Most of us have heard that famous quote by St. Francis of Assisi, but I think that very few of us actually take it to heart. The Bible gives us several verses that back up what St. Francis was saying. To sum it up: the most powerful evangelism comes from how you live, not what you say.
“You are the light of the world–like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5: 14-16 NLT)
When we become saved, we immediately have the light of Christ inside of us. It’s our job to shine that light so that the whole world will see. But so often Christians hide their light under baskets. Every person has a different name for their basket. Some call their basket compromise. Some call it secret sin. Some call it popularity. Some call it the pursuit of money. Your basket is anything in your life that you put ahead of holy living.
But something tragic happens when we hide our lights: we lose our authenticity and credibility with unbelievers. Most of the time, if not all of the time, when unbelievers come searching for answers they have come to a point in their lives when they realize that how they are living isn’t enough. There’s a void that needs to be filled. They’re searching for that missing piece of the puzzle that will make them whole.
We as believers know what that missing piece is, yet how can we convey that to them if we live the same way they do. They aren’t looking for words, they want an authentic lifestyle that shows them why we are different. If there’s no difference, then there obviously hasn’t been a change. This is what makes us lose our credibility with unbelievers.
We have no ground to stand on when our lives don’t reflect the love of Christ. If our lives look just like anyone else’s, how can we possibly tell them that they need to change? Leading someone to the Lord can’t be a “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of deal. It needs to be authentic. In other words, we need to be living out the change that God has brought into our lives. Failing to do so not only diminishing the redeeming work of Christ, but also inhibits the conversion of others.
We all know how important it is to love others. But I’m going to be bold and say that if we don’t live in a way that leads people to the Lord, then we are exhibiting the opposite of love. Because truly loving someone means that we care what happens to their eternal soul.
If we just go along with the flow and do what we have to do to fit in, then other people can’t see what God has done in our lives. Sure, we can sit there and throw back beers with our buddies while telling them how God has blessed you with peace in your life. But they don’t want to hear words. Everyone says words. They want to see an authentic change. Without that, there’s no proof of our salvation.
And why would anyone change their lives, change their perspectives without seeing proof that this Christianity thing actually works? We are asking people to turn away from all their sin, to change their priorities and put God above all else. That is a huge commitment! And we can’t help someone make that change with some kind of Christian sales pitch. They want to see it worked out in our lives.
Here’s a practical example. If a friend of your tells you that they have an amazing vacuum cleaner that deep cleans the carpet and filters the air. It’s super quiet and so easy to use. Their house has never been cleaner and their family isn’t even showing signs of allergies in their house because the wonderful vacuum has sucked up all the dust! The only catch is, it costs one thousand dollars.
I’m sure that you would listen politely, but when it came to the price tag, you closed off your mind. Why? Because although it sounded like a great machine, that’s a huge price to pay just based on the recommendation of a friend.
But let’s say that friend brought the vacuum over to your house and gave you a demonstration. He showed you first-hand how much dirt it picked up. When he was done you could smell the freshness in the air. He even let you use it so that you could experience how easy it was to handle. Thanks to that demonstration and you being able to experience how such a device could change your life, you start to consider the price as being reasonable. Although, not everyone who has a demonstration will buy the vacuum, they will at least be able to see that it is worth the price.
If we want people to leave their old life and dedicate their lives to the Lord, we need to show them that it is worth the price. We need to show them authentically how God has worked in our lives and the change He has made in us. Once people see it first-hand, they will be more open to receiving the free gift of salvation.
“Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.” (James 2:26 NLT)