Broadcast

Rethinking Apologetics for the 21st Century

From the series Why I Believe

Facts and logic used to be pretty effective when Christians attempted to "defend the faith." In our current culture, however, rethinking our approach to a conversation about why we believe what we believe, is necessary. In this message, Chip shares how it's possible to talk about our Christian faith in a way that actually encourages and engages people, rather than putting them off. It all begins with relationship.

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Message Transcript

We are living in a day of a tectonic shift in our culture that has greatly impacted the Church. I don’t know about you, but we are living in a day where evil is called good, where good is called evil. We are living in a day where bitter is called sweet and sweet is called bitter, darkness is called light and light is called darkness. And according to the ancient prophet Isaiah, twenty-seven hundred years ago, he said, “When this happens, it brings great, great sorrow.

I know many of you have to be deeply, deeply concerned of what you are seeing happen in the culture and also happening in the Church. We are seeing young people that don’t walk with God anymore, we are seeing the moral values in the culture and outside the Church rapidly, rapidly change.

And we are in a series here called Why I Believe, and I believe we are in a day where we have to rethink our apologetics. Apologetics is that big word that it’s about making a defense for our faith. It’s giving a reasoned verbal explanation for why we believe and we can explain this great hope that we have within us.

But as you can see and I observe as I go around the country, I meet parents and I meet grandparents who say to me, “You know, we went to church regularly. We sent our children even to a Christian school.” Or, “We sent them to a Christian university or a good secular university that had a good, Christian group and it’s now five or seven years later. They don’t share our morals. They don’t share our values. They currently are living with someone.”

The world is topsy-turvy and here’s what I want to tell you: our approach to apologetics, that this is why I believe, this is what I believe, it has got to change, because honestly, what we have passed on to our children and what is being passed on through the Church at large with some really wonderful exceptions, it’s currently not working.

Let me tell you what the classic approach to apologetics is because it had a very powerful and good impact in my life. I did not grow up as a Christian, I had never opened the Bible in my life, I came to Christ right before I went away to college, and then I had a wonderful experience. It was a campus ministry that grew, I got in the Bible. My life changed; I had deep, loving relationships; I had peace and joy. My life changed so much, my dad, who was a hardcore alcoholic ask me, “What in the world happened to you?”

And I told him about this new relationship with Jesus and I was reading the New Testament and my father trusted Christ. Our whole family, it was a revolution. It was awesome!
And I graduated and I was a really good student and the chairman of my department, I really admired him and I think he really liked and kind of admired me. And I was ready to graduate and I graduated with honors and good things like that. And he had white hair and he was really bright and I really admired what he thought and his opinion.

And I could tell that he waited until I graduated because he wanted to ask me a question that might put our relationship at stake. And so, I was ready to walk across the stage, like, in a day or so. And all the coursework is done. And I’ll never forget this, this was like one of those pictures in my mind, Dr. P with his snow-white hair and his arms crossed and the light was coming. It was a brick building that had ivy. And he tilted his head and he said, “Chip, can I ask you a question.” I said, “Sure, Dr. P.”

He said, “I just don’t understand how someone who appears to be as intellectually astute as you are could actually believe in a literal Jesus and this born again stuff and that the Bible is really God’s Word.” And then he followed that by asking me three or four rather challenging questions about my faith. How could I trust the Bible and could Jesus be the only way and isn’t that narrow? Etcetera, etcetera.

And it shook me. In fact, I am going to go on record to say that it’s not bad to have some doubts as a follower of Christ. It’s not bad to get shaken now and then and realize, I need to really think through what I believe and why.

And I came away from that experience with three convictions. Number one is I was not going to throw my brains in the trash to follow Christ. This is a man I respected and you know what? It wasn’t just: I have this emotional experience and I had this great college experience. If that was just a little window of being idealistic, then it’s got to measure up to the truth.

Second, I’m not going to let someone I admire who is very, very smart intimidate me to give up my faith. And third, I made a commitment that I am going to dig in. And whatever it takes, I am going to learn the questions he asked me about the Bible, about the uniqueness of Christ, archaeology, science – I am going to focus and do whatever it takes and I am going to do the research. And then I’ll let the chips fall where they may.

If God’s Word and my faith can’t hold up to scientific, archaeological, philosophic research, then I’ll give up my faith. But if it does, then I will know this is really true.

And really, the teaching in this series and the book that I wrote called Why I Believe is the culmination of that journey. And what I can tell you is is that I have defended my faith in front of four PhDs. I have had the privilege of going around the world and different religions and philosophies.

And here is my joy and here is my desire for you: you can trust God’s Word, you can trust the person of Christ, but we have to rethink how we communicate this and what our apologetic is.

But now I have to tell you an experience that I had not too long ago. I was teaching on controversial subjects because, I mean, the morals have changed in America and the lifestyles – LGBTQ and marriage and all these things are up for grabs.

And I was teaching at our church about what the Bible says about homosexuality and what it says about marriage and I remember a little fifteen-year-old girl came up to me and she’s a sweet girl. She loves God. I think she even went to our Christian school. I know her parents. Very, very good people.

