“Well, that’s just the way I am.”
“That’s the way I’ve always done it.”
“Old dogs don’t learn new tricks.”
“I like things just the way they are.”
I wonder, did the preacher tell you that after you became a Christian that you would NEVER be able to rightly say these phrases ever again? Well, he should have, because you can’t. Consider:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (ESV)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9 (ESV)
Life as a disciple of Christ is all about change. After all, that’s why you responded to the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8) by giving yourself to repentance—which is all about change. And yet, you know as well as I that we write the above excuses for ourselves all the time. In fact, we even sometimes glory in our resistance to change…but that’s no real glory to be proud of. No, God has called us to a continual transformation of character—heart, mind and soul (I Thess. 5:23) and anything less is less of Christ that will be seen in us. “That’s just the way I am” just doesn’t amount to diddly.
What does this have to do with evangelism? Let’s look two important ideas:
First, living a transforming life is essential to our integrity in evangelism. If I am unchanged by the Gospel, what testimony is my life to the power of God to sanctify, justify, and redeem mankind? Our lives are to be “Exhibit A” that God is indeed working in the world today. When I am unchanged, I am still “Exhibit A”, but what do I really evidence? A stubborn, self-involved will more concerned with maintaining my personal status quo, maybe? Yup, that about nails it, doesn’t it?
Take the example of the man born blind in John 9. What if he’d refused to wash the mud out of his eyes? What if he had refused to honor Jesus in gratitude later on? What would you have learned from such an example? But he did wash, he was healed, and he did give honor and worship to Jesus. And what was the message we gained? What Jesus stated beforehand: “this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” But it did not come without personal sacrifice, nor without some serious changes in mind and heart. Read John 9 to see what I mean.
For us to maintain our integrity, we need to be walking our talk, not clinging to the same bad habits selfish appetites that caused our fall and need for a Savior in the first place.
Second, preaching a transforming life is essential to our integrity in evangelism. Simply put, we need to be honest with folks about the cost of following Jesus. If we only preach forgiveness and heaven and love, joy and peace, we are not practicing full disclosure as we should. Becoming a Christian is a cataclysmic rebirth and transformation that absolutely refuses to leave any part of the disciple’s life untouched and free from the Potter’s hand. People need to know that up front. Jesus warned in Luke 14 that we should count the cost before following him, and in verse 33 even goes this far: “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” If we aren’t including this in the call to Christ, we aren’t preaching the Gospel or the complete renovation that is the Christian life.
It’s worth it. I’ll bet there is a part of you right now that doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with all this. Maybe you are wondering if people (especially those typically resistant to change and comfy in their rut) will really be attracted to an evangelism that warns them of the radical changes that lie ahead, bumps and all. There will always be people more attracted to consistency than truth. But answer this—how much more attractive is the transforming Gospel of Christ when it is being shared by one who is truly being transformed into His likeness? Letting Him change you will draw people to Him. Period. They will see in you the incredible worth of following Christ.
With these things in mind, I’ll let the apostle Paul have the last word: “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 5:23 NIV)