Applied Christianity 101

by Steven Clark Goad

Theory surely has its place. If you are part of a "think tank" of advisers, or if you're into philosophy, theory may be invited to sit at the table on occasion. But theoretical math didn't land a U.S. spacecraft on the moon. Theory in marine engineering isn't what builds giant floating hotels, three times the length of a football field, that we call cruise ships. Theory deals with hypotheses or "guesses." And if I minght draw a spiritual parallel, theoretical ideas do not help us display the characteristics of Christianity. Applied Christianity has to do with practice, not theory.

We often hear of sins of "omission" and "commission." Sins of commission are those where we lie, cheat, steal, kill and engage in evil behavior. We "commit" them. Sins of omission have to do with not caring, not helping, not evangelizing, and not loving as we should. Thus, we "omit" things enjoined upon us by God. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17, NIV).

Allow me to address practical ways of being faithful disciples of Christ; ways we can better do what we must do in order to be genuinely dedicated Christians. We must repent of these sins of "omission" or experience the consequences.

First of all we must put dates on our deeds! "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matt. 6:34). Jesus isn't telling us here to not ever make plans or to never put dates on our deeds. I really believe the Lord is telling us not to put off until some invisible future date things we should be doing in the here and now.

I knew a man who kept promising his wife he would fix the brakes on her car. She nagged him about it. He kept promising. She was afraid to drive her car, but had to in order to get to her work.Sure enough, one day she hit the brakes and nothing happened. She died in the wreck that followed. The husband was heartsick that he hadn't done the good he knew to do and could have done.

Secondly, we must learn to put names on our deeds! "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea" (Rom. 16:1). Do you know what Priscilla, Aquila, Epenetus, Mary, Andronicus, and a host of others all have in common? They are the names of Paul's ministry. These names are telling us that Paul's mission had to do with people, people with faces and names.

Refusing to learn who people are is a strategy for failure in being proper disciples of Jesus; it depersonalizes our work and makes us feel less accountable and less guilty. An elder promised himself that he'd visit that couple who had checked on their visitor's card that they wanted a visit. Six months later when the elder got around to making the call, he discovered the couple had moved. They had also divorced. At the time they visited church they were attempting to hold the marriage together. They knew they needed help. But the church, and one particular elder, weren't paying close enough attention.

Thirdly, we must be specific about deeds! Jesus announced to Zaccheus that He was going to his house for lunch. "I'm going to start doing good things for others" won't get the job done. If good intentions are not attended to, they become lost goals. Decide specifically what areas need attention and what you can do in particular.

Laura and I send cards. We send cards to sick people, lonely people, bereaved folk, newly-baptized souls and sometimes just for the fun of keeping in touch. It isn't a hit or miss card-sending ministry. It is deliberate. It's on purpose. It's done with prayer.

A deacon decided to call or visit every person who visited the church for the very first time. This wasn't rocket science; it was just a simple strategy for touching people's lives by one man. If people didn't sign the register, he'd give them a card to fill out. He became a great soul winner. He wasn't "gifted" in any particular way that stood out for all to see. His ministry wasn't a big deal. But souls were touched and lives were changed because one man got particular about his deeds.

Fourthly, you must start with the basics! "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (1 Pet. 4:9). How fundamental it is. Since loving each other is embracing the greatest commandments, why not do the most obvious things for others and be hospitable and friendly to them? It's so much easier to huddle with those we like; I know that. But it challenges us to invite everyone, as we can, as we have opportunity. The Apostles fished with nets, not fishing poles.

A widow lady at a church where I once ministered had a tradition of having every family of the church over to her house at least one time each year. This required her to have two or three families at a time. How did she do it? Beautifully, I would say. And it made a tremendous impact on the spirit of that fellowship. What a wonderful spirit this sweet sister had. And she was far less able to do this, by most standards, than many others who rarely opened their homes to guests.

Genius isn't required to come up with good deeds. Let me suggest a few. 1) send cards, 2) visit, 3) make food for those in special circumstances, 4) phone, 5) have Bible studies, 6) clean for those recovering from surgery, 7) have people for dinner, 8) pray for preachers and missionaries and church leaders, 9) be an encourager with words of praise, 10) shop for the elderly, 11) knock on doors around the community and invite people to church services or for a Bible study. You get the idea.

Fifthly, pray that God will provide doors of opportunity for service! "And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains" (Col. 4:2). We forget that we have a prayer-listening and a prayer-answering heavenly Father. He is eager to hear from us. He wants to hear from us. He commands us to call home often and the line is never busy!

Even Paul understood that God's providential supervision and superintending has a role in the opportunities made available to us. A sad, shy stutter wanted to be of service. He couldn't teach because of his speech problem. He couldn't lead singing (he was tone deaf). He was terrified of leading a public prayer for fear someone might make fun of him or be distracted. He felt useless. But one evening he prayed. He prayed real hard.

After praying to God for help in finding his niche, he felt led to take care of the benevolence needs that arose from time to time. Any time someone came to the church building for assistance, they were referred to this man. Pow! An unwanted stepchild of a ministry became one of the churches most successful outreach ministries. This man treated people, even those who were down and out, with dignity. He brought many to Christ. This required a new convert's class. Since he had brought them to Christ, and had already befriended them, he wasn't shy about teaching them. So, he began his formal teaching career in the class for the new Christians he had converted.

True Christians don't just attend church assemblies and forget about others. They care about the lives of the lost and the saved. They want to rescue the perishing. They want to help the saved get to heaven. Christians are the eyes, ears, hands, feet, and mouths that minister to the needs around them by making this world a better place. Christianity isn't a matter of theory; it is all a matter of practice. Saying "be thou warmed and filled" just isn't enough. And we know it. We have to do something.

By the way, if those of us who have needs do not occasionally allow others to minister to us in our times of need, we are denying them their privilege of serving the Lord. Let's not be too proud to ask for help when we genuinely need it, or to receive help when it is extended. To God be the glory!