Because he first served us
Sat Dec 07, 2013
by Kimm Crandall
Resurgence Roundup, 12/6/13
Fri Dec 06, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
God the great and powerful (and warm and wonderful)
Thu Dec 05, 2013
by Marsha Michaelis
The top 5 posts of November
Wed Dec 04, 2013
5 reasons to open your blinds
Tue Dec 03, 2013
by Andrew Lisi
Sin Gets in the Way
When we are presenting the gospel in evangelism, or defending the gospel in apologetics, we have to take care that sin does not get in the way.
We see this in the immediate and easy assumption that this must refer to the sin of the person you are talking to—he must use drugs, or be living with his girlfriend. But the sin that really gets in the way is our own.
We need not spend a lot of time considering cases of sordid and high-level hypocrisy. A life of secret sin is of course going to be a hindrance to effective evangelism. But the sin that really gets in the way is the sin that the apologist believes (for some reason) to be a virtue.
Most Christians do reasonably well in confessing their sins (1 John 1:9). But we all need a lot of work when it comes to confessing our virtues.
This is particularly the case when some of our virtues are on display (as they are of necessity) in an apologetic encounter.
C.S. Lewis has a marvelous poem called “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer,” which begins with this lament:
From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seem to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh . . .
The Irony of Victory Over Sin
One of our era’s most effective apologists knew that he himself was one of the obstacles that could get in the way of an effective presentation of the faith. He confessed his failures (“lame defeats”), but he also knew that gathering up vainglory for his “victories” was simply another kind of defeat. The Apostle Paul also knew that there was danger of defeat in the proclamation of victory. “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27, emphasis mine).
God has determined to use us in the declaration of the good news—which is that on the cross of Jesus Christ, God put to death the idol of self.
That means that our declaration of this truth must not take back with our demeanor what we say with our words. “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5, emphasis mine).
As we do this, we must remember that it is easy enough to get the words right. The Pharisee and the tax collector went down to the Temple to pray, and then the Pharisee said, “Soli Deo gloria.” I thank thee, God . . . and then went on to pray a prayer of disdainful pride.
Don’t Get Spiritually Demented
James Denney once said, “No man can give the impression that he himself is clever and that Christ is mighty to save.” This is quite true (at the level of heart motive), but if this is true across the board, then would it follow that we should cultivate rhetorical ineptitude so that Christ might appear even mightier to save? Should we sin so that grace may abound?
Of course not, but we must also know that whenever we refrain sin, error, or ineptitude, and we do well, one of the first temptations awaiting us on the other side of our successful resistance is pride, sidling up to us with a sly grin. “That was pretty good, friend.” John Bunyan was once complimented on a fine sermon, and he told his friend the compliment was really unnecessary—the devil had told him all about it before he had left the pulpit.
The same temptation arises in apologetic encounters. You whack some shoddy argument, and go away feeling like some kind of like Bibleman but with extra superpowers, not to mention some Latin. Everything about this is spiritually demented.
Don’t Sit There Shining Your Sword—Fight with It
Lewis made this observation about the apologetic virtues that G. K. Chesterton used to display. He wasn’t showing off at all. “The sword glitters not because the swordsman set out to make it glitter but because he is fighting for his life and therefore moving it very quickly.” But when a man comes to reflect on how fine it all was afterwards . . . he should beware.