T-Shirts, Bumper Stickers, and Works :: By Nathele Graham

They’re everywhere. T-shirts proclaim everything from the beer you drink and the tourist traps you’ve visited the super-star concert you’ve attended. Bumper stickers often tell where you stand politically. Some messages are vulgar, while others are uplifting and encouraging. Whatever the message, it says a lot about the one who wears the shirt or drives the car.

If the message promotes Christ, the person behind the shirt or bumper sticker should represent Christ. If your T-shirt proclaims that you love Jesus, shouldn’t you be forgiving of other people who seem rude or obnoxious? The answer is “Yes.” If your bumper sticker is a little fish symbol, shouldn’t you pray for the person who makes a left turn without using their blinker or cuts you off in traffic? That would be the Christian thing to do. It’s important to live your life for Christ rather than just wear it on your shirt.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). It makes a strong statement for Christ if you humbly live for Him.

People do notice your proclamations. My husband, Ron, had a vinyl sticker on the back window of his pickup… a hand with a spike going through it. The caption said, “Body piercing saved my life.” A man in our congregation saw it and reprimanded my husband for promoting body piercing. Rightly so, but this man didn’t get the significance of the hand being pierced as representing Jesus being crucified. Ron explained it to this man, who then thought it was a great message.

A few weeks later, Ron was at work and parked on the main street through town. It was very early in the morning, and he was surprised when the door opened. A very disheveled young woman walked in. Her hair was full of snarls, and she was barefoot with very dirty and tattered clothing. She and her boyfriend were traveling, had a fight, and he kicked her out of the car. She had walked about 10 miles that cold night, barefoot with no jacket. We lived in a very rural area, so there wasn’t much traffic. As she walked through town, hungry with sore and blistered feet, she needed help, saw the body piercing sticker, and went inside the building. She told Ron, “I saw the sticker on the pickup and knew I would find help here.”

She did find help. Ron, who lived his faith, took her to the local diner and bought her breakfast. While she ate, he contacted the youth pastor where we attended services and told him about her plight. The young pastor was able to get her some shoes, clean clothes, and bought her a bus ticket to where she wanted to go.

The point is, if you make statements on your shirt or vehicle, you need to live what you proclaim. Ron was the epitome of the Good Samaritan, which Jesus described in Luke 10:30-37. Both men shared the Gospel with her. James wrote, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Works cannot bring salvation, but neither can a bumper sticker. They can open the way to show God’s love and share the Gospel.

Christians are supposed to show kindness and do good in the name of Jesus. Living our faith is an individual work we do. One day, as Peter and John were about to enter the Temple, a crippled man asked for a handout. “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have, give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk” (Acts 3:6). The man was crippled and could only beg for money. More than money, he needed to come to know Jesus as his Redeemer. Peter did a good work in the name of Jesus, and the man stood up on his own two feet. “And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:8).

The crowd saw the miracle, and Peter used clear words to tell them about Jesus.

We need to boldly share the Gospel. We need to do good works in the name of Jesus, but if we don’t share the Gospel, we’ve done nothing worthwhile.

Today, it seems Christians have a strange way of sharing the Gospel. T-shirts, bumper stickers, and orchestrated works programs with gimmicks. None of that is found in Scripture. The final instruction that Jesus gave His disciples before He ascended to Heaven was to share the Gospel. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

How did the Disciples respond? Did they put on T-shirts and organize work parties? No. They shared the Gospel. “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen” (Mark 16:20).

Jesus never sent work parties armed with hammer and nails to repair houses for people who needed salvation. He sent His disciples armed with the Gospel. “Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1-2). Jesus told them to take nothing with them except the power and authority that comes from the Holy Spirit. “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where” (Luke 9:6).

After that, He sent 70 out with the same mission. “And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9). Can you imagine what Christians filled with the Holy Spirit could do in the name of Jesus against a pandemic? When the seventy returned, they were thrilled! “And the seventy returned again with joy, saying Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name” (Luke 10:17). Brothers and sisters, Jesus hasn’t changed His instructions. Preach the Gospel to the lost, armed with the Holy Spirit.

