How would you verbally communicate the entire message of your Christian life to a group of strangers? Describing your life chronologically, vocationally, spiritually, relationally or all four sounds more like the pages of a memoir than a speech. It’s overwhelming.
In the very early days of the church, the apostles were told to go and speak the whole message of this Life by an angel who had just released them from prison.
But the high priest stood up, along with all his associates…and they were filled with jealousy. They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the gates of the prison, and leading them out, he said, “Go, stand and speak to the people in the temple area the whole message of this Life.” NASB Acts 5:17-20, emphasis mine.
I’ve always been intrigued by the way this passage is phrased: “whole message of this Life” (NASB) or “the full message of this new life” (NIV) or “all the words of this Life.” (ESV) Whole, full, and all are words suggesting that the apostles were instructed to tell the complete, entire, undiminished story of their new eternal lives in Jesus Christ.
Try to imagine what it was like in the beginning days of the Church. Pentecost had initiated it, Peter had spoken powerfully about Jesus Christ, there were unexplainable miracles, and individuals of the new church were living in astonishing community and generosity. There had been “God fearing Jews from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5) who witnessed the miracle of Pentecost, and they no doubt took that information to family, friends and neighbors in Jerusalem and every nation. There must have been quite a buzz. People were at least curious.
The whole message would have included eye witness accounts of Jesus’s miracles, the fact that Jesus had been dead, buried and had been raised to life, that they’d seen him appear in a room without coming through a door, but that was just the beginning. The apostles likely would have passionately explained all that Jesus had taught them, how they were new people filled with the Holy Spirit, that they had no problem sharing everything with other believers, that their perspectives had been expanded to a view far beyond this world, that Jesus was King and they were citizens of the Kingdom of God. They may have explained that believers would face loss, persecution, difficulty, and as Jesus had suffered, they would also experience adversity. They would have cheerfully proclaimed it to be well worth it.
Their whole message would have been infused with joyful intensity.
Who can speak like that about their new life in Christ today? Some Christians have dramatic stories; I don’t. My upbringing was stable, in a genuinely Christian home, and my family is still close. Aside from some foolish behavior as a young adult, I haven’t gotten into any real trouble or struggled with poverty, addiction or abuse. It is the story of a pretty average life. Internally, however, it’s an adventure of a transformed new life.
The benefits I’ve experienced are a quiet confidence that Jesus is with me at all times, trusting him to give me the right words to speak, slow transformation of my heart, decisions made according to God’s purpose and not the world’s, growing disinterest in particular sins (there are plenty more), increasing faith, hope, love, wisdom, joy and peace that transcends understanding. If we’re speaking the whole story, there are also times of pain, confusion, seeking, apathy, wondering, doubting, heartbreak, frustration, waiting, and more waiting. Family and friends who have known me for years can hopefully see the difference Jesus has made in my life, but if I were to stand up and tell a group the whole message of this new life today, it wouldn’t get much attention.
Communication of the whole message of this Life usually doesn’t happen from a pulpit, a podcast or Twitter. A slice of it can be told in that way, but not the whole message. For the whole message to be understood it must happen organically by interacting with an individual over months or years. It takes relationship. It takes time.
I’ve heard excellent sermons that tell of one or two aspects of this new life and present the Gospel, but I haven’t heard anyone give the whole message. It would take hours. I’ve also heard conversion messages that emphasize salvation and eternity with Christ without any discussion of how it would change someone’s life next week. It is difficult to communicate a compelling story of the whole message of this Life.
Churches struggle with getting members involved in relationships that will make the whole message known. It’s understandable, for we all live busy lives, and especially in a pandemic, time for relationships is limited. I’m challenged by make sure I’m open to new relationships and to let people know about my new life in Christ.
If people understood the whole message of this Life, they’d beg us to tell them how to experience it.
What do you think? How would you describe the whole message of your new Life?