Dispersed Disciples (Luke 24:44-53)

Luke 24v44-53 seed spreader

When we moved into the manse after accepting the call to the congregation we serve, almost half of the backyard was dirt and nothing was growing in it. After some discussions about what we were going to do with the area, we decided to sow grass in it so our children could run around and play in the space.

I had never sown a lawn before, but I knew that I couldn’t just dump all the seed in a pile in the corner of the yard and expect the grass to spread across the dirt patch. Instead, I needed to spread the lawn seed over the whole area. To do that, I bought a seed spreader. This device has a small bucket which holds the seed and drops it into a spinner that spreads it around when its handle is turned. The purpose of this seed spreader is to disperse the seed evenly over the area so the grass can cover the whole patch of earth.

When Jesus ascended into heaven (Luke 24:44-53) he told his disciples that they were going to be his witnesses to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. The way they were going to witness to him was by spreading the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection wherever they went. They were going to act like seed spreaders, bringing the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins to people who needed the life Jesus was offering them. They weren’t going to just spread this good news over a patch in their back yard. Instead, they were going to spread it to all the people of the world in the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. This led to the second thing Jesus told them: to remain in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As we read the sequel to Luke’s gospel, the Book of Acts, we start to see how the disciples were able to spread the good news of Jesus beyond their own backyard. There were some individual evangelists such as Paul who played a significant part in spreading the gospel. Another way the gospel was spread was by the people from ‘every nation’ (Acts 2:5 NLT) who heard Peter’s Pentecost message and came to faith. When they returned to their homes from Jerusalem, they took the good news of Jesus with them and spread it in their hometowns as they shared it with others. A third way the disciples spread the gospel was when the early followers of Jesus were dispersed because of the persecution that happened after Steven was killed. In Acts 8:1 we read,

A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (NLT)

In his creative power, God even used the persecution of his people to spread the good news of Jesus beyond Jerusalem so others could hear the gospel and find life through faith in him.

As we live with the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 virus, I can imagine that there might be some people who might focus on Jesus’ instructions in this reading to wait. Most of us are probably waiting for life to return to something like normal when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. We can also be waiting for church to return to what we were used to, for the doors of our church buildings to reopen, services to resume, and programs to begin again, pretty much like they were before the restrictions started.
I can understand why people are waiting for these things, but I also wonder if, in hearing Jesus tell his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit, we are missing something important in the words Jesus spoke to his disciples.

Jesus told them to wait because they were going to receive the power of the Holy Spirit which they would need to spread the gospel to all nations. When we celebrate Pentecost next week, we can remember that we have already received the Holy Spirit. The words of Jesus at his ascension that we can be hearing, then, is not so much to wait, but to witness.

We saw in Acts 8:1 that God can even use a crisis like persecution to spread the good news of Jesus to people who need to hear it. Ever since the COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, I have been wondering if God is giving us an opportunity to spread the gospel of Jesus to a hurting, fearful and broken world. With our doors closed, our programs stopped and the regular activity of the church put on hold for a period of time that could go on for months, suddenly many of us have much more time on our hands. Can we be using this time to have deeper conversations with family, friends, loved ones and others in person, online or by other means? Is God presenting us with opportunities to care for each other in Christ-like love and give witness to our faith in the life-giving power of the death and resurrection of Jesus?

Jesus never intended the gospel to be confined to buildings or religious observances held within four walls. Instead, as we listen to the words Jesus spoke to his disciples at his ascension, he commissions us to spread his good news wherever life takes us. As Jesus’ twenty-first century disciples, Jesus wants us to be his witnesses outside of our church buildings and empowers us to give a witness to his life-giving grace and love in our lives and in our relationships through the Holy Spirit. If we are just waiting for the doors of our buildings to re-open and services to resume, then we might miss what is really important in Jesus’ words. He calls and empowers us to be his witnesses by spreading the gospel beyond our backyard like seed spreaders, starting with our families, friends, and other people that we know. The gospel of Jesus is good news for all people! Our ascended King Jesus commissions us to spread his good news wherever we go in the world, to whomever we meet along the way.

Of course, gathering together as the family of God is important for our new life in Christ. We read that in Acts 2:42-47 and discussed it a couple of weeks ago. Is it possible that God wants to use this time to remind us that the place where we live out our faith is not just in our buildings, programs or other activities, but in our lives, relationships and communities outside of the church buildings? It is vitally important that we are not just waiting for the doors of our buildings to reopen or services to resume, but that we are witnesses to the love and life of Jesus everywhere we go.

