Grace's Precious Testimony
In his book The Prodigal God, Tim Keller describes a conversation with a woman who attended his church in New York City. Like many Christians, she had grown up with a performance-based approach to the Christian life. She had always heard that God will only accept us if we lead a good, moral life. Now all of a sudden she was hearing that the way to get right with God is by his grace – not on the basis of anything that we do but only because of what Christ has done. The woman responded by saying, “That is a scary idea! Oh, it’s good scary, but still scary.”
Keller was intrigued. Christians usually talk about how amazing grace is. But here was somebody who was impressed with how terrifying grace is. So he asked her what was so frightening about God’s unmerited, free grace. “If I was saved by my good works,” the woman said, “then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through….But if it is really true that I am a sinner saved by sheer grace – at God’s infinite cost – then there’s nothing he cannot ask of me.”
The unlimited abundance of God’s costly grace calls us to a life of generous sacrifice. In particular, the grace of God in Jesus Christ compels us to give away the gospel to as many people as we can. Indeed, sharing the grace of God ought to be more precious to us than life itself. We know this from the example of the apostle Paul, who said in his farewell address to the elders of the church in Ephesus, “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
When Paul said that proclaiming the gospel was precious to him, this was no idle boast. The man had proved it in his own ministry. Earlier in the same speech he reminded the Ephesian elders how he had dedicated his life to preaching to them the gospel – everything they needed to know. He had taught in their homes. He had preached in their marketplace. He had reached across cultures, sharing the gospel with both Jews and Greeks. He had preached faith and repentance – the good news of salvation.
Paul did all this evangelistic work “so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:15). He also did it with little or no regard for his personal safety. In Acts 20:19 he refers to the trials that he had suffered in Ephesus. There were plots against his life, but Paul kept preaching. Through hardship and suffering, through shipwreck and storm, through prison and persecution – even attempted murder – Paul continued to proclaim the gospel of the grace of god. So what he said was true: he did not account his life of any value, or as precious to himself, if only he could do the one thing God had called him to do, which was to share the gospel.
As we consider Paul’s example in this portion of Acts, it is wise to ask ourselves where evangelism ranks on our priority list. The terrible fate of people who die without Christ and thus are lost forever compels us to consider the priority we place on sharing the gospel. Is reaching out to the lost with God’s life-changing grace more precious to us than life itself? Honestly, where does it come on the list: right at the top, or somewhere after getting a better job, making more money, and having the family situation we always dreamed of?
One way to move the gospel higher up our list is to consider three reasons why proclaiming the gospel ought to be more precious to us than life itself. They all come from Acts 20:24 – good reasons for Paul that ought to be good reasons for us.
I hope that you can join us this Lord’s Day as we are challenged with God’s Word to share the good news of the gospel with those who do not know the love of God. I pray that you and your family are well – we’ve had a lot of sickness and your leaders have been praying for your well-being. Let me encourage you to invite someone to come along with you that they might hear of the One who died for them to rescue them eternally.
Grace upon Grace, Wayne