Three Little Words
The Bible doesn’t shine on how difficult it is to put your faith in Christ. So many things cause doubt and unbelief. Layer upon layer, those doubts can build a hard shell around our hearts and minds, leading us away from God. But what is there to be gained in turning from him? God is good. If only we could accept those three little words, we’d never be the same. As believers in Christ, the core of our faith is centered in that tenet, established by testimony of a three-word event: Jesus is alive. And a three-word promise: Salvation is here.
The Mechanics of Doubt
In English class, we learned the phrase “you understood” referring to the subject of a command: “(You) Duck!” Doubts about God also come with an unspoken prefix:
“If God is good, why…?”
“If Jesus is alive, how…?”
“If Salvation is here, what…?”
These are the machines of doubt that work night and day on all of us. Christ can pull us out of this abyss if we are willing. Not everyone is willing. Some hold back because of sinful desires, others out of fear. These too go back to what we believe about those three little words. If God is good, we have no reason to reject him unless we reject what is good. If God is good, we have no reason to fear him, even though we are not good by his standard, because love is good and:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
When we came to Christ and asked him to be our Savior and Lord, we had to deal with all these objections ourselves. Objections are not the exception, they are the norm. Even in him, we wrestle with these same questions. They are universal. If not for the Holy Spirit who pulls us back on track, we would all fall away. That’s the sad state of fallen humanity. But this is also the beauty of the gospel. Christ is God reaching out to save us. It’s how he displays just how great his love for us is.
“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” Romans 5:10
So, as people to whom God’s grace has lavishly come in Christ, we must patiently help others work through the same kinds of objections we work through to overcome our unbelief, unwillingness, and fear, so they can realize the goodness of God and receive salvation.
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:10-16
As we consider the objections people raise, no matter how complicated they are, or from what condition of the heart they come, we must remember that after all is said and done, salvation comes down to three little words and all that they mean.
Answers We Need
Objections lead us to the real issues people need help with. There will always be mystery, but the questions we require answers to are not beyond us. The Bible has answers and history has evidence. “It’s in there.” as the Prego spaghetti sauce commercial used to say. What we have to sort out is the difference between symptoms and problems. It helps us navigate past needless arguments and get to treating the heart.
These are some common problems people have coming to faith in Christ:
We can’t see God
We misperceive him
We’re turned off by bad examples from people claiming to serve God
We are confused by bad teaching
We’re afraid of expectations and change
We have intellectual roadblocks we think cannot be resolved
We have philosophical roadblocks due to our perception of morality
To help others get past these obstacles, we must, to some extent, work through them as well. It’s a part of growing a healthy faith based in reality, not just what we desire truth to be. There are a lot of claims made in this world and we’re not perfect either. If we blindly accept whatever we’re sold, we’re sure to end up in a world of hurt. Neither do we want to push out junk, lest we become part of the problem.
In each of these objections there is Biblical, historical, and practical truth to be found that corrects errors and leads people to faith. It is hard work to dig it out sometimes. There is always one more question, one more thought we haven’t heard. Learning how to respond is not about pride or prowess. No one comes away the winner from a spiritual argument except the one who finds hope in Christ. Everything else is dross. It’s always about the soul.
The direction we want to lead is towards faith in Christ. In every category of objection, we must consider how these obstacles were overcome by others who have overcome them.
We can’t see God– but we can see what he’s done in the testimony of our own lives and the lives of others he’s changed.
We misperceive God– because we have so many false ideas about him. We need to learn what scripture says versus what we’ve been taught or always thought.
We’re turned off by bad examples from people claiming to serve God– we need to look at good examples and discern the difference. People are sinful, but God is good. Where do you really see him at work?
We are confused by bad teaching– so we should be cautious about who we listen to and make sure we question what we’re taught until we discover truth that stands up to those three little words.
We are afraid of expectations and change– which is only natural. We may have changes to make and God expects us to live right lives, but ultimately, he made us and loves us they way we were designed. Others may have expectations and desire to change us in ways that God has no part in. It’s important to make a distinction.
We have intellectual roadblocks we think cannot be resolved– only because we haven’t really pushed them hard enough to see. It’s simply a matter of digging.
We have philosophical roadblocks due to our perception of morality– which may be difficult to sort through. If we can somehow start with the premise that God is good and work from there, he can help us work through the hard to grasp problems and reckon with our differences baby steps at a time.
All of this leads to a call for a decision. One day, some stop objecting and decide to commit. God is good. Jesus is alive. Salvation is here.
This post is derived from the book Becoming A Contagious Christian (BACC) by Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg.
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