But she is growing up in a completely different culture. And she came up to me and she said, “Pastor Chip? I heard what you said, I know what the Bible actually says about homosexuality, I know you believe in the authority of Scripture and all those things. I want you to know I love Jesus with all my heart. But I want to tell you something. If you are asking me to tell my friend who is gay that she is wrong or give up my faith, I’m going to give up my faith.”

And I mean, literally, my mind was going, “What? What?” In other words, I grew up and many of you have grown up in a world that there’s logic, there’s authority, there’s the Bible, this is what it says. But she is growing up in a world when she has to choose between relationship and truth. Absolute truth.

She lives in a world where you don’t validate things by what the Bible says. You don’t validate things by a person in authority like myself. You validate it out of relationship and your experience.

So, here’s what I want to tell you. The apologetics of the past have to be completely revised. We don’t give up on all those reasons. I’m going to share some of those reasons. I’m going to help you understand why you can trust the Bible, why you can believe in the resurrection, why the God of the Bible is the most logical, clear – I mean, it answers the biggest questions of life. But I am going to tell you, we can’t keep doing it the way we are doing it because look at the evidence.

Just ask yourself, How is it going? The culture is changing, the world is changing – how is the Church doing? Let me give you some of the bad news. And I don’t mean to be negative, but if you need awakened, then let’s get awakened.

Our rational answering of questions simply isn’t working in our day. What is the public view of Christians right now? Hypocrites, sexual scandals in the Catholic Church for decades followed by cover up. Sexual scandals in evangelical Bible churches, Southern Baptist churches. Major mega-church pastors after decades of “effective ministry,” now found out to have private lives.

People are looking at Christianity and saying, “We think you’re bigoted, we think you are prejudiced, we think you are irrelevant, we think you’re intolerant, we think you’re the problem.” The LGBTQ has very effectively reframed the entire argument, not around we have a sexual preference, but as a civil rights issue. And now Christians in our day are viewed as bigoted and prejudiced and so, there is this anti-Christian bias. And it is popping up everywhere.

A businessman in the Silicon Valley who was one of the founders of a major organization gave one thousand dollars to a cause, not putting anyone down, simply saying that, “I believe, historically, that marriage is between a man and a woman.” That went viral on social media and he was ousted in his company.

Companies like Chick-fil-a that close on Sundays who are loving and kind and care about people, but who basically just hold to a traditional concept of marriage have now been moved off and outlawed in major cities like San Antonio or in universities.

We are living in a world where giving logical answers to our kids and to our neighbors and to our friends no longer holds water. Christians are viewed in a very negative light. Therefore, the message of the gospel, in fact, the next generation has come up believing that they need to be so concerned about their friends and not be too forthright that they actually think it’s wrong to share their faith if it might offend someone else.

It’s into that world that we have a new apologetic. In the Church, here are the changes. Currently, church attendance is down; Bible engagement is down; the moral decline – sixty percent of evangelical, Bible-believing believers between the ages of eighteen and thirty, are currently in casual sex or sleeping together; giving is at an all-time low, financially; per capita, actually, those during the Depression gave more generously than today and that tells us something has happened to Christians’ hearts.

Families are fractured, divorce is about the same in the Christian community as the non-Christian community, we find that sixty-eight percent of our children five years after they leave high school are abandoning the faith.

I could go on and on and on. We have the highest level of people who have no religious affiliation. Of those under thirty-five, it’s like twenty-five, thirty percent of them have no religious affiliation and Generation Z, those coming up, literally, they don’t know God, they don’t know the Bible, and Christianity is currently to them, irrelevant.

These are big, big issues. It’s going to take more than opening the Bible and telling your kids or sitting down with a friend over a coffee and telling them, “Here’s the five or six intellectual reasons why I believe in God’s Word or why I believe Jesus is the Savior of the world.”

It’s going to take a bit of a different apologetic. We are much more like the first century than we are the last century. And what I mean by that is that many of us have grown up for quite a while where the culture agreed with what we believed. It supported it. The major institutions supported it. And now, we are living in a world that is more and more and more anti-Christian.

So, here’s what I want to suggest. I want to suggest that we rethink, because of the change in the culture, our apologetic. Yesterday, apologetics were about what we believe and why. And it was aimed at answering the skeptic and his questions or her questions. Today, ready for this? I believe we need to aim apologetics first and foremost toward believers, especially young people, aimed at answering the questions that equip them to keep their faith.

Something fundamentally is wrong with the current Christianity and the current Church and the current faith when those inside our churches and our families are leaving the faith.

Second, yesterday, we needed to master facts and data and history to intellectually prove what we believe is true. Today, we need to model concern and compassionate and a lifestyle that proves that what we actually believe is even relevant.

Third, yesterday, we needed to win the debate. In fact, remember the day when evangelicals and atheists would debate? No one even wants to hear a debate. Today, we need to win an audience. We need to live in such a way where people are asking us, “How do you have a marriage like that?” And, “How do your kids turn out like that?” And, “How do you handle the adversity coming your way with such an amazing, kind, and loving attitude?”

