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We all have those moments in life we wish we could rewind to and do things differently. For me, the thing I most regret is what happened before my grandmother’s death. Or rather, what didn’t happen.
My grandmother died absolutely convinced that God would accept her because she was a good person. She had no faith in Christ. And here’s what I regret. In the week before my grandmother died, I did not speak to her about Jesus. I tried to love her well, but didn’t say anything to her about Jesus. When my other grandmother had died, I’d taken her hand and prayed with her. But not that grandmother. I just let her go.
I Was Afraid
Why didn’t I tell her about Jesus? I’ve come to realise that I was afraid of what she’d say, and I was afraid of what my family would say, because I knew they’d think it was inappropriate and unhelpful. I was afraid.
I loved my grandmother, and she loved me, but the hard truth is that I loved myself more than her. I wanted my family to think well of me more than I wanted her to think of Christ as her Savior. That’s why I didn’t speak to her. I loved myself more than I loved her — and more than I loved my Lord.
And that means that my family’s respect and having an easy time in life had become idols to me. When it came down to it, the hard truth was that I wanted my family to respect me more than I wanted to bring Jesus glory or see my grandmother saved. It was my idol — a good thing elevated into a divine thing — and I was so afraid of losing it that I kept my mouth shut.
The Divine Waiter?
I’ve often wondered why lovely, compassionate, committed Christians simply don’t do evangelism — and why, at times, I didn’t either. For years, I couldn’t understand why so many well-taught, and in many ways mature, believers were just apathetic about sharing the gospel. They knew about the new creation; they believed in the reality of hell; they confessed Jesus as their King and Savior. But they were half-hearted at best about telling others about him.
Here’s what I slowly came to conclude had happened to these committed, non-evangelizing Christians: In their hearts, they were serving something good that they had made into their god — their idol. And that’s what was stopping them from evangelizing.
Everyone worships something. By nature, we’re the people Paul describes in Romans 1:25, who have “served created things rather than the Creator.” Anything that we serve instead of God is a created thing, an idol. Money, reputation, power, career, family, and so on — our hearts get kidnapped.
When we worship an idol, we turn God into a divine waiter. He is there to deliver our daydream to us. We touch base with him on a Sunday; we put our order in via prayer; we might give a decent tip in the collection plate. But God is essentially there to give us what we feel we need — our idol. And we get furious with him if he doesn’t deliver.
Witness Is a Test of Our Treasure
Becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically or immediately cure us of this idol-worship. At the heart of all sin is idolatry in the heart — loving and obeying something other than our loving God. I am constantly struggling to keep the Lord Jesus at the center of my heart, to find my identity and assurance and purpose and satisfaction in him.
And unless I do, I will not speak about him. After all, we talk about what we love. If you’ve ever had a friend who has just got engaged, and you’ve listened to him talk about his loved one non-stop for hours (or if you’ve ever been that person!), you’ll know this is true.
So for as long as Jesus is not my greatest love, I will keep quiet about him in order to serve my greatest love, my idol. I will keep quiet about him because I am afraid of losing my greatest love, my idol. Suppressing the truth about Christ is the effect of our wicked worship of created things, and it makes God angry:
An Idol Mind — And Heart
So if we know the gospel, but we’re not sharing the gospel, then it’s because our hearts are somewhere else. It’s actually because what we most want is a comfortable life, or a good reputation with friends and colleagues, or a nice settled existence with our family, and so on.
Even if we have everything straight in our heads, the reason that we won’t witness is because of what’s going on in our hearts. That’s why we say enough to salve our consciences — we talk about church, or Jesus’s love, or how great it is to pray — but we won’t say enough to help people be saved. We won’t talk about death, or sin, or hell, or salvation.
We need to ask ourselves, So what does my heart find easy to love more than Jesus? What stops me from obeying God by speaking of his Son? We need to spot our idols, so that we can confess our idols, and so we can begin consciously to seek what we have been looking for from those idols in the only place where we will truly find it — the Lord Jesus. We need to replace our idols with the real God: Christ.
If we’re to share Christ, we need first to truly love Christ. We need to ask the Spirit to go to work in our hearts with the gospel, so that we’ll love Christ more and more, and he’ll displace our idols; and so when we talk about what we love, we’ll be talking about him. And we won’t be regretting, once it’s too late, who we didn’t talk to about him.