November 16, 2014.
I read a short article this morning (I know, surprise surprise) that put something in perspective for me. The article was about reasons we don’t do all that well retaining visitors when they give Christianity a chance. The author made some valid points, but the one that stood out to me the most was a comment that even if a person hears a sermon three times a week, they are still hearing many more sermons from the word throughout the rest of the week. Have you ever thought of it that way? Even if we are giving the opportunity to reach out to someone in our assemblies on Sundays or Wednesdays, more opportunity is given to the world to preach to them the dogma of society. That could be just as true for Christians. If we are only devoting three hours a week to God, then we are devoting many more hours to hear the lessons of the world, the morality of society and the gospel of American culture.
Whether you like it or not, you encounter sermons every day. Perhaps you sit and hear the media preach to you subtly through “unbiased” news, or blatantly biased television shows. The ideas and discussions between coworkers can be to everyday life what Wednesday night bible classes are to Christians. Your friends and network often fills the role that our church family should play in our life. And what’s more, we preach a sermon through the way we live daily. And so does everyone else. Throughout the course of life, people hear sermons every day.
These sermons are almost unrecognizable to us outside of our padded pews and pulpits. That’s why we don’t make the connection. The fields are indeed white for harvest, but the world has sent out its own laborers into the field, and we could very well be a part of them! We have confined our sermons to the pulpit when in their original form they were geared outside the church building (because there really was no such thing as a church building in the first century). Though sermons come in many shapes and sizes, we tend to only recognize those that are spoken in thirty minute intervals two to three times a week. The danger with not recognizing even our own sermons that come from our daily walk is the possibility that we are not preaching the gospel at all. How much of the love of Christ do I preach when I put down that coworker behind their back? How much of humility do I preach when I make myself look good in front of my classmates? How much purity do I preach when I laugh at that sexual innuendo?
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Paul gave the church at Colossi these words of encouragement as they went out into the world, to walk in wisdom towards outsiders. The fact of the matter is we have more influence on those around us on a daily basis than when we bring someone to church. We are the church, though we often forget that. But the same is true for those outside the church. They have more influence on a day to day basis as well. If we are going to spread the good news to a lost and dying world, we need to recognize that our calling isn’t from the pulpit, but to be preachers to anyone we meet. We preach through our lives, and we live as to show Christ on this earth. When we succeed in doing so, we preach one of the best sermons anyone can hear. We might even be able to do it without words, at least at the beginning.
The phrase that Paul uses above is one that I really like: “making the best use of the time.” We often feel as though we have to bring a friend to church in order that they might hear the good news of Christ. We may feel like we need to bring them to the preacher or the elders or even someone who is just a great evangelist so that they might learn about the great salvation that we have been offered through Jesus Christ and the sacrifice He made for us on the cross. But when we think about bringing them, we get discouraged. “They will think its weird.” “They probably have a bad impression of religion or Christianity.” “I don’t really want to strain our relationship by asking that awkward question.” Or maybe we have asked them to come with us and they have just said “No.” All opportunity is then lost, right?
Wrong. The opportunity is ever before us, and we need to be making the best use of the time that we are given to spread the gospel. Ask yourself, do your coworkers know what you believe? Have you talked about Jesus with them? Do they know that you are part of a Christian family and that Christ fills the key place in your life? If the answer was no to any of these questions, then you might consider the sermon you are preaching and whether it is one from the mouth of God or from the mouth of the world.
Paul seems to have taken just about every opportunity he had to spread the gospel after he became a Christian. When he was being tried before rulers, he gave his testimony. When he was put in jail and given the opportunity to escape, he instead preached to the Philippian Jailor and gained a brother, and the rest of his household. When he was chained for four hours to a Roman solider, I can only imagine how he used that time to glorify Christ. Though he was an apostle an given a direct revelation from Christ, he still was just a man like you and I. He still dealt with weakness. He still felt anxiety. He still was persecuted much more than you or I may ever experience. So why are we let off the hook?
I don’t think we are. Nor do I think that we are ever not preaching a sermon. The thing is, if you aren’t preaching a sermon about Christ with the way you live, you are preaching on another subject, and probably not one you should be preaching. The world has enough influence without Christians adding to it. We need not give our time to the world, but rather we need to redeem the time, using it wisely. That person you work with may not really be open to coming to church with you on Sunday morning, but I guarantee you that you are able to preach a sermon to them without ever stepping foot into a church building.
So what’s our problem? I think we have compartmentalized Christianity. We have put Jesus in a box, a box that we open only on certain occasions during the week, whether that be on Sunday morning or at night before we go to bed to say a prayer and read some scripture. But the word of God cannot be put into a box. It must engulf our lives. It must be intertwined throughout our daily activities. When we put on Christ and died to our old life of sin, we became a new creature with a new worldview. This worldview is necessarily different than the worldview of those who do not believe in Jesus or have not heard the gospel. It cannot look the same, else we are preaching the gospel of the world instead of the gospel of Christ.
Christianity is not a thing we do from time to time, but rather it is our life. We are supposed to be a light to the world.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Our light cannot shine to the world if it looks like all the broken and dim lights that are in the world. If the lighthouse looked like the cliff in the sea, how would the boat ever see it? The sailors would perish in the storm from not seeing the lighthouse simply because it looked like it’s surroundings, which in the dark of the storm was unidentifiable. In the same way can we blend in with the world and not be able to rescue the perishing, all because we did not preach the right sermon when we had the chance.
What can we do? We must not allow people in our sphere of influence to hear more sermons from the world than they do from us, at least in as much as we can do so. When we are given the opportunity to preach, let us stand up boldly for Christ. Our sermons are our lives, and people will take notice of how we live them, whether that be for the glory of God or a reflection of the world. We must take a stand to make Christianity more than a check box, more than something we do when it is convenient or when other people around us are doing it. We must make it our lives. It is then that we can walk in wisdom towards the outsiders, and bring them to church, so to speak, for we are the church. All people (including ourselves) are influenced by who and what they see around them, for better or for worse. It is time for use to walk wisely, redeeming the time and spreading the love of Christ through our everyday lives. It might be the only good sermon that someone gets to hear.
So, what kind of sermons have you been preaching lately?
Suggested Daily Reading: Colossians 1-4.
The love of the Lord be your strength.