Over the past three weeks, I’ve had five very distinct opportunities to really sit down and share my faith with someone else. It’s an awesome thing to take these opportunities to engage others with the message of Christ. Christ provides them, and we should take them. It’s a tremendous responsibility, a spiritual mandate, and a humbling privilege.
Last night, I had the opportunity to speak to our students at RFBC. One of our young men shared a recent experience where he was challenged to defend his faith to another. I’m not sure that the confrontation was a complete success, but I am sure that he defended his faith with a passionate heart for Jesus. As His walk with Christ deepens, he will be able to more effectively answer Peters call to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (I Peter 3:15 NIV). I’m proud of this young man for sharing his experience, and I’m proud that he is growing in the grace of God.
Whenever you engage others with the Gospel of Christ, specifically outside of a church setting, you should be prepared for anything. Responses vary. Most people are friendly, and some, well…some are not. It is what it is, and their differing responses should not deter us from pursing the call of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) in our life. As disciples of Christ, we are held personally responsible for our stewardship of the call that God has placed on our life. We can’t determine the outcome of these witnessing encounters, but we do control our personal response to the call of God. Because of this, I want to briefly discuss a topic today that is close to my heart…sharing our faith unfiltered in a world determined to reject it.
Life itself is a great big filter. We all have hopes, dreams, expectations, and preferential destinations. We chart the course to these goals from an early age. We meticulously plan for their birth into the reality of our life, but then…the reality of real life and unexpected circumstances erupt. Like a bomb exploding, our plans are unexpectedly destroyed, or at the very least, they are diverted, and out of the necessity brought about by the new situation, our hopeful dreams and grand expectations are filtered out of the overall equation of our life. As our course changes, we must adapt to a newly imposed normal.
Life has a way of filtering out our desired best. With profound efficiency, it snatches our dreams from the equation, and we’re left living a “filtered-out version” of the desired goal. Does this sound familiar? But, what about our faith? Does faith have a filter?
First, what does unfiltered faith look like?
I would imagine unfiltered faith looks a lot like Joseph in an Egyptian prison trusting his future to Almighty God, or maybe it looks a lot like the reluctant and pursued leader, Moses, standing between the encroaching armies of Pharaoh and the yet to be parted waters of the Red Sea? Possibly, unfiltered faith would take on the appearance of the prisoners, Paul and Silas, praying and singing hymns while bound in chains…uncertain of man’s plans for them, but absolutely certain of God’s faithfulness.
Unfiltered faith looks a whole lot like unreserved, undiminished, and unrelenting trust in the plans and purposes of Almighty God. It takes on the appearance of passion for the things of God in spite of the circumstances involved in our current situation. And, unfiltered faith is the spiritual catalyst for physical action. Just as life has a way of filtering out our hopes and dreams, our faith is also filtered in this world. Sadly, a large portion of our faith is filtered by “religion” itself.
Have you ever heard someone say that they don’t feel “called” to share their faith? Or maybe they say something like this…”I love God, and I’ll serve in other aspects of ministry, but I’m just not comfortable sharing the Gospel with others.” Comments like this are indicative of a faltering faith, possibly a faith "filtered out" by the tenuous relationship between God and this sinful, faith-rejecting world.
"Religion" dictates to us that attending church functions is enough, specifically if you throw a little money toward the cause. Your attendance is really all that is required, because if you challenge people with the real message of the Gospel, they may leave your church. "Religion" is rallying around the worship or the pastor's message, telling them how awesome they are, and then leaving the church for lunch while remaining totally unchanged. "Religion" is so often nominal, habitual, and rehearsed spirituality. It’s cold, calculating, and redundant in nature. "Religion" is, and always has been, the great killer of Jesus. "Religion" is dangerous. Avoid "religion". Seek relationship, instead.
Let’s take a look at an incredible passage of scripture that should help us define our faith and encourage and empower our pursuit of God’s call…
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)
If you’re a college football fan, and your team just won the big game, I guarantee you that you’re not ashamed to scream about their greatness to anyone who will listen. Even if they lost, you will still wear the t-shirts and hats that identify you as a “follower” of that team. (Go Dawgs!) But, what about your relationship with Jesus Christ and the call that He has placed on your life to witness the Gospel to those around you who are lost and dying in sin? Often, we don’t take that call very seriously. We say we do, but we really don’t. Eternal lives are in the balance. We can’t allow the compelling nature of the Gospel to be filtered out of our daily life. There must be evidence of Christ in us, in our actions, in our words, that define our passion for the "evidenced Gospel of Christ" that should be manifested in our lives.
Are we ashamed of the Gospel?
