Believers: We Speak in Christ!
I’m irked. So, you may be asking in your mind, “why, Joe?” Or, maybe you don’t care.
Either way, let me tell you. I’m irked at the general cowardice that is clearly evident in myself and in the global church when it comes to speaking truth.
Right now, you may be asking in your mind, “why is that such a big deal, Joe?” In short, I would say this: it seems to me that such cowardice undermines and distorts the gospel of grace. Now, I’ll explain what I mean in greater detail, both by using the word “cowardice”, and by making said cowardice such a huge issue.
When I say that general cowardice is clearly evident in myself and in the global church when it comes to speaking truth, I’m saying, in other words, that people (many of you included, no doubt) are often afraid to speak the truth boldly.
By “truth”, I mean the gospel. The apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians chapter 3, verses 5 and 6,
Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
There’s so much in those verses; I’ll come back to them later. What I want to point out right now is that God has given us a charge, a mandate: we ought to let the gospel permeate all of our speech and actions. You are a minister of the gospel, believer, and that ministry has been given to you by God Himself.
What do I mean by “cowardice”? Well, in teaching Junior High Sunday School this past year, I noticed a tendency in myself to shrink back from speaking “hard” or “pointed” truths to my students. Often, I did say those hard things, but part of me would always cringe inside whenever I would say to unbelieving students “you are an enemy of God right now”, or “Some of you are really distracted by the cares of the world right now.” And it was even harder to make those statements in a small group setting.
I felt the same way about sweet and beautiful gospel encouragements. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to share them; rather, I felt hypocritical doing so, knowing my sin as I do. That’s a problem. The thing is, I’m keenly aware when I teach about the gospel that I often (probably usually) live like I don’t really believe the gospel. Then, when I get to talk about Jesus, it’s like His perfection is staring me in the face the whole time. But as we’ll see later, I’m contradicting the gospel when I don’t speak truth boldly.
So, we need to ask two questions. First, why should we make bold statements of truth? Second, what’s the problem with not making bold statements of truth?
One answer to the first question is that Jesus talked that way. Remember when He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers (Matthew 12.34)? Oh, and remember when He told another group of Pharisees that Satan was their dad (John 8.44)?
If you browse the epistles, you’ll see that Paul talks a lot about boldness. What’s Paul’s concern about his followers speaking the gospel boldly? Let’s go back to 2 Corinthians chapter 3 to see how cowardice when it comes to speaking truth undermines the gospel. Maybe you can follow me easier if you have an open Bible handy yourself.
Paul is trying to show us how our speaking the gospel is really all about God. He says it’s “not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God (vs. 5).”
Ask yourself, “Who’s really speaking this truth, anyhow?” Paul says it’s God. He says you’re insufficient, BUT GOD has made you sufficient, in Jesus. Withholding from speaking truth because you’re too overcome by your sin shows that you don’t understand who Jesus has made you. Believer, insufficiency is not your ultimate identity before God. Jesus is your ultimate identity before God. And if Jesus is in you, then His truth will burn right through you into other people’s hearts.
Secondly, this particular cowardice might show that you don’t really understand where truth comes from. I speak from experience. Sometimes I’ll think right before I teach, “God, who am I to teach these students? Who am I to bring them a message like this?”
How self-centered am I? Very, apparently. Why in the world do I act like it’s my message to teach, anyhow? And why do you act like that? Isn’t Jesus the author of truth (John 14.6)? He didn’t sign the ownership rights on the gospel over to us. It’s not our truth; it originated from Him, and He still owns it. It’s merely ours to steward (2 Corinthians 4.6-7). It’s His power by which He saves sinners and strengthens, and ultimately glorifies, His saints (Romans 1.16-17).
So if you’re gonna steward well the gift that God has given you in the truth of the gospel, believer, you’ll have to get over yourself. Get over your sin. I’m not saying you should sweep evil under the rug of your complacency… I’m saying that you need to stop wallowing in misplaced shame over cancelled sin, and start walking boldly in the newness of life that God has given you. And start speaking boldly in that same power. It’s not your power, anyway! It’s God’s. And He has empowered you with it.
Believer, Jesus is going to give you a gospel word to speak to someone. That’s how His Spirit moves. He’s put in you “a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4.14). So maybe He won’t give you a hard word to speak; maybe it’s a joy-filled encouragement from Scripture. Maybe Jesus is filling you with joy and prompting you to share that joy with someone else. Or maybe it will be a convicting and challenging word.
I just don’t want your first thought in that moment to be how you don’t deserve to speak truth. Ha, we both know that you’d never speak truth if you only spoke it when you somehow became worthy. If you really believed Jesus and Paul, you’d speak the truth boldly. Sure, you’re gonna mess up, and you should hate that. But your ultimate hope, and mine, is that the God of the universe counts those who look to Jesus worthy to carry the treasure of His gospel in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 2.17).