One blogger I found on the internet offered the following top ten list. I must warn you before I read it that it will make you uncomfortable. I want you to understand, up front, that I am not trying to be controversial, but I do want to be real. We live in a world that is hostile to Christianity. More than that, we live in a world where those hostile people are more committed to spreading their views than we who oppose them are about sharing ours.
Need proof. Well, just consider this top ten list of reasons that some reject evangelical Christianity: One blogger wrote:
10 - You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
9 - You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
8 - You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
7 - Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
6 - You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
5 - You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
4 - You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs -- though excluding those in all rival sects - will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
3 - While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
2 - You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
1 - You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history - but still call yourself a Christian.
Now we have to say, right up front, that this guy makes an awful lot of unsubstantiated claims. For instance, did he actually do research that showed that only .01% of prayer requests were answered? I doubt it!
But, having said that, I think we have to admit that those who agree with him are growing in numbers and volume. We desperately need, as the Christian community, to have a strategy to counter the arguments. I’m afraid, however, that many of us are avoiding the challenge and for a number of reasons.
Some of us are just lazy. We don’t want to have their faith questioned or their answers disputed. Everything is lined up in neat rows in their Christian lives and we don’t want the evolutionist or the atheist disturbing them. But we’ll never reach a world we do not engage, and engagement means that you’re going to be challenged. Listen Christian! If the Bible is true, and it is! If God is God, and He is! If Jesus did rise and He did! If those things are true, we have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear. We may not know the answers to the challenges, but we can find them! We must not run because we don’t want to be challenged.
Others of us are afraid. We’re afraid that we’ll jump into the intellectual fray and be found lacking, or even worse, lose our faith. We’re afraid that the answers really are not substantial and that the atheist really has the facts on his side. So, instead of engaging the world, we hide. We hang out with people like us who agree and just condemn what we don’t make any effort to understand. But that kind of attitude changes nothing. Escape is no strategy for victory.
Peter, the Apostle, knew this. The whole book of 1 Peter is really a strategy for engagement. Chapter 3 verse 13 says:
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
Peter says, “Hey, Christian, don’t be intimidated! Don’t escape to the Christian ghetto and ignore the hell-bound world around you. Do not be afraid of their threats and don’t be troubled, He says, but . . . But what, Peter? But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts and ALWAYS be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you . . . Peter says, “Don’t back down. Don’t be lazy and don’t be afraid. No, Be ready!”
And just how are we to be ready? Well, lets look at what he says. Last week we talked about the first two “f’s” of our victory. They were “Faith” and “Fear.” Let’s look at the last two today.
First, if you want to successful in meeting the challenge of this world, you must know the :
DIV 3: FACTS
V 15 tells us (to) always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; I love that verse! It tells me that I am not to back down from the challenge. When the world asks its question, I don’t just shut them off and refuse to discuss the issues. No, I am to engage the world and trust that the answers that Christ gives me will really make a difference.
But, let me hasten to say that there are some important qualifications given for this answer which we are to give. It must first of all be timely. Peter says, always be ready. That just says that we ought to walk around in a constant state of readiness to answer for our faith. We ought never to be too busy, or too tired, or too confused. We must be ready. And the only way that can happen is for us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. I have noticed as I have been studying through the book of Acts that over and over again the scripture says that, when the people were filled with the Holy Spirit, they spoke the word with boldness. That’s what is meant by always being ready. I’m plugged into the power source and I can speak with authority. The answer must be timely.
And then, the answer must be prepared. Peter tells us to be ready to give the answer. That means we must be prepared with the answers. We must engage, to whatever level of mental ability we have, to get the answers. You ought to know why evolution doesn’t make sense. You ought to know why we say that this Bible really is God’s word. You should know why we say Jesus was resurrected and what facts of history prove it to be true. You must know why our world and its order demand that a Creator be present. You must offer answers. Your answer must be prepared and timely.
But, then, it must be engaged. Peter says we are to be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you. We are to connect with the culture. One commentator wrote, The Christian community may be a colony in a strange land, but . . . “Cultural isolation is not to be the route taken by the Christian community. It is to live its life openly in the midst of the unbelieving world, and just as openly to be prepared to explain the reasons for it.” My answer is to be timely, prepared, engaged, but last of all it is to be . . .
