Reason in the Service of Faith (7)
And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. 2 Timothy 2.24-26
What we know in common
Outwardly, the person trapped in the clutches of sin and lies can seem to be doing quite well, thank you.
He has a job, maybe a family, friends, and lots of fun things to do. He seems quite pleased with himself, most of the time, and he doesn’t allow the troubles of the world to trouble him too much.
All this outward blandishing of contentment and success may even seem real enough to him, despite occasional unpleasant thoughts about death (Heb. 2.15), assorted pangs of conscience (Rom. 2.14, 15), and the failure to deliver on one after another of his highest hopes (Eph. 2.12). Disappointment, setbacks, and self-centeredness are just the way things are. We have to do the best we can regardless.
This is what passes for life for so many people today.
But people who live this way are dead in their trespasses and sins and caught in the clutches of the devil. And they don’t realize it.
At the same time, such people know something else that they may not be willing to admit – indeed, something that they may devote considerable energy in denying during the course of any given day. Because they are made in the image of God (Gen. 1.26-28), they are not the kind of beings they think they are. They accept the evolutionary teaching that man is just a higher form of animal, distinguished by a more efficient brain and nothing more – and that despite the patent foolishness of wishful thinking that props up the evolutionary worldview.
But such people know in their heart that this is not the last word. Made in the image of God they know God – know that there is a God and something about what He’s like and what He requires (Rom. 1.18-21). In this, our wrong-believing friends are just like us. They may not admit it, but it is true, nonetheless. Moreover, God has written the works of His Law on their hearts (Rom. 2.14, 15), a moral constitution they can never fully escape.
Fighting against the truth
However, because their minds are clouded by sin, they believe that they need to suppress all such nonsensical ideas about God and what He requires – after all, the temper of the times is secular and hedonistic – and so they heap onto their lives beliefs and behaviors designed to distance them from the thought of God and reassure them that that their chosen way not only seems right but is right.
But this ploy can never satisfy. Apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ, people are condemned to lives of merely fleeting and flimsy hope (Eph. 2.12). They will always want something more, and even that, once they’ve achieved it, will leave them flat.
The mind of sin
Scripture affords some helpful insights to the working of the mind of one who is trapped in sin. His problems aren’t really his; someone else is to blame (Gen. 3.7). He takes pride in his accomplishments and doesn’t worry about whether he owes anything to God (Ps. 10.4-11). He makes fleeting pleasures and perishable stuff his highest aspirations in life and isn’t troubled in the least about the folly of religion (Is. 44.9-18).
He gets his news, opinions, and insights on the world from whatever makes sense to him, according to his chosen way of life and the approval of his friends. He doesn’t worry about things like “truth” because he rather suspects that he can make up whatever “truth” he needs (Jn. 8.42-48). He doesn’t see any problem with indulging his lusts and passions, and he thinks pursuing spiritual matters quaint but nonessential (Gal. 5.1-21).
His understanding and heart are decorated with the darkness of the world, the flesh, and the devil, and he has become comfortable in the lightless environment of his soul (Eph. 4.17-19). His conscience becomes seared to truth and is molded to accommodate the desires of his heart and the plans of his chosen way, even though they always disappoint (1 Tim. 4.1, 2). He opposes those who claim to have “the truth” because his mind is corrupted to the very idea of truth, and that’s just fine with him (2 Tim. 3.1-7). Devoid of the influence of God’s Spirit, he is given over to passion, parading as sound reason (Jude 17, 18).
It will take more than reason to reach one whose reason has become detached from God’s thoughts and purposes and is careening through life like a Ferris wheel off its axel.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6.63). While, as ambassadors of God and Christ, we must follow our Father’s example and invite our sinful generation to come and reason together with us, we are under no illusion that our arguments, no matter how persistent or persuasive, are going to break through the darkness and deadness of sin to bring the light of truth into a lost soul.
This requires a work of God. And God works by His Word and Spirit to penetrate, invade, illuminate, convert, and redeem darkened minds, calloused hearts, and seared consciences with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
And our reasoned explanation of the hope within us can open a path for this work of the Spirit.
1. How does turning away from the truth of God affect the way a person thinks and reasons?
2. Why is it important that we understand what’s going on in their minds?
3. Are you ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you? Explain.
Next steps – Preparation: Pray for the lost people in your Personal Mission Field, asking God for grace to help you be a better neighbor to them all and to be ready to share an explanation for the hope that is within you.
T. M. Moore
In our Personal Mission Field Workshop we’re 2 parts into a lengthy series on improving our conversational skills. Listen to Parts 1 and 2 by clicking here and here.
You can download all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here.
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