Let’s use this time and the opportunities it presents us to spread the good news of Jesus wherever the Holy Spirit leads us, so the new life Jesus gives us through the gospel can cover the world.

More to think about & discuss:

  • Have you ever used a seed spreader? Why is it helpful or important? What might happen if you didn’t use one?
  • What is your reaction to Jesus’ disciples being like seed spreaders? Does the analogy work for you? How might you be like a seed spreader for Jesus in your life?
  • As we live with the COVID-19 restrictions, are you waiting for the doors of our buildings to reopen, programs to begin again or services to resume? Or are you looking for opportunities God might present to spread his grace, love and goodness into the lives of others? Maybe a bit of both? Explain why you answered that way…
  • Have you ever pictured yourself as a witness for Jesus? What is your reaction to thinking of yourself as a witness for Jesus?
  • Witnesses usually tell others about something they have experienced themselves. How have you witnessed the goodness, grace or love of Jesus in your life? Who is someone with whom you might be able to share your story?
  • What opportunities might God be giving you this week to be Jesus’ witness by trusting him and showing Christ-like love to someone else…?

You can find a video version of this message here.

God bless!

A Recipe for Hope (1 Peter 3:13-22)

1 peter 3v15 ready to explain your hope 01

While we have been isolating because of the COVID-19 restrictions, I have heard about families who have been spending time cooking together. Baking or cooking is a great way to connect with each other, doing something that is enjoyable with a tasty result at the end. The added bonus is that when we cook together, we have something good to share with others, whether they are our kids who come home from school at the end of the day, family members we live with, or others we might know who would appreciate a spontaneous gift.

I am not a chef, but I do know that whenever we cook, we need to prepare. There have been times when I have started making something without first preparing properly and have realized part way through that I did not have some of the necessary ingredients. If what we are cooking is going to produce something good that we can offer other people, we need to get ready and prepare first.

The Apostle Peter encourages Christians to prepare so we can be ready when people ask us about the hope we have in Jesus (1 Peter 3:15). Since the opening of his letter, Peter has talked about our hope as people who have been raised with Jesus through faith. We have new birth into a living hope through Jesus’ resurrection (1:3). We can put our hope in the salvation Jesus will bring when he comes again (1:13). We can trust God because he raised Jesus from the dead (1:21). For Peter, faith in Jesus’ resurrection goes hand in hand with a life-giving hope.

In 3:15, Peter now says to be prepared to explain the hope we have in Jesus to anyone who asks us. There is a lot we can get out of these few words, but our current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic gives us a specific context to find meaning in his words.

Since the pandemic started and restrictions were put in place, I have witnessed a lot of worry and fear in people. One clear example was the panic-buying of essential items like toilet paper and non-perishable foods. As the people of God and followers of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has gifted us with the antidote to the worry and fear people are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic or any other reason. God’s antidote is hope. This is not a vague hope that things will get better, or that if we look after each other we will get through these tough times. The hope the Holy Spirit gifts to us is specifically in the resurrection of Jesus.

When we live as people of hope in the middle of so much worry and fear, it will show in our lives and in our relationships. That is why Peter urges us to be ready to explain the hope we have in Jesus. When people notice that we are living in hope, not worry or fear, and they ask us why we are living that way, we can share with them the goodness of God we find through faith in Jesus. Just like I will prepare before I start cooking to make sure I’m ready with everything I need, Peter wants us to prepare to share the hope we have so that others can find hope in Jesus’ resurrection as well.

So how do we get ready to give the reason for the hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection? I would like to share with you the simple recipe I use to prepare to share the hope I have in Jesus.

The first step is to identify what makes us worry or be afraid. We might not like to admit the causes of our worries or fears because we can sometimes think that we should be able to handle them on our own. If we are going to find real hope in the middle of our fears, worries or anxieties, though, we need to know what they are. A good way to identify our fears or worries is to talk with someone that we trust about them. So, the first question I ask to prepare to give the reason for our hope is, what is making us worry or afraid?

