Can You Defend Your Faith?

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I love to learn new vocabulary. Especially words that end in “phobia!”

Kine-morto-phobia – This has been growing very rapidly the last few years.   Any guesses – it’s a fear of zombies, where the person is petrified by the sight of zombies and scared that they might turn into a zombie.

(Hold on – You’ll understand the why I mention this in in a moment!)

Being a Christian is hard dedicated work.  Especially in this period of time that Social scientists have labeled “Post-Modernism.”  Simply put, it means we live in a time of individualism, where our society demands individual needs more than community, and less dependence upon God, if at all.

Times are changing, but the difficulty of being a Christian is not new.  We’ve just gotten spoiled.  We live in a country founded upon Judeo-Christian ethics.  Those ethics, the notion of a Christian morality, that stuff does not fit well in Post-Modernism.  In today’s world, only the individual can decide what is morally right for themselves.  As a society are slowly regressing to a time similar to when Christians were persecuted.  Some say it is already here.

How did it happen?  Unfortunately, we got blindsided and didn’t see it coming. But we were warned!  If there is one theme that is consistent in scripture is that being a Christian is hard.  Jesus said it best when he sent out his disciples:

16 “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. (Matthew 10:16)

It is reported that right now in China, Christians are being sent to reeducation camps.  In North Korea they are put into concentration camps.  In Egypt, Coptic Christians are being slaughtered.  In Syria and Sudan, Christians are targeted for extermination.  In these countries it takes a lot of faith to be a Christian?  But, even in France, a catholic priest had his throat slit in his church near Normandy.  Just yesterday, the North Carolina Pastor imprisoned in Turkey was formally charged on a terrorism related charges called “Christianization.”  The persecution is spreading.

“See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

 

Here in the United States I have not heard stories of Christian killings, but we all know Christian’s are under attack.  I know that many people, perhaps some of you here, who avoid saying Merry Christmas at work.  Some avoid saying “God Bless you” to a stranger.  Christianity is under attack and if you haven’t heard the news, we are losing the battle.

In a world that is becoming less, and less Christ centered, it takes a lot of Faith to declare your love for Christ.  “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

How did this happen?  In our country, we’ve gotten lazy and too comfortable in our Christian faith.  But, Faith is not about being comfortable – it’s about publicly pronouncing Christ as redeemer.

Sometimes wonder if folks come to church to feel safe in numbers rather than recharge their faith.   Even the name Sanctuary has morphed from meaning a “Holy place” to a “safe haven.”    Hasn’t it!

But, what do we do here, in our “sanctuary,” that prepares us for battle out there?  Once we exit the doors are we prepared to be uncomfortable?  Are we battle ready if attacked?

Let me take a moment to make you all a bit uncomfortable.  My personal belief is that church is not a place to be comfortable.  Its where we learn and strengthen our Faith in Christ.  So, let me ask you some questions that are being asked.

How do we know Jesus was really raised from the dead?  There are no other books from that time that discuss it except Christian books.  Even the Jews say it did not happen.  Why should I believe in Christ?

The Egyptians have a mythical god named Horus. He was born on December 25th, to the virgin Isis-Meri. He healed the sick and walked on water. He was crucified, buried for 3 days, and resurrected. Isn’t Jesus a copycat story of an earlier Egyptian myth?

The bible has thousands of errors and contradictions – if it was truly God inspired why would it have so many mistakes?

The oldest known copy of the bible was written in 350AD.  Why should I believe a book written so long after this Jesus guy died?

Why do Christians hate scientist?  Why should I believe any religion that killed Galileo just for proving the earth rotated around the sun?

Everyone knows the earth is billions of years old, but Christians think it all started six thousand years ago.  Why don’t Christians believe in the proven science of Darwin’s theory of evolution?

If God loves all his creations, then why does he only promise heaven to those that hear about Jesus?  I can’t love a God that discriminates.

If God is so all powerful, all knowledgeable, and everywhere at the same time, why does he allow evil to exit?  Why would you worship a God that would let children suffer and let other innocents die?

Uncomfortable yet?  And I was being nice.  These kinds of questions are being asked both maliciously by atheist, and sincerely by confused non-Christians.  Do you have answers for them?  Who here could have knocked away each of those questions.  And those were softballs.  Paul warns us we will be attacked with flaming arrows of evil.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us we are to sanctify Christ and to Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;”

Are you ready?  More importantly, how secure is your own faith?  Do you have these same questions?  Do you wonder about the obvious mistakes in the Bible?  And yes, there are thousands of errors – most are scribal.

Being a Christian is hard – Our faith can waiver if we don’t understand everything that is tugging at our beliefs.  The Apostle Paul understood this problem first hand.  He explains how to manage it in his letter to the Ephesians.  In fact, this letter equips all of us to be God’s people in the world.  If you read Ephesians, and learn to live as it instructs us, your Faith will not waiver.

