Saturday, December 6, 2008

Living in the Light of God's Salvation

Isaiah 12:4-6:

4 And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.

5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

The brief article below is from John Chapman who is an evangelist from Australia. He explains the evangelism imperative found in Isaiah 12:4-6. --Bill

What do we do with each other in the light of God's salvation?

In Isaiah 12:4-6 we are instructed by God as to what I am to say to you - and what you are to say to me.

"Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted."

And then it is reiterated, I take it, for slow learners...

"Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world."

Now it's been interesting for me to look at all the Anglican liturgies that are available for me to search - and not one of them is obedient to this psalm.

Here is a God-given recipe for what we are to do when we meet. I am to say to you, "Give thanks and call upon the name of the LORD". What does that mean? It means, "Make sure you are in right relationship with God".

So, when I greet you in church, instead of saying "Did you see the scores St. George got yesterday?", I am directed by God to say, "It is a happy day - are you sure, brother/sister, you are in relationship with God? Do make sure you don't miss out! Call upon the name of the LORD."

And that is what you are instructed to do to me.

And you know what I am to say to you then? "Make sure you tell the rest of the world - so they won't miss out." See it? "Make known to the nations what he has done."

Outward looking?

So often, if we have a free prayer time in church, invariably we are introspective. We pray about our ills, our granny's ills, our uncle's ills. We may sometimes pray about the ills of the world, and even once in a while some eager beaver gets it right and we pray for the spread of the gospel.

I was on holidays once and went to a particular church because it has a name for being great. The sermon was long and involved, and I thought inaccurate. I was sorry about that.

But they had a free time where people came and exhorted the congregation. To this day I haven't been able to work out if it was spontaneous or organised.

A young man walked straight up to the lectern and said, "I've been trying to lead a friend of mine to Christ and I've been speaking to him for the last three years on and off. I've organised to take him to lunch on Tuesday and I'm going to ask him to turn to Christ. I'd be very glad of your prayers."

An entire family walked up - and the father said, "We just want to say thank you for the way you've supported us after the recent death in our family. We had great opportunities to speak with our family members about the things of Christ and we appreciated your help."

Now while there were some things in that congregation that weren't impressive, that part of it was very, very impressive.

Is your church outward-looking or is it thoroughly introspective? In nine out of ten churches their own woes fill up the scene - but there is a desperate need to get the gospel out - and to exhort one another with our words and with our prayers.

This psalm says that I am - in the light of God's great salvation - to urge you not to miss out. And with the same breath I am to say,

"Make known to the nations what he has done. Proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world."

Just Words?

Brothers and sisters, we cannot proclaim what God has done by the way we live. There is nobody alive who can live in such a way that somebody can perceive that Jesus died and rose so their sins could be forgiven.

It is utterly impossible - and it is twaddle to go on as if the gospel can be spread simply by the way you live your life.

Of course the gospel can be reinforced when people recognise that I'm taking it seriously - when I'm kind and gentle and loving, and when all of the fruits of the Spirit are seen in me. But nobody can understand the gospel except that it is explained by words.

How can I comprehend that "the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me" except you tell it to me? How can anyone in Australia perceive that they can be forgiven for their sins and be in right standing before God except we tell them about the work of Jesus? Do let's get that straight!

I'm not talking about how that's to be done - but about the fact that it is to be done. Within the framework of our circumstances and gifts we are all expected to do that.

Give Thanks

In Isaiah 12 this beautiful psalm rounds off by saying,

"Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you."

When I think of God's grace to me as an individual, I am to respond by being full of wonder at God's forgiveness. And when I meet with you I should continually encourage you to hang on to the gospel - to call on the name of the LORD - to cultivate your friendship with God, and to tell others of this joyful salvation.

It is a great grief to me as I look at our liturgies that not one of them urges me to take the gospel to the world! When we think of God's grace and wonder, it ought to bubble up within us in uncontrollable joy which spills over into proclamation.

To have embraced the gospel, and not to be thankful is a contradiction in terms. To have embraced the gospel, and not to tell it out to the nations is an equal contradiction in terms.

John C. Chapman


Canon John Chapman served as the Director of the Anglican Department of Evangelism in Sydney from 1968 to 1993 - but hasn't slowed down in his retirement! He is also an Emeritus Vice-President of the ACL.

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