Imagine that you live in a country in which Christianity is a minority religion. Most people you meet have never heard of it, or know very very little about it. Most people believe in a whole host of gods and goddesses. Imagine that the President doesn’t understand Christianity and has no way to learn about it. In fact, he thinks it’s a cannibalistic, atheistic, incestuous religion and because of this he, and everyone else, are extremely hostile towards Christians.
What would your faith look like?
How would you evangelize?
How would you invite people to join a publicly hated religion?
How would you explain salvation to a people that have never heard the name of Jesus?
You may have guessed it already, but the world that I have been describing was the situation of the church for the first 300 years it existed, and especially during the time of the New Testament. When the apostle Paul was alive and writing the church was overwhelmed with persecution, hostility, misunderstanding, and false teachers. These false teachers were deceiving many to leave the faith and live lives of sin. Great damage to the church was being done.
This was the situation of the churches in Crete, and the Apostle Paul knew he had to do something, so he writes to his dear friend Titus who is overseeing the churches there. In this letter, Paul says many things, but one idea has stood out to me recently and its this:
The way you live either attracts people to Jesus, or pushes them away (Titus 2:10; 2:5 respectively).
In other words, when the culture is hostile to Christianity (or even when it’s not) the way we live is what people will see, long before they ever understand what we teach, preach and believe. Think about it. Our beliefs need to be true. We must proclaim the gospel to all peoples (Matthew 28:18-20). But if our life doesn’t make it attractive to people than why would they be interested?
This is not to say that we need to live perfectly. We won’t. It is to say that we need to live true to what we say we believe, and live true to who we say Jesus is. A person who is truly in Christ should be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).
In Titus 2:10 Paul gives a great picture of what this looks like. He says that the way we live should, “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Our lives should make our theology beautiful. It should make Jesus attractive to people. The truths of our faith which we proclaim to people should be decorated by the way we live our lives. In other words, the way you live will either attract people to Jesus or push them away.
Think about it like a Christmas tree. When you walk through the lot to pick a tree, they just look like trees. The real magic doesn’t happen until you take it home, stand it up, and carefully decorate it with all of your favorite ornaments and lights. You step back, plug it in, and enjoy. Its beautiful. In the same way, a lot of people see Christianity as just another belief system, another world religion which is just like all the others. But when its decorated with the faithful, godly lives of its people who are empowered by the Spirit of the Living God, its attractive and striking to people.
It stands out.
People take notice.
The famous 16th century theologian, Martin Luther understood this. He said, “Because the [unbeliever] cannot see our faith, they ought to see our works, then hear our doctrine, and then be converted.”
This is not a call to sell everything you have. This is not a call to tattoo Jesus across your forehead. This is not a call “preach the gospel at all times, and use words when necessary.” This is a call to humbly do everything in our lives with our eyes focused on Jesus, being aware that the way we live speaks volumes. It’s a call to take our lives, our sin, seriously. It is a call to be faithful disciples of our King Jesus in every area of life. Let us proclaim the gospel boldly, and let us be zealous for good works.
Sound hard? Maybe even scary? It does to me. Which is why I love how Paul starts the next verse, “For the grace of God has appeared…” (Titus 2:11). In all of this let us, lean on God’s grace, his enabling grace, his saving grace, his amazing grace. Let us adorn our doctrine with our lives.