Welcome to FaithTrack where you will find ways to apply your faith to your daily life.
In this session, we'll take a look at Apologetics. It's a way of explaining and defending our faith - something that can be a valuable strength as you live out your faith amongst your family and friends.
Hi and welcome to Faith Track. We’ve been exploring what it means to be a disciple and how the term disciple is just another word for dedicated student. So as we seek to follow Jesus with intention and dedication, we become His disciples. In our times together, we will look at a good number of passages of the Bible, and we’ll encourage you to take what we discussed into conversations with others. You can access the notes page on our website at cornerstonesf.org/notes or attached to the Faith Track Archives on our site. But this will have those Bible passages and some discussion questions to take with us. In our last session, we looked at the importance of building our lives upon His words. In this session, we are going to be looking at another important aspect of being a disciple, “Apologetics, the reason for our hope.” So what is apologetics?
I remember first hearing this term as something that was important in my faith walk and I thought, “Apologetic, what am I apologizing for? I’m sorry, but I believe in Jesus.” Apology and apologetics stem from the same root term or same root word, meaning to give an account. An apology typically means to give an account or acknowledge a wrong. In the context of the religious discipline of apologetics, this is giving an account as in speaking in defense of our faith. Thus, as a discipleship initiative, apologetics is explaining and defending our faith in a thoughtful and reasoned manner. 1 Peter 3:15 describes how this should look, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
This is so powerful. As disciples, we honor the Lord by being prepared to share our faith. A number of years ago, I was flying home for Christmas. It had been a big year. I had gotten baptized, was involved in several small groups, was serving as an usher team leader. I had gone to a prayer retreat in which many of my past areas of brokenness were prayed for and healed. I was excited to return home and share the new me, especially with my family who didn’t know the Lord. My travel plans involved two flights, one from SFO to Detroit, and then a short one from Detroit to Madison. When settling into my assigned seat on the first flight, I struck up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. We quickly realized that we were both heading to Madison, Wisconsin so we decided to get to know each other since we’d be riding together for a while.
We talked about all kinds of things over the course of our five-plus hours of flying, jobs, life plans, families, books, movies, et cetera. At some point, she shared her philosophy of life, which was loosely based on the golden rule, but definitely had more of a new age spin to it. She asked me what I thought, what I believed. At first, I was excited and then I struggled to figure out where to begin. How could I explain the transformation that was taking place in my life? What should I say about the joy of being in Christian community and what I was learning in my small groups or how much I enjoyed serving with friends on the usher team? How could I describe the life-changing prayer experience in the sense that God had a calling for my life that was still to be determined?
I did my best. I tried to provide some context for my past, without oversharing. Then I meandered through some of the events of my past year, which sort of made sense. I eventually pulled out my Bible and said how much I’m enjoying seeing God’s love through what’s in there. Then the questions came. “But isn’t the Bible just a bunch of rules? How can you trust something written and put together by a bunch of people who are dead? Do you really believe that Jesus was born of a Virgin? Does God really expect people to only have sex in marriage? What about divorce, homosexuality, other religions, babies who die? Bad people who get good things and good people who get bad things?” I quickly realized that I was not prepared. I stumbled through my limited understanding of the answers to some of those questions and to her credit, she listened patiently and was gentle in her responses, even when she disagreed and felt my explanations were weak.
Then she said something to the effect of, “It sounds like you have some more thinking to do.” I knew she was right. I realized all the things I didn’t know and started to prepare myself not to share anything with my family. As I arrived home, I thought and prayed more about what to do, I Googled how to share your faith. 1 Peter 3:15 came up. I’ll read it again. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” As I looked at this verse, I realized that I wasn’t being asked to be ready to explain every theological detail of Christianity. I didn’t have to be able to answer every question people may have.
I just needed to be able to explain the reason for the hope that was in me. So as disciples, we must familiarize ourselves with the reason, for the hope that’s in us. Over time, we can and should research answers to those tough questions. We can strengthen our theological arguments for the validity of the Bible and teaching therein. As we move into this discipleship initiative later, we’ll dig into these tough questions. But right now, today, one of the most important things that we can do is to spend time processing our own story and how you and I can each personally, how we came to embrace the hope that only Jesus offers. At the very least, I should know my story about how God became a vital part of my life and how I’m living. People don’t argue with our stories. It becomes a direct witness of God’s grace, mercy, and touch in our lives.
We may desire to present a biblical teaching or throw an account of the gospel to people we care about. However, until the Spirit of God starts moving in someone’s life, even the best presentation of God’s Word will fall short. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” Another translation says, “It’s foolishness to those who are perishing.” Other people who are unconvinced view God’s Word as foolishness or folly. It doesn’t make much difference. This just shows that God has to work in each of us before we become open to a biblical presentation. However, as we share our stories, oftentimes, God will use something in a person’s story to start to open someone else’s heart, to exploring His Word and asking questions.
Psalm 66:16 describes this idea of sharing one story to those who are open. “Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for my soul.” I love that. Titus 3:3-7 helps us to see how we can share what God has done. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God, our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of the works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” It’s a long passage, but we see the transformation that he initiates and provides.
