Sunday, July 25, 2010
A few weeks ago two Jehovah Witnesses rang our door bell on a beautiful Saturday morning. As I walked to the door, my mind rushed with options on how to deal with this unwanted intrusion into my lazy Saturday. I could tell them that I’m not interested and drive them away. I could hide behind the door until they go away, or I could do the right thing and show them love! Well, I decided to take a different tactic and show them “tough love” by confronting them head-on about their mistaken doctrine. I had read in the past about their beliefs and I read my bible daily, so I felt confident enough to challenge them. I opened the door and let them talk for a while. I waited for the right moment to pounce and when they offered me copy of one of their watchtower publications in a self assured, ok, an arrogant, tone of voice I blurted “I believe Jesus is the Son of God and God Himself.” “How do you like them apples?” I thought in my head.
I was sure my “shock and awe” approach would leave them defenseless. I expected them to retreat, lean against the ropes, and take the punches. Or in MMA terms “tap-out”. But, instead of reeling back at my challenge they fought back. Instead of defending their faith, as I expected, they started to challenge my faith, my beliefs and my doctrine. They swiftly counter-attacked by asking me what I believe and why I believe in it. They also wanted me to provide support my responses. I mean they were looking for specifics, answers straight out of the bible, and I was not prepared for that. Even though I had studied the subject, even though I regularly read my bible, even though I am assured of my Christian faith, I was just not ready to address their inquiries in a substantial way.
As I struggled to remember bible passages that confirm the trinity and that Jesus Christ is God, I knew that I had picked a fight I was not mentally prepared to finish. I was out of shape and not prepared for such a test. The information I needed was stored in a dusty, underused compartment in my brain. I thought my previous preparation would just pop up in my head, but it just did not. (Maybe it had something to do with my arrogant attitude as there was no love in my approach.)
Athletes don’t train for a few months and then quit training because they have trained enough. Soldiers do not stop drilling for combat because they have drilled enough. Police and firemen do not stop training and preparing for emergencies because they have done it enough. Teachers and professors do not stop learning because they have learned enough. So why do we, as Christians, have a tendency of limiting our preparation, growth, training, and learning. We seem to believe that a 20 to 40 minute sermon a week, a weekly bible study and a psalm and proverb here and there, is enough to prepare us to go out and live the Christian life.
We study and prepare for years for our careers or jobs. We do extensive continuing studies and seminars for our “professional development”. We do lengthy research and in-depth studies for our hobbies or before we buy a TV, car or appliance. We memorize sport statistics and the specifications of our favorite Muscle car (a blue Mustang GT, but I digress). We can even memorize and quote whole movie scenes. But went it comes to what should be the most single important thing in our lives, and the life to come, our relationship with Jesus Christ, we do the least possible. We are happy with just getting by with a c- or a d+.
The apostles spoke on this subject and encouraged us to always be prepared, to train hard, to always be growing in our faith and to always be ready to provide an answer when it comes to issues of our faith.
1Peter 3:15 but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope in you, with meekness and fear;
Luke commended the Church at Berea for being inquisitive, studying their bible and checking the facts.
Acts 17:10 And the brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. They, when they arrived, went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 And these were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind and searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were so.
The writer of Hebrews reprimanded believers who stayed babies and did not grown in their knowledge of the Lord.
Heb 5:12 For indeed because of the time, you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again what are the first principles of the oracles of God. And you have become in need of milk, and not of solid food.13 For everyone who uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, even those who because of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Just like an athlete that stops training will ultimately get slower and not perform at his best, so will a Christian that does not keep training, preparing and learning, he literally stops growing (maturing) in the knowledge of the Lord. Moreover, a lack of growth opens the door to attacks by false doctrines and false theologies.
Eph 4:10 He [Jesus] who descended is the same also as He who ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.11 And truly He gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,12 for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. 13 And this until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 so that we no longer may be infants, tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine, in the dishonesty of men, in cunning craftiness, to the wiles of deceit.
That Saturday morning I realized I had stopped training as diligently as I used to. Instead of running each (spiritual) mile as fast as possible, I had settled into an easy steady jog, barely breaking a sweat. It made me feel as if I was still in good shape, but when I was tested, reality stepped in and kicked me in the butt.
1Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the present life, and of that which is to come.
How many of us have done that? …start on fire for the Lord, read the bible, go to bible study, regularly fellowship with believers, share the gospel, and get involved in everything for the Kingdom of God, but as time goes by we slow down, we get fat and lazy, and settle for a Sunday morning sermon and the occasional bible study. We should be training every day as hard as we can so that when the trials, tribulations, and tests come we can be prepared to confront them. So that when someone asks you the reason of the hope that is in you, you can provide an answer.
That Saturday, the Jehovah Witnesses had the upper hand, they had been preparing and were ready for that moment. I was not, so I asked them to come by the following Saturday. That week I studied hard. The preparation not only helped me to provide a reason for my hope, but it also helped me solidify my faith and beliefs. It confirmed the proper doctrine as taught by the apostles, and it prepared me to be able to defend my faith.
The following Saturday, to my surprise, they came back. I invited them in and we sat down in our dinner table, opened our respective bibles and proceeded to discuss the differences between their doctrine and our doctrine. An hour later, the Jehovah Witnesses left. I do not know whether the exposition of the Word of God made any change in their view point, but the training and preparation for the discussion left me with a greater appreciation for our Lord and a deeper conviction of my faith.
Our lives in Christ is a growing process that will only end when we physically die. We are first justified through the blood of Christ, then we go into a process of sanctification. A process which takes up our whole earthly lives, i.e., we should never stop growing in our knowledge and love for Christ. And finally when we die we will be glorified in our new bodies. Therefore, while we are here on earth all we can really do is to partake in the sanctification process, moving from babies in Christ to mature defenders of the faith. Always moving forward, always prepared, and always growing in Christ.