Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected
knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of they God, I will also forget thy children.
In the latter years of the 8th Century B.C., the prophet Hosea was sounding warnings to a growingly decadent Israel. Materially wealthy but spiritually bankrupt, its government had grown corrupt, its legal system favored the rich, and its worship had become infested with idolatry.
Fast forward to the United States of America of the 21st Century A.D. Our country is, though still incredibly wealthy compared to most of the rest of the world, now showing ominous signs that the greatness we once had is fading with incredible swiftness. We are seeing our legal system all too often ignoring the truth for technicalities or favoring the party that can afford to employ the slickest lawyers. We are watching our government increasingly arrogate to itself power in blithe disregard to the Constitution at the expense of those it is supposed to represent.
But it doesn't end there. In our nominally Christian nation, we're seeing most of the major denominations of the church producing members so Scripturally illiterate that they can't even recognize the serious and fundamental errors being promoted by both their lay and clerical leadership. Now to be sure, there are still churches and ministries left that are instilling in their members not only the truth but the spiritual fire necessary for them to get out there to make a stand, but I fear these are becoming the exceptions rather than the rule.
Of course, heresy isn't a new thing to the church, but rather one of Satan's standard old tricks. It was happening back in the Apostle Paul's time almost 2000 years ago: 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him
In other words, people will more readily accept a false doctrine produced by another human being that the truth from the Holy Spirit as revealed in the Bible. Paul furthermore revealed to his young protégé' Timothy that this is a situation that would get worse with time: 2 Timothy 4:2-4 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
I'd be willing to bet that most church-goers haven't heard this, nor the first passage read aloud or preached upon very often during their weekly Sunday services. There's an old cliché" "Ignorance is bliss."
Well, if we believe Hosea, ignorance in regard to biblical truth can be lethal to one's immortal soul. Consider, too, that when a Christian fails to take it upon him or herself to become biblically literate, they can not carry out the "teaching" part of Jesus' Great Commission: [Note - All bracketed sections which follow are added.] Matthew 28:19-20 [Jesus said] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always[s], even unto the end of the world. Amen
You'll notice this mandate is twofold: First we're supposed to go "into all the world, and teach all nations." Next, we're supposed to "baptize them." Now it is true that Christians have different views of baptism. Some say it refers to water baptism and others to the baptism or indwelling of the Holy Spirit . . . or both. Even the process of being indwelt or baptized by the Spirit are considered two different things by some. There are also disagreements over the exact manner in which the baptism is to be performed, by whom, and the age at which it should be done. Nevertheless, I believe it to be important that every Christian baptized since this is part of the Great Commission, yet we should remember that our salvation is by grace, not works (other than believing in the one whom God has sent - John 3:16-18; John 6:28-29, as we will presently see).
Despite these differences, I think we can all agree that without the "teaching" there certainly will be no "baptizing." Nor can there be imparted the knowledge that we are a fallen race in need of salvation and that there is only one way to attain it. How, then, can we get this vitally important message of our faith out?
Let's remember up front that when Jesus walked amongst us, he never forced people to believe in him. As the Son of God, this certainly was within his power. In fact, I'm sure God could just have easily "hardwired" Adam and Eve right from the beginning to prevent them from rebelling. But unless they could genuinely make their own choices to freely follow God's Rules, it would have meant nothing. Any parent who would brainwash his or her own child into blind obedience would be a pretty loathsome character. So, the thing to keep in mind is that all we can do is to present our case whenever the opportunity arises and let the person make up his or her own mind. Below are some suggestions as to how one might proceed.
DEMONSTRATE THE EVIDENCE THAT GOD IS REAL.
I've always been perplexed by the way bright or even brilliant people can accept that a series of random acts occurring over a long enough period of time could create the order we see in the cosmos. Most amazing to me is the premise that "chance" could not only create life from lifelessness, but also complex life which is self-aware (that's us!). To me, that requires a leap of faith that far exceeds the belief that all of this is by the hand of an intelligent and creative mind (that would be God.). Let's just take a very brief look at what's involved to do it.
We'll need energy and matter in our universe to build at least one star and planet (though we already know that there are uncountable numbers of stars and planets circling many of them) on which something as improbable as life and thinking beings can come to be. Our own solar system contains eight planets (remember, Pluto has been demoted to "dwarf planet" status), along with lots of moons, asteroids, and comets. All are pretty unpleasant places as far as human beings are concerned. Yes, there is the possibility that some form of life might be swimming around in an ocean under the ice of Jupiter's moon Europa or Saturn's moon Enceladus. Something might even be living in an aquifer under the desert sands of Mars, but so far these are theories only.
Yet even if we do discover that life does or had once existed off-Earth, this brings forth the next quandary. Wouldn't the same "random events" that some assert produced intelligent life on Earth have done so somewhere else as well? Yet despite the fact that we have looked ever deeper into space with our instruments for decades, we have yet to pick up one hint, one provable sign of intelligent life out there. For all the UFO sightings across the world past and present, I have yet to see anyone trot out some unknown alloy not capable of being manufactured here on Earth or a piece of advanced electronics from some alien spaceship. And if it does happen someday, there's a good chance it might be a deception nevertheless - more likely from the realm of the supernatural rather than extraterrestrial by the prince of deception, Satan himself.
