August 5, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Sometimes the question, “Why did this stuff work out the way that it did?” can lead to huge scientific discoveries, like Charles Goodyear in 1839. Goodyear was working on a process of making rubber. He was putting chemicals together with rubber, and he kept trying to figure out how to make rubber more durable. One day he was fooling around in the laboratory, and he accidentally bumped this rubber concoction that he was working on. It spilled over onto the stove. He turned the stove off, let it cool down a little bit, took this rubber off of the stove, and then he started to examine it, and he noticed the rubber acted differently than anything else that he’d made. He noticed, it’s not the concoction that makes it different; it’s the stove that made it different. So, Charles Goodyear started to figure out why heating the rubber up made it act differently. What he discovered was what we refer to today as vulcanized rubber. Every tire on the road in the world is on the road because of Charles Goodyear’s discovery.
In the 1950s there was a medical doctor by the name of Wilson Greatbatch. Wilson Greatbatch was a heart doctor. He was trying to come up with a device to study the electrical activity that goes on in the heart. He kept working at it, kept trying to figure it out. One day he made a mistake in the laboratory. Instead of putting something together that would record a heartbeat, he put something together that actually sent an electrical current to the heart. You can imagine as a heart doctor how much that’s going to freak people out, until Greatbatch started to measure what was happening and realized every single time this thing tells the heart to beat, it beats. In 1950, Wilson Greatbatch discovered what we know today as the pacemaker.
Did you know in 1907 there was a chemist by the name of Leo Baekeland? Leo was trying to determine how to make shellac, the stuff that you put on materials or walls in the form of a paste and over time it hardens. People in the early 1900s mostly used coal in fireplaces, and they had all kinds of coal residue called coal tar left over after burning a coal fire for a long time. Leo started to play around in the laboratory with this coal tar. He started adding chemicals to it, and it didn’t react the way that he wanted it to. It didn’t get harder after a period of time. When he put these chemicals together, he noticed that it started to get softer. It started to become pliable. It started to be able to withstand an electric current. This guy realized he was onto something. In his humility, Leo Baekeland created a substance that he called “Bakelite”, named after himself. Today, you and I call it plastic. It was a simple discovery in the laboratory that caused him to ask the question, “Why does this stuff work the way that it’s working because it doesn’t seem to be going the way I thought it would?”
Housewives have done this for generations. They’ve figured out a fix to some of the most complex problems by just simply throwing a couple of concoctions together. People have figured out hacks to almost every aspect of life. Here’s the truth. If you give a redneck baling wire and duct tape, they can pretty much fix the world’s greatest problems with just those two simple substances and asking the question, ”Why doesn’t stuff work the way that it’s supposed to work?”
Today we’re going to wrap up a multi-week sermon series called Reaching Deeper. We’re going to try to handle what many people, when they’re sharing their faith for the first time, get really nervous about. It’s not unusual. In fact, it’s highly common for people to not be that regular in sharing their faith because they’re worried somebody’s going to ask them a tough question, and they are not going to have any idea how to respond. So, I want you to hear something from me right out of the gate. I believe every honest question about faith deserves an honest answer. Sometimes the most honest answer that you can give somebody is, “I don’t know the answer to that question. You asked a really good question, and I’m not sure I know the answer. I’m willing to try to figure it out.” I’m convinced every honest question deserves an honest answer.
Here’s what I want you to understand today: If you’re one of those people who really struggles with the idea of, what happens if you’re in the break room at work and somebody asked you a really hard question? -don’t get shut down. Don’t stop the conversation in midstream. Don’t stop the conversation before it even starts out of a fear that somebody’s going to ask you a hard question. Be willing to honestly answer the question as much as you can. It’s ok; it is an honest answer to say, “I don’t know.”
