Words About Words (Colossians 4:2-6)February 26, 2023 | Brandon Cooper
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morning church, want to go ahead, grab your Bibles open up the Colossians chapter four will be in verses two to six this morning classes for two to six, as you’re turning there, let me share a couple of conversations. I’ve had a recent conversation just a few weeks back with a Muslim friend of mine. And I had the opportunity to share the gospel with him very briefly, just the basic contours of the message, especially sharing the difference between Christianity and all other world religions, and that Christianity is not about earning, but about receiving grace. And about an hour later in this conversation, he came back and said, you know, Islam actually teaches the same thing that we need Allah to be merciful to us we do as much as we can. But then Allah has to make up the gap between his standard and where we actually are. Another time, had invited someone to church I think was Easter kickoff, something like that. And they had actually come and was great. They had a good time, what not, in fact, they enjoyed it so much. He went home and told his friends about the service and invited them this is this is great news. First time guest who’s immediately inviting people to church, you gotta love this. And these friends, was lesbian couple. And so they asked a question that you would expect at that point, well, does your church welcome gays and lesbians. Or here’s another one, this was a few years prior, I was doing initiative evangelism at a community college not too far from here. And having a wonderful conversation. My buddy and I with the students, college students tend to be very eager to have conversations about all sorts of things. And all of a sudden, this older lady comes out of nowhere and just starts laying into the yelling, it was drew a crowd of about 30 people, as she’s yelling at us, all you Christians are the same. You all think, you know, we got to believe what you believe in stuff, just stop trying to convert us. Like multiply examples from here. I’m hoping you could multiply examples to, by the way, some conversations that you’ve had with people. But what do all of these stories have in common? These are all conversations, moments that needed a response questions that needed answers. But not only that, there was no obvious good answer. There wasn’t a clear reply in this moment. This is a time when I needed to choose my words, with prayer, and care and wisdom. To be what God has called us to be as Christians, ambassadors heralds those announcing a message we need to speak you can’t announce a message without speaking. But we need to speak well. And so how do we do that? In our passage today, Paul addresses this topic directly. We’ve got much to learn from the greatest evangelist in history. His point is simple. This is the main idea if you want to have it in your heads, we read the passage. Now the main idea is use your words, but choose your words. Use your words, we have to speak but choose your words. So how do we choose? Let’s look at three ways that we choose. First of all, we choose prayerfully prayerfully. This is from verses two to four. Let me read it for us now. Colossians, four, two to four. Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us to that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Frankly, if we got this first part, right, I think we could skip the rest of the sermon, the rest would fall in line very carefully. If we were prayerful in choosing our words. Notice that Paul doesn’t just say pray though, he says Devote yourselves to prayer. Devote yourself to prayer the idea is an ongoing devotion. So do we have special times carved out for prayer perhaps in our morning times of private worship or something? Absolutely. But I think the idea here is that the line is always open. The speakerphone is always on you’re always speaking to God, devoted to that sort of conversation. And in devoting ourselves and Paul tells us we need to be watchful, be alert to the will of God and to the need of the world. We need to have a a mental and a spiritual alertness. What this makes me think of immediately is if you’ve ever been driving in icy conditions, in other words, if you’re from Chicago, you’ve been driving in bad conditions at some point or another and you start to feel the tires slip and All of a sudden, all of your focus contracts into you know, hands on the steering wheel, working foot, you know, brake kind of stuff, you’re paying way more attention to traffic around you than you would on a sunny 80 degree day or something like that. I’ve had times where I’ve been driving and having conversation with my wife next to me, and I can feel that I need to be paying more attention to driving, I don’t say 100 Hold on a second. I just ignore her at that point. Because I’m so focused. That’s the type of heightened awareness that Paul is talking about here. We got to have hands gripping the wheel, knowing this is something we have to pay attention to heightened senses, listening to the Spirit of God devoted to prayer. And then Paul says, As you do that, be thankful as well. To be thankful is simply to see Grace everywhere. And so to rehearse God’s goodness, and faithfulness, no matter what