Really, that’s a serious question? Think about it…
The first chapter of Romans gives us information about the Gospel of Christ. It tells us that it is the power of God, and in it is contained the message of salvation for all men. It tells us that the Gospel reveals the righteous nature of God Himself, from faith and for faith. And then, there’s a challenge for us in our life…that the righteous, those who have made Christ Lord, and those who have been clothed in the righteousness only provided by Christ, will “live by faith.”
Here’s a very pertinent question: Do we live by faith or by circumstance?
Those who are deeply rooted in Christ should live by faith. Circumstances change, but Christ remains the same (Hebrews 13:8). Therefore, the source of our faith never changes. Our response to Christ changes, but in Him, our faith is always on firm footing. We are always the variable. Consequently, many times our faith is dictated by the circumstances around us. In essence, it’s filtered out and diminished by life. When things are good, then our faith is strong. If we’re in church, surrounded by other Christians, then it’s easy to bear witness to the greatness of God. But what about the times when life is hard and there’s a little struggle taking place? Our faith doesn't like pressure. Pressure reveals the spiritual weaknesses associated with our humanity. How easy is it to share our faith in the pressured environment of the workplace? How confident is our faith when someone looks at us and tells us that they don’t want to hear about “our God,” and to “keep our religion to ourselves?”
In our nation today, and under the shadow of modern day religion, sharing our faith is politically and spiritually incorrect. Many believe that our faith is something that should be kept to ourselves, it is personal between us and God, and it should be kept private. Sadly, that belief is held, and meticulously practiced, by many Christians, and it is a belief that holds no Scriptural validity. The effects of this can be clearly seen in the apostasy of the church in America and in the condition of our nation and our world as a whole. And, it seems to only be getting worse with each passing year. True, passionate, life-transforming faith is often marginalized or considered extremist. With the weight of faith’s rejection by the world weighing on their mentality, Christians may simply remain silent. They may alter their response to the majesty of Almighty God, bowing instead to the pressures applied by the opinions of sinful man. The danger here is the fact that silent, restrained, and unpracticed faith is a faith that is dying...or possibly, a faith that is already dead.
Scripture is clear on the fact that we are called to share our faith…
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” –Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)
“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God…”
–2 Timothy 1:8 (ESV)
“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” –1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)
“And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” –Luke 24:47 (ESV)
“And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” –Mark 16:15 (ESV)
Our faith in Almighty God is designed to be shared. Moreover, it is commanded of us to share it. We were created to share it, and we should share it unfiltered. The Gospel of Christ itself cannot be diminished, but the power we allow it to possess in our individual lives can be. It is very easy for us to run and hide our faith behind the weight of burdens, trials, and angry looks from a self-absorbed world that seems to revel in Godlessness. But, our call is to engage that world with the truth of Scripture and to reveal to them the righteousness of God and the offer of redemption through salvation.
Standing in the face of our witness, there will always be passion-draining points of political correctness, established by a secularist society of people, who prefer to live a life without Lordship, accountability and morals. However, standing behind our witness is the power of Almighty God, displayed through the actions of Christ and the commands of Scripture, compelling us to share and live our faith in an “out loud” confidence. Again, we are designed for this! Moreover, the world desperately needs the message! The Christian life and witness is not one of escapism, but, instead, it is one of conquest. We’re not called to hide; we’re called to “go” and share.
Let me encourage you to stand up in the face of societies definitions of political or spiritual correctness, and be Jesus to your world. Doing so will undoubtedly cause a stir, and you will most certainly suffer a little. You may lose some friends, you’ll be talked about behind your back, and some people will make fun of you to your face…but the message of the Gospel in you cannot and should not be hindered. It should arise from deep inside of your growing passion for Christ and render itself to the world unafraid, unashamed, and unfiltered. The cross of Christ demands no less.
A closing thought...if there is really a life-transforming Lordship of Christ in your life, then the Gospel message inside of you cannot be quenched or contained. Do you feel the empowerment of God compelling you to share and live out your faith? Or, has the world filtered your faith down to simple church attendance? Is your personal walk with Christ growing daily based on your own study of Scripture and communication with God, or are you content in having it spoon fed to you by your pastor. I would be fairly certain that your pastor is teaching you the right things, but ultimately, a relationship with God that is only fed by the teachings of another man (a sinful, fallible one at that), and not through your own personal pursuit of Christ, is, at best, a second hand and marginalized relationship with God. Deepen your own relationship with Jesus Christ. The world has enough people who identify themselves as “Christians.” There’s plenty of those. We have enough "disciples of preachers" and "fans of churches" to last us through the rest of eternity. What we need are more “disciples of Christ”…passionate, fearless, and faithful. Is that you?
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!