You have the right to believe that you’re “right” in spiritual matters. It almost sounds a little strange, but we live in a culture where sometimes beliefs are so neutered by relativism, that we’re taught to almost feel guilty for the mere insinuation that we might exclusively hold truth when it comes to spiritual beliefs and doctrinal stances.
If indeed you do have the “right,” heaven-unlocking answer then you also have a responsibility to share that with the world. However, the ability to do so is tricky. If you proclaim to people, “I’m right and you’re wrong!” you will immediately (and unnecessarily) offend people who won’t listen to a further word from you. However, if you try to acquiesce to another person’s false beliefs in hopes of gaining their trust and affection, you’ve compromised spiritual truth.
So how are Christians supposed to reach the lost? Is it by mere accident, that somehow we might blindly fall backwards into an unbelievers conversion? Is that what Jesus’ Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) is teaching us – that we should randomly scatter seed and see what happens? Well, Jesus clearly explains what this parable means (vss. 18-23) and it really has little (if anything) to do with outreach strategies. No, evangelism should be intentional, using the various gifts that God has given to us. Heads, hearts, and most importantly, the gospel of Jesus.
So what is a loving way to share the truth of God’s Word with someone while still respecting their integrity as a human being and not disrespectfully questioning the sincerity of their current convictions?
In his best-selling book, The Reason for God, Timothy Keller speaks in-depth about what’s called “presuppositional apologetics.” Stay with me… His encouragement for talking to people about the beauty of Christ is to 1) Enter their framework, 2) Challenge their framework, and 3) Complete their framework. Here’s what he means…
Everybody has a set of beliefs that they operate their lives by. Everyone. No zombie is walking around out there with no convictions, no opinions, and no feelings. We all believe something. We all believe something strongly. Some of us are more vocal about it than others, but we all have a sense of passion about our beliefs. Non-Christians are often just as convicted in their beliefs as Christians are. However, there is an inconsistency that exists in every non-Christian’s beliefs that simply isn’t found in the message of Jesus. Allow me to explain.
Let’s say we all have several levels of beliefs that govern our lives. The top group we’re really passionate about. The middle group we have sort of always accepted, but don’t think about too regularly. And then maybe there’s another group of things that we strongly dislike. Within non-Christians, there is an inconsistency within their beliefs that most are not aware of.
For example, while we live in a general era of relativism, many young college students can actually be very moralistic. They get really passionate about things like involvement in helping the oppressed in third-world countries, issues of starvation, genocide, human trafficking, etc. That’s one of their top-tier beliefs. And they’re totally justified in being upset about that injustice that they see in the world. When God, through the natural laws that he’s placed in human hearts (Romans 2:14-15) still maintains a semblance of “what is right” in the hearts of unbelievers, that’s often called “common grace.” That’s worth celebrating. Here’s the catch though, while passionate about this injustice, at the same time, these young students also hold as one of their mid level beliefs that evolution is the answer to where we came from and why we’re here, thus negating any real need for God. When those two beliefs are combined, you have a fairly inconsistent belief system. Darwinian evolution promotes concepts like “survival of the fittest” and completely justifies the strong devouring the weak for the progression of the species. If evolution is really correct, then there shouldn’t be anything morally incorrect about a stronger nation devouring a smaller nation. That’s merely the evolutionary progression of the species. You see, those two beliefs are fundamentally incompatible, but many of the people who have both don’t realize that unless it’s pointed out to them.
The truth is that we all have inconsistencies in our lives that often need pointing out for our own health.
There are many other examples of these types of spiritual inconsistencies. It’s quite trendy today, for example, to talk about desiring a personal relationship with God but reject the notion of his inspired and inerrant Word. Well, that’s inconsistent. If God doesn’t have an authoritative Word in your life, if you can merely pick and choose what parts of the Bible you want to believe, how is God ever supposed to contradict you? And if God can’t contradict you at all, you don’t have a personal relationship with him, you have a robotic relationship. You have designed your own cardboard cutout, build-a-Jesus that’s tailored just to your liking. That’s not a real person and therefore not a real relationship.
That false belief is only driven out of someone using the truth of God’s Word while addressing the truth of a strong personal conviction that they have.
