The places grace empowers us
Thu May 23, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
An Apologetic of Gratitude
Having considered that we should be more concerned with winning the man than with winning the argument, the next question that arises (obviously) is how?
The best way to begin asking how a man may be won is by recognizing in what way he is lost. “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” (Romans 1:21).
There are two things mentioned here that result in futility of thought and in darkened hearts. The first of the two things is the refusal to honor the office of God, despite knowing him at some level. They knew God, but did not honor him as God. The second thing is related to this: they refuse to render thanks to him.
Therefore, one of our central apologetic tasks is to bring such unbelievers into the presence of Christians who glorify God as God, and who are overtly grateful to him. The second flows out of the first.
If God is God over all, then it is possible to give thanks to him for absolutely everything.
“. . .giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).
This is what the unbeliever doesn’t want to do. This is what he is running from. He doesn’t want to do it himself, and he doesn’t want to be around it. And if he is running from it, one of our tasks is to make sure that gratitude is right behind him, right on his heels. Since it cannot be his gratitude yet, it must be ours.
The Scriptures tell us plainly that this kind of behavior sets a stark contrast between us and the world.
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14b–16a
Negatively stated, this is an absence of grumbling and disputing. Positively stated, we are talking about a life of gratitude and contentment. Paul says that if we do this we are holding fast to the word of life, and we are shining as lights in a crooked and twisted generation. That is true evangelism.
That is an apologetic for the light of Christ that shines in the dark places. It is an apologetic of gratitude.
We tend to think that intellectual difficulties create heart difficulties. But in fact, it is the other way around. The rebel commander is the heart; the grad school credits are just foot soldiers in that rebellion. Notice the order and progression as Paul sees it.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” Ephesians 4:17–18
Paul attributes darkness of understanding to a hardness of heart. This is why we should aim for the heart. And the thing we should be shooting at an ungrateful heart is several clips of gratitude bullets.
We all know enough to thank God for our food, but we often get stuck there. I suggest branching out a bit, especially around the unbelievers we are seeking to win. This means figuring out how to express thankfulness for really good sneezes, a Styrofoam cup of truck stop coffee, the way it feels when you pull your socks all the way up, the tricks your smartphone does, the way the clouds can do that, not to mention the way those birds are fooling around in the tree, your wife’s neck, the happy task of mowing the lawn, and steaks on the grill. And by all these things, I am not talking about “happy about,” but rather “thankful to.”
Dante Rossetti once summed it up nicely: 'The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.'
An apologetic of gratitude is one which helps create those moments, and which presses the point when it happens. And a good way to press the point is by chuckling and saying to your friend, “You know what’s cool? A narwhal’s horn, that’s what.”