I am so thankful to be writing on this blog with these faithful, godly men. They challenge me, encourage me, and stir me to be a better minister of the gospel.
Yesterday, Zach wrote an excellent post on Evangelism (go back and read it — you won’t regret it, even if you have already read it). Zach’s thrust was offering “five simple ways to become more faithful in the work of evangelism.” Today, I want to give you a sixth: be ready for the excuses.
You will find (or maybe you have already found) that when you do evangelism, many people will have already had some thought about this whole Jesus and gospel thing. And when you head into the truth, their thoughts come out, typically in the form of excuses for why they do not have to believe. I want to prepare you for this, so I want to reprise a post from almost a year ago.
My hope is that when you go evangelize and hear these excuses, you will be able to respond kindly and lovingly with these answers. May they be helpful to you and break down barriers for the gospel to enter many.
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I don’t know about you, but I am an excellent excuse-maker. For example, I am a master at convincing myself why I don’t need to exercise, or why I need another bowl of ice cream, or why I need to watch “this” sporting event, even if I am up late. My personal excuses, in these ways and others, are (to me!) water-tight, air-locked, drop-the-mic conclusive. To be persuaded otherwise, it would take an incredible proof or motivation ……. or just my wife giving me that “look” (and you married guys know what I am saying).
Now, this “master of excuses” I have observed in what many non-believers do when confronted with call to surrender their life to Jesus Christ. When faced with someone sharing the gospel, their need for forgiveness of sin, and their plight of eternal condemnation if they reject Jesus, they simple kick into their pre-fabricated excuses for why they do not “need” to believe. For the non-Christian, there are (in their opinion) too many reasons not to believe and therefore, if they did believe, they see it as foolish.
Today, I want to brush through this excuses with simple responses to each. The reason I will make simple responses is because (1) this is a blog post and shouldn’t go on-and-on; (2) a short, concise answer is helpful to lay the ground work for deeper study; (3) I will mention excellent resources to dig further into the answer I provide; and finally, (4) hard hearts toward Jesus will reject both long and short explanations, whereas a soft, teachable heart will receive short answers because they actually desire to learn and they will dig deeper. So, why spend more time than needed.
The Bible has Errors
Here we have an attack on the inerrancy, veracity, and infallibility of the Bible. This attack/excuse is certainly not a new one because Satan has always sought to undermine the truth of God with his own lies (cf. Gen 3:1-5; 2 Cor 11:4, 14; 1 Tim 4:1; 2 Tim 3:1-9; Rev 2:9).
My response: the testimony of Scripture has stood the test of time. Every kind of attack—science, history, geography, archaeology, etc.—has been brought up against the Bible and the Bible stands all its scrutiny. The reason it has stood these tests is because God is truth, and in Him there is no lie (Titus 1:2). The Bible is the very words of God (2 Tim 3:16; Heb 4:12) and everything He speaks is truth (Rom 3:4). God cannot err (Num 23:19) and therefore His Word, the Bible, cannot err (Prov 30:5).
“I didn’t know that!” was the reason that was spoken to me when I presented a young man the true gospel, and not the watered-down version he had heard growing up. So, the reason a person doesn’t “have to” believe is because no one has taught them correctly.
My response: well, now you know, and God has no room for ignorance (Ps 14:1; Prov 22:3; Hosea 4:6; Acts 17:30-31; Rom 1:19-20; 1 Tim 1:13b). “I didn’t know” will not get you into Heaven. So, what are you going to do with the truth I have given you?
Failures of Christians
Two common phrases: “The church is full of hypocrites,” and “I have seen too many Christian people/leaders fail morally to believe.”
My response: you need to get a grasp on the doctrine of human depravity. Sin (simply
defined as a violation of the Creator-creature relationship, in which man assumes the role of God over his life) affects all humanity (Rom 3:11ff) and makes every person (albeit the grace of God) capable of every kind of sin (Gal 5:19-21). Church people and leaders are not excluded. They are sinners too and can do really bad stuff (read 1 Cor), just like you! So, just because someone sins is not an excuse to not place your faith and trust in Christ.
The charge? “There are so many other religious beliefs in the world. They either are all partially right or they all have the same belief, just a different slant, or none are right, but just people who want to feel better about submitting to an outside-this-world ‘being.’”
My response: the God of the Bible says that He is the one and only God (Isa 45:18; 46:9-11). Jesus claimed to be the one and only way to Heaven (John 14:6). The rest of the Bible points to these two truths (cf. Acts 4:12; 17:24-28). Therefore, this is either true or not. Since it is because God is the God of truth, then all other religions are false belief systems that can only lead people to eternal condemnation.
Furthermore (related to the inerrancy of Scripture), the Bible can and has withstood every minute scrutiny that has been leveled against it. Every other religion cannot withstand even the most minor of inspections. The Quran, the Book of Mormon, the Vedas, Watchtower, and others all have significant historical or geographical or archaeological or contradictions that can easily be pointed out that dismiss their truthfulness. Only the Bible, and the Bible alone, can withstand every truth test.
The Problem of Evil
Critics claim that the existence of evil is proof that God of the Bible cannot exist. “Bad things happen to good people,” often innocent people. Therefore, God is either nonexistent or less good or less powerful than Scripture suggests. Since that is so, I cannot place trust in Christ.
My response: there are other places to go to get fuller responses (like here and here and below), but here is a condensed version: (1) the Bible fully recognizes that some suffer seemingly undeserved (see Job; cf. Heb 1:2-4); (2) God did not create a robot world, but a world with consequences. The consequence of evil is death—personal, relational, physical, and social. Therefore, as chosey-beings, we get what we deserve (Rom 5:12; cf. Prov 10-29); (3) God did not create evil and never promotes it (Gen 6:5-8; 1 Cor 6:9-11; Rev 20:11-15); (4) God has not left us alone in our sin. He has acted to save us from our sin consequences in the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ (Gen 7:1-4; Mark 10:45; Col 1:21-22). To say that God is not good is to ignore simple truth like John 3:16.
“Tried it & Never Felt It”
I have heard this excuse from many of my friends who at one time professed Christ. They tried Christ. They tried the church. But they never felt comfortable, nor rest in their soul. Nothing about Christianity was satisfactory. So they left.
My response: Christianity is about an intimate walk with Christ and His people, in which you have peace with God through repentance and faith. It is not about feelings or self-satisfaction or self-improvement. A person who has “tried” Christianity and left shows that they were “into” Jesus for themselves and they left for the same reason—for themselves (Heb 6:4-8; 1 John 2:15-19). They never submitted their life to Christ. They never walked with Him. They never understood the grace of God over their sin. The answer is to truly repent and believe in Christ.
Ultimately, all these excuses (and many more beyond these) are because the person has a hard-heart and suppress the truth in their unrighteousness. They love their sin and therefore will not submit to Christ as Lord (Rom 1:18ff)
What we, as Christians, need to do is lovingly give them these responses and point them continually and always back to Christ and the truth of Scripture, then trust the Spirit of God to give them new life in His timing (John 3:1-10). Remember to be loving and gentle and kind in pointing out people’s excuses and the truth of God’s Word (Eph 4:2, 15; Jude 22-23), but still do it firmly, knowing that God will accomplish the purposes He has set out for His Word (Isa 55:11).
If you would like more answers to questions about life and how the Bible answers them, head over to www.gotquestions.com and ask away, or , or read Reasons We Believe(better entitled: “The Reasons You Have No Excuse Not to Believe”)