conditions we may be driving in at the moment, this encourages our ongoing prayer to know the God to whom we are speaking. Makes me think of Joshua, you may remember back in early chapters of Joshua, the people of Israel crossed the Jordan River and they cross it on dry land, because God has stocked up the river a little bit ahead of where they are. And so what does Joshua have the priests do? He has them all pick up a stone, one for each tribe. So 12 stones grabbed out of the bottom of the river when it was dry, and they stack them in a pile to remember, this is who God is. You think of what encouragement that would give when they faced, you know, Jericho or something, when they’re Facing insurmountable object obstacles to go. No, no, no, look who God is local goddess, we’re fine. We’re fine. Be thankful. So we’ve got this devoted prayer with watchfulness and thankfulness. But what for since devoted prayer specifically, Paul says that the door may be opened, so that we can proclaim the mystery of the gospel. Remember, the mystery in Colossians is that which was previously hidden, but which has now been revealed, and we have a part to play in revealing that mystery. But this prayer that God would open a door for our message reorients us to our primary purpose, our commission in life, what is our primary purpose? It’s to glorify God. But how do we glorify God do a lot of different ways, but one of the primary ways we glorify God by helping those around us to glorify God as well to engage in the fruitful labor of helping others magnify Christ, Paul says in Philippians one, this is our purpose, our mission as a church, we’re made to magnify and then we’re sent to serve, and how do we serve by helping others magnify Christ to so this sort of alert prayer with our missional focus at the front of our minds, keeps us from muddying the Gospels, crystal clear waters, with tangential issues like politics, and culture war issues. Arguably, the greatest hindrance to our gospel ministry today, are the sorts of distractions, we would rather win some culture war Hill instead of winning the world for Christ, it is clear that many Christians in our country prefer political victories to gospel events. God help us how difficult we make evangelism for ourselves and for others by majoring in the minors. And so here this sort of prayer refocuses us, right? This, this is what we are to be about, we’re to preach the gospel, and the Gospel. Because notice what Paul says, he’s asking God to open a door to the message, not the messenger specifically, again, there’s a laser focus there. What is important here is not that I go through the door, but that the Gospel goes through the door, the message of Christ. So there’s a laser focus, it also wakes us up to some unexpected answers that we might encounter, because we may be praying for the gospel to advance thinking we’re going to be the ones who get to say it. And then it turns out, somebody else gets to say it. I had this recently. In fact, it’s a family member that I’ve spoken to many, many times. And who told me recently, he’s like, Yeah, I was having this conversation with a co worker, and all of a sudden, she started to talk to me like the way you talk to me. I was like, that’s amazing. He’s like, I thought you’d like that. I love that.
Of course I do. And that was I’ve actually prayed that many many times. Look, I’m up I’m a brother. I’m a nobody’s gonna listen to me at this point. I’m too close kind of thing. We could bring other Christians into their lives. Let the message advance. We know how important prayer for the message to advance It is Hudson Taylor shares his story was a famous missionary to China started a number of ministry stations across inland China. And there was one station that was especially fruitful more so than all the others could never figure out why, like the guy who ran it didn’t seem to be particularly talented or anything like that. Well, he’s traveling in the States, Hudson Taylor, you know, raising money for the mission and all that stuff. And someone comes up to him and starts asking him all these questions very specifically about this one station. He’s going, Why are you so interested in this station? He says, Oh, well, since I’ve heard about it, I’ve been praying for it daily. And as well, of course, that explains it. Now. I know why this has been a fruitful mission. He didn’t go through the door. But he was praying that the gospel would go through the door. And certainly it did. Surely though, in praying this we are praying for God to provide opportunities for us to share, too. Here’s the thing, this is in the Word of God, what confidence that should give us. When we pray for open doors, according to these passages, we know that God loves to hear and answer these prayers, that he will in fact, open doors, even in chains. By the way, don’t miss that part. You know, man, I’m open door and I can proclaim the mystery of Christ for which I am in chains. It’s just a reminder, by the way, that sharing the gospel doesn’t always go well for us as messengers. And that’s okay, because we’re hoping to see the message go forth, not the messenger. What a laser focus again, though, that Paul’s like, look, I don’t care. I don’t care. I’m in chains, because the message, the mission, that’s all