We speak about God to others because we love God. We are citizens of His kingdom. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and renews our life. We love Jesus. Jesus has given us forgiveness of sins, changed our lives forever, and called us to tell others about our King.
Satan, adversary of all humans, works to intercept and confuse. Serious misconceptions stand between us and those with whom we would like to communicate. How can we talk to others so that we open the door wider for them to receive Jesus?
Heart is the Root
Jesus teaches us. Matthew 12:33-37:
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
The NASB translation captures the ideas in the text in the simplest way. "The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart." The heart is the key to all. What a person speaks has a source. What a man thinks and feels and values, what he desires and the lengths to which he is willing to go to to get what he wants--that is what comes out in his words. Words are tools for truth telling, or tools for telling lies.
"The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil." A good heart cannot produce bad words, nor a bad heart good words. What a person speaks reveals his ultimate commitments.
The heart reveals the man. God said to the prophet Isaiah, "this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me" (Isaiah 29:13). Should we be surprised that people resist the gospel?
Joseph Boot, a Christian apologist who worked with Ravi Zacharias, and whose ideas prominently underscore ideas in this message, said the following in his book, Gospel Witness: Defending & Extending the Kingdom of God,
"As we share this life-transforming gospel we are coming up against a person's cherished artifices, forged to escape God's claim upon them" (Boot, 868).
"God's self revelation to man presupposes that in a certain sense, God is at first concealed from people with a particular condition of heart; there is no revealing without at first a concealing. This concealing is a result of people's fallen condition and God's holy character" (906).
All begin in the situation where God is present but hidden. He is always present. But we are damaged from the Fall. Like Adam and Eve, our first inclination when we align ourselves opposite Him is to feel naked. We gather little leaves and hide ourselves from Him. And the devil, exiled outside the garden with us, whispers fairytales into our ears, ever appending them with, "Oh, and neither is there a devil."
People Not Fundamentally Good
Here's the problem. Man is not fundamentally good. He's fundamentally disordered. His God-given gifts, his faculties of rationality, will, intellect, ability to feel, all are warped or jumbled. They don't work quite as designed and intended. Every person stands in need of divine intervention. Otherwise he will never think right. We cannot rightly value or correctly weigh spiritual things if our heart is not open to God.
Our society looks to "science" and politics; that's how you supposedly fix the world. They see no transcendant reality. There is in their seeing nothing out there beyond the visible, nothing beyond the material. There are some things we don't undestand but there is nothing that, if we find it and measure it, we would be unable to understand. Anyone looking to something like revelation from God is considered either in need of updating, or a fool, or both.
All are Religious; All Worship
And yet, he who thinks himself advanced beyond the believer in God neither understands that, he who criticizes the idea of a transcendant faith is not himself without a faith. Everyone has something he believes in that affects and determines the total direction of his life and thought. Every person has a religious motivation.
I meant that--every person has a religious motivation. There is a substitute for God and he's close at hand. In 2018, in place of the idea of God, we have the autonomous individual. That's it: man himself. Man stands in the place of God. Supposedly, this man is free. But while we might be free in theory, typically we give up our freedom to a collective, a nation, a cause that is larger than ourselves. Man is enlarged and becomes the state. There is no looking "out there" to an infinite God above us; instead man looks to man.
But when you look to man as all that is, the biggest dog on the block, the smartest chimpanzee, the best tool user, the universe's chief bomb-maker and most dangerous destroyer, the very pinnacle of evolution--when you do that, you deny there is any intelligence transcendent and universal over humanity. Humanity is made the measure of all.
Nothing is a more religious principle than this, this fundamental belief in the ultimate importance of humanity with nothing beyond him.
In this way of looking at things, man gives himself a role, and every individual has his place as part of the human whole. And so, this modern egalitarian social order supposedly is all that is; this is as good as it gets; and so human society as being supreme is the religion of our time. This, as Boot says, is "an inherently religious valuation."
In an ancient Star Trek The Next Generation episode, Captain Picard is speaking with a godlike alien called Q. They are conversing about the Q's interest in humanity. The conversation goes like this:
PICARD: "Oh, I know Hamlet. And what he might say with irony, I say with conviction: What a piece of work is man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form, in moving, how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a God."
Q: "Surely you don't see your species like that, do you?"
PICARD: "I see us one day becoming that." (Captain Picard to Q in Star Trek, the Next Generation, season 1, episode "Hide and Q").
Take science, evolution, rationality, sprinkle in enough time, and at last, the race will arrive at godhood. It sounds so familiar because many of us grew up with these and other fables whispered into our ears.
We cannot practically cover our ears and cover our eyes and go about all armored up and keeping the world out. It comes in through all the cracks and crannies. Indeed, we invite it in. We must make some "sense" of our world, and so unconsciously we assimilate this bit and that and construct a working understanding of our world. All of us.
Nobody is without a worldview, noone is without an outlook on reality, an approach for interpreting life. Each and every person has an interconnected set of basic beliefs. Its an outlook about what we see; not the frames, but the lens of the glasses. The standard is determined for us: science, evolution, rationality, progress.
I do not oppose true progress. But there is precious little floating in this soup we are in that is actual progress. Mostly it is regress.
Your average person today is under an illusion that he's not religious. Actually he is; he just doesn't realize what he's worshiping. When you talk to Him about God, your task is to expose to him the fact of his religiosity.
