For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10 (CSB)
While good works do not merit us anything in our relationship with God, they are vital and indispensable. They are evidence of the radical transformation that has taken place within us. God may not need our acts of kindness, but our neighbors do. And as we do these works, they are not just random acts of kindness. They are precisely those works which God planned for us to do when he created us. In a culture where people are increasingly self-absorbed, doing good for others sends a powerful message. It points them to the one who has saved us, changed us, and deserves all the glory.
“When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” – Acts 4:13 (CSB)
Spending time with a man who was dead and then resurrected has a way of changing you. It gives you confidence in a way that transcends your training or qualifications. We may not have walked face-to-face with Jesus but we have the same opportunity to spend time with the living Savior. We have been united with him in his death, burial, and resurrection. The question is, would the people around us know that we have been with Jesus?
“Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us…” Luke 1:1 (CSB)
No one, even a hardened atheist, denies that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person who lived 2,000 years ago. His influence on the course of history is undeniable. The question is not “was Jesus important?” but rather “in what way was Jesus important?” Was he crazy? Was he just a man? Or was he something more?
Luke was a doctor. He was no intellectual slouch. And after doing a thorough investigation, he concluded that what happened in the life of Jesus was not just a series of remarkable events. It was the fulfillment of events prophetically foretold long ago. Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one whom God had sent to rescue his people. His coming was no coincidence. It was part of God’s eternal plan.
Why are we, as Christians, so afraid to share our convictions? Maybe it’s the desire to be liked. Maybe it’s our desire to not unnecessarily alienate people. Maybe we don’t want to appear judgmental. Maybe we would rather discuss certain topics face to face. Maybe we want to be perceived as humble and approachable. Some of these are worthwhile considerations. But none are legitimate reasons to keep quiet about our convictions.
Not everyone is going to like us. We will always alienate those unwilling to hear the other side. Society sees the belief in moral absolutes as judgmental. Sometimes you can’t wait to make a statement in person. Humility means we think about how to best articulate our convictions not that we refuse to share them. Reasonable people understand that not everyone views the world the same way. They are fine with those who have different convictions. They just want to know that we don’t consider ourselves inherently superior to them. That’s fair because we aren’t any better. All have sinned, all have fallen short of His glory, and all are in need of a Savior. And that’s all the more reason to boldly share our convictions.
Recently it was announced that more and more people in America are identifying themselves as non-religious. Many of these people formerly identified themselves as Christians. This is fantastic news for churches and for Christianity as a whole. Not only do we have a more accurate picture of who is actually a believer, we have a better opportunity to reach these people than we did before.
The hardest people to reach are the religious and nominally committed. They think birth, upbringing, or religious activity count for something before God. Perhaps their willingness to move away from that mindset will actually be the thing that enables them to see their need for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Being honest and real about who we are is an important value in our culture and rightfully so. No one likes a fake. But if you are a Christian – especially a Christian leader – then please, manage your image. Your online image that is. By all means be honest. But that might mean saying nothing at all.
Don’t belittle people on social media. Don’t spread gossip. Don’t engage in senseless debate. Don’t provoke people unnecessarily. Don’t reinforce people’s stereotypes of Christians. Basically, don’t be a jerk. What you say online lives forever.
In an effort to convince people that Christianity is worth embracing, there is a natural tendency to soften and diminish the culturally unpopular aspects of our faith. Many of the people who do this mean well. But the more palatable we make Christianity, the more powerless it becomes. If everyone and everything is morally acceptable, then who needs a Savior?
Two thousand years of church history show that when culture redefines Christianity, the church loses its leverage and influence. Instead of lowering the standard, let’s speak the truth in love. Let’s invite people to embrace and rejoice in the grace made available to them through Jesus Christ, a grace that is greater than all our sin.