Good afternoon, I’m Pastor Jon Shishko, guest-hosting for this edition of A Visit to the Pastor’s Study.
In Dale Carnegie’s classic work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, there is an entire chapter entitled “You Can’t Win an Argument.” These pages contain advice for all people everywhere – advice especially appropriate for Christians!
Among other pearls of wisdom, Carnegie records,
A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.
Another pithy poem goes,
Here lies the body of William Jay,
Who died maintaining his right of way-
He was right, dead right, as he sped along,
But he’s just as dead as if he were wrong.
The worldly & wise Benjamin Franklin was known for saying, “If you argue and rankle and contradict, you may achieve a victory sometimes; but it will be an empty victory because you will never get your opponent’s good will.” As many of you are already realizing, just a small amount of time in Christian circles and church contexts expose you to the sort of talk Ben Franklin and Dale Carnegie are warning against.
And yet, Christians aren’t being faithful Christians unless they speak about what they believe and why they believe it. 1 Peter 3:15 combines the advice of Dale Carnegie with the need for us to share the faith. It says, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…” Christians must always be prepared to defend their faith – and to do so with gentleness and respect. And the word translated as “defense” is the word “Apology” from which we get the term “Apologetics” or Apologist or Christian Apologetics. Defending the Christian Faith with gentleness and respect is Christian Apologetics.
And Christian Apologetics is essential to the Christian Faith. Think about it. The Christian faith was not established and does not grow by force. Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, never advocated violence and force as means through which his church would grow. To the contrary, the Apostle Paul emphatically states, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). Christians must not fight with fist, sword, gun, or knife. Instead, we discuss. We converse. We love others, and out of love, we talk to them. Jesus Christ, the light of the world, said it this way, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).
And Jesus Christ modeled doing just this. Think through all the conversations Jesus has in the gospels! The Samaritan woman at the well, Zacchaeus, Blind Bartimaeus, Doubting Tomas, Mary & Martha, the Pharisees, Levi the Tax Collector, even Herod & Pontius Pilate….Jesus is a conversationalist – always ready to defend his own faith – always letting his light shine before others.
Jesus is not now here in the flesh as he was then. But it would be a mistake to think that he is absent. The last words of the Gospel of Matthew are “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Mat 28:20 ESV) And the words preceding that promise are a command from Jesus’ lips to our ears, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you,” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) Go, Jesus says. Go. Go everywhere! Spread out across the world! Teach, make disciples! I’m alive and at work – through you and in you! Go! Be prepared to defend your faith – be gentle, be respectful, go, talk, converse, build the church one loving conversation at a time! Speak the truth in love! Go. Be Christian Apologists!
As we hear again Christ’s Great Commission, it is good for us to stop and think. In our complex age, in our age of information, in our fast-paced post-everything society – how do we defend the Christian Faith? How should we be Christian Apologists? My guest on the show today is Pastor Paul Viggiano of Branch of Hope OPC, Torrance, CA. He has his Master’s Degree in apologetics – but even more importantly – He is a pastor. He takes people from right where they are – and speaks to them about Jesus Christ – and he’s going to help us do the same. Pastor Paul, thanks so much for being on the program.