I’ve been struck once again by the reminder that the simple things in life so often are the most important things. And it’s those simple things that we can lose site of as our lives invariably tend towards the complex.
As my wedding anniversary approaches I find myself flustered, as I can’t quite locate the perfect present that I am looking for. We’re going away for a few days and now there’s a time crunch. I should have taken care of this earlier, but I haven’t. I worry about not getting something and failing to show my wife how much she means to me. In the mean time, the stress of the present-buying as well as concluding other business before we leave is getting to me. I sleep less when I’m stressed, which makes me more irritable. Only when I pause for a moment (after successfully locating the gift) do I see the irony in all of this. In my effort to play the husband I lost of site of being the husband.
The Heart of our Gospel Message is the Gospel
The job of sharing our Christian faith is part and parcel of what we signed up to. Evangelism isn’t a role for an expert who has all the answers, but a call to everyone who has made Jesus Lord. But boy are there days when we wish we could outsource this obligation to the pros! More answers, more knowledge, more persuasion, more compassion, more time, more patience … if only I had more.
We know we are saved by grace through faith alone, as Ephesians says:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
If I them therefore saved by grace, and not my works, how am I reflecting this in my evangelism? Now I have spent time and I have spent money to learn and prepare to “give an answer for the hope” that I have. I read books and I listen to podcasts and I attend lectures. And all of this is good.
But the core of our message is still a message of grace. I wasn’t chosen by God to be adopted into His family on merit. It was totally undeserved. Therefore, I must never, ever let me efforts cloud the message. My doing must never get in the way of demonstrating what Christ has done for me.
The Apostle Paul boasted in his weaknesses. The man who wrote much of the New Testament and was to early church planting as Michael Phelps is to American swimming knew that his efforts and his successes were nothing compared to the glory of the Resurrected Jesus. That’s why all of his efforts only promoted Christ, and didn’t bring attention to himself.
Sadly, I am still a long way from this.
Feed on Truth
C. S. Lewis, of whom William Lane Craig believes all modern Christian apologetics is indebted to, once wrote, “A man can’t be always defending the truth; there must be a time to feed on it.”
After moving to Oxford 5 years ago my life was once more synchronized with the academic schedule. Suddenly I was thinking in school terms again. This means that the Summer is actually the end of my year and the time I think about what’s on the horizon, what I’m planning and hoping for.
Defending the gospel is only good when it is defending the gospel. It becomes complicated when we defend our own ideas, or justify our personal actions. The heart of the gospel message is the gospel itself.
A good friend of mine is fond of reminding me to ‘Preach the gospel to myself’. In my struggling and my striving I was reminded to tell myself what the gospel is, again and again. And as Nathan helpfully reminded me, our “personal life and intimacy with God is the fuel and it is essential to being able to run this race, cover some serious ground and see stuff happen.”
To defend the truth we must be feeding on it. We must be being transformed by it. We must be inviting it to permeate all areas of our life. We must be willing to drop everything for it and to hold nothing back from the light of it.
It as this point that my heart echoes John Newton who said:
“Yet, though I am not what I ought to be, nor what I wish to be, nor what I hope to be, I can truly say, I am not what I once was; a slave to sin and Satan; and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge, “By the grace of God I am what I am.””
 Ephesians 2:8–10, ESV
 1 Peter 3:15
 2 Corinthians 11:30
 C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms
 John Newton, The Christian Spectator (Vol. 3, 1821)