A couple of days ago, I wrote about “telling the story” and the need for Jesus Followers to tell their story when introducing the Gospel to people who haven’t had any kind of church background.
For example, people in the coming generation were raised by parents who had started straying away from God and looking into other “belief systems”; they defined “right and wrong” in terms of “what looks good to me”, and some have bought into the idea that “man is the measure of all things” or the Hawkingian notion that “science has made God unnecessary”.
Reaching them involves testifying, because that’s your story, and no one can gainsay it. Of course, “testify” has a religious overtone, which might turn some people off. But “story-telling” is a present-day concept for engaging people, so when we’re out in the world, we need to tell our story just like anyone else — but with a twist.
In the natural world, “story-telling” tends to be intensely personal. The stories deal with personal struggles, personal pain, personal victories. They could describe how someone “pulled himself up by his boot-straps” or decided that “living is the best revenge”. But where are the take-aways from those stories? Some people might relate, having gone through a similar experience; others might feel even more disheartened, thinking they don’t have the personal mental toughness to “pull themselves up by the boot-straps” and push forward.
But for a Jesus Follower, The Story has one HUGE take-away: the role of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at three examples.
(1) In John 4:1-39, Jesus is passing through Samaria en route to Galilee, and He stops to rest beside Jacob’s Well. A woman comes out to get water, and He asks her for a drink. This touches off a conversation, during which, Jesus notes that she’s been married five times and currently is living with a man who is not her husband. She senses that she’s in the presence of a Man of God and tries to change the subject (as many people tend to do when that happens).
But Jesus won’t let her off the hook and declares to her that He is the Messiah. She drops her water-pot, runs back into the village and tells everyone that she has met a Man who “read her mail” and she is convinced this is the Messiah. We’re told that many Samaritans believed her right there and then.
It’s important to note that this woman probably had a bad reputation in public. She was married five times and was currently shacked-up with another man. People would generally get their water first thing in the morning, but she went to draw her water around midday, when no one else would see her. Yet her story was so convincing and unshakable, that people believed her on the spot.
And her story — rather than be an account of some amazing mind-reader she’d met — pointed people towards the Messiah — Jesus.
(2) In John 5:2-16, a disabled man has been lying beside the pool at Bethesda, where, according to legend, an angel would stir up the water and when that happened, the first person to stir up the water would be healed of their infirmity. This fellow has been disabled for 38 years, and complains to Jesus that he has no one to put him in the pool and any time the water is stirred up, someone else beats him to it. Jesus simply tells him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” Which is what he does.
But since it’s the Sabbath, the religious leaders see him and chastise him for carrying his bed — it’s not lawful, they say. He tells them, “The Man who made me well told me to rise, pick up my bed, and walk.”
At first, he can’t pick Jesus out of the crowd, but later, Jesus catches up to him and tells him, “Sin no more, lest something worse happen to you.“
And the man goes to the religious leaders and tells them it was Jesus who’d told him to pick up his bed. That has the unintended consequence of getting the religious leaders to plot to kill Jesus, but the fact remains: this man told his story, and pointed people towards Jesus — and the religious leaders believed that it was Jesus who had made the man well.
(3) In John 4:46-53, a nobleman from Capernaum finds Jesus and begs — then commands — Him to heal his dying son. Jesus tells him, “Go your way – your son lives“. He believes Jesus right there. On his way home the next day, the nobleman meets his servants, who tell him, “your son lives!”
And look what happens next.
Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household.
— John 4:52-53
The nobleman could have believed, and kept it to himself, or he might not have “connected the dots”, at all, but figured he and his son had dodged a Roman spear. But instead, he “tells the story”, and not only does he believe, but everyone in his household — his family and his servants — believe, as well.
So do you see the difference between “ordinary” story-telling and story-telling by a Jesus Follower? Rather than an introspective tale of trial, tribulation or triumph, pointing to one’s own pain or power, the Jesus Follower’s story points people to Jesus.
No one can take away your story — and when your story points people to Jesus, they have to take notice.