I am sure it is just me, but I get the distinct feeling that we Christians are way more comfortable taking a defensive position in regards to our faith – only taking any action when we are attacked or prodded. Sure, I see some of us, pastors, singers, leaders and activists, front and center, always advocating strongly, but, for most of us are way more comfortable letting those folks do their thing while we sit back and observe. Believe me, I get it, I have historically been in the “do little” group, but I have become convicted that this is NOT the position that any of us need to take.
The Case for Action
James is one of my favorite books of the Bible so I was happy to see, when I started researching for this post, that passages from James were front and center. But besides James, Paul and John also provide proof that we need to take action for the Lord.
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
– James 1:23-25
18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
– 1 John 3:18
18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
– 1 Timothy 6:18-19
We need to be careful here, though. Too many people throughout history and today are chasing salvation through their own works and not specifically through faith in Christ. This will result in failure. We need to believe in Jesus first and foremost, and them]n, because we do, the fruit of that belief will be good works. Paul provides this detailed explanation in his letter to the Ephesians and James makes this explicit point as a continuation of his words above.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
– Ephesians 2:8-10
26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
– James 1:23-26
Since this is the truth, then, why do we still choose to sit on the sidelines?
A common defense for doing nothing is – “I can’t step forward because I would be shown to be a hypocrite because of the things that I have done!” This is not an acceptable argument because there is no one that is righteous. No one that preaches the Gospel is free of sin, not one person. Paul destroys this excuse for inaction.
23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.
– Romans 3:23
27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.
– Romans 3:27-28
As long as you step forward in humility and not in hypocrisy, you will be doing what God has commanded us to do. Jesus very directly communicated this to His disciples when He condemned the supposed religious leaders of that day.
27 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.
– Matthew 23:27-28
Another common defense for a lack of action is – “I don’t know enough about Christianity. What if I am asked a question that I can’t answer?” Again, this is not an acceptable argument. As disciples of Christ, we need to do two things to be prepared for these conversations – learn and trust.
First, we need to be constantly in His word, learning so that we can share the Gospel with others.
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
– 2 Timothy 3:16-17
4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
– Romans 15:4
Second, we need to trust that God will put us in the situations that He needs us in and that He will provide us the words that need to be said. Does this mean that we will never screw up when presenting the Gospel? Nope. In fact, we will screw up – no doubt about it, but God has put us into that situation as part of His plan for our lives and for the people we are talking to.
26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
– John 14:26
We need to drop the pride and realize that we will never be the perfect person or have the perfect situation or know the perfect words. Bringing people to Christ is imperfect because we are imperfect, the people we are talking to are imperfect and the sin-filled world is imperfect. No one has the “magic wand of faith” that is guaranteed to instantaneously convert someone – “Believioso!” I know it was absolutely a long process for me, and probably for you and typically for those we share with, but that does not give us an out or the freedom to sit back.
I love listening to the Unashamed podcast. It features three of the men from Duck Dynasty who boldly, but humbly proclaim that Jesus is their king. These men are from pretty rough backgrounds and their stories include all the hallmarks of sin-filled living. But, these men are also great examples of how to be leaders in their families and their communities and the world. They took the opportunity of their fame to not just bask in the glory of adoring fans, but to boldly proclaim the Gospel with love and truth – unashamed.
We need to have the same confidence. Jesus died on the cross so that we may have this confidence. By His dying, He has “already conquered sin and the grave”. And we know that He will return to claim his thrown and we will live again with Him forever. Paul BOLDLY states this in his letter to the Corinthians.
54b “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.
– 1 Corinthians 15:54b-57
We know that God demands that we step forward and share the Gospel in humility, knowing that He is with us, and trusting Him to provide the situation and the words – It was the last thing Jesus said to his disciples before he ascended to take His rightful seat at the right had of God – Take Action.
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:17-20