Evangelism: Dealing With Difficulties — Part Two
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Evangelism: Dealing With Difficulties — Part Two

Selected Scriptures  (ID: 1523)

When sharing our faith with others, we can expect to be challenged by their questions and attitudes. Alistair Begg catalogues common questions that arise when we share the Gospel and provides helpful responses based on God’s Word. Our goal, we’re reminded, is to bring people face-to-face with Jesus, which requires humility, sensitivity, and full dependence upon God.

Series Containing This Sermon

Crossing the Barriers

A 12-Lesson Study on Evangelism Selected Scriptures Series ID: 23101

Encore 2017

Selected Scriptures Series ID: 25908

Sermon Transcript: Print

In introducing our subject two weeks ago, I read this quote: “Unless the Holy Spirit illumines a person’s mind to see the truth as truth, unless He bends that person’s proud will to submit to the authority of Jesus Christ, no words of ours will penetrate”—thereby reminding us of our need for dependence upon God. “But,” the quote goes on to say, “in the hands of God an intelligent answer to a person’s question may well be the instrument [God uses to open] his heart and mind to the gospel.”[1]

So you have these two things in juxtaposition: one, the very fact of our dependence upon God to open the minds and eyes of people’s spiritual understanding; and then the responsibility which falls to us as we are enabled to give intelligent answers to important questions which are often difficult. And the selection that we have in this outline tonight is simply a selection, because there are many more than these. But these are probably some of the most frequently asked, and so I want to deal with them on account of that.

I’d like also to say again what I said in introducing each of these—namely, that there’s no way in the world that I can give some kind of exhaustive answer to these questions. People have written books about these individual questions, and I can refer you to books concerning them. And so, if there is a measure of frustration on your part as I move from one question to the next, I have, if you like, that written into what I’m doing. I want that to be there in part, because any good teacher does not answer all the questions but essentially stimulates the desire of the group to go and continue their study of the subject. And so I’d like at least to fall within the orb of good teaching as it relates to that, if that is in actual fact an accurate statement—and the teachers perhaps can tell me afterwards.

What about the Heathen?

We dealt first of all, then, with the person who says, “You’ve been quoting the Bible an awful lot. Why should I pay attention to that?” or “Why should I accept its authority?” One of the very next questions which comes, at least in my conversation, goes like this: “What about the people who have never heard?” or “What about the heathen?” And it’s the question that we know is going to come, and we hope somehow it won’t come, and yet it almost inevitably comes. And we’re not sure that we answered it well the last time, and we’re not sure we’re going to do any better this time. But there are certain things that we ought to go into that question acknowledging right up front.

First of all, the declaration of Scripture concerning the absolute justice or fairness of God—that all that we have revealed to us of God is that God is just. Indeed, if you want it in a verse, Genesis 18:25: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”[2]—a rhetorical question which imagines the answer “Yes, of course.” So, biblical revelation assures us, when we bring this question “What about the people who have never heard?” we may be assured of this truth: the judge of all the earth will act in justice and in fairness.

Second thing we need to realize—and this relates to many of these questions, but perhaps supremely to this—is that we don’t know everything. And the reason is that we haven’t been told everything, nor has God intended that we should know everything. And the verse that we’re referring to now is one that we’ve mentioned before, Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” So, there are things that have not been revealed to us, there are inevitably questions that are difficult to answer and, in one dimension, impossible to give a definitive answer to. To say that to people is not a cop-out. It ought not to make us feel uneasy within. It is simply an acknowledgement of biblical revelation.

Once we’ve acknowledged that, we can then state with certainty what the Scriptures make clear. We go to our Bibles and we say, “Okay, what is absolutely straightforwardly put concerning this matter?” Let me give you one or two aspects to this.

