Why we don’t and why we should talk about Jesus

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 5:42)
The first Christians never stopped talking about Jesus. The problem for many Christians today is that we don’t know how to start. Even facing persecution, the Early Church would not be silenced. As Peter and John said to the Sanhedrin, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20)
Today many Christians feel unprepared to share our faith. We are afraid we don’t know how to speak simply and directly about Jesus, or how to answer challenging questions. It is both appropriate and entirely spiritual to prepare in advance to give answers to particular questions, just as witnesses in court would prepare their testimony beforehand. That is the reason behind this series, “Prepared to Answer.” Not only will we have a better idea of what we might say, but we will also be more vigilant and be more able to recognise openings to speak when they come. And then we will be more confident and bold to talk about Jesus and to discuss our faith.
There are so many reasons why we would want to tell other people about Jesus! God has given us all the marvellous blessings of salvation. Our sins are forgiven so we can have a relationship with God our loving heavenly Father. We have received the free gift of eternal life, life in all its fullness which begins here and how and will continue in heaven forever. So we are indebted to God. We are so grateful for the grace He has poured into lives and for the love, joy and peace we experience day by day.in our relationship with Jesus. Then we are commissioned and sent by Jesus to preach the Good News.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)
“Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. (Mark 16:15)
Jesus gives all His disciples this wonderful promise!
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
It is the Holy Spirit Who initiates evangelism, and leads and guides and empowers Christians in evangelism. So throughout the book of Acts and through the Letters the Early Church give us continual examples of their witness. God gives to all Christians the responsibility of being His Ambassadors. And we are also motivated to talk about Jesus as we love with God’s love both friends and strangers who the Bible tells us are lost and even dead without Christ.
Somebody described this gospel which brings us salvation as, “the most crucial piece of knowledge possible about real life.” The most fundamental reason for preaching the gospel is found within the gospel itself. It is a message so important that it deserves and demands to be passed on. As somebody has said, it is “the simple ‘news’ of the gospel itself that provides a missionary impetus for sharing the news with our ‘news starved’ society.” (W. Brueggeman) The gospel in itself is our motivation for talking about Jesus. So why don’t we?
Some Christians are unsure of what the gospel actually is. What is the Good News of Jesus Christ? We talked about that last week and if you missed that sermon it is online or I can give you a paper copy. A big part of this series of sermons called “Prepared to Answer” is to help us be sure of what the gospel is and to have some answers ready for the kinds of questions people might ask us.
But then there are some Christians who think we shouldn’t need to tell other people about Jesus. They say that if we live Christ-like lives then we shouldn’t need to actually tell anybody the gospel. There is a saying which became so popular in the 1990s that some people think it is true. They say that Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel, if necessary use words.” Some Christians use the saying as a comfortable excuse not to talk about Jesus. They think it is a “get-out clause” so they don’t need to have uncomfortable conversations or say unpopular things. It is even used by some people to suggest that if we actually need to use words we have somehow failed to witness adequately to Christ in our daily living. Unhelpfully this can leave Christians feeling guilty if they do talk about Jesus. But this slogan is just plain wrong. Any idea that our actions should be sufficient and that words should not be necessary in evangelism is just rubbish.
In fact, Francis of Assisi never said, “preach the gospel and if necessary use words.” Or anything like it! Biographers of Francis tell us that he never would have said something like that. A Roman Catholic called Emily Stimpson wrote this. “Every chance Francis got, he proclaimed the Gospel. He proclaimed it to the wolves in the forest. He proclaimed it to the Sultan in Egypt. He wouldn’t stop talking about Jesus. He couldn’t. Anymore than a woman in love can stop talking about her beloved. The thought of not speaking about his love, about Christ, to the world, would have horrified (Francis).” “He knew what the Church has always known. There is no “if” about the necessity of words in evangelization, just as there is no “if” about the necessity of actions. They are both necessary. They are both essential.” “Preach the gospel. Since it is necessary, use words.”
