Preaching Without Speaking

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Imagine reaching thousands upon thousands of people and almost never having to open your mouth. Sounds impossible doesn’t it? Other than the fact that millions of professing believers think they can actually accomplish this kind of thing by just living a Christian lifestyle among the lost, there is truly a way which you can do this. Gospel tracts.

Passing out gospel tracts is the only true lifestyle evangelism that can reach the lost without necessarily saying anything. Of course, this may not always be the case. There will be conversations started based upon the curiosity of those that take some of the tracts that are passed out. But isn’t that the goal of lifestyle evangelism? Projecting the life of Christ so that people ask you what makes you different? Well, gospel tracts will most certainly do that! But the best part is, if you are unsure, fearful, not eloquent, or just don’t know where to begin in your evangelistic endeavors, gospel tracts are not just a great starting point, but a formidable weapon in the Christian artillery that can be carried around until we enter in the joy of the Lord.

I cannot express how many times someone has told me they cannot be a regular, consistent, and purposeful witness simply because they wouldn’t know what to say, or because of their perceived lack of ability. They prefer to let their “light shine” so that their good works will glorify God among the heathen. When I introduce the fact that gospel tracts can help them overcome those fears and apparent lack, I am met with a resounding, “No thanks,” or with other terrible excuses as to why they cannot pass out a simple piece of gospel literature. It astounds me with the amount of timid excuses people make concerning why they “cannot” reach the lost, you’d think that passing out tracts would be going out of style!

When it comes to the idea of lifestyle evangelism, if you really want your light to shine before men, pass out gospel tracts! It is a dynamic way to fulfill what you’re hoping to accomplish if speaking a word about the gospel is hard for you. Most of the time, you’d be surprised how much of your lifestyle is of no concern to the unbeliever. That is until you hand them a gospel tract. If I am suspecting correctly, some of us may want to develop the relationship first so that we can reach them more intimately. Perhaps even serving them so as to open doors for the gospel. Nothing wrong with service and friendship. But if you really want them to see Christ in you, tracts will definitely make that happen at lightening speed. Folks may not chase you down, but you will get the gospel to them, which subliminally is our professed purpose for living our lives before the lost anyway, isn’t it?

If you want to know what it would be like to preach to thousands of people without saying a word, pass out tracts. If you want your light to shine to that cashier in Walmart, give them a tract after you pay. If you want your waiter to know that you love Christ, leave a generous tip (I MEAN THAT), and leave a gospel tract. If you want your co-workers to know you love Jesus, ask them for their address, send them a gift, and put a gospel tract with it. This goes for your family, friends, and any one else you want to see Christ in you, the hope of glory!

It’s not a problem that gospel tracts may not be your “thing.” But if you don’t choose this option and prefer instead to continue in your Christian walk hoping the lost will recognize something in you about Christ, and you choose never to regularly, constantly, and purposefully communicate the gospel toward, family, friends, co-workers, and strangers, then you are a hypocrite and are being apocitic. You’re not practicing lifestyle evangelism, but lifestyle hypocrisy. God has graced us with an amazing gift – eternal life. He’s given us minds to comprehend the gospel, and mouths to tell it. Since that is not enough for some of us, He has given us the printing press by which we can order tracts by the box full. If that doesn’t tickle our fancy, and we are somewhat literate, we have pen and paper at home by which we can use to spread the gospel in our writing if we don’t like the print of others. Regardless of the mode, true lifestyle evangelism is worked out through a Christian not just living out the commandants of our Lord, but teaching others to do the same (Matt 28:20). If it is still too much for you to at least give someone something that can preach the gospel for you if you feel like you are unable, then cast your Christian profession aside and embrace your title as an unbeliever.

“If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself; you will be whispering it into your child’s ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of his sweet love. Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor. Recollect that. You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him. Of course I do not mean by that, that those who use the pen are silent: they are not. And those who help others to use the tongue, or spread that which others have written, are doing their part well: but that man who says, “I believe in Jesus,” but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him, by mouth, or pen, or tract, is an impostor”  

– Charles Spurgeon, Sword and Trowl March 1837

– Until we go home

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Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin Redeemed

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If you’re like me, you cringe when you hear the trite phrase, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Depending on who who says and hears this, this can be interpreted a multitude of ways. A liberal leaning might mean it as, “love the sinner, accept the sin.” Another way that someone might take this is “love the sinner, accommodate/tolerate the sin.” Of course, whenever this subject comes up with professing Christians, it tends to lean more toward, “love the sinner, don’t talk about the sin.”  In other words, love them as they are, and simply share the love of Christ (whatever that looks like these days). But then you have the more dreaded extreme by which certain people love the sinner, by showing the maximum amount of hatred toward the sin. That is, they show that they “love” the sinner through harshly expressing their extreme hatred for the sin.