The second step is to explore how the good news of Jesus speaks into that specific worry or fear. God promises us that he will give us everything we need for life in this world and in the next for the sake of Jesus (see Romans 8:32). For example, if we are afraid of being isolated and alone because of the COVID-19 restrictions, Jesus promises that he will always be with us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5), and this promise is made tangible in the community of faith as the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:15,16). If we are worried about loss of income and financial hardship, Jesus promises to provide us with every physical thing we need for life in this world (Matthew 6:25-34). Even if we or our loved ones were to catch COVID-19 and possibly die, Jesus promises us that his love and life and stronger than death and he will give us eternal life through his death and resurrection (eg John 11:25,26). Exploring how the message of Jesus is good news for us can be challenging, but it helps us see that the gospel is not just an off-the shelf message, but, like a homemade recipe, it speaks specifically and directly into our personal worries and fears. So, my second question is, how is Jesus’ message good news for us with our worries or fears?

The third step to preparing to give the reason for the hope we have in Jesus is to find hope in the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. When we trust God’s promises to provide us with everything we need for this life and the next for the sake of Jesus, it helps us to see through our current worries and fears to the possibility of a better tomorrow. Paul writes that this hope is for both this life and the life to come (see 1 Corinthians 15:19,20). Whatever our fears or worries might be, when we find the ways in which God’s promises and the good news of Jesus’ resurrection bring God’s goodness into our lives, no matter what we are experiencing, we can find hope. When we have found this hope for ourselves, we can share that hope with others. So, my third question is, how does Jesus’ good news give you hope?

In many cooking shows, they will display an example of what they were cooking which they had prepared earlier. This shows us that they had done their preparation, and everything worked as it should. As Peter encourages us to be ready to answer everyone who asks us about the hope we have in the risen Christ, I encourage you to take some time this week to prepare what you could say when someone asks you about your hope. You might do this is by following my simple recipe: What worries or fears do you have? How is Jesus’ message good news for you with your worries or fears? How does Jesus’ good news give you hope?

There is a lot of worry and fear in the world right now because of the COVID-19 virus and for other reasons. God gives us the antidote to worry and fear through the hope we have in Jesus. Will you be ready to give your reasons for the hope you have in Jesus when someone asks you?

More to think about & discuss:

  • What are some examples you have seen in the last few weeks about people’s worries or fears about the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • Do you find hope something that comes easily, or do you struggle with it? Try to explain why that might be the case for you…
  • Would you like to live as a person of hope? Give some reasons for your answer.
  • What worries or fears do you have at the moment, either in connection with COVID-19, the restrictions that are in place, or anything else that might be happening in your life?
  • How can Jesus’ message be good news for you in your situation right now?
  • How can trusting Jesus’ good news help you to find hope in your life? What might a better tomorrow through Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of his life to you look like?
  • If someone asked you to explain the hope you have in Jesus, what might you say?

Clever Stories or Eyewitness Accounts? (2 Peter 1:16-21)

2 peter 1v16 eye witnesses 02

In our home we have a few bookshelves which are overflowing of books. On one particular set of shelves I have a variety of different kinds of book. Of course, being a pastor, there are theology books, but I also have books on philosophy, history, some graphic novels as well as classical and more contemporary novels.

There are many people I know who would place the Bible in the fictional literature part of my bookshelves. The popular perception of the Bible among many people in our time and place is that it is more like a novel than a record of actual historical events. That might be because many of the stories in the Bible don’t seem to connect with people’s experiences today. Maybe it’s because we are so used to books about superheroes, wizards or other mythical characters that the stories in the Bible seem to be more like fantasy than reality. People might possibly see the Bible as a fictional piece of writing because the promises it communicates seem too good to be true.

There are some significant differences between the Bible and other books on my shelves. For example, the Bible wasn’t written by just one person, but by many people over thousands of years. The Bible doesn’t just tell a nice story but contains different genres of literature such as historical stories, poems, legal writings, and personal letters. I can read a novel a couple of times and still enjoy it, but I’ve been reading the Bible my entire adult life and I still find something new and helpful in it for my life. Most of the authors of the books on my shelf made money from their work, but a lot of the authors of the books in the Bible paid for what they wrote with their lives.

From what we read in 2 Peter 1:16-21 it seems like there were people in the earliest days of the Christian movement who were questioning whether the stories Jesus’ followers were telling could be trusted. In their day, too, these stories seemed to some people to be made-up works of fiction. However, in these verses Peter stated that what he was sharing with the believers weren’t ‘clever stories’ (v16 NLT) like a fictional novel. Instead, Peter had witnessed the ‘powerful coming’ of Jesus and ‘saw his majestic splendour’ with their own eyes.

