The Jonah Factor
The Bible makes clear that Christians are to verbally share the gospel with all who are willing to listen. Two reasons can be ascertained from scripture as to why this is so. The first is that it is commanded by Christ. Just before his ascension into heaven he gave to the disciples what has come to be known as the Great Commission. In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus ushers this command: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). Notice the active language. Jesus does not say ‘stay and wait for people to come to you to be made disciples’, but “Go…and make disciples…” Additionally, when these disciples have been made we are to teach ‘them to observe all that Jesus has commanded them.’ Thus the Great Commission is not simply about bringing people to Christ through the proclamation of the gospel, but is also about growing people in Christ--it’s about discipleship.
A second reason that can be ascertained from scripture as to why Christians should be about the business of proclaiming the gospel at every given opportunity is that it is the primary means by which we glorify God. Regarding believers the apostle Peter writes: “you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV). Hence, the reason believers have been called be a “chosen race”, a “royal priesthood”, a “holy nation”, and a “people for his own possession” is so they might “proclaim the excellences of him who called” them. It is clear from scripture that we exist for God’s glory. God says in Isaiah, “bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory” (43:6-7 ESV). And at the end of Romans 11 the apostle Paul extols: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (v.36 ESV). It is for this reason the late theologian Author Pink once aptly stated: ‘The gospel of Jesus Christ is not an invitation, but a proclamation. And it is not a proclamation regarding sinners, but a proclamation regarding Christ and that glorious thing which he accomplished at the cross.’ In the end, there is no greater and more poignant means of glorifying Christ than by telling the world about what he accomplished on your behalf at Calvary.
Ah! But then there’s the fear factor. When we know God has presented us with an opportunity to share the gospel with someone. Our heart starts pounding, our pulse starts racing, and great drops of sweat began to pour off our face. And in our heart, like Jonah, we run! And—if it weren’t for the sake of embarrassment—we would physically run! But what is so encouraging about the story of Jonah is that here was a man who had no desire to warn the Ninevites about their coming destruction from God. He wanted them to perish and wanted God to wipe them out. However, after a series of providentially misfortunate circumstances, he ends up going to Nineveh as God had commanded him. When he arrives he preaches what is arguably the worst sermon ever delivered in human history—“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (3:4 ESV). And then we’re told the entire city put their faith in God and repented in sackcloth and ashes. Billy Graham never had this kind of success! And Jonah’s heart wasn’t even in it! Thus when the fear factor hits, we need to remember the Jonah factor—the only thing God wants us to do is open our mouth and say something…and God will do the rest. Leading others to Christ is not a matter of being smart or articulate or having a ton of scripture memorized or being able to pull out apologetical arguments about the existence of God--it’s about obedience. Martin Luther once said, “It’s our job to get the gospel from our mouths to their ears, and it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to get it from their ears to their hearts.” So the next time the Holy Spirit impresses upon you to share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone, I want to encourage you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, open your mouth and say something. Then be amazed at what God does.
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