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Mar 19, 2017

Questions, Part 3

Passage: Matthew 16:13-16

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Search and Rescue

Category: Evangelism

Keywords: evangelism, questions, jesus' questions, objections to christ

Summary:

This is the final message in the short series on evangelism. It looks at two passages (Mt. 16 & Mark 10) about how Jesus used questions to help people confront his claims of Lordship. Then we look at another 7 questions people often ask about spiritual matters and how to direct the conversation to Jesus.

Detail:

Questions, Questions, Questions!

(Part 3)

March 19, 2017

RECAP

  • Anyone have opportunity to use one of the questions we’ve had up the past few weeks to help move into a conversation about God? [Put up the questions.  Ask for testimonies.]  Personal:  Was able to find out where someone was spiritually that we did business with this week…and invite them to keep taking that journey in Christ with us!

Today I’d like to do 2 things:

1.) See from Scripture again a couple of really helpful ways Jesus used questions that can be helpful for us to use in pointing people to Jesus.

2.) Address a few more of the “Questions People Ask” for which we should really have an answer or two.

First #1.

            Turn to Matthew 16:13ff—We usually remember this passage as Peter’s famous declaration that Jesus is God-in-human-flesh, the Christ himself.  But Jesus’ questions here are a couple of really good questions to help people figure out where they are in relationship to Jesus themselves.

 13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

            C.S. Lewis in the book Mere Christianity, an absolute classic when it comes to helping others see faith in Jesus as not only rational but supremely reasonable, basically borrows these two questions to give us clarity when it comes to personal responses to Jesus.

            Take the first question:  “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  Just change it slightly to fit our culture.  You can say something like, “As a Christian, I like to ask people what they think of Jesus.  What kind of a person do you believe most people think Jesus Christ was?

Answers?

  • A good person.
  • A good moral teacher.
  • A slightly deluded nut job.
  • A myth.
  • A religious leader.

Lewis at this point helps people see that there are really only 3 rational or logical options about WHO Jesus was.

1.) He claimed to be God and knew he wasn’t…which would make him a LIAR (and therefore not a “good person”).

2.)  He thought he was God but wasn’t…which would make Him a LUNATIC(There are lots of people in mental institutions and even on the streets of Spokane who think they are Napoleon or Jesus or Abraham Lincoln, etc.) 

3.)  He knew he was God, Lord of all creation and sent to be the Savior of the world…which would make Him LORD

Liar…lunatic…or LORD.  Those are the three options. The one people usually like to parrot, the “Jesus was a really good person living as an example of how we are to live,” wasn’t an option Jesus left open to us.  

            Then the 2nd question Jesus asks helps people make their own decision:  Which of those 3 do YOU think Jesus was?  No matter what they answer, the door is still open for more conversation.

  • Liar: So what convinces you Jesus wasn’t telling the truth?  
  • Lunatic: So what has convinced you Jesus was a crazy man?
  • Lord: So how have you decided to respond to Him as Lord?  What has changed in your life since believing in Him as Savior and Lord?

Remember last week’s passage in Mark 10 about the rich man who claimed to be following God when he was really following another god, money?  For someone who can’t point to personal change in their life that Jesus always makes, that’s a great story to simply tell people and leave them wondering what their actual god/gods are that are dominating their life.    Nothing wrong with challenging people’s false gods. 

The other passage I want us to take one of Jesus’ questions from is Mark 10:36 & 51.  There are 2 different encounters with Jesus in which Jesus uses the same question

            In the first, Jesus is responding to something James and John want them to do for them, something rather selfish.  “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him.  “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  Now comes Jesus’ question:  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.”   As it turned out, what they asked wasn’t for them to have, so Jesus gave them an answer that moved them further along spiritually.

