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What is Christian Apologetics?

By Knowing Jesus

Apologetics comes from the Greek word “Apologia” which means defense. It is giving a reason or defense for the Christian faith.

Apologetic is not a military term but rather it is like a defense a defendant makes before a judge. The word “Apologia” is found in 1 Peter 3:15 and translated “reason” – “always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you.” Plato used the word apologia to describe Socrates defense in the Athenian court. Apologetic is not grabbing people and throwing them against the wall, but rather a reasoned argument like a lawyer would do in court, it is a conversation we have with people.

If we look at the makeup of the word apologetics, it is made of two Greek words, Apo and Logos. The word ‘Apo’ means ‘away from’, and the word ‘logos’ means word – that is apologetics is speaking away a word or accusation that comes towards Christianity.

Apologetics therefore is a branch of Christian theology dealing with verbal defense of Christian faith.

1 Peter 3:15 says that we are to “always” be ready to give an answer to “everyone” who asks. If we are always to be ready to give a defense we may as well make it a good defense. For people have good questions and Christians have good answers, in fact they have the truth, and there is no need to be scared to answer anybody. If you don’t know the answer on the spot, just say you will go and find out what it is.

The apologist is to be bold in God but not bold with an attitude. We never want to win the argument but loose the person. That’s why we are to speak in humility with meekness. There are two aspects to apologetics, a negative and a positive aspect.

Biblical Basis for Apologetics
The word apologia (apologetics), is used nine times in the New Testament: (I Cor 9:3; 2 Cor 7:11; I Pet 3:15; Phil 1:7, 16; II Tim 4:16; Acts 25:16; 19:33; 22:1)

From the Bible we can find certain aspects regarding the nature of apologetics:

1. It is giving a reason for our hope

1 Peter 3:15 – always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear

2. It is Defending the Gospel

Philippians 1:7 – I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel,

3. It is Answering Every Question

Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one

4. It is Contending for the Faith

Jude 1:3 – I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints

5. It is Reasoning with Unbelievers

Acts 17:17 – Here we have a living example of apologetics. Paul didn’t just proclaim the gospel but reasoned with the Jew and Philosophers. “Paul reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.”

Aspects of Apologetics
The Negative Aspect to Apologetics: This is tearing down arguments that come against Christianity (2 Corinthians 10:5). When the accusations come we are to be ready to answer them. All action is a result of an idea which comes into our mind; we need to be critical about what ideas we put in our minds. Thoughts always result in actions and we can just look at history to see that. For example Hitler first wrote Mein Kampf and then acted out what was in that book. Proper evaluating new ideas and tearing them down if necessary is the negative aspect of apologetics.

The Positive Aspect to Apologetics: In this sense we are giving positive information to prove the reasonableness of Christianity. For example giving evidences why God exists, why the Bible is reliable and Christ is risen. It was Aristotle who said an “unexamined life is not worth living”, in the same way an unexamined faith isn’t worth believing. We can positively present proofs for the truthfulness of Christianity, and reasons why they can put their trust in Christ.

Role of Apologetics
It’s Pre-evangelistic role:
Apologetics has been described as pre evangelism. Apologetics doesn’t save anyone but it breaks down walls and gives positive reason why Christianity is true. Paul “reasoned” (Acts 17:2-4) on Mars hill “explaining and proving.” It says some were convinced as Paul was persuasive in his reasoning.

Apologetics points people to the way, Jesus Christ, but only the Holy Spirit can convict the heart for the person to react positively to the truthfulness of the gospel. Apologetics can show THAT something is true, but the person still needs to put their faith IN. For example apologetics can give many reasons why an airplane is safe to fly, explaining how it is well maintained and able to fly through the air. But apologetics cannot force the person to step in the plain and put their faith IN it.

Almost half the world is non-theistic. There cannot be the Son of God, Acts of God, and Salvation from God if there is not a God. Therefore to people who don’t believe in God we first need to pre-evangelize them, and prove that God exists.

non theistic

It’s Post evangelistic role:
After salvation apologetics can be used to confirm Christians in the Christian faith. If Christians come more persuaded they will be more persuasive to others. The word of God is built on facts and through apologetics proving the truthfulness of the Bible brings assurance to the Christian that their faith is placed on solid ground.

The Limits of Apologetics
Apologetics cannot save anyone. There is a difference between faith that and faith in.

