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The Apologetics Difference

Typically, when I run across the same idea three times in a row, I recognize the need to stop and listen. Perhaps God is trying to get my attention. That happened this past week, starting with a book I’m reading by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. called, Loving God with All Your Mind. Veith writes to Christian students in the universities to withstand the attacks on their faith and to show them “how the life of the mind, in whatever discipline they are called to, is worth pursuing for God’s sake.”

My second encounter was in a conversation with Dr. Dave Faust, President of Cincinnati Christian University, and soon to be Senior Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church. Dave was telling me about the phenomenal response CCU had regarding a recent lectureship by Ravi Zacharias, the premiere Christian apologist of our age. Dave went on to describe how a pastor, Jeff Vines, leads a weekend retreat every year with graduating seniors in their church to equip them in apologetics before they go on to college. Great idea. One I’d like to implement here.

My third encounter was with my oldest son, Will, who is going on to college this fall. He saw the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” recently, and he also had been reading through some atheist websites regarding their attacks on Christianity and the Bible. We had a good talk about how antagonists of the Faith will twist and misuse Scripture in an attempt to “prove” the Bible is false.

These three encounters happened in such close proximity of time that I realized the importance of this crucial issue: Apologetics. The Apostle Peter tells us to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, ESV). He goes on to say that we are to have a good conscience so that “when [we] are slandered, those who revile [our] good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (v. 16).

Did you notice the word, “when”? Peter doesn’t say that we might be slandered, or if we are slandered, but when we are slandered. Even if we are prepared to make a defense for the hope we possess, even if we do so with gentleness and respect, even if our consciences are clear, we WILL be slandered. But what does Peter say is the answer to that slander? Our “good behavior in Christ.”

Our critics will not always be impressed with our logical defense of the faith. But our behavior is compelling. Here’s the good news in all of this. For those of us who feel ill-prepared when it comes to defending what we believe and why we believe it, our most important apologetic is how we behave. Now, this doesn’t let us off the hook of not preparing to defend the hope we possess with gentleness and respect. But it assures us that if we get tongue-tied, or we can’t remember the Scripture reference we were going to quote, or our mind goes blank when someone asks us a critical question about Creation vs. Evolution, we can still live out the Gospel in holiness and love.

Jesus Himself said, “They will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). He also said, “For the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). What fruit are you bearing? How are you demonstrating love for one another? That may be the most important apologetic your friend, co-worker or neighbor needs to see the difference Jesus makes in our lives and in this world.

Without You, the Picture is Incomplete

I have never had the patience to sit down and work a puzzle. I’ve been told that you’re supposed to find the edge pieces first and connect them so that the border is complete, and then you can fill in the rest of the pieces from there. Great idea, but by the time I’ve got the border pieces connected, I’m ready to move on to something else. The few times (and I emphasize “few”) that I’ve tried putting a puzzle together, inevitably I get to the last pieces, and several are missing! Talk about frustrating. Now the picture is incomplete, unfinished, and deficient.

So it is in the Body of Christ. Every member of the Body of Christ is vital. Without each “piece,” the picture is incomplete. The Bible says we are a unit with each part of the unit having a role. Unfortunately, not every member sees himself or herself as really a part of Christ’s body. Or, some may see membership in the Body akin to membership in a club. They “pay” for services and benefits rather than contributing as a part of a family dynamic through relationships, service and spiritual growth. Still others may not feel like they “fit” in the Body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read that “in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” Oneness doesn’t come through personality, gifts, functions, roles, or responsibilities. Unity doesn’t come through our individuality but through our commonality--what we share in common. Your hand is not united because of each individual finger, but because of the palm that brings them together. Unity comes through one Spirit. We drink of that one Spirit. If I drink of the same source as you do, we both have that source inside of us. When we drink of the Spirit—when we receive the Spirit into our lives by surrendering to Jesus—we are united as one.

Several years ago I traveled to a remote village in the “bush,” hours away from Nampula, Mozambique. Dan Been, the missionary who hosted me, was driving a four-wheel truck, and we went from a paved road to a dirt road to a dirt path. He drove us as far as the truck could go, and then we left the truck and walked another mile or so to the village. We came to a clearing, and in front of this tiny clay-brick church building, we saw brothers and sisters in Christ, half-way around the world, worshiping the same Lord through the same Spirit. After they sang, the first thing we did was sit down and share communion. We were different races with different languages, different dress styles, different worship styles, but we drank of the same Spirit.

Likewise, each Christian has many differences--different gifts, different personalities, different strengths and weaknesses, different tastes, different opinions, but we all drink of the one Spirit! The nature of the Body of Christ is that we are ONE! I write this to you who are followers of Jesus Christ: You have received the Holy Spirit in your life. You were made to drink of the one Spirit. And you have a role in the Body of Christ through that Spirit. Without you, the beautiful mosaic of the Church is incomplete. How precious it is for brothers and sisters to dwell, function, and operate in the unity of the Spirit (cp. Psalm 133:1)! “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). Amen and amen! 

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