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 (Manna 71: What Does God Require of You?)
Unashamed of the Gospel
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Unashamed of the Gospel

C. Ang—Singapore

Open any university textbook in foundational studies in biology, anthropology, or geology and you will find traces of evolutionist theories, especially relating to the beginning of man. The theory of evolution proposes itself to be the alternative explanation to biblical creation. Moreover, modern philosophy and English literature have their roots in the humanist movement, involving a turning away from the Christian faith toward the individual.

As the modern day Christian is bombarded daily with such atheistic notions and faces an increasingly ungodly society that mocks at essential Christian doctrines, how can we remain assured of our own faith? Before preaching to others, can we stand convicted in our beliefs in Christ?

FINDING YOUR IDENTITY IN CHRIST

Bearing witness to the gospel by conduct is no easy task. It always boils down to the daily basics, such as how much time we spend in communion with God and invest in spiritual nurture.
The key to shining as a true Christian depends on how deeply we know God, whether we are sure of what we believe in, and, ultimately, what our identity in Christ is. When Moses came of age, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb 11:24–26). Because he was nursed and brought up by his own mother, a Hebrew woman (Ex 2:7–9, 11), Moses retained his Hebrew identity and chose to be with God’s people rather than to be an Egyptian.

Similarly, as Christians of the True Jesus Church, we should have the correct faith based on the doctrines of Christ and understand that it is true and unique, and not be ashamed of its differences from other religions or Christian groups. It is this strong sense of identity that will keep reminding us of who we are and the commission entrusted to us—to preach the good news.
Having this identity will ensure that we will not easily fall away in the face of opposing beliefs and theories. When we have an irremovable identity in Christ and see ourselves as part of Christ, there is basis for us to keep our values.

BE A CHRISTIAN OF SUBSTANCE

To be a Christian of substance, it is vital to maintain our stance on our faith and to know what we believe in despite opposing beliefs and theories. We need not necessarily join the apologetics movement, but certainly need to know how to defend our faith when it is undermined by the worldly knowledge we feed our minds with at secular institutions.

Find Answers to Prevalent Questions

First, we can know and find answers to prevalent questions regarding the faith. One of the arguments against God in my first year Philosophy class was, “Why does a good God allow suffering?” At that time, even though I believed in God, I was unable to rebut what seemed like a really good argument against the case for the existence of God.

Indeed, to refute philosophical theories against the faith in academia, one is often expected to use the tools learned in philosophy. But this is not the recommendation given in the Bible, which tells us to not indulge or be caught up with men’s philosophies (Col 2:8). Instead of using the tools of the world to defend our faith, we should be equipped with the word of God, which is fit for reproof, correction, and instruction (2 Tim 3:16), to fight for our faith.

For example, there are biblical answers to the question of suffering. Suffering can be the result of man's sin against God, or a trial sent by God to perfect the faith of a believer. Examples include the Israelites’ chastisement when they departed from God's commandments (Hab 1:5–11; 2:15–16; Hos 2:2–13), and Job whom God wanted to perfect by removing his self-righteousness through sufferings.
In fact, God is good, but man does not always choose to do good (Jn 1:4–5), thus he suffers. It doesn’t help that the devil often wreaks havoc in men’s lives (Job 1:6–12), but God allows it as a trial to shape us into a better person.

With special regard to the matter of suffering, sometimes, the Bible does not always give explicit answers to specific questions we may have. When our young child is diagnosed with a chronic illness or when Dad is laid off at work without a reason, we tend to ask God why these unfortunate events happen to us. Whether it is to bring one's entire household to Christ or to train us to give up our lives to God, we may not know at that moment in time. The search for answers is often a journey and takes time. In such situations, we need to look ahead with faith (Job 13:15; Hab 2:4; 2 Cor 5:7) and trust in the abidance of God (Job 42:5).

Discern Right from Wrong

Second, discern right and wrong by being on the right side. Our allegiance is towards God; we are not trying to win a philosophical debate. When I was younger, I used to think that the only way to discern between right and wrong was by having full knowledge and an understanding of both sides. But life soon taught me that I was wrong. Man is fallible.

