The 1989 dark comedy “Weekend at Bernie’s” follows the antics of two men who successfully make it appear for three days that their dead boss is alive. They take him to parties, walk him along the beach, even take him boating, and nobody notices that Bernie is dead.
In giving his body the appearance of life, they create the assumption of life. Sadly, Christians too often settle for this kind of impact.
When we focus on changing the behavior of those around us without changing their heart, our outreach begins to resemble Bernie. We succeed in helping people appear to be alive, when in fact they are still spiritually dead. They come to church, read their Bible, pray, and adopt many of the other learned behaviors of our faith – but tragically, nothing has changed on the inside. Which means that nothing has changed eternally.
Make no mistake about it. As DeYoung said, we are not in the business of simply changing behavior. We are calling the dead to life.
Yes, that is a daunting task. In fact, it’s impossible. This is why it’s so tempting to take the short-cut and simply call for a change of behavior – such change is measurable, attainable, and all the other stuff that management specialists recommend.
But this is a time when we shouldn’t listen to the managers. We should listen to Scripture, like this one: “…even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, (God) made us alive together with Christ…” (Ephesians 2:5).
The goal of our outreach is nothing less than calling the dead to life. Let that reality sink in. Allow it to drive you to your knees. Embrace the painful fact that you are completely inadequate to the task.
Then, turn to God for the only tool that is adequate to the task. The gospel of Jesus Christ – and ONLY the gospel of Jesus Christ – brings dead people to life. When we understand it and respond to it in repentance and trust, we change from the inside out.
(If you aren’t sure you know what I mean by the word “gospel,” you can read about it here.)
Study this gospel. Revel in it. Meditate on it. Admire it. Celebrate the fact that it brought YOU from death to life. Go for a walk and preach it to yourself. Worship God for it.
And make sure that the gospel permeates your conversation about God. Make it central to your personal outreach, and that of your church. Live it out, and speak it out.
Because when the gospel is minimized in our interaction with those around us, all we are left with is…Bernie.
Why settle for Bernie, when we can see Easter happen on a regular basis?
(You can see the rest of Kevin DeYoung’s powerful Cross Conference message here.)
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