Can You Defend Your Faith?

Standard

837706-shield_defense In 1 Peter 3:15, Peter instructs the Christians in Asia Minor concerning evangelism in a culture that is hostile towards them.

but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15, ESV)

This verse is an evangelism verse, and it is an apologetics verse. Peter is writing in the context of suffering for the gospel. This letter was written during the persecution of the Christians under Nero. Peter is writing to Christians dispersed through Asia Minor. Christians are suffering persecution and having to live and worship in a society that is hostile and antagonistic towards them. Even the wording of this verse shows us that the Christian is apparently on the defense, not the offense. In this passage the Christian is being ready to be examined for their faith, not fearlessly going forward to share it. The believer in this passage is anticipating an interrogation and Peter says that they should be ready to give and defense to any and all who ask.

This is not to insinuate that Christians should give up evangelism in favor of passivity towards the lost; that we should wait until they get curious. Rather, it is asserting that in a culture that is hostile towards Christianity we should anticipate being singled-out and examined. We are seeing this today; people are examining the Christian faith and desperately seeking some flaw in its truths. They are seeking to find the Christian faith illegitimate, illogical, and unintellectual.

If the world is hostile toward Christianity and is examining it in order to find it guilty of any error or inconsistency, we must be always ready to defend what and why we believe and not leave our faith to the mercy of the critics. We should know what it is that we believe and secondly be able to communicate it in a winsome and convincing manner. The word translated “defense” is the Greek word apologia which is where we get our English word apologetics. It means to defend against false accusations. Christian apologetics, therefore, is the discipline of making intellectual cases for Christianity and countering arguments against Christianity.

We are to give a defense for WHY we believe. Notice Peter doesn’t say “give a defense for the hope that is in you.” He says give a defense for the REASON for the hope that is within you. Every religion has a “hope,” a faith in some future heavenly home or something else. Anyone can have “hope” for that matter. Anybody can believe something with no reason to believe it. We are to be able to account for the reason that we have hope. In other words, be able to tell people WHY you believe what you do.

In a culture that is largely antagonistic toward the claims of Christianity, it is not only the scholars and theologians who need to concern themselves with defending the faith. Every Christian must be an apologist in his or her own right. Evangelism and apologetics are inseparable. If we wish to win souls, we must first be ready to win minds. What are the questions and objections to Christianity that you might expect to hear from your friends, family, or co-workers? Are you ready to give an answer?

Why is the Resurrection Important?

Standard

Picture1Have you ever played Jenga? It’s the game where players take turns removing wooden blocks from the stack until someone finally makes the tower fall. If so, you’ve probably made a huge mess by pulling out the block that supported the whole stack. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central “block” of Christianity. Without it, nothing else matters. Without the literal resurrection of Christ, the Christian faith is pointless and empty. If the resurrection is not an historical event, then all New Testament preachers are liars and deceivers including myself. Without the resurrection, we are not forgiven and our sins are still counted against us. Without the resurrection all who have died trusting in Christ are lost forever. If Christ was not raised from the dead, we will not be raised from the dead either. In short, without the literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; there is no forgiveness of sins, we are not justified and saved, we are all false prophets, Christianity is a waste of time and pointless, there is no heaven available to us, and when we die we either cease to exist (best case) or spend eternity in hell (worst case). Christianity falls apart. Everything we believe falls apart (1 Cor. 15:12-20).

The resurrection is the most important truth claim of Christianity. It is the pinnacle of all Christian truths, and all truths, period. All other Christian truths unite in the resurrection of Christ: heaven, hell, sin, judgment, the love of God, the person of Christ, faith, unbelief, and the list goes on.

The only thing necessary for the Roman government or the Jewish leaders to have crushed Christianity before it got “out of hand” would have been to produce the crucified body of Jesus. Yet this smoking gun has never been provided.

What has been provided, however, are four eyewitness accounts by men who were present during the crucifixion, burial, and following days who maintain with uncanny harmony that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion. One of whom was a medical doctor who asserted that Jesus showed himself alive by many “infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3). We also have the testimony of Paul who claims that over 500 individuals saw Jesus alive at one time and at the time of his writing, many of them were still alive to verify that claim (1 Cor. 15:6). Add to this the fact that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were brutally killed for this testimony and many were tortured and imprisoned but never changed their story. Many others in addition to the disciples were martyred as a result of their faith in the resurrection of Jesus.

Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart. God has provided ample evidence for the reality of the resurrection, however. This Easter, I pray that each of you reading this post will “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (Romans 10:9).

Christian Themes in the Books of Moses

Standard

 

 

 Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy – the first five books of the Bible are kind of a set called the Pentateuch which means “five books.” These books were written by Moses. These books have much to teach us about God and how we relate to Him. These lessons are taught through God’s relationship with early humanity, the fathers of Israel, and the nation of Israel itself. I see three main themes in the Pentateuch. They are: election, covenant, and worship.
    

 God’s sovereign election is glaringly obvious throughout the Pentateuch. A quick outline would go something like this: God chose Abraham out of all the people of the world, He chose Isaac instead of Ishmael, Jacob instead of Esau, and from Jacob he chose Judah as the Messianic tribe and Levi as the priestly tribe. Out of the tribe of Levi God chose the family of Aaron to be the priests among the Levites. All of these choices were made by God, without regard to human choice or morality. The people God chose were not all nice people. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were liars. Abraham and Jacob were polygamists. Jacob’s sons were unruly, sexually perverse, and vengeful. God’s choice is powerfully obvious in the Pentateuch.

     Covenant comes right on the heels of election. When God elects individuals, He brings them into the covenant. God first makes His covenant with Abram (Gen. 12). From there, God never violates or diminishes the covenant, but He does add to it throughout Abram’s life and reconfirms it with every generation. We see the power of God’s covenant as He is bound by His own word to bring Israel out of Egypt and establish them in Canaan (Gen. 15:12-16; Exod. 1-14). God establishes His covenant with Israel at Sinai (Exod. 20 ff.), and reveals the conditions, curses, and blessings of it throughout the remainder of the Pentateuch. Everything God does is on the basis of His covenants. Covenant is an indispensable theme in the Pentateuch.

     Worship is an important theme in the Pentateuch. This is obvious because there is an entire book dedicated to laws and ceremonies regarding Israel’s relationship with God – Leviticus. We see worship as early as Genesis 4 where Cain kills Abel (can anybody say “worship wars?”) over the issue of worship. Abram builds altars and worships God wherever he goes. Isaac also is a worshiper. We see Jacob first encountering God and worshiping Him on his way to Paddan-aram (Gen. 28:10-22). After the Red Sea crossing, Israel stands on the seashore and worships God (Exodus 15). God spends much of the latter part of Exodus giving the measurements and specifications of the tabernacle which would be the place of worship for Israel. Leviticus pertains to the ceremonial laws of Israel and the regulations of the priests. Again, this deals with worship. Worship is a huge theme in Numbers as well. We even see the wrath of God against the Israelites who worship Baal (Numbers 25). Deuteronomy serves as a repeating of the law of God with much mention of the subject of worship. As Moses ends his ministry and passes the mantle on to Joshua, he sings a song in the presence of Israel (Deuteronomy 32).

Perhaps the Pentateuch can be summed up thusly: God chose His people and brought them into His covenant blessing, and as a result they give Him worship. God has also chosen us who are born again to be His people. We are brought into the new covenant by Jesus Christ and we are called to worship our God and Savior. Much as changed in the past 4,000 years since God first chose the Israelites, but God’s nature and holiness have not.