Christian Living

Addressing the Big “but” in the Room: Part I

But what if they won’t listen? What happens when the person I am trying to witness to does not accept my testimony? What if they disregard the Bible (or even biblical precepts that spring forth from my worldview), what then? What do I do about the “but?”

In the next couple of posts, I would like to address the common objection that scares many Christians into submission when witnessing to the lost. The dreaded “but.” “But that’s from the Bible,” “But, I don’t believe the Bible,” “But, that was written by a bunch of sheepherders long ago,” “But, Man wrote that book, it’s not really from God,” “But, it’s been translated to many times and contains errors and contradictions,” “But, I don’t accept the Bible as authoritative,” “But, that’s begging the question.”

  • Unbelievers will reason with you if you take the time to speak to them, but they find it absolutely appalling when we refer to God’s Word, as the final authority, as the only true foundation for a life well-lived.

Previously, we have looked at the “why Christians witness,” and “How Christians should witness.” In those two posts I was addressing first principles. Primary motivations, if you will.  Since we tend to be a bit conceited as human beings we often fail to see that the real objective in witnessing (the “Why” and the “How”) is in honoring and glorifying our Creator. We were created to imitate our God, and we can only do this if we are willing to walk in the steps of our Lord and Savior. If our witness is going to be truly God-honoring, then it must be fashioned or modeled after Jesus; including his primary representatives of the past, the prophets and apostles.

Now I realize at this point someone may be tempted to be a bit snarky and attempt to offer a rebuttal to what I just said. I am not saying that we need to witness from a Galilean fish boat, or enter a synagogue on the Hebrew Sabbath, or travel to the Areopagus, etc., in order to witness correctly. The issue is foundational, not cultural.

Our under-girding premise as Christian witnesses is to stand firm and fast upon the Word of God on all points. To refuse to recreate the wheel at various junctures because the culture demands it. Realizing that all the while, our stance will be rebuked, belittled, and mocked by those inside and outside the Christian faith.

The Illustration…[1]

Before I delve into some of the deeper issues pertaining to the “but” in the room, please think about the following scenario:

There was a time in the recent past when you came to realize how desperately poor you were. For years, you had been convinced that you had all the freedom and wealth anyone would want. You were the lord of your own domain, and the master of your life. You believed you were rich, even though you were destitute. You believed you were wise, even though you were a fool.[2] You believed that you were free and that no one made decisions for you, even though you were born a slave[3]. Those within your community shared the same thoughts and had a distrusting spirit towards anyone who told you otherwise.

One day you were visited by a person that astonished you. His garb was noticeably different than anyone else you had ever come into contact with in your entire life.[4] It is true you had heard the tales of others that spoke of the type of individual standing before you, but you had never seen such a one before. You could tell there was something markedly different about him.

Not only was the man dressed different, but his manner of speech was unusual.[5] In his hand he held a document of which he continually referred to, promising that contained within was the key to life; a new life, a better life, a life of freedom, a life of insurmountable wealth.[6] They were a herald sent to spread the good-news.[7] The news of a goodly King who was Lord over all, including the place where you dwelt.[8] The promise was given that if any would bow the knee to this king, then all the riches of this kingdom would be granted to them. Never again would they want; no more tears, no more sorrow, no more death.[9]

“Ridiculous!” you thought. “How absurd!” you told yourself. “Who was this supposed king, this lord of the realm! What fool in their right mind would give to another access to a kingdom, granting them rights as a member of the household? Surely,” you thought, “this fool is mistaken.”

Upon leaving this man leaves with you a copy of the document he possessed, a document with the king’s seal. The man told you, “this is your invitation, you have been invited. All that is required of you is to come, present this invitation and swear fealty to the King. Lay down your life in service to Him. Leave your former life and the things you once cherished behind, and follow His rule abide by His Law alone.[10] Adoption was granted to the one who would humble the heart, confess with their mouth that this one was Lord and Savior of all.[11]

Looking back, you can’t really put your finger on why you believed the message, but you did. At first you wanted to rebel, but something changed in your heart and trust came as easy as breathing.[12]  Now that you know the King, you love Him with undying devotion. He has granted you access to the kingdom as a co-heir with Him[13], His Father calls you son having adopted you. Having clothed you in the robes of nobility bearing the standard which marks you as a true born citizen, you look back at what you once clothed yourself with and realize they were nothing more than filthy rags. You are rich beyond measure now, and you are in service to the King. “What an honor!” you think. “What a blessed privilege!” you say. The King has entrusted you in His service and He has charged you with this task: “Go and share this truth with others, so that they too might share in the blessings that you have been grafted into. Take this document, it has my seal upon it, and offer the invitation to all regardless of their station in this life, asking them to do as you have done, for I have enough to share with many others.”[14]