Yet, even Paul closes out his letter by advising the Christians in Ephesus to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:1—11)

Who here have a set of armor?  How many have a belt of truth or a breastplate of righteousness.  Is your shield of faith strong enough to defend flaming arrows?  When I was a kid one of my playmates had a toy roman helmet with a red plume.  I was so jealous of him.  Paul tells us we all need a helmet of salvation and sword of the spirit.  I used to cut my sword out of cardboard and cover it with aluminum foil.  It looked cool, but not as cool as that helmet.

Paul says we all need armor, so we can defend our faith.  But defend it from what?

Let’s take a moment to look at part of his letter to see how Paul explains our predicament.  Turn to Ephesians 2:1-10 and follow along with me.

2 You were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.

There is a popular show on TV called the Walking Dead.  The premise is that some disease has hit the world and people are turning into zombies.  Once dead the people walk around in packs looking for other people to bite – and then they become zombies.  In the show there are more zombies than there are living people.   This is similar to the world Paul is describing.  But here’s the catch.  Everyone in the world is a Zombies and only Christians are the ones living.   Everyone is in a trance state, wandering the world, following some dark need to satisfy the flesh.

In verse 2 Paul described this dark force as “the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient.”  He is talking about Satan and his evil forces feasting on those who sin.  “Sin” is the disease that made us zombies, and we are all born with the Original Sin.  Therefore, we were all born to hear the dark forces of evil.

Paul continues: 3 All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else.

Those who refuse the gift of Grace from God, continue to live in sin.  They are lured by “passions of our flesh.”  And we were by nature children of wrath.

Let me ask this question.  When our kids are being horrible, perhaps beyond horrible, maybe into drugs or legal problems, do we get mad at them?  You bet we do, and we try to move them away from whatever is corrupting them.  Our wrath is based in their predicament and their decisions – but we still love them. Paul says God is the same.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved

 Even when we were nothing but Walking Dead Zombies, God sent his Son to lift the curse of sin from us – and if we believe in him we are Born Again into the light of Christ.  If we don’t, then we will continue to live under the wrath of God.

We heard this same message in John’s Gospel.  36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. (John 3:36).

Grace is free, Faith is not!  Faith takes Knowledge, Assurance, and Trust!  We develop our Faith and then spend our lives preserving and strengthening our love for Christ.

Our salvation starts with our Faith! Our Faith becomes our shield.  What happens if our Faith waivers or is weak?  The flaming arrows of evil will strike us.  Yet, Paul says that because of Grace we are both saved… 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

God lifts us up to be with the Son through the Holy Spirit.  And what is our reward for our unwavering Faith?  We receive have immeasurable riches of God’s kindness.  How much is immeasurable?  Never ending.   I saw somewhere a Lotto scratcher that pays the winner $1000 dollars a day for life.  I’d rather have immeasurable kindness from God!

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

This is a warning.  We cannot let Pride, a Sin, detract from our Faith.  In 2 Corinthians Paul even talks about his thorn in the side he received to prevent him from boasting.

Finally, in this last verse is very important to understand Paul’s intention.

10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

 Paul wrote, “created in Christ Jesus for good works.”  This is to be our life – our calling – our purpose in life.  What is the meaning of life?  To do Good Works for God!

But be careful.  When read in Greek, the translation here does not mean “Work” as in we have to prove ourselves to get into heaven.  Instead it means, we are to become like a beautiful poem, or a melodic symphony.  Everything we do should have a beauty about it that adds to the beauty of the world.  Later in Chapter 3 of this letter, Paul describes our individual callings that we are to obey so that we all are creators of “Good Work” for God’s plan.  Each of us an instrument in the orchestra that is making celestial music.

In these ten verses, Paul has described for us the world we live in and how we’re supposed to exist in such a dark place.  This age of Post-Modernism is nothing more that the spotlight being shined upon the Walking Dead.  Yet, this is what the world has always been.

Sadly, less people are leaving the dark side to join Christ.   And, there are those that who have spent their entire lives as Christians, but doubt has lowered their shield and let flaming arrows of evil penetrate their faith.  The famous author Flannery O’Conner famously called these people Christ haunted! Their faith has been shaken.

Someone asked them, “Why does God let evil exist?”  And they were not prepared to explain the consequence of Free Will and original sin.

Maybe someone asked them, “why are their different lineages of Christ found in Matthew and in Luke?”  But they didn’t know that one lineage is of Joseph and the other is of Mary.

These lifelong Christians may sanctify Christ in their heart, but they fail to “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you;

I will say it again, being a Christian is hard.  Defending you Faith is not.  That’s not to say it doesn’t take effort.

You must know why you believe what your asking others to believe.

Before you can make disciples of Christ, you have to be a disciple of Christ fully adorned in the Armor of God.

When you leave the door today you are no longer in a “safe space.”  You are entering the world of the Walking Dead where everyone not saved is controlled by the dark forces in the world.  As Paul says, they crave the things of the flesh.  Money, Power, Success, Sex, Greed, Glory.

As Christians, our job is to spread the Good News and make those in darkness understand that God’s Grace extends to them too.  But remember the more successful you are, the more Satan will conspire to first stop you, and then consume you.

Is your faith safe?

Jesus warned his disciples: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves”

And Paul tells us to “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Ask yourselves, Are you ready to defend your faith?