Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
This summer, I have twice had the privilege to teach the Wednesday night message for the youth group at my home church. Both lessons had the same main point built within them. The point was this: If you claim to be a Christian, then you are preaching one of two messages with your life at all times. Our lives either say that God matters or He does not. Professing Christianity doesn’t merely tell the world that you believe in God; moreover, it tells the world what you believe about God.
This is something many Christians fail to realize. By verbally admitting to being a Christian, you are automatically putting yourself in a corner. Because, whether you intended to or not, you have now become a living billboard to those around you. The lost people in your reach, especially those who are searching for something more, will now look at you and say, “Ok, this person says they believe in God. Let me see what God is like.”
This is the pressure we must feel as believers. It should be a spiritual weight on our shoulders. Because if lost people are looking to us to see God, what are we showing them? Unfortunately, too many people claim to be Christians with their mouths, claim to be Christ-followers bound for heaven, and their lives are guiding the people around them directly to the gates of hell.
We do this two ways. The most obvious way is preaching the right message, but living the wrong message. This is the most common way Christians push people away from Christ. They have the right answers, they say the right things, they may even attend church on a fairly regular basis. However, their lives and actions preach the opposite of their mouth. They don’t treat others the way they want to be treated. They expect grace without granting it to others. They don’t fight to put sin to death because they simply don’t want to. Because at the end of the day, although their mouths say that God matters, their lives say He does not.
Hugh Freeze and the Two-Message Life
Just this past week, a perfect example of this made national headlines. Hugh Freeze was the head football coach at the University of Mississippi since 2011. Freeze clearly showed his coaching ability as he proceeded to take “Ole Miss” on perhaps the most successful six-year run in school history. Freeze was also an outspoken Christian, speaking at conferences, tweeting Bible verses, and doing many other things to publicly show his faith.
And then his life’s true message came out. Freeze abruptly resigned from his position after it was discovered that he made multiple calls to a “female escort service.” In an instant, the message that Freeze was preaching with his mouth became irrelevant, because the message he preached with his actions completely stomped it out. By day he was tweeting Bible verses; by night he was paying for prostitutes. His mouth said God mattered; his actions said He didn’t.
And the world absolutely loved every second of it. Every media outlet broke the story, and most of them made some mention of Freeze’s outspoken religious beliefs. Radio host Colin Cowherd called it “the most SEC [Southeastern Conference] story I’ve ever seen.” He referred to Freeze as “a con-man and a Bible salesman…[Ole Miss] went with the outspoken religious guy, and got burned.”
If you think America is a “Christian nation,” think again. The reaction to the Hugh Freeze story would indicate that America, like the rest of the world, is anything but Christian. They celebrate the downfall of Christians and Christianity. Hugh Freeze is just the latest example.
The second way is much more subtle, and far more dangerous for that very reason. Some Christians not only live the wrong message, they preach the wrong message as well. This reality is sadly becoming more and more relevant, especially among millennial Christians. What makes the first group so obvious is the clear hypocrisy in their lifestyle. It’s also what makes them repulsive to Christians and non-Christians alike. However, this second group of people are far more dangerous because they are attractive to many people by both word and deed.
Well, what’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t we be attractive to lost people as Christians? Yes, but what are we attracting them to?
I recently stumbled upon a terrifying example of this while browsing through the religious section of a bookstore. In the book The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings, author John Philip Newell attempts to take this unbiblical view of God and love and use it to teach what he fails to realize is a type of Christianity that cannot save a sinner. He writes this in the chapter titled “Reconnecting with Love”:
As Martin Buber, the great Jewish philosopher, said, “I do not believe in Jesus, but I do believe with him.” What if Christianity had gotten that one right? What if we realized long ago the important thing is not getting the world to believe what we believe, getting others to subscribe to particular beliefs about Jesus? The important thing is inviting the world to believe with Jesus, to believe in the way of love.
He goes on, speaking about an event that he attended that included a number of Christians and non-Christian alike:
I suppose good numbers of them were not Christians. But that is not what matters. What matters is whether they believe in love. What matters is whether, with Jesus, we are following the way of love, for this is all we need. Love is all we need.
This the worldview of many millennial Christians. Requiring people to be transformed, to change, to repent of their sin, is wrong now for some reason. “Love” now means letting people do whatever they want. (I find it interesting that Newell does not think we should make people believe certain things about Jesus when Jesus Himself required people to believe certain things about Him.)
This is just one of the wrong messages that is being passed off as Christian. The words and actions may tend to match up, but unfortunately, they are still dangerous to the lost because these words preach the wrong message, even if it is “in love.” This group of people does not fight sin, not because they don’t want to, but because they don’t see it as sin. They say that they are being “loving.” Unfortunately, it is entirely possible to love someone straight to hell. And the love they show to the lost may make them feel good, but it is not love at all, because it does not call them to be transformed. It does not contain the demands that Jesus gives those who would follow Him. And it does not answer for the sin that separates them from God, the perfect source of love, in the first place.
Therefore, like the first group, this group is also preaching the message that God does not matter. How? Because they have no regard for His Word. No regard for His commands. No regard for His call to be transformed and set apart.
The Only Bible They Ever Read
I’m not too big on Christian lingo. To be perfectly open, I think it’s ridiculous. However, as cliché as it may sound, it can be true that you may be the only Bible someone ever reads. The message you display by your lifestyle may be the closest exposure to the Gospel that someone ever has.
When I taught in my church’s youth group a few weeks ago, I opened by asking them the question, “How do you know that God exists?” The response was about what I expected, with the kids giving some reasons that had been taught to believe in God, and they were all good. They gave reasons from science, history, and of course “faith.” However, my point was that most people won’t study science, history, philosophy, or theology in depth. Therefore, you, the individual Christ-follower, may be the best evidence that God is real and that He matters to the people around you.
This is why we must “pay careful attention to how [we] walk, not as unwise people but as wise” (Ephesians 5:15). We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only (James 1:22). Because, honestly, if we only speak the Word and do not obey it, then it hasn’t changed us at all, and we don’t have the faith that we say we do. Let us love the sinners in our midst, but let us love by showing grace and speaking truth, even if it’s hard truth. Even if it’s truth that people don’t like. Even if it’s truth that you don’t like. By doing this, our love will be without hypocrisy (Romans 12:9).
Your life is always preaching one of two messages. Either God matters or He does not. What message are you sending?