What are We saying about God?
A few weeks ago, the leaders of LSC were asked to speak for 5mins on a chosen topic. This Sunday was my turn. I've done it a couple of times in the past so I was eager to get on the mike. But what would I talk about? After praying on the subject, God provided the answer in the form of a question and it was one that resonated with where we are as a church: what are we saying about God?
In the 90s the phrase "what would Jesus do?" gained popularity in the US, even spawning a range of wristbands with the acronym WWJD. At first glance this would seem like a positive thing. Surely asking one's self what Christ would do in a given situation is the perfect way to engender Christ-like behaviour in both Christians and non-Christians. However, when you consider most people don't truly know Jesus (having only seen the most popular side of His character), the end result can be far from Christ-like and considerably closer to Christ-lite. So it occurred to me that an ultimately more powerful question is "what am I saying about God?" The question removes the guess work and takes us back to the real focal point; living lives that glorify God.
Let me explain. As Christians we are called to spread God's message of love, guidance and forgiveness to every corner of the globe through our words and also through our actions. What we do reflects not only on our fellow Christians but on God Himself. When we do things contrary to biblical teachings we're saying to the world "God's Word isn't true. It's not something I take seriously". When we hold grudges against people and condemn them as though we think ourselves perfect we're saying "God is harsh and unforgiving and His people are hypocrites". Brings a whole new meaning to watch what you say, doesn't it? But don't take my word for it, the Bible has us covered with this one.
An Audience with the Queen
1 Kings 10:1
When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions.
Notice the Bible says the queen of Sheba visited King Solomon not just because of his personal fame but because she'd heard that he had a relationship with a great and powerful God and this had peaked her curiosity. So Solomon's wisdom and the resultant credit he gave to God for it reflected positively on the LORD. Let's read on.
1 Kings 10:4-10
When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed. She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the LORD’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.” And she gave the king 120 talents of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. Never again were so many spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
It's verses 4-10 that really bring it home to me. The Queen of Sheba had heard the rumours but she came to hear for herself, and what she found was even better than what she'd heard. It's no different to someone coming to church for the first time having heard that God has the answers to the problems in their life. Like the queen of Sheba, every new face that comes through our doors comes with high expectations so we'd better be able to deliver! But it goes deeper than that because church is not just a building where people meet. Every Christian makes up the body of the church so we take it with us everywhere we go. How we present our homes, our church building, ourselves, our family, our work – and most importantly God's work – it all reflects on 'the man upstairs'.
God is real and we, as His people, must show that in everything we do. We're here to make Him famous for all the right reasons. But we have to be ready to answer 'hard questions' about Him, and the best way to do that is to know His word and live by it – putting Him FIRST and seeking His guidance through prayer in EVERYTHING we do.
A verse in 2nd Corinthians underlines our role as representatives of Christ to Christians and to the world. In it, Paul urges the church to reconcile with God.
2 Cor 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Here, the word ambassadors jumps out of the page. No different to the ambassadors around the world representing their repective nations. Their behaviour reflects on their homelands and in much the same way our behaviour reflects on the church – with poor behaviour souring international relations with the non-Christian world. So what we say and do must be on God’s behalf and consistent with what he has taught us.
We're not Alone in this
Seems a tall order, doesn't it? Where to start? Well the Bible comes to rescue once again in the same book. God is specific about how we should go about representing Him.
2 Cor 6:3-10
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
When Paul says "commend" this not a call for us to pat ourselves on the back and behave in a holier than thou fashion. What's being said here is that we should not think ourselves unworthy or unable to represent Christ – unable to endure the hard work that serving God often entails. And we should not feel condemned if we stumble and fall but be ready to get right back up because God's Holy Spirit is there to help us get on our feet!
Take note of the mention of hardships and troubles. Many would have you believe Christianity should be a picnic but the Bible does not support this. It won't always be easy but that should not affect your attitude. Whatever the world throws at us, we are duty bound not to start questioning God's existence but instead to realise that all things on earth are temporary and focusing on the bad things only makes the situation worse. Don't get me wrong, Christians are not immune to pain and sadness but we are to seek our comfort in God and draw strength from Him to show the world that God and His people cannot be defeated by earthly things.
Setting the Standard
One of the things I respect most about my father is that he is at church no matter where he is. If he’s at home, he’s singing, dancing or praying as though he was in church. No matter what the situation, God is being glorified in his life and people see it. Nothing gets him down because through Christ he recognises that his life is so much more with God in it. People come to him with hard questions about God and he’s always ready because he’s always in the Word.
If we as a church want to see the vision fulfilled of having our services filled with people every week, we cannot simple come to church, we must take church everywhere we go by living and breathing the Word of God. Then our friends, family and colleagues will be curious about the joy we carry within us. They'll see us standing tall when others crumble. They'll see us succeeding where others failed. They'll see God's work in our lives and come with hard questions to see what's so great about this God that we serve so faithfully.
Get the Word Out
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