Matthew Hosier
'Who Am I?' Study Notes 5

Gospel Identity 5: From Worldly to Witnesses

Ephesians 2:1-2 tells us that without Christ, you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. The way the world thinks and operates is not merely neutral, or just the consequence of different political opinions. No, Satan is at work in the world, and those who do not know Christ are in his grip. Coming to Christ frees us from this grip, and brings us into new life, free of the power of sin. As those who now live by the power of the gospel we are to no longer be held captive by the world.

Worldly people live in a way that reflects the values and behaviour of the surrounding culture. Even if they desire to be different, they don’t have the ability or power to be free from the world’s patterns.

The antidote to worldliness is the gospel!

Through the gospel we are made new and sent out into the world as living testimonies. We proclaim with our lives and words the truth and reality of Jesus.

Scriptures to meditate on:

Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

John 20:21 Jesus said to them again, 
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

Acts 1:8
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

Acts 4:13
"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."

Romans 12:2
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

2 Corinthians 5:20
"We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God."

1 John 2:15-17
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever."

Case Study: The gospel and the worldly heart

We can fail to be the witnesses we are meant to be because of fear of ridicule or cynicism about the power of the gospel.

When we think this way our sense of worth cannot be fully found in Jesus. We might sing ‘You satisfy my soul’ but actually he can’t. We need the approval of others for that. Their approval of me is my functional saviour; and I don’t really believe the gospel has a hope of changing them.

A classic example of someone who felt like this but was then transformed by the gospel of grace is St Augustine. Augustine wanted God, but he also wanted to climb to the top of the greasy pole in his career, and not be held to account for his morality. It was only when he saw just how lovely Jesus is that Augustine was able to escape his worldliness and become a witness. Years later Augustine wrote a passionate description of this transformation:

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new; late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence as all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.

The gospel changes our hearts when we choose to believe the phenomenal gospel truth that we are accepted by the King. I have received ultimate cosmic hospitality! What others think of me is now a small thing compared to what God thinks of me. God is willing and able to reach them. After all, he did it for me:

Romans 3:23-24
"All have sinned and fall short of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift."

No one is an exception to this – the specific sins I had committed might be different to the sins of others, but all of us are in need of a saviour. When we see this gospel truth, our hearts are changed so we believe that God is able to save others, just as he saved Augustine, and just as he has saved me!

New Attitudes & Practices to Cultivate

Discuss together how you might increasingly move away from being worldly and towards being witnesses:

- Live as a living testimony, pointing to the goodness and faithfulness of God in your life as you continue to surrender to and follow Him.

- Making a practice of engaging with non-Christians and looking for ways you can bless them or be a blessing to them.

- Seeing your daily encounters with others (friends, family members, co-workers, neighbours) as opportunities given by God for you to be a witness.

- Actively sharing your faith on a regular basis and knowing how to lead someone to Christ.

- Seeing the church of which you are a part as a community of believers on mission to reach your town.

- Refusing to conform to worldly thinking about money, sex, work, education, possessions, and so on.