When we defend our faith, we have to be ready. We must study the Word.
Jonathan P. Bilitz
“You always go back to the Bible. I like that,” Dylan said as he plopped himself on a chair in my office for the third time that week. He wandered into our building a few months earlier, and we formed a friendship. Through our visits, one thing had become glaringly obvious: Dylan hungered to hear about Jesus’ love for him.
Dylan expressed a frustration with his church. He felt organized religion let him down. He had been raised in a religious system where rules needed to be followed and threats for disobedience were real. He felt stifled by the rules and concluded that he was a complete failure. He needed help. He needed hope. He needed truth. The purpose and meaning of life became his quest. He needed Jesus.
I panicked a bit about what to say. Do I defend the merit of belonging to a church and ease his discomfort with organized religion, or do I explain to him the errors of his previous church body? I decided to do neither but to read through Ephesians 2:1-10 with Dylan. He posed many questions. He listened. We read over some of the verses again. He wanted to hear again especially verses 8,9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Those words led Dylan to an eye-opening conclusion. “So,” he said to me, “living a good life doesn’t save me?”
Dylan and I have conversed many times in the year or so since that meeting. We read the Bible together. I pray for him. He asks questions and tells me what he thinks a verse from the Bible means. He even came to church a few times. He still is not sure that he is ready to commit to join another church, but he enjoys hearing again and again the good news about Jesus. He visits me to confess his sins, because he yearns to be told he is forgiven in the blood of Jesus. He often remarks how free he feels because he is required to do nothing to be saved. Jesus has done it all.
The Bible and the Holy Spirit
It may have been our third meeting when he brought his Bible along with him. He had been reading it and had some questions on things he was reading. I thought that was amazing! Why? I’m not sure. We never want to underestimate the power of God’s Word. That Word changes hearts. It changes lives. It never returns to God empty but accomplishes what he desires and achieves the purpose for which he sent it (cf. Isaiah 55:11). God had provided me a front-row seat to watch the Spirit go to work in this young man’s heart. He did that work, not through my words, but through the Bible’s message.
“You always go back to the Bible,” Dylan said as I tried to find a section in Scripture that answered his questions. His words were a revelation to me—a sudden sincere comment I had taken for granted. I had shared the gospel with him, and it was not just human opinion. The message had divine origin.
That’s the Bible—the God-breathed words that give life and salvation. The Word is the way God reveals himself and his will to us in this world. The Bible delivers vital information that is found nowhere else. What God highlights in his Word is Jesus. He enlightens us to see Jesus as the way to be saved. The apostles said it this way: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 Evangelical Lutheran Heritage [EHV]). Yes, what the Bible contains is grace, the promise of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus and his cross even when—especially when—we fail.
Dylan’s hunger for the life-giving gospel brought him into our building. God did the rest through his Word. He filled the emptiness with God’s love. He replaced fear with trust, and despair with hope. That’s the power of the Word. That’s the power of grace. Human words are no replacement for the message of Scripture.
To our world, wisdom is not found in the cross, but in the intellect of human beings. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18). Maybe we fall victim to that trap more often than we care to admit. “If only I could say the right words . . . If only I could come up with the best arguments.” We don’t have to come up with the best defense. God does not require us to craft the finest sounding arguments. The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe (cf. Romans 1:16).
Release the lion
Charles Spurgeon, a 19th-century preacher, compared the Bible to a lion. To defend a lion, you simply need to let it out of its cage. So it is with the Bible. Spurgeon, when asked about defending his faith, offered his advice this way: “Many suggestions are made, and much advice is offered. This weapon is recommended, and then another. Pardon me if I offer a quiet suggestion. Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself. Why, they are gone! He no sooner goes forth in his strength than his assailants flee. The way to meet infidelity is to spread the Bible. The answer to every objection against the Bible is the Bible.”
That quote illustrates an important lesson when we consider defending our faith. We have the perfect defense: God’s own words. The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “For even though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage war in the way the sinful flesh does. Certainly, the weapons of our warfare are not those of the flesh, but weapons made powerful by God for tearing down strongholds. We tear down thoughts such as all arrogance that rises up against the knowledge of God, and we make every thought captive so that it is obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 EHV).
When sharing with others the hope that we have, our greatest weapon is being grounded in the Bible, the source of truth. Study the Word. Continue to be a student of the Bible. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. In your own heart, set apart Jesus as Lord. When it comes to answering questions, find comfort that it is not based on your own ideas but on what our Mighty God has revealed in the Bible.
“You always go back to the Bible.” May God bless us through his Word so that others who listen to the truth about Jesus from us recognize the Bible as the source of all blessings—especially forgiveness for sin and the sure hope of eternal life.
Jon Bilitz is campus pastor at Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel, Madison, Wisconsin.
This is the first article in a 12-part series on sharing your faith.
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Author: Jonathan P. Bilitz
Volume 105, Number 11
Issue: November 2018
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