Monday, November 8, 2010

Contending for the Faith, Part 2 of 2

Now, what does it mean to contend for the faith? Did Jude want us to debate, argue, or even become violent if necessary to win our point? We’ll exclude the last choice out of hand, since our Lord’s teachings clearly revealed that we are to refrain from violence when it comes to matters of preaching the gospel. Faith should not, and cannot, be coerced. Coerced love or loyalty is entirely backward, false, and hypocritical. As the old saying goes: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”

There are several examples in Scripture where Jesus and His followers debated and contended for the faith; and it is to those that we should look for our answers.

In Luke 4:16-30 we find Jesus in His home town of Nazareth. He was preaching truth to the people, and by their violent reaction to what He said, they did not receive it well. A Christian should be like his Master. Jesus was unafraid of speaking the truth despite the reactions He would receive from those He spoke with.

In Matthew 10:5-14 Jesus commissions His disciples to bring the gospel in a circuit about Israel. We would do well to note that Jesus told His disciples that when a house rejected the gospel but once, they were to shake the dust off of their feet and depart. I do not suggest that when someone resists the message of grace that we immediately throw our hands up and leave; I do, however, believe our Lord is telling us that He is not obligated to continue knocking on a door that will not open to Him. We are commissioned to bring the gospel to all nations and every creature; but we are never implicitly told to present the gospel again and again to the same person who resists the message of grace. Just know that for everyone who won’t hear, there may be someone else God will place before you who will; perhaps that one you cease preaching to will encounter another witness who will water where you have sown.

In Acts we find Paul reasoning with men about Jesus. We also find in several places (Acts 13:46, 51; 18:6; 19:9) when the people blasphemed and perpetually resisted his message, that Paul washed his hands of them and left. There is a time to exercise discernment and wisdom; a time when reasoning with someone could be profitable, and a time when such an endeavor is fruitless and futile. It is human to want to “duke it out” for the Lord; but His ways are not our ways. If God the Holy Spirit does not convict someone of their need of Christ, as Jesus promised He would (John 16:7-13; Acts 24:25), you certainly won’t. In due time and through earnest prayer on our part such a soul might come to see things differently. Again, it may not be you who God uses to affect this transformation, which is entirely internal and spiritual.

Does God ever cease striving? Indeed. We read in Genesis 6:3: “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh.” There is a point in our lives when God will stop endeavoring to garner our attention. This should terrify the unsaved which are set on their course of defiance. What happens when God ceases to strive with a man? “My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels,” Psalm 81:11-12. Those intent on their “heart’s desire” in defiance of God’s will may one day awaken to find that getting what they truly craved was the worst thing that could have happened to them. Elsewhere the psalmist writes, “They soon forgot His works; they did not wait for His counsel…and He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their souls,” Psalm 106:13, 15.

We must contend because we know our Lord contends with men by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, John 16:7-13; Acts 24:25. Yet even God ceases to contend if one rebels enough. Paul writes, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lust of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie (mark that phrase, “the lie”), and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions,” Romans 1:24-26. The lie is the serpent’s; it is deification of the creature over the Creator. Satan enticed Eve with a promise of godhood; he also told Jesus he would surrender all his glory to Christ, if only Jesus would worship him, a created being. It appears then that Paul is telling us that when someone’s conscience is so eroded and warped by their own volition, God gives them up, or gives them over to their desires. They are past feeling, as the Apostle words it, Ephesians 4:17-19.

Note this corresponding passage: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive a love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie (there is that phrase), that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness,” 2nd Thessalonians 2:9-12. Again we have Satan deceiving, men willing to be deceived, and God giving them their choice. This is like the parable of the seeds; those that fell by the wayside were taken away by Satan, Mark 4:4. Yet the earth on the wayside of such roads was already hard and lifeless, incapable and unwilling, as it were, to receive the implanted word capable of saving the soul, James 1:21.

The lie again is self-deification, exalting the creature as God, instead of the true God. This is the essence of Antichrist, and of all those who follow him, whom Jesus called children of the devil, John 8:44. A famous example would be Pharaoh who hardened his own heart by choice before God did likewise, Exodus 3:19; 4:21. Not only will the Lord cease striving, He will harden the heart of the unrepentant sinner who wills to defy Him. In essence, He gives such people what they desire and encourages them in their present delusion. Meditate on this sober truth, and plead with God for the salvation of all you can reach with the gospel.

By all means, always be ready to have an answer for the hope that is in you. Be informed, be constant in Scripture, prayer, and fellowship with like-minded believers; be humble before God so that you may be a serviceable vessel. More so be pleased, find joy in all that God is, and all that He does in your life! It is through our daily walk, our genuine knowledge of and trust in our Lord that we may find clarity in our thinking, peace in our inner man, and confidence despite the deterioration of the outside world.

True soul-winners don’t preach the gospel to “win the fight,” as it were. We should preach the gospel because Christ died to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and He told us to share this good news with the lost. God loves sinners! He wants them to forsake their wayward path and come home to Him! This is truly good news; and those who best understand the gospel, the love and grace of God, will be best used by Him to bring many souls to Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Amen I think for me I get so discouraged when folks want respond. I love how you put. If the spirit is not convicting how will your words. Very encouraging. Keep up the great word.

    William

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