Jan Antonsson

The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway

December 8, 2018

Neosho, MO 

 “Isaiah dared to speak out these words of God: People found and welcomed me who never so much as looked for me. And I found and welcomed people who had never even asked about me” (Romans 10:20, The Message).

The inspiration for this writing comes from a link my dear friend John Gavazzoni e-mailed to me regarding an article by Jonathan Merritt.  He writes for the Atlantic and has also written a book published by Random House entitled, Learning to Speak God From Scratch: Why Sacred Words Are Vanishing — And How We Can Revive Them.”  I haven’t read the book yet (available on amazon.com), but his comments regarding why he wrote it are the focus of my thoughts today, and I hope you’ll share yours on the subject as well.  Merritt was a part time minister in Atlanta, Georgia, who attended seminary, and writes a blog as well.  He currently is working and writing in New York City, and his comments came from his interaction with the people he met there.

He laments that no one speaks about God these days.  He hired a research team to study the topic about how many times a week or a year people spoke of God.  The study showed that even Christians don’t often speak of God outside of a church setting.  That got me thinking, and my first thought was this can’t possibly be true. He said that when he attempted to start a conversation with various New Yorkers he met, they looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language, and asked him to please explain what he meant by the words “sin,” “salvation,” and “grace” to name a few. His observation about that experience was that he was no longer in the Bible Belt.  If I were transported to Berlin, Germany, for example, I would be in the same situation, unable to communicate with those I encountered because I don’t speak a word of German. 

OK, that’s reasonable and logical, but the next thought that came to me is, why does he attach so much importance to this experience?  In his recent New York Times article  entitled,  “It’s getting harder to talk about God,”  he posits,  “There is also a practical reason we need a revival in God-talk, specifically at this time in American history. Many people now avoid religious and spiritual language because they don’t like the way it has been used, misused and abused by others. But when people stop speaking God because they don’t like what these words have come to mean and the way they’ve been used, those who are causing the problem get to hog the microphone.

“That toothy televangelist keeps using spiritual language to call for donations to buy a second jet. The politician keeps using spiritual language to push unjust legislation. The street preacher keeps using spiritual language to peddle the fear of a fiery hell. They can dominate the conversation because we’ve stopped speaking God. In our effort to avoid contributing to the problem, we can actually worsen it.” End Quote.

Is he correct in his conclusion, I wonder, or is he still trying to return to the God of his childhood, the evangelical roots of his belief system?  Why do we attempt to talk about God to others, or do we still try?

Evangelicals push witnessing to others a lot.  Been there, done that, but is that really the most effective means of getting folks to know and experience God up close and personal?  Is that what Isaiah meant by his declaration,  “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, Breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”  (Isaiah 52:7, The Message).  If this were the message preached today, I suspect the complaints would cease. Paul’s assurance is:  “Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me’ (Romans 10:20, ESV).

I certainly remember the emphasis made by Evangelical pastors and leaders on their belief that if we don’t tell people about Christ, they won’t ever know Him.  I also remember, the not so subtle guilt that those words imparted to me.  If I don’t witness, then I’m not a good Christian and God isn’t ever going to say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master”  (Matthew 25:21, ESV).  That, by the way, is the spiritual grade of A+, which over-achievers like me always sought to receive in school.  I think it was Harry Robert Fox, who first pointed out to me that God shows Himself even to those who did not ask for Him.  

Harry’s beloved wife Jeri always told me, “No matter where Harry Robert begins on any topic, he always ends up in Romans.”  That was certainly true, because as Harry often  affirmed,  “Romans, Chapters 9, 10, and 11 are the lynchpin, the focal point of the Gospel God called Paul to deliver to the Gentiles,”  which for the most part, is all of us.  Harry also believed that had God not raised up a messenger like Paul, or someone like him, Christianity would have become just another sect of the Jews and probably died out by the end of the first Century.  Whether he was right about that, I don’t know, but I do know that Paul has certainly delivered “the goods,” the deliverance from religion’s insatiable demands on me and countless others, setting us free: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”  (Galatians 5:1, ESV).

Jesus, in whom the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,  ministered to the  “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His messages to them, though life affirming and powerful, were nevertheless given to people who still lived under the Law of Moses.  Had He not died, and been raised again, the pivotal point in human history, we’d all still be in the grip of sin, disobedience, and despair that reigned from Adam to Christ.  Paul was the one chosen to minister life and liberty from living by Law to those of us who came after the cross.  Here’s the passage: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross”  (Colossians 2: 13-14, ESV). 

Please let me know what you think about the status of God-talk today.  Do people still need to hear more about sin and corruption in order to get them to repent?   Do they respond positively to negative threats? What motivates you to be better, fear of hell after you die, or the unconditional love of God continuously shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit?  I guess that is the answer in search of the question.

Father, You have burst the bonds of sin, death, and corruption which kept us chained like galley slaves in the charnel house of flesh, and have flooded our hearts with Your unconditional love, mercy, and kindness.  We can never thank You enough were we to live a thousand years.  We rejoice in the Apostle John’s declaration about You: Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’’ And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘‘Behold, I am making all things new’’   (Revelation 21:3, ESV). Amen and amen.  Jan Antonsson

Jan Austin Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail Address)

All our writings from 1997-2010 are on

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