|Series Theme: "Bits & Pieces"|
a) Short teaching:
b) Q&A teaching:
c) Longer Teaching:
a) Short teaching:
b) Q&A teaching:
c) Longer Teaching:
Title: Misc. Teaching
Please click on any of the titles on the side bar
c) Longer Series Teaching (Continued)
12. Thoughts about Church Life
A brief series of thoughts about life ‘as church'. Church is people and so here is encouragement and challenge for what it means to be a part of the church today.
1. Awareness of God
Last week, coming back from two week's holiday, a two week's break where we had had little opportunity to ‘go to church', I was particularly aware of just how good it was being together in the presence of God.
The next day I happened to meet a leader from another church and, chatting over church life (as leaders do), he shared about a bigger group he had recently met with. He said how incredibly good they had been at disciple-making, church planting and leadership training and so on, but was amazed to note in big meetings there seemed to be no awareness of God's leading. That set me thinking.
A Temple for God?
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul, in his first letter to the church at Corinth , spoke about how we are the temple of God (1 Cor 3:16 ). (a picture borrowed from the Old Testament). Recently it was also mentioned how we are God's dwelling place, God living in Christians as individuals and collectively. 1 Corinthians 14 is all about how God expresses Himself through ‘spiritual gifts' when the church comes together. A “service” should thus be a time when God is free to express Himself in and through His people.
Forced or Voluntary
So how does it happen? How does God move in and through His people? Very simply, He prompts us and we respond, but therein is the problem. For Him to prompt us, we have to be aware of Him. He doesn't ever force us.
How do we sense God?
Well, God tends to speak, or move sovereignly, or we respond to a sense of His presence. Let's consider each of these.
i) God Speaks
When this happens while we are worshipping, the individual simply has an awareness of thoughts going through their mind. It might be some verses of Scripture (for encouragement or direction), it might be the reminder of something God has done for us (a testimony), it might be a sense of what to sing or do next (word of wisdom), or it might be the sense of a word for an individual or for the church (prophecy). Now here's the key issue for us when we are together as ‘church': what will we do with it? We can either ignore it, or we can bring it to the rest of the gathered church.
ii) God moves sovereignly
There are times in church history when God comes into the midst of His people and moves sovereignly. The so-called ‘Toronto Blessing' a number of years ago was one such time. During that time people just found themselves laughing or shaking or doing a variety of other things as God moved sovereignly upon them.
iii) Responding to His Presence
Sometimes people suddenly find themselves in tears in the middle of a service. That may be because of the sense of the wonder of His presence, or it may be because His presence makes us act in a real way, and for us, at that moment, tears are appropriate, i.e. we need to cry about issues in life, and crying is being natural. When God makes His presence felt (and remember He is here ALL the time) then it's very difficult not to be real before Him.
In many churches, people just turn up, perform religious acts and go away. In New Testament churches, people turn up, sense God, hear God, respond to God, allow God to move and go away blessed. Can we learn to be that sort of church?
2. Taking Opportunities – a) On Sundays
What did we miss?
Billy Graham was once asked what he would do differently if he had his time over again. He replied, “Pray more.” In his latter years he came to realise that despite his incredible ministry and God's amazing blessing on it, he had often missed the opportunity to spend time in God's presence. There are many reasons why we need the forgiveness of the Cross of Christ, but one of them must be because of the number of times laziness, apathy or just plain weariness meant that we hadn't taken the opportunity that God presented to us to be blessed. How many times, I wonder, does He stand there with open arms, looking to bless His children, and we're too taken up with self-concerns?
The Opportunity of Sunday Morning
Sunday morning is a time when we have the opportunity of meeting with the Lord (as well as with each other, and being built by one another's fellowship and friendship). Increasingly over past months we've been starting off the morning with a time of reflective waiting on the Lord. As one of the new songs says, “Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.” Here's an opportunity, from the start, to sense God's presence and to lay down before Him the burdens of the week. We miss the opportunity if the enemy gets us to stay in bed those few minutes longer or gets us to delay with a bit of extra house work, so we arrive late. Don't miss the opportunity.
God is Here?