Fourth, yesterday, we communicated on a level playing field that presumed that truth was objective reality. Today, we communicate on the shifting sands of truth as a subjective reality.

I told you that story of that high school girl. What I want you to know is that this whole next generation and Millennials, they look at life through different glasses. They don’t look at facts and say, “Well, these are three facts and these are logical and therefore, this is right and that is wrong.” They are evaluating truth not as an absolute, but something that is relative.

And it’s why the experience of the collective group, it’s what they feel. That’s your truth; that’s my truth. And so, now, as you begin to talk to people, I can give them five or six good reasons or scientific facts and the response is: “That’s your truth. That’s not my truth.”

Recently, a lady who I really admire, her name is Rosaria Butterfield.

And she was a teacher in an elite, school, she was a lesbian and she made friends with a pastor. And he invited her over for dinner. I don’t mean just a few dinners, but it was months and months and then a couple years.

And she often left and she said, “It disturbed me. We disagreed about the homosexual lifestyle, we disagreed about truth and epistemology and how you come at truth.” And she was a literature professor and very, very, very bright. But she says, “As they loved me and loved me and loved me and I began to examine what I believed and why, I began to understand. God began to move in my heart.”
And so, she goes to this prestigious university and she shares her testimony. And if I gave you the name of it, most of you would say, “Wow, are you kidding?” It’s one of the elite, sort of the Harvards of Christianity. And when she got done, students protested. And here’s what you need to get. They protested and the signs said, “That’s just your story.”

In other words, their comments was, “Yeah, we love Jesus but now you’re alienating people that are LGBT.” Because she was a lesbian teacher who came to Christ, saw what the Scriptures said, and says, “Now, this is my new lifestyle.”
So, what I want you to understand is that it’s a whole different world and just facts, the shifting sand of relative truth means our apologetic and our way to do our apologetic has to change.

Fifth, yesterday, the Church and the culture shared a general knowledge of the Bible. You could talk about Adam and Eve or Noah or Jonah or Jesus or a few of His stories and people would go, “Yeah. I got you.” Today, both the Church and the world is biblically illiterate. I’ve had the privilege of teaching, literally, all across America and multiple places around the world.

And I can’t start anymore and assume that people know even the general idea of Scripture. It causes us to start at a different starting point.

Six, a committed Christian man or woman in the past, in yesterday, was admired. She’s a woman of integrity. He’s a man who loves God. He’s a man who leads his family well. That’s the kind of person you want to be.

Today, a strongly committed man or woman has actually been called “dangerous.” Recently, they were doing some appointments for court positions, of very significant roles. And they had Senate hearings and a couple senators came out, there was a lady who was a strong candidate. And she happened to be a devout Catholic and she had very clear views on the life of the unborn.

And it was just that, “No, I believe life begins at conception. The science is in.” Even Planned Parenthood, they don’t talk about a fetus anymore. They talk about a baby. And two senators in our country, in America, said, “This lady cannot be a judge in our court system because of her dangerous ideas.” It’s a dangerous idea in America in our day to believe that an unborn child’s life should be protected? Think of how much has changed in our world.

Seventh, we used to be able to begin with the truth and then express grace. I mean, people believed that truth was absolute and we would say, “This is right and this is wrong.” Today, we must begin with grace in order to share the truth.

What I want you to know is that the apologetic has to start with how you live and how you treat people and that we actually make an impact and we actually demonstrate that we deeply, deeply care. It’s not about a competing philosophy anymore. No one wants to hear what the Bible says or anything about Jesus until they see a life that is attractive, that is loving, that is caring.

Yesterday, the moral climate and the values of major institutions like education, medicine, the media – they reinforced our values. I’m a little older than some of you. I remember as a kid that if you got in trouble at school, your parents found out about it because the values of the school were pretty much the same as mom and dad.

Today, a high school student cannot get an aspirin but can have an abortion without their parents knowing it. The media, the sports, the institutions, the tech companies where I live in the Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area – their values are absolutely antithetical to what historic, traditional, biblical, or Christian values are.

And so, today, the moral climate of these institutions ridicule our faith and make it more and more difficult for our kids because it’s politically incorrect but now you get punished. There was a day where it was unpopular, but now you are punished. You step up as a student in a university and say, “I believe in Jesus, I believe in the Bible,” you are viewed as, “What planet are you on?”

You step up in a high-tech company and say, “I’m a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. I actually believe the Bible is true, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life,” you are, you are some weird person.

And yet, that’s exactly what it was like in the first century. And so, here’s what I want to tell you, and this is my last observation. Before those institutions would reinforce our beliefs and now we are living in a world that is far more like the first century than the last century.

And Christianity did something in the first century and the answers to how to respond when Christianity and your faith is ridiculed is already available.

Now, I am going to ask you to do something right now. I’d like you to open your Bibles to 1 Peter. And I want to tell you that 1 Peter was written to a group of people who, if you think you’re getting persecuted, they were blamed at this point in time for burning down Rome.

