Book Review: Speaking Boldly

As I am not super consistent with my devotions and Bible study, it took me a lot longer to get through Speaking Boldly: Sharing God’s Word Every Day than planned. Written by Edward O. Grimenstein, Speaking Boldly is about just that, instructing and encouraging Christians to speak God’s Word in their everyday lives. And, being published through Concordia, it’s a book from a Lutheran religious perspective.

I liked this book because it can be used for devotion and Bible study and it’s also really simple, breaking everything down to show why we don’t need to be at all afraid of speaking God’s Word in this world. The biggest point Grimenstein makes is that God’s Word is God’s. It’s not ours, and if those we share it with insult or mock us, it is really God that they are insulting and mocking. What makes the Word powerful, is exactly that it is God’s Word. Salvation and forgiveness of sins were never humanity’s idea. If we conceive of salvation at all, there’s only one way: A person must work his or her way into heaven. That’s about our extent of imagination on the subject. Generally, the reality that any good works we do can never make up for the sinful marks that we bear is brushed aside. Humans often ignore the truth or do not know the truth, so that necessarily limits our imagination.

Fortunately, God isn’t limited in this way, and He had a better plan, to send His Son Jesus Christ in our place to live a holy life, a perfect God-Man being who did every right thing that we could not and even remembered to do every right thing we forgot. But even that wasn’t enough: Jesus’ righteousness had to pass on to us, in order for us to benefit from it. Jesus took on the punishment we deserved and died once for the whole world. He died in our place and suffered hell and ultimate separation from God himself. And then Jesus rose from the dead to show that He had defeated death, hell, and the devil, and that now peace reigns between God and Man. We are forgiven, truly forgiveness, for what we have done, and we are right with God. It is literally the most amazing thing this universe has or will ever have witnessed. It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate love.

Anyway, all of that, all of that history, that Word, it’s God’s, not ours, and it is far older than this age, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak it confidently and boldly to our fellow man. It is this Word of this forgiveness and salvation that everyone in the world needs to hear. Speaking Boldly begins by going through Creation and the wonderful news of salvation, and then digs into the definitions and uses of God’s Law and Gospel. Sometimes people are in a place where they need to hear the Law, as they need to come to repentance. Sometimes they need to hear the Gospel as comfort for when they are repentant or when they need comfort.

In our modern world, we often avoid talking about things like spirituality and religion, so how on earth is a Christian to even bring up Law or Gospel with anyone? Speaking Boldly goes through it step by step, but basically we must form genuine relationships for the speaking to even happen. And Grimenstein says the best way to relate to people is to listen to them, to really listen. Put down the smart devices, turn off the TV, forget about what you’re doing, and really listen to the person in front of you. If we listen well, it will become clear to us what we are to say, if we need to share Law or Gospel or both. Christians really listening will instantly distinguish us from the rest of the world. Instant light, instant salt.

Although in the past year I have become better, I am not a particularly patient person. Once upon a time, I used to be a very good listener, but lost it. Because it’s a skill that involves being around people, that’s perhaps why I lost it, becoming too involved in watching shows and reading books, plus the addition of living alone. When one is not around people, it’s easy to forget how to relate to them. This year I have been trying to do better at listening, and the results are amazing. Connections are made where there were none or fizzled ones before. Having patience is basically about time: Make it not exist when you are with other people. We can’t always do it fully, and it depends much on the situation and circumstances, but it becomes its own reward, being a great way to learn how people think and learn more about what they need and want. And most everyone wants some level of hope, love, and forgiveness, and that’s where we can step in to share God’s Word.

Grimenstein spends awhile on listening, as it’s just that important. Just like a doctor is no good if she doesn’t listen to what her patients are telling her, neither are we good if we don’t listen, either. It is vital for us to know when to share Law and when to share Gospel. Later on, he discusses other aspects to consider using the parable of the Sower and the Seed from Luke. There are a number of reasons why God’s Word is not received well or even rejected by those that hear it, and it’s more complicated than that they simply don’t believe. It’s important to understand what people are dealing with, their cares and concerns in the world, if they are believers, if they are being mocked or persecuted for their faith, or if they are simply not grasping that God’s Word and salvation is for them personally. Even Christians sometimes doubt that we’ll be in heaven. In those times, we desperately need a fellow Christian to speak the Gospel to us.

For the last chapter, Grimenstein discusses when the world “talks back.” He goes through many of the ways that right from the get-go, the world prevents us from speaking God’s Word and how to address that. The first thing, again, is that it’s not our word, but God’s. Salvation is real and should give us the ultimate confidence and boldness, for we are not speaking for ourselves, but for God who loves us far better than any human can comprehend. It’s more than okay if we lose our own lives in the speaking of God’s Word. We are but a mist on this earth, and then we are gone. Heaven is eternal, and that is where our true, eternal lives will be led someday, though I can scarcely comprehend what that will be like.

I realized reading this book that I need to improve on listening to people, but it also hit home that my everyday speaking needs to improve also. A great majority of the time I am among Christians, fellow Lutherans, and the Law and Gospel aren’t as much of our speaking as they could be. What Grimenstein is talking about is not just talking to people, but having heart to hearts with people, making things matter in the ways that they should. The examples he uses are fitting, and a couple of them surprised me–the possible depth of the conversations surprised me. I live in Minnesota. We’re “nice” and often don’t talk about things when we should talk about them. Worse, sometimes that evolves into being passive-aggressive, an underlying malice underneath that nice veneer. Shudder. It can be a difficult wall to break down, but, boy, is it worth it when it is broken down. Even so, it’s not talking about “things” that’s so important, but talking about our Salvation and Justification, our forgiveness of sins and why Heaven is obtainable for everyone. It’s not about us, it’s about God and what He has done for us in saving us.

This is a great book for either group or personal study. It’s not glamorous, but simple, in a good way. And it showcases how God so often uses imperfect people to get his message across. So many of those stories are in the Bible for us to consider. Humanity’s history is intricately tied up with God. That history is written down for us so that we can emblazon it on our hearts and speak boldly the truth of God’s Word.

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