            Mark tells us in that same chapter that Jesus used that same question with Blind Bartimaeus in Jericho.  He was sitting along the roadside begging when Jesus walked by.  Hearing from others that it was Jesus, he started shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

            Everyone else told him to essentially “shut up.”  That only made him more determined to get Jesus’ attention.  When Jesus finally stopped and invited him forward, Jesus asked this question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  It is at this point that his begging for spare change changes to asking for a miracle. He responds, “Teacher, I want to see.” 

APP:  Here’s the question we can ask people that may bring about the very miracle that will make them a follower of Jesus.

If you could ask God to do one thing for you, what would it be? 

THEN, follow that up with praying right then and there for that as long as it is something you know Jesus could and might want to do in their life. 

EX:  If they want God to give them a lifetime supply of meth, I don’t think He’s going to answer that with a “Yes!”  But if they say, “I’d really like to be delivered from my addiction to ______,” then I think we should ask Jesus to do just that.  Praying for people is one of the most powerful and practical ways to share the Good News of life in Jesus Christ. 

We started last week into some of the possible questions WE can ask others and statements we can make whenever we encounter someone who uses one of the handful of questions non-believers almost always have.  So a 60-second review of those 3 questions.

  1. I’m not religious. What’s 1 or 2 possible replies?
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. Why is that?
      2. What do you mean by religious?
  • Would you still consider yourself a spiritual person? How so?
  1. I think religion is a crutch.
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. Doesn’t everyone have a limp?
      2. So you’d say you are perfect and never need God?
    2. Comments to give:
      1. I’ll be praying God will show you how much you need Him. J
      2. I think it’s worse than a crutch. I think religion is usually deceptive!

[Explain the difference between Christianity and all other religions:  DO (religion) vs. DONE (relationship with Jesus).]

  1. I have a hard time believing in a God I can’t see, hear, feel, touch or measure.

Put in question form, it may sound like, “What makes you sure there even is a God, especially when you can’t see, hear or touch him?”

  1. Questions to ask:
    1. But don’t you believe in things you can’t measure scientifically like love, joy, beauty and kindness, good and evil? [Science is ill-equipped to measure the non-material things in the universe. This person must be a pure materialist (philosophically) but probably isn’t one practically or experientially.] 
  2. Comments to make:
    1. Your own personal experiences with God—Him speaking, guiding, convicting, forgiving you, etc.
    2. Things I can see lead me to believe in a God I can’t see.

Evidence #1: Everything in science tells us that our universe had a beginning (Big Bang, Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity—time, space, matter & energy had a starting point in history…the “singularity event.” 

The Hubble Space Telescope confirmed that the universe is actually expanding, supporting the conclusion that the universe had a beginning point. 

If the universe began to exist, it must have a cause.  Nothing begins to exist without a cause that makes it exist. 

The universe’s cause must be beyond itselftimeless, non-spatial, immaterial, doesn’t consist of physical energy, powerful enough to create the entire universe.  That is precisely what the Bible describes as “God/ Yahweh” and by means the Bible describes (ex-nihilo—“out of nothing”; Genesis 1:1).   So what do you call it?

Objection:  So who made God?  Answer:  only things that have a beginning need a cause.  God is the uncaused, uncreated, eternal, immaterial Being that caused all else and needs no cause. 

Evidence #2:  Our universe is fine-tuned with astounding “just-so” precision in ways that make it a place that can support life.  The odds of this happening on its own, by sheer chance, are vanishingly small and thus point powerfully to an intelligent designer…precisely the kind of God the Bible presents.

ILL: force of gravity—Physicists have calculated that the strength of gravity must fall within very fine parameters: it can’t change by even 1 part in 10 thousand billion billion billion (1031 or roughly a “nonillion”, 1030) relative to the other (4) forces of nature…or conscious life would be impossible anywhere in the universe.  [Mittelberg, The Questions Christians Hope No One Will Ask, pp 12-13] Just to put that in perspective, scientists have estimated there are 3.72 x 1013 cells in each of us as humans. That is, 37.2 trillion.  You’d have to add 18 more zeros to get to the magnitude of power we’re talking in gravity…and not deviate by 1 off of that!