Humble. Peter says that we are to offer our answers with meekness and with fear. Now the first question that may pop into your mind when you see that is this: “Rusty, I thought you just told us that we were not to fear other people, but here the Bible is telling me to give my answers with meekness and fear. This is confusing.” Well, taken in context, it makes sense. When you are told not to fear in the earlier part of the verse, it speaks of the reverence you reserve for God alone. So we are not to be afraid of the threats we receive from man because we are fearing God. When it says, here, that we are to answer people with “meekness and fear,” it speaks of the respect and gentleness with which we are to treat others when we answer them. Our answers are not to be offered in a “gothca” spirit. We are to be gentle and respectful in the way we answer others. We must do it with humility.
On the website where I got the list I told you about in the beginning of this message. A long conversation ensued between those who agreed with what the atheist wrote and believers. Finally, one person involved in the posting apologized to the original website owner for continuing the conversation so long. I found the reply really interesting. He wrote:
I don’t mind at all, I don’t personally argue with __________, because he is condescending and callous, like so many atheists are claimed to be. I’d ban him from posting because he annoys me with his attitude but I just don’t have a good enough reason yet.
That is the reaction we are to avoid, you see. Our purpose is not to win an argument, but to persuade the mind with reason, and the heart with the power of the Spirit. We must offer answers with humility.
You see, there really are answers to the questions of our culture, and we our answers must be timely; they must be prepared; they must be engaging; and they must be humble.
You might say, “Wow, that’s a tall order, Rusty, how can I pull that off?” Well, let me suggest four actions you can take to do this. First sensitize your heart. Be willing to get involved. I know so many of us like being “ostrich” Christians. We want to stick our heads in the sand and act like the world isn’t even there. We’ve got enough on our plates without involving ourselves in anyone else’s life. I know you’re like that, because I’m very often like that. Here’s what you and I have to do. We have to stop walking in the flesh and start walking in the Spirit. We must allow God to make us sensitive to the issues going on around us. We must sensitize our hearts.
Second, embrace your faith. Don’t just mentally embrace your faith, emotionally embrace it. Don’t just love the facts of the truth, love the person of the truth. That’s what I love about Christianity. It isn’t about facts primarily, its about Jesus. After all, it was Christ Who said I am the way the TRUTH and the life. Love HIM!
Sensitize your heart, embrace your faith and then, humble your pride. As you learn truth about Christianity, there will be a tendency for you to become arrogant and proud. Reject that tendency. Always answer with meekness and respect.
And there’s one more. You must prepare your mind. If you don’t know how to share your faith, take EE or Sharing Jesus without fear. If you don’t know why Jesus’ resurrection is one of the most reliable facts of history, do some investigation. Get some answers. You see, there really are answers out there. Take a look at this.
VIDEO - youtube - the bible can be trusted - Ravi Zacharias - Interview with James Kennedy
But if you are going to play the “truth card” you must prepare yourself, and you must deeply know the truth. And just in case you want to know where to get started, I want to make some suggestions.
GO THROUGH THE NINE BOOKS
Defending Your Faith - Sproul - EVIDENCE FOR EXISTENCE OF GOD AND TRUTH OF SCRIPTURE
The Consequences of Ideas - Sproul- WHERE OUR FALSE CULTURAL IDEAS COME FROM
Scaling the Secular City - J. P. Moreland.
Slandering Jesus - Lutzer - DEFENDS JESUS AGAINST CURRENT ATTACKS
The Case for the Real Jesus - Strobel
The Case for Christ - Strobel
The Case for the Resurrection - Strobel - GIVES A STRONG CASE FOR BELIEVING THE RESURRECTION
The Case for Creation - Strobel - DEALS WITH DEFEATING EVOLUTION
Defeating Darwinism - Phillip Johnson
You can face the challenge of the world through faith, fear, and facts. Last of all, the greatest weapon you can wield in this battle with the culture is this one. It is:
DIV 4 - FRUIT
When I say “fruit,” I am speaking of the power of our testimony, the force of a life that demonstrates integrity. Peter, here, introduces to the two sides of this final weapon when he says in v 16 . . . having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. The first side of this weapon is inner fruit. He says that we should have a “clear conscience.” That just mean that our integrity must flow from a clear conscience in our personal integrity before the Lord. You can’t talk about the power of God to change lives if your life hasn’t been truly changed. The inner conviction and passion that flows from a cleared conscience become mighty weapons in the hands of the Holy Spirit. A powerful testimony begins with inner fruit.