still happening. He’s not praying for a change of circumstances. He’s praying that God would be glorified in His circumstances, and that the gospel would advance in those circumstances. And so he says, even in chains, Pray that I may declare it clearly. That I may declare it clearly, there’s a clear way to present the gospel. And there are lots of unclear ways to present the gospel. It’s exactly what we’re working on in Journey group right now, if you guys are where my journey group is, and a lot of you are in Journey groups, or discipleship groups, and we’re working on this activity, how do you present the gospel in the most effective way so that it’s tailored to fit the person that you’re speaking to? And we see this in the book of Acts, for example, compare Paul’s evangelistic message to the Jews in Antioch Acts, chapter 13, with the pagans in Athens Acts chapter 17. These are radically different messages. Of course they are, if he’d said the same thing in Athens, that he said in Antioch, all these Athenians would have gone. What? I had no idea what you just said, they had no background in the Old Testament, He had to start somewhere else. So we have to think we have to prepare, how do we communicate this message clearly. And to avoid Christianese? That would just confuse like, again, Paul gets into Athens. And he’s like, when we talk about Leviticus, and they go, I don’t know what a Leviticus is. That’s not helpful. We say lots of not helpful things as Christians don’t wait. You know what you need to be washed in the blood? Come on. That doesn’t mean anything. Of course it does. But you got a whole lot of background that you got to get to first, there’s an old joke, is a graffiti wall at a Christian college, you know, a chalkboard kind of thing. And this was written on there, it said, Jesus said to them, who do you say that I am? Mark chapter eight. Great question. Right? And they replied, You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being the Kerygma, in which we find the ultimate meaning of our interpersonal relationships. And Jesus said, what? Exactly right, exactly. Pray that we may declare it clearly, actually clarify the mystery that has been revealed. But all this talk of choosing our words, prayerfully reminds us we should never talk to a person about God until we have talked to God about that person. Even if by the way that is really frantic quick prayer, because all of a sudden, the door just flung open. You’re like, I’ve never met this person before. But it’s clear I should be talking about Jesus. Lord, would you help me? But we pray, we pray, especially when those conversations get tricky. Like the ones I mentioned in my opening examples, only fools would rushing to conversations like that. But this prayer also moves us away from self reliance to absolute dependence on God. There’s when we face conversations like that, I know what you’re thinking, because it’s what I’m thinking to. I don’t know what to do. I don’t have the answers. I am totally inadequate. Correct. You are, but you know who’s adequate. The spirit who’s indwelling you that’s why we pray. So prayer will lead us to that sort of dependence, that clarity of mission and also to purse severence in prayer, Jesus teaches us this Luke chapter 18 verse one, it says that Jesus told his disciples a parable, to show them that they should always pray and not give up. So that’s the lesson we’re about to get. And what’s the parable He tells it’s of a widow who has been denied justice. And so she keeps going to the judge and saying, Would you give me justice, and he ignores her because she’s poor, she’s insignificant. She doesn’t matter. She’s part of a marginalized community. But she shows up, and she shows up, and she shows up, and she shows up until finally the judge says, Fine, here’s your justice. Why not because he cared about justice, but because he was tired of her banging on the door. Now, the lesson to take away from this, by the way is not that God does not want to give us justice. God is not saying I’m like the unrighteous judge in this parable. All he’s saying is if even an unrighteous judge will finally give in to persistent prayer to persistent requests, how much more so you’re a loving father. That’s the lesson to take away. Look, what persistence does, how faithfully we should pray for the people around us who need to hear the gospel message. The truth is, so often we are half hearted evangelist lacking desperation for those in our lives in truth, lacking love. And so we must devote ourselves to prayer. Before we press on to the next point, I want to pivot just for a moment and address any skeptics who might be in the room this morning. If you’re here, first of all, welcome. We’re so glad that you’re here. And you are very welcome here. But everything I’ve just said so far, might be a little bit shocking to you even a little bit off putting, because you may be sitting there thinking so Wait, y’all are trying to convert me? To which I would say yes, okay. Yes, absolutely. That is right. You have heard me correctly there. I know that that is not how we talk today we live in a culture of speech is violence. And anyone who’s trying to change your mind is encroaching on your personal autonomy, like you do you right? That’s the That’s our culture of