Imagine with me if you will a world class athlete. This person is in tip top physical shape. They are big, strong and extremely quick. Let’s say that person is an All-Pro football player. They have been trained up from elementary on how to play football at a high level. They know how to tackle, hit, throw a spiral and read offenses and defenses- they can do it all. But, let’s say it’s the only sport they have ever played. Not just that – it’s the only sport they have ever watched.
Well, you put that guy on a basketball court and it could be a disaster. He would be grabbing players and taking them to the ground. When the offense is headed across half-court he would be back on defense in a 3 point stance ready to take out any person with the ball. Inevitably, the coach would have to call a timeout, go get the attention of the incredible athlete and tell him (or yell at him) “You are playing the wrong sport! This isn’t football this is basketball. The rules are different, the strategy is different and the mission is different – stop playing football and start playing basketball.”
Now as far-fetched as that situation sounds, it’s an easy drift for followers of Christ to do the exact same thing. To misunderstand the mission. Practice the wrong strategies. And consequently, get in their own way of carrying out the great call on their life.
What do I mean by this? It doesn’t take long to scroll through social media or a quick scan of the news to see that many Christians have moved to the mission of changing culture. Specifically changing the culture’s morality. Now don’t get me wrong…I want to see massive change. The Christian should long to see abortion abolished, racism eradicated, biblical sexuality and identity honored and deep care and provision for the poor and destitute.
But it’s not the mission.
All too often, well-meaning Christians follow this false mission dutifully while incorporating a strategy that includes telling other people how terrible they are and how they are hell bound for what they have done. And while this can feel good and even give us a sense of self-righteousness, it’s simply not the strategy we are told to implement.
As Christians, changing the culture's morality in America is not our mission. Making disciples, baptizing new believers, and teaching them the word of God is our mission.
In Matthew 28:19-20 Jesus tells us, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is the mission. And when we do this people’s morals begin to change. Do we see the difference? One focuses on changing behavior, the other focuses on making disciples.
Understanding the mission drastically changes our strategy. If the mission is to change the culture, then yelling, bashing, and belittling non-Christian behavior would seem reasonable – do whatever it takes to get them to stop doing that one thing.
But if our mission is to make disciples then that would be a terrible strategy. It would be a strategy that would literally be getting in the way of the mission and overlook the very truth of the Gospel message.
In Ephesians 2 Paul is telling the Christians in Ephesus how the key to a changed life and the key to changed behavior is Jesus! And what you see is a flow that we often miss
First, we all have deep sin
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
The church is notorious for being judgmental and ignoring our own sin. We are known by those outside of our walls as people that get all upset at the sin of others but often turn a blind eye to our sin. But here, Paul is acknowledging that everyone has sin in their past. Hold off on the judgement of others – because we all have done terrible things and because of that we all are destined for destruction. Who are we to tell people to change their behavior?
The Church should be the least judgmental place on this planet!
Why? Because we should understand how sinful we are and have been. It’s not that we are ok with sin. We must stand against sin in our own life and help our brothers and sisters in Christ do the same. We must vote with biblical conviction and teach our children the beauty of the gospel centered worldview – but never think we are better than someone else- we aren't.
Second, God shows his love for us
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Our moral superiority in a few hand-picked categories doesn’t equate to us receiving salvation from Jesus. Salvation is a gift. There is nothing we can do to ever be good enough to stand before the Holy God on our own. His grace is the only thing that separates the Christian from the Non-Christian. We must not think we are any better than the hopeless drug addict, the sexually immoral or the mother committing abortion. We are just sinners that accept this free gift and we have been forgiven.
Third, our behavior flows from our salvation
10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Now we are often just concerned about that last sentence – do good works. So we shake our heads and our fists in disgust that people won’t do good works.
“Change your behavior!”, we shout.“It’s disgusting, it’s against God’s design, it’s evil!” Yet their behavior doesn’t change and their causes just strengthen. And we sit back helpless simply trying to find someone to blame. We have missed the reality that behavior flows from salvation.
Sin. Salvation. Behavior – in that order
What the American church can drift towards is Sin. Behavior (Change your ways). God (Then God will love You). A greater focus is placed on our behavior than our relationship with God.
Sin - Behavior - Salvation will repulse those not living for Jesus in a post Christian world. It will never change their hearts and will only enrage distrust for the church.
But Sin - Salvation – Behavior is how you see change. It’s how families are restored, addictions are broken, bitterness subsides and deep connection with God is renewed.
Our mission is not to change the moral fiber of a country, our mission is the make disciples and when we do that, we will change the moral fiber of our country.