They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (Titus 1:16 NIV)
But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High. (Psalm 78:17 NIV)
No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6 NIV)
WHO ARE YOU TO TELL ME HOW TO LIVE? WHEN DID YOU BECOME GOD?
For any follower of Christ who has risked a relationship with a family member or close friend to point out the sin in their lives, those words, harsh and unyielding, sting. There is no way to sugarcoat it.
In fact, the feeling of rejection from a loved one can be so powerful, that many faith-based Christians retreat from any possible confrontation, comforting themselves in lifting a few prayers, knowing that for God, even the most unredeemable person is an easy fix.
The amazing reality is that while God can do all things, He has chosen to work through us, His creation. From the very beginning, God told Adam and Eve, before The Fall, to “fill the earth and subdue it” (Genesis 1:28 NIV). The resurrected Christ, before His ascension into Heaven, commissioned His followers to “go and make disciples …, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV).
Part of the mystery of God’s creation is that He has chosen to work through men and women of faith, despite our failings, our fears, our weaknesses, and even our own poor witness.
Jesus knew the work would be difficult. He knew we would be rebuffed often, so He encouraged us to have some perspective: “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first” (John 15:18 NIV). This was prophesied in Isaiah 53:3 NIV: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.”
THE LORD ALSO GAVE US A POWERFUL TOOL to use in helping our loved ones. It is His Holy Word, the Sacred Writ: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for instruction, for conviction, and for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, fully equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 BSB).
That means the Word we read daily in our walk with Christ to inspire us, to ground us, and to guide our lives is the same tool He has given all mankind. We only need to share it. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here; we don’t need to create our own theology; we don’t have to struggle with magic formulas that will reach the unreached.
God gave us the tool to use. We need but point people to its power.
Try this some time. When talking to an unbeliever, present the Bible to them. Ask them to hold it for a few minutes. Watch as their hands disappear, quickly pulled away from the Book as though it were a leaping flame.
The Bible has Power. It is a living book, filled with the Word of God. “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19 NIV).
The unbeliever knows that the Bible holds a power that is stronger than their own will. To continue in their unbelief, they must reject it totally, stay as far away from it as possible. Even the conventional believer — the churchgoer who thinks taking communion is a profession of faith — will own a Bible. It will remain on the bookshelf where they stuck it the day their church presented it to them. Unread. Gathering dust.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BELIEVER’S WITNESS? How are we living our lives? At home, at work, in our neighborhoods, with our family and friends? Do we make a difference in the way we act or talk? What about our thoughts? We may think they’re private, but doesn’t desire lead to sin?
Here’s what James, the half-brother of Jesus, says: “Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15 NIV).
So, does our witness back up our words?
Yes and No.
No, if our words are of judgment and condemnation. In that case, we are hypocrites.
Since we all sin (“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – Romans 3:23 NIV; “and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” – Isaiah 64:6 NIV), we cannot act in judgment of our neighbor, who will be justified in throwing back at us Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3 NIV: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
However, YES, a resounding and vibrant YES a thousand times over, if we point to the glory of God, admitting that we are sinful creatures who have been reborn by God’s redeeming love (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” – 2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).
WE CANNOT SHY AWAY FROM REACHING those whom He has placed in our lives who need to hear the Word of God! We cannot let our insecurities stop us from an open witness.
Sometimes, that witness takes the form of a kindness — an encouraging word, helping with a task, or even offering to assist.
Sometimes, it requires an open discussion, perhaps leading with a question seeking permission. “May I ask you something?”
Sometimes, it needs a bold declaration of God’s love for His creation.
“You know, (name of person here), God tells us that He loves us so much He was willing to come to earth in human form to die for us, to pay the price for our sin, yours and mine, to restore us to a right relationship with Him. What do you think of that? Isn’t that awesome?”
Sometimes, it allows for a full-on statement of God’s design to reclaim His creation for Himself.
“In fact, (name of person), He said there is no sin you or I could do, no pattern of sinful behavior, no limit to hurting ourselves or others that His sustaining Grace can’t defeat. (“For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” – Romans 6:14 NIV). Are you willing to ask for that help from Him right now? I can help you, if you’d like. It’s your call, but I’m here to walk with you every step of the way.”
WE MIGHT NOT BE BLESSED with the opportunity to stand with a repentant unbeliever and witness that person’s passing from death to life, but just as Paul taught us in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, we certainly will have the opportunity to plant the seed that someone else waters and even water the seed that someone else plants.
In either case, God is the one who will make the plant grow. At that point, we just step aside and watch the glory of God transform this man or woman.
Three key points, then, for those who want to serve the Lord.
First, is to give Him the praise and glory for how He has reached down and transformed our lives to live out the Gospel every day. “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:11 NLT).
Second, is to act out the Gospel. “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:22 NLT).
Third, is to give up sinful life styles. “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6 NIV). “No one who is born of God will continue to sin” (1 John 3:9 NIV).
PRAYER: Our Heavenly Father, help us in our unbelief to believe, in our sin to seek repentance, in our words to be helpful, in our deeds to be obedient, in our thoughts to be pure, all for the glory and praise of Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen