4. We are not saved by good works, but saved “unto” God works. (Ephesians 2:10)
Good works have a definite place in the plan of God for His people. But they are the results—the fruits, the evidence—of our salvation, not the means. One wishing to become a member of the military does not do so by wearing a uniform and saluting officers. But once he is officially inducted, he wears the uniform, obeys commands and salutes officers.
What good works does the Lord want to see in our lives? Scripture answers that again and again in places like Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22:16 and, of course, Matthew 25:35-36. I enjoy telling Harold Bales’ story of the time his church in uptown Charlotte, N.C., was bringing in the homeless from the park across the street and feeding them breakfast before the morning worship service. A woman who had belonged to that church for generations and resented the presence of the unwashed in their services, approached Pastor Harold one Sunday and said, “Pastor, why do we have to have those people in our church?” He said, “Because I don’t want to see anyone go to hell.” She said, “Well, I don’t want them to go to hell either.” He said, “I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you.”
5. If you have faith, you will pray.
In fact, nothing tells the story about your faith like your prayer life. Nothing.
Consider that you are praying to a Lord you have never seen and cannot prove. You say things to Him you would say to no one else, and believe that He hears. Furthermore—and this is the clincher—90 percent of the requests you make, you’ll never know whether He answered them or not since He may choose to do so in subtle ways or another time. But there you go, praying to Him day after day, as though He were occupying the chair next to you and everything you do today is dependent on His presence and guidance.
Pastors keep prayer before their people by encouraging them to pray at the altar during the services, and by having a prayer room at the church, and by encouraging prayer for specific people, needs, events and concerns.
6. A church exists by evangelism and missions as a fire exists by burning.
Sharing our faith is not an option, not for the gifted only (although admittedly some are more fluent and effective than others in this), and not to be done sporadically. “As you go, make disciples” was the command of our Lord in Matthew 28:18ff.
I stood in the foyer of a church of another denomination one day, reading their poster on evangelism. (You do not need my help in identifying the denomination by what follows.) The poster said something like, “Spread the word. Tell people about John Wesley.” I thought, “Wesley? Tell them about Wesley? That’s not evangelism!” That’s the sort of in-house instruction one might wish to do with those who have been converted to United Methodism. But it’s no way to reach the unchurched, uncommitted or uninterested.
Churches must be creative in finding ways to mobilize their members in spreading the faith, must be aggressive in supporting those who are getting it right and doing it well, and must be alert to the distractions which would push evangelism down the list of priorities in the church’s ministries.
7. The Bible is the inspired word of God and the spiritual nutrition of believers.
If you thought other church programs would crowd evangelism off the agenda, know that life has a way of pushing God’s Word out of the minds of believers. The process seems to be the same for everyone, and works like this…
You go a few days without reading your Bible, and soon, you find yourself resisting the inner urge to get back to it. The more you cave in to that laziness that resents picking up the Word and opening it, the more you will find yourself saying (or thinking, or both): “I’ve read the Bible. I know it already. There’s nothing new there. It’s boring.”
Those are all lies out of hell. You do not know the Bible. You have not read it. (You may have read “at” it, but there is a world of content there which you have not yet mined.) It is not boring. You are boring, not the Word.
Job said, “I have esteemed the words of thy mouth more than my necessary food.” Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” David said the godly man’s “delight is in the Word of God and in that Word (law) doth he meditate day and night.”
Keep telling them, pastor. Keep preaching its insights and delighting in its treasures, and eventually they will get it.
Repetition is a great teacher. In fact, it may be the best teacher on the planet.