Faith that is the area of apologetics, it is proving that God exists, using objective arguments and focusing on the mind. Faith that is always the area of pre-evangelism and is done sometimes depending on the intellectual questions people have. The focus of “faith that’ is how people perceive reality, the focus is the mind using general revelation.

“Faith in” is the area of evangelism when we give the gospel. This is something we should do all the time. The will is used when we put faith in something.

Should we regret our sins?

By Taize

When the apostle Peter realized what he had done by denying Christ, he “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75). A few weeks later, on Pentecost day, he reminded the residents of Jerusalem how scandalous it was that Jesus, an innocent man, was executed. “Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘What are we to do, brothers?’” (Acts 2:37). Regret clings to wrongdoing like a shadow we can get rid of only with difficulty.

Regret is ambiguous. It can make us sink into despair or lead to repentance. Disappointed in himself, Peter could have despaired. There is a “worldly kind of sorrow that brings death.” But recalling Christ’s love for him changes Peter’s tears into “God’s sorrow, that ends in repentance and salvation with no regrets” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Regret for him was a transitional stage, a narrow gate that led to life. Sorrow that leads to death, on the other hand, is the vexed regretting of someone who only trusts in his or her own capacities. When these are found to be insufficient, such individuals begin to feel contempt and even hatred for themselves.

It may be impossible to repent without feeling some regret. But the difference between the two is enormous. Repentance is a gift from God, a hidden activity of the Holy Spirit that draws a person to God. I do not need God to regret my mistakes; I can do that by myself. Regret keeps us focused on ourselves. When I repent, however, I turn towards God, forgetting myself and surrendering myself to him. Regret makes no amends for the wrong done, but God, when I come to him in repentance, “dispels my sins like the morning mist” (Isaiah 44:22).

“To sin” means “to miss the mark.” Since God made us so that we may live in communion with him, sin is separation from God. Regret can never liberate us from this distance from God. If it leads us to withdraw more into ourselves, it can even bring us further away from God and thus intensify our sin! As Jesus put it in words that remain somewhat enigmatic, sin is “that they do not believe in me” (John 16:8). The root of sin, the only sin in the deepest sense of the term, is lack of trust, not opening ourselves to the love of Christ.

A woman came to see Jesus one day. She was weeping, and washed his feet with her tears. Whereas others were scandalized, Christ understood and admired her. That woman regretted her errors, but her regret was not bitter; it did not paralyze her. She trusted and forgot herself. And Jesus said, “Her sins, though they were many, have been forgiven: she has shown much love” (Luke 7:47). On the strength of these words, she had nothing to regret. Who could regret having loved greatly? By the grace of God, our sins can lead us to love more. And then regret should turn into gratefulness: “Give thanks for everything at all times” (Ephesians 5:20).

Ever since life appeared there has been the enigma of death. In the animal world death may seem natural, but for human beings it has always been a question. Why do those we love go away for good? We want to have a happy life, without our happiness suddenly coming to an end. For this reason, since the beginning of time the longing for a happy life has given rise to different representations of a “golden age” when “everything was still fine.” The stories that deal with this topic attempt to explain how death appeared in the world.

The Bible draws from these traditions. The Book of Genesis begins by celebrating the original goodness of creation (chapters 1 and 2). Then it brings the troubles of life, especially death and fratricidal violence, into relationship with wrongs committed at the beginning (chapters 3 and 4). But what is striking in the Biblical account is that these original sins are identical to our own sins: the refusal to trust in God, telling half-truths to justify oneself, projecting one’s faults on others, not taking responsibility for one’s acts. Without answering the question of why evil exists, the Book of Genesis turns the responsibility over to each reader. We are Adam or Eve, Cain and Abel.

In the New Testament, original sin becomes a more explicit concept. For the apostle Paul, Adam represents the unity of the human race and Adam’s fault means that, insofar as sin is concerned, there is no difference among human beings: “All are subject to sin, as it is written: Not one of them is upright, not a single one” (Romans 3:9-10). But Paul is only interested in Adam because this enables him to speak of the impact of Christ, which is just as universal, or even more so, than the contagion of sin: “If death came to the multitude through the offense of one man, how much greater is the effect God’s grace has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:15).

