J.D. Greear: Are We Missionaries or Imposters?

Do we really believe the gospel? Has its truth set our hearts ablaze? Can we really believe and not care?

From the book, Not God Enough, by J.D. Greear

Burning Hearts, Flaming Tongues

Rhonda, a girl in her midtwenties, grew up in New England and was about as unfamiliar with the Christian message as any American I’d ever met. So I started with the basics—who God is and why Jesus came. She asked a lot of questions. But I wasn’t prepared for the question she asked toward the end:

“You actually believe this?”

“Yes, of course I do,” I said.

She replied, “Because if I actually believed what you are saying—that everyone in my life who didn’t know Jesus was separated from God’s love and headed to hell—I’m not sure how I would make it through the day. I would constantly be on my knees pleading with people to listen. But you . . . you don’t seem that bothered by all this. You are a great debater, but you don’t seem that upset that I am not persuaded.”

I didn’t know what to say. I knew she was right. I was saying all the right things, but my heart did not reflect the gravity of what I was saying.

I’ve come to see this as a form of unbelief—assenting to truths with our mind while hardening our heart to their realities. How does a person who really believes the gospel feel about the world?

Charles Spurgeon was once asked by one of his students whether those who had never heard about Jesus could ever be saved. “A troubling question indeed,” he consented. But even more troubling, he said, was whether we who know the gospel and do nothing to bring it to the lost could actually be saved. He said,

”If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself. You will be whispering it into your child’s ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of his sweet love. . . . Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor.”

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Burning hearts, he went on to say, will always result in flaming tongues. Anyone who really encounters Jesus won’t need to be compelled to talk about him. They won’t be able to stay silent.

This is exactly what we hear when Paul explains to the Corinthians why he is willing to go to such extreme measures to get the gospel to others: “Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:14–15). This love of Christ is both love for Christ and a sense of his love for sinners, both of which will burn in our hearts.

Burning With Love for Christ

When we love something, we enjoy talking about it. In Reflections on the Psalms, C. S. Lewis says, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”

Think about how much you enjoy talking about your favorite TV series—that one you binge-watched for two days straight. Or your grandkids. Or how much people who do CrossFit enjoy talking about their routines: “Yeah, this morning we did a hundred burpees and thirty-five goblet squats; I balanced a 757 tire on my head and carried Phil from accounting for three hundred yards.”

In each of these cases, it’s not a sense of obligation that moves us to talk about these things. It’s delight. We’d be pained not to talk about them.

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This, Lewis says, is the essence of worship. Delight in the heart that produces praise on the tongue.

”It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”

When we genuinely love God, we want others to know him too. In a city not far from where I lived in Southeast Asia, each year a group of Hindus engaged in a sacred ritual to wash away their sins. They attached sleds to their bare backs by inserting the hooks connected to ropes through their skin. They then drag the sled down the street toward the Hindu temple. Blood flows from their wounds and speckles the streets as they pass. Upon arriving at the temple, they wash their cuts in sacred waters, believing that this process washes away their sins.

How can those of us who know the gospel not burn to tell them that Jesus paid it all, that “sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow”?

Do we really believe the gospel? Has its truth set our hearts ablaze? Can we really believe and not care?

Are we missionaries or are we imposters?

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Taken from Not God Enough by J.D. Greear. Copyright © 2018 by J.D. Greear. Used by permission of Zondervan. Zondervan.com. All rights reserved.