Why go to Church to hear someone tell me how to live and believe?

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This is the response that we should and do expect from someone resisting attending Church. “Why do I need to go to Church? I’m a good person.” This is probably the most honest question of all of these questions, because it comes from the heart of an unredeemed man. This is the basic struggle we all have, Christians or not, but it is its most bare when asked by a non-believer. For Christians, the question takes on different forms, like, “I like my own interpretation of God and my own beliefs and my relationship with God.” But it’s the same question. It is the question of rebellion and submission. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Pro 14:12; 16:25 ESV, also Romans 3:9-18)

When Cain and Abel presented their offerings to God in Genesis 4, Abel brought a lamb, freshly killed, to be burned upon the altar. Cain brought the produce of his fields. God accepted Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Many scholars have weighed in on the story, saying that Abel’s sacrifice was offering the life of the lamb in place of himself, a pre-Mosaic understanding that only blood is an acceptable offering for atonement for one’s own sins. These same scholars then turn to Cain’s sacrifice saying that because it was not blood, it was not acceptable. While certainly possible, I think it goes deeper than this.

In every other religion in the world, aside from Christianity, a man was earn his salvation, doing more good than bad, tipping the scales in his favor. Somehow, every man’s heart knows that if there is to be an afterlife, he must account for his actions today. Therefore, every man who does more good than bad, or even those who are saintly in this life have certainly “earned” their way to heaven and earned God’s favor by doing such good. This is the essence of Cain’s sacrifice and all human religions. We have just enough truth in us to know that there is an accounting that must take place. Like Cain, We invest in ourselves, in our work, producing the very best crops, the best life we can, and at the end present the very best of our own efforts to the Lord to gain His favor. Yet God isn’t impressed.

Rather what impresses God is the understanding that we are insufficient to save ourselves. We cannot, in whatever fashion we create, invent or perform anything that will gain His favor. God made the universe. We cannot top that. What God sees is the submitted heart. He sees the sacrifice of Abel, the “I can’t do this on my own” of his offering. God isn’t looking for pride, but brokenness.

In Steven Spielberg’s movie “Ready Player One” this is illustrated beautifully. In the challenge of the movie’s premise, everyone must run a course with the very best car they can afford and win the race. Time after time, defeat after defeat, no one can win the race. It is unwinnable. It is finally discovered by the hero that the only way to win the race is to run backwards. Instead of racing forwards with all the other players and going as fast as you can, you put your car in reverse, and suddenly you are the winner, because it is the way the game Designer built it to win. In the movie, it is the only way to win the race, by not racing.

Like those characters, everybody is trying to win by putting their own best efforts into it. They are piling up their good works and trying to impress God. In truth, the only way to gain His favor is by admitting you have no good works, and you depend on Him for salvation. He has freely provided this in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. The only way to win is to lose.

Again, prayer is an appropriate response. The Spirit of God convicts a man of his pride and sinfulness (John 16:8-11) and we must pray for that, for their defenses to be softened by prayer. He will not care who died for him. All he wants is his freedom to sin. If you have answered the objections above, then you can lovingly confront him with the gospel and God’s Word. An ongoing, loving relationship will bring the rebellious to the foot of the Cross. A caring relationship with you will establish a caring relationship with your church, because a Christian without a Church is like a sailor without a ship.

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Why go to Church when all the Church people I know don’t act any different than I do?

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“Your words have been hard against me, says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”
(Mal 3:13-15)

The basic problem here is Christian hypocrisy, though it includes the world’s definition of what being a Christian is. The world expects Christians to behave in a certain way, always cheerful and happy, saying, “Hallelujah!” every so often, heads bowed in prayer over just about everything. They believe in the caricature of Christianity, rather than the real thing. That said, the world sees us as hypocrites when we say we are Christians, but then have divorces, and cheat on our taxes, or cheat others in business dealings, or use foul language, or a host of other vices we succumb to. Perhaps their judgment is justified then. As Christians, we ought to be more aware of our behavior, especially as it is before God. We need to be reminded of 1 Peter 2:12.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
(1Pe 2:12)

While we may not change the caricature the World believes in, we can change our behavior. We must make it plain that we do not consider ourselves better than anyone else, and we are sinners too, though saved by the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:8) That only comes through a closer walk with God. Then we must build relationships with non-Christians, so that they can see what a Christian is really like.

Growing Up

All it takes is a seed, and under the right conditions, a mighty plant will soon take its place. But growing righteousness is a careful thing. You must have light front the Son, His truth as your daily diet. You must surround yourself in the right environment, not immersed in the temptations that we easily fall prey to, but making every effort to live unstained by the world. As you grow, you will meet challenges to match your faithfulness. Storms will come that will try to blow you over back into the dirt. But the Master Gardener is there to pick you back up again. He is never far, and sees all your trouble. He wants you to grow, and will do all that you allow Him and maybe a bit more. Be firmly rooted in His soil, grow in His light, and feed faithfully upon His truth. God bless you today.

Why go to Church if God isn’t real?

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The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  (Psalm 14:1)

This is the objection of the person convinced by the world that there is no God. Most often, the individual has not seen the evidence, nor has this decision been made as a purely intellectual one. Typically, a person denies God because they don’t want the consequences of belief in God, namely, ethical behavior. They want to do whatever they want without a God looking over their shoulder. Arguing the existence of God will not change his position. They will continue to cite “evidence” of “Scientists” and say that anything religious is just begging to be believed.

