A Constant Catechism: Talking About the Gospel in All of Life

EmmausI was talking with a friend of mine last week and he mentioned how remarkable it was that we spend so much of our days asking and answering questions. He then remarked how it’s almost always the case that the questions that our days revolve around are almost always revolving around ourselves. We ask lots of questions in the course of a day, and many of them are completely self-focused. To be a people who typically don’t like tests, we sure do spend a lot of our time quizzing one another. Our mornings begin and our evenings end with a barrage of questions – a constant catechism:

How did you sleep? What do you want for breakfast? Did you dream last night? What should I wear? What time is your dentist appointment? Will you pick the kids up from school? How are you doing? Do I look okay in this shirt? Does this tie match? Did I remember to turn the coffee off this morning? What did you learn today at school? How was your day at work? What do you want for dinner? Where did I put my phone? Did you watch the game last night? Which restaurant would you like to eat at? What would you like to watch on TV? What time do I need to set the alarm clock for?

These are a lot of questions, and I bet you can think of a lot more that we constantly query each and every day. In many ways our lives really are one long inquisition, and if that’s true, then should believers care about the kinds of questions that we ask and answer? Should we care about what we talk about? Should we care about the kinds of conversations we have?

I think so.

The essential and central theme of Christian discipleship is bringing all of life under joyful submission to the person of God through the Word of God. To be a follower of Christ is to be transfixed on the glory of God, satisfied in the presence of God, centered on the gospel of God, and saturated with the Word of God in all of life. For that to be the reality for us, then our lives are to be intentionally, uniquely, and demonstrably Christ-focused. And if our lives are to be Christ-focused then the minutes and moments that make up our lives are to be Christ-focused as well. We cannot genuinely call ourselves Christ-followers if the vast majority of our days are spent without the slightest thought of or concern for Christ. It’s an eternity-sized oxymoron to call ourselves Christians and then spend almost all our waking hours completely disregarding Christ.

Then we must be concerned to live all our lives in the light of Jesus’ presence. So the questions that we build our lives on should take on a decidedly God-focused quality. The topic of conversation should be distinctly Christ-oriented. In other words, if God is to be the focus of our minds and hearts throughout the day, then surely it will follow that he will be primary in our speech and conversation. We can’t help ourselves. It’s ingrained in us. It really does seem like we were created in such a way that we just naturally talk about whatever it is that consumes our attention. We chatter about whatever it is that our hearts love most. It just bubbles up and over and spills out into our daily lives. So if the gospel really is our passion, then it seems like that will be fairly obvious. For the Christian, there is no neatly defined quarantine line between our lives as Christians and our “normal” lives as husbands, parents, employees, and all the other roles that we assume throughout a day. Christ is preeminent in every sphere of life or he isn’t preeminent at all.

It seems then that what we spend our lives focusing on really does matter after all.

That’s certainly the depiction of discipleship that we find on the pages of the Bible. The book of Deuteronomy provides us a rubric for what the lives of God’s people are to look like, what we’re to care about, what our hearts are to be set upon, and it calls us to a God-focused and Bible-saturated lifestyle in public and private. Deuteronomy 11:18-21 tells us:

”You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”

Did you catch that? The believer’s life is to be lived in the light of life with God, in his presence forever. So the seconds that slip by us in the here and now are already to be consumed by the reality of who God is, what he has done, and what he has said. The Word of God is to be stored up within us. It is to be “bound” to us. The passage uses the language of placing it between our eyes, not because we are to literally superglue the Bible to our foreheads but because we’re to be constantly focused on it. It should be the hallmark of our family life, private life, personal life, and public life. The person and work of God is to be the topic of conversation throughout the day at home and abroad, as we relax and as we travel. The gospel is to be the agenda in such an outspoken way that it’s like having a billboard painted on the front of your house because it’s that obvious to anyone who might pass through.

That’s also the model that we have when we examine the life of Jesus. What do the private and public conversations between Jesus and other people tell us? What does the subject of his words tell us? It seems to tell us that throughout the day God really was at the forefront of his thoughts and desires. The story of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance on the road to Emmaus is a good example (Luke 24:13-35). That’s a vivid account of Jesus literally putting into gospel-practice the words of Deuteronomy 11. He is walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus on that first Easter morning and comes upon two depressed disciples going back to their “normal” lives. So what does he talk about? What conversation does he initiate? Where does he turn their focus? He asks them why they’re so emo, but then he immediately snaps them back to Bible-reality. As they are “walking by the way” they are spending their time discussing what the Bible says about God’s cosmic plans in and through the Christ. Jesus knows that what their day needs, what their hearts need is not to be made to forget their problems, nor do they need to be cheered-up by thinking about a ballgame or what they’ll have for dinner. What they need is to be brought back to reality by bringing their minds and hearts back to the Bible and therefore back to the crucified Christ who was buried just before the weekend but suddenly isn’t in his burial shroud anymore because he’s gone AWOL from the grave, busting loose from death itself.

That’s what the Emmaus disciples needed on that first Easter morning and that’s what we need on every morning and every afternoon on every day after Easter. We need hearts that are “burning within us” because we are always talking about this Jesus that won’t stay dead, and we’re always talking about the things he said and did that completely change everything.

So I want to encourage you as we go into this weekend. Be intentional about the gospel. Sure, enjoy your weekend with your family. Of course, watch some basketball; it is March Madness after all. But the one thing that should dominate your conversation more than anything else isn’t how a teenage athlete performs on television, but on how the God of the universe has broken into history, your history and turned everything topsy-turvy, upside down. At the end of the weekend your family, friends, and coworkers really should know more about your passion for Jesus than your passion for sports, more about your Savior than your bracket.

So talk about Jesus. Talk about the gospel. Ask each other gospel-driven questions.

There are lots of ways to make this a part of your daily life. Discuss your upcoming Sunday School lesson with your spouse. Read the verse(s) that Toby will be preaching this upcoming Sunday and talk about what they say. Ask one another how they’ve seen the gospel at work throughout their day, what they’ve learned about Jesus, what we’re thankful for because of Jesus. Write down a series of questions about God and the gospel that you’re going to ask yourself and your family each and every day. Pick up Don Whitney’s book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health and read through it. Pick a book of the Bible and another Christian book and read it with your family or friends and then talk about what you’re reading. Read through the Baptist Catechism (questions and answers about what the Bible teaches) and use it to help disciple your children (and yourself). A copy is available from John Piper and Desiring God Ministries at http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-baptist-catechism. Work through it during family devotions. You can even get the catechism set to music and play it in your car.

However you do it, I want to encourage you to talk about Jesus – today, tomorrow, and every day after. Whether you like it or not, our days are going to be spent in a constant catechism. We’re going to talk about something. Something is going to be the focus of our minds. Something is going to be the chief topic of our conversations. Something is going to consume the questions we ask and answer. It just so happens, that the gospel really is the only subject that deserves to be.

Have a great weekend!

– Pastor Cade

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