They were viewed as anti-government, they were viewed as the problem and more and more of what I hear is the problem in America is Christians and their absolute values and their dogma. So, what did God say in the first century that allowed them to have an apologetic that transformed the world?

Rodney Stark in his excellent book The Rise of Christianity and The Triumph of Christianity talks about, sociologically, not the Holy Spirit, not God’s power, but just sociologically, what in the world could happen that an itinerant preacher with twelve followers who, when He died, only had about a hundred and twenty faithful followers, who made outrageous claims that were anti to the Roman government, that was a polytheistic world and He claims He’s the way, the truth, and the life – how in the world could that itinerant preacher, there is no printing press, there are no satellites, right? No silicon chips, no computers, no videos,

And yet, in less than three hundred years, by 313 A.D., that little group of followers called the Way, later to become Christians, were more than fifty percent of the known population of the Roman Empire. Think of that.

There was something radical about their lives. There were about sixty million people in the Roman Empire. By 313 A.D., it’s estimated thirty-three million were devoted followers of Christ.

I think the answer is right here. Now, don’t get me wrong. Classic apologetics is really important. But they need to be repackaged. Listen to what God would say through Peter to a group of people persecuted.

First of all, he opens it and says, “To those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia.” In other words, this is for everyone in Asia and Asia Minor. And then he says to them, “My grace and peace be with you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy we are born again,” get this, “to a living hope, protected by God’s power we have an inheritance that is imperishable that will not fade away, reserved for us in heaven.” And he goes on to say, “In this you greatly rejoice, even if now for a little while you are distressed by various trials.”

Here's what I want you to get: the Early Church had a living hope. It was powerful. They really believed there was an eternal life and that they lived in this temporal time and so that shaped everything. They believed they had an inheritance.

Now, especially in the world, it was a very crude and difficult and a world of much suffering. And so, these people had hope that they clung onto in the midst of great difficulty and great persecution.

He goes on to say, “Fix your hope fully on this grace and this hope,” this following of a living God, not a religion, not a set of principles, “it was set on Him. And the living hope,” he says, “therefore, gird your minds for action.” So, it starts. And we don’t use that word a lot.

But a Roman soldier would have a long robe and when he was ready to go into battle, he would take his belt like this and he would take it and he would tuck it in and he would gird it. He would say, “Be sober. Here’s what I want you to do. You need to get ready. You need to think in a different way. You need to be sober in your thinking. You need to get ready to go after it.” He says, “You’re in a battle.”

And then he goes on to say, “After this hope and you are ready to think in a completely different way, focused on God’s grace,” then here’s what he says.

“As a obedient children, do not be conformed any longer to the former lusts that were yours in your ignorance, but like the holy One who called you, be ye holy also in all your behavior.”
So, what he’s saying is, first and foremost, you can’t look at this life as your home. You’re an alien. You’re a stranger. Second, when you have this hope, when you have an eternal perspective that happens deep in your heart, your behavior, you become a holy person. Not holy as in weird, holy as in loving and pure and moral.

And then he, look at verse 22, he skips on down. “Since you, in obedience to the truth, have purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another, because you have been born again by the Word of God.”
So, notice this apologetic. It’s first this place. My world is not about just the now and just the happiness and how my life turns out and how my kids get into which school or am I upwardly mobile? It’s first and foremost: I have a faith that is rooted in eternity that leads to a holy life, that leads to this fervent love. This isn’t about just being in a small group.

This is your kids growing up in a world and your friends seeing that you love one another. You give your time, you give your energy, you give your money, you care about people. You care about the marginalized.

The Early Church were the ones who would take the infants off the garbage dumps. The Early Church was the one that helped the leper. The Early Church grew according to Rodney Stark because in the first eighty to one hundred thirty years, there were three major plagues that went across the whole Roman world.

And everyone ran to the hills, especially the wealthy. And Christians stayed willfully in the cities and served and many of them died and their names are recorded as martyrs. They were martyrs who died to save the people, ministering to them through these plagues.

And Rodney Stark observes that then there were huge, major metropolitan cities that the only people that were left were Christians who survived or unbelievers who were nursed back to health through Christians.

See, it wasn’t their reasons. It was their life, it was their love, it was their dedication. And I will tell you that where I live, the “nones” if you will, non-religious affiliation in the Silicon Valley, seventy percent. They are people from all over the world. It’s the most diverse place, it’s the most intelligent place. And what I can tell you, what we have had the privilege of doing, when we have loved people, when we have helped the immigrants, when we have helped do things in the schools, when we have served the city, when we have helped those in the homosexual lifestyle and driven them to their doctors appointment and cared for them, rather than judge them.

Do we hold to the truth? Absolutely. But a radical love is what marked the Early Church. Holy lives, radical love, eternal perspective.

As you open to chapter 2, he says, “Therefore, get rid of all malice and guile and hypocrisy and envy and slander. And like a newborn baby, long for the pure milk of God’s Word, that by it you may grow.”

