Monday, August 28, 2006

He Speaks Your Language

Have you ever been faced with having to explain something to a person in a way that they can easily understand? I have, and it isn’t always as easy as some may think. One instance that stands out in my mind was when I was trying to teach the concept of sanctification, or being set apart for God’s holy purposes, to a Junior High Sunday School class. Now, that can be a tricky subject for anyone, let alone an 11 or 12 year old, to grasp firmly. At that age, kids still think in a concrete way. They can’t easily grasp an abstract thought like that. I remember seeing the blank stares of the kids when I brought the subject up. I could tell that I was going to have to really break it down for them to get their brains around it. Then, an idea suddenly appeared in my mind from out of nowhere. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my keys. Grabbing my car key, I held the whole keychain by that one key.

“Does everyone see this key I am holding? Who knows what this key is for? This is the key to my car. It is specifically made to open and start up my car. Try as I might, I can’t shove it into my front door. I can’t use it to start up another car. It is completely set apart to start up my car.”

That did the trick. I realized that to effectively communicate the concept of these kids, I had to bring it down to a level that they could understand. I had to meet them where they were at.

God does the same thing with humankind, too. Throughout scripture, we can see where God used analogy and object lessons to make sure that we understood what it was he was trying to say. From Jeremiah’s lesson of the potter and the clay (Jer. 18) to the day of Pentecost, God has met us where we are at. I am reminded of the ministry of Jesus Christ. He would do this, too. One time, he had a huge crowd of people around him, and they were hungry. Using only the small sack lunch of a little boy, he miraculously multiplied the bread and fish, so that everyone, about 5,000 men, plus uncounted women and children had enough to eat. That was upwards of probably 15,000 folks! The next day, that same crowd came looking for him, and he used the miracle meal to preach the Gospel to them (see John 6).

The Lord did it again on the day of Pentecost. Now, as one who is a Pentecostal Christian, I look at that day 2,000 years ago and think of it as a heritage. I see that this is where we Pentecostals base a good portion of our teaching and beliefs. This is where the teaching of what is called the “initial evidence” comes from. That is, that whenever someone is baptized in the Holy Spirit, it is outwardly shown and heard in that the receiver will speak in a language unknown to them. Every time you read of the Holy Spirit baptism in the book of Acts, you read that they “spoke with tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance”. On the day of the initial outpouring, there were folks from all over the surrounding region in Jerusalem, celebrating the feast of Pentecost. When the 120 disciples were filled with the Spirit, they went out into the streets of the city and they were speaking in the native languages of those in town for the feast. The Bible says that they heard them “declaring the wonderful works of God” in their own languages. They were flabbergasted! But God “met them where they were at”. He could have had the disciples run out of the room and speak Hebrew. But would that have caught the attention of the people that day? No, they would just have seen 120 crazy people running around and shouting. God used the languages they spoke at home so that they could know without a doubt that God was behind this.

God knows how to “speak our language”. He will get his message across in a way that we can grasp. To a thirsty Samaritan woman at a well, Jesus spoke about living water that quenches thirst forever. To a crowd that was full on miracle bread, Jesus spoke about the True Bread from heaven, that is, himself. And to a weary fisherman-turned Christ-follower, he used a miracle catch to tell him that one day he would catch men like he caught those fish. A promise, by the way, that was realized on that great day of Pentecost, when Peter, the once weary fisherman, preached the first sermon of the infant Church of Christ and saw 3,000 people repent of their sins and trust in Jesus. (Not bad for a rookie preacher!) Interesting to note that Jesus didn’t talk to Peter about living water, or the woman at the well about bread from heaven- he knew what these individuals needed to hear.

Okay, here is the big send-off. Follow the example set by God himself. He reached out to you one day in a way that you could grasp. Now, to borrow a Bible phrase, “go and do thou likewise”. Go meet someone where they are at and make the Gospel real to them. How you do that depends on who you talk with-each person understands differently and has a different view on things. But, you will be following a long line of ministers that reached out to those around them and managed to effectively win them for Christ, such as the Apostle Paul. In fact, I will leave you today with Paul’s inspired words from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

“Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

God bless!


ruthrap said...

mp, you are "right on the money" this morning! I'm so glad He speaks my language(and everyone else's) all we need to do is open our ears (and minds) and listen!!!

Anonymous said...

this is good! It's great! I well remember people trying to tell my DH to 'jsut preach the word, and not opinion" My thought had always been that jsut because he is relating a story form current times to exaplin what the bible passage is saying doesn't mean he isn't preaching from the Bible. this is a good way of putting that we need to 'speak their language'


JimmyBob said...

Jeff, I am coaching a group of junior and senior high Bible Quiz students. We are studying the book of Acts this year. They have to memorize all 28 chapters!

Your retelling of Pentecost reminded me of the video we watched this past week. It was the book of acts dramatized but word for word from Scripture. It even has the verse reference at the bottom of the screen as the movie progresses. Have you seen it?

I will never forget when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I was almost 16 and God was convicting me of spending too much time and money on gaming. He wanted to prepare me for serving Him in a greater way. Little did I know that he would call me into the ministry just a month later.

As the deacons and people laid their hands on me and began to pray in the Spirit, I raised my hands and prayed out loud too. After a few minutes I began to speak in tongues. It opened up a whole new level of relationship I had with God. The only thing greater was salvation!

After that, I began to speak more boldly about Christ. The Lord had poured out His Spirit upon me so that I would go and declare His praises to others in ways they can understand and relate to.

Great post!