THE GOSPEL COMES AND IS PASSED ON
I don’t remember first hearing it, but this thought sticks in my mind like that little plastic seal around the top of a bottle infused with electricity refusing to let go of your finger when you try to toss it into the trash. The truth that really stuck was this: God’s story came to me over my lifetime because so many people passed it on to me so many times in so many ways, mostly through conversations and stories. Understanding that, I was hooked by a conviction and a calling to do just that – intentionally engage in conversations and stories with others to pass on the gospel.
People love stories and a good conversation. The gospel comes by conversations and stories. It comes in everyday, social settings of family, church, classrooms, and supermarket lines. It comes by sharing personally and privately, even intimate conversations and stories that let God speak and bless. Over time conversations and stories add up to more than a collection of casual moments. The fruit of such moments and exchanges over time is eternal. Or to say it another way, as the gospel comes, it is passed on in the threads of conversation and stories creating a magnificent tapestry of God’s story that continues to come into view.
Here’s one woven thread in my life, for example. One afternoon not long ago, I asked a wise, long-time, dear friend to proofread a final draft of a book manuscript before I sent it to an editor and publisher. She suggested some minor adjustments. We talked about the book, what it was all about, and the stories I told throughout the text. The conversation was encouraging. Finally, she said, “Do one thing before you send the final text to the publisher. Read John 17, the whole chapter.” Her suggestion changed everything. It was more than helpful. It changed how I understood my own writing. It was more than a transaction. It improved the manuscript and changed my life for the better. In that passage the gospel came, and was passed on with greater clarity. That afternoon, she passed it on. She discipled me through that conversation and many others over the years.
The gospel comes. So, pass it on. Make disciples and be discipled at every opportunity. Consider the three years of Jesus’ teaching His disciples by conversations. In the last chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, in His closing comments He said, “Go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). They understood He meant followers like themselves, people of all kinds. Jesus intended the Good News they received was to be passed on. I like thinking Jesus meant “as you go, make disciples.” Everywhere you go, talk it up. Make it the most natural thing you do, and do it in obedience to show your love for Jesus and for others, the whosoever.
Jesus then said make disciples “of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirt,” no limits, no boundaries, all inclusive, all the world.
Conversations and stories are key at any age using metaphors and examples. In the Gospel of John 21:15-17, John closed with one last story about a conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asked three times if Peter loved Him. Peter’s three responses were the same. “Yes. You know that I love You.” Each time Peter answered, Jesus responded with a straight forward command: “Feed my lambs, take care of My sheep, feed My sheep.” In this conversation with Peter, the emphasis was on feeding, caring, nurturing new followers (the lambs), but notice that He also mentioned the care of more mature followers (the sheep). We’re to be cared for by Jesus through others, thereby being transformed and perfected day by day into His likeness. Jesus is the Gospel at the center of our journey.
KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS
“If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). And again, in John 14:23, “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teachings. My Father will love them and we will make our home with them.” I am confident that Jesus then meant that they were to settle in and dwell as well, continue the conversation, and share some life stories with God, the Trinity. In John 15:14, Jesus’ words were “Remain in Me, as also I remain in you.” This is the vine and branch metaphor. Jesus used the word “remain” twelve times including John 5:19, “As the Father has loved me, so I loved you. Now remain in My love.”
Finally, He made the relationship conditional (contingent) six times in ten verses (15:5-14).
As Salvationists we see this in our doctrine nine: “Continuance (remaining) in a state (dynamic, interpersonal, not static) of salvation (being saved) depends (is contingent) on continued obedient faith in Christ.” This is a serious, forward looking doctrine on the importance of obedient faith. In short, if you love Me, you will continually obey Me by continuing to make disciples.
The Gospel comes. Pass it on!
The apostle echoed the words of Jesus in Colossians 1:21-21. In short (paraphrased), once we were alienated from God by your sin, but now Christ by His death has reconciled us (individually) to present us holy in the Father’s sight, IF each one continues to live, established and firm in obedient faith.
Making disciples is all about living in obedient faith. The most natural way is through following Jesus’ example, “talking story” with others anytime, anywhere, with anyone. Our conversations and stories are the threads we weave into the tapestry of God’s majestic story of salvation.