We do God, but do we do honesty?
Our belief in God will affect how others see Him
Published 14 June 2012 | Rob James
There can surely have been few sadder TV moments than Gordon Brown’s rather depressing performance at the Leveson Enquiry.
It was upsetting to hear him talk about how The Sun revealed his son’s illness of course, but it’s the coverage he’s received since his session with QC Robert Jay that's caused me most grief.
Not unexpectedly, it’s focused on his attempts to deny that he was implicated in the plots to undermine his predecessor Tony Blair.
The BBC’s Nick Robinson talked about a “jaw-dropping moment”. Quentin Letts was far more forthright in The Mail. "The polygraph industry will study, perhaps with admiration, Mr Brown's claims not to have known about a plot to unseat Tony Blair," he wrote.
I use the word “sad” advisedly because the former Prime Minister grew up in a Christian home, and I for one have always assumed that he has a genuine Christian faith. Only he knows of course but the whole sad saga seems to have highlighted a problem that was recently identified in an online quiz: an increasing number of believers are “Christians in name only".
R Brad White, founder of “Changing the Face of Christianity” knows it can have a devastating impact on our witness. But as tragic as this is, it’s worth remembering that God’s people have always let the side down, and often in a big way. Abraham lied, Jacob was as slippery as an eel and even king David was capable of more than adultery.
The members of the New Testament churches were far from perfect too. Paul was horrified by some of the things that were happening in the Corinthian church and it is obvious from his letter to the Philippians that he felt pretty lonely, surrounded as he was by Christians who were only interested in stirring up trouble for him.
Robert Amess summed it up well when he wrote, “Look at the inadequacies of Jesus’ disciples, or at some of the problems Paul had to face – not only problems with himself but also with those who accompanied him. The members of the New Testament churches seemed quite a collection of dysfunctional people, bearing in mind the amount of letter writing needed to try and sort them out. I repeat: it is quite clear that God calls and uses the most unlikely people for his glory." (Amess, "God can use me").
Thankfully, Amess is right. God can, and does use the most unlikely people to achieve His purposes. His plans cannot be thwarted by our inadequacies. Even more importantly our ultimate destiny cannot be threatened by our fallibilities either. We are saved by grace. We can do nothing to make Him love us more and we can do nothing to make Him love us any the less.
There’s a wonderful example of what this means in the first letter Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. It’s obvious that he was dealing with a very disturbing situation. In fact he tells them that even the notoriously immoral citizens of Corinth would be shocked by their tolerance.
Paul would have none of it, and told them that they had to expel the immoral brother. They had to hand him over to Satan because Paul knew that one rotten apple could ruin the rest.
But he did add something else. He told them that this way his “his sinful nature” would be destroyed but his spirit would be “saved on the day of the Lord”. That should encourage us.
But we dare not become complacent because the Jesus who promised to protect his followers also told them that lots of “believers” would be excluded from His Kingdom. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven but only He who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”. (Matthew 7:21)
The gospel, as Paul clearly understood, is nothing if it is not a call to obedience, the obedience that comes from faith.
All of which means we’d be fools to God for granted. And we need to constantly remind ourselves our lifestyles will affect the way people respond to the Lord. But in the final analysis, we do well ponder words attributed to John Newton: “When I get to heaven I shall see three wonders there. The first wonder will be, to see many people there whom I did not expect to see—the second wonder will be, to miss many people whom I did expect to see; and the third and greatest wonder of all, will be to find myself there.”
More news from the Comment