Some things are just too good to keep to yourself. Everybody has that something – something in your life that you feel so strongly about, get so excited about, enjoy so much, that you can’t help yourself – you can’t have a conversation without talking about it.
· Grandparents who have cute grandchildren
· Parents will bore you to tears with their child’s latest accomplishment (from toilet training to game winning touchdown)
· Great movie/restaurant
· Golf game or great shot
· Teens – discover a new band or song
Nobody has to coerce you to talk about what you are excited about – it comes spontaneously and unquenchably. You’ve met somebody who’s that way – it’s not that they want to impress you, or get your approval – and it’s not out of obligation or guilt – it’s that they can’t not speak about their excitement – to someone, anyone!
We talk a lot about “the gospel”: Preaching the gospel, sharing the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ. But I’m afraid sometimes we use the word without understanding the word. For most of you, you know that “gospel” literally means “good news.” Not metaphorically, not hypothetically, but literally “good news”.
When we talk about the good news of Jesus Christ, we are speaking specifically about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. That’s how Paul defined it in 1 Cor. 15:1-5 “Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried , that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter and then to the Twelve.”
That is the focus and substance of the gospel – that Jesus died and was raised again for the forgiveness of my sin and my invitation into eternal life. And that is good news. Not just good news inside these four walls when we talk about religious stuff in stained glass voices, but when we go back out into the world and interact with people who are just struggling to keep their heads above water. It’s good news. And if it’s not good news out there, it’s not good news in here. Good news is stuff you can’t keep to yourself.
That’s what the story of the Gerasene demoniac is about. You know the story of the man possessed by demons, and a danger to himself and everyone around him. He’s chained up out in the graveyard, but even shackles can’t hold him and he howls so loudly at the moon that everyone is scared of him. Jesus shows up one day at the graveyard and has a conversation with the demons who inhabit this man. Jesus sends the demons into a herd of pigs who go running off into the Sea of Galilee and drown. When the townspeople come out to see what the commotion is about, they find this man sitting there clothed and in his right mind for the first time in years. And all of that is backdrop for the real story – Mark 5:18-20 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.
This man is my poster-child, my role model for sharing your faith. You probably think he’s my long lost brother, I’ve mentioned him so often. But I am convinced that we find within this man the key to evangelism. He is so excited about what Jesus has done for him that he wants to go with him. And when Jesus tells him he can’t do that, then he travels all over the Decapolis (the Ten Cities) telling everybody about what Jesus has done for him.
A second story is found in Acts 4. In Acts 3, Peter and John heal a lame man at the gate of the temple. And what they tell him is key to understanding their motivation – “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” This causes a near riot as people gather around to see this incredible miracle. And Peter and John take the occasion to tell people about Jesus, through whom this miracle is possible. They’re not just there to heal a man; they are there to give away the gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. It doesn’t take long before the rulers have them arrested and they are brought before the Sanhedrin and threatened not to speak any longer in the name of Jesus – Acts 4:18-20 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
They might as well have told them to quit breathing. What they were doing was so important, their message so powerful, they could not keep from speaking about Jesus and the salvation that people could experience through him.
Jeremiah had the same problem only different motivation. The nation of Judah, during Jeremiah’s lifetime was on a collision course with destruction. Their wickedness, their idolatry, their disregard for God had brought them to the brink of annihilation. Jeremiah goes everywhere, telling everybody he can to change their lives and turn to God, but all he meets is opposition and ridicule. He reasons with himself – “It would just be easier to keep my mouth shut and let them get what they deserve.” Listen to what Jeremiah learned: Jer. 20:8-9 Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the LORD has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
For Jeremiah it was not a changed life, or good news, but a burden for the lost. He was like a watchman on the lookout tower seeing the enemy approaching. He sounds the alarm, he shouts for attention, he runs through the streets “the enemy is coming.” But people ignore him and go about their business as if nothing is happening. But still, Jeremiah with a desperate burden for his people, and message from God that cannot be ignored, cannot hold it in – he keeps giving the warning.
