Guest blog provided by Rick Taylor
There is an apologetic book called The Fifth Gospel and I think the premise of the book is very interesting. In a word, it states that believers are the Fifth Gospel. There are hundreds of people who will never open the Bible to read the gospels, but they read us every day. If we are not totally incognito, there will be many people around us who know we are Christians. We are then, to them, the Cliff Notes version of the Word. For one reason or another, they will not read the word but instead will look at someone who has read it and assume that that person reflects what is written.
We need to ask ourselves, “Do our actions steer someone to the Word or away from it?”
Let’s look at it another way. If I were to say that tomorrow the people around me were going to read either Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Rick, and the percentages were with the latter, maybe would I act a little differently. We all know people who want to see a movie over reading a book. Watching how we act is a much easier task than picking up the Word daily and reading if for themselves. Mark Twain once said, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” There is truth to this statement. Our actions should, in this day and age, be as striking to people as the words of the gospel.
I had a young man in class a few years back who was a freshman in high school and had never read a book. I gave him a Louis L’amour book, and he loved it. A few weeks later I asked him about how his reading was going and he told me he had about ninety more L’amour books to go, but that he was going to read every one of them.
Our lives should encourage others to say, “What I have read so far is so good, I want to read more.”
Hopefully, when we expose the Good Book our to others through our lives, they will want to read the same Book by the same Author. Our lives should encourage others to say, “What I have read so far is so good, I want to read more.” If our lives do not reflect the gospel accurately, then others would have little reason to explore God’s Word further. They might say, “Yeah, I saw a movie by this God-author and I wasn’t impressed. Don’t think I will keep His book on my Kindle.”
If we are the Fifth Gospel, then our daily actions are critically important to spreading the message of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon once said that people “reckon our deeds as dollars and our words as pennies.” I think that is very accurate. As believers we are representing more than ourselves every day. Our actions or inactions to reflect Christ can result in others action or inaction to get to know Him better.
Can we say that imitating us will give others peace?
I think I might have heard a collective sigh on that last statement. Surely we cannot be responsible for another’s pursuit of the gospel. That is their personal decision, not ours. Well, we can say that, but unfortunately the world does not work that way. Our good or bad actions do affect others, good or bad. We can say as Charles Barkley the ex-NBAer said, “I ain’t no role model,” but we would be kidding ourselves as much as he was.
Paul told young Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12) When addressing the Philippians, Paul went so far as to say, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) Can we say that to others?
Can we say that imitating us will give others peace?
If we can’t, we need to reevaluate the example we are leading. There may not be any sadder words to hear than, “I was thinking about doing this Jesus thing, but I have been watching you and I think I will skip it.”
We can be bitter about the fact that there is more pressure on us as Christians to live a life of “rightness” or we can accept it, embrace it, and do it. If we take our responsibility seriously, it will empower and enrich us.
There once was a small fishing town in California that was a pelican’s paradise. The fishermen would come in with their catches, gut their fish, and toss the offal to the birds. Consequently, the pelicans got lazy and stopped fishing on their own. Eventually, the fishermen found other uses for the offal and the pelicans supply dried up. Many of the birds began to starve to death. It looked bleak until the fishermen brought in birds from another location. The new pelicans set the example, started doing their pelican thing, and after a short time the native birds began to fish and get healthy again. There are a lot of spiritually starving people around us. People who will someday notice their need for nourishment. At that time they will look around and ask themselves, “Who seems to have the nourishment they need? Who seems satisfied?” Hopefully, they may look at us and see that person. Their next question should be. “Why are they like that?”
Titus 2:7 says, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.” When people feel weak, they look for those who are strong. If people can read our lives and they see them as positive, they will seek out what we have. It will lead them to the Word and the Word can lead them to the Lord. In Matthew we read, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Many years ago a young author was commissioned by the government of China to do a biographical book discrediting Hudson Taylor, a courageous and godly missionary. As the young man researched the life of Taylor, he was moved by the man’s charity, love, and convictions. He finally put his pen aside and could go no further. At the risk of his own life he abandoned the task that he had been instructed to do. He consequently accepted Christ as his savior. He looked at the life of a good man and was drawn to it. People around us are examining our lives. Will they be inclined to abandon the lives they live to experience the life they see in us? Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and us. Four necessitate a book. One just necessitates a look. Who will look at us today?
Thank you Rick Taylor!
This insightful reminder of the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:5-7 encourages us to embrace (with all we are and have) the incredible privilege of bearing witness to the Christ – the Lord of heaven and earth!
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.2 Corinthians 4:5-7 ESV