Lifestyle evangelism... is it enough? You need both words and actions to have a true witness for Jesus.
Last week, we took a look at the concept of ALWAYS BEING READY to defend and explain the message of Jesus, the hope we have within us as followers of Christ. We discussed a number of ways to be prepared, including prayer, familiarity with the truths of the Gospel, and a desire to find answers for people even if we don’t know them offhand.
By and large, most Christians are aware that we are called to share our faith in Christ. The question often is “How should I do this?” not “Should I do this?”. In our culture a methodology has risen that says we need to share our faith with others through our lifestyle; that our actions are meant to serve as a sign of our faith, and be attractive to others.
You may have even heard the phrase “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” This quote is generally attributed to St. Francis, founder of the Franciscan Order of the Roman Catholic church. However, there are two problems with that phrase. First, according to historians, there’s no record of St. Francis ever saying or writing it. And second, it’s actually bad theology!
This morning, we’re going to share a bit about the perceived tension between showing our faith in our actions, and in our words. Spoiler: these things aren’t mutually exclusive.
We begin with 1 John 3:
1 John 3:16–18 (ESV) - 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
What we gather from this passage is that faith in Jesus is meant to impact our actions. It transforms how we live, by adjusting our priorities.
Jesus laid down his life for us, in the ultimate expression of love and grace. We see his willing sacrifice as an example of how life is meant to be lived in community with others. As followers of Christ, we follow his lead and give freely of ourselves and our resources to be a blessing and encouragement to other people.
One of the ways this is demonstrated in a tangible way is by caring for one another’s physical needs. John points out the opportunity (and indeed, the duty) we have to help meet the needs of others, especially fellow followers of Christ. He speaks of “the world’s goods” (material items like clothing, food, and other possessions), and how they should be shared.
Did you know that you don’t have to be “rich” to share like John tells us to? On the contrary, we simply need to be generous with the blessings God has shown us. As a church, I have seen members of NCFC do this time and time again.
Can you think of a time when the church family (NCFC or elsewhere) did something to bless one of its members?
Here at NCFC, we’ve seen people provide meals to the sick and injured, fix broken-down cars, pack and move households, share books and other resources, take people on retreats, and more. When there are needs identified, the body is faithful to help.
At the same time, it isn’t just about the local church helping each other. If we truly Love God and Others, then we’re going to give it more than just lip service where we “talk” about Christian love. We’re going to serve others. We’re going to do good works for people outside the walls of the church, as an expression of worship to the God who saved us.
What kind of outside ministries of mercy do church people rightly get involved in?
Over the years, many from NCFC have served at the soup kitchen in Watertown. We have folks who have worked with the local crisis pregnancy center, and before it closed, a local maternity home ministry. Some donate regularly to the Carthage food pantry. Some run charity 5k’s and raise money for charity. Some serve in local volunteer organizations like Fire Departments, Little League, or Scouting. Some have been involved in the school system, as board members, PTO volunteers, coaches, and in other positions.
All of these are good works. Things which allow us to live out our faith in tangible ways, outside of the walls of the church.
Ephesians 2:8–10 (ESV) - 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
And you know what’s great about these GOOD WORKS? God loves them. In fact, he created us to do good works as an act of worship, in response to our saving faith in Jesus!
As we said earlier, our faith in Jesus is meant to impact our actions.
Now, if our faith is what empowers us to serve and be a blessing to others, then we need to know where our faith comes from.
Paul explains some of this in Romans 10, and what he writes has great significance to our discussion this morning.
Romans 10:13–17 (ESV) - 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
In verse 13, we see that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. That is to say, everyone who – by faith – calls out to Christ, trusting in him as savior and redeemer, will be reconciled to God and empowered to a life of Godliness.
Verses 14 through 17 highlight a practical explanation of HOW one comes to faith, or how one calls on Jesus. Working through it backwards, the logic looks like this:
· Missionaries have to be SENT. (Great Commission is to GO! To be intentional and active in making disciples, wherever God sends us to minister. Across town or across the world.)
· SENT missionaries must PREACH. (Not necessarily three point expository sermons. Preaching here is to PROCLAIM the truth of Jesus and who He is. This is the stuff we practiced last week, about giving a defense for the hope we have!)
· Unbelievers need to HEAR the PREACHING. (This doesn’t just imply, but outright states that we must use WORDS, written and verbal, to communicate the Gospel. Good Deeds are blessed as worship to God, but GOOD NEWS has to be shared.)
· Those who HEAR are encouraged to BELIEVE. (This is something we simply cannot do. God has to use the GOOD NEWS to price their hearts, and enable them to see the truth for what it is. Not all will believe, but the truth needs to be preached to every man, woman, and child, so that they have the opportunity.)
· Those who BELIEVE must CALL on Jesus. (This is what we mean when we say people need an opportunity to RESPOND. At the preaching, hearing, and believing of the Gospel, the proper response is to repent of sin and call on Jesus in faith. Again, we can’t do this. Only the individual we share with can call on Christ.)
So that’s the gist. We need to be faithful to do our part; to share the GOOD NEWS found in the Word of God. God is then faithful to then draw His people to himself, in accordance with His will. And those who do believe, must respond in faith, calling on Jesus.
Verse 17 summarizes the idea: So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
As we read earlier, we need to love people in DEED and in TRUTH. Not just giving lip service to our love for God and Others, but living as followers of Jesus. Doing what he’s called us to do. Serving others with Good Works, and Sharing the Good News in intentional conversations.
It’s not one or the other. It’s both. Both are needed to live faithfully for Christ. So, is there a tension between sharing Christ in our actions, and sharing the Gospel with our words? Maybe, at times, in how we think. Due to personality types, experiences, and so on, some of us may be more open to one side or the other.
But there was NO tension in God’s mind, as he set this paradigm up before the foundations of the world. After all, sharing the message of Christ IS a good work. In fact, it’s one good work ALL Christians are called to.
We began this series by looking at the Great Commission:
Matthew 28:18–20 (ESV) - 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As we close the series this morning, we’ve come full circle.
· We know that the church exists to MAKE DISCIPLES of Jesus.
· Pastor Mike encouraged us to PRAY, because the harvest is PLENTIFUL, but the workers are FEW.
· We saw that mobilizing more workers means PREPARING to explain or faith, and ANTICIPATE opposition.
· And this morning, we’re reminded that BEING a DISCIPLE means following Jesus with both GOOD WORKS and GOOD NEWS. It cannot be one or the other.
And as we wrap up, we see God’s perspective on those who DO go:
Romans 10:15 (ESV) - And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Now, look. We know some of you have gnarly feet. Bunions, blisters, fungus, whatever... Isn’t that a great image to end with? Deb Williams knows this better than most, as our local Carthage podiatrist!
But... this verse isn’t saying we need to get a pedicure so we can have beautiful feet. It’s saying that those who embrace GOOD WORKS and GOOD NEWS, taking BOTH into the world God has created, are beautiful servants of God.
Wherever their feet tread, those who are committed to the Great Commission are missionaries who bring faith, hope, love, grace, and reconciliation along with them.
And that’s beautiful!
So church, let’s move our feet. Let’s get up, and go. Wherever God is calling us. And as we do that, let’s preach the Gospel to all of creation, and serve others as an act of worship to Christ who saved us. Amen!