There is a show on local Christian radio here in the Chicago area called, “In the Marketplace with Janet Parshall.” The host likes to quote Luke 6:45b, “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” The preceding part of that verse says, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil” (Lk 6:45a). The gist is that a man’s words are an indication of what is in his heart, therefore we can know something about what he believes by what he says. So, if a man says that Jesus Christ was a cynic, we would not expect him to be sympathetic to the Christian faith. Yet on one occasion, Mrs. Parshall reprimanded one of her callers for suggesting that President Obama, the man who said those words, is a Muslim. She objected because Mr. Obama himself claims to be a Christian and she believes we should take him at his word. Barack Obama is the same man who forced Christian employers to provide health insurance policies that cover abortion in violation of their Christian beliefs and who blames the Christian church for many of the world’s evils. A quick search for Obama quotes on Youtube shows that he is far more sympathetic toward the Prophet Mohammed than he is toward Jesus Christ. Judging by his words, it is far more likely he that he is a Muslim than that he is a Christian, despite what Janet Parshall says.
Words vs. Deeds
In today’s undiscriminating culture, it is considered uncharitable to pass judgment on another’s profession of faith despite that person’s unchristian or even anti-christian behavior. Who can know what goes on inside someone else’s heart, the argument goes. If he calls himself a Christian, we should take him at his word. But the Bible is clear that when a person becomes a believer, his behavior always changes. The reason it changes is that true believers receive new spiritual life when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in their hearts. So that Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus Christ, immediately begins producing new Christ-like behaviors. If it doesn’t, it is likely that spiritual birth never occurred.
Not only will the Holy Spirit begin to change the new believer’s behavior, it will also begin to transform his affections and thought patterns. “Old things are passed away, behold all things have become new,” says 2 Corinthians 5:17. Romans 12:2 says, “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.” With faith comes transformation of the believer’s very thought processes to conform them to the mind of Christ.
There is a love for Christ demonstrated by a desire to know his word and to obey it in the heart of every true believer. Jesus says that the one who loves him will obey his commandments, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21).
There is also a love for other believers and a desire to spend time with them in worship together. The writer of Hebrews says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,” (Heb 10:24-25). David had a profound love for worship. He said, “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (Ps 122:1). He also had a deep love for God’s word. Psalms 19 and 119 are filled with praise for the word of God and the benefits of obeying it. The Psalmist says: “
“In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.” (Ps 119:14-16).
“the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb” (Ps 19:9-10)
A true believer will have a craving for sound biblical teaching and preaching. He will be able to say with Peter when Jesus asked the disciples if they would ever leave him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The true believer will have an insatiable appetite for the word of God.
My wife and I recently left a church we had been attending for several years because we could no longer bear the cavalier attitude towards the word of God. The pastor was not a good preacher. It was clear he put very little effort into the preparation of his messages. He took every opportunity to outsource the preaching and teaching to others. He relied very heavily on his wife who was a much better preacher and teacher, but she contracted cancer and passed away. Without her, he was simply unable to carry on and soon secretly remarried and resigned his pastorate. The church, which actually has three congregations, is now without a single pastor, all three having moved on. Only one of the pastors devoted himself diligently to the preaching and teaching ministries.
There is a small group of people in that church who have become discontent with the lack of good preaching and teaching and are looking for another church. But the amazing thing is how few are willing to leave in search of better pastures. Most are content with the pathetic quality of the ministry of the word of God. This raises serious questions about the genuineness of their relationship with Christ, which apparently is not strong enough to overcome their desire to stay in familiar surroundings.
My wife and I, on the other hand, did not have to go far to find a church where the ministry of the word of God is held in high regard. Just one mile down the road we found a church where the pastor is a very skilled Bible expositor and the worship is refreshingly reverent. We have tried to encourage members of the other church to consider joining us by sharing the sermons with them and inviting them to come to worship with us, but only a few have taken us up on the offer.
The Path to Revival
It is sad because this little church is clearly on the wrong path and on its way to extinction if things don’t change. And there are many more churches where the same thing is true, where there is a lack of appetite for the faithful preaching and teaching of the word of God, where the ministry is based on the personality of the preacher or the attractiveness of the programs or personal friendships rather than faithfulness to the ministry of the word.
There are few places in our society where discussions of religion and politics are welcome. But social media presents a great opportunity for sharing spiritual truths because it is an open forum where anything and everything can be discussed. Facebook is a powerful indicator of where people’s real affections lie. Christians post pictures of the food they eat, the company they keep, their activities, their families, their hobbies, and their travels. But very few share anything about Jesus Christ from the word of God or Christian media. Few exhibit the change in affections from the things of this world to the things of Christ.
Matthew 17:17-20 says, “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” So it is possible to distinguish between believers and unbelievers based on their conduct and what they cherish regardless of their profession of faith. If we were only able to rely on a person’s profession, then the church would cease to be a redeeming influence on the world, since its attitudes and behaviors are in many cases no different from the attitudes and behaviors of the world.
The book of Acts records how the scribes and elders marveled at Peter and John when they were brought before the council for preaching Christ, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 3:13). We need a revival of sound biblical teaching that will lead to genuine transformation of people’s affections from the things of this world to the things of Christ in order that the world might take note of the fact that we have been with Christ and give glory to God. As Matthew 5:16 says, “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.”