Preaching to the Choir

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, March 9, 2017 0 comments

by Steve Risner

“The choir you are preaching to certainly does not believe in your God or the threat of eternal hellfire if you so much as question His existence or even break an obscure ticky-tack rule arbitrarily laid out by some preacher with an agenda.”

This week I wanted to make a short statement concerning this misconception said to me by a friend who is an atheist. For me, it's very hard to be loving in responding to such statements because it's a completely foreign idea to me, and therefore I don't feel it's an honest claim. However, I need to realize that not everyone has my life experience. Not everyone has my beliefs or background. Not everyone thinks the way I do. So I need to work on this sort of thing.

But the idea here—that Christianity is some sort of iron-fisted, rule-following make-believe—is not what Christianity is or is about. Have you ever felt like being a disciple of Christ means you are not allowed to question anything concerning the Bible or Christ or God's existence? Have you ever felt like you just had to follow some rules in order to be saved? Christians have done a great job of confusing this issue over the years, so I can't necessarily blame my friend for his faulty opinion. To be honest, I'm sure he's stating this in the fashion he chose to mock Christianity, but it does offer up some truth in terms of how some unbelievers may view the life of a Christ follower. In some cases, this may be just due to misunderstanding the Christian life, but in other cases it may well be that the unbeliever was raised by someone who also thought that Christianity was about following rules—we call that legalism—and not about surrendering your life to the Savior of the world. This sort of cold, heartless religion generally turns people off and they walk away from what they think is Christianity. In reality, it's nothing like Christianity. They then seek and search for something to fill the emptiness every human being has without their Savior, rejecting the only thing that can make a person whole because they experienced a counterfeit version of it. This makes me sad and is far too common.

I've had many friends over the course of my life who grew up in “Christian” homes only to leave the faith as soon as they got out of high school. Why does this happen? Far too often, I believe it's because the Christianity modeled for them by their parents or church leaders was fake. It's easy to do. You go through the motions. You do the right things. You go to church on Sunday. All that stuff is great, but it's not Christianity and it's not what makes one a Christian. Christianity is a walk. If you're walking somewhere, you have a starting point with a destination in mind. The goal is to be like Jesus Christ. It's a process, a working out of our faith. It's not rule following, especially what this quote is getting at—“ticky-tack rules arbitrarily laid out.” The result of surrendering to Jesus Christ is a changed heart. We don't become a Christian because we're doing good works. We don't follow Christ because we're doing nice things. We do good works because Christ is living through us—we're His hands and feet and His voice. We take care of people and care for people because we're following Christ and not the other way around. I guess you could say it's the difference between an inside-out faith versus an outside-in faith. If your heart is full of love and grace and humility (because Christ was full of love and grace and humility and He's living inside your heart), you will naturally do things that serve people and serve God.

The analogy I've often heard concerns a water pitcher and is based on Luke 6:45, which tells that what the heart is full of is what comes out of a person. If a man is like a water pitcher, whatever fills him is what comes out. Makes sense, right? This is especially true, I feel, when the man gets jostled a little. If you have a full pitcher and shake it up a little, you'll slop out whatever is in it all over the place. If a man is shaken up (life happens and he has struggles), whatever is truly in his heart will come out. If he's full of love and grace, that will come out of him for everyone to see. If he's full of anger and bitterness, that's what will be all over the place for everyone to see. If a man's heart is full of Jesus Christ, he will naturally be inclined to do those things that are Christ-like. It's not about arbitrary rule following. It's about a life of serving Jesus and allowing Him to live through us.

Now when it comes to questioning your faith—questioning God's existence or why something the Bible says is right—I think it's healthy and I think we need to be honest about it. It's important to honestly ask these sorts of questions because it helps us understand. Rather than just knowing what's right because we were told, “This is just the way it is” or “Because the Bible says so,” or something like that, we are able to reason through things and find truth. This is the difference between being taught what to think verses being taught how to think.

No honest Christian shies away from inquiry. That doesn't even make sense. It's because of man's curiosity, a characteristic given to us by our Maker, that Christians invented science. It's because we wanted to know the truth about the world around us and we were free, because we're Christians, to ask those questions. It's true that some religions frown upon questioning. Many, in fact, fear questioning. I believe this is because the error in their beliefs can easily be exposed if one is allowed to be rational and ask questions. It's even true that many so called Christians go through life this way—believing it's a lack of faith or something to question God or the Bible. I feel it's not only not a bad thing to question, but it's extremely healthy. Rather than just know what the Bible says, you understand why it says it. That's powerful!

We can apply the thought behind the old proverb about giving a man a fish and he'll eat for a day or teach him how to fish and you'll feed him for a lifetime. One is easy and fills an immediate need with no thought of the future or self-sufficiency. The other takes more time and is a little more difficult, but the result is that the person has an understanding of how to care for their own need. In terms of Biblical studies, if we tell our children what the Bible says and leave it at that, we're not really creating disciples. They don't understand the logic or rationale behind something, so if they are challenged on it, they may fold and reject their faith simply because they lacked the understanding. They had some knowledge, but no understanding as to why the knowledge was correct—if, indeed, it was correct. If we teach people the “why” with the “what,” they'll be able to not only answer the questions they may be asked (or the questions they themselves ask) but will be able to reason through other questions and figure out solutions to problems. It's about giving tools to reason through things rather than just be spoon fed answers.

We should be diligent in learning and digging deep rather than just having a surface knowledge. Sure, we can start with surface knowledge. We can teach young believers what the Bible says about a subject. But over time they need to have the “why” explained to them. Give them the rationale behind the facts. If we understand the Bible's message and its thought processes a little, we can answer many of those tough questions as well as determine if a teaching we hear is right or wrong. We should always examine philosophies and teachings to see if they line up with Scripture. If they don't, they're wrong, period. It may still be of value to understand why someone thinks that way, but it should be rejected. If they do line up with Scripture, then we can figure out how to apply that truth to our lives.

My friend talks about preachers with agendas and “ticky-tack rules” and so forth. There have been leaders that come and go who tarnish the name of Jesus. These are men doing what men do rather than men living the life of a Christ-follower. Whoever says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. The truth of Jesus Christ, the Bible, or Christianity cannot be determined by the inaccurate representations of imperfect human beings. It's really that simple. Unfortunately, there are many who have turned people off to Jesus Christ because of their lack of grace, love, and humility. They pretend to be following Christ or they simply let their flesh get the best of them, hurt people, or conduct themselves in an inappropriate fashion. The unbeliever sees this and determines that Jesus Christ is not for them because of this inaccurate representation of Him.

Final thought: know what you believe and why you believe it. If you have struggled with questions about Christianity, please ask us here at Worldview Warriors. It's why we're here.

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