The Gospel and Our Stories by David Dunham

One of the best things you can do for your soul is to hear the story of the gospel from as many different angles as possible. Everyone’s conversion story is different, and each has its own magnificent beauty to it. Taking time regularly to hear your fellow Christian’s story is a powerful reminder of the truth, beauty, and depth of the gospel message. Incorporating these stories into your corporate gathering is a compelling way to both encourage spiritual renewal and to evangelize the lost among you. Personal stories communicate the gospel in fresh ways to all who will hear them.

I know the gospel. Not only have I believed in it for salvation, but I’ve continued to study it, and apply it to my life. I have also shared it with others, taught it in classes, and preached it from platforms. I think I have a good grasp of it. But there is something unique and compelling about hearing that gospel applied in specific and particular ways to people’s lives. There’s something about hearing the gospel through someone else’s story that brings freshness to it, that brings a renewed understanding of it.

Several weeks ago I sat in the audience as several friends shared the testimonies and were baptized into the membership of our church. Hearing from each of them and how God has worked to draw them to himself, how He revealed a love they so desperately wanted, how He had forgiven them each of much, was beautiful. It moved me to tears and then to cheers. In fact for days after the service I heard from many in our fellowship about the power of those four testimonies. The power of testimonies is one of the reasons we like to use them in our Recovery program too. They communicate powerful truths in personal ways. Our stories enflesh God’s gospel message in the here and now. The give us a tangible, visible, right before our eyes picture of what redemption actually looks like. These four women were living examples of what it means to be “saved,” or “elected,” or “irresistibly drawn.” They were living doctrine and their story was communicating it to the rest of us.

Their stories were also reminders of our story. Regardless of the details we all have the same story, said so poetically by the hymn writer: I once was lost, but now I am found; was blind, but now I see. We become accustomed to our story, immune to its beauty and wonder. But to hear someone else’s story is to hear our own with fresh ears. It is to be raptured again by the truth of conversion and that story with which we have grown bored. Their story is our story, but to hear them tell it reminds me of how amazing it is that I can call myself a child of God.

It reminds us too that there is no one inaccessible to God. He can reach any person, in any situation, no matter where they find themselves. The most hardened religious person can be drawn out by God’s grace. The most rebellious of drug users and prodigal sons can be rescued. I have witnessed first hand God’s redeeming work in the lives of gays and lesbians, prostitutes and drug addicts, abusers and victims, children and adults. I am part of that crowd, so is my wife, so, I hope one day, will be my children. To hear the gospel told through personal conversion stories is to be reminded there is no one beyond the reach of God’s great arm. Their stories are an encouragement to me to keep praying, keep witnessing, keep hoping.

The gospel, after all, is a story. It is news, but not like the kind you read in the newspaper detached from your own life and personal concerns. It is good news. It is news that impacts the people you love and evidences itself in their lives. As they recount their story you see its goodness even more clearly. Sharing our stories and asking others about theirs is a beautiful reminder of the truth, depth, and beauty of the gospel. Good stories depict our need, recall our state, and point to our magnanimous God. They put before our eyes the cross of Christ, forgiveness, grace, and hope. Listen to someone else’s story carefully enough and eventually you’ll hear your own. If it’s told honestly and Biblically you’ll also hear God’s story.

David Dunham is an associate pastor at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Roseville, Michigan. He is a graduate of Ohio University (BA) and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv).

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