How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison, Free for CAPC Members
David Powlison dispels the myth that there is a “key to sanctification” and then lays the biblical groundwork for spiritual growth.
As an introverted public school educator, I have the perfect excuse neatly lined up to not “evangelize” to people in this dark world. The “separation of church and state” excuse is a shield I hold up in front of my fear and pride justifying my unwillingness to tell people about Jesus at work. Sadly, I drag that shield outside the realm of work, too, regularly skirting my responsibilities as a self-identifying follower of Jesus.
But as a believer of Jesus Christ, why does sharing what is supposed to be “good news” not feel good? Why do I always feel awkward, pushy, and annoying when I attempt to insert spiritual insight into conversations? The thought alone makes me perspire. Does God see my discomfort and allow me a pass on making disciples? Most likely not (2 Corinthians 5:20). I know I need to be better sharing my faith, but is there any hope for a sheepish Christian like myself to tell of the goodness of God to non-Christians in our postmodern society?Everts encourages believers to go back to meditating on God’s Word, which subsequently fills us up for authentic, instead of forced, conversations with non-Christians.
The Reluctant Witness: Discovering the Delight of Spiritual Conversations by Don Everts is an intriguing answer to that question. Throughout the contents of this timely book, Everts provides straightforward, encouraging, clarifying, and convicting direction for the coy Christian on how to share our faith.
Everts even takes the Christian witness a step further by insisting that spiritual conversations don’t have to be “pesky, painful, [nor] awkward,” but they can be enjoyable, pleasant, and delightful. Throughout five very easy-to-read chapters, Everts reveals that “witness really is beautiful” as the Scriptures tell (Isaiah 52:7).
But what we first discover in The Reluctant Witness is a series of data points that show the state of evangelism in America is on a downward trend. This is a discouraging and convicting tale of American Christianity in the twenty-first century. “The latest research is like a mirror held up to our own faces: it helps us see ourselves more clearly,” Everts writes. “And if we see fear and conformity, that can be a shocking realization,” and it is, because if God is so good, why don’t we proclaim His goodness daily? Yet, Everts—as he so often does throughout his book—provides an encouraging path forward if the reflection you see is as grim as it already felt. “If that’s the case with you, don’t run from that reality,” Everts encourages readers. “Face it squarely and mourn it. And repent.” If you’re anything like me, you will find yourself doing quite a bit of repenting while reading this book. And it feels good.
Readers’ faith will be rejuvenated when they read The Reluctant Witness, too, as Everts draws attention to the soul-level joys of daily communing with Jesus. Everts encourages believers to go back to meditating on God’s Word, which subsequently fills us up for authentic, instead of forced, conversations with non-Christians. He believes that when we’re on the lookout for opportunities to share the gospel and are sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s prodding in those moments, our hearts, souls, and minds will be enriched. However, he wisely adds, “This doesn’t mean awkwardly inserting Christian non sequiturs into conversations (‘Speaking of your new car, if you were hit by a bus tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity?’)”
Everts doesn’t stray too far into the sociological reasons why some American Christians might have grown reluctant to share their faith. It would have been an interesting chapter if he had explored any correlating data that might link the reluctance of being a witness with current social happenings, such as the 2016 presidential election. Some could argue that the deafening cry of anti-Christian sentiments in American politics and pop culture might be the cause for some to shrink back from their call to witness. One might even argue that the overwhelming “evangelical” support for a president who has clearly misconstrued the idea of who a true believer is is the reason why many shrink back from identifying with American Christianity, let alone evangelizing it to non-Christians.
Even to this argument, though, I think Everts would assert that this is the very reason why Christians should be evangelizing the true gospel of Jesus Christ. When we fail to communicate the gospel at all, it leaves room for outsiders and peddlers of the gospel to interpret the faith to their liking or personal political persuasion rather than how God communicates it through His Word. In his book, Everts delves briefly into the comparably minute, although very real, aspects of Christian persecution in America. A deeper dive into some of the reasons why and some helpful tips on how to deal with these aspects of being a Christian witness might have proved an additional help to Christians who hope to grow bold in their witness.
Overall, Everts accomplishes his mission for The Reluctant Witness. He uses a litany of data points, displaying it in various easy-to-read formats (graphs, charts, etc.), and insightful self-examining questions to help the reader digest his primary point for his book: being a Christian witness is a beautiful enrichment for the believer’s soul.
He shows us that there is a way forward to share the gospel without hesitancy or reluctance. We can leave our shields of timidity and fear at the cross of Jesus, and pick up our shield of faith in exchange. Readers of The Reluctant Witness will be emboldened and eager to share what is truly Good News to the world around us.
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