As Americans we like to keep our options open. We don’t like to commit. And we especially don’t like to submit to anything or anyone. Unfortunately that mindset creeps into our vision of what following Christ looks like. As a result, sometimes essentials in the Christian life get turned into options. Let me explain.
All Those Commands
There are a lot of commands in Scripture. In fact if you look at the book of James alone, there are over 50 commands! Some commands seem very natural to us because (1) we have studied the Bible and (2) the cultures in our churches have reinforced them with action and attention. Take the important command to care for the poor and at risk in our society:
“Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” – Isaiah 1:16-17
No serious Christian would deny that we ought to care for the poor. That was an easy one to understand.
The Place of Obedience in the Christian Life
To avoid misunderstanding, we do not obey Scripture to earn God’s love or get spiritual brownie points. That distorts the Gospel. It is because of God’s great love for us that we are free to obey. In fact this is one of the ways that we show that we love God. (cf. John 14:15).
Giving Reasons for Faith (A.K.A “Apologetics”)
So what does all this have to do with giving reasons for faith? Check out this command:
“But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” - 1 Peter 3:15
The first thing to observe here is that this is a command that carries the same authority as the Isaiah passage does when it comes to caring for the poor. Why? Because the same Holy Spirit inspired both passages (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). That means there is not wiggle room on this. This is not optional. There is no “that’s just not my spiritual gift” or “let’s leave all that for the smart people” or “we have a small group at church for people like that.”
Christians can think hard and care for the poor. It’s not an either / or it’s a both / and. We are missing out on the blessing of a confident faith when we neglect this command and the opportunity to influence others. At Impact 360 Institute our motto is “Know. Be. Live.” An essential part of our teaching approach is to help Christians know why they believe.
“Apologetics” is a funny sounding word that comes from the Greek language meaning to give a defense or make a legal case. This is the word that shows up in 1 Peter 3:15 that we talked about above. It has nothing to do with saying you are sorry. It has everything to do with grounding your faith in reality.
We will talk about this more in future articles, but for now are you ready to take a next step? First you can listen to our podcast where we go into this topic a little deeper. Then you can order one of the short e-books we have created for under $2. Check out Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? And Does God Exist? Or you can explore why the Bible can be trusted by checking out my new book Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority. Or start by watching this free video about how to build your faith.
Whatever step you decide on, just dive in! There is great joy in obeying the commands of God and who knows the opportunities God may give you when you have prepared to give a defense of the hope you have in Jesus Christ.