Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Know Your Stuff

Our pastor is going through the book of Acts right now.  While teaching on the opening paragraphs (Acts 17:1-15), a major point he made was “Know Your Stuff” with the idea that Christians are to “be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for the hope that is in you” (1Pe 3:15).  I agree, but while considering his point, the question came to mind: how much do we need to know?

It’s an important question, because people react to the point in a variety of ways.  Some will recognize that the example being used is the apostle Paul, who had been trained and groomed in Old Testament.  Following that was a face-to-face with Jesus Himself.  How many of us can hope to attain to that level of education?  I have a better-than-fair knowledge of the history and theology of the Mosaic Covenant, but my attempt to replicate Paul’s results would fall short.  On the other end of the spectrum are those who have a great zeal to share the gospel but can and will use detrimental means, focusing on results—winning a soul for Christ—rather than proclaiming the truth of God’s word.

Returning to the question at hand, how much knowledge is enough?  Possibly the best answer is one given by John D. Rockefeller when asked how much money is enough.  He replied, “Just a little bit more.”  That should be our attitude toward to Scripture.  Our appetite is never sated; we constantly take of the bread and fount of life.  Whatever our level of understanding, viz. God’s word and the plan of redemption, the need remains for constant input for spiritual refreshment and renewal, so that we can continue to perform the God-given tasks (Eph 2:10) in working out salvation with fear and trembling (Php 2:12).

Would I advocate that new Christians withhold from sharing the gospel?  Not at all.  He or she should be making Christ known as willingly as any seasoned apologist.  If the new believer is being properly discipled,* there will be growth in Christ with a concomitant growth in wisdom.  Also, understand that much of interaction with unbelievers is listening.  Much can be learned from just asking questions and letting a person talk.  You find commonality, even if that is just that you are both sinners but manifesting it in different ways.  Communicate what you know to be true: Jesus died, was buried, and rose again for your sin.  Conversely, do not communicate what you do not know.  If there are gaps in your knowledge, admit it and seek the answer later, or bring in another person.  If someone more knowledgeable can help, get that person to help.

Lastly, whether the person with you in conversation is defensive or aggressive, remember that you are being asked for the source of your hope.  The source is not you.  You will make mistakes.  There have been many times when I’ve walked away from a conversation thinking, “Oh, I should have said…”  In some ways it signifies thinking that the encounter was mine to win, rather than God’s to work through His Word.  Consider it a lesson learned and move on.  God’s Word is living and active, yours and mine are not: give it clearly, and let it work.  Remember that you are the servant with a message, not the Master.

*  Yes, there are some faithful believers undertaking this essential work to raise up the next generation.

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