Speaking about original sin is thus a way of saying that salvation is universal before being individual. Christ did not come to snatch a few individuals out of an evil world, but to save humanity. All are sinners, their hands empty before God. But God offers the gift of his love to all. “God, in Christ, was reconciling the world to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). What Christ did “brought justification and life to all humanity” (Romans 5:18). No one, by their own abilities, can find a way out of the blind alleys that are the common destiny of all humankind. But through Christ humanity is saved, and each person can then welcome this salvation into his or her life.

Jesus referred to original sin in his own way: “From the human heart evil intentions emerge: sexual immorality, theft, murder…” (Mark 7:21). And yet he did not condemn very much; he was compassionate. When we become aware that every human being experiences the wound of sin, perhaps we too become more merciful. In the steps of Jesus, we are called to bring healing rather than to denounce pitilessly. It is not a question of downplaying the seriousness of evil, but of knowing that there is no sin that Christ did not come to take away by giving his life on the cross.


The path of returning to God

By Rev. James Martin, S.J.

There are as many paths to God as there are individuals.This path gets more crowded every year. People in this group typically begin life in a religious family, but drift away from their faith. After a childhood in which they were encouraged (or forced) to attend religious services, they now find it either tiresome or irrelevant or both. Religion remains distant, though oddly appealing.

Then something reignites their curiosity about God. Maybe they’ve achieved some financial or professional success, and ask, “Is that all there is?” Or, after the death of a parent, they start to wonder about their own mortality. Or their children ask about God, awakening questions that have lain dormant within themselves for years. “Who is God, Mommy?”

Thus begins a tentative journey back to their faith — though it may not be the same faith they knew as children. Perhaps a new tradition speaks more clearly to them. Perhaps they return to their original religion but in a different, and often more committed, way than when they were young.

That’s not surprising. As I mentioned in an earlier post, you would hardly consider yourself an educated adult if you ended your academic training as a child. Yet many believers cease their religious education as children, and expect it to carry them through adulthood. People in this group often find that they need to reeducate themselves to understand their faith in a mature way.

When I was a boy, for instance, I used to think of God as the Great Problem Solver, who would fix all my problems if I just prayed hard enough. Let me get an “A” on my Social Studies test. Let me do well in Math. Better yet, let tomorrow be a snow day.

If God was all good, I reasoned, then God would answer my prayers. What possible reason could God have for not answering them?

As I grew older, the model of God as the Great Problem Solver collapsed — primarily because God didn’t seem interested in solving all of my problems. I prayed and prayed and prayed and all my problems still weren’t solved. Why not? I wondered. Didn’t God care about me? My adolescent narcissism led to some serious doubts, which led me to consider the possibility that God didn’t exist.

My lukewarm agnosticism came to a boil during my college days at the University of Pennsylvania. During freshman and sophomore years at Penn, my friends and I spent many late nights arguing loudly about religion (usually after too many beers or too much pot). Those late-night sessions, though friendly, raised doubts about the God to whom I had prayed when I was young. But at the time they were just random doubts and unconnected questions.

They coalesced when my freshman-year roommate was killed in an automobile accident during our senior year. Brad was one of my closest friends, and his death was almost too much to bear.

At Brad’s funeral, on a humid spring day in a wealthy suburb outside of Washington, D.C., I sat in a tasteful Episcopal church, surrounded by Brad’s shattered family and my grieving friends, and thought about the absurdity of believing in a God who could allow this. By the end of the service I had decided not to believe in a God who would act so cruelly. The Great Problem Solver wasn’t solving problems but creating them.

My newfound atheism was invigorating. Not only did I feel like a person with a first-rate intellect, I was proud to have rejected something that obviously had not worked. Why believe in a God who either couldn’t or wouldn’t prevent suffering? Atheism was not only intellectually respectable but also had some practical benefits: I now had my Sunday mornings free.

So I firmly stepped onto the path of disbelief.

This journey continued for a few months until a conversation with a mutual friend of Brad. Jacque (she pronounced it “Jackie”) came from a small town outside of Chicago, and was what my friends derisively called a “fundamentalist,” though we had scant idea of what that meant. (It meant that her faith informed her life.) Jacque had lived in the same dorm with Brad and me during freshman year. Though wildly different from Brad in outlook and in interests, the two became close.

After an accounting class one day, standing in a snowfall outside of our freshman dorm, I told Jacque how angry I was at God, and how I decided that I would no longer go to church. My comments were flung at her like a challenge. “You’re the believer,” I thought, “explain this.”
“Well,” she said softly, “I’ve been thanking God for Brad’s life.”