He has adopted as his reality a lie and he's encased in the lie. And how could he not be? The lie is on every side. He rode to school in an orange tin can for every one of the formative years of his life. Then he returned home and watched television or a favorite show. And everything told him its all about man: evolution, science, politics, the state, all circles back to man's alleged ultimate importance. And nothing, at least nothing he could hear above the din of humanism told him God's importance. Injected every day with the drug of humanism, he learned man is the center of all.
He learned, in essence, that he himself was god. Little gods do not give up their deity easily.
Deep in the Heart
While each of us has trained ourselves to our illusions, and every person has come to have an ownership in their illusion and a desire to strengthen it and find order in it, in every human heart there is something more. There is the fact that while that person is not God, he is still an image of God. He has been gifted a moral component. Informed by that moral component, he has a susceptibility to the right, a love for truth, perhaps mostly dormant yet still it is there. There is something in him and in every human person waiting to be activated; something moral; something that knows it is not God and that there is a God. Every lie is doomed by its being lie, trapped by the fact that truth is truth. The truth is always the truth. The truth always is, and is there ready to disintigrate our lies.
So we avoid contact with the truth. We stay away from the garden of God. Were we to see its fences and the cherubim blocking our entrance, we would know God exists. Man is still running from God.
For the unbeliever there is at bottom an underlying ethos that deeply informs his particular view of the world, a faith orientation grounded in the condition of the heart.
Virtually everyone ignores the importance of our built-in ethical heart motives--an ommission we who would talk of God to others must expose to them. Man cannot think fairly and neutrally on his own. The unregenerate heart has an initial faith stance: a doubt, a suspicion, an opposition toward God. "If a supposedly faith-neutral and autonomous 'human reason' in a 'rational world' that is 'just there' is the key to all valid knowledge, then man alone becomes the fountainhead of all truth (that is, truth finds its foundation solely within man himself" (Joseph Boot, loc. 375).
"If this philosophy and the faith and worldview underlying it remains unexposed, secularism is granted a free pass to control and distort the whole discourse. This is why many fail to see that today’s secular cultural vision is a far-reaching religious conviction that, ironically, but quite necessarily, cannot be justified by an appeal to reason alone" (388).
Human Reason Unsafe When Separated from God
People reflexively assume the validity and authority of their use of human reason. They have an automatic confidence in the faculty of human understanding. They rely upon it in every every discussion, every argument, and every decision.
What presupposition is more significant than the idea that our reason is neutral, even handed, and that we can all reason through things perfectly well?
Our reason is not trustworthy on its own. It is not unbiased or neutral. There is a deeper level of commitment.
"Whatever a person’s faith may be, its root or origin is found beyond the physical, biological, social, rational, emotional, or any other aspects of our temporal experience, in an existential commitment of the heart--a supra-rational ultimate ground that constitutes a sense of certitude. This is why it is appropriate to call all worldviews 'religious' because religion is about the ultimate ground of life and thought" (loc. 415-428).
What is he saying? That every person has a root commitment, either to an unregenerate heart, or to the kingdom of God. It is a commitment to self as the supreme value, or to unselfishness as the supreme value. It runs deeper than anything.
"We are all inescapably religious beings. The battle is not 'faith versus reason,' or 'science versus the Bible,'' as the secular mind would falsely characterize it. The contrast is ultimately between two religious worldviews in confrontation with one another. And 'the ultimate starting point for understanding every human being's relationship to Christ's kingdom is the condition of the heart before God'" (Boot, loc. 467).
If we are all religious people, then what is the truth? Some worship the true God. Some worship idols. There are no other options. We are worshipers of Yahweh or Baal. And there is one index of what we truly are:
"The heart--not the philosophy we elaborate or espouse--is the essence of who we truly are (Matthew 12:34). As the writer of Proverbs states it, 'as water reflects the face, so the heart reflects the person' (Proverbs 27:19) (loc. 479).
So Boot is right when he says, "Unbelievers are not nonbelievers--their faith is simply placed elsewhere" (loc. 492). Your faith and my faith must be in Jesus. But some people have a faith only in Barabbas.
The Christian is Not Neutral
Ponder a final thought. When we defend the faith, we do so not from outside of it. We do not stand in any neutral, independent religious space. We speak of God from our commitments to our Scriptural confession and worldview. We should never try to claim we are being neutral. We aren't. We are coming from faith.
When you speak to someone about God in 2018, your task will include helping the unbeliever understand that he is not religiously neutral. Rather, he, as all are, is inescapably religious. He has an ultimate viewpoint he places his faith in, an ultimate filter, an ultimate measure by which he weighs the world. Likely he's trusting in the raw ability of human reason to understand and weigh facts with an ultimate objectivity--an ultimate objectivity which does not exist in human experience.
We might have thought as though everyone out there fit into one of three categories: (1) Religious, (2) Neutral, (3) Secular. In fact, there are two categories: The believer in God, and the believer in idols. There is no third category. But Satan has so arranged the way people think that many think they are hovering in a neutral category.
"Salvation by politics is the dominant and deeply-rooted cultural religion of our era, and it presses in on us at every turn. This ancient and yet modern worldview is grounded in a faith commitment to the de facto divinity of human will and reason" (JB 271).
We live in the midst of a utopian cultural religion. Science seems to stand in triumph. We've seen the back side of Pluto. But all these achievements mislead us when we think we have done them in a greatness that is independent from God. The greatest conquest of all is the human heart. Our hears are cold and emty without God. If we are willing, He will help us turn to Him. He will help us speak of Him. He will help us help others see. No one is neutral, no one is nonreligious. No one is a nonbeliever.
Deer Park WA SDA 2018-01-06