First of all, the Scriptures do not teach that everyone will be saved in the end or that there will be a second chance. The Scriptures do not teach the salvation of everyone in the end nor the possibility of second chances. If we doubted that at all, we would need only to turn to Luke’s Gospel, for example, chapter 16, and read the section which begins at the nineteenth verse through to the thirty-first, concerning the story of the rich man and Lazarus—one of the most powerful insights beyond the grave, as it were. At the same time we would read Hebrews 9:27, stating categorically that once death has happened—once there has been that separation of body and soul in death—the next thing that we face will be judgment. And this is something that is an unpalatable notion to people; nevertheless, we’re shut up to it, because Scripture teaches it. “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” So we may say with certainty that not everyone is supposed to be saved, will be saved, nor may those who have died expect a second chance.

Secondly, we may say—and we should turn to Romans chapter 2 just to make sure we are grounding this in the truth of Scripture—that the Bible tells us that every person has, if you like, a God-given standard within them. No matter where they live, no matter where they were born, no matter when they were born, mankind was created with an innate knowledge of right and wrong. If you like, mankind was created with a moral compass set within him. And mankind, irrespective of culture, knowingly violates the standards which they have been born with.

We may say with certainty that not everyone is supposed to be saved, will be saved, nor may those who have died expect a second chance.

Now, Romans 2:12–16 deals with this. I’m not going to read it all through, but I want to commend it to you. It’s an intricate argument by the apostle Paul, but it is an essential argument: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” And it goes on to address the whole question of the gentiles, who have never been privileged to have that same revelation as have the Jews.

So we need to say this: nobody will be condemned for rejecting Jesus Christ of whom they have never heard. Okay? So we can say that. Nobody will be condemned for rejecting a Jesus of whom they never heard. They will be condemned for violating their own moral standard. You see? So what about the person who was born, never heard of Jesus, and died? How will he be judged? He will be judged in relation to what we’re told in Romans chapter 1 and 2: that what has been known of God has been revealed to man qua man, and man therefore is responsible to that inviolable standard which God has set within him; and that because man is sinful, he violates the moral consciousness within him.

We may also say with certainty that there is no indication given in Scripture at all that anyone may ever be saved apart from Jesus Christ. Acts 4:12, the statement there of Peter: “[Neither is there] salvation [to be] found in [anyone] else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Now, when we have said all of that, we haven’t really said very much to answer the unsettling question, have we? But we have said enough to realize why Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the [gospel].”[3] Because the certainty of death, the reality of the provision in Jesus, the responsibility of men and women to respond to the truth confronts men and women with this notion: that while it may be an issue to them tonight, as they speak to me and they say, “Alistair, what about the heathen?” and I may say what I can say and then some more, I may give them books to read, ultimately, what do I have to say to the individual who asks the question?

I say this: “On the day that you stand before God, the question on the table will not be ‘What about the heathen?’ in general, but ‘What about this heathen?’ in particular. And since you in your concern have asked the question, and since I have said from my limited perspective what I can from the Bible, and since you now have been confronted with the claims of Christ, the responsibility, the burden, now rests with you—that you will never, ever be able to stand before God and say, ‘Here is one heathen who never heard.’ Because you just have, and the responsibility is now yours.”

Now, that is not to be smart; it is to be realistic. Because when we’ve said it all, we may not have said much. But we’re not concerned about the heathen that we’ve never seen; we’re concerned about those who have now heard. And that is why Jesus said that we must go with this good news. If there was some other means, then it would make the proclamation of the gospel an interesting sideline, but not something that was vital.

Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Well then, the question which follows right on from there—and that’s why I’ve put it next—is, the person may come back and say, “You’re not suggesting that Jesus, then, is the only way to heaven, are you?” That’s what they say, isn’t it? “Oh, wait a minute. Surely you’re not saying this. You can’t possibly believe… After all, a quarter of the world is Muslim! You’re not telling me…”

Faith is only as good as the object in which faith is placed.

And underlying this response is the notion that we’ve dealt with before, which says it doesn’t really matter what you believe or in whom you believe as long as you’re sincere. This is the great notion of our day: that we have exalted sincerity and created an idol before sincerity. And we’ve said that sincerity or intensity of belief is self-authenticating, so as long as we believe it really sincerely or we state it with intensity, it’ll make it true.