It tends to be newcomers who comment on it because, perhaps, the rest of us take it for granted, but there is so often when we gather on a Sunday morning, a sense of God's presence, but we miss it if we come in with a casual attitude. Are we casual, perhaps, about the opportunity we have to encounter God each Sunday morning?
The opportunity of Worship
When we truly worship God, the Holy Spirit meets with us and something of the power, grace and strength of God is imparted. This is not to say that is why we should worship, but simply to note that when we do join in and give ourselves to sing, pray or whatever in worship, we encounter God, whether we are aware of it or not. If we leave at the end of Sunday morning feeling weary and burdened, it means we didn't take the opportunity to allow God to minister to us as we worshipped. Worship changes the world; worship changes us.
The Opportunity of Receiving Ministry
When an opportunity is given to receive prayer at the back, it doesn't matter if you've never been prayed for before, or if you receive prayer every week; it's an opportunity for God to meet with you and lift the burdens, give fresh vision or impart strength or gifting. It's staggering when you think about it, that God can bless and change our lives simply by us going and letting someone else pray for us. No conditions, no demands, all we have to do is stand there and receive. How incredible is that! Don't miss the opportunity!
Missing the Opportunity
There are probably lots of other ways we can miss opportunities; when the Bible is being preached and we take if for granted, when we don't go and check out one another and pray for one another. Now, there's an important one. Someone shares that they are not feeling well or they are feeling worried. Is your natural response to say, “Can I quickly pray for you?” You don't have to be a leader, just someone full of God's love. Don't miss an opportunity to bless God, bless those around you, and change the world!
3. Taking Opportunities – b) The Church into the World
Not just on Sunday?
We started this series by thinking about the presence of God among us when we meet. Then we thought about taking the opportunities that the Lord gives us on Sunday mornings, but the thing is, that God isn't confined to just Sunday mornings; He is with us all the time and, even more, He is working all the time in and through us, and around us. Therefore, if this is true, the whole topic of ‘taking opportunities' shouldn't be limited to just Sundays.
Recapturing the Truth
This is the truth: that God is with you and God is working in and through you, and in lives around you. Perhaps we've never realised that, or perhaps we've forgotten it, but it is true. Sometimes we do catch the quiet voice of the Lord speaking to us, but I wonder if sometimes we miss it because we're just too busy with our minds preoccupied, or simply we're not expecting it, and therefore we don't take any notice of it when He speaks. It can just be a thought that He drops in, but because it doesn't come with trumpet fanfare we can so easily miss it.
Looking to Bless Others
The clear indication that comes through again and again in the Bible, is that God is wanting to express His love, not only to you and me, but to everyone around us. The only reason people get in a mess in life is because they don't listen to what God is saying and obviously don't do what He is saying. So there you are, meandering through the week… … and the Lord sees someone He wants to bless through you. He just wants to bring a simple word of encouragement to them. Could you be His voice to them?
The Opportunities that are there
Wherever there is a need, there is an opportunity. Jenny Rees Larcombe wrote a wonderful little book called, “God's Gloves” and in it she suggests that with God in us, His hand wanting to bless people, it's like we can become His gloves, the means of Him touching others. All we have to do is learn to be sensitive to His moving within us – and of course have the courage to respond. How we could bless Him!
But I get so tired!
Personal needs can be the reason the enemy gives us not to be ‘God's Gloves'. You're too tired, too worried, too old, too young too whatever! But the truth is that if we are ‘God's Gloves' then it is His strength in us that will enable us to bless people, in whatever way that will be. The starting place must surely be at home. Yes it's tiring when WE make the running but as we learn to turn it over to God, and learn to become aware of Him there in us, prompting, then suddenly it's a new day, and new energy is there. More than that, if God is the one energising you and helping you with your family, then suddenly it's a new day for them too, because in a new way, they're in God's hands! Think about it and let that thought sink in.
The Week Ahead, a Week of Opportunities
Will the week ahead be hard effort, or could it be a week when GOD gives you lots of opportunities for Him to do things, or speak things, through you – that IS the possibility!
Remember, it's a learning exercise – learning to listen, learning to respond, learning to take the opportunities for His strength to be yours as you step out and let Him bless others through you.
