I normally don’t billboard the fact that I’m a minister in public (by billboard, I mean I don’t wear a t-shirt that says “Youth Pastor” on it). Not that I’m ashamed of my profession or religion, but because I try to build a relationship with someone before I drop the “Minister” bomb. When I do finally drop the “M” bomb, I get the strangest reactions. The most frequent reaction comes at a surprise. The reaction is a question: “Well you don’t think drinking is a sin, do you?” Instead of answering this question (that’s right, you’ve been mislead) I think as evangelical Christians we should ask ourselves a different question.
A Different Question
Why is this a lost person’s first reaction when finding out we’re Christian? Yes, part of the problem is the fact that non-Christians don’t think in spiritual terms (these things are foolishness to them) but we can’t just blame them and not examine ourselves. As Christians, specifically Southern Baptists, we’ve done a great job at telling our society what we stand against, but I think we might have fallen short in telling them what we stand for. Let me clarify, I’m not suggesting that we take an accepting roll when it comes to sin, but what I am suggesting is that we start preaching a gospel that transforms. When we preach against drinking or smoking cigarettes or gambling, we’re only dealing with the symptoms. There is a deeper problem.
The Real Problem
The real issues here is that the sinner is dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3). He does not respond to any spiritual stimuli so therefore he has no desire to act like a saint, nor does he have the power to act like a saint even if he wanted to. What he needs is not a lecture on the wiles of gambling, but a new heart. He needs a gospel that transforms. After Christ makes alive a lost person, then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we as the church can help them conform their life to biblical teachings. When we try to clean a person up before they come to church we’re essentially teaching a works-based salvation. We must remember the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1:9, that God saved us, “not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace”. So often when the focal point of our preaching is against something we end up setting up the person trapped in that sin as our enemy. We look at the teenage unwed mother as irresponsible and foolish instead of having compassion on them. We see a drunk instead of a human being who needs the grace of God. Maybe we should take a page out of our Savior’s book. Did he compromise sin in his conversation with the woman at the well? No. Did he give her a 45 minute sermon gracelessly condemning her lifestyle of lust? No! He did, however, preach to her a Savior who could change her life! Oh, the difference this made in her life! May we strive to do the same in our culture today!
The challenge we have is a very ambitious one. What if we lived in such a way that lost people asked us a different question? What if when they found out we were Christians they asked us, “Do you really believe in the saving power of Christ? Do you really believe that God cares enough to show us grace?” Yes, we do believe in a God who saves and we believe it enough to preach Christ and him crucified to all we know.