Other than this phrase becoming a mantra for pragmatic church goers who don’t really understand the gospel, and the relationship between God’s wrath and His grace, one of the greatest reasons why this phrase should be offensive to any Christian is that it is attributed to God. Before this idiom was clipped into a nifty little catch phrase for practical application in talking to homosexuals, prostitutes, drug addicts, etc., it was originally stated that “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” Meaning that when God looks at a person, His love for them seems to be disconnected from their crime. In essence, God loves the criminal, but only hates the crime.

I would love to go into why the Bible doesn’t truly say this about God. But this subject has been greatly dealt with by mainstream writers. My intent here is to ask another question. “Can this phrase be redeemed?” Regardless of how people may feel about this phrase (myself included), is there a way in which we can twist this quaint phraseology to our advantage to start a biblical conversation and get down to the nuts and bolts of what the gospel is really about? I think we can.

I attended a men’s Bible study about two weeks ago with my church. We were discussing a chapter in Jerry Bridges’ book, The Joy of Fearing God, and this subject of love the sinner hate the sin was brought up. I thought this would go in the direction it usually goes. People getting offended and drawing strong pragmatic lines, and eventually parting ways. However, that was not the case. Every man at that table delivered some pretty informative concepts concerning the kind of theology this tiny phrase insinuates, and the cautious approach we need to have in accepting/stating this phrase. The most interesting part was how we were able to dissect the phrase in our favor to discuss the biblical model of how God, and how we, should deal with sin. Although this was not their intention in the discussion, it opened up my eyes to the possibility that I can now use this phrase in my favor to preach the gospel.

As I mentioned above, when people use “love the sinner, hate the sin” it can mean several things to different people in various contexts. But from this point on, if someone tells me “love the sinner, hate the sin” I will respond in one of three ways:

1. Yes but, do you really love the sinner? If you do, then why won’t you talk to them about their sin so that they might know about salvation. Jesus, Peter, Paul, James, and all Christians in church history mentioned, exposed, and unashamedly condemned sin when they preached the love, mercy, and grace of Jesus Christ and His redemptive work on the cross. And they didn’t just lightly gloss over it. So if you really love the sinner, but hate the sin, then you should at least talk about their sin(s) so that they might come to know Jesus, and why they must be born again!

2. But do you really hate the sin? Think about this, if you really hated the sin, you would talk about it. People are prone to talk about what they are emotionally pleased and disgusted with. This doesn’t mean we turn Westboro Baptist on someone when we preach the gospel, but it is a valid question to ask someone if they lob this phrase at you. If you truly hate the sin, and know that sin is the reason for which Christ died, don’t you think God hated it too? So much so that Christ endured the wrath of God so that guilty sinners can be set free?

3. Love the sinner, hate the sin? Only if it’s biblical. This was one of my favorite points in our men’s meeting (my most favorite is below). If a professing Christian tries to persuade me that I should be more loving toward the sinner, and simply express hatred toward the sin, I would then simply respond, “only if it’s biblical.” This will hopefully spark a conversation about how God both loves and hates the sinner, and that He expresses both anger/wrath just as much as He does mercy/grace. Only God is able to love and hate sin and sinners, and do so equitably, with balance, and without contradiction. I would love to show how the work of election is a crucial puzzle piece that helps us to understand this concept of God’s love/hatred better, but that is beyond the scope of this article. For now, “only if it’s biblical” is a great way to retort in order to get a discussion going.

I might not have been able to “redeem” this phrase, but responding in one of these three ways is best when someone decides to press this practical dogma against you. Regardless of how we respond, the idea that we must grasp is that asking the right question(s) about what someone means when they say “love the sinner, hate the sin” will hopefully lead to a conversation about the gospel and God’s greatness to redeem criminals to Himself. God’s hatred and love were both fully expressed on the cross when Christ was being punished on our behalf for sin. God unleashed His holy fury on Christ, who became sin for us. His love was equally poured out by demonstrating in that while we were still sinning, Christ died for us. If we trust in that sacrifice, and repent of our sin, God’s holy hatred and wrath that abides upon us, is propitiated. And although God loves us in the general sense that we are His creation, only His beloved, those that are born again, experience the fullness of His grace, love, and mercy.

As I hinted at above, there is a statement that better expresses what should be our reaction toward the lost, and has become my new, favorite rebuttal. If you are a Christian, and you know the true, unadulterated gospel, let this be your mantra: Love the sinner, preach the gospel. (Thank you Sam Young for this quote).

 

– Until we go home