We also see that acknowledging what we were helps demonstrate God’s touch in our lives today. As disciples, the testimony of our lives becomes proof of the Lord’s goodness and redemption. The most readily available evidence of the Lord’s ongoing and transformative work in this world is what He has done and is doing in our lives. As believers, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to bring our lives into alignment with His true and transforming Word.
As we deepen our relationship with God, people see us change. Let’s look at this and how it’s described in Galatians 5:19-24. “Now, the works of the flesh,” the works, this world as we are before Christ, “are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
When I think back to my days before Christ, the worst of the flesh was evident. But this idea of crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires as part of how we align with Him doesn’t mean that our lives will lack passion but the paradigm changes. We don’t live for and we aren’t ruled by these passions. They are reframed by the Spirit of God. Some are redeemed and others are reversed or removed. We started to become more known for our love, our joy, our peace, our patience, our kindness, and the other fruit of the Spirit.
The account of this change in our lives is often called our testimony. As disciples, our testimony is the thoughtful and intentional sharing of how knowing the Lord has changed and is changing our lives. This will be some of our homework going forward. What is your testimony? How can you make yourself ready to share the hope that is in you because of your personal faith journey so far? I’ll be working on mine as well. To help with this, we can look at how the apostle Paul did this in Acts 26. For time’s sake, I won’t read it now, but we see Paul given account by sharing his past actions as a passionate Pharisee, then he shares his experience with the Lord. Finally, he ties it into his current situation and we’ll jump in there.
Verse 22, “To this day, I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass, that Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, He would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” There are a few practical tips that can be applied by looking at Paul’s story throughout Acts 26 when preparing our own testimonies.
So first of all, stay focused. We can focus on how we came to know the Lord and how our life looks now. Be specific. Mention the events, the process, and even the feelings that help people understand your experience. Be current. Connect people to what is happening in your life with the Lord today, with the right now. Be honest. Don’t feel the need to change or embellish your story. God has given you your story in order to encourage others. It’s powerful the way that it happened. It worked for you. Sometime in the coming week, I encourage you to start to write out the story of your faith journey so far. It may be helpful to make an outline of key life-changing events, and then think about how God wove them together to bring you to where you are today. This will be an ever-evolving document of God’s goodness.
I have a Google doc that I started originally as part of a grad school assignment. Right now, it’s about 12 pages and that may seem like a lot, but that’s just to help me organize my thoughts. From that longer account, I rewrite into different links. I have sort of a 30-second overview, kind of like the elevator ride, a 2 minute summary for waiting in line. I have a 5 to 10 minute description sort of like the Uber ride. Then the full version might be more like 20 or 30 minutes, or even up to like an hour for those less frequent, but powerful plane flights, or grabbing a bite to eat and catching up on life.
For many of us, sharing our faith can feel awkward and we may struggle with not wanting to feel pushy, but I encourage each of us to consider what we believe. If you and I believe that the Lord has forever changed our lives by forgiving our brokenness and has given us His promises of His presence in our lives and in the hope of eternity with Him, can we think of anything more significant to share with those that we care about? Let’s return to 1 Peter 3:15 one last time. “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”
As disciples, we are to share our hope and our testimonies with gentleness and respect. Our goal is not to convert people. We are simply called to share our hope through our experiences, how God has changed us and is working in us still. God is the only one who can change hearts, but our stories can help open a door. In that context, we may be invited to help gently guide others, to start to see how God has been working in their lives as well. So let’s be ready when those times come.
In a moment, I’ll pray. Then we’ll hop over to our Zoom conversation for those who are able to. If you are watching this after its original airing, or if you aren’t able to join us for the conversation part of tonight, this is meant to be gone through in community. Faith trackers, disciples, always walk things out, at least in pairs. Join us for the conversation, if you can, or find another person or a group of people to embark on this journey together. Our primary goal is that these teachings would be a tool that can help us to dig into these key areas of growth as a disciple of Jesus, but also be a place in which we can ask questions and grow as we move together as a community. In this one, we can share our testimonies with each other. We can ask questions. We can help as we seek to share better how the Lord has moved in our lives in meaningful ways. So with that, let’s pray.
Lord, we thank You that You have come into our story. Lord, we thank You that You invite us to not have to wait until we are great theologians and then we can answer every possible question that people ask about Christianity, but You invite us to know well, the reason for the hope that is in us. To be ready to give an account of that, to share that with others so at the very least they can connect with our story. Lord, which ultimately, as we align our lives with You becomes intertwined with Your story, Your story of love and grace, redemption and hope, this opportunity to know You, and live out a life filled with the fruit of Your Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control. Lord, may that be the fruit of our lives.
We invite You into our conversations that we’ll have as we share with gentleness and respect. As we go from here, Lord, help us to just be disciples of Yours, following You and clinging to Your teachings. We just ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
All right. So the link for the Zoom conversation will be in the chat. Hope you can jump over and join us, but if not, let’s keep talking about this. Use the notes page to be able to talk about these things with others, and let’s keep digging into what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Have a great week. God bless.