primary value. Be true to yourself? What would I say to that in light of this, and in light of the fact that we are very definitely trying to convert you. First of all, the idea of tolerance implies disagreement. You don’t tolerate someone who agrees with you on every point, you tolerate the person who disagrees with you. You go okay, but we can still be friends, even though we don’t agree on this issue or that issue. So I hope you would be open to hearing from us. But beyond that, I would say we all seek to persuade, of course we do. I mean, just look around, would you want to convert the racists in your life? Human traffickers, hate mongers, of course. And it would be right of you to do so it would be a good thing, because it’d be better for them to be freed from those sorts of terrible, terrible decisions. And that’s the key point here. We are seeking to persuade you, because we believe that this is good news. In fact, the very best news, we live in a broken world that’s evident, I don’t need to convince you of that, and we are broken people. But Jesus has come to make all things new. Even you and me. He offers us a fresh start. A second chance, hope for change, when we leave that brokenness behind and follow Him. So pray, all of us that God would open doors for us to speak that truth. And then speak it. So choose your words prayerfully. But use your words, speak that message. Second point.
So use your words, choose your words, choose them wisely, wisely. Verse five, let me read it for us, be wise, and the way you act toward outsiders make the most of every opportunity. So full confession. Of course, this is not about words. He says, Be wise in the way you act, although I think that would include our speech. And so let’s start there at least we can act in ways that implicitly deny the goodness and grace of God implicitly deny God’s presence in our lives. This was true even back then I think Paul is speaking to the clash. And specifically, here’s the way FF Bruce, the great New Testament theologian puts it he says distorted accounts of Christian conduct and belief were in circulation. It was important that Christians should give no color to these colonies, but you’d rather give the lie to them by their regular manner of life. Now things haven’t really changed. Ah, there are a lot of slanderous things said about Christians, we’re hate filled bigots. We are hypocrites, all of us, we only care about money or power, or whatever it may be. And so when we keep quoting Bruce, he says it remains true that the reputation of the gospel is bound up with the behavior of those who claim to have experienced at saving power. People who do not read the Bible for themselves or listen to the preaching of the Word of God can see the lives of those who do and form their judgment accordingly. You’ve heard it said before, I’m sure this is not an original thought, but you may be the only Bible people read and the only Jesus that people see. So what will they learn of the gospel from you? I wrote about this in the Pulse this week. In Matthew chapter nine, when Jesus heals the paralytic, how important was that the paralyzed man actually stood up and walked after Jesus said, Get up and walk like that’s the moment when people began to praise God. Jesus is trying to demonstrate His power, His authority to forgive sins, if he had said, Get up and walk and the guy had stayed on the mat, and said, What can’t you remember? I’m paralyzed? Do you think people would have praised God? No. When Jesus says, Be holy, just as your Father in heaven is a holy, and we keep lying on the mat, do you think people are gonna praise God? No, we have to live the change lives that we have experienced in Christ. A part of being wise and especially wise, and how we speak so that we live these sorts of change lives, is listening, well, listening well, we need to engage in hospitable conversation that invites outsiders in to Paul’s talking about be wise in the way you act toward outsiders and outsider here, we don’t mean people that we want to keep on the outside, we just mean people who are different from us from whatever reason who are separated from our community, it might be ethnicity that separates it might be socio economic status, it certainly would be religion as well. We want to know these people want to welcome them in, of course, how do you do that? How do you welcome somebody in in conversation, especially by asking good questions, not our strength as a culture. I don’t think social media has not helped us here either. We’re good at giving our opinion. Which by the way, makes outsiders stay away. Because why would you want to come into that? Listen to the wisdom of Proverbs here. Fools find no pleasure in understanding, but delight in airing their own opinions. That’s American culture. In a nutshell, right there. That’s us. Just stamped across the whole country. Okay. But imagine how that hinders evangelism. I mean, instead of listening to somebody, what questions do you have what objections come to mind as I speak about this? Share your background? Where are you coming from? You go, Whoa, hey, I don’t need to hear that. Okay. I’m trying to get through my can gospel presentation here. If you all could just be quiet for a moment. That is not inviting somebody in or proverbs 1813 