Apologetics 5 – Conversing in grace

The aim of this devotional study is to consider the how to engage non-Christians in conversation.

Scripture

Colossians 4:5-6

5  Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.

6  Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

Observation and reflection

Context: The environment in Colossi was hostile towards Christianity, especially because the conduct of believers set them apart from the pantheistic, immoral culture of their day.

  1. What do you understand Paul to mean when he instructs these believers to:
    1. “walk in wisdom towards outsiders”
    2. “making the best use of your time”
    3. “let your speech be gracious”
    4. “seasoned with salt”
    5. “know how to answer”
    6. “each person”

2. What does it mean to be gracious in conversation?  How does one do that, especially when talking to someone who does not share your opinion?

Personal reflection and prayer

Especially skeptical unbelievers are keen observers of your daily conduct, looking for integrity (“the distance between your mouth and feet”).  As Edgar Guest put it “I’d rather see a sermon, than hear one, any day”

  1. Consider your conduct of late, or a recent incident. Are there things which you do that disagrees with what you believe? Or (i.e. how you treat people, how you work, how you spend money, etc).
    1. Pray about it, asking the Lord for forgiveness, and grace to fix it. Then fix it.  (Should you ask forgiveness?)
  2. Search your heart about talking to unbelievers. Do you sense fear / hostility / bitterness / frustration?  Bring these thoughts to God and ask that he will fill your heart with love for all people.
  3. Is there an unbeliever with whom you can dialogue about faith? Pray and think about how you can gracefully and creatively engage them about their worldview and your faith in Christ.  What will interest this specific person?  How can you lead him/ her closer to Jesus?
    1. Pray about that, and make notes as you talk through this with the Lord.
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Apologetics 4 – The assumption of God

The aim of this devotional study is to consider some of the fundamental truths in the first verses of Genesis.

Scripture

Genesis 1:1-8

1  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

2  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

3  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4  And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

6  And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  7  And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8  And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day…

Observation and reflection

  1. Reflect on the well-known first verse in the Bible and record what you learn about God, the Bible, and creation phrase-by-phrase:
    1. “In the beginning”
    2. “God created”
    3. “the heavens and the earth”
  2. Consider the repeated phrase “and there was evening and there was morning, the [first/ second / third… ] day” (verses 5, 8, …) In which ways do these verses communicate that these were six consecutive days of creation?

Personal reflection

In your personal reflections also consider Hebrews 11:1 and 3 “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen… By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

  1. Respond to the statement “the first four words of the Bible form the foundation for my faith.”  In which ways does it form the foundation of your faith?
  2. Consider the statement “the opening words of the Bible assumes the existence of God rather than seeking to prove it.”
    1. Can you “prove” the existence of God?
    2. Why is this essential?
    3. How does it correlate with the rest of Biblical Scripture?
  3. Whether God created everything in six literal days or not, what difference does it make
    1. To your view of God?
    2. To your view of the Bible?
    3. To your faith in general?

Prayer

Look at everything you see (and let it remind you of everything you cannot see), and praise God for his power and wisdom in creation.  Affirm what you know to be true about God in Creation, then bring all your questions to Him in prayer, asking Him for revelation and peace.

Apologetics 3 – Ready to answer

The aim of this devotional study is to prepared your mind to give an answer for the hope you have in Christ.

Scripture

1 Peter 3:8-20

8  Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10  For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11  let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13  Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14  But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15  but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16  having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. 18  For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19  in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20  because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water.

Observation and reflection

Context: at the end of his first letter to a persecuted church Peter exhorts the readers in Rome AD 63 to not be fearful or ashamed at their suffering but to suffer find comfort within their loving community and endure in the way in which Christ did during his suffering. We will only focus on verses 15 and 16 in this devotional study.

  1. In your own words explain what you understand Peter appeals of the suffering believers in verses 15 and 16:
    1. “always be prepared”
    2. “make a defense”
    3. “to anyone who asks”
    4. “for a reason”
    5. “for the hope in that is in you”
    6. “do it with gentleness”
    7. “do it with respect”
    8. “having a good conscience”
  2. In around 701 BC Isaiah encouraged the Jews in Jerusalem to not fear the invading Assyrian army but said “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy. Let Him be your fear….” (Isaiah 8:13) – in other words “He is the Mighty One! Don’t fear the Assyrians!”  Peter starts his appeal here by rephrasing these comforting words as “the Lord Christ is the one you are to regard as holy”.
    1. What was the obvious similarities between the besieged Jews in 701 BC and the persecuted believers in Rome AD 63?
    2. Why would this phrase bring them comfort?

