- From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy. 1 John 1:1-4
Sunday morning Rebekah and I got up and prepared for worship in the usual way. But then she headed in to preach at WFPC while I jumped on I-40 and headed south-east to enjoy the rare privilege of filling the pulpit at the Presbyterian church in Dunn.
My friend Howard Dudley serves as pastor there. He is one of the most gifted young adults in ministry I know and he is engaged in some important work with the good people of Eastern North Carolina.
I have done a little consulting work with the Dunn church vis-a-vis visioning for new men’s ministry initiatives and Howard invited me to speak to the entire congregation during worship yesterday morning.
I have a lot of experience leading retreats, teaching classes, and keynoting at conferences, but I don’t often get the opportunity to speak from the pulpit.
What I enjoyed most yesterday was the interactive element. I felt like I was talking with the people instead of simply to them.
My message was built around the idea that Jesus is God’s invitation to new life. We, by extension, are called to live as God’s invitation too. Not just via words but in the way that we engage life – light and love and hope and grace and promise spilling out all over the place.
Here is a short section from my message:
So I have a question: Having heard the way the Apostle John expressed himself in the scripture reading, what does your testimony look like?
No, I don’t mean “What convincing argument or dramatic story do you have at your fingertips, ready to coerce another person into saying “the sinner’s prayer” and ending with them being “won for Christ.”
Instead, what I am asking is this:
- “Do you tell the amazing truth about the Gospel of Love in the way that you live your life?”
- “Do you share the good news of Jesus simply by being?”
People ask me all the time how they can do a better job of sharing faith with their friends, family, work colleagues, and neighbors? I always say this:
- “Is the life inside you so vibrant that it can’t help but spill over?”
- And, “Do you carry a light in your heart that is bright enough to be seen by others?”
- And, “Does Jesus so animate your goodness and kindness and generosity that people notice something different and become curious as to what is going on with you?”
- Or, “Paul wrote about the Fruit of the Spirit as if the evidence of our relationship with God would be so obvious that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control would actually define us.
In other words, what story does our life as a believer tell about the Good News that is this amazing gift of faith and new life?
For me, sharing with the good people of Dunn was an affirmation and an encouragement for me and my own journey of faith.
There is really only one thing I can offer as a communicator of the Good News, and that is an authentic presentation of the light and the love that constantly animate my life as a follower of Jesus.
To the extent that we tell that story, we become extensions of the invitation God offers through Jesus.
- This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there’s not a trace of darkness in him. If we claim that we experience a shared life with him and continue to stumble around in the dark, we’re obviously lying through our teeth—we’re not living what we claim. But if we walk in the light, God himself being the light, we also experience a shared life with one another… 1 John 1:5-7