Shining Like A Diamond
Have you ever heard one of those "attention-grabbing" Christian testimonies? They typically go something like this: "I used to be a practicing witch..." or "I spent 15 years in prison for..." Whatever it may be, everyone takes notice when we hear about someone being so radically transformed by the power of the Gospel. In fact, one of the most well-documented testimonies in scripture is that of the Christian-murderer turned apostle, Paul. They don't get much more radical than that!!!
But what about those less "jaw-dropping" testimonies? No one gets too worked up over the "I've been in church since I was a child and I don't really even know when I actually got saved" testimonies. Moreover, often times our church culture makes people from that background question if they are even truly saved at all. Afterall, if you can't point to a time and place, maybe it never really happened.
It deeply saddens me when I see and hear this response. Shouldn't we all wish this was our story? That we never knew a day in our lives without Jesus. Christian parents, isn't this our prayer for our children? The truth is, there are a few fundamentals when it comes to the Gospel that, despite the fact that we all "know" them, from time to time get neglected, taken for granted, and/or overlooked. Let's look at them.
1. We all need God's saving grace.
The Gospel radically transforms lives. We should all celebrate that. However, sometimes we think the Gospel only really transforms truly "broken" lives. This is a gross misunderstanding that is rooted in both our low view of sin and our high view of ourselves, which leads to self-righteousness.
In reality, whether you grew up in a Christian home or "on the wrong side of the tracks," whether you used to sell drugs or girl scout cookies, we all stand on an even playing field before a holy God as sinners in need of saving grace. Your lack of what the world may consider "big deal" sins doesn't give you a leg up over the most wanton transgressors among us.
In the same way, your radical transformation story isn't a badge of honor or a ticket into the grace recipient hall of fame. Let me be clear, testimonies give us a great opportunity to share with others about the power of the Gospel and God's generous and loving grace in our lives, but we shouldn't use them as a means to glorify our sin. Rather the grievous nature of our depravity should be the dark backdrop against which the beauty of the diamond of the Gospel can shine forth magnificently. When we lose sight of the fact that all of our sins, from the smallest to the greatest, stand in equal contrast to the perfection and glory of the holiness of God, we do injustice to the true message of the Gospel.
2. Preach the Gospel...to everyone!
We are all guilty of judging people. We look at the guy in the three-piece suit with the nice car, nice house, nice, respectable family, and we think, he's got it all together. On the other hand, we look at the down-and-out mother who lost her kids to CPS and is mixed up (again) with drugs, and we think, she's too broken to be fixed. In reality, in both cases, our prejudices have misled us.
Apart from saving faith in Jesus Christ, both of these people (and the millions like them) need to hear the Gospel. When we neglect to preach it to them, we take God's sovereign choice in election out of his capable hands and keep that responsibility for ourselves. The problem is, we aren't qualified or empowered to do so. Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 is that while some are planters, and others are caretakers, it is only God that decides which seeds will ultimately take root and grow to produce fruit in accordance with genuine repentance. You can't tell to look at someone (and neither can I) who God has chosen to count among his flock. Our job isn't to know. Our job is merely to sow seeds indiscriminately, as far and wide as we possibly can. So share the Gospel...and share it often.
3. Religion is no substitute for the Gospel.
This point ties in closely with the first two, but looks at things from a slightly different, yet equally helpful perspective. We have a tendency to substitute genuine saving faith for man-made religion. It is easy to look at someone living in rampant unrepentant sin and see their need for the Gospel. However, it's much more difficult to look across the pews in churches around the world on a Sunday morning and pick out the "fakers" among us. What's worse, many of those who are nominal (that is, "in name only") Christians, may not themselves even realize their own need for genuine repentance. They likely believe they truly are saved.
This phenomenon happens quite often in our Christian culture, because so many of us have grown up thinking that what it means to follow Christ is to simply show up and listen to a sermon once a week...wash, rinse, repeat. By God's grace (I believe) we now find ourselves living in what has largely become a "post-Christian" culture. As Cody mentioned in his sermon, what used to be common practice is becoming more taboo. While I hate to see people cutting themselves off from regularly hearing the proclamation of the Gospel, at least the lines of demarcation between true followers of Christ and those in need of being evangelized are becoming clearer.
Religious works are at the heart of the self-righteousness that leads to death. Some of the people most desperately in need of the Gospel may be sitting next to you every Sunday. Sometimes we need to be saved from church! It sounds crazy, but it is true.
Like I said earlier, as a Christian father, I do all I can to saturate my home with the Gospel. My prayer is that my children have one of those "boring" old testimonies about how Jesus was always just a part of their lives. Nothing would make me happier. At the same time, I try to diligently teach and model for them what it means to truly walk in obedience to Christ. I probably get it wrong more than I get it right, but those failures just create more opportunities to teach them about the grace and hope found in Christ. My goal isn't to mold them into perfect little Christians who know how to expertly talk the talk and walk the walk. Rather, my hope and prayer is that they would simply know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior...and that they would love and serve him with all of their heart, mind, and strength.
If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.
Part 50 - The World's Most Unlikely Convert
Questions discussed in this sermon:
1. Why was Paul speaking in Hebrew?
2. Why was Paul sharing his conversion story?
3. How has the gospel changed you?
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