We have an example of what Peter witnessed in the story of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9). When Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James and John, he gave them a glimpse of his heavenly glory as the Son of God while he talked with Moses and Elijah, two of the most important Old Testament prophets. The story sounds like it belongs in a fantasy novel. We don’t normally see people’s faces shine like the sun and their clothes become as white as light while they talk with people who had lived more than a thousand years ago (Matthew 17:2). So when the disciples started telling people about what they saw, I can understand why their audience would be skeptical about what they were being told and question its truth.

That’s why this verse is so important for us, not only in verifying the story of Jesus’ transfiguration but validating the whole Bible. These are not stories people made up for fun. They didn’t make any money out of what they wrote like a modern novelist. Instead, the authors of the biblical books were so convinced about what they saw that they put their lives on the line for it. They were so convinced about the truth of what they had seen and the difference it can make in people’s lives that they would rather die than retract what they had written. That’s what is different about the Bible – it was written by people who had seen the events they had written about, or had talked with people who had witnessed them first-hand, and they were willing to die for the truth of what they had written. Can you imagine any author of a modern best-selling novel being willing to do that?

Not only were the writers of the Bible convinced of the historical truth of what they had written, they also witnessed the differences it made in people’s lives. Peter urges his readers to ‘pay close attention’ to what the prophets had written ‘for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place’ (v19 NLT). He seems to be referring specifically to the message of the prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah among them, who pointed forward to the coming Messiah who would bring God’s redemption, justice, peace and glory to the world. There are a range of ways we can understand the idea of ‘prophetic messages’ but here Peter is pointing us towards those messages in the Bible that direct us towards Jesus. He is the light of the world who brings life to all who trust in him, so when we hear the words the prophets wrote which the Holy Spirit inspired, the Holy Spirit uses those words to create faith in Jesus and to bring the light of his salvation to our hearts.

That is why it is so vitally important for us to remain in God’s word and to be listening to what God is saying through it. These aren’t just some nice stories to tell our kids. They’re not even stories that just teach us to live in good ways or to make good choices. These stories are eyewitness accounts of the glory of God which is revealed in Jesus. When we connect with these stories, the Holy Spirit fills us with the glory of God which Jesus revels to us and drives out the darkness in our hearts and minds. We can then bring the glory of God which we encounter in Jesus – his love, mercy, grace and all the goodness of God – into the lives of other people and into what can often be a very dark world. As the glory of God shines in us through the presence of Jesus by his Spirit, we can bring his glory into all the circumstances of life and all the situations we might find ourselves in.

I can’t prove to anyone that the stories we read in the Bible are true. What Peter does, though, is give us two good reasons why we can believe they are true. Firstly, he was there, on that mountain, and he saw with his own eyes the glory of God revealed in Jesus. Secondly, he saw the difference the message of Jesus made in people’s lives as it drove the darkness from them and the Holy Spirit filled their hearts and minds with the light of God’s joy, peace, hope and love. Why would he make these stories up when he had nothing to gain and they cost him his life?

Stories like the Transfiguration made a profound difference in Pete’s life as he witnessed the glory of God revealed in the grace, love, peace and hope Jesus brings. They can still do the same for us…

Our Guide Into Truth (John 16:12-15)

john 16v13 guide into truth 02

There was time when truth was simple. We were taught certain things at home, in school and at church that were pretty much consistent with each other and provided us with a degree of certainty about life. In our post-modern times, however, that has all changed. We are surrounded by a wide range of different ideas about who we are, our place in the world and what life is all about. This isn’t a bad thing because it can open us up to a much fuller and richer life in a lot of ways. However, working out what is true or not becomes a lot more complicated when a wide assortment of ideas and worldviews present us with conflicting messages.

One of the tools people use to work out what is truth for them is what they experience. When different voices give different messages about what is true, then people can rely on their personal experience to help them decide which can be trusted. For example, if an advertisement for a particular type of drink is telling me that one product tastes better, but another ad is telling me that their product has more flavour, then the best way to work out who is telling the truth is to try each of them. Our experience of those products will help us decide which is truth.

John talks a lot about truth in his gospel. If you’re wrestling with questions about truth, it’s worth reading John’s gospel and listening for the times when John refers to truth or raises questions about truth. It tells us that people were struggling with what was true in Jesus’ day as well as our own. Throughout his gospel, John points to Jesus as embodying God’s truth for us. then, in John 16:12-15, Jesus promises to send the Spirit of truth who will guide his followers ‘into all truth’ (v13a NLT).

