The Folly of the Fool (3)
… but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… 1 Peter 3.15 (ESV)
The witness of our lives
As Jesus understood, we must earn the friendship of the fools of this age. At least, we must earn the right to reason with them about the truth of God and the Christian worldview.
We can’t just go around spouting the Gospel, handing out tracts, knocking on doors, shouting on street corners, demanding that people listen to us, and stop whatever they’re doing until we’ve finished. Gentleness and respect require that we take an interest in people – in their lives and their worldviews – and that we ask sincere questions and listen attentively.
At the same time, we will not disguise the hope we have in Jesus, but will strive to be like Him in how He approached the work of bringing near the Kingdom of God to the people of His day.
Jesus did many good works at every stage of His ministry, wherever He went. At the same time, He kept Himself pure and free of the hypocrisy and corruption so characteristic of the religious leaders of His day. And He showed that He genuinely cared about the needs and sorrows of the last, the lost, and the least.
It was not incidental to Peter’s preaching that, when he began to proclaim Jesus to the Gentile Cornelius, he led off by saying that Jesus went about doing many good works, for which He was justly renowned (Acts 10.38).
Our ability to bear credible, persuasive, effective witness to the fools of this age will in large part depend on the extent to which our lives refract the reality of the living Christ and the hope we have in Him. Thus, we must daily sanctify Christ as Lord in our heart, growing in love for Him daily, working out His salvation in us with fear and trembling (Phil. 2.12, 13), and refusing to grow weary of the good works for which we have been saved (Gal. 6.9; Eph. 2.10).
Spiritual depth, moral purity, genuine friendliness, and sincere service must be the frame of reference for our witness if we hope to engage the fools of our age to consider the folly of their reasoning. We must be witnesses to the resurrection of Christ if we hope to be credible in talking about it (Acts 1.8).
People in the wrong-believing world have witnessed a good bit of hypocrisy, shallowness, disingenuousness, dishonesty, and corruption among the members of the Church. Many of them have installed a spam filter on their brains which automatically blocks anyone calling himself a Christian as having nothing meaningful or significant to say.
The only way to remove that filter is through a sanctified life of goodness, sincerity, patience, and love.
But there must be more; we must also prepare to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom in all its fullness. For if we keep on living our hope, sooner or later, someone is going to ask us about it.
The Gospel – the whole Gospel
Our hope-filled lives, by themselves, won’t lead anyone to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. For this, we must be bold to make God’s Good News known, and to make it make sense. And that means making sense to fools, entering their frame of reference and way of seeing the world in the hope we might lead them to consider the Good News of Jesus in a new light.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just about being forgiven and going to heaven when we die. The Gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom of God (Matt. 4.17).
The Gospel announces a new reality, a new era, under the Lordship of King Jesus, Who, by His holy life, sacrificial death, and powerful resurrection, has opened the way for all people to enter fellowship with the one true God. We inhabit a world in the grip of sin. All its miseries, disappointments, cruelties, and corruptions can be traced to hearts blackened by wrong-belief and sin. Jesus came to set the world free from this tyranny. His life, death, resurrection, and reign guarantee that the offer He makes of forgiveness and eternal life is sure. By trusting in Jesus, people can know deliverance from the death-grip of sin through God’s forgiveness, love, pleasure, and joy; and they can discover His purpose for their lives. This is the promise of the Kingdom. This is the offer of the Gospel. This glorious offer goes out to all who will renounce their folly and their preferred ways of finding salvation – however they define it – to embrace Jesus as Lord, King, God, and Savior.
Likewise, we must warn the reluctant and the skeptical that continuing in wrong belief is a downward spiral into deeper levels of degradation and disappointment, the end of which is everlasting death (Rom. 1.18-32).
This is the Good News of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed; however, we must make certain that we announce this glorious Gospel out of the same kind of loving, serving, holy lifestyle that He did.
Moreover, we will most likely give this announcement, not in one huge “data dump” at what we may regard as an opportune moment; rather, we will allow this Good News to percolate through our conversation, so that we glow with the Gospel and warm up with the welcome news of redemption, rather than blare it in our neighbor’s face, insisting on some response.
We must be ready to make our own convictions clear as we engage the fools in our world, for we never know when one whom we have loved and listened to might ask, “Why do you have such hope? Where does this hope come from?” Only the Word of God has power to give life to lost people (Jn. 6.63). In our conversations with the fools of this age, as patient reasoning leads to open doors of opportunity, we will give the Gospel clearly, gradually, and completely, so that we set before our unbelieving friends the full picture of what we believe and why.
Then we will be ready to continue shining the light of truth on their worldview and answering their queries and challenges.
1. Evangelism is a process, not an event. Explain. What does that process include?
2. Sharing the Good News about Jesus also entails reporting the bad news for those who refuse to believe. What is that bad news? Why must we share it?
3. How would you assess your own readiness to share the hope that is within you, should someone ask?
Next steps – Preparation: What is the Gospel of the Kingdom? How would you explain it to a lost person? Why must we be clear about what we believe before we seek to help others see the folly of their reasoning? Answer these questions in prayer with the Lord, and listen for His confirmation or correction.
T. M. Moore
You can download this and all the studies in this series, “Let God Be True,” by clicking here. For a series of discussions on improving your conversational skills, begin here in our Personal Mission Field Workshop to learn the art of Christian conversation.
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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.