Can I trust the Bible? Is the Bible true? If the answer to those questions is ‘yes’, then we merely need to appeal to what it says for something to be true. And, if we’re honest, the reason most of us believe the things we do about God and the gospel is because the Bible says they are so. Our belief is founded on the fact that what the Bible tells us is true, with all its implications regarding what it says about God, the human condition and the person of Jesus.
I have spoken a lot about evangelism. In my view, we often over-complicate it. For the most part, if you know the gospel and you’ve got lips and a tongue, you’re pretty much good to go. Share your story, point people to the saviour you know, tell people why you love Jesus and why you find the gospel compelling. Most of that is just your opinion about what you have come to believe. And most of us don’t need much training in spouting our opinions off about almost anything.
But there is one apologetic question I think it pays to have in your arsenal. The reason being, almost every other apologetic question comes back to it in the end. It doesn’t really matter whether somebody is asking you about the Trinity, justification by faith alone, how God can allow evil and suffering, or almost any other thorny question you might get asked; all of them ultimately end up at this one in the end. Whatever you are asked, it boils down to this: why believe the Bible?
What do we know about God? Ultimately, what he has revealed about himself in scripture and nature. What do we know about the human condition? Fundamentally, what the Bible tells us. What do we know about the end of all things? What God has given us to know in the Bible. On and on we could go. But underlying every question about the Christian faith is this, what does the Bible say and why believe it?
The ultimate apologetic question is, why believe the bible? If you can trust the Bible, and there are good reasons to believe what it says is true, just about every other apologetic question becomes moot.
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By Simon van Bruchem — 8 months ago
Next time you’re tempted to sin, to fall into the sinful patterns all of us have in some parts of our lives, tell yourself this: sin is serious. Sin cost the life of the Son of God. Sin will eat away at us and enslave us, and the short-term reward from sin will not be worth the long-term impact on our faith. Run from sin and never take it lightly. Sin is far worse than any of us think it is.
When Christians think about sin, often it is in the context of our sins being forgiven. We know that we are sinners and that we do all kinds of things that disobey God, some of them unknowingly and some of them intentionally. But we have been forgiven for our sins, right? Jesus died for our sins in our place, our debt is paid, and we are free. That is great news and foundational to what it means to be Christian. With the knowledge that our sins are forgiven, and that we have been shown such grace, we can start to think that sin is not really that bad. After all, if I make a mistake, Jesus will forgive me, right?
Yet, in places like Matthew 18, Jesus says very harsh things about sin. Here’s a brief excerpt:
8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matt. 18:8-9 ESV)
By Laura Andrews — 1 month ago
When you experience a painful surprise, Jesus is there with you. He will reorient you to what’s true here and now and help you to see that your road will also end in glorious redemption.
When I was in high school, I went to see The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with a friend. We knew absolutely nothing about the film, including the key detail that it was based on a book divided into three volumes. The cinematography and costumes were impressive and engaging, but over the course of the movie, we felt somewhat overwhelmed by the number of characters and struggled to follow the complex storyline. The problem really came as we were approaching the two-and-a-half-hour mark. I checked my watch and thought to myself, “This story doesn’t seem anywhere close to wrapping up.” The band of travelers that had set out for Mordor began to split up, and suddenly Frodo and Sam were standing atop a mountain, eyeing their destination…in the far distance. Soon, the screen faded to black, and the credits began to roll.
We sat there in the dark, stunned and dumbfounded. “What in the world…?” “What just happened?” Our incredulity quickly turned into annoyance. “That was the worst…movie…ever!” “I can’t believe I wasted three hours of my life on that!” We fumed as we exited the theater, vowing that if a sequel was forthcoming, we would certainly never watch it.
Twenty years have passed and I still ponder: Why were we so upset? The intensity of our response was almost comical! I assume it’s because we had signed up for a particular experience: an escape from our stressful world for a few hours during which we would vicariously enjoy a happy ending. What we got—after patiently wading through a long, confusing movie—was a cliffhanger that came out of nowhere. It was both a painful surprise and surprisingly painful. It was like we had asked “for a fish, [and received] a serpent” (Matt 7:10).
I know this is kind of a silly story to use here. I recount it because I have seen a similar formula play out many times: something unexpected and unwelcome occurs, and you are stunned by the pain. The most painful surprises are the ones you never see coming. I’m talking about those moments when you find yourself in shock, saying to yourself, “This wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t supposed to be like this!” The breakup you never wanted and never saw coming. Walking into your boss’s office hoping for a promotion and leaving his office without a job.
By C.R. Carmichael — 8 months ago
Written by C.R. Carmichael |
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
This is the stunning genius of Christianity, that we have obtained the true Spirit of freedom which is only found by faith in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:17). “For freedom, Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1), for “having been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Therefore, “live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16), knowing that “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).
Jesus “unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” — Luke 4:17-21
It is no accident that Jesus kicked off his earthly ministry by reading from Isaiah to proclaim He had come to “set free those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). This was a staggering pronouncement that would take direct aim at a downtrodden, sin-soaked world that had experienced years of judgment, captivity and political oppression at the hands of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Romans, and even the wayward leadership of the Jews.
