Monday, December 31, 2012

On Being An Effective Messenger

© Algimantas Balezentis | Dreamstime Stock Photos

In the Bible, although angels were used by God for a variety of purposes, the primary use was to deliver a message. In fact, the very word "angel" means "messenger." Webster's 1828 Dictionary further defines an angel as "one employed to communicate news or information from one person to another at a distance." Angels played a huge role in the story of Christ's birth, delivering messages from God to Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, and likely to the wise men. But it is the angel's message to the shepherds that has struck me as being very similar to the part that we believers have been asked to play in God's master plan of redemption. Just as God dispatched an angel with a specific message for a specific group of people on a Bethlehem hillside, God has dispatched us with a specific message for a specific group of people. We have been commissioned to bear the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

The problem is, some messengers, while their heart may be in the right place, are extremely ineffective. A few days ago one of the men in our church told me about a "messenger" he saw walking the streets near a busy market. The man, a foreigner, was carrying a megaphone, and his message consisted of two words and one dramatic hand motion.  First he would say (into the megaphone) "Jesus." Then he would slowly extend his arm and point up to the sky. Then he would speak another word into the megaphone, "Heaven." He walked all around the market repeating this phrase and hand motion again and again, and saying nothing else. According to my friend, half the people were amused and the other half of the people were confused. And no wonder! Regardless of the sincerity of the man, he was an ineffective messenger.

Every once in awhile in the Bible we see an extremely effective messenger. Jonah, for example. He preached for 3 days and a whole city repented of their sins and cried out to God to be saved! The angel that announced Christ's birth to the shepherds can certainly be counted in the number of extremely effective messengers. Think about it - in Luke 2:8, the shepherds were going about their everyday lives. They were following their normal routine. They were "abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flock." Seven verses later (and these events undoubtedly transpired in just a few moments of time) they were aroused from their routine and seeking Christ "with haste." I don't know about you, but that's the kind of response I would like to see when I deliver a message from God. Not only did the shepherds immediately respond with positive interest to the angel's message, but a very short time later, they themselves had become messengers of that same message! 

While our church choir might not be able to fly in formation over the local high school football game singing selections from the Christmas cantata, we can learn something about the effective delivery of a message by examining 3 components of the angel's message. 

1. Our Message Must Include Joy

Luke 2:10 - "And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people."

We can never expect the lost world to be attracted to a Gospel delivered by grouches! The first thing the angel wanted the shepherds to know was that he had some really good news for them. When sharing our faith, the motto of every Christian should be "good tidings of great joy!" Yes, of course, there is some bad news that we must tell people in order to show them their need for Christ, but we should always approach the Gospel with a smile. After all, when an inexhaustible supply of a 100% effective cure for a dreaded world-wide disease is made freely available to all mankind, that is good news indeed!

Smile when you go soulwinning. We are not in a contest to see how many people we can offend with our gruff ways. And smile when you're not soulwinning. In other words, when going about your daily life - at the grocery store, at work, at a Little League game - be a person with a quick smile, a joyful song, and an easy laugh. There is nothing like genuine joy to attract a person to you. And attracting a person to the messenger is the first step to getting him to hear the message.

2. Our Message Must Include Truth

Luke 2:11 - "For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

Joy is an important part of being an effective witness, but we can't get so wrapped up in being Mr. Nice Guy that we fail to fully impart the truth of the Gospel. The truth that is contained in the Gospel cannot be compromised or watered down to placate the hearer. The angel "shot straight" with the shepherds. Notice three very important truths found in this brief pronouncement: 

"unto you"
The message of salvation is not only available to every man, it is imperative to every man. Jesus came to this earth to die on the cross for you. The Gospel must be personalized for every man. It is not just good for some. It is indeed the only hope for every man.

"a Saviour"
Most religions don't even claim to provide a Savior. They have their gods that must be appeased. They have their prophets that tell you what makes their gods mad. They have their teachers that tell you how to be good so the gods don't get mad. They have their priests that will help you get out of trouble (for a price) if the gods do get mad. It's pretty futile and hopeless when you stop and think about it. The One True God knows that people are sinners. But instead of commanding us to fix the problem ourselves, He sent His Son to be our substitute on the cross. 

"Christ the Lord"
The angel didn't just tell the shepherds that there is a Savior...he named that Savior. Can you imagine how ineffective his announcement would have been had he said, "A Savior is born...and he is whoever you want him to be." No, he left no room for multiculturalism, religious adaptations, or private interpretation. A Savior is born, and it is Christ!

3. Our Message Must Include Instructions

Luke 2:12 - "And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger."

Oftentimes new Christians struggle with this part. They have both the joy of the Lord that so often characterizes new believers and an adequate grasp of the truth of the Word of God; however, after sharing the Gospel with a friend or loved one, they don't know what to do next. Many analogies could be used here. They don't know how to "draw the net." They don't know how to "reel it in." They don't know how to "bring it in for a landing." And sadly, without instructions, a person who is interested in the Gospel can oftentimes be left hanging. I have had people tell me that they heard the Gospel presented in the church they attended as a child, but there was never any invitation or instructions extended to them.

While we cannot do the convicting work of the Holy Spirit, we must be prepared to give instructions to one who has heard the message and wishes to respond. The angel did not say, "If they are the real-deal, they'll find the baby on their own." No, the angel told them the steps to take if they decided to respond to his announcement. He told them how to find the baby. After we have shared the Gospel with a person, we should share instructions whereby they might place their faith in Christ. While there are numerous Scriptures that can be used, Romans 10:13 is a great place to start!

I thank God that He has not only give us a message to deliver, but has also given us good examples of how to be an effective messenger.

  • Deliver God's good news with a happy face. 
  • Deliver God's simple truth without compromise. 
  • Deliver God's life-changing Gospel with instructions for the seeker. 

Not every person will gladly receive God's message, but these three principles will help us to be a more effective messenger for God.

1 comment:

  1. Just the other Sunday I made the same sort of point about the shepherd being God's chosen messengers to herald the Greatest of all kings. Good post.