4. Making Opportunities
Making or Taking?
We've been considering ‘taking opportunities'. This means when opportunities come up we grab them! However, often in the Christian life, we can be more proactive. This may actually be the same thing, but it is looking at it from a different angle, seeing it differently. For instance, coming along to church one morning, the leader asks if anyone has any testimony to share and you suddenly find an opportunity to give a testimony which blesses someone else. That was ‘taking an opportunity'. But suppose you have been blessed by God, and feeling full of faith want to share, so you come along and ask the leader can you have space to tell what happened. That is ‘making an opportunity' to bless someone else.
Isn't it Presumptuous?
Oh, whispers the enemy into your ear, that's being a bit presumptuous isn't it, thinking that something that's happened to you, might bless someone else? No it's not presumptuous, it's what Christians do! A testimony is simply telling how God has blessed you. It can be simply something that happened in the last week or it can be something that happened longer ago. When we share stuff like that, the Holy Spirit takes it and uses it to encourage someone else. Good isn't it! We shouldn't be afraid to share ways that God has shown His love to us!
Making or Taking (2)
So here comes Sunday morning and there are two ways you can approach it. The first way is TOTAL PASSIVITY. That means you let it happen and are surprised when it is often so good! … You come along to take whatever goodies are being handed out by God that morning. The second way is the way of PROACTIVITY. You come in faith desiring to be someone who brings the goodies of God to bless others.
Faith is Proactive
Now you may not have thought about it before, but our worship leaders pray in the week before they lead and when they get a sense of how to lead that morning, it is with the anticipation that they are making opportunities, both for God to move AND for you to respond or even take the initiative. When we choose particular songs it is with the anticipation that we are making opportunities for the Holy Spirit to touch us, stir us, challenge us, and lift us up. When we pause up for prayer ministry times we are making opportunities for God to bless you through prayer. When we have Bible ministry we are making opportunities for God to teach us through His word. In each of these ways we are MAKING SPACE FOR GOD TO MOVE
Knowing who God is
Why do we do this? We do it because, reading the Bible, we know that God loves interacting with His people. We do it because many times in the past, we have made space for the Lord and He has acted or spoken. It's one of the reasons you may sometimes see one of the worship leaders pause up and appear to listen. They are catching the sense that the Lord wants to move in some particular way, and they want to give Him the space or opportunity to do what is on His heart. No, this is not presumptuous; it is the children of God learning the way their loving heavenly Father wants to do things.
Knowing who you are
It's all about knowing who we are. We are indeed His children. Watch parents with very young children; they delight in their children's antics. Those antics may sometimes be self-centred but, hey, they're just kids. Children, when they know they are loved, don't pause to leap into Mum or Dad's arms. They just do it, even if it's not the best moment for it to happen. It's better to leap into Daddy's arms and do it at a wrong moment than never do it. We learn along the way. So, let's be God's kids and let's look to make opportunities when we're together to let our loving heavenly Father do what He loves doing most – blessing His children!
5. The Church is 'God on the Move'
Not a human institution!
Any thoughts about church life must come to consider what church is and how it came to be. Christians are people who have come to the end of themselves, had an encounter with God and received the work of Jesus dying on the Cross for them, and have been energised and directed by His Holy Spirit. Although it is something we preach and teach on again and again, the reality of it often escapes us. Church life is about God on the move!
Guided by God
Yes, we have touched on these things here already, but they do bear repeating. So there you were, talking to God (prayer) and suddenly you had some thoughts pouring through you mind. The wise learn to take note of such thoughts, because so often they turn out to be God speaking. So there you were reading your Bible and suddenly a verse seemed to leap out at you. The wise learn to take note of such a verse, because so often it turns out to be God speaking. There you are meandering through life, when suddenly things happen and life changes for the good. You wonder, how did that happen? Could it be that God stepped in and changed things for you?
Empowered by God
So there you were, struggling with the same old problems, and almost without thinking you started sharing it with Jesus. In a way that seemed to defy your understanding the problem seemed to evaporate and it was no longer a problem but just something else to be sorted along with the rest of life. What happened there? He turned up and helped you with it. There was that person who had always been a real pain, and one day you found yourself talking to God about them. Oddly the next time you encountered them you seemed to understand them like you never had before, and you even felt compassion for them! What happened? God turned up and helped you change!
