Have you ever heard the admonition, “Watch how you act, you may be the only Jesus he meets”?
It is very possible that if you travel to a country with a predominant religion other than Christianity, specifically a third world country, you could be the only Christian that another person meets. I would be willing to bet that that would not be the case here in our comfortable US of A. But yet parents say this to their children, youth pastors say this to their students, collegiate Bible study leaders say this to their young adults and pastors say this to their congregations. Even if it is true that you happen to be the only Christian that another person on this enormous planet meets in his lifetime, consider today what it is that you are really saying: “You better be good enough to convince that person to come to faith.” Or even worse, “If you screw this up, you are the reason that person will go to Hell.”
Is that really the message that you want to communicate to your children? Or anyone? Did you come to faith because of another person? Or because of Jesus Christ?
“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”
– Rom 8.29-30
Paul teaches us that the process of salvation is God’s foreknowledge of His own, leading to God predestining them to salvation, calling them to faith, justifying (declaring the verdict: penalty paid), and ultimately saving forever. God is the controlling force in salvation. Faith itself is a gift from God. We are incapable of generating it ourselves or convincing others to have it:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
– Eph 2.8-9
Scripture teaches us that there are none righteous, and not a single person who is seeking after God (Rom 3.10-12). We are naturally His enemies, we naturally have animosity towards Him (James 4.4, Rom 8.7). So if someone hates God, is His enemy and is not seeking after Him, do you really think that someone acting nicely, or someone obeying Scripture will be enough to change the onlooker’s mind?
The danger here is threefold.
- We cannot cause another’s salvation
- We cannot cause another to reject God
- If we believe or teach that we can affect another’s salvation, we live for others and not for God.
New birth is a miraculous work of God that is not dependent on anyone but God. Dead men do not say, “I sure wish I were alive” (Eph 1.2), and the unborn do not reach out to potential mothers and ask to be born. God gives life. If you believe that you are capable of convincing someone to come to faith, then you will live a life of extreme and unbiblical burden at best, and of heresy at worst. Why? Because you will waste all of your time examining what you do, examining the response and trying to craft the perfect presentation of the Gospel, apologetics and witness. You will devoid yourself of faith and trust, you will carry a burden that is not yours and you will believe yourself to be in the place of God. Worst of all, you will neglect God, you will not rely on Him to lead, to change others, and you will live a life of duty rather than thankfulness and love.
When people fall away, you will feel guilty. When people refuse the Gospel, you will take it personally. When people move on from your church or your Bible study you will be crushed.
This is not a warrant to act wickedly.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
– Rom 6.1-2
This is an exhortation to trust God. God has commanded us to preach the Gospel, to be wise with every word that comes out of our mouth and to make the most of every moment.
“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
– Col 4.5-6
But we do not do this because we believe that we can save or change people. We do it because we love God and are thankful for our salvation. We are the mouthpiece and God is the one who gives the faith. He has given us the honor and privilege of being a part of His great work of salvation, but that part is limited to simply being the mouthpiece. He does the rest.
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
– 1 Cor 3.6-7
We must be obedient to share. We must live lives of thankfulness. We share the Gospel because we are thankful and obedient, not because we can save people. We look at Jesus when we share the Gospel, not the hearer. We obey the commandments because we are thankful for salvation and we love Jesus, not because we want others to see how we act and think, “wow, she is different”.
If you live for God, He will be proud to call you His own:
“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”
– Heb 11.16
Think about it. Do you want God to be ashamed of you? Or do you want that person who may never meet another “Jesus” to to be impressed by you?
It is not about you. Or me. Or the only Jesus that people meet. It is about us being faithful to be the mouthpiece so that that person might meet Jesus. Let’s not embarrass our saviour or ourselves. Let’s live for Him and let Him take care of the rest. My parents used to say it best when we would leave the house, he said,
“Remember who you belong to”.
Live for God in thankfulness and obedience. Not for anyone else.