To answer before listening, that his folly and shame. Do you think the gospel is accepted from that statement right there? No, of course not. We listen well, so that we can speak well. Fools rush into conversations, but to be wise, is to be slow to speak, and quick to listen, all while persevering in prayer, of course. At the same time, let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are being wise and prayerful for a purpose. We are aiming to make the most of every opportunity. There is an urgency to our conversations. I know that’s we I gotta said two different things. We got to be slow to speak and yet urgent. In our message. Yes, exactly. Holman intention. That’s fine. Okay. But there’s this urgency because of our love. For those around us. We need to speak this message because they need to hear this message. Let me make a brief aside here I am a firm believer that language shapes thought and as a result, shapes culture. And so we need to be very careful with the words we use and how we use them. I’ll give you just a smaller example to kind of make the point. What do you call this room? It’s kind of a big deal actually. Is this the sanctuary? So I don’t like calling it the sanctuary because sanctuary means holy place and this is not a holy place. This is just a room. It’s got brick and mortar and windows and all that stuff. What makes it holy is when we are here because this sanctuary is us. We are the living stones being built up into the temple of God. And if we met in a different room that’s the sanctuary. So why don’t I call this the sanctuary? So let’s call it the worship center. A lot of churches doing that now, right? You don’t want to like that one. Because it implies that this is the place where worship happens. You know, we’re worship should happen. Everywhere you go all the time, no matter what everything you do, dude, all the glory of God. All right, what about the auditorium then? Honestly, I like that one better, because you do listen in this room. But we also are meant to speak the truth in love to one another to sing to one another. So this is not just a place for listening for speaking as well plus auditorium implies spectating and you are not here as spectators we know that. This all that to say I don’t know what to call this room. Literally call it the gathering room in my head, at least because well, that’s I know we do that here. At least this is where we go. Okay, you see how that language those shapes our thinking. Alright, so now let’s get back to our topic. How do we speak about evangelism most often, we refer to it as sharing the gospel. But there’s a problem with that. Elliot Clark points this out in his book evangelism is exiles well worth reading. He says the problem with this is that we share when people want something from us. I use the word share a lot in my household, especially with my boys. One of them, let’s say Callum will have a truck and Mari will be sobbing next to him. Roles are often reversed. Because he wants the truck. There is a bin next to him with 800 other trucks. None of those exists. None of those are good, right? And we need this one. And so we have to say to Captain look, Amari would like a turn, you need to share it because Amari wants it we need to share. Is that what evangelism is like? Oh, that’ll inhibit evangelism, won’t it? Because how often do people come up to you and go, I really need to know how to get peace in my life. Could you help me out here? No. How does the New Testament speak of it, you can read the entirety of the New Testament, you will search in vain for the phrase share the Gospel, you know what you will see instead, proclaim the gospel. That is what we are called to do not share it, but to proclaim it. So we pray for opportunities and then we seize them. Even if there’s not an open invitation, would you please tell me about this, we searched for them like a mouse running from a cat searches for even the smallest crevice to crawl through. And when we proclaim the gospel, so we take the opportunities that God provides forth, we also seek to make opportunities where we can proclaim the gospel, I need to say something, Can I Can I say something? Can I Can we talk for a moment. We cannot do this well, with our current pace of living in the suburbs, which means our lives need to change. And I’m speaking to myself here, too. We need to slow down our pace of life so that we can see and seize these opportunities, you cannot see clearly when you are flying by I know this I was just in Costa Rica. If you know me, well, you know, I went there to look for birds. I don’t know what the rest of my family was doing. I was there for the birds. And so I would have my camera out all the time, even when we were driving in a bumpy Boston stuff. And I would go there’s no chance to take a picture, no chance to identify nothing like that. That’s us with our Gospel opportunities.