I can still remember standing in the cold, and having my breath taken away by her answer. Rather than arguing about suffering, she was telling me that there were other ways to relate to God, ways other than as the Great Problem Solver.

Jacque’s response nudged me on to the path of return. She hadn’t answered my question about suffering. Rather, her words reminded me that the question of suffering (or the “mystery of evil” as theologians say) is not the only question to ask about God. Her reply said that you can still live with the question of suffering and believe in God — much as a child can trust a parent even when he doesn’t fully understand all of the parent’s ways.

It also reminded me that there are other questions that are equally important—such as “Who is God?” Not being able to answer one question does not mean that others are not equally valid. Her answer opened a window onto another vista of faith.

Yet I was still stuck with a big question: If God wasn’t the Great Problem solver, the God of my youth, who was he? Or He? Or She? Or It?

Not until I entered the Jesuits did I begin hearing about a different kind of God — a God who was with you in your suffering, a God who took a personal interest in your life, even if you didn’t feel that all your problems were solved — that things started to make some sense. That’s not to say I ever found an entirely satisfying answer for the mystery of suffering — or for why my friend’s life was ended at 21. But it helped me understand the importance of being in a relationship with God, even during difficult times.

When I was a novice, one of my spiritual directors quoted the Scottish philosopher John MacMurray, who said that the maxim of “illusory religion” is as follows: “Fear not; trust in God and He will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you.” “Real religion,” said MacMurray, has a different maxim: “Fear not; the things you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of.”

James Martin, SJ is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America magazine, and author of ‘The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life‘, from which this series is adapted.

Why are Christian women watching ‘fifty shades darker’?

By Shane Idleman 

The unavoidable truth is that many are becoming desensitized. When the Holy Spirit no longer fills hearts and minds with a passion for purity and holiness, there is a general lack of conviction.

Compromise in this area can be well-illustrated through a story I heard years ago.

Eskimos in the barren North often kill wolves by taking a razor-sharp knife and dipping it in blood. They allow the blood to freeze to the blade. Then they bury the handle of the knife in the snow with the blade exposed. As the wolf begins to lick the blade, his tongue becomes numb and desensitized due to the cold. As he continues, his tongue begins to bleed, and he licks even faster—unaware that he is consuming his own blood and slowly killing himself.

Within time, the Eskimos return and bring the dead animal home. In the same way, the enemy numbs us through compromise. Within time, we, like the wolves, don’t realize that we are dying—dying spiritually. The enemy desensitizes us until we are numb to the things of God.

A famous quote resounds with clarity for us today: “All the water in the world, no matter how hard it tries, can never sink a ship unless it gets inside. All the evil influence of the world, no matter how hard it tries, can never sink a Christian’s soul unless it gets inside.”

The greatest battle we will ever fight is within. Our mind is where the battle is either won or lost: “As [a man] thinks in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7). Galatians 5:17 says that the Spirit gives us desires that are opposite from what our sinful nature desires, and that these two forces are constantly fighting against each other.

As a result, our choices are rarely free from this conflict. Don’t be alarmed. The fact that there is a fight confirms the value of our commitment to Christ and His standard of holiness.

There is a troubling trend toward moral compromise in the evangelical church. I’ve witnessed soft-porn images on Christian websites, questionable movie clips during PowerPoint sermons, and youth pastors talk about their favorite sexually charged TV show or movie with the youth, all under the guise of “relating” to the culture.

Most walk away from Christ not because He fails them, or because the Word of God proves to be untrue, but because of the love of this world (gratifying the flesh). We cannot overlook the seriousness of this issue. Jesus said that the worries and desires of this world, along with the deceitfulness of wealth, come in and choke the Word of God, making it unfruitful (see Mark 4:19).

The passion we once had for the purity of God’s Word can easily be exchanged for the pollutants of the world. For this reason, I take every opportunity to write about making wise entertainment choices. What we put into our mind affects our relationship with God at a very deep level.

1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world [the world’s mindset] or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

What we watch and listen to affects the heart—it’s impossible to separate the two. If we would make it our goal to know Christ more personally, we would preach Christ more powerfully. For example, if a pastor (or Christian leader) fills his mind with the world all week and expects the Spirit of God to speak boldly through him from the pulpit, he will be gravely mistaken. E.M. Bounds said, “The sermon cannot rise in its life-giving forces above the man. Dead men give out dead sermons, and dead sermons kill. Everything depends on the spiritual character of the preacher.”

