13/06/2019

Bringing the gospel home: Part 2    

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Randy Newman PicThis series of three blog posts is taken from a talk Randy gave at the Christianity Explored North America conference in May 2019. Content has been adapted from material in Randy's book, Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends, and Others Who Know You Well, published by Crossway, 2011.  
 

Want to be an effective witness to your family? Love the gospel!


Isaiah 55:1-3:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.”


Sadly, ‘knowing how good the gospel is’ can become a cliche. The goodness of the gospel can become mindless or emotionless to us, so before we go out and evangelise our family, the work or preaching the gospel to ourselves needs to be done. Jerry Bridges said: “preach the gospel to yourself every day, then go tell someone about it”.

As we are re-amazed with how good it is, the people around us will sense that we really do believe it and love it. We need to find ways to tell people that get us excited as we’re speaking, so that we almost need to catch our breath as we are telling people this message.
 

What will truly satisfy?


Isaiah 55 is the passage that does that for me. There is so much emotion in this passage - the repeated cry of “come” is a cry of emotion, calling people to the waters, calling them to listen.

The passage points out the deficiencies of alternatives to the gospel. Isaiah asks, why spend money on what is not bread, or labour for that which doesn’t satisfy?

People look for pleasure and fulfilment somewhere. I used to think I would find it in Judaism but I didn’t. So when I went off to college I looked to beer and to music, and every concert was a disappointment. The music always came to an end and I had to leave. Even in the piece of music itself there would come a moment I thought I was looking for and then it would evaporate.

Friends encouraged me to read the gospel of Matthew (the most Jewish of the gospels) and CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Lewis convinced me intellectually with the argument that Jesus must be either lunatic, liar or Lord. But it wasn’t until later in the book, when Lewis explained that because there was always something missing from the good things he used to look to for purpose and meaning he was sure he must have been created for something else, that I was convinced emotionally.

We have living water to offer people (verse 1) - it’s so very good and satisfying, the richest of fare (verse 2).
 

Come, buy and eat!


But the substance of the offer in Isaiah 55 is also a puzzle. “You who have no money, come, buy and eat!” Well, how can you buy without money? If there is no expense involved why wouldn’t he say come, take and eat?

Now the suffering servant has been introduced already by this stage in Isaiah and if you are reading this passage with the echo of chapter 53 in your ear, you realise the cost has already been paid by someone else. It is only inferred in chapter 55 but as you read the whole of Isaiah, you get this idea.  

So we get to have all of this - these waters, this wine and milk (symbols of luxury), the richest of fare for free!
 

'Oneg'


The translation for ‘richest of fare’ doesn’t do it justice. It is the Hebrew word ‘oneg’. When I was younger we went to the synagogue each week, and when there was a bar mitzvah there would be an ‘oneg’ after the service where you would find all sorts of delicious foods: bagels and pickled herrings and things that would destroy your breath for weeks - it was so exciting for a young boy.

And we come to this same sort of feeling of delight in Isaiah and this time it’s not just about food but it’s about knowing God personally - we can talk to him anytime anywhere, we have forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, redemption, regeneration and all these words - this message of the gospel is so rich and full. Isn’t it so wonderful?

I want to encourage you as pre-evangelistic work in your own heart to preach the gospel to yourself, to find ways of re-engaging your imagination until it brings tears to your eyes.

Next week Randy will share his three top principles for witnessing to family and close friends. Read Part 1 here

What verses help you get excited about the gospel? Let us know in the comments below. 

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