We’re going to look at some of the most often-asked questions or the most common objections when you start sharing your faith. We’re going to give you a few possible answers to those questions. However, right out of the gate I want you to hear a warning. Please don’t do what many Christians seemed to do. When they get asked a really hard question, they get defensive, and their answer sounds to me like they’re just trying to win an argument. I’m telling you that often your attitude in answering the question is much more important than your answer to the question. Hear what people have to say; be willing to listen honestly, and be willing to give an honest answer. In no particular order, here are the four common objections that I hear and you probably hear when you’re sharing your faith with somebody who does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
I. The church is full of hypocrites
The first objection is that the church is full of hypocrites. Don’t get your feelings hurt when somebody says this but keep this in mind. There are two possible ways you could define the word hypocrite. One definition is, you’re wearing a mask. You really don’t believe it, but you’re acting like you really believe what you say you believe. If that’s the case, that’s a whole different answer to a whole different question. The second possible definition for the word hypocrite is, you really do claim you believe it, but you don’t always live the way you claim you believe. If somebody is making that accusation against church people, I think it’s absolutely honest to say, “Guilty as charged.” -because I don’t always do what I know I’m supposed to do. I sometimes I do what I know I’m not supposed to do. I’m not just talking about you or me right now. I’m talking about people in the Bible who would admit, if that’s what you mean by a hypocrite, they’re guilty of that because they didn’t always do what they knew they were supposed to do. In Romans chapter seven, listen to this hypocrite who’s willing to admit it.
For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it. 19 For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me.
Do you see this last phrase? There’s a spiritual struggle that’s going on inside this guy, and he’s saying, “My flesh is still sinful. I’m wrestling with my flesh, but the Holy Spirit also lives inside of me. Now the Holy Spirit and my sins are at war against each other.” I’m just going to honestly admit it. I don’t always do the right thing. If there was such a thing as a super Christian (there’s not, but if there were), it would be this guy, the apostle Paul who wrote these verses. He’s saying, “I know what I’m supposed to do, and I don’t always do it.” If that’s what you mean by a hypocrite, that’s true. I know what I’m not supposed to do and sometimes I do I know I’m not supposed to do. If that’s what you mean by a hypocrite, I’m guilty too. “I am still struggling with sin,” is what this guy is saying.
Often, I want to say to people, “If you really believe the church is full of hypocrites, then you should totally come worship with us because you would fit right in.” Here’s what I do say to them, “Sometimes you’re absolutely right. The church is full of hypocrites. In fact, Calvary Baptist Church’s Lead Pastor is the worst of all hypocrites. If you’re looking for somewhere where people don’t struggle with sin, that’s not us. We’re the kind of church that wants you to feel comfortable admitting what Paul would admit, “I still struggle. There’s still some work that I’ve got to do. I’m messed up, and I’m working on it. I need God’s people around me to work on it with me, to help me work on it.” This is why we say over and over and over again to join a Life Group. Be around people that will help you fight the war within, the struggle with sin and the temptation that you deal with. That’s going to happen in a small group – not in this big group setting. It’s okay to admit it. “Yeah, I don’t always do what I know I’m supposed to do. If that’s what you mean by hypocrite, it’s true. But we’re not the kind of church that’s going to look down our noses at you when you struggle. That’s not who we are.”
II. If God is good, then why…?
This is a really hard question! If God is so good, tell me why ____? Why did this terrible thing happen to me? This is a hard question to answer. In fact, for two thousand years church leaders, historians, and theologians have wrestled with this question. Don’t think that you can give a thirty-second answer to a two thousand year problem. If somebody makes this statement, they’re hurting. Now, your job and my job, is to figure out, “What hurt you to badly?” I want you to say, “If this is a hurdle that’s keeping you from following Jesus, I want to listen honestly. I want to hear what’s hurt you.” Maybe what they mean by this statement is, “If God is so good, tell me why he just took my sister or my aunt who did nothing wrong? They were just driving along and some distracted driver crossed the yellow line hitting them head-on and killed them. How can you tell me God is good if he let that happen?” Some people are going to say, “Look, I’m doing everything I can to try to follow Jesus, and all of a sudden I go to the doctor and I get a diagnosis of cancer. How can you possibly claim that God is good, if he lets that stuff happen to me?” Or maybe it’s going to be like this: “Hey, I tried to do right to be a good wife or a good husband, and then one day out of the blue my spouse came home and threw divorce papers on the kitchen table. If God is so good, why would he let something like that happen to me?” Here’s what I’m trying to tell us. When you hear this statement, listen to their heart because this person is saying, “I’m hurting, and I need to know, does God notice or does God care? I need to know if you care?”