Carnal Christians give God “His due” (a few hours on Sunday), but they forget His call to “Come out from among them [the world] and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17a). Every day of the week is the world influencing you? What does your mental media diet consist of? Whom do you hang out with? What, and whom, do you listen to? Is your heart set toward the things of God or the world’s influence? A quick peruse of our “likes” and posts on Facebook reveals what we truly value.

Compromise also deceives. James 1:22 reminds us that if we listen to God’s Word without doing it that we are fooling ourselves, we are deceived. The power of God’s Word lies in the application. In addition to non-Christians, it is Christians who are moving sexually explicit and violent movies to the Top 10 by not applying purity to their lives. It is Christians who are addicted to porn and supplying the revenue to fuel the industry.

We cannot love both Christ and this world. Carnality destroys our relationship with Christ and genuine fellowship with other believers. It destroys our prayer lives as well. A carnal Christian does not pray, really pray and seek the heart of God. A deep prayer life exposes facades and crushes hypocrisy. Carnality also destroys spiritual power and hinders the infilling of the Spirit. It also affects our home life. In short, everything that God calls us to be is compromised.

Being selective with what we watch and listen to has nothing to do with legalism; it has everything to do with wisdom. We are to recognize what glorifies Christ and what clearly does not, then choose accordingly. Grace does not relieve us of responsibility. We actually live under a higher standard when grace, not rules, guides our decisions. It’s not about following rules. Let your freedom in Christ and a relationship with Him guide you. We’ve all watched questionable material and have made wrong choices; don’t live with ongoing regret. But don’t justify wrong behavior by thinking God doesn’t care about what you watch or listen to, He does. We serve and love God with our mind. (See Rom. 7:25.)

Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Leona Valley, California, just North of Los Angeles.

Can you lose your salvation?

Prepared by Jack Wellman

If you have ever shared the gospel with someone, maybe they have asked you why they need to be saved. They might ask, “saved from what?” For starters, God says for those who reject the only name by which they can be saved (Acts 4:12), that it is “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5), and in time, “He will render to each one according to his works” (Rom 2:6), but there’s a difference between the judgment of the Christ follower and those who reject Jesus Christ, and it is “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom2:7-8).

Those who trust in Christ are saved from God’s wrath, or saved from God Himself, Who will execute judgment for both the living and the death (Heb 9:27). Daniel the Prophet wrote, “many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Dan 12:2-3). What is precious about the gospel is that we are separated from God by our sins (Isaiah 59:2), but we are reconciled by God (Jesus). We are spared the wrath of God, by God’s wrath being placed on God (Jesus). God demands a payment; but He also provides it (John 3:16).

Jesus Christ is not only the author of our salvation (Acts 4:12), and the Father is the initiator of our salvation (John 6:44), Jesus Christ is the Captain of our salvation. Speaking of Jesus, the author of Hebrews writes that “it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Heb 2:10).

This verse not only says that he is the founder of our salvation, but it is he “by whom all things exist,” something which the Apostle John says of Christ, writing that “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). He is the founder of all matter, naturally including us, but more than that, as the “the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:15), He is not just our Creator Who gave us physical life (Author of life), He is the One Who brings eternal life. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

If Jesus says whoever believes in Him has eternal life, but then loses it, did they really have it in the first place? Can you have something that’s eternal and then it ceases to exist? Jesus would have to cease to exist if His promises ceased to exist, including His statement of security from Him and from the Father, as He said, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29). Who or what could snatch someone out of God’s hands or the mighty hands of Jesus?

Many people who have been brought to repentance (2nd Tim 2:25) and have trusted in Christ, still live with serious doubts about their own salvation. One day they feel certain they are saved, but then the next day or the same day they feel hopelessly lost and condemned to hell. What a miserable life that would be, wouldn’t it? Yet, I know many people who struggle with this, but why? Jude writes that we are to “have mercy on those who doubt” (Jude 1:22), so we should show them patience and understanding.

Perhaps some Scriptures trouble them, like where the author of Hebrews writes that “if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb 10:26-27), so “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace” (Heb 10:29)? So who is this speaking about? The author is writing to a Jewish audience that is likely composed of believers and unbelievers, just like in churches today, and so he tells them, “it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit” (Heb 6:4), “and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Heb 6:5-6). Are those who tasted of the heavenly gift the same as those who received it? Tasting or hearing about “the heavenly gift” is not the same as receiving it.