It’s gone. We need to slow down. I just wrote about this for the gospel coalition in an article called don’t reap to the edges of your life. This is the idea exactly. Most of us we have no margins left. So don’t worry, it’s taken from a little bit of Kiss. Don’t rip it out of your life. Like you gotta leave the edges of your field. For those who are in need. We don’t have fields but we do have calendars Have you left the gleanings, the edges for the people who are going to need you in your life who are hungry and desperate for word even if they don’t know what you need to cut stuff. I will not say it any less bluntly than that you need to cut stuff out of your life see a margin for mission because this is the commission God has given us and we will certainly not here well done good and faithful servant. We don’t carry out the commission that he gave us to do. Choose your words wisely. But then use them making the most of every opportunity to proclaim the gospel. Third, use your words but choose your words, choose graciously verse six, let me read it for us. Let your conversation be always full of grace. See Season with salt so that you may know how to answer everyone. Paul gives us three new keys here to choosing our words they need to be seasoned with salt addressed to individuals and full of grace. Now Season with salt is the most confusing one for us today. That’s not how we often think about our conversation. But in pagan thoughts, salt suggests wit, me quote, FF Bruce again, he says, nor will their speech be acceptable, if it is insipid. Those who are the salt of the earth may be reasonably expected to have some savor about their language. We’re not talking about being merely pithy here, those if that’s what was needed, but conversation that evidences sustained reflection that actually adds something to the conversation, the way that salt adds flavor to a bland dish. Have you thought deeply enough about the gospel to communicate its many facets to those in need? Or do you only have one version of the gospel that you can share? The one that you memorize way back when for most of us, by the way, that would be the courtroom language. We were guilty. We had a punishment that we deserved, when the judge got down off the bench and took the punishment on himself so that we can be declared innocent, not wrong, good message to speak, okay, our legal standing before God matters. But that’s a message that speaks to the guilty. You know what our culture doesn’t feel for the most part today? Guilty. You have anything else to say? Can you speak to the hopeless to the ashamed? To those who are feeling unsatisfied, even as they chase after idols? I could go on from there. This is why we need an individual focus, by the way, so Season with salt but addressed individuals. What does Paul say we know how to answer each one. So that we you may know how to answer everyone, as a unique image bearer requiring a unique presentation of gospel truths. Again, why we listen well, why we ask questions, why we speak slowly. All of that is so that we can learn how you can take Paul in Athens, he did not actually have conversation with pagan philosophers before him. But you know what he did before he spoke to them, he walked around the city. And he paid attention, so that when he spoke to them, he said, I saw, I saw that you’re very religious, that you’re you care about this stuff. But you’ve also got an altar to an unknown God. Let me talk about him. You see, he knew how to answer the people before him because he paid attention. The Gospel speaks to all of us where we are. But we got to know where people are, in order to have the gospel speak to them, we got to listen to know that takes us into the final piece, though. So it’s Season with salt addressed to individuals, but it should also be full of grace. And there is a double meaning here and both the English and the Greek full of grace talking about the content, but also the character of our speech. And that makes sense. Our speech should display the gospel. You cannot separate the message from the medium. Can you share a harsh, unkind, hateful gospel? That doesn’t even make sense? That’s a contradiction in terms true doctrine Express falsely is false. And here’s the rule Ephesians 429. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs. So that it may benefit those who listen, do not let any. But only these are absolute terms. There are no exceptions to this rule. That it may benefit those who listen more literally in the ESV renders it this way, that it may give grace to those who listen exactly as we full of grace, that it may give grace to those who listen, every conversation you have must give grace to those listening. Or else according to this verse, at least, I may be wrong here. But I think it’s sin. If it does not give grace to those who are listening, then is not in keeping with Ephesians 429. And by the way, then let me just real quick if you’re a skeptic here today and you’ve been hurt, by the way Christians have spoken to you just know that was sin. That was wrong. That was profoundly evil. And I am sorry for you. The gospel will offend you. It offends all of us. The fact that we cannot do it on our own is deeply deeply of offensive but we should give no offense other than the gospel. So playing on the double meaning let’s just talk about the character and content character side. Again, what does this look like? It looks like listening well, asking honest questions speaking with kindness and gratitude and living the gospel in deed. There is no place for Christian blowhards for endless debating for the focus on those tangential issues like politics and culture wars. There’s no place for content