Summary: This is the fifth message in my SURVIVOR series, focusing upon protecting our credibility and Christian witness (10-13-02)
*Enter with the “Survivor Torch” and “Survivor” theme music playing.
Say: Every week on the Survivor reality series, you can see the tribe members carrying a torch similar to this one. They carry it with them to the “Tribal Council,” where that must vote one person out of their tribe … they must eliminate one person from the game. Their torch is a symbol. As long as a person’s torch is burning, it shows that the person is still alive in the game. It shows that they still have a chance to finish and make it all the way to the prize at the end of the game.
Look at this brief clip and see what happened this week to a person who talked too much, hurt their credibility by saying one thing to some of her tribemates and telling another story to the others … a person who caused much strife and division in the community in which she lived.
*Show Video Clip from SURVIVOR: Thailand (Thursday October 10, 2002).
That woman was eliminated from the contest. Her torch was extinguished. Now she will never reach the goal that she started for … all because of her actions, her words, and her attitude.
You know, sometimes we Christians suffer from some of the same ailments that this woman suffered from. Our attitudes, our actions, and our mouths get us into all sorts of trouble. They do damage to our testimony and to our witness.
There was once a rather pompous, self-righteous Sunday School teacher who was trying to make the point that good Christians don’t keep their faith a secret. So, with her head held high and her chest thrust out, the teacher strutted impressively back and forth across the room. She asked, “Now, class, why do you think people call me a Christian?”
The room was silent for a moment. Then one of the boys slowly raised his hand and said, “Probably because they don’t know you.”
From Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks 4, Wayne Rice, Zondervan (2001), p. 107.
Now that’s pretty funny. But what’s not so funny is that’s the way people out in the world look at way too many Christians. They know us all too well. They know how so often the words that we say and our weekly attendance at church just don’t mesh with our attitudes, our words, and our actions.
Paul addressed this issue of credibility in his letter to the church at Ephesus. We call it the book of Ephesians. Paul started the church in Ephesus in A.D. 53 on his way home during his second missionary journey. He went back there on his third missionary journey and stayed there preaching and teaching for three years. He wrote this letter around A.D. 60 during his imprisonment in Rome. He didn’t write the letter to address any specific issues or problems … he simply wrote it as a letter of encouragement to the church.
But the credibility of believers is an important issue that he does address. And it makes sense that he would deal with this issue. After all, what good is one’s testimony … what good is a Christian’s witness … if that Christian does not have credibility? How can a Christian hold high the torch of Jesus Christ when his or her actions, attitudes, and words have snuffed out the flames of effectiveness?
*Read Ephesians 5:3-14
Friends, just like these believers in Ephesus, we have to understand that our verbal witness and our Christian testimony are completely dependant upon our lifestyles and actions? And when we do things which bring dishonor to Christ, the fire of our witness is quenched … the flame is extinguished … and nobody will listen.
We must take every step and every precaution to preserve our testimony and our credibility so that we can effectively share the light of Jesus Christ with the people in our lives. Just like those people on the Survivor television show … we must protect our torch of faith.
So, what are the steps that you can take to protect your torch and keep your testimony and Christian influence alive and effective?
1. Avoid shameful sins that have no place in the life of a believer. (3-5)
Now, this is pretty much a “no-brainer,” isn’t it? After all … there is nothing that will destroy a person’s testimony faster than a reputation of sin. We all know that.
But what I find interesting are the specific types of sin that Paul points out in this letter. Now, obviously, he’s not trying to set up some type of hierarchy of sin. I doubt that he is even addressing any specific news that he has heard about the people of that church. But he does emphasize three specific types of sin that destroy a Christian’s testimony, credibility, and influence among unchurched people. There are simply actions which are “improper for God’s holy people.”