In his 1974 encyclical on evangelism, His Holiness Pope Paul VI pronounced, “Nevertheless [witness] always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified…and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.”
Preaching the gospel always needs words. No popular slogan will ever give us permission to stay silent. We don’t have a choice. Talking about Jesus is not an optional extra!
Some misguided Christians nowadays are rejecting literal understandings of hell and eternal judgement. There is this growing idea that “love wins” and in the end everybody will be saved. Some mistakenly feel that, if nobody is ultimately “lost”, why do we need to talk about Jesus at all? Those ideas are wrong. Our friends and neighbours and colleagues really do still need God to save them!
There are many other reasons why Christians find it hard to talk about Jesus. Somebody has written, “They are afraid of giving offence, causing embarrassment or being met with apathy, misunderstanding or ridicule. They may not wish to risk valued friendships. Perhaps the biggest cause of misgivings is the fear of being made to appear foolish, and thus of betraying their faith.” (Andrew Kirk in Mission Under Scrutiny, DLT 2006 p 91)
There are pressures from society making it less acceptable to talk about our faith. Nowadays we are told that the only thing we can be certain of is that we aren’t allowed to be certain about anything anymore. It is seen as politically incorrect to challenge somebody else’s opinion. It isn’t easy to proclaim that Jesus Christ is unique, the only way to God and the only source of salvation. These claims can sound arrogant and even rude, even though we know they are true.
Some Christians are disillusioned with sharing their faith because they have tried before but feel they have failed. Some are afraid of failing or of taking risks or of losing friends. And recent highly publicised judgments of industrial tribunals and of courts have been disappointing in penalising Christians for sharing their faith. So it is completely understandable if we are scared of the potential consequences of witnessing for Christ in the workplace or in public places.
We thought last week about how hard it was for the first Christians to declare that “Jesus is Lord” in a society where they were only allowed to say, “Caesar is Lord”. Telling other people that we are Jesus’s disciples will sometimes carry risks. But the courageous witness of countless believers through history and around the world today puts many of us to shame. And the words of Jesus challenge us.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:24-26)
There are all these important reasons why we should be talking to our friends and neighbours and colleagues about Jesus. But there are also all these kinds of discouragements which mean that often we don’t. We may we anxious about talking about Jesus. We may be afraid. We need to put our trust in God. God, the Holy Spirit Himself, is living and working inside us!
2 Timothy 1:7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner.
God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us to be His witnesses. God does not want us to be worried or afraid about speaking for Him. Jesus knew what His disciples would face and He promised the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mark 13:9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
If we are worried or scared about talking about Jesus, we need to release the power of the Holy Spirit by praying. Evangelism must start in prayer, and evangelism must continue surrounded in prayer.
Ephesians 6 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
Paul asked the Ephesian Christians to pray for him that he might be a faithful ambassador for Jesus. He asked them to pray that he might talk about Jesus without being afraid. If the apostle to the Gentiles Paul needed prayer then we do even more! We should be praying those kind of prayers for ourselves and for each other. Especially if we are scared or worried about talking about Jesus, we should pray about that. Paul also asks the Colossian Christians to pray for him.
Colossians 4: 2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
So Paul asks other Christians to pray for him, that God will open doors for him to talk about Jesus and that he will be clear in what he says when he does. We can pray those things for ourselves and for each other. He continues,
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
We should pray for our evangelism, that God will give us opportunities to talk about Jesus and that He will enable us to make the most of every opportunity. We pray to know how we may answer everyone the best we can. There is a wise saying, “Always talk to God about your friend before you talk to your friend about God.” So we pray, and keep on praying, for our friends – that they will be saved! We should pray in our personal devotions, in Home Groups and Cell Groups and special prayer meetings and days of prayer, in prayer walking and sometimes praying with fasting. If we are serious about evangelism we will take every opportunity to pray! And we pray for boldness.
When the first Christians prayed for boldness, this is what happened.
Acts 4:29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.

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