It’s important to recognise that there are different kinds of truth, so we need to understand what sort of truth Jesus was talking about. For example, mathematical truths such as 2+2=4 are different from historical truths, such as Captain James Cook discovered Australia (which was what I was taught as a child, but which we know now isn’t the whole truth). Philosophical, religious and spiritual truths are different again, so we can’t just use ‘truth’ as a blanket term for every kind of truth.

When Jesus promised that the Spirit of truth will guide us into ‘all truth’, he was talking about the truth about God, our relationship with God, and how that relationship can shape the way in which we understand ourselves, others, our world and our place in it. One of the reasons why the Bible is such a large book is because this truth can be understood in a variety of ways and from a number of different perspectives. However, the basic truth of the Bible into which the Spirit of truth guides us is the good news of Jesus.

One way this truth can be expressed is what Paul writes in Romans 5:1 – ‘since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us’ (NLT). Through Paul’s words, the Spirit of truth guides us into the truth that we have been made right, or justified, by Jesus through faith in him. What this means is that everything that was wrong or broken about us has been put right through Jesus’ death and resurrection for us. Because we are made right again through faith in Jesus, we now have peace with God. God is not angry, disappointed or unhappy with us. God isn’t ignoring us or is apathetic towards us. Instead, because of what Jesus has done for us, we are in a new relationship with our Creator who accepts us, loves us, values us and cares for us as we are. As I said, the Bible communicates this truth in lots of different ways, but it is the good news of God’s unconditional love and grace for us in Jesus which is the truth the Holy Spirit guides us into.

We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into this truth because faith in the gospel doesn’t come naturally with us. There are people I know who have been part of the church their whole lives who still live with a deep sense of guilt or fear. We all need the Spirit of truth to be guiding us into the truth of God’s grace and love so we can live free from guilt, fear, shame or regret, and find the joy, peace, love and hope that Jesus gives us through the Holy Spirit.

As the Spirit of truth guides us into the truth of the gospel, then he also begins to guide others into the truth of God’s grace through us. Earlier I talked about how our experiences help to shape our understanding of truth. As the Holy Spirit guides us in the truth of the gospel, it shapes our relationships and faith communities so people can experience the reality of grace and Christ-like love in us. Through our relationships with each other, the words we speak to and about each other, and a culture of grace in our churches, the Holy Spirit can guide people into the truth of God’s grace by giving them the experience of grace. However good my messages, the church’s worship or our programs may or may not be, if people don’t experience the reality of the gospel in their relationship with us, then it won’t be true for them. However, when people are experiencing grace in relationship and community with us, then the Spirit of truth can guide them into the truth of God’s grace through us.

This becomes especially important in our ministry with the younger people of our congregation. What the Growing Young conversation essentially is about is how we can give others, especially our younger people, an experience of the truth of God’s grace in their relationship with us and our congregation so the Spirit of truth can guide them into the truth of the gospel. In a world where our young people come into contact with so many different ideas which claim to be true, when they experience the truth of God’s grace and love in relationship with us, then the Spirit of truth can guide them into the truth of the gospel and it will become true for them in a life-changing way.

Talking about truth is hard because there are any different kinds of truths and everyone thinks their version of the truth is the right one. I’m really thankful that Jesus promised to send his Spirit of truth to us to guide us into the truth of God’s grace and love for us in Jesus. As the Holy Spirit guides us into the truth of the gospel, the Spirit of truth will also grow and equip us so that he can guide other people, our young people especially, into the truth of the gospel.

More to think about:

  • How do you generally understand ‘truth’? Do you see truth in a simple way or as a more complex idea? Can you give an example of that?
  • To what degree do your experiences shape your understanding of truth? Are there times when your understanding of truth has depended on something you experienced? Have you ever believed that something was true even though your experiences gave you a different message?
  • In what ways have your experiences in the church or in life shaped your views on the truth of the Bible? In what ways have they been good or helpful? How might they have not been good or helpful?
  • How do you understand ‘the truth of the Bible’? What does that mean to you?
  • What is your view on thinking about the ‘truth of the Bible’ as specifically the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for us? Is that too narrow? How can it help you understand the rest of the story of the Bible?
  • Do you find it easy or difficult to believe in the good news of Jesus? Can you explain why?
  • Have you ever asked the Holy Spirit to guide you into God’s truth? If you have, what happened? If you haven’t, would you be willing to try it?
  • How can you help someone experience the truth of God’s grace and love by showing them grace and Christ-like love today?