without the character. And we follow Jesus’s example, and think about how Jesus spoke to sinners. He spoke in such a way that the truth was always there. He was not wishy washy on truth, was he? No. And sinners flocked to him. They flocked to him. The prostitutes, the tax collectors, they’re like, where’s Jesus? If I got to be there, do they flock to you? And if not, why not? Are you not following your mast? And then even the notice how he responded when people confronted him? You are talking about the character, the Gospel? Jesus had people come at him regularly. How do you respond? Do you respond like Jesus? He often asked questions when people confronted him to defuse the situation. So I remember when I was at the community college and the lady came in, like both barrels blazing. Thankfully, I was with somebody else. This is not my strength. I’m not good at asking questions. You wanna know why? I’m a preacher? I got all the answers. This is bad. I repent. Okay, right there before you I confess, I repent. The guy next to me much better at this. All he did was he looked at the lady and he said, So what’s your name? It completely changed her demeanor. Like that was Jesus right there. And so we we respond by asking kind, gospel questions, go back to some of the stories I shared in the intro is, you know, Allah also is merciful to us. There’s no difference between this is mercy different than grace? Is there a difference between doing all you can and then seeing if God will respond and having God initiate and then doing what you can in response? Or the couple who asks, Does your church welcome gays and lesbians? Which it certainly does, by the way? Well, okay, what do you mean by welcome? Those are different words, does welcoming someone imply acceptance of every part of their life? Is there anyone that you would welcome into church but say, but the behavior? We want to see change? If somebody came in who was a member of the kk k? Would we welcome them? Yeah, they need Jesus, don’t they? Would we welcome their racism? No, no, of course not. Or the lady who was attacking you already? You’re trying to convert? Should you ever tried to persuade someone? Is it ever right? And maybe even imperative that we seek to persuade? Those are important questions. In fact, of course, that lady was trying to persuade me right then that you shouldn’t try to persuade people, all sorts of interesting conversations here. So there’s the character of the gospel, it’s not the content of the the full of grace, peace. What do we mean by that, then it means that every conversation should be about Jesus. It can be it really can be it can be about His love, His life, His death, His resurrection and his return. Does that mean we go through the front door every time? I’m glad you brought that up, let’s open up to God a gospel of John. No, not necessarily. Okay.
But the if Jesus is the focus of our hearts, He will certainly be the aim of our conversation. Again, those are some of the ones that I just mentioned, is there a difference between obeying to be accepted and being accepted? Therefore obey? Can we welcome and at the same time call out of sin? Can we persuade for good okay? Those are not conversations explicitly about Jesus. But those are conversations talking about God’s character and work the sinfulness of humanity, the foundations of morality. And those are all gospel conversations. Choose your words graciously, but then use them speak grace to those in desperate need of it. It’s an important message for us. It’s an important message for us because so often we closed doors because we are Prayerless foolish and argumentative with our words. Why is that? I’ve actually preached this message before you probably missed it because it was the first week when we weren’t meeting as a church because of COVID The last week of our better yes series and so maybe you missed it, but if you did watch and took notes or like hey, he already use these words. Yes. I did. Okay. And yet we still need to hear it. We haven’t all changed. We haven’t all been perfected, why not? So it clearly this is not just a lack of information on our part. Why do we need this message? Why do we keep speaking prayer was foolish and argumentative words, Augustine would tell us rightly, just because we got our priorities wrong. We’ve got our loves out of order. I mean, just think for a moment, why would you speak Prayerless words? Why would you ever be Prayerless? answers because you love yourself more than God? You would never say that I know. And yet it happens. Because that’s what you’re expressing when you are self reliant. Trusting in the flesh, I will speak to God when I need help. That’s a lot of us, isn’t it? And so it’s about me, like God is just the drive thru order. I’m gonna need some circumstances change today. Why would you speak foolish words? Why would you be foolish and the way you act towards outsiders, even with your schedules, for example, because you love yourself more than you love your neighbors, don’t you? And so you are pursuing salvation through activities, creating an identity for yourself by the things that you do are more likely in the suburbs by the things you have your kids do. And you cannot give that up. Because this is where your salvation lies. Why would you speak