Growing in the Knowledge of Christ (11)
As we grow to know Him, we will naturally speak of Him.
On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7.37-39
“What does this babbler want to say?” Acts 17.18
Wadi, babbler, or river of life?
The work of God’s Spirit, as He uses God’s Word and all His works, is to bring believers into the Presence of Jesus and His glory, that we might know Him better, and grow to be transformed into His image (2 Cor. 3.12-18). If you are a believer – a disciple or learner of Jesus – this is what you should expect, and it’s what you should give yourself to every day afresh.
Jesus makes it clear that, as the Spirit increases in us, He becomes a fountain of spiritual life, welling up within us and overflowing to refresh and cleanse, by words and deeds, whatever and whoever we come into contact with in our daily lives.
But all too many Christians are not like the river of life that flows through and from the City of God (Ps. 46). Most of us are like wadis, dried-up stream beds that don’t refresh anyone most of the time. In this country we call them intermittents, because you only see water in them from time to time, and even then, not very much.
Paul was like a babbling brook – a steady stream of spiritual information, trickling off his tongue to any who would listen. As we see during his time in Athens, he was an aggressive conversationalist about the subject of Jesus (Acts 17.16, 17).
We saw this same phenomenon in those who fled Jerusalem, when persecution arose after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8.1ff). In Michael Green’s memorable words, these believers went everywhere, “gossiping the Gospel” as they went. As a result, many began to believe in the Lord, and congregations sprung up in Samaria and Antioch, and in many other places.
As we grow in the knowledge of Jesus – gaining insights, understanding, and experience of Him – He will increase in us (Jn. 3.31), and so will a variety of very beneficial assets: the joy of the Lord, firm conviction of His Word, a burden of compassion and love for lost people, and an eagerness to flow the life of Jesus to others. One the most effective ways of doing this is by engaging in conversations, in which we can bring Jesus to the attention of others, affirm and encourage other believers, and pique and challenge those who do not yet know Him.
But we’ll need to return to our previous discussion on commitment. We have to commit to letting the waters of life flow from us every day, and ask the Spirit within us to give us the power to bear witness as often as we may (Acts 1.8). We don’t want to be wadis for Jesus, only occasionally having anything interesting to share. He wants rivers of living water to flow from us, like a constant and gentle babbling brook, to refresh, renew, convict, and transform the people to whom He sends us in our Personal Mission Field.
What does this involve?
Talking about Jesus
Becoming a conversational Christian will mean that our speech will be sufficiently considerate, consistent, clear, and excellent, so that others will respect and appreciate what we have to say. If we can realize these hallmarks for our conversations, what we say – and how we say it – can be a powerful tool in helping many to consider Jesus, perhaps for the first time.
In our conversations we must be considerate of the views of others, listening attentively, asking questions, engaging them concerning their interests, and affirming or disagreeing respectfully at all times.
As for consistency, we want to be always ready when opportunities arise (1 Pet. 3.15). The more you work at learning Jesus, the more consistent you will be at starting and conducting conversations about Him. Paul was looked upon as a “babbler” – an image that derives from watching birds peck at and eat seeds. The more we feed on the knowledge of Jesus, the more we’ll be able consistently to talk about Him.
Clarity relates to the subject matter of our speech, and our ability to make ourselves understood. Keeping a journal of our studies will help us to sort through and summarize the topics we’re comparing and combining, so we can be clear in our own minds about how everything leads to Jesus.
Then strive for quality in your conversations. Avoid trivialities and vulgarities; speak slowly and clearly; look people in the eye; ask questions and affirm their contributions to the conversation; speak in complete sentences; and don’t be afraid to laugh, get excited, or break out in praise.
Work on these four disciplines, and you’ll find that, like Paul, you can become a babbling brook of refreshment in the knowledge of Jesus.
What to expect
I should be forthright and tell you that when the Athenians referred to Paul as a “babbler”, they meant it pejoratively, not as a compliment: “show off” is the word we would use today.
But they didn’t know what else to think about him, talking all over the place about Jesus. Though they spoke in a derogatory way about him, still, he interested them enough to get an invitation to speak in the most vaunted public forum of the Greek-speaking world. And speak he did.
The responses Paul received suggest what we should expect as well, as we converse with others about the Lord and our growing love for Him (Acts 17.32-34). Some will scoff, some will want to talk more, and some will believe – or have their faith in Jesus strengthened. But the more we converse about Jesus, the more our own confidence will grow, our joy in the Lord will increase, and His grace and truth will flow through us to others, many of whom will join us in giving increased thanks to the Lord for the knowledge of Jesus they have gained through us (2 Corinthians 4.15).
What could be more exciting or edifying than to talk about Jesus? Don’t let your witness dry up to a wadi. Keep feeding on the knowledge of Jesus and growing in Him, and let the Spirit lead and empower you for fruitful and refreshing conversations about His many excellencies.
1. On the “wadi-to-babbling brook” scale, where would you place your own practice of talking to others about Jesus? Why?
2. Think of five questions you might use to initiate a conversation that could lead to Jesus. Write them out.
3. Do you have a Christian friend who would agree to meet with you regularly to converse about how you’re both growing in Jesus? Why would that be a good thing to do?
Next Steps – Transformation: Using the five questions you wrote above, initiate five separate conversations this week with someone in your Personal Mission Field. Try to bring thanks to God into each one of them.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.