But that’s silly, isn’t it? If we go ice-skating, and we see the pond, and somebody tells us that it’s only a sixteenth of an inch thick of frozen ice, the intensity of our faith, the sincerity of our conviction will not allow the ice to hold us up. We will be sincerely wet. Because it is not the dimension of belief that we bring to the object; it is the object itself. And faith is only as good as, if you like, the object in which faith is placed. And therefore, Jesus Christ and Christianity stands on the stage of the world and says these things. And what we have to honestly say to people is, “No, really, it’s not so much that I’m suggesting that Jesus is the only way to heaven. It rather is that the Bible itself declares that Jesus is the only way to heaven.”

And we’ve said all the way through that it’s so important to have our Bibles, to open our Bibles, and to allow people to read with us our Bibles. What I have often done is I carry two New Testaments with me so that I can give somebody a New Testament, especially if they’re at the other side of a table, that is the identical New Testament to the one I have in my pocket, and I can have them look at what I am reading while I’m reading it. That way the Word of God comes off the page to them, and it’s far better than slick memorization, because the sneaking suspicion in the minds of people is that we just memorized a package, a bit like the cults, and we’re just hitting them with our favorite verses.

So we want to bring the Scriptures to bear upon them, and we’re going to read to them. We say, “Look. Look: look at what Jesus said. John 14:6: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man come[s] [to] the Father, but by me.’[4] John 10:9. The surrounding context: ‘All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but I am the gate; he who enters by me will be saved and will go in and out, and find pasture.’”[5] “I am not a gate,” said Jesus. “I am the gate. I am the way to heaven. I am the way to God.” And as we’ve seen in our studies, “I am also God.” So you’ve got John 14:6. You have John 10:9. You have Acts 4:12, the verse that we just quoted in Peter’s words. So we need to say to people, “Think it out. Faith is no more valid than the object in which it is placed.”

And in these quotes that I’ve used in recent weeks—I think most recently on a Sunday morning—we need to say to people, “Listen, Hinduism says that God has come in many forms and continually. Christianity says that God has come in Jesus Christ singly. We cannot both be right. Judaism says that Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead. Christianity says he does. We cannot both be right.” See? And so we need to stress to thinking people the exclusivity of the claim of Jesus Christ—but always with humility, never forgetting for a minute the wonder that God in his amazing mercy has given to us the privilege of faith and the opportunity to share it!

We must always speak as one beggar telling another beggar where we found food. It’s as if we found a whole bunch of hamburgers at the back of Burger King, and we were tempted to eat them all ourselves or to hide them and eat them all ourselves tomorrow. And then as we walked out into the street, we saw others of the street people like us, and we went to them, and we said, “Hey, come behind here. You won’t believe this.” There’s no pride in that. We didn’t make the hamburgers. And so it’s very, very important that when we state these things concerning the objective nature of Christianity, we allow Jesus and his Word to stand forward.

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Well, let’s go on and ask another question. (Again, these are sketchy outlines.) What about the person who says, “I can’t believe in a God who allows people to suffer”?

I think the first thing we need to notice when we come against this is that many, many times, this is not theoretical on the part of the speaker. More often than not, if you take time to listen and to watch—and it may not come out in one conversation—you will discover that you are dealing with somebody who has been deeply scarred by the events of life. You may be dealing with somebody who has lost a loved one—prematurely, in their mind—someone who has lost a little child to cancer at an early age, or just something that has devastated them. It’s not so much that they see problems out there, but rather it is that they’ve encountered problems right in here—a reminder to us again that when we’re dealing with difficult questions, we need the sensitivity and the wisdom of the Spirit of God.

