I was looking for inspiration for a blog and found a pin on my Pinterest page, “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.” Wow. It’s “funny” how things come together sometimes, isn’t it? In church and at Bible study this past week, the issue has come up of how well our lives actually reflect that we are a follower of Jesus. Kind of goes right along with that quote I mentioned above, doesn’t it? Another quote I really like along the same lines is “Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words.” I may not have that exactly right, but you get the gist. I think it was from St. Francis of Assisi, but I’m not 100% positive about that, so don’t quote me.
How well are we preaching the gospel with our lives? If we don’t look much different, to the uneducated eye, than our non-Christian friends and associates (whether complete atheists or people of other faiths), how are they to know that we are different? Compassion and gentle words and demeanor are great, and somewhat different than the norm, but there are other faiths that share these values. Honesty? Trustworthiness? Those are good too, and our lives should certainly demonstrate all of those qualities, but what makes us, as followers of Jesus, really different? What is the good news we have to share – the gospel, or the sermon the above quotes reference? It’s Jesus, and his sacrifice to save us from our sins, give us everlasting life (no more fear of death!), and allow us to be in relationship with the Father. Forgiveness and grace are “benefits” that no other religion or faith can offer, much less relationship with the Creator and ruler of all things!
Everyone messes up, makes mistakes, and does things to hurt others, deliberately or by accident (hopefully, for us as Jesus followers, when we do so it is always by accident!), and so is in need of forgiveness. We are all sinners; no matter how hard we try to be “good”, we can never be perfect, in our own strength and striving, and perfect is what is required to be in relationship with a perfect God. We have the only hope of ever “getting there”, and that is Jesus. We can demonstrate forgiveness and grace. That alone, particularly in situations of severe betrayal or hurt, sets us apart. That is a difference people can see and feel. And maybe it will prompt them to ask questions, opening the door to let us share why we forgive, and how we can forgive, no matter what – through God’s grace by His Spirit living within us.
An awful lot of people, probably most (non-Christians anyway) fear death. Yes, we may still fear a painful or lingering death – the process of dying, but not death itself, because for us it isn’t the end, it’s only the beginning! Heaven awaits us; eternity with a loving, incredible, glorious Father, and all the loved ones who have gone on before us. In conversations with unbelieving friends, family, or acquaintances who may be facing death, either their own or that of a loved one, we can share this hope.
Purpose and belonging are deep human needs. Nothing the world has to offer can ever fully address them, and millions of people ruin their lives trying to fill that void in their hearts with the wrong things – destructive relationships, drugs, alcohol, the list is all but endless. Relationship with the Father is the only thing that can really meet those needs, and only Jesus followers have that. We can’t be “good enough”, we can’t “earn” it; God is perfect and holy and only someone who is holy can have relationship with Him. The only way one of us flawed humans can be holy is by accepting the holiness that God GIVES us when we believe and trust in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice on the cross. We have that to share also – the most important difference of all! This one is a little harder to demonstrate by our lives, but perhaps the fact that we aren’t striving to fill the hole with other things can lead to conversations as to WHY we aren’t. The peace that people can see in us can be a touch point to bring them to a place of being able to share the why and how and what makes us different.
Father, help us to live our lives in such a way that those around us can SEE the difference. Help us to foster and allow opportunities to share with those around us WHY we are different, and HOW Your grace can help them become different too. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Live your sermon, every day!