Jesus’s disciples were hurting. They thought it was going to be easy. They thought it was going to be awesome to follow Jesus, and it wasn’t. It was really hard, and his disciples get into a conversation with Jesus about how much this hurt.
Those who heard this asked, “Then who can be saved?”27 He replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”28 Then Peter said, “Look, we have left what we had and followed you.” 29 So he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left a house, wife or brothers or sisters, parents or children because of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more at this time, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Jesus is saying, “I know it’s hard. I know it always hasn’t been easy.” I don’t want you to believe that it’s always going to be awesome because frankly, sometimes it’s going to get harder not easier after you come to follow Jesus. But what he’s saying in verse thirty is, “I know you’ve given up a lot, but you have always gained more then you’ve given up.” I think if Jesus were in that private conversation in the break room at work when somebody said, “If God is so good, then why did he let this happen? This is a really hard really complex problem.” I think Jesus would look at him eyeball to eyeball and say, “I know this hurts, but you get much more than you give up when you come follow me.” Let’s also remember there is coming a day where there will be no more tears, no more suffering, no more pain, and no more sickness. That’s what’s waiting for those who are following Jesus.
III. What about those people?
This question is just as hard of a question as the last one. What about those people over there who have never heard about Jesus? Now I’m talking about the people that never heard the name Jesus before. The Bible has something to say about this, but we as a church are taking this and trying to be very sincere about it. So, what about those people on the other side of the world who have never heard about Jesus? What about those people that nobody has ever sat down and explain to them who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them?
For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.
This is a really hard question that I don’t think can be answered in a thirty-second answer with somebody. What the Bible is saying is that when God made the mountains, trees, animals, and birds, he made it in such a way that you couldn’t look at this creation and believe this just happened by chance, that it was a random accident that created the world to look like this. In fact, he created it in such a way that all people over all times should look out over a mountain view and say, “That can’t be an accident. Somebody knew what they were doing when they created this.” For most of human history until just about one hundred seventy-five years ago, almost all people on the planet could look at the nature around them and say there’s no way this is an accident. It’s not until scientific naturalism (really it wasn’t until Charles Darwin) that people really started to hold on to the idea that perhaps everything that we see around us is chance.
Here’s what nature cannot do. Nature says that there is a Creator out there this wasn’t a mistake. However, nature cannot tell people that this is not just a creator it is a God who is intimately involved in our lives, who loves us so much that he would not leave his creation by themselves. He would actually enter into his creation and would become a man. He would suffer the penalty for people who rebelled against him. He would die on a cross take the place in the death that they deserve and three days later he would be raised again. The man who was once dead is now alive and at the right hand of God the Father forever. Nature can’t tell people that. They have to hear that from you and me who have been transformed by Jesus. This is why we’re a sending church. This is why today at the end of our church service we’re going to send people out. This is why we give a huge portion of our budget to support ten thousand missionaries in North America and around the world. This is why we have a team serving in Honduras right now because people have to hear what Jesus has done for them. We believe everybody on the planet deserves to hear that, and that’s the answer to, “What about those people over there?” That should create urgency in us for somebody who’s never heard the name of Jesus.
IV. The Bible was written by fallible men
Let’s be really careful when you get to this one because I’m a Bible teacher. I love to teach the Bible. I love to teach people what the Bible says. I love to teach people about the Bible. When somebody is asking this question, here’s what I hear they’re saying: “You’re asking me to bet eternity on what the Bible says. Is the Bible reliable enough for me to bet eternity on it?” At that point, I try to let the Bible speak for itself.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Bible doesn’t say everything about everything, but it says everything that you and I need to know about how to become a Christian. Everything that the Bible does say is one hundred percent believable and one hundred percent accurate. As a church, we don’t teach people to worship the Bible. We teach people to worship the God of the Bible. You can learn about God through prayer, meditation, and meeting with other people, but the ultimate definitive way to learn who God is, is to read the book that God wrote. So, we unashamedly teach as a church that we believe the Bible to be without error. It is accurate. You can take it to the bank, or I can use this language today: You can bet your eternity on what you’re reading in the Bible.