Do you hear the attitudes? They weren’t telling Rome what they ought to do. They weren’t saying, “We’ve got to have our rights.” Get rid of all hypocrisy. Get rid of this anger. Stop posting things about this group or that group. Stop blaming. Cause your lips to be lips of praise and encouragement.

You hold to the truth, you live the life. And then he says you become these living stones and you, a movement occurred in the Early Church where they became the source of solving some of the biggest problems in the first century.

And they cared for people that hated them. They returned good for evil. As they were marched into stadiums arm-in-arm, they would sing praises, praying out loud, “God, please forgive those who are killing us.”

It’s a faith that I see when I go to China. It’s a faith that I am seeing when I travel in the Middle East. And it’s the resurgent, the apologetic of the faith that we need in America today.

Your kids are not going to be followers of Christ because you send them to a Christian school and you go to a building and everyone sits and listens to someone talk and they hear a few songs and whether it’s a small, little church or a mega-church, I will tell you, your kids are bombarded, your friends are bombarded with a worldview that is completely antithetical to Scripture.

And what it’s going to take is an apologetic – are you ready for this? Here’s the number one apologetic: it’s your life. It’s a holy life with an eternal perspective that is radically loving. And then in chapter 2, he goes on to say that this builds and you’re this chosen generation, you’re God’s vehicle.

It’s not a political party that is going to change the world. You’re a group of priests, you’re His kingdom operational agents to make a difference.

And then he says – are you ready for this? “I urge you as aliens and strangers,” just like you don’t belong here, “to abstain from fleshly lusts.” Our morality, we can’t speak words and tell people how they ought to live. Our morality, especially in the area of sexual purity, it begins with us, not judging other people.

He goes on to say then, this gets wild, “Submit, therefore, to the government, even when they’re wrong.” He said, “I want you to submit to the government; every institution.” You ought to be the best citizens in the world, not the whiners, not the complainers, not the blamers, not the people that say, “The government did this. This political party did this.” Or, “I’m going to blame the media here and it’s higher education here.”

The Early Church understood it was the positive message of their life and they hold to the truth, but they were the best citizens, the kindest people. They were the most winsome. In fact, he would even go on to say, “What credit is there if you suffer for doing what’s wrong? But when you suffer for doing what is right,” not claiming your rights, “this finds favor with God. For you were called to this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, providing you an example to follow in His steps.”

Do you understand what it looks like when – everyone knows when things are unfair, when you respond in a good way when a boss or a meeting or a neighbor or a situation when it is so unfair and it is so wrong and they meet someone who models Christlikeness – don’t you understand that’s powerful?

That’s what Jesus did. And so, he says to us: here’s the core of your apologetic. Before you give them reasons, before they want to sit down and ever ask about the hope that’s in you, you know what they need? They need to see the kind of life that is saying, “What makes you tick?”

I was with a Google executive recently, and we’re on a plane riding together and he is from a Hindu background, but like most Hindus, like most Buddhists, like most people in Islam, and like most Christians – they don’t practice their faith, okay? They’re culturally that, like most Jews.

And so, what we really practice is upward mobility, getting ahead, getting a good education. But I will tell you this about every person: he really cared about his wife. He wanted to be a good dad.

We had a conversation for an hour and a half on a plane and you know what? I didn’t start with, “Here are the five reasons why I believe the Bible. I want you to know Jesus is the only way and here are all the reasons for it.”

He didn’t want to hear any of that. He actually said to me, you know, this sounds kind of crazy because he was super well educated. He was super bright. He goes, “I don’t really get Christianity, Islam, I don’t even know the basic story. Could you tell it to me?” And I did.

Then pretty soon, I started talking about forty years of marriage. And I started talking about some struggles, big struggles that I had with some of my kids and how God worked and what the principles were and what I believed and why.

I’m telling you, an hour and fifty-one minutes into that flight, over that time, this guy, I end up handing him the book Why I Believe, and instead of him feeling like, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” you know what he felt like? He felt like someone put his arm around him and we were sitting on this side of the table and truth is on that side of the table and there’s a loving God that has truth that wants to help him be a good dad, that wants him to have a great marriage, that wants to help him invest in his kids, and that there is truth that is sustainable and verifiable.

But he wasn’t ready to hear any of that until I listened, until I loved him, until I didn’t judge him. And he gave me all, “I think as long as you’re sincere, it doesn’t matter what you believe.” I said, “That’s a really interesting statement.” And we walked down that path logically. And I am going to tell you, little by little by little, what he realized is he has heard all this mantra of our day, but he hadn’t really thought it through. He didn’t know what he really believed or why.

And he – the same human needs that everyone has, that’s where we begin. I love it, he even tells us to let our family life demonstrate it. He says, “Wives,” in chapter 3, “this is how to respond to your husband.” And then, “Hey, husbands, this is how you respond to your wife.” And this is so radical. A woman who was just a piece of property to be used and abused, and he says, “Live with your wife in an understanding way. She’s a coheir of the grace of God.”

And then he says to sum it up; this is a great passage, because it’s the actual context. He says, “Here’s what I want you to know. To sum up, let all be harmonious and sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult.” Can you imagine if we just applied that to social media alone?