The author of Hebrews conclusion to this chapter doesn’t sound very condemning at all, as he writes, “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Heb 10:39). Those who only “tasted [of] the heavenly gift” and have left the fellowship, “went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1st John 2:19).

All too often people put too much stock in their own feelings. They place a higher value on their feelings than what God’s Word says, and human feelings are overrated because they are so subjective. And, they can be the most undependable of all human emotions. They might not even realize they’re doing it, but when we allow doubts about the security that is found in Christ alone, we are robbing ourselves of the joy of the Lord, which is a source of strength (Neh 8:10), and that joy should be in every believer, because as far as God is concerned, it was “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2nd Cor 5:21). “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom 8:31), and “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Rom 8:35)? The Apostle Paul answers his own question by writing, “I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord”(Rom 8:38-39).

Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas.

Jesus loves you

By christianitytoday

When I worked at World Vision, a colleague of mine used to say, “We have the Jesus everybody loves.” This is the compassionate Jesus who reconciles and heals, and surprisingly he is someone our culture still knows quite well. “Despite decades of culture-war battles over Christianity in politics, [Jesus] remains remarkably unscathed in the public imagination,” writes USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker in his new book, Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower.

Krattenmaker, whose previous book is The Evangelicals You Don’t Know, writes, “One can sense a respect for Jesus, even a fascination with him, despite the decline of institutionalized Christianity.” As a self-professed secular liberal who doesn’t believe in God or the miraculous, he still believes Jesus is the answer to many of today’s problems, from sex to mass incarceration, violence to meaninglessness.

That’s what makes his book interesting in a moment of Christian decline. What is attractive about Jesus to someone who doesn’t really believe in him? And further, What might convince this new kind of Jesus follower to confess saving faith in Christ?

Something’s Missing
Krattenmaker begins with the pointlessness of modern life without faith. He describes a “quiet crisis” among nonbelievers. While many religious people expect the loss of God to lead to a lack of morals and widespread degeneracy, the non-religious experience, Krattenmaker says, is more banal. “To use a term from the philosopher Charles Taylor,” he writes, “it’s in the ‘flatness’ that we experience as people who perceive and experience no supernatural charge in our world and surroundings. Something subtle, something difficult to pin down, is missing from a life restricted to the material world of me, here, and now.”

This is what atheists are trying to recover, in many cases giving up on disproving God, Krattenmaker says. “The leading representatives of nonbelief are spending…more time pursuing what Americans have traditionally derived from their participating in churches, synagogues, and other religious institutions: community; shared experiences of service, joy, wonder, and compassion; a means to cope with anxiety and loss; a basis for being and doing good.”

For these things, Krattenmaker argues, secular folks ought to take a second look at Jesus’ teachings. Krattenmaker starts with sex: “Sex is broken.” Men objectify women, often leading to their abuse and exploitation. For the porn-addicted, virtual sex leads to self-hate and a further debasement of real-life women. By the end of his chapter, Krattenmaker has made a pretty good argument—though he wouldn’t say so himself—for a return to the older morals. We need Jesus, Krattenmaker says, to help us see each other as human beings.

Without Jesus, our individualistic society has us suffering—physically and emotionally—from the lack of community. We measure our own worth by the title on our business cards and what our salary allows us to buy. “I have come to see that following Jesus can save us from a life of trivial pursuits, from a life lived in vain, from a life that misses the point,” Krattenmaker writes

Repentance and confession, return to God and to his Church,

By Arch. Nektarios Antonopoulos

It is originally from the New Anthology of St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite. We can clearly see that, though there is imminent danger to our souls if we remain unrepentant, Christ always receives back those who desire to return to Him.

“St. Germanos of Constantinople, in one of his works on repentance, writes that a certain Christian who was overcome by the demon of fornication, fell into this sin every day, and every day confessed it again with tears, saying: ‘Lord, have mercy on me and take this temptation from me, because I am overcome by sensual pleasure and there is no person in whose face I am capable of seeing your pure image and of taking joy in your most sweet countenance.’ He went out of the church and again fell into sin. However he did not despair but, repentant, ran straight back to church. And this went on for many years – it must have been more than ten. And God, in his love for man, patiently awaited and sought his repentance.”

