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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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Giving Sound Reasons for Our Faith

James K. Beilby:

Being faithful to Jesus Christ requires a broader picture of the task of giving sound reasons for the faith. Traditionally, the task of offering sound reasons to believe has been accomplished primarily by giving arguments for Christianity and against non-Christian perspectives. While arguments are important, they are only one of the ways apologetics encourage the development of Christian belief. Sometimes these impediments are actually intellectual objections—such as the notion that science has disproved God’s existence or that the existence of other religions makes it impossible to assert the truthfulness of Christianity. Other times, impediments to belief are based on misunderstandings of Christian teachings. Some think, for example, that the Trinity is the same as polytheism and that all Christians homeschool their kids [and] believe that the King James Version is the only inspired version of the Bible . . . These are misunderstandings, and bringing some clarity to these issues can help people take Christianity seriously. Even more important than the task of clearing away impediments to belief, however, is the task of being authentically Christian as you offer arguments, answer objections and clarify issues. The attitude with which you engage questions can itself be a powerful apologetic or powerful deterrent.

Recognizing Common Grace

Human beings are by nature ungrateful. We have all shown “contempt” for God’s kindness. However, it is specifically this kindness that God is using to bring you to repentance. James Montgomery Boice writes:

[How do] millions of men and women respond to the true and even greater benevolence of God? All are recipients of what theologians call “common grace,” the provision of God for all persons; yet they fail to acknowledge it or allow it to accomplish the ends for which God dispenses such benevolence. Romans 2:4 speaks of this: “Do you show contempt for the riches of his [that is, God’s] kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”

If you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, you are in the same position as Joseph’s brothers at this point in the story (see Genesis 43:15-34). You have sinned against your elder brother, the Lord Jesus Christ, by denying his claims and refusing his proper lordship over your life. He has used means to awaken you to your need and bring you to an open confession of sin. But you have gone only so far as God’s tactics have forced you to go; even though he has been most loving and gracious toward you, you have not acknowledged his hand in these benefits.

I want you to awaken to God’s goodness. I want you to see that all you are and all you have are a result of God’s common grace to you.

Let me explain it from God’s perspective. God does not owe you anything. He does not even owe you a chance at salvation. When Adam and Eve first sinned against him in Eden, God could have judged them harshly and have sent them to hell at once; and if he had done that, He would have been absolutely just in his actions. Adam and Eve would have received nothing more than their proper desserts. If, acting in a different fashion, God had instead allowed them to live and produce offspring until there were literally millions of their descendants spread out over the entire earth to occupy it and pollute it by their abundant acts of idolatry, theft, fornication, hatred, greed, and other forms of sin, and then had brushed them all into eternal torment, God would nevertheless still have been just. No one could fault him. The righteous angels in heaven would still be able to cry out, as they do even today, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3).

God owes us nothing. Yet, as we well know, God did not immediately banish Adam and Eve to hell, nor did he later suddenly consign the masses of mankind to torment. On the contrary, though there is a judgment to come, God has continually poured out his blessings on men and women.

You have received such blessings. Donald Grey Barnhouse writes correctly, “You are not a believer in Christ and yet you are still out of hell. That is the grace of God. You are not in hell, but you are on earth in good health and prosperity. That is the common grace of God. The vast majority of those who read these words are living in comfortable homes or apartments. That is common grace. You are not fleeing as refugees along the highways of a country desolated by war. That is common grace. You come home from your job and your child runs to meet you in good health and spirits. That is common grace. You are able to put your hand in your pocket and give the child a quarter or a half dollar for an allowance. It is common grace that you have such abundance. You go into your house and sit down to a good meal. That is common grace. On the day that you read these words there are more than a billion and a half members of the human race who will go to sleep without enough to satisfy their hunger. The fact that you have enough is common grace. You do not deserve it. And if you think that you do deserve anything at all from God beyond the wrath which you have so richly earned, you merely show your ignorance of spiritual principles.” (“Common Grace”)

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