Four men who can’t keep it to themselves. All of them have different motivations – the healed demoniac cannot keep quiet about what God has done in his life. Peter and John have a gift from God to give away that is so exciting they can’t be threatened or beaten into silence. And then Jeremiah, whose heart is so burdened for his people, the message of God is like a fire in his bones that can’t be quenched.
Different motivations, but a common source – God is alive and at work. He is at work in our nation, in our world – he does care how people live and how a nation is run. God is at work in the lives of people – God loves people so much he sent his son to die for their sins. He is at work in your life and my life – giving us new hope and a second chance. We are never so far gone or so far away from God that he can’t or won’t reach out to rescue us.
The question then is, “what would it take to be so motivated that I can’t keep it to myself?”
Each of them had experienced a very personal encounter with God.
· If your motivation is anything but a personal encounter with God, any attempts to share your faith are going to be awkward and artificial.
· So where does that come from? Do I wait around until God speaks to me, or I have some spiritual revelation?
· It comes from spending time in God’s word, listening to his voice, listening for his call. It comes from spending time in prayer – pouring out your heart, surrendering your life.
· And if you listen to that and think, “I’ve tried it before and I didn’t get anything out of it,” you’re doing it wrong.
· You’re reading the Bible thinking, “I’ll read 15 minutes every day…(a couple weeks in - how much longer?”)
· You’re praying, “O great and omnipotent heavenly Father, thank you for this day… and the nice weather we’re having… and for me of my many sins … uh … in Jesus’ name.”
· It’s impersonal, it’s distant, it’s forced. It’s a “have-to” thing. You know you’re supposed to, but you just can’t ever get it going. It’s so dry and impersonal you don’t ever feel any closer to God.
· It’s time for a change. God didn’t inspire his word to bore you into submission. He didn’t invite you into his presence to hear you spout the same old trite phrases he’s always heard. He invites you to pray so that he can listen to your heart. He gave you his word, so you can know his heart.
· When I get away from his Word; when I don’t spend time in prayer – I don’t have anything to share.
They were intently tuned in to what God was doing.
· The reason these people had such a driving, unquenchable spirit was, not only was God alive and active in their lives, but they were tuned in to what God was doing.
· The reason we aren’t excited about what God is doing, is that we just don’t look for it. It’s not that we don’t think he’s alive, we just aren’t tuned in to it. Things just happen, life just goes on – it never occurs to us to pay attention to what God has to do with it.
· And that’s what has to change. We need to become keenly, acutely, constantly aware of what God is doing – in the world, in the church, in our lives.
They were focused, not on themselves, but on others.
· Their personal encounter with God didn’t have the effect of driving them inward, but outward. They didn’t start thinking, “What’s in this for me? How are my needs being met? I’d like to keep my options open.”
· Their focus was on the needs of others, on what God had done and could do for them. And when they thought about that, they couldn’t keep it inside.
We don’t just have the “good news,” we have the best news of all. We get excited about telling our friends about a new restaurant or a good movie or a better brand of dog food. But we feel hesitant about talking about something that makes all the difference in the world – in eternity.
It’s time to decide what our lives are about, and how important God is to us. God has made a difference in your life – start living like it. God has given you a message, start acting like it.
Illust. – “Do you want to change the world?” #370
Justin began last week to tell you about the coming year for our Life Groups. And one of the most effective things we can use our Life Groups for is to bring our friends to the Lord. We have primarily emphasized relationships and Bible study as the focus of our small group ministry, but we have neglected one of the greatest opportunities we have to connect people with Jesus.
Our Life Groups are the perfect setting for introducing people to the Lord and to his people. They are informal, they are friendly, they are low-pressure, and there’s always food! Where you might feel awkward inviting your friend to come to church, who wouldn’t want to join you at a friend’s house for a meal with great people?
We’re going to center our Bible studies in our Life Groups this year on a video series by Lee Strobel entitled, “A Case for Faith.” It will be a short video each meeting and discussion afterward. This series addresses a lot of the issues people have with God, like why is there evil and suffering, are science and God contradictory, what about hell, is God unjust, and what if I have doubts? And it deals with those issues in a way that helps people see there really are answers, and that at the end of the journey there really is an amazing God full of love and grace.
Posted on Sun, August 22, 2010
by John Roberts