Whenever I speak to people who left the church and renounced God, they speak of the problem of Christian obedience as a massive factor.
Soon, after some lively discussions on Eshu’s blog, I hope to answer those who say that the church’s records of evil is a reason to deny God . However, before I do so I want to talk to the Christians. I want us to realise that living for Christ can be an essential part in the way God saves people.
But before I do that I better get a big misconception out of the way.
What Living for Christ Doesn’t Do
Almost every Christian has heard the words of St. Francis of Assisi:
“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words”
Unfortunately, Francis simply do not represent the Christian view of preaching the Gospel. In Philippians 1:15-18 Paul talks about a group of people who are preaching the Gospel out of rivalry. What is his response? Joy!
This seems odd and the only reason that this can be is that the Gospel (even through a bad witness) still has the power to save.
Indeed, we find this in Romans 10:14-15. This passage is a summary of the essentials of becoming a Christian :
- You must call on Christ. But this can’t happen without you:
- …believing in Christ. But this can’t happen without you:
- …hearing the message. But this can’t happen without someone:
- …preaching to you. But this can’t happen unless someone:
- …sends people to preach.
Now the only part we have in these “essentials” is preaching. Preaching must occur. It isn’t an optional “when necessary” Notice Paul never says “And how are they to see Christ unless you live like him?”. The fact is the only absolute essential in try to get people saved is preaching the message.
Many use living the Gospel as an excuse not to do the hard work of preaching the Gospel. Yet this isn’t what the Scripture says when it calls us to right living. Living for Christ does not replace telling people the message. Preaching is our primary purpose. Only words can convert
What Living for Christ Does Do
Nevertheless, though preaching is essential, it’s just as bad to undermine the importance of living for Christ. Living for Christ provides a powerful testimony to how the Lord changes lives.
Winning souls can be likened to a football match. In football, unless you score goals, it’s impossible for you to win. But many other things contribute to you winning the match: tackling, passing, shooting etc. For the most part these skills are very important, even if they aren’t the most important part. There may be the odd game you win despite playing badly, but they are rare occurances.
Preaching is like scoring goals. It is the only way you can “win” a believer (not that preaching always is successful, there are other elements involved in Romans 10). All the other skills are like living for Christ. You can’t win a game just by living for Christ, you’ve got to preach. However, living for Christ can have such a powerful effect “on the game” that it contributes to winning the game.
Now, you may say “This is a clever illustration, but is the idea of living for Christ leading to success Biblical”. Yes! Read 1 Peter 2:12:
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
1 Peter 2:12 (ESV)
Glorifying God on the day he returns means they’ll be Christians! Your good deeds have some effect in winning people for Christ.
Peter tells us they stop people from being able to say “Well you are evildoers, you are just as bad as us, you’re message can’t be valid”. It helps prove that the Gospel is true. Your good works make all the difference.
What This Means For Us Christians
This means if we are preaching the Gospel we better make sure our actions are up to scratch.
Are you preaching the message to your boss? Better make sure you are a good worker.
Are you preaching the message to your close friend? Better make sure you show your love by keeping in touch.
Are you preaching the message to your child? Better make sure you a kind and fair parent.
Living for Christ does make a difference.
Now what about those who claim to be Christians but have engaged in wars or sexual immorality? Should they stop us believing in Christ? We’ll talk about that next week…