And we need first of all to be honest and say, “You know, is there something in your own life that makes you ask this question?” They may say, “Yeah,” you know? I mean, this has happened to me in the last while, as I remember asking that question, and the gentleman told me yes. He woke in the night with his little boy, a five-year-old boy, who came through into his room. His mom and dad didn’t think very much of it because he often came through in the night and trailed a blanket with him. But when he laid down on their bed for a moment or two, it just seemed that it was different from another occasion. And suddenly, seizing the enormity of the situation and hoping to get him to the hospital, they lost that little five-year-old boy, who had some amazing attack to his brain that took him in just a moment. So when the individual starts to talk about “Why would I believe in a God who allows people to suffer?” he’s really talking about himself.

Now, if a person is prepared to confide in you that truth, it’s important then that we’re honest enough to say, “You know what, I don’t have an answer for that particular question. And indeed, we could search the whole of the Bible and not find an answer to that particular question. And it may be that it will take years or it may take till eternity before ever we find an answer to that question. But in the meantime, the Scripture provides for us some clues as to why God allows suffering as a whole.”

“Well,” says the individual, “what are those clues?” Then we’ll run through with him the biblical doctrine of creation and the fall, of redemption and of restoration, or perfection, if you like. And essentially what we’re going to say to people is this: “The biblical view of man says this: God made it, and it was good, perfect. God made man with the propensity to turn his back on him. Man did. So what was good got bad. God decided to redeem the situation and sent his Son so that what was bad might get good again. And eventually, God plans that in heaven it will be absolutely perfect.”

We cannot speak to people ever about suffering in relationship to God without speaking to them through the grid of Calvary.

“Well,” says somebody, “that makes only limited sense. And I still think of God as distant in the heavens and untouched, as it were, by the problems that we face in our finite nature.” Well then, we must bring them to Calvary. We must share with them the doctrine of the Trinity. We must explain that God sent his Son Jesus, and that the cry of Jesus from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[6] was a cry of reality, and that God had only one Son who was without sin, but he wasn’t without suffering. And we may say—and this is all we can say—that as deep as the pain as an individual may feel because of the events of their lives, we can assure them on the authority of God’s Word that God is not caught off guard by such an event, nor is he unable to address it. But it is futile and vacuous to speculate concerning the origin of evil/suffering. We need to face the fact of evil—suffering—and we need to look at what the Scripture says concerning what it means to embrace the solution.

We cannot speak to people ever about suffering in relationship to God without speaking to them, as it were, through the grid of Calvary. And any attempts to philosophize about the problems of pain that bypass the cross will never be redemptive in an individual’s life. For it is only at the cross that we see the magnitude of God’s love, the magnitude of our sin, and the tremendous possibility for healing and for forgiveness. So when people ask concerning the problem of suffering, we may want to recommend C. S. Lewis’s book The Problem of Pain. But certainly, we will want to introduce them to the pain of Calvary and encourage them that a God who endured such in the person of Christ is well able to enter into any suffering that we may experience.

What about Science?

The fifth question that we put down here, or response, is that science has disproved creation and miracles, and Christianity is now obsolete. I remember this coming again and again as I used to speak, especially at universities in Great Britain. I used to do university missions for three years running in Freshers Week at Aberdeen University and at Edinburgh University and some other places, and it was inevitable. It was like clockwork that somebody would come up and would say, “Hey, guess what? Science has disproved the whole thing. It’s quite a nice thing you’ve got here, and I like the meal, but what a load of junk, man! Why don’t you give it up? I mean, why don’t you pack your Bible in your bag and head for the hills? I mean, you’re history. It’s all over.”

Now, there’s a tremendous presumption that is built into that, and we need to be prepared to address it—again, with kindness and yet with firmness. And we need to be prepared to say to people, quite categorically, just as straightforward as they are to us, that there is absolutely no scientific proof of the evolution of more complex structures from simpler forms of life as entities. There is no scientific proof. Okay? Now scientists, if they’re honest, will admit that. They may prove movement within organisms and changes within certain entities, but there is no scientific proof of that evolutionary hypothesis which Darwin essentially championed in verbalizing.

