I’m a fan of apologetics.  I love well thought out, Scripturally grounded perspectives that incorporate the full orb of what Scripture actually says.  Maybe it’s because I was a child of the 80’s and youth groups were all about pithy shallow sayings and don’t get me started on the worship music.  OY.

That’s why I gravitate towards books like “A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society” by Stephen J. Nichols.

Indeed we are a post-Christian society.  I’m finding that there are people walking through he doors of our church that have never been in church…or only a handful of times.  Generations are growing up knowing nothing about the true Jesus and the truth of the Scriptures and defining life on their own terms. Tell us, Dr. Nichols…

“Marriage is whatever we want it  be. Human life is defined however we want defined. Gender is a moving target. We have plunged ourselves into a whirlpool of relativism, and we’re spiraling toward the drain.” [7]  Dang. I’m gonna like this book.

Nichols wrote this book to answer the big question “How do we respond?” It is not a time to “cower, cave, or capitulate. It is a time for confidence, and our confidence must be in the right space. Or better to say, our confidence must be in the right person. Our confidence must be in God. All else will disappoint.” [15]

One of the things I love the most about men like Nichols is their grounding in church history.  With a nod to Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” – who do we have to help us? “The Spirit, and the gifts are ours…as is the Man of God’s own choosing. Christ, our elder brother, our Lord and our Redeemer.” [22]

He also quickly grounds our confidence in God as revealed in Scripture, pointing us towards Isaiah 40, which looks to the character, power, and wisdom of our great God. This gets our eyes off of us, and the problems around us and onto Him. “If all we do is see what is in front of us, only see what is right on our horizon, we will easily despair We can easily doubt. so we must have vision. We must have the vision of God, our all in all.” [35] This is the perspective of early church fathers/martyrs like Polycarp. Of early Christians who were persecuted under Nero. And it must be ours as well.

We must know this God deeply and truly, as he has revealed himself to us in Scripture.  This gives us perspective for the world around us and for our own hearts.  Quoting RC Sproul “our biggest problem is that we don’t know who God is, and we don’t know who we are.”  Amen! Our confidence must be in God.

We also need to have confidence in the Bible.  Again, this comes down many times to a knowledge issue.  Just this week, Twitter melted down with the decision from the Methodist Church to honor what the Bible says about marriage, gender, and sexuality.  So many people furious over this decision – yet the Bible could not be more clear on the subject.  Our confidence must put our own hearts to rest – we can trust the Bible.

“We must let the Bible be our guide. If it’s a gospel issue, then we must take our stand If it’s a biblical truth matter, then we must take our stand. God has spoken on the nature of human identity and sexual identity. God has spoken on marriage…they are lines drawn in the sand in the opening two chapters of the Bible…and they are rejected today.” [50]

Our confidence must also be in Christ.  We consider who Christ is and what he endured, we have confidence through him to also endure.  “He is truly God…truly man…superior to everything else that precedes him, the complete revelation and fulfillment of and apex of all revelation.  The consummation of all God’s promises.” [70-1] And all this, just from the book of Hebrews.

When we look to Christ, suddenly our increasing hardship and “persecution” for holding to our faith in these times seems a lot more like what he actually went thru for us.

This leads us, of course, to confidence in the gospel.  Nichols takes aim and asks a powerfully convicting question – “Do we believe in the power of the gospel?” [95] If so, we will endure, press on and be an authentic witness of it, and Romans 1:16 tells us this as fact – it IS the power of God for salvation.  “It will succeed against all odds and against all opposition.” [100]

The gospel also gives us confidence that things are not actually spiraling out of God’s control, he is sovereign over all things.  “God governs history and moves it along toward his desired end and purpose as surely as the sun rises.  We can have confidence in God’s work of redemption.” [115]

Finally, we can have confidence in hope.  Jeremiah Burroughs wrote “We have great things in hand, but greater things in hope.”  The very best we can do here on earth – in love, in humility, even in prayer – is still as Edwards said “clogged by sin.”  In heaven – we will be unclogged…so we have hope. [121]

Hope is part of our nature, put there by our Creator.  “The prevailing worldview did not and cannot offer real answers. Modernity says ‘Hope in man.’ That doesn’t work. Postmodernity says ‘Abandon hope.’ That doesn’t work either. Humanity cannot live without hope.” [124]

As a pastor, I especially appreciated [and was slightly convicted by] this hope of heaven means that what our people will be had not yet appeared.  We are all in the process of progressive sanctification.   Hope includes hoping for the image of Christ to be fully formed in each other as we sojourn in this lost place.

Hope also breeds joy and “to be a person of joy is a profound apologetic.” [137]

As we, as Christians, face this world of constantly shifting moral sands, we can stand on the confidences we have received – in God, in Scripture, in Jesus, in the gospel, and in hope.  One day, all the striving will cease and we will be like him and we will all be one in the confidence of our God for eternity.

 

 

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