Who do you say Jesus is?
Do you know what people around you think about Jesus? I'm talking about people whose language you are learning, your neighbors. Have you asked them? Have you asked them what others think? Have you asked them what they think? Jesus did.
In Matthew 16:13 Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" and after getting some responses (v. 14) he asked them a more personal question, "But who do you say that I am?" (v. 15). He regularly had these kinds of conversations with those around him, those he loved, those in whom he invested. Peter responded to Jesus' question, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (v. 16). Amazing!
These are the kinds of conversations that would be great to have with our neighbors as we learn their language. So why don't we? Maybe we already anticipate what their response will be. Jesus also probably had a pretty good idea of what people thought about him, but he still asked. Only his Heavenly Father could reveal who Jesus really was to his disciples and others (v. 17-18). Indeed, only God can reveal this truth to our lost neighbors. But they've got to hear it first! (Romans 10:14). This is the hope of the gospel in all conversations, in all our relationships.
Why don't we have these kinds of conversations with our neighbors?
Jesus responded to Peter, "Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah. For flesh and blood has not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16: 17-18). Jesus gave Peter a new name, a new identity. We too receive a new identity when we confess Christ! And, in many ways we continue to grow into our identities in Christ, so significant to our testimonies as we dive into new languages and cultures and have conversations with our neighbors! Let me explain this with three thoughts:
Gospel conversations are key.
We can proclaim, teach, preach, and even argue the gospel. But, we mostly need to simply converse the gospel, to prayerfully hear and joyfully attend to our neighbors' response to what we are saying. This takes practice, time, and investment. This means knowing them, talking with them, and listening to them as we converse the gospel with them.
Relationships are everything...
...and time is the currency. We need to spend time with God. In his word. In prayer. In his presence. Cultivating our relationship with him. We also need to spend time with our neighbors. In the language. Listening. Conversing. Sharing from what God is doing in our lives. Inviting response. Asking what's going on in their lives. Trusting God is working in their lives, in our relationships, and in our conversations.
Identity is also...everything.
We understand, often in uniquely startling and powerful ways, about who we are, and whose we are, even as we learn our new languages and cultures - that we are in Christ, and that Christ is being formed in us on this amazing pilgrim journey. This is so core to our identities and our testimonies, especially as we learn language and culture, get to know our neighbors, and begin to share the gospel with them. When this connects in our minds and hearts, when we really begin to understand the spiritual integrity of this process, then we begin to really thrive in our personal gospel witness.
When we understand who we are in Christ as we learn new languages and cultures that has the potential to revolutionize how we interact with our neighbors.