Have you ever noticed that we often get an idea of a particular subject from television and movies, but when we find out what it is really like, we find it far different than we expected? Take, for example, the Wild West. If we just looked at what we could learn from John Wayne or Bonanza, we might think that whole period of our history was one long gun fight with little to no lull between one desperate showdown and the next. Yet in real life, the gun-slinging action of the movies was hardly a daily occurrence in the western frontier. But if all we had were the movies, we might never know the truth.
Now let me ask this: if all a person ever knew about real Christianity was what they observed from your life, what kind of conclusion would they come to? I am not talking about what we profess, or what we do on Sundays, but rather, I mean the nitty-gritty, mundane, wearisome parts of life—how do we live when it is just our buddies around? At work? At school? At home alone?
In his letter to a young man named Titus, Paul makes a startling assessment that should cause all of us to come to a skiting halt and examine our own lives. He is charging him to “set in order what remains,” specifically, setting up godly men as church leaders (Titus 1:5). In that discussion, he turns his attention to the opposite of those qualified, the group he calls “defiled” (Titus 1:15). Then he makes this incredibly sobering statement—
“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”Titus 1:16
Ouch. This becomes even more important to consider as we look at the context of this short pastoral epistle. In these brief three chapters, Paul commands five times that Christians engage in “good deeds” (Titus 2:7, 14; 3:1, 8, 14). Now whenever God tells us something multiple times in a short space, we ought to really take heed of what He is teaching us. And if the repetition wasn’t enough, Paul says that Jesus died “to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Now Paul goes on to make it clear that we are not saved by our deeds, but good deeds should be the natural result of saving faith in Jesus.
And this is entirely the point he is making in this letter. Our behavior is evidence of our relationship with God. No, true Christians will not live perfect lives, but as those around us look at the pattern of behavior we exhibit, they should recognize that we belong to Jesus. If not, there is a problem.
The old adage “do as I say not as I do” will not cut it when it comes to sharing the Gospel. The world is watching, they want to know if this whole salvation thing is real. We say it gives us peace—can they tell that we are peaceful people? We say we have joy—is that evidenced on Monday morning at work? We claim to love God—can they tell that by how we love our fellow man? Do we deny Christ Jesus by our deeds?
You see, we are not our own, we cannot live however we please. All those who belong to Christ “have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20). To quote Titus 2:14 again, we are “a people for His own possession” (Italics mine). We cannot claim that He is our Savior and yet refrain from making Him our Lord. He wants all of us. Not part, not most, all.
The reason for this is the glory of His name. No one has ever seen God nor can see God in this life (1 Timothy 6:15, 16). Most people in the world don’t read the Bible, and even if they have, that’s not what they care about. Anybody can make anything sound great on paper—how does it work in real life?
And believe it or not, Peter actually says that it will be our behavior that will put to rest accusations levelled against Christians, not the words that we say. After commanding believers to “keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles,” meaning unbelievers, Peter says that they will “glorify God in the day of visitation” as a result of “your good deeds, as they observe them” (1 Peter 2:12). Many of us our familiar with the command that requires Christians to be in a state of “always being ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you,” but we sometimes leave out the command to “keep a good conscience, so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:15, 16). Our profession can never be separated from our practice. You cannot have one without the other.
Our words are important, absolutely. Simply watching someone live the Christian life will not tell a person how to get saved, they need someone to tell them. However, if a person does not see the transforming power of the Spirit in our lives, they will want nothing of our faith, no matter how many great and soaring speeches we may make. They want to know if it really works. The only way we can show them is by giving them an answer by our lives.
Once again, this does not mean we will live perfectly. No, even Paul said that we are in a process of being made “perfect…until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:6). What should be evident, however, is the fact that we are indeed in that prosses of transformation. We should not be living the way we did before we knew Christ, or even last year for that matter. God is transforming us more and more into the image of His Son, both to make us pure and to be a testimony to the world (Romans 8:28-30). Though we often neglect to consider it, our lives truly are a testimony, either good or bad. What kind of testimony does your life show?