Be Prepared

For years I have been fascinated with outdoor survival. I’m not as crazy as some people but I love the idea of knowing how to survive if the unthinkable happened. If I was stranded somewhere or lost in the woods or placed on a deserted island, could I make it and survive in those crazy conditions? I have enjoyed tons of television shows, books, and internet videos as well as chatting about these things with friends and family over the years. I guess it all boils down to being prepared for things in life to get crazy and knowing that I have the knowledge and skills to take care of myself if I were all by myself.

The reason why these skills seem so novel is that for centuries mankind has lived in groups. Be it a village, town, city, or country people have banded together throughout history to share our burdens for survival and to make life easier. We have learned to share this load so well and have invented technologies that make life so much easier than our ancestors ever had it. The problem is that we have become so dependent on each other and on technology that, if we were forced to do so, most of us could not take care of ourselves if we were stranded and on our own.

This is rather similar to how the progression of the Christian Church has occured over the centuries. In the beginning it was a handful of men who were responsible for taking the Gospel to the world. As it has done so we have become so dependent on pastors, ministers, preachers, evangelists, and the local church as a whole to do what was originally tasked to individuals. If it came right down to it, most Christians are so dependent on their pastors to feed them spiritually that they do not know how to study the Bible for themselves and could not comfortably or easily share the Gospel with someone else let alone defend it against a skeptic.

I’ll never forget how I felt when, as a young teenager, our youth group prepared for a year to take a mission trip. We were going to do neighborhood ministry in a community with high numbers of people who were unreached with the Gospel. To prepare for this we had to memorize scripture, read books, and practice sharing about the Bible as well as how salvation works. Our leaders even had people who were experts in other world views come to test us and see how well we could defend our faith against a skeptic.

This year long process was a lot of work but I am so very thankful we went through that process. Every one of us reported being able to confidently (albeit nervously) share the Gospel with people in this town and God used us to reach a great many people for Christ and see them make decisions to commit their lives to God. God used around 30 teenagers and 10 adults to do a mighty work in this community because we were willing to train ourselves to defend oura faith.

Sadly, I have had so many conversations with people who have been following Christ for decades who confess that if they were asked about their faith by a skeptic they would not be able to answer their questions. They admitted that they expect this to be done by paid professionals (i.e. – their pastor) and have never really considered it their own job to take the Gospel to others and to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. They honestly felt like after they surrendered their life to God and “got saved” that they could just move on in life and leave sharing the Gospel to others.

This not at all what we see in the Bible nor in the records of Church history. Instead, we see an early Christian Church who honestly believed that it was every Christian’s responsibility to understand the Scriptures and share the Gospel in word and deed. Sure, there were dedicated missionaries like the Apostles but the vast majority of Church growth happened because everyday individuals felt the responsibility to share the Gospel and know how to answer the tough questions. This is why in less than 30 years after Jesus ascended to Heaven that we see records of Christianity spreading to the ends of the Roman Empire and how in less than 3 centuries Christianity was the national faith of the Roman Empire.

Did the 12 Apostles do this on their own? No way. God used everyday people to live and love others the way Christ would. They fed the needy, clothed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, took care of widows and orphans, and studied the teachings of the Apostles so that they could accurately teach others. After all, this was life or death for many of them. At any time they could be arrested, put on trial, and executed for their faith. This was not something they took lightly.

Consider what the Apostle Peter wrote to some early Christians:

[15] Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. [16] But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. (1 Peter 3: 15-16 NLT)

Peter is telling these Christians that they need to always be prepared to give an answer to those who ask about their faith in Jesus. This word answer is translated from the greek word apologia and it means to give a defense for a position or action. We use it to make the word ‘apology’; although, in our culture it is more of simply saying “I’m sorry” than actually defending your actions. In the cultural climate Peter was writing in he was telling them to be able to defend their faith against the skeptics.

Sadly, this is not something that the vast majority of Christians I have met are able to do. They could probably give you the basics of how salvation works and why they became Christians. Could they, however, actually defend their faith against skeptics who ask the harder questions? No way. They have delegated this job to the pastors and preachers the same way the average American delegates the job of milking cows or growing vegetables today. I believe this is why we are seeing the Church in America slowly dying away; we do not care enough to even be able to defend our faith much less share it with those who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior.

With this in mind, here is the question I have been pondering for weeks now: If the unthinkable happened today, and you or I were the only ones left to defend the Christian faith and preach the Gospel, could we do it? Are we trained and prepared to stand up for the truths presented in the Bible and bring Jesus to a lost and dying world? If the answer to this is yes then we need to do a better of job of getting out there to do so. If the answer is no then we have a big problem and a lot of work to do.

Why is our responsibility anyway? Why can’t we simply leave it to the pastors, ministers, and evangelists? Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church community in Corinth:

[19] For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. [20] So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” [21] For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:19 – 20 NLT)

Paul is telling these Christians that God has made us his ambassadors and has charged us with the responsibility of representing Him to others. This is a sacred charge and we would do right to take it seriously. This is what I think it all boils down to: we do not believe people go to Hell if they die and don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus. We honestly don’t. How do I know this? Because if we truly believed everyone who died without a saving relationship with Christ went to spend eternity in Hell then sharing and defending the Gospel would be our #1 priority.

This, to me, is what it adds up to. If we believe the words of Jesus then we either don’t believe Him or we don’t care enough about the eternal destiny of other people.  Think of it this way; if I had the cure to cancer and I never shared it you’d call me evil. Why? Because we all know someone who has been impacted by cancer. We have either seen their struggle to defeat it or we have seen them die fighting it. If I had that cure and could have saved their lives or spared them the pain of treatment, yet I do nothing to share that cure, then you’d call me a monster. And you’d be right.

However, we have something much more important than the cure for cancer. We have the cure for eternal death! Do we believe what Jesus said when He said, “[35] The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. [36] And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.” (John 3 35-36 NLT) If we do then we need to do something about it. If we don’t then we need to question why we call ourselves followers of Christ.

Feet to Faith

So where do we go from here? Here are some steps I’d recommend:

 

  • Spend time in prayer daily asking God to give you a heart for those who do not know Christ.
  • Get serious about studying your faith. (I’d recommend a book like Tactics by Greg Koukl or Cold Case Christianity by Jay Warner Wallace.)
  • Spend time not just reading the Bible but actually studying it.
  • Get out of your comfort zone and start sharing your faith daily. (I promise that it is so rewarding that you’ll wonder why you waited so long.)

 

I’ll close with the Big Truth for this entry: Sincere Christians Share Christ. It’s as simple as that. If we are sincere about our faith in Jesus then we cannot help but share the Gospel. If we do not have a heartbeat to reach the lost then we need to examine whether or not we truly have a sincere faith in the first place. It is my prayer that you’ll start today to share your faith with those who need to hear it.    

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