“So one day, having sinned yet again, he ran back into church, fell on the ground and, sighing from the depth of his heart, lamented and wailed, compelling God in his mercy and love to take pity on him and help him, so that he could be set free from the mire of his sin. The devil, however, seeing that he was being defeated through his repentance, become insolent and, making himself visible, appeared before the door of the church and, turning away his gaze, cried out:

“‘Damn and blast it! Why do you pursue me so, Jesus, Son of God? Your infinite compassion defeats me. Why do you accept back this impure fornicator who lies to you and spurns you every day? Why don’t you reduce him to a cinder with a thunderbolt instead of showering forbearance and waiting for him to return? You are not just, therefore, but you judge unjustly and overlook man’s sins whenever it suits you. As for me, you cast me down from heaven and didn’t take pity on me at all, just because I showed a little pride. And yet, how is it that just because he howls before you, this liar and fornicator, you have compassion on him and heed him so you can show him mercy? Why are you called just then? For I see that you accept people and in your great love for them you overlook what is just.’ And saying all this with much bitterness, he puffed out flames from his nostrils.”

“At once a voice from the holy altar was heard saying: ‘You evil and destructive dragon, you who are not satisfied with swallowing up the whole world, but rush to seize this man also, who has fallen on my infinite mercy. Can you show me enough of his sins which would be equal to the blood I shed for the salvation of sinners? My sacrifice and death atoned for his sins. When he comes to you with his sins why do you receive him with glee, hoping to gain him, and not turn him away? And I, who am merciful and good, and commanded my apostle Peter to forgive his brother seventy times seven a day, or four hundred and ninety times, that is without measure, why should I not forgive him? Yes, I will forgive him and because he hastens to me I will not turn him away until I have won him; because I was crucified for the sake of sinners and I laid out my hands on the cross in order that whoever desires to be saved might find refuge in me. In my kindness I do not turn anyone away, even if that person comes to me countless times a day and then leaves me again; for I came into the world not to call the righteous but sinners to repentence.'”

“And all the while the devil stood trembling, unable to move from the spot. Then the voice was heard again saying: ‘Listen, you deceiver and enemy of truth, as to what you accuse me of: since I am indeed just, as I find man so shall I judge him. And since this man humbles himself before me in repentance, confessing his sins and pleading for mercy, I will take his soul now and I will give him a crown like that of a saint; for he endured for so many years trusting in my goodness and did not despair of his salvation. As for you, O tormentor, see how much honour his soul will be granted.'”

“And then the brother, prostrate on the floor of the church before the icon of Christ the Saviour and lamenting and wailing, gave up his spirit. And immediately a company of angels appeared and took up his soul with much glory and rejoicing and brought it to a place of rest. Then the wrath of God fell upon Satan like a tongue of flame.”

How MMA fighter receive Jesus’ call

Growing up was no luckier for, Willie Petersen, who is an Mixed Martial Art (MMA) fighter, as he faced pretty severe bullying even after he was diagnosed with clinical depression, and  battled suicidal thoughts at 13.

To him, maybe it was because he was chubbier and had pimples on my face, or too nice and let other kids walk over me, it could reason for the difficult moment of his life.

Luckily, I had a loving home and my parents did everything they could to help me improve my self-esteem. They encouraged me to get involved in athletics. And that’s what started me on the trajectory to professional cage fighting.

I’ve loved the sport of wrestling since the moment I stepped onto the mat. It took my focus off my struggles. I didn’t start off as a great wrestler. In fact, I was terrible. But a coach saw something in me and he never gave up. Eventually I became one of the best and won multiple state and national championships.

After graduation, I moved to the Olympic Training Center to pursue my dream of wrestling in the Olympics. In a match with a world champion, I ended up in a bad position. Rather than give him the point, I let him gut-wrench me against the mat, twisting my arm the wrong way. In a freak accident, my arm snapped like a twig.

I was in terrible pain from my neck down to my hand. My elbow was broken and dislocated. I’d torn the ulnar collateral ligament. There was nerve damage. And my insurance company didn’t want to pay for my surgery.

In the meantime, I took painkillers, and I was hooked immediately. The drugs dulled not only my physical pain, but also the emotional pain and depression that had tormented me since elementary school. I would go through a month’s supply of Oxycontin in a week. Eventually, I had three doctors, in three different states, prescribing me narcotics in rotation; none of them knew about the others.

