I am not an unusually outgoing person, so it always makes me laugh that I became a preacher. I used to think people who talked about Jesus were weird.
After my parents split up, our family stopped going to church. I was shy, and church bored me. From the age of 4 until the age of 11, I was given the option to go or not go with my older siblings. So I chose Sunday morning TV.
In those days we only had a few channels, so my Sunday morning education was primarily black-and-white movies about singing cowboys and Tarzan.
In the sixth grade, my mom decided to drag me back to church. It was one of those unusual churches where people teach the Bible and talk a lot about Jesus and following him.
I liked it well enough. I didn’t really mind all the talk of Jesus and the teaching from the Bible. As a matter of fact, I was genuinely interested to hear more about Jesus.
However, one night I became really disillusioned with our church. I was about 15 and I was in some sort of class or small group with adults. I don’t remember all the details of what we were studying, but I do remember feeling repulsed by the lesson.
The teacher said that followers of Christ should tell other people about Christ. In my heart I said, “Oh no, I’m not going to be one of THOSE people.” I did not want to talk to people about God.
I remember for the first time thinking that maybe Christianity wasn’t for me. Of course, God has a sense of humor, and now the thing that repelled me the most about Christianity has become my passion.
What changed for me was discovering by experience what the Bible teaches about telling good news. The New Testament and the Old Testament agree that we don’t tell others about God to win God’s favor. We tell others about God because he has graciously given us his favor.
Ephesians 2:8-10 says we are saved by grace so that we can work for God. We don’t work for God so that we can be saved. We respond to him because he has saved us. The Psalms are full of poetic expressions about God by people who want to talk about God.
Psalm 40 is a favorite of mine. It says, “I waited patiently for the LORD, and he inclined and heard my cry. He pulled me up from the pit of destruction, out of the sticky bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.”
In this Psalm, David is singing about being rescued from quicksand (sticky bog, or miry clay). Have you ever been stuck in quicksand? I did an Internet search for the proper escape plan from sticky bogs and quicksand. Apparently, you should lean backward slowly and backstroke out. You should not panic.
David did not panic, but called out to God for rescue. I think it’s important to note that the point of the Psalm is not really for me to geek out about quicksand and miry bogs. The point is that God rescues people who call out to him. David wants me to sing this song even if I’ve never been in an actual bog. He’s taken his experiences and given them as a gift for the people of God to pray and sing. He wants us to feel the reality that the God of the Bible is a rescuing God.
We tell others because of who God is and what he has done. We may not experience physical quicksand, but all human beings face the ultimate pit of destruction: death. We sing and tell others because God actually rescued us. Have you come to recognize the pit of self-reliance and independence from God? If you call to him, he will rescue. He is the “wonder working” God. The Old Testament often points back to the big rescue of God’s people from slavery in Egypt as their motive for following him.
Christ has performed the even bigger rescue. His death and resurrection gives us life by faith in him. He entered our pit of destruction and conquered it once and for all. That is what we tell. We don’t tell people about Christ so that he will rescue us. We tell people about Christ because he has rescued us.
“O LORD my God, you have multiplied your wonderful works and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell about them, yet they are more than can be told.” Psalm 40:5
Dave McMurry is pastor of Grace Bible Church in Killeen.