WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Believers should be “so wrapped up in the love of Jesus” that the lost world cannot help but notice, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer said March 14 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Rainer, who was inaugurated as president on Feb. 6, preached on the initial day of Southeastern’s LifeWay Spring Conference Week, a yearly event dedicated to celebrating the partnership between the two institutions.
His sermon, from the book of Philemon, noted three actions believers must take if they are to live winsome Christian lives for the glory of God.
First, Rainer said, Christians should live on the foundation of love that the Apostle Paul exemplified when he appealed for Philemon’s release. At times, Rainer observed, evangelical Christians fail to do this, and the lost world takes notice.
“Sometimes we evangelicals can appear to be some of the most unloving people on the planet,” Rainer said. “Sometimes we just want to immediately win the argument instead of saying, ‘How would Jesus handle this situation?’ There are times as evangelicals where the world looks on and says, ‘Where’s the love?’
“If you don’t have love, you’re just a clanging cymbal -– you’re just a bunch of noise.”
Second, Rainer encouraged students to let the lost be their priority, reminding them that after everything Paul had endured in his imprisonment, he still cared about seeing lost people like Onesimus come to faith in Christ. Such self-sacrifice should characterize every believer today, Rainer said.
“We start getting greater love for the lost when we start putting others ahead of ourselves,” he said. “I am convinced that the lost world is waiting for Christians with that heart and with that attitude.”
But even with a foundation of love and a heart for the lost, a Christian’s ministry can be limited if the root of bitterness is allowed to remain in his life. For this reason, Rainer urged believers to learn the power of forgiveness and to make forgiveness an essential part of their daily lives.
“Is there any bitterness you have now toward someone -– a family member, a friend, an enemy?” Rainer asked students. “None of us in Christian ministry is exempt from bad things happening. … Our ministry cannot be the ministry God has called us to have until we learn to forgive.”