Repost: Am I a Christian Only Because I'm American

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Repost: Am I a Christian Only Because I'm American

Open Letter to a Doubting Believer

The following was originally posted very early on in my blogging life.  I am reposting it because of the positive feedback that I have heard from so many that I have read it, especially close friends. Praise God that my writings reposted below have been used on more than one occasion by God to draw back doubting believers who were attempting to validate their faith through faithless means. I pray that God may bless its reposting as well:

Doubter's Statement: As a Christian, I want to be sure that I am not deceiving myself and believing Christianity simply because I emotionally feel good about it or because my acculturation in America and within Christian circles does not allow me to see all perspectives. Also, once God gets me through this I will be better able to counsel those who are struggling with similar questions.

Response: It is necessary, before succumbing to the desire to jump in and begin addressing individual issues with which you are concerned, to discuss the nature of these doubts and the task which you are attempting to undertake. Many times I think that because the subject matter of a discussion have proven beneficial in many circumstances, we can often be too brash to quickly take part in discussion of those things without considering the end the undertaking. In this case I feel that the big picture must be viewed and brought clearly into focus before we even begin to discuss the individual.

I want to make it clear that I am not relegating the defense of our faith to an obscure, unecessary position. Peter makes it clear in 1 Peter 3:15 that all Christians should be prepared to give a defense of our hope--necessarily having thoroughly thought through the why's of the faith. The Greek "give a defense" or "give an answer" in verse 15 is a legal, court-room term referring a defense attorney rebutting charges against his client (Wuest's Word Studies). The way in which we do this is no small matter. Peter refers to a preparedness which certainly requires forethought and obviously preparation so that enemies of God may be put to shame: God's glory is at stake. Paul, in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 calls the Lord's servant to be able to teach with an ability to correct opponents with gentleness. This ability is necessary (a must) because God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth: Lives are at stake. So I realize the necessity of considering objections to the Gospel which include objections against, the existence of God, the veracity of the Bible, our interpretation of the Bible, the essence of truth, the basis for our faith, and many others. Yet, in the midst of those, the two commands of the Peter must remain preeminent: (1) "In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy" and (2) "Do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience."

A very logical, but very fatal, approach to take when considering such objections against which we are to be prepared is to do so in an atheistic or agnostic manner. This is the position which says, "The people to whom I am to give a defense do not believe in God, therefore my arguments must appeal to a nonbeliever and be able to logically stand on their own in a godless world." That first half of the position is not wrong in and of itself, it is the conclusion that follows that sets the defense-attorney-to-be up for God-abasing failure: "Therefore, in preparing my defense to such a person I must become such a person in my thinking, not allowing the Spirit of God (or the perception thereof) to cloud my mind, obscure my perception, taint my thinking, or bias my conclusions." The defender has become the doubter, necessarily so because of his premise removing even faith from the endeavor. The process does not proceed from faith and is therefore sin (Romans 14:23 ).

As this person sits down to ponder the objections and the respective Christian responses to such objections, he does not consult God. He does not pray, and if he does, it is half-heartedly, double-mindedly for fear that consulting God will only bias him further toward coming to the conclusion to which he the Spirit has already guided him: that Christ the Lord is Holy (1 Peter 3:15), that we are sinners (Romans 3:23), that he died for our sins (Romans 3:24), and and that he was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This doubting prayer or prayerlessness will not accomplish anything (James 1:6-8) in this quest to prove the gospel to oneself.

1 Corinthians 1:21 says, "For in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." God saw fit that the Gospel could never be known through wisdom, that is worldy wisdom, devoid of God's heart- and mind-changing call. Therefore, the aim of finding God without God is one declared destined to fail by God. The Gospel is preached "not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (1 Corinthians 1:17)."

The response of this Christian in light of this information should be one of repentance. This Christian has attempted to rob God of His glory, attempting to undo Christ's heart- and mind-changing work in his own heart. This person has directly defied the command in 1 Corinthians 10:31, "whatever you do, do all for the glory of God." The glory of God has been removed from this quest. God has been removed. By stirring up doubt, faith has been quenched and sin is the only option (Romans 14:23).