It suited man at that time, having decided there was no God, to come up with another answer to the question “Then how in the world did we get here?” Because once having negated God, we’re left with ourselves and therefore in need of a solution. And in the vested interests of a humanity that turns its back on God in rebellion, then it takes hypothesis and presents it as absolute reality. And such proof would be necessary in order to make the hypothesis reality.

And the hypothesis is essentially this: that all forms of life have descended in a blind determinism from some original form of matter whose origin remains a mystery. That’s essentially it: “We’ve got something. We don’t know what it is. We don’t know where it came from. It’s just a pile of yuck. And out of that pile of yuck evolved you.” That’s science at its best. I’m not caricaturing it. That is essentially it. I mean, we can define it and dress it up. I mean, we can put it in scientific journals. But that is it: “We don’t know about this. There was this. But from this there came this”—and speak with amazing authority concerning millions and millions and millions of years.

Now, the root issue when you talk to somebody about this, the root issue is about God and his existence. That’s what it’s about. It’s about whether there actually is a God at all. Because once we postulate the existence of God, then miracles are no problem. See? Once you remove God, then miracles are a jolly nuisance.

So we’re going to go back, and we’re going to say, “Okay, this is where the Bible starts.” We’re not going to do it arrogantly. We’re just going to say, “Okay, get your brain around this for a minute. Don’t tell me that it is intelligence which allows me to walk your path. You need to walk the path of faith. You’ve got faith to believe that there is no God; you start with yuck plus your hypothesis. Okay? That’s faith. You’re in the realm of faith, Mr. Scientist. Admit it. Okay? I am in the realm of faith. I start, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’[7] I start with the record which is not about the why. It’s not about the how. It’s not a scientific treatment. The scientists, thankfully, were not there with all their little counters and all their little computer printouts; otherwise, Genesis 1 would have read so technically difficult that most of us could never have understood it. But one was there—the one that God wanted to be there—and left the record sufficient for us to believe, if we are prepared to bow before God’s greatness.”

Let me remind you of the statement from which we read on Christmas Sunday:

It is not logically valid to use science as an argument against miracles. To believe that miracles [can’t] happen is as much an act of faith as to believe that they can happen. …

Miracles are unprecedented events. Whatever the current fashions in philosophy or the revelations of opinion polls may suggest, it is important to affirm that science (based as it is [on] the observation of precedents) can have nothing to say on the subject.[8]

Science can only speak profoundly about events that have been repeated, because they observe the repetition factor and postulate on the basis of the repetition. So they’ve got a major problem with things that didn’t happen twice, like the creation of the universe, like the origin of man, like the arrival of Jesus, like the stilling of the sea.

Science needs to learn to hold its tongue before the greatness of Almighty God. And that is something which our arrogant generation needs to hear. Thank God for scientific insight. Thank God for those who have been given the ability to unravel and to search and to explain and to coordinate. God in his providence has allowed that it would be so. But there is an end to that. And indeed, there needs to be.

The data which is given to us is sufficient for belief. If we refuse this evidence, no additional evidence will convince anybody. And if you doubt that at all, you go home and read Luke 16 and verses 18 and following, I think it is—I better just turn to it and check. Verses 28–31. Oh yeah, it’s the same story, from rich man and Lazarus; I hadn’t realized that.

At the end of that story—I may as well just hit it now that I’m here—at the end of the story of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:27, the cry comes, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” Okay? “Do something miraculous, God! Send Lazarus over to the house.”

And “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’” In other words, “They’ve got their Bibles; what else do they need? They’ve got their Bibles! Let them listen.”

“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

“He said to [them], ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

That was borne out in the history which followed, and it’s borne out today. There is sufficient evidence for faith. There is sufficient for unbelief. And we need to press with kindness those who are wondering about these things.

Well, I wonder, should I just stop? There’s three to go. Well, I’ll just go at them just very quickly.

Is Christianity a Crutch?

