December 3, 2016

The medium is the message

Several years ago I met a woman whose life was a mess. Her husband had left her and her children were out of control. She was selling bits and pieces of her home so she could buy groceries. She accepted what help I could give her, yet was independent as much as she was dependent.

At that time, we were in a church that trained people how to present the gospel. I was applauded for doing a good job of it, and that gave me confidence to tell my friend about Jesus. It happened in a telephone conversation. I totally flubbed it and felt like an idiot when I got off the phone. A few days later, she told me that she had decided to follow Jesus. She figured she was a good person, but realized no one, including herself, met the standard of God. She needed the saving power of Jesus Christ.

Since then, this passage of Scripture has become precious to me:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:1–5)

Chambers says that if I substitute a clear explanation of salvation to take the place of confidence in the power of God in the Gospel, I will actually hinder people from faith in Jesus Christ. It is only when I rely on the certainty of God’s redemptive power that He creates new life in those who hear His gospel message.

Not only that if my faith is in my ability or in my experiences then when I fail or my experiences become negative, my faith is shaken. But if my faith is in Jesus Christ and His Almighty power, then nothing will upset me. This is because my ‘power’ is unreliable and uncertain, but the power of God cannot be shaken.

This is an eternal security; I am secure because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Being bound up in Him instead of myself means that I cannot be moved. It also means that the message of His saving power is not about me, nor is it necessarily about how well I present it.

That said, this is not an excuse to be a bumbling idiot. Presenting the gospel is not about being persuasive, but it is about being a living demonstration of what God can do with a yielded life. Since He is not the author of confusion, what I say should have some resemblance of clarity BUT I cannot depend on my ability to be clear. It is God who uses His truth to change the human heart. I cannot do that, no matter how clearly I spell out the wonderful story of Jesus.

A Canadian named Marshall McLuhan purports that in good communication, “the medium is the message.” He meant that “the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived.” In the case of the gospel, he is truly unto something — but this is only true when the medium is not me or my ability. Instead it must be the power of the Holy Spirit, not the power of any human tongue!

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