Always begin your responses with Prayer, so that God will help you with the words. Remember that an atheist is one who has been personally hurt by the Church or by the choices they believe God has made against them (i.e., He didn’t cure my saintly mother from cancer). So you must deal gently, not with an argument for the head, but listening for the pain in their heart. Atheism is rarely purely intellectual, nor can it be son soley with logic.

You might ask the person if they know absolutely that there is no God. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has set eternity in the hearts of men. Every man knows there is someone beyond his understanding. God put it there. The typical “atheist” is actually a hurt agnostic. He will admit that he doesn’t know “absolutely” that there is no God. He will cite evidence from evolution, or say that evil exists in the world, or something equally dismissive. (These arguments he has developed as walls for his conscience to reassure himself that it’s ok to be an atheist because God can be reasonably doubted.)

If he uses the argument of evil, remember that we would not know what evil is without knowing what is good. The fact that good exists, and that a standard of good and evil exists, points to greater moral sense among all cultures, and introduces what C. S. Lewis calls the Moral Argument for God’s existence. God put this morality into all people, because He is the Moral Lawgiver. (Romans 2:14)

Repeat back to him his own statement positively, “so you think there might be a God? And if there is a God, how would you know it?” He would probably ask for some miracle or evidence of supernatural things. Then you can talk about God’s word – the Bible as a written revelation of God to Man or God’s Son – the personal revelation of God to Man, or just about the miracle of the resurrection, attested to by many ancient witnesses. What you’ve done is cause doubt in his own presumptions, perhaps enough doubt for him to peek over the wall of his arguments and see God for who He is. This may require repeated discussion, and certainly love and patience, but you will have an opening into this man’s life for future conversation and conversion. You may offer to pray with him before you are done talking to him.

P.S. Since this post has generated a bit of attention via comments, I am going to add an additional free resource (well, I got it free anyway) that I have that I want to pass on. This is a PDF of a brochure that addresses many of the common rebuttals listed both above and in comments.

JesusCritic

Unlike Us

Love Without Limits

Two things that I know I lack, which demonstrates to me just how amazing God is. He is slow to anger. I am not. He is rich in love. Mine has limits. We could never invent a God like this one because we could never conceive of Him. And yet this is the One who sent His Son to die for us. “God demonstrates His love for us in this: while we were enemies, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Something to think about today.

A Royal Flush

Some believe that the kings of a playing card deck represent David, Alexander, Caesar, and Charlemagne. What people decide to use those cards for, well, you’ve probably seen poker being played, if you haven’t played it yourself. Basically the game is played on the basis of probability. Once the hand is dealt, each player jockeys to get the best cards in his hand, and then bets each other player that his hand is the best. The player with the best hand wins all the money in the pot.

As we move into this final group of kings, we leave the kings of Israel behind. Israel was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and the ten tribes become the Dispersion, the lost Israelites. It is God’s judgment meted out to a nation that refused to obey Him and worshipped idols. Though they had decent kings, and greatness in King Jereboam II, they bet everything on the wrong god.

The kingdom of Judah to the south now plays the next hand. Up to now, they had done an adequate job of keeping the Temple and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as their object of worship. But nearly every king neglected the “high places”, private places of worship of its citizens. The Kings allowed individuals to worship as they chose, rather than enforce the worship of the One True God. Even though God had specific rules about worship, sacrifice, and sin, yet the people of Judah wanted to do things their own way, and this became the weakness of Judah.

Thankfully, this period of Kings highlights some very good kings, like Hezekiah and Josiah, who sought to serve the Lord with all their hearts. But there are also kings like Manasseh, and Uzziah, who are notorious for their evil.

The Kings of Judah are much like poker players. They bet their armies, treasure, and allegiance on different gods. Only those that bet on God, and give everything to Him come out winners.

There is a lesson here for all of us. All of us are given time, talents, and especially the Holy Spirit as gifts from God. They lay before us to use as we choose. When we use them for ourselves, we risk them on the whims of chance. But when we risk them on God’s purposes, we always win. If we learn anything from the Kings, is that those that bet on God come out winners. And the winnings God promises are truly out of this world.

Independence Day!

Maybe you’re old enough to remember the release of ID4, or, Independence Day in theaters on July 2nd, 1996. I was in a theater that week to see the latest effects-laden offering from Hollywood and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a blockbuster, with aliens, special effects, a plot to destroy the world, and a plucky band of adventurers who thwarted the aliens’ plans. Anyone who was looking for a movie about American independence from Britain in 1776 would have come away sorely displeased.

That’s how it is with sin, when you get right down to it. Sure it looks flashy and fun on the outside, and gives all kind of promises about taking your troubles all away, but in the end, you did not get what you expected. In fact, you will be a lot worse off that you were before.

That’s why when you seek your independence from sinful habits and desires, you don’t turn to other sins to take them away. That just makes it worse. Instead, you turn to the only one who can truly give you independence from sin, the Son of God.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luk 4:18-19)

This is the year of the Lord’s favor! This is the year you can decide to shed your life of sin and give your life to Christ! For we can never be truly free of our own sins until we give our lives over to the One who made us.

Following Christ is simple, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, repent of your sins, confess His Name, be baptized, and live for Christ. It’s a simple process, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take that offer. The choice is yours. Continue walking down the wide road that leads to destruction, or accept Jesus, and live your life in freedom. Now that’s Independence Day!