“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being 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.
At some point down the road, I could see myself as some sort of apologist for my faith. Ready to give answers in our faith that would point the curious to Jesus, and provide some comfort, Lord willing, for my brothers and sisters in the faith. (But who knows what He has planned for me? It could be that my entire mission in the faith is to stay on the path of recovery and that is it. I pray to be good with whatever He has in mind.)
Let’s assume that I can serve in some amateur apologist role in the church. Let’s say I studied Greek and Hebrew, learned systematic theology, and all of the other massive things that would go into such a role. Let’s say I have great and convincing rhetoric and a sharp mind that could confound atheists and skeptics.
I could have all of this and, yet, it will mean nothing if God doesn’t change the condition of the heart within the people or groups of people I’d be talking to.
I thought this in my morning devotional as I read John 12:1-19. Jesus had just rose Lazarus from the grave and as a result, many began to follow him and believe him to be Messiah.
Notice the reaction of the religious leaders who were opponents of Jesus, though. They plotted to kill not only the Lord but Lazarus as well. One would think after seeing such a miracle, people would fall to their knees and confess Christ as Lord.
But they didn’t. Much of humanity is still doing the same thing as the religious leaders. Do we have miracles from God in raising people from the dead? No. But according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 1, we don’t need such dramatic miracles to drive us to our knees.
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:19-22)
Not confessing Christ as Lord is a condition of the heart, not a response to a lack of compelling evidence.
I remember listening to a debate between an atheist and Christian. In his closing remarks, the atheist claimed that he would believe in a God if said God would manifest himself in the room or do something supernatural such as lift a chair that was on the stage where the debate took place in the air.
The Christian responded that while God could do such a thing without any difficulty, it wouldn’t do any good for the atheist to see such a miracle because the atheist would find something in his naturalist worldview to explain the manifestation of the lifted chair.
The problem is in the heart.
We who are Christians would never have come to Jesus if the Lord didn’t grant us the gift of faith. We would be like the religious leaders in John 12. Indeed many of us have done so before God reached us.
That is not to suggest for a second that we should remain ignorant of our Bibles or of theology. To paraphrase R.C. Sproul, if we are Christians, we are theologians. The question is how good of a theologian will you and I be.
But, as for me, John 12 helps me to understand that ultimately the success of the Gospel comes from God taking the heart of stone that is within the human, and replacing it with a heart of flesh that beats for Him.
Unless He does that, no words of mine or yours and no amount of evidence will help.
And with that in mind, all we can do is pray.