Dramatic, Ordinary or Dramatically Ordinary!
So how do you see God moving? Is it a case that it is so dramatic you would never expect it to happen in your life? Or is it so ordinary that you never notice? Perhaps there is a third way, perhaps He longs for you to invite Him into the ordinariness of your life to make dramatic changes – well any change is sometimes dramatic! All you've got to do is talk to Him about it – nothing fancy mind you, just be real – your problems, your partner, the kids, your job, anything in fact – and then expect something to happen (and perhaps, we might wonder, are we open to see what our part in it might be?)
6. So, Church is…
What it isn't
Let's summarise what we have been saying here so far. Church isn't a club, a building or an institution. For these reasons we don't have voting and rules and regulations, we hire whatever buildings we need at the time for our uses, and we don't belong to any bigger organisation.
What it is
According to the Bible it is simply everyone who is a committed Christian, i.e. a body of people. This group of people have found that God loves them just as they are. He has plans for them to change, to enable them to enjoy being who they are even more. Part of this process of change involves being forgiven and set free from the past. Part of it involves learning that God has a plan for our individual lives, to learn more who He has made us to be, the gifts He has given us, and how we can live lives that have a sense of purpose and fulfilment.
A Learning People
It doesn't take very long to realise that the description above is a target to aim for, because we haven't got there yet! Some of us may still be in the “being set free from the past phase”, others of us are still learning who God has made us to be, while others are still trying to work out what gifts God has given them, while yet others are still trying to find out what specific purpose God has for them. In other words, church is one big learning zone! We're ALL learners!
All about God
It perhaps sounds almost too obvious to mention, but church is mostly all about God. For ‘seekers-but-not-quite-yet-believers' and for those who are fully committed believers, it's just the same – find out about who God is, and then how is it possible to encounter Him? Perhaps that last bit should really read, how is it possible to realise we are encountering Him, for again and again God is speaking to people, or doing things in them, or for them, but they don't realise it's Him. So part of our learning programme is becoming aware of how God speaks and moves and how He may have been speaking and moving in my life without me realising it was Him!
All about God with us
Church isn't only about God and us individually; it's all about how God speaks and moves in and through us corporately. So Sunday mornings aren't just us doing stuff, they are actually also about God doing stuff in us and through us. So we may hear things, sense things, feel things that might be God speaking or moving. They may be things for us as individuals, or us as a whole church. The tricky bit is learning how to distinguish which is which but, hey, we're all learners together!
13. Equipped to Witness
1. Becoming Aware
Here we start off a new series to help equip you in discussions with non-Christians. In its first year, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion sold over a million copies and is being printed in 30 different languages. He also continues to regularly appear on TV. In America , and now published over here, Christopher Hitchens has written a similar book, God is Not Great . Both of these books are getting a wide reading and both are utterly deceptive.
Slowly but surely the atheist crusaders (and make no doubt about it, that is what they are!) are transforming people's minds to believe that Christian belief is outdated and worthless and really has no foundation that any sane person would believe. We are facing an outright intellectual (!!) attack that seeks to undermine not only existing Christians but any hope of getting others to believe.
These atheistic writers are on very shaky ground as they seek to turn the world upside down. Isaiah knew people like this: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isa 5:20)
So much of what they say is pure speculation and so often they attack a form of Christianity that we don't believe anyway and so their case sounds strong. If we know the basis of our faith, what the Bible says, and how the church came to be, we will have nothing to fear from the poor accusations of these men. The good news is that there are people who don't read and who simply are concerned with their personal needs and how God can meet them. However that should not stop us preparing ourselves to meet those who do read and do think.
How we will lose
We need to be the witnesses that Jesus spoke of (Acts 1:8). We won't be those witnesses in today's age if we are intimidated by these writers and the media who together so often denigrate the Christian faith. This is all about preparing ourselves.