Personal reflection and Prayer

  1. Are you anxious or fearful if people ask you questions about your faith?  Why?
    1. Ask the Lord for courage to answer any question truthfully when it comes.
  2. What is the hope you have in Christ? In other words, what do you hope to gain (in this life and the next) by trusting and obeying Jesus Christ?
    1. The readers of 1 Peter were suffering under Roman persecution when they received this letter. During prolonged hard times, what certain hope will give you reason to keep believing and obeying Jesus your Lord?
    2. If someone asks you today “for a reason for the hope that is in you” – what will you tell them? Why do you have this hope (confident expectation)?
    3. Pray Paul’s prayer “that you may know the hope to which you were called, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.”
  3. How does one answer someone with gentleness and respect?
    1. Whom have you answered rudely or with disrespect recently? As for forgiveness for not representing Christ well, then send that person a message to apologize, asking if you can talk about it. (Do it now!)
  4. Consider you conscience with regard to your interaction with non-believers; is there any shame or regret in terms for how you represent Jesus to them? Ask the Lord for forgiveness and for grace to “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him” today (Colossians 1:10).

Apologetics 2 – God does not believe in atheists

The aim of this devotional study is to consider a Biblical answer to atheism.

Scripture

Romans 1:17-20

17 …the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”  18  For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

19  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  20  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Observation and reflection

Lets’ start at the end of the paragraph and work our way back:

  1. Paul concludes “so they are without excuse” (v20)
    1. Who are without excuse?
    2. Why are they without excuse?
  2. Note Paul’s eloquent play with words “[God’s] invisible attributes… are clearly seen”
    1. Where are God’s attributes clearly seen?
    2. What is meant with God’ “eternal power”? And how is it made visible in creation?
    3. What is meant with God’ “divine nature”? And how is it made visible in creation?
  3. How do the ungodly men “suppress the truth” of God?
  4. Why would ungodly men “suppress the truth” of God?

Personal reflection and Prayer

  1. Look at nature now (out a window or google a picture of stars/ trees/ ocean / clouds…).
    1. What can you learn of God’s power in what you see? (don’t rush over this – look and think deeply)
    2. What can you learn of God’s nature/ character in what you see? (don’t rush over this – look deeply)
    3. Imagine an atheist or agnostic were to stand next to you now, what would you preach about your revelation of God as seen in this image of nature? And how would you move towards sharing the gospel? Try it now.
    4. Consider your revelation of God’s power and nature as displayed in this image of nature and praise God for Who He is now.
Isaiah 42:5-6
Isaiah 42:5-6
“5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the the nations…”

Apologetics 1 – The Origin of Death

The aim of this devotional study is to consider the process of creation without “the help” of evolution.

Scripture

Romans 5:6-21

6  For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

12  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned– 13  for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  14  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the One who was to come.

15  But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  16  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  17  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.  18  Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20  Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Observation and reflection

  1. This marvelous Text from Paul’s letter to the Romans contain some difficult thoughts requiring a bit of contemplation about the age of sin without the Law between Adam and Moses. Get the outline of the argument by summarizing Paul’s thoughts in the following sections:
    1. Verses 6-11
    2. Verses 12-14
    3. Verses 15-21
  2. About the origins of sin and grace
    1. How – and through whom – did sin enter the world? (v17)
    2. How did death enter the world? (v12)
    3. Through which act lead were “many made sinners” leading “to the condemnation of all men”? (v18)
    4. How – and through Whom – did grace enter the world? (v17)
    5. Which act lead to “many made righteous” and “to justification and life of all men”? (v18)
    6. In which way does Paul compare Adam and Jesus? (v14) And why? / what does that mean?
  3. According to Paul’s understanding of salvation:
    1. Was Jesus a real person?
    2. Was His crucifixion a real event?
    3. Was Adam a real person?
    4. Was the fall of sin a real event?
    5. In Paul’s thoughts, how does these two events relate to one another?

Personal reflection and prayer

12  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin”

  1. Why did Jesus become man and die on a cross?
  2. Considering verse 12 (quoted above).  If I believe “death [came] through sin” why would that be impossible to accept that “God made use of the evolutionary process to create the world and all in it”? [hint: what does Darwinian evolution require?]
  3. Thank God again for His free gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus His Son, and bring your views of creation and the world in prayer to God. Ask Him to lead you in all truth, and to rid you of all confusion.