Don’t be under any illusions, talking about your relationship with Jesus can be difficult. We fear people will see us differently. People may put you in a box. Your career opportunities may be affected. But followers of Jesus are called to speak.
I know people who don’t talk about Jesus while they are at work. They won’t even include church in conversations about the weekend. They justify it by saying “It isn’t work related.” But at the same time, they will talk about sports, computers, etc. What’s going on here? Jesus is the issue, not things unrelated to work.
When we struggle to talk about Jesus, we often point to how our life shows others what Jesus is like. ‘Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words’ is a quote attributed to Francis of Assisi. There is much to like about this quote especially when it makes Jesus followers consider how their actions and words intersect. But it is tempting to use this as an excuse not to tell others about what Jesus has done. But are our lives enough to show others who Jesus is?
Show and Tell
Showing what Jesus is like is important, but not at the expense of speaking. Remember ‘news time’ at school? It started as show and tell. I would bring something into class and it would help me talk about it. Show and tell is a principle followers of Jesus need to get back in the habit of. Showing and telling go hand-in-hand. As our life shows who Jesus is, it helps us to tell others about him.
Jeff Vanderstelt showed what being a gospel metaphor was like in the excerpt from Gospel Fluency last week. Specifically, he sought to show others that Jesus was an advocate, as he did likewise for a neighbour. Were his actions enough for others to understand what Jesus was like? Here’s the conclusion to his story:
“What were you thinking yesterday, Jeff? Why would you do that?”
“Amy,” I began, “I did that because he needed an advocate. He wasn’t in the room and couldn’t defend himself. As I said, I know what he has done is wrong, but I’ve learned to advocate for people, even if they are wrong, because of what God has done for me. Right now, I have Jesus Christ as my Advocate before God the Father in heaven. I have sinned. I have done what is wrong, and I deserve death for it. However, Jesus died for my sins on the cross and rose again from the dead. He was then raised up and seated next to God the Father, where he is constantly advocating for me. He is speaking far better words about me than I could ever deserve! He is representing me in a place I don’t deserve to be. But because he is, I can have a relationship with God that isn’t just for now, but forever. I’m an advocate because he is an Advocate for me.”
“I just don’t get you, Jeff!” she responded.
“I know, but I hope one day you will get Jesus,” I replied.
She said: “I don’t know about that. I don’t think I’ll ever believe.”
I can pray, display, and declare, but I can’t save. That’s God’s job. So I will keep n listening, loving, blessing, sharing, and praying.
Jeff’s story has nailed the relationship between show and tell. His actions weren’t enough to show what Jesus was like, but they raised questions for Amy. Jeff’s answer wasn’t just that he was ‘a good person,’ or because he thought ‘it was the right thing.’ Instead his response pointed to the story of Jesus in his life.
Find Your Story
Stories are powerful, especially the story of God in our life. A Samaritan woman went and told others her experience after talking to Jesus (John 4). No one could say it wasn’t true. Even if they disagreed with her about who Jesus was, they had to admit the woman believed in the encounter. Followers of Jesus all have a story about Jesus. Our life need to show the story, but it is not enough. We also need to tell others about it.
Jeff Vanderstelt quote taken from Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt, © 2017, p. 195. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.