What about the person who says, “Oh, baloney! Christianity’s just a psychological crutch for folks who can’t face life.” You say, “Well, thank you very much,” you know? Because you can’t respond to that without being one of them. If Christianity’s a psychological crutch for wasters and you’ve just been professing your faith in Jesus Christ, you’ve just been categorized by your friend. And they’ll say, “Well, you know, I don’t really mean you.” And so what are we going to say?

Well, we’ll say, “Well, let’s just examine the evidence. Let’s just take the evidence of the first followers of Jesus Christ and ask whether they looked like a bunch of guys that all came walking out of—peas that all came walking out of one pod, you know? All the same kind of background, the same kind of disposition, the same kind of vacuous lives whereby they needed somebody to come in and fix them up. And let’s look at it and see if that’s true.”

Let’s take Peter, first of all. Do you think he needed a crutch to get through life? No! Mr. Peter? Mr. Zebedee and his boys in the fishing business? I bet if we’d met Peter by the Sea of Galilee, he would have been invincible. I don’t know what he looked like. I bet he was a pretty tough guy. There’s no sense in Peter’s life at all, even after he becomes a Christian, that somehow he is some kind of psychological cripple that is hanging on by his fingernails to this Jesus. Not for a moment! Matthew the tax collector: no sense of it there at all! No sense of it in relationship when you go beyond the disciples—for example, to Saul of Tarsus. Saul of Tarsus, the psychological cripple? No! Saul of Tarsus, the Che Guevara of his day, the Muammar Gaddafi of his day! Saul of Tarsus, the Saddam Hussein of his day! “I’ll kill these Christians! Bring ’em in here!”

So don’t let anybody jam you in a corner with the notion that Christianity is for wimps, that Christianity is for people who have tried everything and just couldn’t make it work, like in that song “People Need the Lord”: “At the end of broken dreams, he’s the open door.”[9] Well, it’s true, but that’s not the issue. How many of us came to Jesus Christ at the end of broken dreams? No, Jesus Christ arrested us full of dreams, full of schemes. So when we speak to people concerning these things and they want to encourage us to think in that way, let’s just say to them “Well, let’s look at the evidence in the Bible, and let’s think about the people we know.”

Actually, the issue is the distinction between the subjective and the objective element. And where we get to in answering this question is to say, “Look, our subjective experience of Jesus is founded upon the objective truth of the resurrection.” Therefore, we need to speak to them about the resurrection. Tell them, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”[10] Okay?

What about My Baptism?

“Well,” says another individual, “very interesting, but I’m okay. I was baptized as a baby, and I’ve been pretty regular at church for most of my life, so get out of my face and don’t worry me.” What are you going to say then? You’re going to say this: churchianity is not Christianity. Sacraments are signposts pointing us in the right direction, but they’re not vehicles that take us to our destination. The Bible says that no one ever became a Christian by having something done to them by somebody else. And we need to allow and help these people to see what the Bible says about sin, because this is the real issue; this is the real problem. Because the individual who says “I’m okay, I was baptized, and I’m a pretty good guy, and I go regularly to church” has got no concept of sin whatsoever. That’s why they’ve never embraced a Savior. So they need to hear about what the Bible says about sin. We don’t have to convict them of sin; that’s the Holy Spirit’s work. But we can tell them what the Bible says about sin.

And what does the Bible say about sin? It says that sin is an attitude, that sin is a condition. It says that the natural man dislikes the God of Scripture, dislikes the cross of Jesus Christ.[11] It says that mankind is diseased and is dead—Ephesians 2:1. And furthermore, it says that the most ethical man in the world is in the same position before God as the drunkard or the wife beater.

Ah, there’s the rub! Especially if you’re not getting drunk and not beating your wife. Then you may be prone to believe that you are okay. Then we need to tell them, “Hey, do you know that if you’re the most ethical person living in Cleveland, without that you have come in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ, you are in as deep a trough of sin as the most profligate individual who ever walked the streets?”

What about Roman Catholics?

