The Bible: The Hard Topics of Today
Perhaps this is the essay you have been waiting for, the one that explores how we as Bible believing people engage with other people who are completely committed to beliefs that are antithetical to God’s Word.
We are continuing in our series, Sharing Your Faith and Your Bible. It is this reality of Biblical standards that often causes non-believers to raise their hands, as if holding up a BIG stop sign, refusing to even have a discussion with a follower of Jesus.
In the last blog post, we noted how the non-believer does not see themselves as a bad/sinful person. At best, they don’t see the relevance of religion. At worst, they have gone through a divorce, or had an abortion, or are actively involved in a lifestyle – and don’t want to hear that there is a problem.
In fact, the world has told them to embrace these life choices. We must remember, in our mind, the problem is not the person, but it must be an unrepentant sin.
LAYING SOME FOUNDATION
We need to make sure we are standing on a solid foundation. Let us make a few BIG points:
- We are all sinners.
- We understand there is a standard.
- We (and we all do) violate that standard.
- We know that it is only by Jesus going to the Cross that the debt our sin incurs has been paid, and we can receive forgiveness.
- We know that the Bible tells us that, to receive that forgiveness, we must repent (admit there is a standard and we violated it) and then ask God to forgive us.
- We are grateful beyond words, because God’s Word says that if we confess our sins, He who is faithful will forgive our sins (1 John 1:9).
- We start anew, again, seeking to not sin.
Over the course of our lives, the process often looks like this:
- We responded to God’s Love: Most of us were once in the darkness. Through a variety of ways, we came to Jesus – not RELIGION.
- We began to follow Jesus: It was Jesus, His love, that led us to begin to follow Him.
- We embraced God’s Word: To follow Him, we realized we must learn and embrace His Word. In doing so, we came again and again to parts of His Word—parts that we were violating.
- We repented: We repented of those areas of our lives that were in violation of God’s Word and, sought by the Holy Spirit and not our strength, to conform our lives to the Scriptures. We have been on a journey of seeking to conform our lives –100% of our lives–to God’s Word.
- We recognize it is a journey: All of us are on a journey, as we sit under the authority of God’s Word, we again and again ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the areas of our lives that have yet to be 100% conformed.
- We fall short: Yet, even with that revelation by the Holy Spirit, none of us is at 100% daily living to the standard.
- We again respond to God’s Love: We return, again, to the throne of grace and mercy.
- This is a lifelong process.
Our challenge is to find a way to present ourselves not as the “holier-than-thou” crew that are wagging our fingers at the unwashed—but instead as people who are following the One who has paid the price for our sins.
It takes courage to admit we are wrong. Please note, I am not writing in the past tense. It takes courage to admit that I sin daily.
The world says, “No, no, you are not sinning.”
The world somehow perceives that admitting we sin is a weakness.
When people buy into the world’s narrative, they think they can comfortably live, avoiding all that uncomfortable reality of sin.
But living the world’s lie does not work.
Living in sin creates complicated messes. It results in us being tossed “to and fro” by any number of forces. It leads us to be in bondage to all sorts of cravings.
Not only does it lead to death, but many walk about as if they are already dead.
The challenge is to show people we were once lost – on a path to death – and somehow communicate to them our love and concern and invite people to meet Jesus.
THIS CHALLENGE IS MORE THAN A DISTANT THEOLOGICAL POSITION: IT IS OFTEN PERSONAL
But the challenge is more than “people.” The word “people” sounds too impersonal.
We are often not talking to “people,” but to a “person,” someone we know—it is personal.
And the enemy has planted himself firmly between us and the person.
Further, for decades now, the enemy has fed them a steady stream of ideas – such as tolerance, as being virtuous. So, as we seek to speak to those we love, the enemy has skillfully convinced them that we, the church, not only lacked this virtue of tolerance (after all God is love), but we in fact also worse. We are hate-mongers!
YOUR CHOICE OF WHICH POSITION TO ASSUME
Here is where we face a choice – and each choice brings with it a cost – and therefore, our utter dependence on God to lead.
Choice One: Has God placed you in a position where you must speak to the broad culture?
- Perhaps you are a doctor and must refuse to participate in some “procedures” the world says are acceptable.
- Perhaps you are a lawyer and cases come to you where you need to fight for the religious beliefs of your client.
