Let Your Life Shine For Jesus!

I once read the story of a pastor who was invited to debate an atheist. The pastor agreed to debate on one condition – that the atheist would bring 50 people who had been transformed by being atheists. The pastor in turn would bring 50 people who had been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. As you may have guessed, the atheist admitted he would not be able to find that many people impacted by rejecting Christian theism.

As you seek to give an answer for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15), please don’t forget about the power of testimony. A great example of this is the blind man who was healed by Jesus. Like him, we can confidently say, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). It is only Jesus Christ who has the power to transform and heal our sin-sick lives.

As Christians, we must present a rational defense of the Christian faith. But lets also remember that there is a place for testimony in our apologetics. No one has ever been transformed by rejecting the existence of God. But millions upon millions of people have been transformed by the rescuing power of Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures remind us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Friend, if you are truly “in Christ” then the world is going to take notice. May we strive to be the kind of people God has called us to be in His Word.

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

The Apologetic of a Transformed Life

I once read the story of a pastor who was invited to debate an atheist. The pastor agreed to debate on one condition – that the atheist would bring 50 people who had been transformed by being atheists. The pastor in turn would bring 50 people who had been transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. As you may have guessed, the atheist admitted he would not be able to find that many people impacted by rejecting Christian theism.

 

As you seek to give an answer for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15), please don’t forget about the power of testimony. Please don’t forget about what Christ has done in your own life, but also in the lives of millions upon millions of people the world over. Like the blind man healed by Jesus, we can confidently say as Christians, “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25). It is only Jesus Christ who has the power to transform and heal our sin-sick lives. By all means, we must seek to present a rational defense of the Christian faith, just don’t forget that there is a place for testimony in our apologetics.

 

No one has ever been transformed by rejecting the existence of God. But millions upon millions of people have been transformed by the rescuing power of Jesus Christ. As the Scriptures remind us, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). So lets get to work, telling the world what Christ has done for us.

Making Sense of Evil and Suffering

Whenever disaster strikes, such as the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma, or evil happens, such as the recent Boston Bombing, the question inevitably arises – why does a good and loving God allow evil and suffering in the world? This is an important apologetic question and one we must wrestle with as Christians. If you are talking to an atheist, it will no doubt be hard to dialogue. Most people are not atheists, however, and they bring theistic assumptions to the table such as the existence of God and His involvement in the affairs of the world. This means you have some common ground to build upon, at least with most people. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you seek to think intelligently about this subject and then dialogue with those around you.

First off, we live in a fallen world. The sin of Adam and Eve and the fall of man (Genesis 3) had devastating consequences on all of their offspring, including us. There is not an hour that goes by where we don’t feel the effects of the fall and we are most clearly reminded of this in the midst of tragedy.

Second, as Christians we need to grieve with those who grieve and weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Evil and suffering are sobering realities in this world and it does not do any good to pretend they don’t exist. Sooner or later they are going to touch us in some way or another. It is critically important for us to be there for one another and to minister to one another.

Third, God is sovereign and governs the affairs of the world according to his purposes. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10). How silly it would be to think we could understand all the ways and purposes of God (check out Isaiah 55:8-9). Finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite, but we can have absolute faith and confidence that God knows what he is doing in our own lives and around the globe.

Fourth, God is just and merciful. There are times where God acts in such a way to judge nations and peoples. In our Wednesday night Bible study, we have been working through the Old Testament book of Hosea, where the prophet was preaching to a people on the brink of judgment. Hosea was warning his people (the northern kingdom of Israel) that if they did not repent and turn back to God, they would be judged. History tells us that they were conquered by the Assyrians and sent into exile around the time of the prophet’s death. Bottom line, those who do evil will be judged by God, if not in the present life, then most certainly in the afterlife. But we must always remember that God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8). Time and time again in the Scriptures we see this. After sinning by taking the census, David said, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (1 Chronicles 21:13). Following tragedy, we often hear that it was a miracle that more people did not die. But the Christian already knows why – the mercy of God.

