We want to be treated like adults in our churches. But how are we treating God before the watching world?
To Be Consumed
The way we communicate the gospel to our peers is important. As Christians, each word we say should be thoughtful, representing God accurately. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36) We must be careful how our words reflect the Christian life and Christ Himself.
But just saying the right things in the right way isn’t enough. People aren’t dumb. They watch us, and they can see if our walk matches our talk. Do we practice what we preach? Or are our words empty? We say Christ is precious, our treasure, but do we readily sell Him in order to enjoy the emptiness of sin? In other words, do we push Him away so that we can indulge our flesh? What does that say to people who are watching our lives?
They will not believe our words if they cannot take our lives seriously. We are called to give ourselves up to Christ, not just for our own benefit, but also so that they can see He is worth it. We aren’t called to enjoy ourselves. We aren’t supposed to be clever with our words and careless with our lives, like deceiving advertisements for God. We aren’t salesmen. We are living sacrifices.
In the end, it’s all about our intentions. What is our goal? Do we want to pack the pews, get more hands raised and more feet walking down the aisle to repeat a prayer? Or are we trying to glorify God before a fallen world, no matter what the consequences may be?
We want to be treated like adults in our churches. But how are we treating God before the watching world? What do they think He must be like based on the things we say and the things we do? We have to be careful, as a generation of Christians, what gospel we are passing to the next generation of Christians. If we give them a weak, watered down, palatable gospel, that is all they will have to pass along. If this continues, the impact the gospel has on culture will become gradually weaker and weaker.
Three things to watch out for:
- Wanting to fit in
The most immediate reason we stumble in our witness in front of the world is because we want to fit in, to be a normal person. We’ve all been in situations like this. Maybe we’ve been the only Christian in a group of friends and someone suggests an activity that might be against common Christian practices. We all know the feeling as they turn and look at us to see what our reaction will be. The temptation to shrug it off and go along with it is often very strong. But what will they think of our Christ if we do that? Will they not see that He really isn’t worth living for if we so readily turn our back on His commandments just to fit in? We have to understand, really understand, that we live in a different kingdom now. We’re not under the reign of the world’s expectations. Our king is Christ, and we follow Him only.
- Loving the world
Many times this is buried just beneath the surface of wanting to fit in, even for the Christian. A warning sign that this is a problem is when we’re quick to take up arms for our “Christian freedoms,” which allows us to partake in harmless activities that aren’t necessarily spiritual (listening to certain kinds of music, watching certain movies, etc.)
What does it say about us when we not only use these freedoms but also aren’t willing to sacrifice them for the good of our weaker brothers and sisters? It says that we love those things more than we love the Christians around us, and ultimately more than Christ Himself. Loving the world is the antithesis of loving Christ. We can enjoy the things of the world insofar as the Word of God permits, but they must be put in their proper place. Christ and the world cannot share the throne of our hearts.
- Wanting an easy life
This is the sin of unbelief, not believing that Christ is worth giving up everything for. Being salt and light is not for those who wish to have an easy life or are unable to take anything seriously. The person who desires to share the gospel should count the cost first. Charles Spurgeon’s admonition to pastors and ministers is also applicable to us. “We are not to be living specimens of men, well-preserved, but living sacrifices whose lot it is to be consumed.”
Paul was such a man. In Romans 12 he tells us: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” What happens to a sacrifice? It is killed, laid on the altar and burned to ash. We cannot afford to hide our light under a bushel so that we can escape the weight of our reasonable service.
Christ spared not one fiber of His being when He authored the gospel. How can we shy away from discomfort when we proclaim it?