Making Progress in the Life of Faith (6)
“But the LORD your God will give them over to you and will surely throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed.” Deuteronomy 7.23 (my translation)
To save, not destroy
In the violent days of the Old Testament, before the Gospel of grace was proclaimed, the world was shrouded in darkness and wickedness; and wicked people were likely to stay that way. Before Israel entered the promised land, the people of Canaan had accumulated a long history of attacking, pillaging, and savaging the nations around them. Israel’s only hope for claiming her rightful heritage was to fight fire with fire. God promised to throw the enemies of His people into utter confusion before they fell in defeat.
But in these days of grace, when the Sword of the Spirit is more powerful than any army or nation (cf. Ps. 149), the mission of God’s people is of a different cast. Our calling is to destroy the work of the devil in the souls of lost sinners (1 Jn. 3.7, 8), so that they might be delivered from darkness and wickedness into the realm of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit (Col. 1.12, 13).
Like Jesus, we are sent into the world to seek the lost, so that some of them might be saved (Lk. 19.10; Jn. 20.21; 1 Cor. 9.19-23). We make progress in the life of faith as we work to fulfill this aspect of our discipleship, each of us in our own place and calling. As part of this calling, we will encounter unbelieving worldviews, and we must be prepared to deal with these. Think of Jesus saying again and again, “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” Or of how often people said of Him, “We never saw or heard it like this before.” Recall the first Christians, whose message and transformed lives threatened the status quoof Roman pluralism and pragmatism (Acts 17.1-9). Or Paul, flatly rejecting the false worldviews of the Athenian philosophers (Acts 17.22ff).
People are not likely to embrace a newworldview until they are confronted with the inadequacy of the one they presently hold. As God confused the violent nations of Canaan, in order to destroy them, so we must sow a little confusion of our own into the hearts and minds of our unbelieving neighbors, to destroy the devil’s grip on them and lead them into the truth of Jesus Christ.
How do we do this? Let me mention three ways.
We can discern the first way from the responses of unbelievers to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at the first Christian Pentecost (Acts 2). The people in Jerusalem were thrown into confusion when they heard these humble believers declaring the mighty acts of God and His redeeming work in Jesus Christ. The fact that the believers spoke in languages they had never learned was a source of wonder; but just as significant was their exuberance and boldness in declaring the Good News of the Kingdom.
If the followers of Jesus should begin to be aflame with the Spirit for the proclamation of the Gospel, so that we talked about Jesus more readily, naturally, confidently, and urgently, that would cause people to wonder. To encounter people they know, talking boldly and warmly about Jesus, would cause not a few of our friends to question their own views and convictions, and open many of them to believing in Jesus.
Expose the folly
Second, we will sow confusion among our unbelieving friends when we confront their false worldviews and patiently, lovingly, but resolutely challenge them to consider the folly of their ways (Prov. 26.4, 5). Unbelief is irrational and unreasonable. Under careful scrutiny, it can’t be made to make sense, because only the Gospel is true.
Whoever does not believe the Gospel is believing the lie in one form or another (cf. Rom. 1.18-32). Jesus understood this, and He confronted the unbelieving worldviews of His day, asking questions that left those who heard Him baffled, confused, and wondering. We can ask questions, too: “Why do you say this?” “How do you know that?” “What if that’s not the way things really are?” By asking pointed questions, we can lead people to consider their beliefs in a new light; and, as they do, this can create the kind of confusion that opens a fissure for the light of truth.
Persevere in hope
Finally, we will throw our unbelieving generation into confusion as we consistently live the hope of the Gospel, doing good works of love (1 Pet. 3.15). Our skeptical and narcissistic generation needs to see the proof of the Good News, lived out in joyous and selfless acts of love. When they do, they may be provoked to wonder why anyone would live so selflessly, with such concern and love for the people around them. This is not the way of the world, and when worldly people see us living this way, it will throw them into confusion, and they may wish to know a reason for the hope that is within us. Think of Javert’s confusion and desperation at being the recipient of the selfless, loving acts of Jean Valjean (Les Miserables).
Confused, questioning, and uncertain about their own preferred way of life, they may, by our good works of love, be prepared to turn to the One Who makes all things new.
We do not seek to destroy our neighbors, but to destroy the bonds and blinders that keep them from the truth, so that they might come to know the joy of the Lord as we do. Making progress in faith entails helping others come to faith as well. But to accomplish this, it may be necessary, little by little, to sow some confusion into their lives.
1. We often use the word conversionto describe someone’s coming to faith in Jesus. What does that word mean? From what are people being converted?
2. Read Haggai 1. Only when the prophet challenged the people to consider their ways did they turn from their self-centeredness to the Lord and His work. How does this instruct us concerning our own work for the Lord?
3. What are some good questions you might use to help others consider their ways?
Next steps – Preparation: Review the three strategies for sowing confusion into an unbeliever’s life. Which one will you employ today? How? Share your thoughts about this with a Christian friend and challenge your friend to join you in this effort.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.