Today I’m going to do two things to you: Place a burden on you and take another one away at the same time.
What’s the one thing that holds back most Christians from telling others about Jesus? I’d submit one likely candidate: Fear. They’re afraid that what they say will be rejected, and no one likes that.
I understand that, I really do. I remember one of the best pieces of advice my former pastor said: “If you want to get into ministry, it’d be good for you to get some experience in sales.” He sold copiers for a living, and I sold pest service. I’m not a salesman, nor do I ever intend to make my living that way again, but it taught me a couple of really valuable lessons which are pertinent to today’s passage and the point I’m trying to make.
1) You're responsible for telling others what they need to hear.
This is the burden the Lord laid on his servants the prophets. They were under the direct command of God to tell people about upcoming judgments and to call them back to faithfulness. And guess what? You’ve joined their ranks. No, you’re not a prophet in the sense that Ezekiel or Amos were. But you are God's "mouth" in a very real sense. He's gifted you with his Message. It’s the infallible message about his Son Jesus: How we all need him, who he is, what he did for us, and what he offers us.
This might not be too popular. Scratch that—It won’t be popular. No one likes to be told they're wrong, and the Message about Jesus in particular is offensive to our self-righteousness, pride, and love for sin. That’s why Paul talked about the “offense of the cross.” Let me reiterate and clarify: The Message of Jesus, faithfully presented, will offend the nonbeliever. You can present it as best and attractively as you can, but we have to face this truth and prepare ourselves.
Can I just be brutally frank here? This (understandable) desire to keep people thinking well of us is just something we’re going to have to get over. There’s no nice way to say it. Ezekiel was a messenger sent from the Lord, and was told to tell a sinful people that they were heading for judgment. And the One who sent him also gave the warning recorded in today’s passage: If he (Ezekiel) refused to go and tell the truth, then the Lord would hold him (Ezekiel) accountable for that person’s blood. He would have that person’s blood on his hands. The implication for us is pretty obvious, you think?
But here comes the removal of another burden, which is the good news here:
2) You're not responsible for the response of others.
If you faithfully present the Good News about Jesus as attractively as you can, pray for the Spirit to open their eyes and draw them to the Truth and do your best so that your lifestyle and beliefs are consistent, then you’ve done all you can do. Again, let me reiterate and clarify: You're not responsible for anyone’s response to the Message.
Christians of different backgrounds can argue over what happens once you share the message with them. Some say it’s all up to God, while others say it’s up to that individual. I think it’s both. But what we’re all agreed on is that once you share the Good News with someone, you’re no longer responsible for that person’s response.
This should come as a relief for you. It's not your job to convince anyone to receive Christ as Savior. Some of us might be called to “defend” the faith, to be experts in apologetics. But I think that Jesus desires more witnesses than defenders. It’s not the job of a witness in a courtroom to convince anyone of anything. All a witness is there to do is relate—factually and honestly—what he’s experienced.
Just present the truth as best as you can, led and empowered by his Spirit, and your Father will be plenty pleased with you. See, I told you I’d lighten your load.
Father God, it's so easy to care too much about what people think of me. I give in to fear way too often. I don’t want to offend anyone. But that’s not obedient to you or loving to them. Please, when you’re calling me to speak, give me the courage and wisdom to do it.
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