We could go on and on like this, but it’s sort of like what Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians…“Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:22-24) In other words, much like the Jews and the Greeks who only wanted to accept Jesus as God on their own terms, we all have strong convictions about who God should be and what life should be, but if those convictions don’t fit into a biblical framework that culminates in who Jesus actually is, what he actually teaches, and what he actually designed life to be, there is going to be inconsistency that could lead to complete unbelief. If these inconsistencies exist in the believer’s life, they will invariably lead to great frustration unless corrected.
The final, and most essential of the points here, is that Jesus is the one who completes the framework of our thoughts and beliefs. Take the example that I used earlier of a humanitarian with evolutionist beliefs. Finally, Jesus is the one who cares more about other people than I ever will and yet he was more powerful than any oppressive nation. As I’ve said before, in contrast to the evolutionary ideology of “survival of the fittest,” he was the fittest who humbly descended to help the unfit survive. Or to the example of the person who wants a relationship with Jesus but rejects the authority of his Word, Jesus was the Word become flesh in the incarnation. In the same way that Jesus was sent by the Spirit of God through the means of a sinful woman and yet remained perfect throughout the process, the Word was sent by the Spirit of God through the means of sinful writers and yet remained perfect throughout the process. Jesus said that these are the holy, inspired, perfect “Scriptures that testify about me.” (John 5:39) Make sense? Jesus completes the framework of all of our thoughts and beliefs. I could carry this further, but finally, every theme in Scripture (and our lives) finds its climax in Jesus.
The conclusion I’ve stumbled upon…
In an interview that Lee Strobel conducts with author and Christian leader Ravi Zacharias in A Case for Faith, Zacharias (a former Hindu) makes the point that every religion seeks to answer four fundamental questions of Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destiny and suggests that only Jesus Christ answers those questions coherently. He suggests, for instance, that Buddhism is inconsistent between the issues of origin and morality. Since Buddhism is technically nontheistic, there is no Creator, so then where does moral law come from? Buddhism can’t answer that question. Or the notion of Hindu reincarnation for instance. If every birth is essentially rebirth, each life paying for the previous life, then what were you paying for in your first birth? The beliefs are internally inconsistent.
Christianity answers these questions consistently and in a way that corresponds with reality. It states we are created by God (origin), not identical to him, but bearing his image (morality). We were created with the intent of glorifying our Lord through worship in our lives (meaning), and God was so committed to that purpose for our lives that when we failed, he became part of his own creation in order to die and rise and rescue us so that we could enter heaven to spend an eternity in worship of him (destiny). And through all of this, the Bible (on which we base our Christian beliefs) is not, like other religions, calling us to a feeling or a cold belief system, but to a real, warm-blooded Person. On those points, it’s profoundly different from worldly religions.
Most people strongly believe certain things that are inconsistent with other things they believe. It’s not insulting to point that out unless we do it in condescending and insulting ways. The act itself is a loving one – expressing concern for the eternal welfare of others. Only biblical Christianity, only Jesus, finally answers the questions of life in a consistent way.
So, my advice for others…Share the Attractiveness of the Gospel
Share with unbelievers/weak believers sections of Scripture that make them wish Christianity was true. Let Jesus’ overwhelming beauty, particularly his grace, speak to them.
Years ago, when the world was more on the same page regarding universal morality, seeking to root out immorality and unbelief by an appeal to a holy God who punishes the wicked might have been the most recommended way of sharing Jesus. However, in a world where morals are deemed anything but universal, a different approach probably makes more sense. In a world of pain and hurt and ugliness, share the beauty of Jesus. In a postmodern world full of seemingly unanswerable questions, share the answer of Jesus. In a world of inconsistency and injustice and hypocrisy, introduce people to the most genuine individual, the God who judges the world not on the basis of our flaws, but on the basis of his own goodness.
Whether movie or restaurant recommendations or otherwise, we eagerly share knowledge of the things in our lives that we find attractive and beneficial. Consequently, I don’t think the biggest obstacle to sharing Jesus is a fear of “uncomfortable conversations” but a failure in our own lives to recognize the attractiveness of the gospel and the beauty in the holiness of Jesus’ will for our lives. The solution then is in our own repentance and our own pursuit of knowing Jesus more through the Word that testifies about him, seeing for ourselves the attractiveness of Jesus and his will. Not only will you benefit, but the people whom you care about in life will benefit too. And you’ll not only be equipped, but inspired to share.