The number one way to kill any kind of credibility is to be a hypocrite. One of the most-often cited reasons for why a person does not attend church is because the people there are hypocrites. The famous Gandhi has been quoted as saying, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” Every time I even mention I’m Southern Baptist (which I am… joke’s on you), somebody cracks a joke about it. Christianity has been under attack since its beginnings. And one of the top reasons for that is the fallen people who are members of this Church. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had plenty of times in my life where I did not reflect Christ. And that’s a shame.
If you’ve been following these blogs, I’m covering what I think are the 5 foundational facets (peep that alliteration) of the Christian life. In the first blog, we talked about having a relationship with Christ. In the second blog, we covered sharing the Gospel– the best news in history. The third blog was about service and what that’s supposed to look like. Today, we are talking about a Christian’s witness. My witness as a Christian, in my view, is the most important tool I have for advancing the Kingdom. I can’t ask you to endorse something with credibility if I refuse to do the same thing. That’s dumb.
I play college football. One of the most annoying things about playing college football is guys who want to relive the glory days. First off, no one really cares. I play with some guys who went to big, talented high schools. And I play with some guys who graduated with 9 people and never won a game. No one cares. It’s all relative. The bottom line is that if you’re good, you’re good. If you’re not, you’re not. My head coach always says, “Your film is your resumé.” And he is right. Talk all you want. Give me all the stats you want. But hop in the drill, and let’s see what you’re made of. That’s the nature of the game. Christianity is no different. When we cut on the film, we need to see performance. More importantly, we need to see perfection. You say, “Well, Cooper, I can’t be perfect.” Sweet. Neither can I. But there is such a thing as attempting to be perfect. Let’s talk about what your film ought to show when we cut it on. Claiming to be on the team is one thing. How are you performing?
Things to look for: Sin aversion (1 Corinthians 10:23-24, Romans 12:1-2, Ephesians 4:22-24)
Jesus Christ is a life-changing person. Meeting Him is a life-changing event. If your life is not changed (and changing), did you meet Him? It makes 1000% of no sense for a Christian to be indistinguishable. If we have the cure to death, we should be slipping under the radar. And this concept takes on many forms. There is one in particular I’m focusing on: how we deal with sin.
The illustration I always use is the college kid that wants to go to the party and “not drink.” Now, objectively, can you go to a party where there is alcohol and the litany of things that brings with it as a believer? I suppose that you can (cue the one guy who always says “Man, Jesus hung out with sinners.”). But let’s think about this logically. I credit Thomas Broom with this point. What is more of a witness: going to the party and not drinking or not going to the party?
When a random guy who claimed to be God decided that He would let the authorities kill Him, that’s really different. Take a look at anything in scripture and show me where it directly matches the culture anymore. There is a very, very small number of cases. If you are going to call yourself a Christian, you should not look just like everyone else. They should not see you with the person who doesn’t sin. They should see you as the person who completely stays away from sin. There is no such spiritual logic in being so close to the world that you can taste it but not eat it. Jesus knew this. In John 7, Jesus’ own brothers are encouraging Him to go to the festival of booths. Jesus knows if He does, He will be arrested some 2 years too early and killed. So, in light of that, Jesus doesn’t go. He goes several days later on His own terms when it’s much safer. Spiritual danger is not a resumé builder. It’s a bad move.
If you are going to call yourself a Christian, you ought to be as far from sin as you can possibly be. Don’t live by the mindset of, “Well, everyone’s a sinner.” Yeah, but Jesus wasn’t. And we’re called to act like Him. We should not sin. We should not endorse sin. Various sins should, over time, start to vanish from our lives. This cannot and will not happen apart from steady spiritual growth. I’m not telling you that’s easy. If it were easy, we would all be doing it. But it’s the call on your life… if you’re a Christian.
Things to look for: Increasing Spiritual Maturity (Philippians 3:14, Matthew 10:38, 1 Peter 3)
In anything that requires effort and creates growth, progress is the metric by which success can be measured. Read that quote again. Salvation is a moment. Christianity is a process (cue the guy who always says, “It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”). God’s Word is full of commands, standards, laws, you name it. The idea was never, ever to become the number-one rule follower overnight as a Christian. That literally cannot happen. But there must be present growth and change over time. This is a huge part of your witness. Why? Well, let me explain. Let’s travel back to our football film illustration.
When I came in as a freshman long snapper, I was a decent snapper. But being a long snapper in college requires you to be good at running and tackling. I cannot tackle a toddler, and I am the slowest guy in North Carolina. This was a problem. Running drills in 2017, I looked like trash. Now, logically, if I run the same drills repeatedly, lose some weight, get in better shape, and practice more, I should get better by my third year. That’s exactly what has happened. I’ve gotten significantly better. I’m still not very good, per sé, but I’m a whole lot better. But what was the causation there? Action.
We’ve talked about this in previous blogs because these things are all intertwined to some degree. If your faith and maturity is not progressing, your witness is toast. I get it: we all have to start somewhere. But we can’t remain stuck in one spot. We can’t pitch Christianity to someone when we are a spiritual toddler. You can’t be nearly as good of a vessel for God’s Glory if you’re way behind on your faith duties. Christianity is a massive commitment. If you’re perpetually stuck on step one, as an outside, I would see your faith as pretty lame and unnecessary. That’s not good.
Things to look for: Good Vocabulary (Ephesians 4:29, James 3)
I really made that more euphemistic than it needed to be. I really mean watch your mouth. It’s easy to get a lot of our actions under control. It’s easy to make the right consumer decisions. One of the hardest things for Christians to do is clean up how they talk. This is one is a bit more specific than the first two, but you’ll understand why… hopefully.
Let me be totally honest and totally opinionated: I don’t see a single reason why Christians can cuss. None. Zero. At all. There is not a single spiritual benefit to it, not only to ourselves, but to our witness. I’m not saying you’re not a Christian if you cuss. I’m saying that I do question your priority of the Gospel if you do. People want to make excuses for using unholy language, but I don’t find a single excuse in anyone’s book. The way we talk is crucial to the way we are perceived. Hands down. Actions are a big part of it, yes, but actions are not the biggest influence. This is not even just limited to cussing.
As a teenage boy, I fall victim to this issue frequently. We have to cut the nonsense. I don’t cuss. I haven’t in a very long time. But I do crack bad jokes and laugh at things I shouldn’t laugh at. A solid witness for the believer is a watertight witness. We can’t let immature speech leak out. The tongue is one of the hardest things to tame (says James, not Cooper). If we share the Gospel with our words, we cannot also share sin with the same words. It’s bad practice. It’s bad management. It’s a bad idea.
The Key (Galatians 2:20)
The overall idea here is that we have to know Christ. But in order to be a vessel and not a waste of everyone’s time, we have to reflect Christ. It’s not impressive that you go to church. It’s not impressive that you like Hillsong. It’s not helpful that you own a Bible. It is, however, amazing if your life looks like that of a person who has been changed. Step one, meet Christ. Step two, share Christ. Step three, serve like Christ. Step 4, live like Christ.
If I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, there’s a reason. Know Christ. And reflect Christ. Plain and simple.
Let’s keep rolling.