Fifth, in the midst of pain and suffering, God ministers to those in need in remarkable ways. Only those who have gone through the fire truly know this. And often God ministers through His body, the church. Christian’s are always on the front lines of mercy and relief efforts around the world. As ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), we are to be reflectors of God’s mercy to the world.

Sixth, God often uses suffering to sanctify his people. “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). We don’t always like this, but God knows we need it and that’s why we can rejoice in our suffering.

Seventh, in the midst of suffering and evil, we must remember to give glory to God. Job is a great example of this. “Naked I came from my mothers womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Can we really fault the One who is the giver of all good things (James 1:17)? One of my hero’s of the faith, Jonathan Edwards died from a smallpox vaccination at the age of 54. His wife Sarah responded to his death in a letter to one of her daughters. “My very dear child, what shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud. The Lord has done it. He has made me adore his goodness, that we had him so long. But my God lives; and he has my heart. O what a legacy my husband has left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother, Sarah Edwards.” Even though her husband had died in this unfortunate way, Sarah still gave glory to God.  

Eighth, the reality of evil and suffering make us long all the more for heaven. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have past away” (Revelation 21:4). And so we say, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Ninth, God suffered Himself. This is the most important point because it shows us the way to the gospel. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Christ suffered and died! Therefore, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Through his suffering, Christ defeated sin, death, and Satan. In essence, He conquered the powers of evil. He did not leave us in our helpless estate, but rescued and delivered us from the domain of darkness. Praise God!

Conversing With a Jewish Man

Last week I found myself in New Haven, Connecticut, home to Yale University. One day while walking downtown, I was approached by a man who asked me a very simple question – “Are you Jewish?” I responded, “No I’m not.” And that was pretty much the end of our brief encounter. I kept on walking but before too long, curiosity got the better of me. Why did he ask me that, I wondered? Do I look Jewish? I turned around and headed back. I needed some answers.

DS: Excuse me sir, why did you want to know if I was Jewish?

JM (Jewish man): Well, if you had said yes, I would have told you a little about your faith.

DS: Let’s just say, for fun, I had told you I was Jewish, what would have told me about Judaism?

JM: I would have told you that you need to keep the law.

DS: The 10 Commandments?

JM: Actually, we have 613 laws that we are to keep.

DS: Do you know all 613 laws by heart?

JM: Hesitates to answer

DS: What if I told you that I’m a bad guy who thinks bad thoughts, says bad things, and sins every day.

JM: I would say you need to try harder and do a better job of keeping the law.

DS: Yes, but how do I know when I’m “good enough” at keeping the law?

I finally told him that I was a Christian. I told him that I (and everyone else) need a Mediator who has already fulfilled the demands of the law of God because no matter how hard I tried I could never fully keep the law. I told him that it’s only through faith in Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice that a person can be forgiven of their sins and accepted before God. Not surprisingly, he told me that he did not accept the New Testament teachings about Jesus.

For a couple more minutes, I shared the gospel with him and did my best to show him that Jesus is the Messiah, and that salvation is only through Him (John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5). As I shared, he was very quiet and it became clear that he did not want the conversation to continue, so we parted ways.

This dialogue did not at all surprise me. This man was not a Messianic Jew and therefore, rejects Jesus as the Son of God and the path to salvation. So our conversation did not surprise me but it did remind me that it’s all about Jesus. The most important question in the world is – what do you believe about Jesus? Do you accept Him as God’s provision for man’s need or do you reject Him? I can only hope and pray that this Jewish man will come to saving faith and see his need for Jesus, but he must understand that his acceptance before God is not through his own ability to keep the law.

As you well know, it’s not just Jews who reject Jesus. I often encounter people who are ok with God, but they have a problem with Jesus. But the Bible tells us there is no other way. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Friends, it’s all about Jesus. You can’t be “ok with God” and still reject His Son. Jesus said, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before me, I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

It’s all about Jesus.