Listen carefully to what people say about the Christian faith. Each of these atheistic propagandists shoots at extremes or a form of Christianity that most of us wouldn't have anything to do with. So in the office, school or college you may hear people disparaging that form of Christianity they've either read about or seen portrayed on TV. We really do need the courage to be able to gently say, “You know real Christianity isn't anything like that.”
Don't be ashamed of Being Good
We may need to defend on a completely different ground when the Christian Faith is being disparaged. The vast majority of volunteers at work in our society are Christians. It was Christians who worked to free slaves, started Unions to protect worker exploitation, built hospitals and orphanages, and established the first schools – and for that matter who run some of the most successful schools today!
A Springboard from Goodness
A simple question is, why attack a people who have contributed so much good into society? The answer may come back, “Oh, I don't attack the people; I attack their beliefs.” That gives you opportunity to gently ask, “Do you know what those beliefs really are?” and that in turn opens the way to share the basics of belief (rather than what some of these atheistic writers believe we believe) and our experience of God's goodness in our own lives.
2. Rehearse your Story
A not uncommon challenge
Imagine a friend, someone at work or school says, “I don't know why you bother with this Christianity stuff! What's it ever done for anyone?” What would be your response? It's a similar sort of challenge to that which is conveyed often in the media or by some of today's crusading atheists, that declares, “This church stuff is out of date. It was all right when people were ignorant, but now we're educated we know it's just a lot of superstitious nonsense.” What would be your response? If you haven't got one then can we challenge you today to start thinking of one?
One Approach: Christians Do Good!
An approach that we mentioned above, is to remind your antagonist a little of what the Christian faith has done in the course of history. Put in its simplest form, knowing God through Jesus Christ totally transforms people, and down through the centuries millions of people have had their lives changed, and it's been those changed people who have so often been the ones who have brought good social change into the world, as a result of the love of God showing through them.
As we said above, it was Christians who worked to free slaves, started Unions to protect worker exploitation, built hospitals and orphanages, and established the first schools – and for that matter who run some of the most successful schools today! So much of what has been good in our world, has been because Christians brought it. To the above list we may add feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, clothing the needy, working for prison reform, and nursing the sick.
Another Approach: You have a Tale to Tell
We may think we wouldn't be good at arguing the truths of Christianity but perhaps what we forget is that we each have a tale to tell – what God has done in ‘my life'.
For the atheist, like the religious Jews of Jesus' day, possibly THE most frustrating person they can encounter is the one who says, “One thing I know. I was blind but now I see.” (Jn 9:25)
You may not have quite such a spectacular testimony as the prostitute-turned-Christian-social worker, or the gang-leader-turned-pastor, or the reformed-alcoholic, but you DO have a story to tell.
An Easy Exercise
Here is the exercise which we encourage every person in the church to do. Take a piece of paper and write down TEN things God has done for you. If you're not quite sure how to start, here were some of one person's list:
• Brought me a sense of peace & joy when I first became a Christian.
• Brought me a realisation that when I pray He listens and always answers in the best way.
• Taught me that He speaks through the Bible and it's a great book.
• Taught me that He speaks into my mind about me & about others.
• Taught me that He loves me just as I am and He doesn't push me away when I blow it.
• Taught me He loves me so much that He has something better for me than I have at the present.
• Taught me to realise that He does guide me, sometimes through directly speaking and sometimes directing by circumstances.
Now you have your own list because He has done things for you.
When you've got your list, why not write it out neatly, or print it out, and stick it on your fridge or notice board or wherever else you keep notes.
Let it act as a reminder to you of what he's done. Perhaps it will be noticed by others who come into your home. A silent testimony. Easy isn't it!
3. Beware Deception
Now we consider the deception that so often takes place in our world today.
A little while ago I was reading a book by an atheist and found myself being swept along by the rhetoric, thinking, “This is good writing,” but then I started to think more carefully at just what was being said. Following that, I thought afresh about the enemy's activity of trying to deceive us and my overall plea in what follows is, think about what you hear or what you read, and ask yourself, is this really true, what is being said here?
The following are some of the specific strategies you may encounter if you really start thinking about this subject:
1. The Authority Approach : The first approach that is used by the enemy as he works through people is that he comes powerfully and authoritatively, through them, not brooking opposition and stampeding down any opposition. This person gives themselves the position of almost divine authority. This person pounds away with apparent facts that soon turn out to be mere theory and speculation! It is often linked with the derisory approach. They laugh at you, that you should hold such outdated ideas which everyone else has given up on. They haven't!