Not evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead, for you were called for this very purpose” – why? “that you might receive a blessing.” And then that passage talks about that blessing and the kind of life it produces and it’s that kind of life that people will say, “Oh! Would you tell me the hope that’s in you? Can you tell me how your family looks like this? Can you tell me how your life is working like that?”

Because here’s what I know. People can say whatever they want. You don’t have to believe in gravity. You jump off a four-story building, I’ll tell you what, the results are about the same of someone who says, “I believe in gravity.” This person says, “I don’t believe in gravity.” They both jump off.

You don’t have to believe in how, what God says about relationships, you don’t believe that Jesus is the only way, you don’t have believe. But I will tell you, when you violate the principles of the kingdom of how God has designed life to work, then what you have is destruction and heartbreak.

We have the highest suicide rate in the history of America, especially among thirteen to seventeen-year-old girls and middle aged people. Those who are struggling with sexual identity issues, whether transgender or with homosexuality, you have, again, high suicide rates. We are living in a day where what Christians need to be and to become are first and foremost, godly, loving, kind and winsome.

Because here’s the deal: classic apologetics assumed that we were living the kind of life that people were asking about the hope that’s in you.

Now, you. Anybody asking you that? What’s your hope? Is your life that different? Can I be very gentle, but I want to start our time, be very direct. Have you unconsciously, unconsciously – so, I don’t mean you have willfully done it – somehow thought that just going to church, intellectually believing a few facts, praying a prayer is really going to cause your family, your kids, your neighbors to see Christ as the most attractive and powerful reality in all the world?

And if you’re concerned about your children, if you’re concerned and feeling intimidated by what is happening in our world, stay with me. Because we are going to talk about this new apologetic that starts with your life and how then we use all those facts and all that truth in a winsome way to put our arm around people to really help them understand and them to accept and understand that there is a God who cares about them.

The mandate hasn’t changed: “Go unto all the world and” – what? “preach the gospel.” That’s what God wants to do in us and through us. Father, I pray right now for every, single person that You would give them a moment of truth to analyze and evaluate where they’re at in their relationship with You. Father, I pray that we would grasp first and foremost that our lives have to scream the love of God and the truth of God before our mouths can speak about the same. Would You guide our time? Would You help us to be Christians who really live like Christians for Your glory and for our good? In Jesus’ name, amen.
Christianity did something in the first century and the answers to how to respond when Christianity and your faith is ridiculed is already available.

Open your Bibles to 1 Peter. And I want to tell you that 1 Peter was written to a group of people who, if you think you’re getting persecuted, they were blamed at this point in time for burning down Rome. They were viewed as anti-government, they were viewed as the problem and more and more of what I hear is the problem in America is Christians and their absolute values and their dogma. So, what did God say in the first century that allowed them to have an apologetic that transformed the world?

Rodney Stark in his excellent book The Rise of Christianity and The Triumph of Christianity talks about, sociologically, not the Holy Spirit, not God’s power, but just sociologically, what in the world could happen that an itinerant preacher with twelve followers who, when He died, only had about a hundred and twenty faithful followers, who made outrageous claims that were anti to the Roman government, that was a polytheistic world and He claims He’s the way, the truth, and the life – how in the world could that itinerant preacher, there is no printing press, there are no satellites, right? No silicon chips, no computers, no videos,

And yet, in less than three hundred years, by 313 A.D., that little group of followers called the Way, later to become Christians, were more than fifty percent of the known population of the Roman Empire. Think of that.

There was something radical about their lives. There were about sixty million people in the Roman Empire. By 313 A.D., it’s estimated thirty-three million were devoted followers of Christ.

I think the answer is right here. Now, don’t get me wrong. Classic apologetics is really important. But they need to be repackaged. Listen to what God would say through Peter to a group of people persecuted.

First of all, he opens it and says, “To those who reside as aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia.” In other words, this is for everyone in Asia and Asia Minor. And then he says to them, “My grace and peace be with you. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy we are born again,” get this, “to a living hope, protected by God’s power we have an inheritance that is imperishable that will not fade away, reserved for us in heaven.” And he goes on to say, “In this you greatly rejoice, even if now for a little while you are distressed by various trials.”

Here's what I want you to get: the Early Church had a living hope. It was powerful. They really believed there was an eternal life and that they lived in this temporal time and so that shaped everything. They believed they had an inheritance.

Now, especially in the world, it was a very crude and difficult and a world of much suffering. And so, these people had hope that they clung onto in the midst of great difficulty and great persecution.

He goes on to say, “Fix your hope fully on this grace and this hope,” this following of a living God, not a religion, not a set of principles, “it was set on Him. And the living hope,” he says, “therefore, gird your minds for action.” So, it starts. And we don’t use that word a lot.

But a Roman soldier would have a long robe and when he was ready to go into battle, he would take his belt like this and he would take it and he would tuck it in and he would gird it. He would say, “Be sober. Here’s what I want you to do. You need to get ready. You need to think in a different way. You need to be sober in your thinking. You need to get ready to go after it.” He says, “You’re in a battle.”