Your heart is booming with adoration and pride, for your King and His Father, and you go into the world as a light in a dark place. What you find, though, is that not everyone is as pleased with your message and the promises you offer as you might have hoped. They do not see the good-news as you see it now. They are offended by your clothing. They are distraught with the message contained in the document with the King’s seal emblazoned on it. They laugh, mock and at times are angered. You are left with fleeting, but nonetheless tempting thoughts, “perhaps there is another way?” “Maybe if I just remove my garments and dress like I once did? What would it hurt if I hid the document behind my back for a while? Perhaps, if I pretended to not be a member of the kingdom, then my audience might be more receptive to the message of hope I want to share?”

Let’s get this straight. In order to convince others of the truth, you must be willing to leave the truth of who you are, what you stand for, what you believe…aside? By acting as if you are not a standard bearer for the one true King, you are somehow still representing Him? How irrational and inconsistent is that? Although, you were saved through the testimony of one who would not lay those things aside[15], who would not hide his loyalty to the King and the King’s message, are you now thinking by playing the hypocrite you can convince the other side of the truth. Is that how you learned the King? No, it is not![16] And it is absolute folly to assume that you can do otherwise.

Not to mention what little thought you are giving of dishonoring your King.[17] The King himself has testified in the document that you hold that if they do not believe the Words that He has spoken, neither will they believe even if a great miracle is presented to them.[18] A true change of heart is granted from above[19], not from below.[20]

At no point are you ever encouraged to build your argument for the truth on any other standard than that which has been given to you.[21] You must honor the King in your heart above all else. For He alone holds the treasures of wisdom and knowledge[22], anything else is knowledge falsely called.[23]

ENDNOTES:

[1] This illustration was inspired in some part by the parable presented in Matthew’s Gospel of the wedding invitation and the garment necessary for access to the feast (Matt 22.1-14).

The reader should note that the Scripture herein pointed to is by no means exhaustive. There is much more the Bible says about all the subjects discussed in this illustrative narrative, but these were given for two reasons: 1) So that the reader might know the origin of the thought that inspired this illustration, 2) So that the reader might investigate further into the subjects touched on (lightly) herein.

[2] The apostle Paul touches on this attitude in the first portion of his 1st letter to the Corinthian church; 1Cor 1.18-31. What the unbelieving world calls wise, rich, strong is actually the opposite of how God views such individuals.

[3] cf. John 8.33-38; Eph 4.17-19.

[4] Isa 61.10; Rev 19.7-8; also see: Gen 3.21.

[5] 1Pet 4.10; Col 4.6; compare with Matt 10.19-20; Mark 13.11; Luke 21.13-15. This last category of verses in the gospels Olivet discourse while mediated to a specific group of people, notice that all three members of the Triune God (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit) are the ones who give His witnesses/His people the mouth to speak, salted with His Word—Amen!

[6] Isa 61.1; Psa 34.18.

[7] Rom 10.15; Isa 52.7; Eph 2.17.

[8] Psa 110.

[9] Psa 116.4-9; Isa 25.8; Rev. 21.4.

[10] 2Pet 1.1-4, 11

[11] Rom 8.15; Eph 1.5; Rom 10.10-13

[12] cf. Deut 30.6; Jer 32.39; Ezek 36.26-27

[13] Rom 8.17; Gal 3.29.

[14] see John 20.21; Acts 1.8; Matt 28.18-20; etc.

[15] see Rom 10.17

[16] Eph 4.20

[17] cf. Deut 6.13; Matt 4.10

[18] cf. Luke 16.31

[19] cf. John 3.1-7; 6.63

[20] compare 1Cor 2.8-14

[21] See Matt 7.24-27; Luke 6.47-49; Isa 26.4. This foundation stone is not limited to eternal salvation, but faithful practice in everyday life. If we are called to Love God with all that we are—including our mind—then ought we not take this to mean loving Him/honoring Him even in the manner by which we witness to the world? What other foundation are you intending when you deviate from biblical truth? Is there any other truth that leads to the knowledge of Christ, but that which is founded in His Word?

[22] Ff. Col 2.3.

[23] See: 1Tim 6.20.

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