Ultimately, I can’t convince you. You’re going to have to make a decision and choose to believe what you believe about the Bible. I will say this. There have been a lot of brilliant men and women who have set out to determine if the Bible is accurate. They’ve tried to undermine the Bible and undermine Christianity. Men like Nabeel Qureshi, a very faithful Muslim who compared the Bible to the Koran and after doing the research, said there’s no comparison between these two. Nabeel Qureshi became a powerful voice for God, a powerful Christian witness. There are men who have systematically tried to undermine the Bible by doing the research and saying, “I will prove to people that the Bible is false.” I’m talking guys like Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis, and Lee Strobel who have been overwhelmingly convinced the evidence is in a landslide on the favor of the truthfulness of the Bible. But, at the end of the day you believe what you believe about the Bible. I can’t make you believe something.
These voices became some of the greatest testimonies to the truthfulness of the Bible to an entire generation or two, but at the end of the day I can’t force you to believe what I believe about the Bible. You’re going to have to choose to believe it. But, do ask people this. I would be willing to have a conversation with you for weeks, for months, or for years about the Bible, if you will talk to me from firsthand experience. Here’s what I’m saying: Don’t tell me what you read on the internet. No, you read the Bible and then come to me with questions. We’ll look at every one of those questions honestly, if you’ll read it for yourself. If you’re not going to read it for yourself, you’re not being honest with this question, and I can’t give you answers to the problems that somebody else has about the Bible. That’s just a blanket statement that I make the people if you’ll read it for yourself.
Today I’m going to ask you to do a six-week challenge. If you heard the Reach Deeper sermons series, the six-week challenge is to put everything that you’ve heard over the last seven weeks together. You have twenty or thirty casual relationships; would you be willing to take two or three of those casual relationships and in the next six weeks start to build a Gospel friendship with them? Start to have a Gospel conversation with them and start to move into deep water with them. Talk about the deep things. Probably you’re going to be asked a question that you don’t know the answer to; it’s okay. It’s honest for you to say, “I don’t really know the answer to that.”
Three things to remember:
1. Listen well
Go back to the sermon a few weeks ago about listening. I am convinced (don’t use this language against me) you and I can sometimes listen people into the Kingdom of God. If we’ll listen from the heart, they’ll tell you what their problem is. They’ll tell you what the hurdle is that they’re having trouble getting over. Then God may give you the opportunity to help them get over that last hurdle, if you’ll listen from the heart.
2. Let your story do the convincing
Everyone in this room who’s been changed by Jesus has a powerful story, so let your story do the convincing. Don’t try to win an argument. Just say, “Can I tell you what Jesus has done for me, and he could do the exact same thing for you too.” That’s letting your story do the talking.
3. Leave them with something to read
Maybe for some people you get a chance to follow up with them time and time again, but others you don’t get a chance to see them very often. If that’s the case, leave them something to read. Today when you walk out the doors there is a stack of books. Would you grab one, three, or five of these? If you’re taking the six-week challenge, grab this Life Book. Inside this book is the beginning of a conversation with somebody who’s not a Christian. The entire Gospel of John is recorded in this Life Book. They can go home and at their free time read the Bible because you just put it in their hands. In the back of this book, there is a description about how to become a Christian and an invitation to surrender their soul to Jesus. I’m really proud because in the back of the book after that is common answers to questions that people are going to ask when they become a Christian. This book doesn’t have all of the answers. It’s just something that you can put in people’s hands and say, “Would you take this home and read it? Then maybe we can come back and talk about it in a few weeks.” Maybe this book would give them the courage to follow up with you or to ask you one of these hard questions. When that question is asked, maybe this is the final hurdle somebody’s having trouble getting over before they become a Christian.
• Today I realize my need to surrender for new birth. This morning I surrendered my soul to Jesus for the first time.
– I haven’t been active in sharing my faith in the past because I was afraid I wouldn’t know the answer to a hard question. Pray for me to be more active in the future despite the fear of a hard question.
+ I will take the 6-week challenge.
- What is the hardest question you’ve ever been asked when sharing your faith?
- How would you respond to someone who says they love their spouse but never talks about their spouse?
- How can listening help you be a better witness for Jesus?
- If practice can help you get better at sharing your testimony, who can you practice with this week?
- Some Christians describe a faith that is boring and unattainable. Is this what Jesus offered people?
- How can winning an argument about our faith actually make it harder for someone to turn to Jesus?
- Pray for the opportunity to share your testimony at least once each week for the next 6 weeks.