Wrong Reason (5)
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2.14-16
Paul’s statement about the limits of “natural” reason might cause us to despair of ever being able to explain the Good News of Jesus and our Christian worldview to our wrong-believing friends, much less to help them see the mistaken ways of wrong belief that have clouded their purview on life.
If they can’t understand spiritual things, how can they ever understand the Gospel? How can we make our worldview make sense to them if they’re trapped in the limitations of wrong reason and can’t make sense of spiritual things?
Paul offers in these verses not an invitation to despair but a strategy for success in making the Good News of Jesus known to the people around us. That strategy consists of four components.
The Christian’s strategy
First, we Christians need to stop fretting and fussing about what non-Christians think of us, or what they might think of us if we try to tell them about Jesus or take some social or moral stance consistent with our Christian worldview. Wrong-believing people can’t understand spiritual things, so what would we expect them to think about us?
They will dismiss us as uneducated, anti-science, hypocritical, naïve, and fools. Big deal. Paul says we’re not accountable to them. We only have to worry about what God thinks about us, and to bend our lives toward pleasing and honoring Him in all we do. Jesus echoes that view in Luke 12.8, 9: “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Is it better to be mocked and taunted by men or denied before the angels of God?
If you’re afraid or irritated about what others might think or say about you, as you try to engage them in a conversation about spiritual matters, get over it! Such efforts might raise the scorn or sneers of men, but they gain the favor of God.
Second, we need to develop the mind of Christ, which is our unique possession as His followers.
As we’ve seen, Jesus didn’t shy away from the arguments and worldviews of His wrong-believing contemporaries. He listened politely while they proposed their views, then He took their views apart by exposing their false premises, which they were mistaking as facts, and pointing to other facts which led to conclusions that supported His teaching rather than theirs. We have the mind of Christ! We must learn to think like Jesus about the world around us and the people who oppose us. We should get busy making the most of the mind of Christ, learning to listen, analyze, think, and reason like Jesus did, asking questions that can lead wrong-believers to stop being so smug about what they think they know about us and to look a little more closely about what they may have overlooked concerning their own worldview.
Third, we need to believe that God intends to use our words to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. No matter that they can’t understand spiritual things. Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life” (Jn. 6.63), and when the Spirit is ready to give life to someone – no matter how fervent they may be in opposing the Gospel or how cruelly they may treat us as witnesses to Jesus – there’s simply nothing they can do but believe. Ask Saul of Tarsus.
So we need to be prepared, at the right time, to bring the Word of the Gospel to the attention of our unbelieving friends, leaving the work of convicting and converting them to the Spirit of God. Make sure you know the Gospel of the Kingdom and that you can proclaim it briefly and clearly.
But, fourth, because our wrong-believing friends worship at the altar of reason and have invested all their wellbeing in the belief that they can figure life out – they can make sense out of their experience, they are reasonable and rational and logical human beings who know what’s best for them – because they believe all this, the kindest thing we can do is to take them at their word and engage them in conversations designed to tease out the content of their “reasoned” beliefs and to help them see the ways that wrong belief has infected them with wrong reason and is robbing them of full and abundant life.
We’ll need to identify the premises of their worldviews and to help them understand the difference between premises and facts. We’ll have to be ready with facts that support our own premises – facts from Scripture, history, culture, and our own experience. We’ll need to learn how to spot inconsistencies, contradictions, and other aspects of wrong reason in their reasons for believing what they do, and ask them to consider whether such thinking makes sense.
Always be ready
We understand that those who reject the facts of Scripture and the Christian faith will replace those facts with premises more agreeable to how they wish to live. But that doesn’t change the facts, and it is our duty, at every opportunity, to challenge the wrong reason of our unbelieving friends and colleagues, and to invite them to consider facts which are based on different premises and thus lead to better conclusions.
Study the conversations of Jesus with the religious leaders of His day. Learn to listen like Jesus and to reason like Jesus. Stand firm in your Biblical convictions and be prepared to present evidence that supports your Christian worldview. Be winsome but be firm. Be loving but be in earnest.
Above all, be ready to give a reason for why this Biblical worldview gives you such hope (1 Pet. 3.15).
God can use us to break through the limits of wrong reason if we, employing the mind of Christ, will simply go as Jesus did to the unbelieving world around us.
1. Review the four steps of the strategy for reaching unbelievers with the Gospel. The first is, Don’t be afraid of what others think. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself in this matter? Why?
2. What should you do whenever you feel like the fear of man is keeping you from talking about Jesus and spiritual things?
3. What can you do to spend more time studying Jesus' use of reason with His opponents?
Next steps – Preparation: How much do you know about the people in your Personal Mission Field who do not know Jesus? Since they don’t believe in Him, what do they believe? Maybe it’s time for some get acquainted conversations.
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.