And then he goes on to say, “After this hope and you are ready to think in a completely different way, focused on God’s grace,” then here’s what he says.

“As a obedient children, do not be conformed any longer to the former lusts that were yours in your ignorance, but like the holy One who called you, be ye holy also in all your behavior.”
So, what he’s saying is, first and foremost, you can’t look at this life as your home. You’re an alien. You’re a stranger. Second, when you have this hope, when you have an eternal perspective that happens deep in your heart, your behavior, you become a holy person. Not holy as in weird, holy as in loving and pure and moral.

And then he, look at verse 22, he skips on down. “Since you, in obedience to the truth, have purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another, because you have been born again by the Word of God.”
So, notice this apologetic. It’s first this place. My world is not about just the now and just the happiness and how my life turns out and how my kids get into which school or am I upwardly mobile? It’s first and foremost: I have a faith that is rooted in eternity that leads to a holy life, that leads to this fervent love. This isn’t about just being in a small group.

This is your kids growing up in a world and your friends seeing that you love one another. You give your time, you give your energy, you give your money, you care about people. You care about the marginalized.

The Early Church were the ones who would take the infants off the garbage dumps. The Early Church was the one that helped the leper. The Early Church grew according to Rodney Stark because in the first eighty to one hundred thirty years, there were three major plagues that went across the whole Roman world.

And everyone ran to the hills, especially the wealthy. And Christians stayed willfully in the cities and served and many of them died and their names are recorded as martyrs. They were martyrs who died to save the people, ministering to them through these plagues.

And Rodney Stark observes that then there were huge, major metropolitan cities that the only people that were left were Christians who survived or unbelievers who were nursed back to health through Christians.

See, it wasn’t their reasons. It was their life, it was their love, it was their dedication. And I will tell you that where I live, the “nones” if you will, non-religious affiliation in the Silicon Valley, seventy percent. They are people from all over the world. It’s the most diverse place, it’s the most intelligent place. And what I can tell you, what we have had the privilege of doing, when we have loved people, when we have helped the immigrants, when we have helped do things in the schools, when we have served the city, when we have helped those in the homosexual lifestyle and driven them to their doctors appointment and cared for them, rather than judge them.

Do we hold to the truth? Absolutely. But a radical love is what marked the Early Church. Holy lives, radical love, eternal perspective.

As you open to chapter 2, he says, “Therefore, get rid of all malice and guile and hypocrisy and envy and slander. And like a newborn baby, long for the pure milk of God’s Word, that by it you may grow.”

Do you hear the attitudes? They weren’t telling Rome what they ought to do. They weren’t saying, “We’ve got to have our rights.” Get rid of all hypocrisy. Get rid of this anger. Stop posting things about this group or that group. Stop blaming. Cause your lips to be lips of praise and encouragement.

You hold to the truth, you live the life. And then he says you become these living stones and you, a movement occurred in the Early Church where they became the source of solving some of the biggest problems in the first century.

And they cared for people that hated them. They returned good for evil. As they were marched into stadiums arm-in-arm, they would sing praises, praying out loud, “God, please forgive those who are killing us.”

It’s a faith that I see when I go to China. It’s a faith that I am seeing when I travel in the Middle East. And it’s the resurgent, the apologetic of the faith that we need in America today.

Your kids are not going to be followers of Christ because you send them to a Christian school and you go to a building and everyone sits and listens to someone talk and they hear a few songs and whether it’s a small, little church or a mega-church, I will tell you, your kids are bombarded, your friends are bombarded with a worldview that is completely antithetical to Scripture.

And what it’s going to take is an apologetic – are you ready for this? Here’s the number one apologetic: it’s your life. It’s a holy life with an eternal perspective that is radically loving. And then in chapter 2, he goes on to say that this builds and you’re this chosen generation, you’re God’s vehicle.

It’s not a political party that is going to change the world. You’re a group of priests, you’re His kingdom operational agents to make a difference.

And then he says – are you ready for this? “I urge you as aliens and strangers,” just like you don’t belong here, “to abstain from fleshly lusts.” Our morality, we can’t speak words and tell people how they ought to live. Our morality, especially in the area of sexual purity, it begins with us, not judging other people.

He goes on to say then, this gets wild, “Submit, therefore, to the government, even when they’re wrong.” He said, “I want you to submit to the government; every institution.” You ought to be the best citizens in the world, not the whiners, not the complainers, not the blamers, not the people that say, “The government did this. This political party did this.” Or, “I’m going to blame the media here and it’s higher education here.”

The Early Church understood it was the positive message of their life and they hold to the truth, but they were the best citizens, the kindest people. They were the most winsome. In fact, he would even go on to say, “What credit is there if you suffer for doing what’s wrong? But when you suffer for doing what is right,” not claiming your rights, “this finds favor with God. For you were called to this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, providing you an example to follow in His steps.”