2. The Reasonable Approach: The second of the deceptive strategies is that of the person who appears so reasonable that you are seduced by their niceness and really don't take in the import of what they are saying. You'll see it on TV and hear it on the radio. This is the mild mannered man, the epitome of the civilised man. This person makes his opponents appear so offensive and unreasonable, bigoted and uncharitable. How unpleasant you religious people are to upset his quiet, reflective meanderings through life. Again, very deceptive!
3. The Half Truth Approach: A third deceptive approach is that it using half truths. It blends truth with untruth to create an end product of its own making, to suit its own presupposed conclusions. Even more deception! Check it out; is everything they say true, even if little bits of it are?
4. The Offload Approach: Have you ever sat in on a discussion with a number of participants and your main opposition person just pours out so much that no one else can get a word in? When that happens it is almost impossible to take in individual points when talk goes past like a fast flowing river. Pause it up and examine bits of what is being said, one by one.
5. Appealing to Extremes Approach: This is appealing to extremes of history or in the present world. Richard Dawkins on TV is a master of this. He picks up on silly comments of people whose understanding was less than perfect or people's inadequacies in general, in respect of religion specifically. Yes, there are weird people around but they do not portray the truth of Christianity, so don't let your opponent make Christianity to be weird like the people quoted. It's not!
6. Speaking in Generalities: This person speaks in such generalities that it is impossible to tie down the truth. It comes in broad sweeping statements, e.g. “Well of course we all know that …..” and you're left wondering how you can possibly counter this puff of smoke, for that it is what it is like. Ask them to be specific.
7. Condemnation by association: This is another one that is used by the enemy, and it tends to leave a sour taste. An example is linking those Christians who might speak out against specific moral issues, with anarchists who demonstrate violently, or with sectarian groups who use religion to bolster their political aims. Don't let that happen. Challenge the assumptions that they are the same.
Watch for these!
Simply considering this list of seven things here, is quite likely to leave you cold. I'm aware of that, but next time you are watching TV, reading the papers or magazines of listening to or being part of a discussion, listen to what is being said and check the truth of what is coming over, and you may suddenly find that you can spot these things being used to deceive.
4. Watch for God
We are thinking about how we can be the witness that Jesus calls us to be (Acts 1:8). Now we consider the truth that God is there working, whatever the world says.
A Dismal Picture
I keep hearing the same thing: it's a depressing world, this world we live in today. Depressing? When we live in the most prosperous time of history yet, when science and technology have given us so many good things to make like easier or more enjoyable? Ah yes, but it's not things, but people. We seem to be part of a society that is falling apart at the seams, and the more you understand human sin, the more depressing it seems.
Denial of God
It seems that in life and through the media we are constantly hearing voices denying God. Atheistic humanists seem to be given more and more opportunities to shout, “There is no God. Throw off the shackles of religion and be free.” At times we wonder is there any future for the church. We may even doubt our faith as we listen to the voices of unbelief. How can we reach people in a climate like this?
That is the simple answer: the Lord! Merely because silly people shout that He's not there, that doesn't mean it is true. Jesus said, “ My Father is always at his work .” (Jn 5:17). What is the Father's work? It is to speak to people, to gently move in their circumstances. You're not sure about this? I know that, over the years, I know of many people who appeared to be completely hard-hearted and against God. Then suddenly, out of the blue, they seemed to have a spiritual hunger, and they came asking questions and before we knew what happened, they were ‘born again' and part of God's kingdom. How did it happen? God spoke to them and drew them!
Don't be put off by hard hearts
We need to understand something here: people often look uninterested and we think it is not worthwhile sharing about God with them, but we need to keep a watch out for signs of God moving!
There are two sorts of people, and the trouble is we don't know who is who! One sort are hard-hearted and if you press them they simply get even more hard-hearted. That's what Pharaoh was like (see Exodus 5-12). The other sort look hard hearted (“I'm not interested!”) but God sees that within these is a fearful yearning to know the truth. These ones, I believe, are the ones who, when He sees the time is right, He can speak to and they start responding, even if they don't realise that that is what is happening.