This isn’t to say that God won’t use a t-shirt, bumper sticker, or kindness to open the door for a chance to share the Gospel. But we must be ready to share the Gospel with words. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ” (1 Peter 3:15-16). In other words, we’re all sinners saved by grace, and people tend to be aware of our wrongdoings, which compromises our witness. “…good conversation in Christ” means to live so others see His mercy and grace in us.

Peter said we should always be ready to give an answer for the hope within us. What is that hope? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. If someone sees a cute saying on your t-shirt and asks what it means, can you share the Gospel with them? Paul never backed away from defending his faith in Jesus. He is a good example of what missionary work looks like. His first stop on missionary travels was in synagogues. It got him in a lot of trouble at times, but it also brought people to Christ. He didn’t wear a woven message on his robe but spoke boldly to all within hearing distance.

The main mission of a Christian is to bring people to Christ. Speak the Gospel with words. We need to do kind things for people but boldly do kindness in the name of Jesus. Don’t do those good works, hoping maybe someone will ask about Jesus and salvation. If you’re ashamed of Jesus, then shame on you. “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). Share the Gospel boldly.

Scripture says crowds would gather when the people knew Jesus was in town. Why? Not because He sold t-shirts saying, “I heard the Sermon on the Mount.” Word of mouth brought people to Him. Though He had created the world and all things in it and was a carpenter by trade, He never built houses nor repaired roofs for people but spoke to them of the love of God.

Peter was a fisherman by trade, not a shepherd, but Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.” That meant to teach God’s word. Peter spoke openly and eloquently of Jesus. Because of his words, many people came to a saving faith in Christ. Peter gave a beautiful sermon on the day of Pentecost. He used words to point out why the people listening needed salvation that only comes through Christ. He wasn’t shy about pointing out sin, nor was he shy about sharing Christ with the lost.

Study Acts beginning with chapter 2, verse 14, and take Peter’s words to heart. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). T-shirts, bumper stickers, and works cannot accomplish what Peter, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through him, accomplished that day.

It seems that in today’s world, we’re much more comfortable letting our T-shirts and bumper stickers speak for us rather than sharing the Gospel with our own lips. Try this. Stand in front of a mirror with your “I love Jesus” t-shirt on, and give your testimony to your reflection. Which one is more powerful? Is it your words or your t-shirt that makes it clear who Jesus is and what He’s done for you? Then, share the Gospel with your reflection. Can you explain why you need Jesus in your life? By doing so, you just might bring yourself to a saving knowledge of Christ!

Maybe you believe you’re saved because you were baptized as a baby. Scripture says we have to make our own profession of faith, and baptism alone won’t bring salvation. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). I have yet to see a baby able to understand anything except their basic needs. They know nothing of the fact that they are sinners and cannot be good enough to save themselves. As precious as a baby is, they have to grow and be taught the Gospel in order to understand they need to confess with their mouth their faith in Jesus.

An observation I’ve made recently is that Christians seem to hide behind t-shirts, bumper stickers, and works while people with a false “gospel” are out sharing their misplaced faith.

During the last year, I’ve received phone calls from a lady with a message of “hope.” As I spoke with her, it became clear she was a Jehovah’s Witness sharing her twisted truth. She couldn’t knock on doors, so she called on the telephone. This gave me an opportunity to share Jesus with her. Did it do any good? I don’t know. All I could do is speak God’s truth. I do know that I used words instead of hiding behind my t-shirt that says, “Jesus Christ is my Life Savior,” or my license plate holder that says, “Know Jesus, know peace, no Jesus, no peace,” or any other works. After all, Jehovah’s Witnesses are sure that if they do enough good works, they can get to Heaven.

The Gospel is really quite simple. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All have sinned… you, me, and the most “holy” saint you know. Sin separates us from God. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). This death could be physical death caused by disease spread through sin, but the sin of rejecting Jesus brings eternal death. Every human sins and is on the road to eternal death. God doesn’t want that. The only remedy is faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

Repentance is part of salvation. Repent means to change your mind about sin. If you’ve rejected Christ all your life, then change your mind about that. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Paul described the Gospel this way, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Don’t be fearful of speaking God’s truth. T-shirts, bumper stickers, and works might open the door for a conversation, but be sure to have the words to share the Gospel of Salvation.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham



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