ILL:  mass of a neutron—If the neutron were not exactly as it is, about 1.001 times the mass of the proton, then all protons would have decayed into neutrons or all neutrons would have decayed into protons, and life would not be possible.

ILL: Explosion of the Big Bang—If it had differed in strength by as little as one part in 1060 , the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself or expanded too swiftly for stars to form.  [Ibid.]

Evidence #3—Objective moral standards.  Apart from God there can be no objective moral standards. Either our virtually universal objective moral standards emerged out of a physical explosion of matter (the Big Bang) OR they came to us from a divine moral lawgiver.  ILL:  The fact that the U.N. has an International Court of Justice and prosecutes people for war crimes and “crimes against humanity” is based on the belief in “objective moral standards” that are above every culture, race and religion.  (Things always considered wrong as pervasive social practices… like rape, genocide, slavery, murder, etc.) Romans 2:15—God’s law is written on our hearts.

The odds of this happening on its own, by sheer chance, are vanishingly small.  Why not accept that the biblical God is virtually the kind of god that best explains these objective moral standards?

  1. Let’s zero in on the question related to this: Can you prove that God exists?
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. Can you prove to me God doesn’t exist?
      2. Are you saying that you KNOW there is NOT a God (atheist)? [Answer:  C.S. Lewis’s “circle of all there is to know in the universe.  How much of all knowledge do you think you have?  Isn’t it possible that God exists in that vast realm outside of your limited knowledge?  Then you’re not an atheist, just an agnostic.]
  • What do you mean by “prove”? Are you asking if belief in God is reasonable OR if I can prove by the scientific method that God exists?
  1. If you could know that God in fact exists, would you want to know that? Would you want to know God personally?  Why or why not?
  1. Doesn’t evolution do away with the need for God? Questions evolution fails to answer:
    1. Matter matters: Where did the essential ingredients of matter (in the right forms) come from?  You can say, “The Big Bang” but simply names the event.  It doesn’t explain HOW or WHY it happened. 

Joke about scientists who had a contest with God.  Didn’t think they needed God to make life.  “Hey, go make your own dirt!”

  1. How do you explain the Origin of 1st Life? A minimally complex/the most basic cell needs between 300-500 protein molecules (made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and one or more chains of amino acids).  Listen to what Stephen Meyer says has to happen for there to be just ONE protein molecule. 

Consider what you’d need for a protein molecule to form by chance.  First, you need the right bonds between the amino acids.  Second, amino acids come in right-handed and left-handed versions, and you’ve got to get only left-handed ones.  Third, the amino acids must link up in a specified sequence, like letters in a sentence. 

            Run the odds of these things falling into place on their own and you find that the probabilities of forming a rather short functional protein at random would be one chance in a hundred thousand trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion.  That’s a 10 with 125 zeroes after it!

            And that would only be one protein molecule—a minimally complex cell would need between 300 and 500 protein molecules.  To suggest that chance [explains the creation of these molecules] against those odds is really to invoke a naturalistic miracle.  [Mittleburg, pp. 39-40] 

  1. How do you explain the origin of information in the world? Information always comes from intelligence. (Dictionaries, books, computer codes, signs, structures, etc.) Even the most simple bacterial cells teem with vast amounts of information—hundreds of thousands of bits of information precisely sequenced in its DNA.

ILL:  The difference between walking the beach and seeing ripples in the sand made by wave action and seeing “I Love You Dad” written in the sand.  The first is randomly formed; the second clearly had some level of intelligence behind it. 

The “I Love You Dad” message only has 11 letters arranged in a particular order.  First, there are letters that communicate ordered information (i.e. sounds that comprise words in English).  Second, they are placed in a meaningfully ordered sequence

Comparison:  Any idea how many “letters” the human DNA contained in every cell of your body has?  Try 3 billion! 