argumentative cruel words, because you love yourself more than you love the gospel. You love the issues that matter to you more than you love the gospel. And so you become tribal and narrow, instead of proclaiming the inclusive gospel of Christ. There is this thought that we all have that a good person thinks apps about abortion, LGBTQ issues, critical race theory, regulations for trains, carrying hazardous materials. And if a good person thinks those things, and you don’t think those things, good, logical syllogism you’re a bad person, and I am within my rights to disdain you and to speak disdainfully to you, so we don’t communicate the content and the character the gospel because we can’t, because our idols where we seek to establish our identity to make us hateful, disdainful, or even just dismissive. So what’s the solution? The solution is, of course, Jesus. Jesus, who loves us to the uttermost and meets us in those spaces, you don’t need to save yourself. You don’t need to create an identity for yourself. You don’t need to, to disdain other people to make yourself feel good about yourself, because God already loves you in Christ is met you and your schedule and the issues in your identity. So the gospel frees us to bless, rather than fight makes us selfless instead of selfish, just like Jesus, and Jesus was persecuted. He was attacked, how did he respond? Within salt? No, often was silence, and always with love. You ever said something you wish you hadn’t? Of course, I could have met you right now. And no, that’s true of you. Why? Because you weren’t trusting in Jesus, and you weren’t resting in his love. That’s why every time he is the word, that word of grace, that we are speaking, we need to listen. And then we need to speak that word. Use your words, but choose your words. prayerfully, wisely, graciously, just two quick words, as I close, I want to send you out with this ringing in your ears. First of all, to skeptics, again, if you’re here today and a skeptic, this has been a sermon about speaking to you. And so as you probably do it at some point, here’s what I would say to you, as you go from here. Make the most of your opportunities. And what I mean by that is making the most of your opportunity to hear the gospel to listen to it to engage with the gospel. Listen well to those who are explaining the mystery of Christ. Well, whose life matches the message they’re proclaiming? If they’re not, if they’re foolish and argumentative. Don’t quit on Christianity. But find someone else to listen to. But then listen, like actually engage with his message. Allow yourself to at least be open to persuasion because that’s just the humility of acknowledging we might not know what we’re talking about any of us about anything. And so listen to the Gospel Church, then. This is where we’re weakest. I don’t think there’s anyone here who would give us top marks for evangelistic zeal as a church. I don’t think this is our strength. So we need to keep talking about this. So that we start talking about this. With those around us merit mentioned already, we Got a revival series coming. As he mentioned, we have our sermon series usually planned about a year in advance. So we are trusting that the fact that this is coming right after Asbury is the providence of God, hopefully God is beginning something that’s about to go nationwide, we would love to see that. Because we need revival in our lives, in our church and in our communities. And we do want to be praying about this. I certainly hope that all of you who are here in this room now will be in the fellowship hall at 915. Next week, this series is building to Easter very intentionally, like it ends on Palm Sunday. Why? Because we’re going to talk about reaching out and inviting in whether that’s an inviting into church to the Easter service, sure, but most especially to a relationship with Jesus. So would you start praying now about that? Even before we get to the speaking the words would you pray is what we said, right? You got to start with prayer. Who is your one? Or two? Or three or five? Or 12? Who is your one? Would you be praying God grant me the opportunity open the door, so that I can use prayerful, wise and gracious words. Let’s pray now. Father, we pray that You would open a door so that our message can advance the gospel message, your message may advance, we pray that You would help us to be alert, watchful, thankful, devoted to prayer so that we can see and seize the opportunities around us. We pray that You would help us to listen well to ask good questions, to think, pray and prepare so that when we speak, we speak clearly making the most of every opportunity that you’ve given us. And we certainly pray, Lord, that You would be changing us so that when we speak our words, communicate not just the content, but the character of the gospel, that we would be gracious and loving in all that we do and say, But Lord, that’s not the end of our prayer. The end of our prayer is that after all that has happened, that the people who here would receive the message that they would respond, and the repentance and faith that you give them as you raise them to new life in Christ, by grace through faith, Lord, make us bold, loving, wise ambassadors for your kingdom. That’s for your glory we pray, amen.