For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Corinthians 4:5 – 7)
The work of personal evangelism (sharing the gospel with others) is not simply a matter of taking the gospel package down from the shelf to hand to someone. Rather, the gospel comes to reside in us—Christ himself moving in and beginning the process of spiritual redecoration (Ephesians 3:17). This should encourage us. Our hope for fruitful outreach is not in being whiz-bang evangelists, but in Christ and the message of the cross, shining out from our ordinary clay pot lives. We don’t put hope for the salvation of others in anything but Christ—not in our evangelistic tools, and not in ourselves. But if our hope is in Christ and his gospel, we still may not neglect the issue of our hearts. If Christ is the treasure that shines out from our inner being, then we should pay attention to our heart. This is where the greatest barriers to fruitful evangelism lie.
Outreach begins on the inside
As we have been looking at the book of Ephesians, we’ve seen the grandeur of what happens when we follow Jesus Christ. We were prisoners of sin. We used to walk in the ways of the world. We were dead and enslaved, but God freed us. In Christ we become a new person. We have become members of God’s new society. The Holy Spirit himself lives within us. We should therefore put on a new lifestyle and new standards of behaviour which are appropriate to our new status. It’s important to see that putting on the new lifestyle does not make us one of God’s people. Simply taking off a prison uniform will not make a prisoner free from gaol. God first frees us, through Jesus, and then in response the appropriate thing to do is to walk differently – to live a new lifestyle.
If the gospel is fundamentally a heart issue, then it stands to reason that that’s where the battle will be—in our hearts. If we’re at odds with the Spirit, by consciously allowing sin to fester, we will be out of step with the Spirit and not seeing his fruit. In other words, we will not be abiding in Christ. John 15:5 says,“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
I’m not suggesting we need a two-day spiritual retreat or that we need to be perfect before we can share the gospel with a friend. But I am suggesting that there’s a direct link between our heart’s relationship with God, and our hope for evangelistic fruit. If we are deliberately feeding sin, it will affect our outreach. How confident can we be to invite friends to the Jesus the sin-slayer, when sin has mastery over us?
In Christ we are one of God’s children, and so we should share the family likeness. We should live the sort of life which causes others to say, “Wow, those people must be related to God. You can just see it in the way they live. They are so much like Jesus.”
Proclaiming the Good News
We have great news to share with others. God has revealed and opened up his kingdom to sinners through the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus our King. And one day he will return to overthrow evil and put the finishing touches on his kingdom for all eternity. We can proclaim that message not just in the way we live, but through our prayers, with our money, as we get involved with serving God’s family and WWEC’s activities, in our daily conversation with friends and family.
Next week in our Food for Thought we will look at an exciting way we can share the message about our Lord and Saviour, Jesus; to help us place Jesus before our community and contacts and place the gospel word in their hands. But before we get there, lets continue to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, knowing that through his Spirit God continues his good work in us. We are to live with a real excitement knowing that holiness is what we were chosen for all along. We are to put on our new clothes, show the family likeness, live in the light and be filled with the Spirit. We are to be who we are in Christ.