Part 2 (of 2)
All are born with an innate sense of where we came from, why we’re here, and what happens after we die. It takes hard work to overcome our natural inclinations and intuition that God exists and that He is good. There are many reasons people may give for rejecting their heavenly Father, but the starting point for disbelief isn’t questioning God’s existence but God’s goodness. Therefore, the ways in which Christians should lead non-believers toward Jesus depends on why they decided God wasn’t good (or that something else was better).
Jesus produces the fruit, but we can plant seeds in more fertile soil by addressing the reason(s) they declared their independence. Once we discover the motive for dismissing God’s authority over their lives, we can emphasize and reflect God’s goodness in that area. Oftentimes, excuses given for rejecting God are not the authentic, underlying issue. So it’s important to get down to the root cause for their declaration of independence because it is typically not about the Lord at all, but about “freedom” (from something or for something). As a ministry that works extensively with the homeless, we know many don’t share the whole story when trying to get help. Nor do the Fatherless always tell the truth when justifying how they got to the point of basing their identity on self rather than as a child of God.
Because God exists and embodies love, Selfism grasps at straws to make the case that He isn’t real or isn’t good. For years Atheists, Agnostics, Nones and Dones have frequented this Blog’s Facebook page, replaying the same trite arguments as if they were trying to convince themselves of their validity. Despite this Age of Decadence, there is hope because Americans are far more receptive to the Gospel on the inside than they appear to be on outside. People are hungry for truth, coming to the realization that they can’t actually invent their own. Drugs and depression are rampant among those living without the identity and purpose God intended.
In fact, Christians are generally more reluctant about having Gospel conversations than non-believers, not sure what to say because they haven’t been properly equipped by churches. Our responses to secular culture may even lend credence to contentions that God is not good (if we’re not compassionate) or must not exist (if we’re not transformed, looking like everyone else). However, Christians and churches have an incredible opportunity right now to spark revival by following Jesus’ example of addressing the issues at the heart of unbelief…
Didn’t get what they asked for when they were younger…
Those whose reaction to Christianity is visceral, not ambivalent, may be harboring anger toward God. Despite desperate prayers, a loved one may have passed away or career ambitions were never realized, breaking their trust in God. Antitheism emerged from what was once belief.
Prove God can be trusted…
Prayer – Only Jesus can break the resolve of entrenched animosity from bitter disappointment.
Care – Begin with a relationship, not an invitation to church, and demonstrate God’s goodness through loving acts of service to rebuild their faith in the Source of our kindness.
Share – Reset expectations, explaining that our loving Father delivers on all His promises through Jesus, but those do not include guarantees that life will turn out as we’ve planned.
God’s commands do not align with their desires…
When faced with a critical decision point in life – their will or God’s – many choose the former, regardless of the consequences. That choice boils down to what they value most – someone, something or God. It’s tempting to sacrifice the unseen and eternal for the visible and temporal.
Prove God’s laws are better than having no rules or following man’s lead…
Care – Live according to God’s laws and hold church members accountable, but don’t judge those who don’t know Jesus according to His standards. If Christ did not come to condemn the world, we’re in much less of a position to do so.
Assuage guilt the only way they know how…
To quell conscience, many become non-believers to eliminate guilt at the source. For good measure, to ensure guilt never rears its ugly head, most adopt a (justice) cause, hang out with “safe” people (not Christians) in “safe” places (not churches), and judge no one (except Christians and churches) to avoid being judged by anyone.
Prove Christ alone can remove guilt…
Share – Those who push Jesus away to protect the fragile bubble they’ve constructed are apt to accept an offer of God’s grace if we have the courage to extend it to them.
Live for the moment, not thinking about the future…
Youth taught they are accidents with no purpose endure too much anxiety today to worry about tomorrow. Trends toward rooting identity in personal inclinations rather than a heavenly Father track attempts by Christianity to become more relevant by emphasizing what God does for us in this life and not the next.
Prove there’s more than meets the eye, including eternal life…
Share – Feel a sense of urgency since eternal life hangs in the balance. Like Jesus, boldly address repentance and eternity but deal with the current realities of a hopeless existence.
Arrogantly presume only what we can see and grasp exists…
Faith in intellect and science is just that – faith. It’s betting on mankind even though our “facts” and conclusions often turn out to be wrong. Non-believers demand proof that God exists and mock references to the supernatural not because they have absolute confidence in their assertions but to preserve in their own minds the right to live however they please.
Prove their answers to life’s most basic questions defy logic…
Prayer – God has the power to defy logic and reveal Himself, so ask Him to knock on the doors of those we love.
Care – No one wants to believe there’s no hope or meaning, but many don’t like what (they think) the alternative would entail. Our transformation, liberated from a corrupt nature they cannot escape, may open their minds to the inexplicable.
Share – Realize the driver (of unbelief) isn’t trust in man’s capabilities or goodness, but a lack of trust in God’s. Therefore, address that root issue and not their surface-level atheistic or agnostic contentions.
Blame God for the failure of Christians and churches to reflect Jesus’ love and compassion…
Some non-believers determine that God must not exist (or if He does, that He must not be good) based on their experience in the past with “Christians” who looked very little like Jesus. Rarely is this the actual reason for disbelief, but rather a convenient excuse to ignore Scripture that did not conform to personal preferences.
Prove God is good by our love, and by our humility when we inevitably fall short…
Prayer – (Re)commit to becoming and making disciples who live and act more like Jesus.
Care – Demonstrate true “tolerance” by listening to the stories, opinions, and challenges facing those with whom we disagree to understand and respond to the root cause of their unbelief.
Share – Debunk false accusations levied against God by beating accusers to the punch, confronting believers’ sins before they’re exposed and confessing our dire need for forgiveness.
On the surface, Christianity is the least attractive world view for “control freaks”…
Selfism, like all other religions, offers a high degree of control. However, following Jesus places our present and future in His hands. We trust His plan, submit to His will, and admit that it’s what He did (and not what we do) that saves us. That’s a hard pill to swallow for most people.
Prove being under control of a loving Father beats charting our own course…
Prayer – Ask the Lord to reveal to dear friends and family that they are not actually in control.
Care – Churches train and equip members to transform workplaces and neighborhoods by demonstrating the joy and (true) freedom that comes from complete dependence on God.
Share – Explain how living under God’s authority, like being raised by good parents, is better than the illusion of “freedom” that enslaves to sin, social influencers, and the whims of culture.
It’s Your Turn
How much time and how deep of a relationship is required to uncover the real motive behind someone’s declaration of independence from God? Is it worth that investment if it results in a more effective approach for leading them toward Jesus?