Do you read reviews? I do! When I am shopping online for something, I go to the review section to read what others think of the product or service. Some of the comments are obviously written by cranks, so I ignore them. Some gush, overflowing with superlatives; “best ever, greatest place in the world, best cheeseburger in America.” Oh really? I tend to discard those, too. The ones I find helpful are honest, tell me something about a first-hand experience. What’s so valuable about that? I get the benefit of another’s time and experience. A line like this about a vendor – ‘good follow-up in customer service, got back to me the same day’ – makes me much more willing to make a purchase from someone hundreds of miles away.
Do you know what people remember from the sermons I have preached in the last 40 years? Mostly, they remember the stories! When I tell about those moments when God touched my life, when I experienced His forgiveness and renewal, when I saw Him heal, when there was some new direction, how He has sustained me in my loss and grief – it’s is like giving a review. People identify and there is this response – “He can do that for me, too.”
Since Jesus gave Christians the commission to “go and tell,” the primary way that people are brought to know Him is through our ‘’witness.” At the core of that word is this – we just speak up, giving a review of our experience of the Lord! In John’s Gospel, a woman with an ugly past, a social outcast, met Jesus at a well in Samaria. He engaged her in conversation and her heart was changed. What happened next is amazing. “The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” So the people came streaming from the village to see him.” (John 4:28-30, NLT) John summarizes those days at that village telling us that “Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” (John 4:39, NLT)
Invariably, when I hear someone telling their “Jesus story” – this is who I was, this is who I am – deep emotions stir in me. Sometimes the story is raw, like those told by the men who come to our church who are a part of the Teen Challenge ministry. Addicted to cocaine or heroin, perhaps slaves of alcohol, often estranged from their families because of their drug abuse, they tell the story of meeting Jesus and finding their way to sobriety. Most are authentic, though not eloquent, and it is moving to hear! But, I also love to hear the stories of people who are not full of drama, those who found God early and walked through life’s ups and downs with Him. Yes, am moved by the witness of people who have it all together, who have done ‘all the right things,’ as they recount finding the Lord when it all turned into an empty and meaningless existence.
By definition, a review requires an experience. Who wants to read a critic’s review if he has not seen the movie? Who wants to hear a opinion about a local restaurant offered by a person who has not eaten a meal at the establishment? How do you know Jesus? What has He done in your life? Where do you struggle, what are your triumphs? When you have met Him, know Him, are living with Him in your life – tell about it.
Now, this is important. When you tell your story, be authentic. We do not always get it right, nor can we be hero in every account. Often our most profound experiences of God’s Presence are when we are at our lowest, or in times of awful failure, or when we have lost our way.
When our words are a reflection of the Spirit, they can become transformational- for our family, our friends, even our world. As we begin this Holy Week, hear what Jesus said to His first followers. “On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:4-5, NIV) And, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8, NIV)
The word from the Word – “He replied, … One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” (John 9:25, NIV)
Let’s tell the Story!
We’ve A Story To Tell To The Nations
We’ve a story to tell to the nations
That shall turn their hearts to the right
A story of truth and sweetness
A story of peace and light
A story of peace and light
For the darkness shall turn to dawning
And the dawning to noonday bright
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth
The kingdom of love and light
Henry Ernest Nichol- Public Domain