There are people that say that Christianity is a crutch. They argue that Christianity is some type of comfort that certain people need in order to get by in life. I know that I tend to automatically turn around and start talking about how Christianity is also a reasonable faith, but after reading 2 Corinthians 7, it makes me think that maybe there is more value in talking about the comfort that Christianity legitimately does provide.
2Co 7:5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
2Co 7:6 Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus;
2Co 7:7 And not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more.
Paul points out that He obviously received comfort in this situation that He believed was from God. The modern skeptic would probably argue that it was a kind of placebo effect. However, if God does exist, then it makes perfect sense that He would be comforting. Given what we know about the character of God through the Bible, if He is real, then it would be no surprise whatsoever.
I mention this because I think that we often times surrender the emotional argument. We allow those who argue with us the ability to make emotional appeals about why they are mad at God or why God is so cruel to them, but we never bring back our own emotional experiences as well. For those of us who are Christians, I imagine that we have some type of experience where we felt God at work. Why not talk about that?
I love apologetics, and I love using logic and reason to make a case for Christ. However, I wonder if we are giving up half the battle without a fight sometimes. We are afraid to talk about our personal experience because the skeptical audience will argue that we are simply being emotional, but then they do the same thing. Maybe we should level the playing field. The logic and the reason are still incredibly important, but we want to make sure that we also do not ignore our personal testimony. God has done great things in all of our lives. Why not talk about them as well?
As an apologist, it is easy to become far too dependent on general revelation. The heavens do indeed declare the glory of God, and the spectacular design of the universe seems to point towards a creator. These types of external testimony are important, and I think that they are incredibly important to use as we answer objections that people have to the Christian faith.
However, as we see in 1 Corinthians 2, there is also another barrier. There is also a personal level that we experience as we develop a relationship with God.
1Co 2:13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Admittedly, there are some things about being a Christian that are hard to explain. Think about how hard it is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It is difficult to understand someone else’s perspective. Similarly, it is hard for someone who does not have a relationship with God to understand what it is like to have a relationship with God. If they don’t know Him, how would they know what it is like?
Even if it is hard to explain what it is like to have a relationship with God, the evidence should come out in our behavior. I have heard it said that the most powerful apologetic is a transformed life. When major changes take place, people recognize it. They don’t understand what could have had such a dynamic impact, but they will notice it. God can do that, and He has done that in thousands of lives throughout history.
Paul had a remarkable testimony of miracles in his life, and Acts 27 seems to be one of the most significant. Again, Paul was going to stand before Caesar. We have seen that same echoing throughout the past several days, and Paul saw an angel who reaffirmed that destiny. However, the angel also told Paul that the ship was going to be demolished.
Act 27:22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.
Act 27:23 For there stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve,
Act 27:24 Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.
Act 27:25 Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me.
Act 27:26 Howbeit we must be cast upon a certain island.
Everything happened exactly as Paul described it. That must’ve been some type of testimony for the people on the ship. After all, they knew what Paul had predicted, and they ultimately knew it had come true. Perhaps that is why at the end of the chapter, when the ship was finally demolished, the centurion who was in charge chose to preserve Paul’s life against the advice of some of the other soldiers. In Rome, it was a big deal to have a prisoner escape, so it would have been safer perhaps to simply kill the prisoners rather than allow them to have the opportunity of escape when they got off the boat.
However, there is evidence here. There was something different about Paul and how he received this information. I find it interesting how so many people can miss that about the Bible. The Bible makes claims in many different places about many different things. Did Jesus fulfill Messianic prophecy? That’s just one example, but the Bible is a document that does open itself up to verification. It makes historical claims as well about people and places. Are those claims accurate?
Like Paul in this case, the evidence exists. As we show people these evidences, it might help overcome some of the intellectual barriers to hold people back from believing in Jesus Christ. In our personal lives, it has been said that the most powerful apologetic is the evidence of a transformed life. That type of testimony is powerful. People notice the difference, and they want to know what has changed. God is still in the business of miracles.
Yesterday, we talked about having discernment, and a lot of that came back to honesty. You don’t want to start endorsing things that turn out to be wrong. You want to be cautious.
Today, in Proverbs 25, we’re going to take on honesty from a slightly different perspective.
Pro 25:14 Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain.
I really like this. Basically, don’t plan to be good at something if you really aren’t back about it. Why? You are compared to clouds and wind without rain.
In other words, there is no actual result. When you see stormy clouds and feel the wind picked up, you know a storm is coming. However, if the storm never actually comes, and the rain never actually falls, you wonder what happened.
It is kind of like us. If we start boasting about things that really aren’t true, eventually people are going to find out, and people are going to wonder what happened. Maybe they would be willing to grant you the benefit of the doubt for one day. Maybe it was just a bad day. However, eventually people will find out that you were making up the story all along.
Now think about the implications of that on our Christian testimony. As Christians, we try to live our lives in a certain way. I think that even though there are some debates about how specifically we ought to live, I don’t think anybody would argue that honesty is very important.
What then happens if we are Christians caught being dishonest? It damages our testimony which can potentially damage the position that we are witnessing from. We definitely don’t want that to happen.
Psalms 109 shows us something interesting about the attention that we should seek while we are here on Earth. However, it doesn’t do that by saying that we are excellent human beings who should naturally draw people to ourselves. We don’t necessarily have perfect personalities or all the charisma in the world. Rather, we are in pretty difficult shape, and we don’t deserve the attention. God is the one who has saved us.
Psa 109:22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Psa 109:23 I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust.
Psa 109:24 My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
Psa 109:25 I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads.
Psa 109:26 Help me, O LORD my God: O save me according to thy mercy:
Psa 109:27 That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, LORD, hast done it.
We don’t share our testimonies because we are some kind of super people. We share our testimonies because it tells other people about what an amazing God can do.
This is a tough one for us. In general, humans like attention, and we want other people to think highly of us. We want to have a good reputation. We want people to think that we can do it all on our own and that we had some kind of independent spirit.
However, that is not what we are called to do. We are called to tell people that it is God’s work that makes the difference rather than what we do on our own. That calls for the removal of pride and the growth of humility.
We are here to magnify God not magnify ourselves.
Leviticus chapter 9 is interesting because we can see the power of God in action.
Lev 9:23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
Lev 9:24 And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.
When Moses and Aaron did what God commanded, they were able to witness His true power. I think that a lot of that is applicable to us as well.
When we do what God wants us to do, His power is really able to shine through. It is kind of what happened to Jonah. When Jonah finally got to Nineveh (albeit not very willingly) and started preaching like God had told him to do in the beginning, many people repented of their sins. While Jonah may have been a great preacher, the power to make that type of change in the hearts of many different people must have come from God.
While I do not believe in salvation by works, I will say that works are very important in our testimony. If we are Christians, we definitely should act like it so that we are good witnesses for other people who want to know more about God. This verse explains our purpose very well.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
We are created by God, and we should act like we are. When we do that, God will use it to help advance His kingdom. Not only that, but as we do what God wants us to do, we will draw closer to Him which will help us build a stronger relationship.