Francis Collins, the leader of the Human Genome Project, wrote this about the information bank contained in the human genome:  “This newly revealed text was 3 billion letters long, and written in a strange and cryptographic four-letter code. [The possible letters are A, C, G, and T, representing the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand — adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine — covalently linked to a phosphodiester backbone.]   Such is the amazing complexity of the information carried within each cell of the human body, that a live reading of that code at a rate of three letters per second would take 31 years, even if reading continued day and night.  Printing these letters out on regular font size on normal bond paper and binding them all together would result in a tower the height of the Washington Monument.”  [Ibid, p. 42.]’

Matter…life…information: the 3 questions to ask evolutionists.

  1. It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. Do you think someone can be sincerely wrong? (Terrorists? Someone who causes an accident by going the wrong way on a 1-way street?  A pharmacist who gives the wrong medicine?)
      2. Does sincerity guarantee you a good outcome every time?
  • Isn’t it possible that someone’s beliefs can inadvertently harm themselves and/or others, even though they are sincere? (Jim Jones cult mass suicide in Jonestown, Guiana, Nov. 1978. Over 900 people died, 1//3rd children.)
  1. Since right and wrong do matter more than sincerity, how do you determine who is right and who is wrong in life?

 

  1. Don’t all religions basically teach the same things?
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. If they do, why are Christians persecuted by Muslims & Hindus?
      2. How is it possible for all religions to be true when they contradict each other on fundamental issues?

Are you aware that all religions do NOT teach the same things? 

For example, take…SalvationWhat do you think each major religion teaches about salvation? 

Christians believe salvation comes by faith in what Jesus has DONE, not what the individual DOES.  Muslims believe you must swear allegiance to Allah and his prophet Muhammad and then engage in a life of good works, hopefully enough to outweigh the bad you do.  (5 Pillars of Islam-- Shahadah: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith. Salat: performing ritual prayers in the proper way five times each day.  Zakat: paying an alms (or charity) tax to benefit the poor and the needy.  Sawm: fasting during the month of Ramadan.  Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca.)

Hindus believe salvation comes by overcoming karma, incantations and doing good works.

Buddhists believe salvation comes by cessation of desire through an eight-fold path.

Does that sound like they agree about even the most basic spiritual belief:  HOW to be saved forever?

  • Are you aware that of all the major religions, Jesus Christ is the only religious leader who claimed to be God?

Buddha claimed to point the way (to Nirvana.)

Muhammad claimed to be a prophet of God. 

Only Jesus claimed to live a sinless life, fulfill Messianic prophecies, be God and die for the sins of others.  

  1. Isn’t it judgmental of you to claim that everyone needs Jesus? Truth is relative anyway. What you believe about Jesus doesn’t hold true for everyone. 
    1. Do you believe that statement absolutely-- “There are absolutely NO absolutes!”? Do you believe your statement about truth being relative applies to everyone?

The “truth is relative” is a self-defeating statement because it is an absolutist “truth-claim.”  It’s like saying, “I know for sure you can’t know anything for sure.”  OR “Always avoid making absolute statements.”  OR “You should always be tolerant of people of different religious beliefs except those who are not tolerant of different religious beliefs.” J

  1. Relativism isn’t livable. Since moral relativism makes no distinction between, say, cruelty and love, you really can’t live it out consistently in society.  Everyone makes claims about right and wrong that they expect others to agree to and honor (and most reasonable human beings do). That’s not relativism.
  2. The real question is, how do you decide what is truth?