It seems to me that if Richard Nixon couldn't keep a lid on Watergate in the 1970’s, what do you think the chances are of keeping a stupendous story of a genuine alien starship from the press today? No, the truth is that as far as we know in this incredibly huge universe of billions of galaxies each containing hundreds of billions of stars, it looks like we are the only ones who have been given the gift of sentience.
As I've already said, it requires a much bigger leap of faith for me to believe that we came to be by some "accident" rather than to believe that "Someone" was actively involved in the process
Bringing this argument "down to Earth," if you will, ask yourself when you ever saw a brand-new automobile that didn't ultimately come from some car factory. Or life come about just by throwing all its constituent elements into a pot and stirring "until done." It requires an intelligent mind to figure out how to do both, the later infinitely more complex than the former.
If then, we can bring a person to the point of belief with arguments such as these which show that the likelihood is much greater for God to exist rather than not, then the next step is to show them the best place to learn about this God.
DETERMINING A RELIABLE SOURCE
So, out of all the "holy writings" which exist in the world today, how can we determine which, if any, is the best?
Well, first consider the premise that none of them are reliable. That's certainly a possibility. If this is so, then all of them lack divine inspiration and are merely products of human imagination.
For our second possibility, let's suppose that God was involved in revealing the truth in some religious text. Now we must consider, which is correct. Can they all be? Well, since they often make "truth claims" which contradict each other, this is not possible.
For example, only the Bible's New Testament uniquely says Jesus was the Son of God, indeed, was God in the flesh, though there are prophetic sections of the Old Testament which point to this, as we will soon see. Defending the Faith Other texts either do not directly deal with this claim or else they deny it outright. Something certainly can't be "true" and "not true" at the same time.
We are left with a last possibility - that only ONE of them is a true revelation of God.
For me, there is one solid test that suggests that the Bible is in fact that one is in its ability to accurately and unfailingly foretell things to come. Let me give you a few examples First, I'll list the event, its related Old Testament prophecy, and the New Testament confirmation.
Concerning Jesus Christ: The unusual nature of Jesus' birth - Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:30-35 The name of the town in which he was born - Micah 5:2; Luke 2:1-7. His lineage from King David - Isaiah 11:1-2, 10; Revelation 22:16. Details of his death - Psalm 22:16-18; John 19:17-24. His resurrection - Psalm 16:10; Matthew 28:1-10.
Concerning Israel: Displaced from its land (something that happened more than once) - 2 Chronicles 7-19-20'; Luke 21:20-24 [Luke's account most likely described what occurred in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus' Roman legion. Matthew 24:15-22 and Mark 13: 14-20 include the "abomination of desolation" being set up in the "holy place" - most likely in a rebuilt temple - in their accounts. This did not happen in 70 A.D. but is future even to our time.]
Concerning Israel's final restoration: Ezekiel 38:8 and Amos 9:11-15 [in May 1948 against all odds, Israel became a nation again in its ancestral lands. The complete fulfillment of this prophecy (Romans 11:25-32 and Hebrews 8:10) is yet to come.]
I think it is safe to say that for this kind of accuracy to be accomplished by "guesswork" simply defies reason. Furthermore, since the Bible is actually composed of many books written over centuries, how can one explain its remarkable consistency if it is only the product of human efforts? I believe with these facts, we can demonstrate to someone who is outright dismissive or just merely unsure about the Bible's reliability that the evidence far better favors the premise that God, who is beyond human limits of time and space, was directly involved in inspiring the Bible's contents and bringing it to us accurately across the ages.
REVEALING GOD'S PLAN FOR US
Our next step, having established the strong likelihood that the Bible is a reliable source, should be to acquaint someone with what it says about God's desire for humanity and that is that he wants us to be saved and to be in fellowship with him:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but longsuffering toward us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
How, then, is this salvation accomplished?
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Note from above that this is the ONLY WAY to be saved, as the following two passages confirm:
John 14:5-6 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whiter thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me.
Acts 4:12 [Peter said to the rulers and elders of Israel] Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. What about works? Can a person "earn" his or her way into haven? Actually, there's only one "work" God recognizes:
John 6:28 Then said they [the people] unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.
Paul confirms that salvation is a matter of God's grace alone: Ephesians 2-8-9 For by grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man boast.
THE CHOICE IS UP TO EACH OF US!
Look at Revelation 20:11 - 21:3. Here we have a vivid and compelling description of the two paths that one can choose. Clearly, it is entirely up to each of us to decide for ourselves upon which one we will walk and the destination at which we will ultimately arrive - either at the New Jerusalem or in the Lake of Fire.
It's just that simple!
A FINAL WORD . . . .
No single commentary can possibly cover the entirety of the manner in which one can defend the faith. There is only one collection of writings which does so, and that's the library of the sixty-six books which comprise the Bible. In my opinion, there is no other more important thing for a person who has accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior to be doing than studying God's Word daily and getting that message out to the world. I can promise you it will not be easy, but as you go forth, remember that the Holy Spirit will be with you (Luke 12:11-12; John 14:26). The witness you bear may very well make all the difference as to where another soul will spend all of eternity.