Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Lifestyle Evangelism

Meditation for the week of November 2, 2008

Jeremiah 17:9-10
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

What is the heart of man? We think with the heart according to Genesis 6:5 where every imagination of the thoughts of man’s heart was evil continually. We believe with the heart according to Romans 10:9. Pharaoh’s heart was hard and because of that he kept the Israelite’s in bondage. The heart in the Bible then is more than the organ in our body that pumps blood. It seems to be the source of our emotions and our motivations. It controls how we think.

The Lord says our hearts are desperately wicked or perhaps incurably wicked. That is a hard pill to swallow because most of us think that we are pretty good people and that everyone should want to be like we are. Sometimes I don’t think we know what really motivates us. For example, I often wonder if I preach the Gospel because I love people and want to help them or because I love the Lord and want to please Him or because I just love to preach the Gospel. I don’t know if I really know. Many of us have prejudices and emotional handicaps because of things that happened in our childhood and we don’t really know that we are making decisions that are not good decisions because of pain that we feel that we don’t even acknowledge. Regardless of what we may think, by nature our thoughts and hearts and motivation are wicked or evil. I do think our hearts are changed when we come to Christ and trust Him. But even then most of us still have heart problems at times.

We cannot take a person whose heart has never been changed by the Holy Spirit and force them to live like a Christian who is in love with the Lord and obedient to His word. Christians are often improperly involved in what I call “life-style evangelism”. We tell the unsaved whose hearts are not in tune with God’s how to live and then we condemn them for not living the way we think they should. Even though many of them actually live better lives than the people who are preaching to them, all we do is alienate the very people we would like to reach with the love of God. We come across as total hypocrites because they know that we are asking them to remove specifics sins from their lives that we abhor, but we are not dealing with other sins that are just as bad. For example, we are very vocal about being against homosexuality, but I don’t hear the same vocal criticism of couples who are living together without the benefit of marriage. Both involve sexual immorality and one is not worse than the other in God’s eyes. Living together without marriage does not repulse most of us like homosexuality does and so we don’t condemn it in the same way. This is just one of many examples where we end up shooting ourselves in the foot. People tend to judge Christianity by Christians and not by Christ. And since we don’t always know our own hearts, and since we don’t always have our acts together, I think it would be better to preach about Christ and how he loves those whose hearts are incurably wicked, rather than trying to convince people to change their lifestyle before they change their belief system.

Those of us who are believers in the Bible and reverent when it comes to God, need to remember that people do not become Christians by changing their lifestyles. However, when people change their minds about who Christ is and realize that He loves people whose evil hearts are well known to Him, then they should be motivated to change their lifestyles. We need to help people change from the inside out. Forcing people whose hearts are not right with God to live like Christians only causes resentment.

Bruce Collins

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