without fear.
- God has paid for my sin, and done all of the work necessary for my salvation. This should inspire me to obey him in all ways, including in telling others about him. How awful would it be (or, you know, "is it") for me to refuse to tell others and so withhold the good news that someone else did not withhold from me? I am saved only because someone shared the Gospel with me, therefore I should share it with others.
- This is the only thing that will last into eternity. Someday, Christ will return and the world as it is will be re-created, and we are told explicitly that all things will be made new. Our bodies, our efforts, government, nature, relationships, the physical world, all of these things someday will melt away in the presence of the returning Christ and be replaced by an entire creation born again. The bridge between us now and us then, between our current bodies and our resurrection bodies, between the old earth and the new earth, is the Gospel, and only the Gospel. I might serve my own sin and their sinful comfort by not sharing the Gospel with someone, but it will only be a temporary service. Christians are witnesses to the coming eternity, and woe to us if we intentionally withhold that witness.