Not only was Jesus’ prophetic fulfillment “good news” to the poor, the blind, and the brokenhearted looking for relief from their various oppressors, but it was the unveiling of a new spiritual disposition of freedom that would show the depths of God’s love and mercy through His Son, Jesus Christ. As John Angell James once succinctly put it, “The very genius of Christianity is a spirit of freedom, and all its precepts are opposed to tyranny.”
The Gospel, you see, has bestowed upon believers, not only freedom from the tyranny of sin and death through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:18; 8:2), but also a deep and intimate understanding of the mechanism of demonic oppression that outwardly drives this world. We know, according to God’s word, that we spiritually wrestle against “the rulers of the darkness of this world,” and yet we are also mindful of our need for deliverance from “unreasonable and wicked men” who thrive in that oppressive darkness (Ephesians 6:12; II Thessalonians 3:2). Because of this knowledge, we as Christians are of all people the most capable of seeing the necessity for Christ’s “spirit of freedom” to guide us in our temporal affairs as much as in our spiritual duties (John 8:32).
The “genius of Christianity,” as noted by John Angell James, is in spying out and eluding the traps of this oppressive world. This dynamic spiritual intellect which comes with the “renewal of the mind” (Romans 12:2) has prepared us to rightly oppose tyranny in all its forms whenever it infringes upon the abundant life given to us by our Creator with His great expectation for all people, made in the image of God, to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28; 9:7). Hence, we join with the psalmist in asking our gracious Lord, “Redeem me from the oppression of man, that I may keep Your precepts” (Psalm 119:134).
Historically, this Christian “spirit of freedom” was the driving force which transformed Western society, triumphed over the tyranny of Rome, spread the Gospel to every corner of the world, and presided over the rise of thriving urban centers, organized free-market commerce, universities, hospitals, and the establishment of liberty and justice through the guiding influence of God’s word. Indeed libraries are filled with books detailing the achievements of men and women whose lives were forever changed by Jesus Christ and how they impacted the world through ideas found in Scripture in a wide variety of disciplines that greatly serve humanity. And all of this was done in the fertile ground of a free society cleared and tilled by the redeemed stewards of Eden to bring forth good fruit for the glory of God.
The Great Dumbing-Down
These days, however, this genius of Christianity seems to have become dumbed-down by professing Christians who have forsaken their God-given vocation as trusted guides to true liberty. Too much comfort and idleness in Western society has created an “ease in Zion” where some disciples have grown fat and happy with their luxuries, amusements, and friendship with the world. As a result, the grace of God has been recast as a cover for unrepentant sin, even within church building walls where mere professors have “crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness…” (Jude 1:4).
Sadly, the most recent statistics from pollsters like Barna Group and Pew Research Center indicate that American Christianity is, to some degree, a “salt that has lost its savor” (Matthew 5:13). The number of people who still identify as Christians, gather consistently for worship, or regularly read the Bible has now fallen to under half of our country’s population. Because of this noticeable drop in Christian influence, the type of liberty being pursued by many citizens is no longer guided by God’s revelation and the Holy Spirit, but is one that seeks to break free from God altogether, leaving Him out of our cultural and societal equations and our day-to-day living.
Individuals nowadays have been given full authority by the American “oligarchy” to determine their gender, sexual orientation, or personal level of fleshly excess: gluttony, drunkenness, slothfulness and the like (Galatians 5:19-21). It is the age of a self-serving freedom where people can engage in all manner of sinful pursuits, or as A. W. Tozer once specifically named them: the self-sins of “self-righteousness, self-pity, self-confidence, self-sufficiency, self-admiration, self-love and a host of others like them.” According to Tozer, this idolatry of the Self has been nurtured by the triumvirate of “secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things” which has “put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies.”
Ironically, this growing aspiration of our American society to provide people with complete freedom from the moral constraints of God’s will is creating the perfect climate for the rise of a true tyranny. Having rejected God, or more specifically, the easy “yoke” of Christ, these self-focused zombies seem oblivious to the fact that they are escaping from the perfect “rest for their souls” (Matthew 11:29-30), and running headlong into the waiting trap of the ultimate slave-master: Sin, and the oppressive world which traffics in it (John 8:34). As Warren W. Wiersbe put it, “The worst bondage is the kind that the prisoner himself does not recognize. He thinks he is free, yet he is really a slave.”
Common Sense Aligns With God’s Word
This understanding about the devilish trap of personal freedom isn’t exclusive to Christianity, by the way. Even secular thinkers are beginning to see the problem with this mad pursuit for unmitigated self-focus and self-determination. Psychologist Barry Schwartz, for example, suggests:
There is a dark side to all this freedom from constraint, to all this emphasis on individuals as the makers of their own worlds, their own destinies. It leaves people indecisive about what to do and why. Freedom of choice is a two-edged sword, for just on the other side of liberation sits chaos and paralysis. Thus, there is a price for freedom—danger.
In a worldly sense, Schwartz has come to an insightful conclusion: the price for one’s unrestrained pursuit of freedom, autonomy, and self-determination is “chaos, paralysis, and danger,” or as he specifies elsewhere, the loss of a sense of safety and security when one is left to his own devices in a world of “too many choices.” In this instance, says Schwartz, total freedom can suddenly be “experienced as a kind of tyranny” that leads to “dissatisfaction with their lives and in clinical depression” as the weight of the world now rests solely on their shoulders.