Last week, we focused on the idea of oppression and His promise of peace and a light heart in the midst of trials. Today, I want to finish this message that somehow managed to turn into three messages, starting with A Lukewarm Mindset, then becoming The Calm in the Storm and now An Appeal to Defense (I'm not going to link that one, though that would be funny).
An appeal to defense, our calling to defend Christ.
You know, sometimes, its difficult to answer the hard question and its easy to think that when the opposition fails to realise the truth, that somehow you've failed in teaching it. And as a result we end up thinking "Well... apologetics isn't for me, I can't use reason with my faith since the world doesn't seem to accept it".
And we come across beautiful verses like 1 Peter 3:15 which command us to give a reason for the hope that we have in Christ, and we wonder, "Well how on earth am I going to do that? How does it seem that I fail when renown preachers prevail?"
But, thanks be to God, we are not all the same and the few words spoken by a child can be just a powerful as though spoken by a renown leader. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 shows us this. Read carefully what Paul tells the Church of Corinth:
"And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power." (NIV)
Where does the power of Paul's testimony come from? The Spirit.
Who did he need to know? Christ and Him crucified.
Was his message complicated? Not at all.
Now, don't get me wrong for a moment, I am not attempting to undermine apologetics where we have such teachers as William Lane Craig who adamantly defend Christ, but what I am trying to say is that we are not all Dr. Craig. The way God desires to use you and the words He has for you to speak are different from those of your brothers and sisters.
And God has a calling on each of our lives and He places us where He wants us to be and, if we allow Him, His Spirit will do the speaking for us.
I know that I have my own tendency to collect all of these apologetic books and think "Alright, if I read through these, I'll be a pro at debating atheists." This is not the case.
A friend of mine once told me about someone whom he knew that was interested in learning about the Enemy so he could better combat the Enemy's ways and so forth. And this person, after some time, was approached by a brother in Christ out of concern and he essentially said to him that when someone is checking money to find the counterfeit bills, what do they do? Do they spend their time studying counterfeit bills and comparing them to real ones? No, instead they study the real ones nonstop so that when they do find a fake one, they recognise it instantly because they know exactly what a real one looks like.
Now, that's not the perfect analogy but the message is still there. The truth we need is not in debates or lengthy scholarly essays, its in His Word. And the truth we need to share is with Him. When it comes to defending Christ, ultimately we need only tap into His wisdom and let Him lead us from there.
I think a lot of our disheartening, though, doesn't come necessarily from what we say, but how the world responds. And in the midst of this, we've forgotten Christ's words where He says that the world is going to hate us because it hated Him, and yet He always spoke the truth.
John 15:18-19 says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." (NIV)
And if we notice how in John 18, when Christ is before the High Priest, He always spoke truth, yet He was still condemned. Don't be surprised when the world hates the answer given for the reason you hope. James 1:2 tells us to rejoice in our sufferings, so rejoice.
The final thing I want to remind you of is the worldview to which we are preaching and Pilate's answer to Christ and His words is so iconic of today's world. In John 18:38 after Christ spoke to Pilate in private about who He is, Pilate simply responded:
"What is truth?"
Despite hearing truth, the world still asks the same questions, expecting a different answer. This is the condition of the world. This is not always our failure to teach the truth as God intends. If the world responded to Christ with that question, why should we be surprised when it does the same to us?
We know that Jesus alone saves, so let God water the seeds that have been planted by the truth that we bring. Don't fret when the world ignores what you say and don't despair when the world doesn't seem to understand.
He's still in control, have no fear in giving the reason for the hope you have.
God bless you all.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13 NIV