My wrestling career was in limbo, but the drive to fight remained. When a friend of mine was injured, I took his spot in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fight. Wrestlers often perform well in MMA, and I was no exception. After my first win, I caught the fighting bug.

As my popularity in the MMA community grew, I got sucked into the fighting lifestyle, which can be dangerous. Fans wanted me to sign autographs and take pictures. And everyone wanted to party. As my career skyrocketed, so did my addictions. Before long, I’d added cocaine and alcohol to my already out-of-control narcotics addiction.

After my record reached 9–1, I appeared on Spike’s reality series The Ultimate Fighter. While I didn’t win, it catapulted my career, and before long I landed an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contract. I was the youngest heavyweight at the highest level. I split my time between fighting, training, and doing drugs. To this day, I am missing memories of entire weeks due to drug binges.

My life hit rock bottom when I was kicked off one of the world’s best fight teams for drug use. My childhood dream had turned into a living nightmare. But when everyone else had written me off as beyond redemption, one friend, Jeff, refused to walk away. He called me several times a day, inviting me to a Christian men’s retreat. He promised to train with me in the mornings, as long as I would attend the sessions in the afternoons. I was expecting a bunch of “kumbaya moments” around a campfire, but the men were raw and real about their struggles. They weren’t wimpy men like I thought, but they had a peace I envied.

After a few days at the retreat, I knew I needed what they had, and I prayed:

Repentance leading to salvation

God “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), and Jesus’ purpose on earth was to call “sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). Repentance is necessary to receive the remission of sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38); the alternative being death (Luke 13:3, 5).

Repentance simply means to change one’s mind. The word of God consistently calls for such mental renovation (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23).

Before Repentance
Repentance on the part of man is made possible by goodness on the part of God. In one passage, Paul asked, “Do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

Indeed, in the absence of divine long-suffering there could be no opportunity to repent. With reference to God’s plan to destroy the earth, Peter explained that “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).

On man’s part, repentance is predicated on remorse. It is not possible to repent of sin without regretting it first, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (II Corinthians 7:10).

No sinner can approach God without experiencing sorrow, as it is written, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalms 34:18). James penned, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom” (James 4:8-9). The sorrowful will be “cut to the heart” when informed of their error (Acts 2:37); they will be “ashamed” of themselves and “blush” at their misdeeds (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12).

Yet, not all sorrow is acceptable. Our Lord discriminates between “godly sorrow” and “the sorrow of the world” (II Corinthians 7:10). Worldly sorrow manifests itself in the one who grieves the consequences of sin more than sin itself, like Cain who killed his brother, and despaired not at his own reprehensible behavior, but at what might befall him in recompense (Genesis 4:13-14).

Likewise, worldly sorrow is demonstrated in self-pity, as was the case with Judas Iscariot, who “seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’

And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’ Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3-5). Judas’ sorrow stands in direct contrast to that of Peter. Having denied Christ three times the night of His arrest, “when he thought about it, he wept” (Mark 14:72).

Moved as he was with sorrow, Peter did not become suicidal as Judas did, but pursued the resurrected Christ, first running to the tomb (Luke 24:12), and later swimming a hundred yards to meet Him on the shore of Tiberias (John 21:7-8), at which time he reaffirmed his love for the Master verbally (John 21:15-17).

After Repentance
Repentance, which is a change of mind, is meaningless without a subsequent change of behavior. Paul spoke of the need to “repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20). In like manner, John preached, “Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8).

The context of John’s command was one in which Pharisees and Sadducee had come to him for baptism (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7), the implication being that it was withheld from them for lack of evidence they had repented.

Those truly moved by shame and sorrow to amend their minds will, invariably, have something to show for it. In another place, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn-bushes or figs from thistles?

Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:16-20).

Jesus illustrated “works befitting repentance” when He taught that “the men of Nineveh… repented at the preaching of Jonah” (Matthew 12:41; Luke 11:32). “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, ‘Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water.

But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?’

Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:5-10).

The Ninevites believed, humbly expressed their deep remorse, appealed to God, and quit their evil behavior. That’s what the Almighty recognizes as repentance. Anything less is not “repentance leading to salvation” (II Corinthians 7:10). With repentance comes reward.

Peter taught, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). Not only is the sinner refreshed by it, but it brings about joy even in heaven.

“There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10)!

This article was first produce and published by La Vista Church of Christ.