by Byron Spradlin
(Editor’s note: This is the 8th in a 9-part series on Finding Our Gospel Voice in a Changing Culture.)
“I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand. As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.” – Psalm 17:6a, 7 & 15
When it comes to personal evangelism, feelings of obligation, guilt, and duty have never been effective motivators for me. On the other hand, experiences of God’s provision, accessibility, love, and forgiveness naturally flow out of me in gospel witness to others.
This is probably true for most of us. After encountering God in loving, unhindered ways, sincere believers earnestly desire to tell their friends and family what the Lord has done in their lives. This is an example of a clear gospel witness that embodies God’s abundant grace.
The truth is that if we don’t “embody” His grace (i.e., actually experience it, feel it, viscerally connect with it), then we will not fully trust in and love Him. I find this “embodied experience” of God’s reality creates more affection for Him, more trust in Him, and more attraction to Him. And evangelism easily flows out of these experiences. In fact, I’m convinced that unless we experience God’s love for us, in us, and through us, we won’t really “do” evangelism at all.
So, in practical terms, what does this mean for believers? In brief, it’s clear to me that to grow in evangelism, we actually don’t need to focus on evangelism. We need, rather, to practice focusing on God, in Christ, who works through His Spirit and into and through the circumstances of our everyday lives. This transaction, in a very real sense, is “the embodying grace,” or the grace of God moving into and through our being.
So how can we experience this perfect and loving embodiment of God’s grace? Let me suggest three practices based on the dynamic reality of God . . .
#1: Practice focusing on the reality of God’s love to reclaim us to Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died” (2 Cor. 5:14). Paul was so overwhelmed by God’s active love that he was “controlled” by it. He was so moved by God’s love that he could do nothing else but love God back and then, as it were, spontaneous serve Him.
He writes earlier, “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Cor. 8:3). C.S. Lewis sites this passage as “the motive for worship” in his 1941 sermon, The Weight of His Glory. Each one of us is honored if some famous person knows us and lets it be known that they know us. Imagine then, how honored we ought to be when we realize that we are known by God! Practice running this reality through your whole mind over and over.
#2: Practice faithing in the presence of God. I define “faithing” (a term I’ve coined) as the moment-by-moment exercising of one’s faith. For instance, I often tell the Lord out loud, “Father, I am exercising my faith in You this very moment.” Then, without telling Him how He should work, I imagine His perfect will being fulfilled. I process both my rational knowledge of scripture and my actual faithing in Him at that moment.
Typically, I soon thereafter see the results of my faithing and His working. And the result? I’m deeply moved by the fact that God has worked as a result of 1) my trusting in His love, and 2) my faithing in the fact of His presence and His powerful working. This sense of His presence, coupled with the sight of His working, overwhelms me with a deepened sense of His love in me and my delight-filled response and love for Him. I am filled with joy, gladness, and delight – all the manifestations of how we love someone.
#3: Practice declaring the works of God that He’s demonstrated in your life to others. First Peter 2:9 says, “But 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.” Isn’t “proclaim(ing) the excellencies of him who called you” the work of evangelism? Isn’t this what “evangelism” means?
You and I don’t need to be theologians (in the technical sense). We just need to know and be interactively involved with Jesus in and through every day. We just need to lean into His love for us every minute of every day. And when we see Him work – in so many ways and in so many of our circumstances – we cannot help but declare the works we’ve seen Him doing.
Since this habit doesn’t happen automatically, however, we must practice it. That is, we must intentionally set about telling others what we are seeing God do in our lives. Evangelism isn’t a debate. Evangelism is simply telling others about your interactions with God through Christ and His Spirit—and then, His interactions with you. In other words, don’t make it so complicated!
When we are overwhelmed with the loving work of God in our daily lives, we will spontaneously tell others. But in order to reverse the life patterns of self-reliance, we must trust in two ground-zero realities about Him over and over again: God loves us and God indwells us. Then, based on these two realities about God, we must . . .
- Practice focusing on the reality of God’s love; then
- Practice faithing in the fact of God’s presence in the moment; then
- Practice declaring the works of God He’s demonstrated in our lives to others.
When you practice these three things, you will see three other things happening in your life:
- You will experience the embodied love of God.
- You will love God more for it.
- You will then love others with that same kind of love.
Believers throughout the centuries have experienced this. And you can too In fact, the more you “embody the grace of God” (experience His loving gracious working in you), the more you’ll become a true evangelist—declaring the glory of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
Byron Spradlin (@byronspradlin) is founder and president of Artists in Christian Testimony. He is a musician, Bible teacher, pastor, and international specialist on worship, imagination, and arts leadership and regularly disciples artists.