Well, somebody goes one stage further, and they said, “Well, what I really meant to say was not just that I’m okay, I was baptized, and I’m pretty regular at church; but I wanted to say was, I’m a Roman Catholic. And that’ll do me fine.” Now, here’s a message all on its own, isn’t it? But I’ve been witnessing to a certain individual for months now, and that’s the standard answer from this girl. “The priest comes to my home, Alistair. He’s a good friend of my mother’s. I’m a Roman Catholic. Leave me alone.” I said, “No, I won’t leave you alone. Because the issue is not about being a Roman Catholic. The issue is about the truth concerning Jesus. What do you know about Jesus?”

And the way to address the Roman Catholic, I believe, is this. First of all, to start real positive. Okay? Say, “You know what? If you were brought up as a Roman Catholic, you have many distinct advantages. Because you were catechized. You believe in the virgin birth. You have a measure of understanding about the Bible. You believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And therefore, in actuality, you and I believe a lot of things that are the same.” That’s disarming, and it’s also true. I have more in common—get this—I have more in common with a devout Roman Catholic than an agnostic Protestant. Think it out, okay?

So we’re going to go from there, and then I’m going to make much of Jesus—going to open the Bible and tell them about Jesus. Because often, they’ve not got a lot of Jesus. Got a lot of saints, a lot of Mary, a lot of different things, but maybe not a lot of Jesus. And the Jesus they’ve got a lot of is a wee Jesus with a large Mary. So we’re going to make much of Jesus. And then we’re going to open the Scriptures, and we’re going to show the verses that relate to forgiveness of sins and assurance of eternal life. We’re going to present them, as it were, like a beautiful meal set up on the table, the wonder of the reality of forgiveness: to know that my sin is forgiven, to know that heaven is my home, to know that Christ is my Savior—to present the wonder of that to them. To turn, for example, to John 1:12—that “as many as received him, to them [he gave] power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe [in] his name”[12]—and to ask them in all honesty, in light of their background, “Have you ever come and received Jesus Christ? Not received the sacrament, not been baptized, not had your First Communion, but have you ever received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?” For in that lies forgiveness, lies assurance, lies the discovery of faith. There may even be some here tonight who are exactly in that position, and I want to commend you to a careful study of this book and to a devout consideration of Jesus.

Let me conclude with these three statements. I’ll read them so I don’t expand on them.

A smart answer given without love and humility will do more harm than good.

We don’t have to answer all people’s questions before they can become real Christians. Our goal is to bring them face-to-face with Jesus—not our church, not our system, not our group, but with our Jesus.

And becoming a Christian doesn’t automatically solve all the personal problems which the individual may bring to their newfound faith.

I hope in measure this has been helpful this evening, scanty though it is. I thank you for your attention.

Let’s pray:

And now, Father, as we return to our neighbors and our friends—the people that we bump into when we eat, the folks that we travel with on the train, the people who sit around us in our offices and share the hallways of our days—may we live our lives in such a way as to provoke questions. And may we answer questions with humility, with sensitivity, and with the authority of your Word. Send us out in the power of the Holy Spirit, we pray. Take us to our homes in safety. May we honor you in all we say and do.

And may the grace and mercy and peace from Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the triune God, rest upon and remain with all who believe, tonight and forevermore. Amen.

[1] Paul E. Little, How to Give Away Your Faith (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1966), 64.

[2] Genesis 18:25 (KJV).

[3] Mark 16:15 (NIV 1984).

[4] John 14:6 (KJV).

[5] John 10:8–9 (paraphrased).

[6] Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 (NIV 1984).

[7] Genesis 1:1 (NIV 1984).

[8] Sam Berry et al., “Science and Belief in Miracles,” letter to the editor, The Times (London), July 13, 1984.

[9] Greg Nelson and Phill McHugh, “People Need the Lord” (1983).

[10] Edward Mote, “The Solid Rock” (1834).

[11] See 1 Corinthians 2:14.

[12] John 1:12 (KJV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.