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Thursday, April 25, 2013 | Comments (4)

by John MacArthur

As those seeking to live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), Christians should always consider how their actions will affect their witness to a watching world.

Speaking of his own evangelistic ministry, Paul wrote:

Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:32-33)

Paul was far more concerned with seeing sinners embrace Christ than he was with the exercise of his liberty. Thus he was willing to set aside his freedom for the sake of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Whether or not you are aware of it, your behavior—both what you do as well as what you don’t do—affects your witness for Christ. It is an issue of testimony: What does your life say about God to the friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, or even strangers who might be watching you?

That’s the point Paul makes in Romans 14:16-18:

Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men.

The operative statement there is “approved by men.” Paul’s not talking about being a man-pleaser—he’s talking about the positive commendation of your lifestyle by the people who are watching.

You’ve probably known people who call themselves Christians and proclaim their love for the Lord, but have lifestyles that are very similar to the world. Believers who routinely live on the edges of their liberty make it difficult to differentiate themselves from the world. They have a hard time communicating the value and power of the gospel to people who see no clear difference in how they live their lives.

Believers who never abuse their freedom live out the most distinct, powerful testimonies of God’s life-transforming power. The self-imposed restrictions in your life—informed by biblical principles—visually depict the ongoing work of Christ in your heart to a world that is constantly watching, even when you least suspect it.

Your loudest, clearest testimony is rarely the words you say—people are far more likely to see how you live and draw conclusions about the value and reality of your faith based on your lifestyle. The unsaved world is paying attention, and we need to strive to be manifestly different from our sinful culture. For the sake of the gospel, we need to stand apart from the world while we’re living in it.

So when we’re faced with a decision in an area of life that Scripture doesn’t specifically speak to, we need to ask, Will this activity adorn the gospel or tarnish it?

Your testimony either tells the truth about God, or it tells a lie. The choices you make in the gray areas should reflect your concern not to bring offense to God’s reputation but to bring Him praise instead.

(Adapted from Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong.)


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#1  Posted by Holly Schrader  |  Thursday, April 25, 2013 at 11:37 AM

I concur with Pastor MacArthur, that indeed the world is watching our actions and we need to visibly depict the ongoing work of Christ in our hearts. Sadly, I failed to do this yesterday when it was my husband's birthday and I took him to lunch. When the check came I paid it, knowing that the piece of cake I ordered, to go, was not included in the bill. I was soon bothered by my sinful non-response to correct the error, because I realized that the restaurant servers and my husband, who had all seen the bill, must have known that by my silence, this professing Christian was shamefully trying to get something for nothing. The Holy Spirit convicted me from the time I left the restaurant until I called my husband at work this morning to ask if he had noticed that the cake had been absent on the lunch tab. He said that he had, and then I went on to confess that I had too, and since it was wrong of me to ignore it, that I was going to go by the restaurant and pay for the cake, or mail them a check for the amount.

He then told me that since it had been his birthday, that the waitress had said that the cake was "on the house." Somewhat relieved, nevertheless this did not erase the fact that I had sinned and dishonored Christ by my actions. I had neglected to pay for what I knew I should have. What an unrighteous testimony to my husband and the restaurant employees and a dishonoring of our Lord! I was going to allow my sin to publically tarnish the gospel. It just reminded me how we as believers must constantly be on top of our sinful urges and check our responses to opportunities to transgress in our lives.

Consequently, I am deeply humbled (once again) by the fact that I am basically selfish, sinful, and owe God for everything that He has so generously and compassionately bestowed upon an undeserving person such as me- Christ's imputed righteousness is truly a merciful covering over this inheritantly wicked heart. I thank the Lord for His Holy Spirit that prevents His children from bringing more shame upon Him than we would inevitably do without His help. I pray I will not behave in such a way again as to tarnish God's good reputation. For God and the world are indeed watching! I appreciate you, Pastor MacArthur, for that reminder!

Holly Schrader

#2  Posted by Joseph Wade  |  Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8:42 PM

This article rings loudly in my hearing. I'm afraid I'm one of those who "talk the talk" without a consistent walk. I have a drawer full of tracts that should be handed out, I have shamed my Lord by occupying my time with T V, the internet, and a inconsistent life. I'm miserable, I don't attend church on a regular basis, because it's somewhat modern and the sermons are more like sermonettes. I long to obey Christ and over the past couple of years find it difficult to pray, difficult to study. My point is, my passion to serve Christ in evangelizing is at a stand still exactly as pastor MacArthur wrote concerning weak Christians. My purpose for writing this is, for help getting back on the right track. I examine my self everyday. This isn't about me, but a plea to find restoration. I long for true repentance.

#3  Posted by Lori Macgregor  |  Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Joseph, I will pray for you. Perhaps a bold move like cutting off the television service for awhile until you can get a solid foundation of Bible reading down might help. I have found that sometimes its the decisions I am able to make when I am feeling convicted or strong in faith that enable me to walk things out easier for the long run. I try and take advantage of those times knowing later I will feel beaten down by the world and not be very effective in obeying Christ. The television is more dangerous than we give it credit for! Almost every show either forth-right denigrates God or subliminally promotes alternatives to the God of the Bible, so no wonder a nightly routine of watching television ruins our hunger to serve God! Another suggestion is get the Bible on CD and have that playing in your house for times when you are busy but want to be fed the word. God's Word will not return void so you will be doing yourself a favor by having it on. I have found that the Word is the only way to have strength and when I get beaten down, I know it means I need to double-down in reading my Bible! I hope this helps a little. God bless, Lori

#5  Posted by Cameron Buettel  |  Monday, April 29, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Joseph (2),

Obviously, the conviction you are experiencing is a good thing. We have to trust God at His Word that He has empowered true Christians to rise above the shortcomings of their flesh (please read Ephesians 4 on this subject). Furthermore, regular attendance at a healthy biblical church with good accountability to godly elders will be of great benefit to you. Your first priority should be the local church.

Please check out the recent blog series "The Local Church and Why It Matters"