*This is the modified transcript of a message I shared last weekend with the students of Crossroads Church of Walton County during their Disciple Now Weekend. It’s only slightly different from what was actually delivered.
This message is about defending the gospel – or, to use a more technical term, it’s about apologetics. If you’ve never heard the term apologetics, let me define it for you in a way you can understand: nerd Christianity.
Apologetics is being able to explain why you believe what you believe, and to answer questions about your beliefs in a way that shows their logical and reasonable nature. The golden verses of apologetics are 1 Peter 3:15-16:
“Honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear.”
The key words in those two verses are as follows:
Defense – a well-thought out and thorough explanation of your position. This does not mean you have to explain everything beyond doubt, or to the satisfaction of the person asking questions of you. It merely means that you have to make a compelling case that the evidence you have for your position makes sense with reality.
Reason – solid evidence. Evidence does not have to empirical to be valid; in other words, you don’t have to have God walk into the room in order to show that He exists. You can make a compelling case for His existence without Him having to be revealed. People do this all the time in the scientific world; don’t let their burden of proof be less than yours.
Hope – this is an expected outcome, a fulfilled promise with additional works to happen at a later date. Christian hope is not like we currently define hope; it’s not wishful thinking. It is looking forward to the completion of all of God’s promises – a confidence about what is to come.
Gentleness and respect – let me be clear: in the Christian life, how you live and present the Gospel says as much about the Gospel as the words you use. There is a weight given to both your words and your actions, and if you show arrogance, anger, or other contra-Gospel attitudes when you speak of Christ to someone else, you make one of the following two statements: either the Gospel is false, or you are.
And if you want evidence for that statement, I present you the Westboro Baptist Church.
So, now that we’ve set the parameters for what apologetics kind of is, let’s turn in the Scriptures back to Hebrews 11, starting with verse 32 and reading through chapter 12, verse 1:
11:32 And what more can I say? Time is too short for me to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets,
33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,
34 quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight.
35 Women received their dead–they were raised to life again. Some men were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection,
36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment.
37 They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated.
38 The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and in holes in the ground.
39 All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us.
12:1 Therefore, since we have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,
2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
I want to point out a couple of things from this passage, and then show you a video clip that kind of emphasizes those points. First, people of faith have done, are doing, and will do some extraordinary things. Some amazing things. Some awesome things. Such is the nature of living and walking in the Spirit and power of Christ. Second, people of faith have been hated, abused, despised, hurt, mistreated, tortured and killed, all because they refused to give up their faith in God. Jesus told us to expect it, because the world hates what is Godly.
Which brings me to the video clip. If you haven’t seen The Avengers yet…well, shame on you. This clip is from the end of the movie, after – SPOILER ALERT – the Avengers have saved the earth from the massive alien army led by Loki. Pay special attention to the dialogue.
Did you catch what was going on in that clip? The good guys have won. The bad guys have lost. And yet…people are demanding that the good guys turn themselves in. People want them to be held accountable for the damage caused by their conflict with evil. People are calling for them to be hunted down, registered, and forced to live by a different set of rules.
It’s the price that must be paid to be a hero. Not everyone is going to find your deeds heroic. We spoke last night about how we, as Christians, have a mandate to be heroes to the world around us through the power of the Spirit of Christ within us. We are called to take a message of salvation to a world under attack; we are called to face off against the enemy of our souls in the Name of our Savior. That means we have to take a stand on things; we have to draw a line in the sand and say, “Here. No further.”
Marriage. Sex. Success. Excess. Money. Love. Charity. Violence. Morality. Truth.
We are called by God to stand for those things even as those things are being challenged, are being changed. It is part of our mandate. And in defending those things, we will become unpopular with some. We will become pariahs to others. There will be people who call for our heads, people who demand that we be held accountable for the chaos caused by evil’s attacks.
And the question you have to ask yourself is: am I willing to pay that price?
I have been an apologist for a long time. Didn’t always know to call myself that, but it’s been my life’s work. Over the past few years, I’ve come realize that taking a stand for what’s right – what’s Gospel – is not popular. And I’m going to tell you an ugly little secret: sometimes, the people it’s most unpopular with are the folks who are supposed to be your friends. Why is that?
Because we have allowed an Americanized version of the Gospel to take over. We’ve allowed the message of Christ to be hijacked by people, both malignant and benign, and used to promote agendas that have nothing to do with His kingdom and everything to do with the kingdom of someone else. There are enemies of the Gospel in- and outside of the church.
So when you stand on the Word of God, when you stand in the Spirit of Christ, be prepared – you will be called to give an defense for what you say. You will be challenged by people to explain what you mean, why you believe it, and why it should matter to them. There will be times when you’re seen as the scapegoat, times when the tables are turned on you and you are made into the villain. So be it. We don’t live for those moments, but by the grace of God, we live through them.
But many more will be the times when you stand on the Word, for the Son, and the life-giving message of the Gospel is received. And to those people, set free by the message of Christ’s life and love and sacrifice and resurrection, you will be a hero. Check that: Jesus will be the hero, and they will see Him and thank Him and praise Him. You’ll be part of that, and rejoice too.