Part of Discipleship is Sharing Your Faith (Mar-Apr 2004)

By Matt Dabbs

by Tim Riter
March – April, 2004

Adapted from chapters from the upcoming books, Twelve Lies You Hear in Church (March 2004), and Twelve Lies You Hear About the Spirit (September 2004)

Devastating Lie Number One:

“I Believe in Jesus, But I Don’t Really Have to Tell Anyone about Him.

The Truth about Telling”

Greg Taylor, the managing editor of New Wineskins, tells this story on himself.

I was in the post office and the postal worker and I got to talking about what I do and how he’d like to send me a piece of his writing. He said, “I am a believer, and I’ve discovered that the only way is the life in the Spirit.” I agreed, started to say something then didn’t really have much come to my tongue and stammered then just kept quiet. Had I lost my nerve to say something about faith or was enough said?

Don’t a lot of us share Greg’s unease? We believe in Jesus, and think that’s enough. We don’t have to tell anyone about him. We keep our faith fairly private. We don’t want to face rejection; we don’t quite know what to say. The pluralism of our culture inhibits us from proclaiming that Jesus is unique. We fear that even fellow followers of Jesus might have a different flavor of faith, and we’ll open a can of worms as they try to convince us of the correctness of their position. Remember, we don’t talk about “politics or religion” if we want to avoid arguments and maintain good relationships!

And as we do, we fall prey to a devastating lie, actually two lies. First, we ignore the truth that following Jesus requires transformation. We read Ephesians 2:8-9 and realize we can’t do anything on our own to please God enough to enter a relationship with him. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.”

So we assume that since we can’t do anything to become saved, we don’t have to do anything to remain saved. But we quit reading too soon! Verse 10 tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (emphasis added).

Doing good plays an integral role in following Jesus. Our character, our values, our attitudes, and our actions all change. Jesus repeated that truth, “If you love me, you will obey what I command … Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him … If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love (John 14:15; 14:21; 15:10, emphasis added).

Notice the link between obedience and loving Jesus, because that gives the foundation for the next part of the lie.

Do we have to tell people about Jesus? He did command that, remember? “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” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Sounds like Jesus told us that obedience is integral to faith and that he commanded that we tell people about him. Right? Case closed.

But again, maybe we quit reading and reasoning too soon. What’s the second devastating lie? That telling people about Jesus is just a difficult duty. Let me suggest that telling others can be a joyous and natural overflow of a dynamic, intense connection to Jesus. Maybe if we filled our lives with Jesus and the Spirit, they’d spill out and splash on those around us. Maybe God designed that to be the normal Christian life.

Faith is Being Filled

Although not all Christians speak in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:30), God does want to fill us all with his Spirit, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Another command! But what happens when the Spirit fills us?

Being Filled Leads to Telling

In researching the Bible mentioning the filling of the Spirit, I’ve discovered that the most common expression is telling people about God. Not speaking in tongues, but using our normal language to convey what God has done.

While I don’t want to minimize the charismatic gifts, I do desire to maximize the primary purpose of being filled with the Spirit: passing on the message of God.

Acts 1:8 links being filled with sharing, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” That linkage flows through the book. Acts 2 records the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost. Look at verse 4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (emphasis added) After being filled, they spoke. What resulted? Verse 41 tells us, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” The Spirit filled the followers, they spoke, and people responded.

That pattern continued in Acts 4:8, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!’” (emphasis added) Stay in that chapter to see how the entire church had the same experience, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31, emphasis added).

In Acts 6, the growth of the church led to delegating the food ministry. A prime job requirement: to be full of the Spirit,

“‘Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’

This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread” (Acts 6:3-7, emphasis added).

One of those, Stephen, developed a ministry that aroused great opposition. After a trial that led to his death, we read, “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God’” (emphasis added). Stephen faced death and found the courage to tell about Jesus from his fullness of the Spirit.

A fervent young Jew named Saul helped those who killed Stephen. God chose this same person, later known as Paul, to carry the message of Jesus to the non-Jewish world.

“But the Lord said …, ‘This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel … Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord— Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here— has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 9:15-17, emphasis added).

Paul turned the world upside down with his teaching, powered through being filled with the Spirit.