- Perhaps you do not see yourself in what you might consider a high-profile position. What if your employer is forcing you to participate in something that dishonors God?
- Perhaps you are a parent and the school is seeking to lead your child dangerously astray.
- Perhaps you are a member of a church that is not only embracing, but advancing, unbiblical practices in society.
Today, as a follower of Jesus, we each may find ourselves in any one of these positions. When we do, I suggest:
- Prayer: We must pray for the Lord’s leading.
- Strength: Not yours, God’s. Express your weakness to God and ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your resolve. You should expect on many occasions to have the enemy seek to chip away your commitment to God’s Word.
- Assistance: Do not go at this alone. Speak with your pastor. Find other people, even agencies, who have walked this road.
- Check your pride: Satan is very good and taking what started as a godly cause and filling it with anger, and worse.
- Expect Attack: You will lose friends, and possibly worse. God will be with you.
- Pray: Yes, I know I already pointed out prayer. This is a spiritual battle. You must be on your knees, and get others to join you:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Eph 6:12
Choice Two: Has God placed a person, a son or daughter, a close friend, etc., in your life who has either:
- Embraced a lifestyle that is leading them to destruction.
- Has a past life event that is holding them captive — and you know the path to healing is by acknowledging it as sin, repenting, and seeking forgiveness from God.
- Is being led astray by the voices of the world.
In these very personal situations, the path forward is challenging. I offer some similar suggestions, but with some very specific nuances:
- Prayer: We must pray for the Lord’s leading. Pray that the person you love will see your love and not your condemnation.
- Strength: Not yours, God’s. Express your weakness to God and ask the Holy Spirit to strengthen your resolve. I have seen many Bible believing parents, in a matter of minutes, decide homosexual relations were “okay” when their child announced they were gay or lesbian.
- The enemy uses your love and a lie. The lie is that you must 100% agree with another person, if you do not, then you do not love them.
- That is a lie. It is our love that leads us to take this hard path.
- Support: More than assistance, you need support. Assistance is someone giving you advice, you might say, “helping you fix the situation.” Advice is good, but when it is personal, support is key. It will pain you to challenge those you love. It will hurt when they perceive your involvement in a negative way. It will take time with them, as they walk in sin, to learn you will not walk away – that you love them.
- Trust: Trust God. It is not up to you to change their hearts. Fortunately, that is the work of the Holy Spirit. You will at some point(s) say the wrong thing or react the wrong way. Trust God.
- Expect Attack: Like Choice One, you will lose friends. It gets very personal. You might lose the relationship with the person you are seeking to love. If it is ending (or hitting a real wall), try and behave in a way where you are leaving the door open. Continue in prayer. Do not expect it to be permanent. Be ready for an opportunity that God may provide.
- Pray: Again, you are not battling with the person. You are battling against the enemy, which has set up a stronghold in the person’s mind, heart, and body.
It is hard to “live” both Choice One and Choice Two. If God has placed you in a role to speak truth to some segment of the culture, then it will be harder for a person in a close personal relationship to want to engage with you.
Yet, we must be obedient to God.
Especially for those of us engaged in the more personal situation, let us remember the goal.
REMEMBER THE GOAL: IT IS FOR THEM TO MEET JESUS
As we engage, we must keep the goal in sight. The goal is to bring people to Jesus. It is not to “fix the person.”
Keeping this goal in sight will inform your actions.
Most people will know you disagree with them. Instead of taking the issue head on, might you begin by exploring the state of their faith?
You might consider a statement/question such as, “Rather than argue, I would like to better understand how you approach any number of life decisions. Can you tell me how you think through different challenges?”
A question along these lines is inviting them to share how they live their lives. It may open the door for you to share how you are following Jesus. You can have a Gospel of John ready. In John 10:10 Jesus says, “I have come to give you life, and life more abundantly.”
Talk about abundant life, and how Jesus gives this to you.
Most of us do not wake up in the morning looking for these sorts of conversations. Most of us want to lead lives that are “quiet” with respect to controversary. Most of us do not like being labeled hate-mongers.
Yet most of us also do not want people to perish. Satan does. He wants to destroy everyone.
God has placed us in this world to be Light in the Darkness. The issues we see today, all around, flood the lives of people with darkness – pray “Lord show me how to be Light.”