I get that.
I believe that.
My livelihood as a pastor is based in part on this principle—that people are supposed to talk to other people about Jesus.
What I’m sometimes uncomfortable with is the how, and the by whom, part. While I concede that every follower of Jesus ought to be ready to share the reason for their faith in Jesus (1Pet. 3:15), I suspect that there are some who are not the least bit ready but are sharing anyways.
I liken sharing the Gospel to preparing a meal on a stove–with some experience in the kitchen, some basic instruction on food preparation, and with careful attention, we gain the capacity to deliver an outstanding meal for others to enjoy. Without these things, we run the risk of ruining the food—or worse, possibly setting the kitchen on fire in the process. This is why I don’t allow my 9-year-old daughter to cook dinner without close supervision.
I don’t mean to sound unkind or harsh, but I worry that some well-meaning Christians have done injury to the Gospel by the manner in which they conveyed Jesus to others. I suspect this, in part, because I have observed this. But I also say this reflecting back a number of years and remembering my own manner as I attempted to share the reason for my own faith. Yes, I do realize that “we have this treasure in jars of clay” (2Cor. 4:7), but I worry that we often lack the humility that should accompany our position as “clay jars”.
As I recently closed out a short message series, entitled, “Spread The News”, my concern focused on the qualities of the person who is sharing their faith in Jesus. My text was 1Peter 3:8-17 and my conclusion was that two particular marks are necessary for the evangelist:
1) Mindful of the needs of others
2) Intently focused on the Lord Jesus Christ
The danger is to overexpose on one of these marks while neglecting the other. We need to be marked by both.
Before Peter urges us to prepare our defense of the Gospel, he first exhorts us to “live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble” (1Pet. 3:8). It’s as if Peter is telling us that our success in promoting the Gospel is linked to our capacity for relational health.
Theologian, Edmund Clowney, argues that the Greek translated “be sympathetic” means to “enter into the other’s needs and concerns”. The call to “be compassionate” is along those exact lines. You could say that compassion is sympathy in action. Sympathy feels for others. Conmpassion acts for others.
So, how are we going to get there? Because my default, as much as I’d like it to be, is not the well-being of others. What’s going to help me to be more sympathetic and compassionate?
Peter’s answer: Humility.
This makes perfect sense. In order to live in harmony with others, I not only need to increase my concern for the needs of others, but I also need to decrease the attention I give to my own needs.
In addition to being mindful of the needs of others, we also need to have an intent focus on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peter exhorts us accordingly in 3:15, “in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” I think Peter realizes that we don’t always assign Jesus to an appropriate place and priority in our life.
I often hear people say, “You’re in my heart”, or “She is close to my heart”. That is saying something significant. Peter wants Jesus to be assigned to our heart—but not simply as someone we love deeply, not simply in a place with dear friends and family—Peter says “in your hearts set apart Christ as LORD.“
Jesus is not simply to be “close” to my heart—He is to be the Master of my heart.
As I try and connect what is going on in my heart with what I am required to say, I am reminded of what Jesus has said: “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
Could it be, that as I think about talking to others about Jesus, my biggest burden is not to get my speech right, but to get my heart right?
What kind of person talks to others about Jesus?
We need to set Christ apart in our heart as Lord, and we need to care more for the needs of others than we do for our own.
“The Labourers Of Mission”, based on 1Peter 3:8-17, was preached at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirk on Sunday, August 14, 2011.