BY KEVIN DUNN:
I love sharing Jesus with people who don’t know him (though I don’t do it as much as I wish I did). But if I’m honest, I partly love it for selfish reasons. Paul says in his letter to Philemon, “I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ” (Philemon 1:6). In other words, Paul is praying that Philemon would grow deeper in his knowledge of the gospel as he shares it with others. Isn’t that interesting? How can you grow in your knowledge of something, when you’re the one sharing the knowledge? How does sharing knowledge, increase knowledge? Paul’s prayer has been answered for me before in my own heart many times. It happened again this past Wednesday night with a middle school student. I think what I experienced in this instance answers the above questions.
She had been coming to our church for about a month with a friend who had invited her. She’s in sixth grade and extremely outgoing. As I got to know her story a little more, I learned she had grown up Catholic but had only begun to take God seriously in her life. I sensed she had never heard the gospel before, so I prayed for an opportune time to share Jesus with her. That time came this week at our Middle School service. I gave a clear invitation to anyone who didn’t have a relationship with God to trust Jesus. I asked students to raise their hands during our closing prayer to indicate they wanted to trust Jesus for the first time. Her hand shot way up! I then encouraged those who raised their hands to come to see me after the service so we could discuss what it means to trust Christ.
After the service, she bee-lined straight to me. We began to discuss what the Holy Spirit was doing in her heart during the sermon. She was completely honest about her thoughts. “I want to know what Heaven is like! I want to go there so badly, but I don’t know what its like! I know I don’t deserve it, but I want to go and I don’t know how!” Talk about a heart ready to receive Christ right?! So I began to explain the good news to her as clearly and passionately as I could. Then she responded. “But that doesn’t make sense.” Okay, so now in my head I was thinking, “What?! I thought I was clearer than ever!” I kept asking her if she was following me and she said “Yes” with a look on her face that wanted me to keep sharing. What part didn’t she understand? Then she continued.
“Why would God send his Son to die for me?! I’m so sinful! I don’t deserve it.”
I went on to explain God’s great grace with the best words I could find. God’s Spirit gave her heart eyes to see the beauty and glory of his grace in the face of Jesus Christ for the first time that night. She was changed. And so was I. Her heart responded to the gospel in a way my heart had forgotten to. How often am I brought in my mind and heart to ask God, “Why Lord? How could you love me so faithfully and unconditionally in the midst of my great sin?” Not to say that I don’t know that intellectually. I’m just saying my heart had forgotten that affectionately. Entitlement had been creeping into my heart unrealized. But what God did in my heart in that conversation, was not expand my knowledge of Jesus, but deepen it. That’s what Paul prayed for. Not a wider knowledge of facts, but a deeper knowledge of the good things we have in Christ! The Holy Spirit took more of the depths of the gospel and pressed them further into the depths of my heart. God loves me because he loves me.
“To grow in your passion for what Jesus has done, increase your understanding of what he has done. Never be content with your grasp of the gospel. The gospel is life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than any diamond. Its depths man will never exhaust.”: C.J. Mahaney, The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing, 67.
So does the gospel make sense? In a rational way, yes. But in another sense, no. It has depths that the mind and heart will never grasp but by the help of the Holy Spirit’s strength (Ephesians 3:14-19).
Questions for Thought
When is the last time the words, “Jesus died and rose again for you” deeply moved your heart? Maybe even to tears?
In light of Paul’s prayer, how can you practically deepen your knowledge of Jesus today? This week?
In light of your answer to these questions, what do you need to talk to God about now?
Kevin Dunn is a follower of Jesus, husband to Diana, father of Hudson, and Middle School Pastor at First Redeemer Church. Kevin graduated from Trinity College of Florida with a B.A. in Pastoral Ministry and is now attending Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.