Do you understand what it looks like when – everyone knows when things are unfair, when you respond in a good way when a boss or a meeting or a neighbor or a situation when it is so unfair and it is so wrong and they meet someone who models Christlikeness – don’t you understand that’s powerful?

That’s what Jesus did. And so, he says to us: here’s the core of your apologetic. Before you give them reasons, before they want to sit down and ever ask about the hope that’s in you, you know what they need? They need to see the kind of life that is saying, “What makes you tick?”

I was with a Google executive recently, and we’re on a plane riding together and he is from a Hindu background, but like most Hindus, like most Buddhists, like most people in Islam, and like most Christians – they don’t practice their faith, okay? They’re culturally that, like most Jews.

And so, what we really practice is upward mobility, getting ahead, getting a good education. But I will tell you this about every person: he really cared about his wife. He wanted to be a good dad.

We had a conversation for an hour and a half on a plane and you know what? I didn’t start with, “Here are the five reasons why I believe the Bible. I want you to know Jesus is the only way and here are all the reasons for it.”

He didn’t want to hear any of that. He actually said to me, you know, this sounds kind of crazy because he was super well educated. He was super bright. He goes, “I don’t really get Christianity, Islam, I don’t even know the basic story. Could you tell it to me?” And I did.

Then pretty soon, I started talking about forty years of marriage. And I started talking about some struggles, big struggles that I had with some of my kids and how God worked and what the principles were and what I believed and why.

I’m telling you, an hour and fifty-one minutes into that flight, over that time, this guy, I end up handing him the book Why I Believe, and instead of him feeling like, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” you know what he felt like? He felt like someone put his arm around him and we were sitting on this side of the table and truth is on that side of the table and there’s a loving God that has truth that wants to help him be a good dad, that wants him to have a great marriage, that wants to help him invest in his kids, and that there is truth that is sustainable and verifiable.

But he wasn’t ready to hear any of that until I listened, until I loved him, until I didn’t judge him. And he gave me all, “I think as long as you’re sincere, it doesn’t matter what you believe.” I said, “That’s a really interesting statement.” And we walked down that path logically. And I am going to tell you, little by little by little, what he realized is he has heard all this mantra of our day, but he hadn’t really thought it through. He didn’t know what he really believed or why.

And he – the same human needs that everyone has, that’s where we begin. I love it, he even tells us to let our family life demonstrate it. He says, “Wives,” in chapter 3, “this is how to respond to your husband.” And then, “Hey, husbands, this is how you respond to your wife.” And this is so radical. A woman who was just a piece of property to be used and abused, and he says, “Live with your wife in an understanding way. She’s a coheir of the grace of God.”

And then he says to sum it up; this is a great passage, because it’s the actual context. He says, “Here’s what I want you to know. To sum up, let all be harmonious and sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult.” Can you imagine if we just applied that to social media alone?

Not evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead, for you were called for this very purpose” – why? “that you might receive a blessing.” And then that passage talks about that blessing and the kind of life it produces and it’s that kind of life that people will say, “Oh! Would you tell me the hope that’s in you? Can you tell me how your family looks like this? Can you tell me how your life is working like that?”

Because here’s what I know. People can say whatever they want. You don’t have to believe in gravity. You jump off a four-story building, I’ll tell you what, the results are about the same of someone who says, “I believe in gravity.” This person says, “I don’t believe in gravity.” They both jump off.

You don’t have to believe in how, what God says about relationships, you don’t believe that Jesus is the only way, you don’t have believe. But I will tell you, when you violate the principles of the kingdom of how God has designed life to work, then what you have is destruction and heartbreak.

We have the highest suicide rate in the history of America, especially among thirteen to seventeen-year-old girls and middle aged people. Those who are struggling with sexual identity issues, whether transgender or with homosexuality, you have, again, high suicide rates. We are living in a day where what Christians need to be and to become are first and foremost, godly, loving, kind and winsome.

Because here’s the deal: classic apologetics assumed that we were living the kind of life that people were asking about the hope that’s in you.

Now, you. Anybody asking you that? What’s your hope? Is your life that different? Can I be very gentle, but I want to start our time, be very direct. Have you unconsciously, unconsciously – so, I don’t mean you have willfully done it – somehow thought that just going to church, intellectually believing a few facts, praying a prayer is really going to cause your family, your kids, your neighbors to see Christ as the most attractive and powerful reality in all the world?

And if you’re concerned about your children, if you’re concerned and feeling intimidated by what is happening in our world, stay with me. Because we are going to talk about this new apologetic that starts with your life and how then we use all those facts and all that truth in a winsome way to put our arm around people to really help them understand and them to accept and understand that there is a God who cares about them.

The mandate hasn’t changed: “Go unto all the world and” – what? “preach the gospel.” That’s what God wants to do in us and through us. Father, I pray right now for every, single person that You would give them a moment of truth to analyze and evaluate where they’re at in their relationship with You. Father, I pray that we would grasp first and foremost that our lives have to scream the love of God and the truth of God before our mouths can speak about the same. Would You guide our time? Would You help us to be Christians who really live like Christians for Your glory and for our good? In Jesus’ name, amen.