Two chapters later, God broke out in the city of Antioch, and the apostles in Jerusalem sent a man named Barnabas to check it out. What qualifications did he have for this ministry? “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:23-24, emphasis added).

Just one more example of how being filled leads to witnessing; once again in a corporate manner. “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” What provided power for this effective ministry? “And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:47-48; 52, emphasis added).

We just surveyed twelve different passages that link being filled with the Spirit and telling about God. Let’s compare two truths. God wants all Christians to tell about Jesus. God wants all Christians to be filled with the Spirit. And best of all, the second gives us the ability to do the second. Clearly, being filled and telling about Jesus is the normal Christian life.

So, if we don’t share our faith, does it mean we’re not filled, or that we don’t take advantage of the filling? Either condition can be remedied!

How does it work?

But how? Do we automatically tell people about Jesus if we’re filled? Most of us don’t. I’ve found I’m much more apt to splash God on people when I rely on four basic steps.

1. Fill Ourselves

First, we need to have something inside! We need to fill our lives with God: with thoughts of him; with an awareness of his continual presence. With regularly asking ourselves, “What would God want me to do here? What attitude should I have toward this rude cashier? How should I respond to the car that just cut me off?”

2. Focus on Our Primary Mission

Let’s be aware of God’s primary mission for us: to glorify God and be witnesses. To tell people about the hope within us. To continually be alert for opportunities to share.

When asked by a person how I’m doing, I sometimes respond, “Better than I deserve.” That’s sparked more than one discussion on the grace of God. A waitress gave me too much change, so I handed it back to her. She said, “Not many do that anymore.” I then said that as a Christian, it’s just the right thing to do. A discussion in line to pay a traffic ticket led to topics like justice and absolute truth. While flying cross country, I spent some time reading a Grisham novel. The person next to me asked why I liked him, and I explained that Grisham has a marvelous gift for weaving in spiritual decisions in a gripping story. We talked about several of those issues, and had a marvelous time.

We can be gracious as we talk about what’s real to us. We don’t have to force the issue, or insist that they agree with us. Our job is to tell. Their job is to accept or reject. But they can’t accept it if we don’t share it. So the more we bring up spiritual issues in a relevant fashion, the greater their chance to come to Christ.

3. Rely on Supernatural Power

Sharing our faith typically produces fear, but being filled with the Spirit gives us supernatural power that we don’t possess. Remember Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (emphasis added) Just as the Bible links the Spirit with speaking, it also links the Spirit with power.

We just need to be aware of the supernatural power in us, and to place ourselves in a position where our own power isn’t enough. Too often we don’t experience supernatural power because what we attempt can be done with our own. Years ago I heard an encouragement that continues to change how I live. “If you want to see God’s power, attempt something so difficult that it’s certain to fail, if God isn’t in it.”

Let’s attempt some telling that stretches our limits, which goes beyond what we think we can do. The Spirit just waits for us to try that so he can step in.

4. Follow the Spirit

Let’s transcend cultural and comfort barriers and allow the Spirit to lead us wherever he desires. Don’t hold anything back when God whispers.

The world watched the saga of Martin and Gracia Burnham, the kidnapped missionaries in the Philippines. During the rescue, both Martin and a Philippina nurse were killed. Gracia then returned to Martin’s home town in Kansas, where the town built a home for Gracia and her three children. People donated nearly everything.

While tremendously appreciative, Gracia has a concern. “I try to tell the kids, ‘Don’t let this grow on you. If God calls you to go somewhere and live in a hut, go. Let’s not have this house be something that keeps us here if the Lord calls us on.’”

A great example of an inner reality splashing out. Let’s take advantage of what God gives us: an abundant, transformed life. Let’s splash people with the Spirit.New Wineskins

Tim Riter, the “12 Lies Guy,” has spent 25 years in local church ministry. He is currently an adjunct professor of Communication at Hope International University in Fullerton, CA and a full-time author. His previously published books include Deep Down (Tyndale) and A Passionate Pursuit (IVP), and he has several future releases under contract including three new books in the 12 Lies series and Leave God Out of It (Cook), which is scheduled to release in June 2004. Cross country motorcycle trips are Riter’s passion, and he has charted 130,000 miles on two wheels. He and his wife, Sheila, have been married for 25 years and live in southern California. Visit his website at [www.timriter.com].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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