Our Apologetics Must Surrender to the Transformative Power of Jesus Christ!

When it comes to apologetics, defending our faith in Christ, there is one very popular verse that many of us know. You probably are already quoting it in your mind. You’ve already jumped to 1 Peter 3 in your head and you’re repeating it on auto pilot in your favorite translation.

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. [1 Peter 3:15 CSB]

Yep, that’s the one. For the majority of my life, this verse has been cited to mean…

  • Stay up on your apologetics, daily meditating at Ravi Zacharias’ feet.

  • Be ready to argue down anyone who dares question a 6000 year old earth

  • Know your carbon dating stuff so you can shut down anyone who questions you

  • If you aren’t completely up to date on archaeological research and how it supports Scripture, you’re done for, you’re barely even a Christian anymore

To me this approach has always come across as confrontational. We are preparing Christians to debate and argue with anyone at any time. I’m seeing the remnants of this now on Facebook and other social platform feeds. Do you see it? Christians in an online world in a rage, defending the faith against all enemies both foreign and domestic, screaming evidences for young earth in ALL CAPS, the flood actually happened and if you question it, good luck in hell. And now our sermons have shifted, begging believers to stop doing the very thing we have prepared them to do because of the damage it is causing.

I believe it’s time to rethink 1 Peter 3:15 when it comes to disciple making. Let’s do that by looking at two stories; the personal stories of Chris and Tyler.

Stop Arguing People to Jesus

Chris (not his real name) came to me around a year ago, confessing his frustration with trying to reach his co-workers for Christ. He shared many of their conversations and many ended up in heated debates over who had the best argument for any given topic surrounding apologetics.

He was upset at the lack of results. We talked multiple times for many hours. Eventually it hit him, “I can’t argue someone to Jesus.” Nope, that’s not going to work. At least not at a rapid enough rate to make a dent in the current cultural tsunami headed away from Jesus. We have to think and act about this topic differently.

Tyler (not his real name) is an environmentalist, evolution believing, democrat voting, self-identified “none.” He and I started having faith conversations around six months ago. As he explored, he immediately jumped to the common questions. “Well, if I talk to you about this, am I going to have to change my beliefs about evolution? And what about how I vote? I have deep convictions about voting to save the environment from climate change.”

What I heard was, “If you tell me that following Jesus means I have to vote Republican and suddenly believe the earth is 6000 years old, I’m out.”

Where would you begin with a person like Tyler? Likely with some sort of argument beginning to break down evolution. And if you went after how he votes first thing, you’re probably going to lose the opportunity to share Jesus. I don’t know anyone saved who was argued out of how they prefer to vote. Even a guy with no current framework for religion or faith in his life, was expecting our conversations to be somewhat confrontational and to debate these deeply held convictions and beliefs.

Start Helping People Experience Jesus

My response to Chris was to disciple him and help lead him to his own personal experiences with Jesus. In his daily quiet time, what was God doing in his life personally. As those become a part of his story, he then needed to share that with others. Many people can argue circles around believers when it comes to certain topics like evolution, but they can’t argue with our story of transformation and what Jesus is doing in our lives.

So what’s your story? Do you know how to tell it to someone who needs to hear it? Can you share a compelling story and vision for how God is personally transforming your life on a daily basis? Or….not?

I think my response to Tyler took him by surprise. My first response was, “Tyler, I believe that someday you will stand before God. And when you do, He won’t ask you how old the earth is. He also won’t ask you how you voted. He will ask you what you did with Jesus. Are you open to discovering Jesus with me?” He said, “Yes.”

For six months we have read nearly the entire New Testament. Daily texting each other talking Scripture and next steps. Weekly I would say, “What do you believe God is calling you to do as a result of what you’ve read? What do you hear God, Jesus, the Spirit, saying to you?” Slowly he began to hear God and to experience Jesus in his own life through the daily practice of abiding in Christ. Scripture and prayer. Daily obedience. Daily surrender.

You Don’t Transform People, God Does

I have been guilty of being good enough with Scripture, to get someone twisted around just enough that eventually they concede to my point of view. I took a lot of pride in the fact that I had that kind of knowledge in the past. However, I bear a huge spiritual and eternal responsibility for people I have baptized or “lead to Christ” who were only following me out of fear and not because of what God was up to in their lives. I’m responsible for that spiritual manipulation. I pray I never do it again.

Even Jesus didn’t manipulate people. Think about the rich young ruler. A great conversation and a simple request. Here’s what God is calling you to do next. Sell everything and follow me. Nope, can’t do it. And Jesus was sad for him, but He didn’t manipulate or coerce him. I know Jesus could have manipulated, reasoned, debated Judas into not betraying Him. But that would have circumvented God’s will. Jesus allowed it to be as it was and didn’t spiritually or emotionally manipulate Judas.

I now ask Chris what he believes his next step is. What is God up to in your life through your daily quiet time? What do you hear Him saying to you and what are you going to do about it?

Chris is now discipling a friend from out of state through daily Scripture and texting. He is asking different questions now and not trying to force or coerce submission to an intellectual debate. We both have a long way to go, but I can tell you he is seeing God at work far more through him to others now than when he was simply trying to use his own intellectual power to debate everyone he came into contact with.

On Sunday, August 25th, 2019, I baptized Tyler into Jesus Christ. After six months he said “Yes” to Jesus. I’ll never forget the day that I read his text, “I’m ready.” I have been in ministry almost 17 years and he is the first lost person I have wept for at the decision to make Jesus, Lord. Why? Because God did it. All the other years I’ve been trying to control and manipulate what God was up to. Now, through Tyler, I am seeing God’s faithfulness as He works and transforms my life. It was a powerful moment to sense God’s faithfulness that deeply.

I didn’t manipulate or coerce Tyler. I allowed him to wrestle with God and let God transform his life. I prayed for him like crazy along the way, but I let God do the work. And when the timing was right, God had His way. Tyler is a new man. You can see it in his face. I love that guy!

1 Peter 3:15 is so fresh for me now. It’s not an intellectual or theological debate. It’s all about hope and what God is doing in my life. Read it again and see if you see the difference.

But in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. [1 Peter 3:15 CSB]

My hope is not in my intellectual ability to wear you down on a given topic.

My hope is not in my theological knowledge to trap you into admitting I am right.

My hope is not in being right about the age of the earth.

My hope is not in fossil records.

My hope is in the risen Jesus Christ and how He is transforming my life in 2019.

My role is simply to point people to an experience with Jesus Christ themselves and to love them along the way. If my apologetics are in the way of loving people and discipling them to salvation, then I am no better than the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.

What are your thoughts when it comes to apologetics and disciple making?

I am going to be opening myself up to train pastors in disciple making principles and tools. If you are interested in knowing more, please click here. I will contact you when I get the first small groups established.