If the goal of the endeavor is to give a defense as this individual says, this defense must be prepared and given "with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience (1 Peter 3:15)." Sin defiles the conscience. Through faith in Christ, God cleanses it (Hebrews 10:22; 1 Peter 3:21). How can this occur faithlessly? Furthermore, as we have seen, the message is only knowable by the grace of God apart from the wisdom of man. It cannot be known apart from grace through faith, which is all of gift of God for God's purposes, not all of ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-10). To shun this gift of grace and faith for a futile pursuit by earthly wisdom of those two things which have been shunned is a suicidal quest. It is rebellion and rejection of God, sin for which you have rejected the remedy. The perpetrator of this treason must repent.

If this quest is for one's own peace of mind and not primarily for the sake of another, the probe is equally as futile and rebellious. The remedy is the same, turn back to the cross and receive forgiveness. If faith or understanding is lacking, recognize your sin, repent, and ask for grace. We, the creature, are not wise enough or powerful enough to grasp and pull down into our world the wisdom of God. That can only be done by Him and of His accord. The only way to seek Christ or to share Christ is in humility, realizing that it is only He who can grant understanding, faith, eternal life, and joy unspeakable. It is not ours to demand or earn (Ephesians 2:9), but it is according to His call (1 Corinthians 1:x) so that his purpose might stand (Romans 9:11). So just like the doubting defender, this doubter must repent as well for attempting to find God apart from God, for robbing Him of His glory, for shunning the great gift of faith, and for seeking to operate under his own wisdom.

To summarize, the primary problem with this approach to defending or finding God is that God is removed from the process. The logic is tempting: "I must keep myself from deception or from operating in a paradigm foreign to the rest of society." The goal is to protect oneself from foolish, blind faith mustered up to feel better. The goal is to more completely deal with the concerns, keeping one's emotional and spiritual involvement in the issues at bay so as to not corrupt the results of the contemplation. Operating under such a paradigm, we are bound to miss the mark. For His own glory, God has determined that we cannot know Him through our own (1 Corinthians 1:21).

On a practical, daily-living level, the one who thinks that on his own he will be able to fairly discern truth does not have an accurate view of himself. The Romans 8:18 says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." This section of Romans and others speak to the enemy within, the flesh. Christians know well, like Paul, that "When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand (Romans 7:21)." Why then would we forsake the spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible study that keep the flesh at bay? Why would we make provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14) by thinking as one who has not been changed from the heart (Romans 6:17)? If we give the flesh an opportunity, we will not be neutral toward God; we will hate God in our thinking. Our conclusions in this quest will not be helpful and will only give the flesh which we are supposed to be crucifying time to spread its God-hating cancer. Our joy will be taken. As we try to eliminate the influence of the Spirit on our thoughts, our lives will be characterized by increased immorality, impurity, divisions, envy, and other works of the flesh. We will lose the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control which was so characteristic of our life while walking by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-24). Living without recognizing the great debt which has been forgiven you by Christ's death on the cross, is an insult to that gift, removes your motivation to live godly, and may put you at risk for not receiving the gift (Hebrews 6:6). The pursuit of God outside of God is impossible and sinful, leading to even more sin.

The pursuit of knowledge and the ability to give a defense for our hope is not bad. It must be done with the Spirit as a guide, with the goal being God's glory as our faith is increased and God's truth is proclaimed before others. Speaking to the concerns of unbelievers on their terms is possible and indeed profitable. Nothing that the Bible claims can be defeated for the Word of God is truth. Christianity's claims can be shown to be logically sound and thoroughly defendable, but nobody will be saved from such a defense alone. God grace given through a repentant, God-given faith is necessary. The pursuit of knowledge of God cannot be attempted by removing the factor of faith. This pursuit should be made in faith, starting at the cross and ending at the cross, but nevertheless attempting to fully and completely analyze and issue, considering all sides.
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Title: Repost: Am I a Christian Only Because I'm American
Date posted: 09 Julio '07 - 21:39
Category: Miscellanies
Wordcount: 1950 words
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