 

  1. Christians are a bunch of judgmental hypocrites.
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. It’s actually worse than that. Christians are some of the worst sinners in the world.  But they are still saved by a very merciful, loving and grace-filled God.
      2. Who comes to mind for you when you think of hypocritical and judgmental Christians?
  • What makes hypocritical Christians particularly repulsive to you?
  1. How have you personally suffered under Christian hypocrites?
  2. Do you think every religion has hypocrites or just Christianity?
  3. Do you think you have ever been hypocritical in life…ever said one thing and done another, claimed to hold to one value and lived out a different value?
  • If you were ever harmed by a hypocritical doctor, do you think would you stop going to all doctors no matter how ill you got?
  • Do you think there is a difference between hypocritical Christians and genuine Christians?
  1. Comments to give:
    1. Hypocritical/judgmental self-proclaimed Christians really bother me too.
    2. Most Christians I know don’t claim to be perfect. What’s been your experience?
  • I’m afraid I’ve probably not been the perfect Christian either.
  1. If God is good and all-powerful as you say he is, why is there so much evil, suffering and pain in life? I have a hard time believing in a god like that.
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. Why do YOU think there is so much evil and suffering in the world?
        1. Agnostic—no one can answer this question. It just “is.”  [So why are you so troubled about “evil”?]
        2. Pantheist—evil isn’t real. Good and evil are all intertwined…or an illusion.  (“Chr. Science, New Age, etc.)
        3. Theist—God has the answers…even if you don’t like them.
      2. What do you mean by “evil”? Is it possible to know what evil is if you don’t have a standard for “good”?  C.S. Lewis—Where does our idea of “just” and “unjust” come from if there is no absolute standard of justice?  You can’t call a line crooked unless you have some idea of what a straight line is.
  • Implying that some things are “good and right” in life and others “wrong and evil” implies a moral law. And if there is a moral law, that implies a moral lawgiver.
  1. Would you agree that there is a difference between causing bad things to happen and allowing bad things to happen? (ILLcar manufacturers allow auto accidents; they don’t cause them.  Knife manufacturers allow murder to happen; they don’t cause it.  So it is possible that God allowed evil to happen without causing it, right? 
  2. What alternative to God allowing evil to happen would you prefer? Where do you want God to “draw the line” against evil?  (Every alternative demands that God drastically limit if not do away with free will altogether.  God cannot destroy evil without destroying both the good of free choice and everyone who is in any way tainted by evil, i.e. all of us!)  The possibility of evil exists the moment God created any truly free creature.  Free will is the cause of evil (Gen. 3:6). 
  3. What about suffering & pain? Is pain different from evil?  Is pain and suffering always evil?  Pain can actually be good—protects us from evil, further damage, self-damage.  It is sometimes required to get to a greater good (health, fitness, growth in intelligence). 
  1. How can you believe in a God that would send people to an eternal hell? That’s not the kind of God I want to follow. 
    1. Questions to ask:
      1. If heaven is a place where people worship God, and you do not enjoy doing that now and in this life, what kind of God would force you to do that for all eternity?
      2. Would it not be hell for God to force someone to love and worship Him forever who didn’t want to?
    2. Statements to make:
      1. Your question assumes God is forcing people into hell against their will rather than letting them choose what they want. (See C.S. Lewis’s book The Great Divorce.)
      2. Heaven will be hell for those not fitted for it. Sinners are not fitted for the presence of a holy God.
  • God is both just and loving. His justice demands that he punish sin.  His love moved him to sacrifice himself and make provision for sinners who want to spend this life and eternity in a relationship of love with Him.  What’s your response to Him?

A printed summary of these questions and answers is available as you leave today…and on-line at our web site.

CLOSE: Would invite you to DO a couple of things in response to this series:

1.) Put that printed sermon notes in your Bible and review and revise 2-4 of the questions once a week until the answers become second nature for you.

2.) Start praying, every week, that God would give us at least 1 conversation with someone about Jesus Christ and our hope in Him.

3.)  Take the post-it-note in today’s bulletin and write the names of 3- 5 people who you know need Jesus.  Stick that list somewhere where you will see it almost every day (on the bathroom mirror, the dashboard of the car, in your Bible you read daily, etc.) 

4.) Consider taking one of the Ed Hour classes come April 23rd.