An Out-Going Church (Acts 1:1-11)

water ripples 02b

We all know what happens when you throw a stone into a body of water like a pond, lake or dam. When the stone enters the water (or when the water embraces the stone, depending on how Zen you want to be) it causes ripples to go out, starting from the point where the stone went into the water, and moving out towards the edges.

Ripples naturally move outwards, starting from the stone and moving out to the edges of the pond or lake.

When Jesus was talking to his disciples at the start of the book of Acts, he described what would happen after he had ascended into heaven. In the power of the Spirit, his followers were going to be his witnesses, beginning in Jerusalem, and then moving outwards to the surrounding countryside of Judea, then to the neighbouring country of Samaria, and continuing outwards to the ends of the earth (v8b). What Jesus was describing can be understood as a ripple effect of the gospel as people took the good news of Jesus outward from where they were, and into the whole world.

Grace naturally moves outwards, starting from Jesus and moving out to the lives of people of all nations.

Grace always causes a ripple effect because the gospel is an outward-moving event. From the birth of Jesus, God was moving from where he was in heaven to be one with us in this world and the realities of human existence. In the earthly ministry of Jesus, this outward flow continued as Jesus gave healing, hope, life and forgiveness to the people he met. Jesus’s death was an outward flowing event as his blood literally flowed from his veins on the cross, and he gave all of himself to us and for us in his death. Jesus’ resurrection was an outward-moving event as he defeated darkness and death and brought new life and light into the world by walking out of the tomb. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus caused a big splash in human history, but the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost then put this outward movement into effect in the lives of the disciples. They were able to witness to what they had seen and heard as the Spirit of God led them out from Jerusalem in ever-widening ripples that extended to the entire world.

We are caught up in these outward-flowing ripples when we also become witnesses to the grace and goodness of God in the gospel. As Jesus leads us to the cross, we witness God’s perfect and infinite love for us. As Jesus leads us to the cross, we witness the new life he gives us, a life that is stronger than death. The outward movement of God’s grace begins in us as the Holy Spirit gives us faith in Jesus’ work of salvation for us. We get caught up in the outward movement of the ripples of God’s grace as we witness to the grace we have encountered in all we say and do. We don’t need to travel overseas to do this. Just as the disciples began by witnessing to their own city of Jerusalem, so our witness begins in our homes, our work places, our schools and universities, our sporting teams, or wherever God leads us in life.

At this point, I could tell you to get out there and witness. However, I get concerned that at times we know we should be better witnesses, but we aren’t sure what we should be witnessing to. Being a witness involves two key elements: first, witnesses need to encounter an event, and then they are able to give a witness to what we have encountered. Before we can give a witness to Jesus, we first need to witness his grace for ourselves.

That becomes a vital element in being disciples. We need to follow Jesus to the cross and the empty tomb so we can witness for ourselves the life-changing love of God in the gospel. Once we have encountered God’s grace for ourselves, then are we able to ride the outward-moving ripples of God’s grace in the power of the Holy Spirit into our homes, our work, our schools and universities, or wherever God might lead us.

When was the last time you stood on the banks of a pond, lake or dam, threw rocks into the water, and watched the ripples move out to the edges? Find some time this week to do it. Throw some rocks into water and watch the ripples move out. As you do that, think about how God has dropped the stone of his grace and love into your life by connecting you with Jesus through the power of his Spirit. And then think about how he is carrying you along, in the power of his Spirit, in the outward-moving ripples of his grace, so you can witness to his grace and love in all your words and actions.

More to think about:

  • In your experience of ‘church’ (however you understand that), do you think we tend to be more inward-looking or outward-flowing? Why do you think that way?
  • Compare your experience of church with Jesus’ words about his disciples being his witnesses ‘in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8 NLT). Would you rather be part of a church that looks inwards, or is caught up in the outward flow of God’s grace? Give a few reasons for your preference…
  • Do you agree that people need to witness something for themselves before they can witness about it to others? Explain why you think that…
  • Where have you witnessed God’s grace for yourself? In what ways would you like to witness more of God’s grace?
  • We don’t have to go on overseas mission trips to be part of God’s outward flow of grace; it starts right where we are. How might you be able to give witness to God’s grace in your life today?