So what are signs that God is moving?
Well, the obvious one is that they start talking about spiritual issues. Now this may be a very preliminary thing so don't try and rush God. Some people take years, others take a matter of weeks.
As He keeps speaking into their lives, they become discontented with who they are and what they are and start asking questions. At some stage there is no point answering more and more questions; it is time to bring the gentle challenge, “Look, I think you know deep down what you want. Would you like to let Jesus take over and lead your life?” And that's when they're perhaps ready to pray the prayer! If not, be patient!
How can we help the process along?
1. Just love people
This is what Peter was speaking about to wives - 1 Pet 3:1 – and what Jesus spoke about – Mt 5:16
2. Be ready to answer people when they ask questions
“ Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (1 Pet 3:15 ). Note what Peter said – gently and with respect!
Remember God is at work, we're just junior partners!
5. Wishful Thinking
We continue to think about how we can be the witness that Jesus calls us to be (Acts 1:8). Now we face up to one of the things that antagonists to Christianity say – it's all wishful thinking!
The Suggestion: It's all “wishful thinking”
It's obvious, say misguided psychologists (such as Sigmund Freud) and subsequent atheists jumping on the bandwagon, that all your religion is wishful thinking. It's a scary world and so it is natural for human beings to want to have a father figure or even an invisible friend to be there for them. It's just wishful thinking on the part of all you religious people. We've got to grow up and learn to live on our own.
That's what is said, and there are at least four answers to be considered:
1. Atheism is wishful thinking!
Charles Colson in How Now Shall We Live? wrote:
“We could argue that the myth of human goodness to which modern culture has succumbed is best explained by the psychology of atheism, which is itself a form of wish fulfilment – a deep desire to be free from all external authority and from any transcendent source of morality.”
In other words he is saying that the alternative, atheism, is open to the charge of ‘wishful thinking' because, in fact, many people don't want to be told what to do and so the idea that there is no God who is THE Supreme Being who knows best is appealing to the sinful mind which wants to be free to do its own thing.
2. People often don't like Father figures
This is almost an extension of the first answer. As much as subconsciously we might want someone to watch over us, psychologists tell us that many people struggle with a father figure because their fathers were abusive or less than caring, so in fact, many people struggle with the idea of God as a Father figure so this is actually a hindrance and not a cause for belief.
3. This invisible friend isn't like me
Part of the charge is that God is a made-up idea, rather like the invisible friend that many children have, someone to keep us company, someone to play with us and be nice to us.
When you try to apply this idea to God there is an obvious problem. The truth is that when you start to examine childhood ‘invisible friends' they are almost always similar to the child. The reason for this is obvious: we like people who are like us. Thus our childhood invisible friend is like us, but when it comes to God, the God of the Bible, we find a completely different picture: He is utterly different from us. He knows everything and He knows best. More than that, He demands that we become like Him. This is exactly the opposite to the ‘invisible childhood friend' idea.
4. Based in History
The claim is that it is wishful thinking but the point about Christianity is that it is NOT a set of clever ideas pandering to our needs; it is an account of God's activity in history, revealing His love for us.
The Bible is a series of historical documents founded in history, recording events of time-space history. So much of it uses the language of the witness, recording what people saw and heard. If you want to do a study of this, check out the following: Luke 1:1-3, 1 Jn 1:1-3, Acts 2:32, 3:15, 4:18-20, 5:30-32, 10:39,40, 1 Cor 15:3-8, 1 Pet 5:1, 2 Pet 1:16, Jn 19:33-35, 20:24-30, Heb 2:3,4.
It's a silly claim, this one that says all we believe is wishful thinking. Our faith doesn't come in a way that many of us find acceptable (the father figure), it doesn't come in a form that panders to us (the invisible friend), and it isn't a bunch of clever ideas, but a record of history, of God revealing His love to us, and that is clear and distinct from our own thinking. No wonder the apostle Paul said we needed our minds transforming (Rom 12:2). It's all about us conforming our minds to Him, not us making up things to believe in!