Guest blog from Matt Brown
Movements of God
I’m an eternal optimist about the Church in America or any other part of the world. I believe as missionary Adoniram Judson once stated: “The future is as bright as the promises of God!”
I am such a big fan of so many movements of God I see moving across our nation today.
I love The Gospel Coalition. I love Desiring God. I love Harvest America. I love My Hope with Billy Graham. I love the Lausanne Movement. I love Love 2020 from Mission America Coalition.
The Lausanne Movement was started by Billy Graham in the 1970’s and which has become one of the most beautiful networks of Church unity around mission in the world. Lausanne’s recent affirmation was: “A divided Church has no message for a divided world. Our failure to live in reconciled unity is a major obstacle to authenticity and effectiveness in mission.”
Pray, Care, Share the Gospel
One of the emphasis of Mission America Coalition, the North American branch of the Lausanne Movement is on praying, caring and sharing the gospel. It sounds simple, but it is really quite profound.
Essentially, the majority of Christians focus on one or two of these, and miss the bigger picture. We must pray: we must depend on the Holy Spirit’s leading and movement. We must care: we must listen to our world and speak their language. We must share: there is Holy Spirit power when we preach the gospel!
Many passionate Christians focus most on praying and sharing, but lack when it comes to really caring for the person. In fact, there is an evident lack of the Spirit in many evangelism efforts I’ve seen.
The evidence of the Spirit in our lives
Scripture tells us "when the Holy Spirit controls our lives" we will have certain characteristics that show that His character is rubbing off on us.
In what we say and what we do, people should see certain fruits of God’s character in us and on us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.
These fruits of the Spirit are the litmus test for what it means to look and act like Jesus.
If we are speaking out of bitterness, anger, frustration, fear – these things are not of the Spirit of God. Ask yourself when rebuking others: Is this statement done out of joy? Done out of love? Done out of gentleness? Done out of kindness? Well then … it’s probably not of the Spirit!
Nowhere in Scripture has God ever given us a warrant to be a jerk.
In the words of my friend Jonathan Dodson, in his powerful book Unbelievable Gospel: “It’s that kind of non-Spirit-led, fleshly preaching that turns people from the gospel everyday.”
What about the angry prophets?
When you talk about this kind of stuff, there’s always someone who wants to point to the angry, ancient prophets or Jesus flipping over tables on the moneychangers. True, the prophets weren’t very nice in what they said or how they said it, but that was before Christ entered the scene, when God was still leading people to kill alien nations.
Now, that we all have unusual access to the Holy Spirit’s power to control our lives, through Christ’s sacrifice, we are to walk in “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) as “the aroma of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:15) to the world around us.
And as for Jesus with the moneychangers, we need to remember that he was turning over tables inside the church, not outside. Judgment needs to begin with the house of God, with my own heart. With the measure we use to judge others hearts and motives, that same measure will be used against us by God and other people. So let’s start off on the foot of graciousness.
Some Christians have been acting out of what they assumed was radical obedience to God, but have actually been living completely opposite to the Spirit of God in revealed Scripture, and the fruits God gives us for a Spirit-controlled life and witness, and may need to repent.
You have heard of Spirit-filled living. We also need this Spirit-controlled living.
A better way to show Christ
Make no mistake. We are called as Christians to persuade people towards the gospel. It is one of our main responsibilities. Paul says: “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this too.” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
I’ve been asking myself a question lately, and it has been wrecking my heart: How is the world supposed to see the grace of God if the people of God are not gracious to each other or to the lost?
The study note next to Proverbs 16:21 explains: “Gracious words make a person persuasive.” It is not our arguments or our tight-doctrine that make us persuasive to people, it is the graciousness and love and joy that only come from a Christ-filled and Spirit-controlled life. If we walk in step with the Spirit and exhibit these characteristics to a world thirsty for grace: who wouldn’t want to be around someone who talks and acts this way?
When we are gracious, we introduce a little more of the character of God to the world.
God, more than anyone, has the right to banish us, to speak ill of us, to expose our heart’s motives, to reveal how wrong we are, and yet God is more gracious to us than anyone.
The gospel shows us that God is not running after us to smite us, but to save us. "God so loved the world,” and “God did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” (John 3:16-17) These truths should be enough to drive this point home, and any fear monger who wants to talk about God’s judgment has to go through this verse first.
The Gospel is not our work, our rules, our religious structure, but it’s that God is anxiously desirous of every person on earth. He wants to reconcile people to Himself. He’s given everything in His Son to reconcile people to Himself. That’s the hope in the Gospel that people around the world need to hear today, and it’s that simple proclamation, that simple hearing of this grace and this love that God has offered in His Son, Jesus Christ, that transforms the human heart.
This gracious gospel preached graciously does something profound to the human heart.
Paul talked about the seeming "foolishness of preaching" this simple story of Jesus and His graciousness (1 Corinthians 1:18). But for His own perfect reasons, God chooses to move through the story of His Son. When we talk about who Jesus was, and what He did, and His great love and gracious covering for our sin – God takes it and drives it supernaturally into the human heart, and the Holy Spirit draws people into faith in Christ.
As we graciously share this story of Jesus, the graciousness of God is evident and draws people to the grace of Christ that can save them.
Matt Brown is an evangelist, author, and founder of Think Eternity. He and his wife Michelle are impacting thousands of people with the gospel each year through live events and online. They also minister to over 150,000 people on social media on a near-daily basis. You can follow him @evangelistmatt.