But there must also be outer fruit. Peter says, having a good conscience that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. Don’t miss what He’s saying here. In the middle of our persecution when the world is rasing charge after charge against us, the world will turn and look at our lives and when they hear the charge that we’re dishonest, they’ll respond, “That’s not true. He’s always honest with me;” when they hear the charge that we’re “angry fundamentalist,” they’ll respond, “That’s not true. She’s always kind to me;” when they hear the charge that we’re just out to get money and spend it on ourselves, they’ll respond. “That’s not true. Last year when I lost my job, that church gave me food and they paid my light bill.” And in the face of the evidence, the accusing world blushes in the embarrassment of the obvious deceit of their lies. Fruit is the greatest weapon with which to face the challenge of this world.
And all of this leads me to two applications: First, if you don’t have inner fruit, outer fruit is just hypocrisy. In fact, some of us here today are demonstrating outer fruit with our very presence in this room, but our inner fruit is sorely lacking.
Husbands, do you act one way here in front of us, but another way at home when you’re screaming at your family? Teens, do you act one way in front of your church friends, but another way infront of your friends at school? Church member, are you filled with faked praise while sitting in front of the pulpit, but filled with lust when sitting in front of your computer screen. Do you lift your hands when we sing, “Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone,” then refuse to obey God? Outer fruit without inner fruit is just hypocrisy.
Somewhere on the internet you can find a most chilling video clip. Ted Haggard was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals. He had taken a strong stand against homosexuality. In fact, in this video clip as he is speaking of the sin of homosexuality, he stops, looks into the camera and says. “Hey you, I saw you, I saw what you did last night.”
That was chilling. In fact, if you know what happened, it will give you the creeps. You see, after he did that, it was not too long until masseur, Mike Jones, alleged that Haggard had paid him to engage in sex with him for three years and had also purchased and used crystal meth. Maybe the person he saw was himself.
You see, without inner fruit, outer fruit is just hypocrisy, but the opposite is also true: Without outer fruit, inner fruit is easily ignored. Some have said, “Hey, if I only have the real love of God operating in my life, the presence of God in me will be so overpowering that there will be no need for to ever breathe a word about the gospel. Listen, Christian, that is a lie! The Bible says as much. Paul, writing in Romans 10, said it like this:
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:
“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
It takes hearing the gospel in order to come to faith in Christ, and that means that inner fruit without outer fruit is often ignored. And it goes beyond what we say to what we do. We don’t just talk about the love of Christ, we demonstrate it in tangible ways.
Here’s my question this morning: How many opportunities are we missing?
Are we missing opportunities because we aren’t trusting God? We are so focused on our problems, as big as they might be, not seeing that God really is in control and He is going to use our very problems and persecution to open a door of opportunity. Are we making mountains out of the spiritual molehills of our lives, grumbling our way through missed opportunities and wondering why we never seem to be able to win anyone to Christ? Are we missing the opportunity to trust God?
Are we missing opportunities because we are fearing man and not God? Are we living in mortal fear of our boss, or that person at work who mocks Christianity? Are we afraid to stand up for the Lord because we’re afraid of being misunderstood? Are we fearing man or God?
And are we missing opportunities because we have no answers? O, the answers are there, but we’ve never availed ourselves of them. If we ever have someone talk with us about evolution we end up looking foolish because we don’t know what we’re talking about? Are we being cowed by the atheist who challenges our faith in God when it is he or she who should be backed into the corner of their own dead-end thinking?
And are we missing opportunities because our inside doesn’t match our outside; because our outer fruit is missing or our inner fruit is rotten. Success comes from faith, fear, facts and fruit. Our culture does not have bring our defeat. It can become the source of our greatest opportunities.
It is the spirit-filled combination of facts and fruit that can lead to conversion. Take a look at this!
LEE STROBEL TESTIMONY - DVD