MAYBE IT'S THE ENEMY, THE DEVIL, trying to influence me to change my
theology, but the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi sure has been
popping up in my life a lot recently: “Preach the Gospel always, and when
necessary use words.”
I was at a conservative Christian concert sponsored by the local churches.
Toward its end the preacher took center stage to preach, expressed admiration
for the quote of St. Francis, quoted the words, and then turned to sit down. In
less then two minutes, the “word of God” had been spoken. A low buzz echoed
through the assembly as the congregation smiled at the preacher’s “cleverness.”
Of course, I’m sure there must have been at least one other person disappointed
that no sermon was preached, but the fact is, this “sermon” illustrates our
shift away from the sermon as the meat of our worship. I was at three other
events and meetings after that when the unspoken Gospel quote was referred to.
I have to admit, it would be nice if all we had to do was live out the Christian
life among those we live life with day in and day out. But somehow I just don’t
see the Apostle Paul proclaiming the unspoken Gospel. Paul’s example is that we
need to prove, dispute, reason, allege, persuade, rightly convince, as well as
show the gospel (Acts 9:22, 29; 17:2-3; 18:4, 19, 28; 19:8-9; 24:25). Or to put
all these words into one little nutshell, Jesus taught that we need to compel
(Luke 14:23). Now, you tell me how someone “compels” a person to turn toward God
by living the Christian life in front of them? They might know that you are a
nice person, but they won’t know that you are a nice person because you have put
your trust in Jesus unless you tell them.
It appears that the unspoken Gospel has gained a foothold among many because the
Gospel is becoming less popular and more people are taking offense at the
boldness we have to suggest that their belief is not right. In our day, when
everyone thinks their belief is just as right as any other belief, we need to be
more determined to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2).
These words do not sound passive to me, but are quite confrontational and
definitely runners in the evangelistic race and not spectators on the sidelines
with their cameras and popcorn.
Here are three reasons why I think the unspoken Gospel is a tool of the Devil to
keep the Gospel from being proclaimed.
First, a Christian lifestyle does not convict. Do you know anyone passing cars
at 80mph being convicted by other drivers obeying the law at 50mph? Not a one.
Neither will your lifestyle convict others to turn toward God. Conviction comes
when the authority able to enforce the law is within our awareness. The
policeman of our souls is God’s law, His word, which is “…quick, and powerful,
and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of
soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the
thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Without this authority, there
is no conviction.
Second, at the age of fifty-five, I have observed that sinners really don’t mind
being in the presence of Christians until they speak of their Christianity and
begin to compel them to be a Christian also. Our lifestyle does not encourage a
person to be a Christian, our words will.
Third, sinners are not all that concerned about why you’re nice and have a moral
standard. How many times have you had someone come up to you and say something
like, “Hey, I noticed that you live your life differently than everyone else
around here. You must be a Christian…I want to be one also.” I don’t know about
you, but that just hasn’t happened in my life or with anyone that I know. Your
niceness just doesn’t compel someone to be a Christian, but your words will.
In our twenty-first century sin and darkness is great and embraces all aspects
of our culture. It is imperative that the light that remains shines wherever it
is. You are that light and as you shine doing your good works, remember that no
one will ever know the one you’re working for if you don’t tell them…how will
they hear if there is not someone to tell them? (Romans 10:14)
The Bible is clear that most people—inside and outside the denominations—do not
fear God, neither put their trust in Him. You do not have to be part of the most
people. You can put your trust in Him today and then go and tell everyone you
know about the God who created the world, died for their sins, rose from the
dead, and gave a marvelous hope to all who will receive it. Time is short. Most
people need to hear the message that Jesus taught. Do your part to help them to
hear. Go and help return America to God.
Until next time…
Be so much the more, as ye see the day approaching