If we’ve been paying any attention to John Piper then you’ll know the answer off the top of your head: we bring God glory.
Here’s how 1 Peter puts it, and notice the two purposes:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.(1 Pet. 29-12)
How do we bring God glory by our words? Peter is all encompassing: our prayer and praises, the chat with a neighbour, the way we handle a difficult colleague, the temptation to gossip, every word should be designed to bring God glory. Not just church, but home, work, school, locker room, café and pub all bring God glory.
How do we bring God glory by our actions? Are you expecting words and actions in some partnership? That would be a neat balance. But Peter’s not balanced. Look again. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. It’s not us or our deeds which bring God glory – it’s the pagans. They have been struck by our deeds, and presumably the mercy they embody and the merciful God we speak about, that they bring God glory. And it’s a word that means voluntary, not forced, glory.
In other words, our deeds bring God glory because people are converted through seeing that expression of his mercy.
Is this wordless evangelism? Not at all. It’s sometimes said, ‘Evangelise, and use words if you must.’ That is a foolish comment. If Jesus’ perfect actions were open to misinterpretation unless he explained them, how much more will that be of our imperfect, mixed ones. We’re going to be thought do-gooders – at best cheerfully helpful, like Boy Scouts, at worst pharisaical meddlers with a guilty secret.
No. Our deeds have validity on their own as expressions of God’s mercy, but they will not serve their ultimate purpose until the pagans who see them are converted.
His Glory. That’s our cause.
See my earlier posts, on Centre and Circumference