When we incline ourselves to what is unrighteous, we will gradually be influenced by wrong concepts and thus breed wrongdoing in our life. Putting ourselves in the shoes of someone who blatantly does wrong merely serves to blur the boundaries between right and wrong, making it difficult to do what is right. This eventually leads to the corruption of good values.

Thus, I learned that the discernment between right and wrong is given by God (Heb 5:12–14) and cannot be attained through our own vain pursuit. Moreover, I learned that whilst we can pursue knowledge to a certain extent according to the best of our own abilities, the maturation of that knowledge involves faith and waiting for the Lord, the One who gives fruition to our efforts. Until then, the only thing required of us is that we are faithful to the Lord and remain on the right side of His commandments.

Spotting Fallacies of Opposing Theories

As sojourners living in a transient world, it is useful for Christians to gain worldly knowledge that can help us support our livelihood. Yet how do we find a way from being influenced by atheistic theories prevalent in school and society? While we cannot isolate ourselves from the world by living in an utopia in which all of God’s laws are upheld, there are many ways in which we can prevent our beliefs from being compromised, if only we let faith dictate the way. While we can know about atheistic concepts, we should avoid subscribing to them. One way to achieve this is to be aware of the flaws of these concepts and why they are not in line with God’s will.

For instance, if we are assigned to write a paper on the theory of evolution, we can use the opportunity to find out about the fallacies of this theory as well as other scientific findings that are in accordance with the Bible’s account of creation. There are times when it may be necessary to abstain from studying too deeply into concepts that contradict our faith: we don’t need to challenge our faith by purposely picking controversial fields to expand our knowledge, for gaining knowledge of the wrong sort may corrupt good values. Instead, we should desire to grow in the knowledge of the grace of the Lord (2 Pet 3:18, 1:8).

DARE TO BE DIFFERENT FROM THE WORLD

If finding an identity in Christ forms an intrinsic part of a Christian's values, daring to be different is how we keep those values. As the world changes and Christianity declines in the countries where it once flourished, more and more people no longer profess to be Christians. Due to pop culture, the young may find it to be “uncool” to be a Christian, and such influence is widespread.

In this growing tide of ungodliness, it is hard to be a Christian and to profess one’s faith without being labeled as overly religious. Hence, it takes courage for a Christian to stand up for his faith. Youths and adults alike, but especially youths who are prone to peer pressure, must dare to be different from the world, to be “the salt and light of the earth” (Mt 5:13–14).

I believe that many of us may regret when we realize, in retrospect, that we would have done much better had we not given in to peer pressure during our pre-adult years. I draw this analogy because daring to be different is just that—being our own unique selves without succumbing to more dominant social pressure. And the challenges it poses to us don't just stop during our teenage years but continue in our quest to be mature Christians.

We might have sustained or nurtured a hidden dream or passion if only we had not given it up just to blend in with the rest or belong to the “cool crowd.” Maybe we would have spoken our minds in class, or perhaps gotten better grades, or hung out with that sweet yet unsocialized slip of a friend whose friendship we treasured. Daring to be different is far from claiming exclusivity or being intolerant of others; nor is it all about standing out from the crowd. More often, it is about knowing our identity and claiming it, even if it means bearing with inconveniences and nuances in everyday living.
Despite censure from unbelieving parties, we can evangelize powerfully and keep the faith at the same time, without compromising it, by being ready to give an answer for the faith that is in us (Col 4:6) to anyone who asks.

BEING FAITHFUL TO THE WORD

Finally, we should be faithful to the word and keep it to the end (1 Jn 3:24). When short-term solutions cannot solve present problems, one may have to endure hardship for the faith. We ought to know that to apply the Lord’s word in this world is to first bear the costs of our decision to follow Him and be rewarded at the end with the crown of righteousness—just like Lazarus, who might have been poor for the sake of not wanting ill-gotten gain (Lk 16:19–25), like Paul suffering in chains, hard-pressed on every side for the Lord and beaten for the cross (2 Cor 4:8). Yet a good Christian should never quail at this prospect. It is a form of fighting for our beliefs in a very real way.

We should resolve to “contend” (Jude 1:3) and protect the “precious faith” (2 Pet 1:1; 1 Pet 1:7) by upholding its tenets in doctrine and not let God’s name suffer abuse by blasphemous words. We ought to be arrows in His quiver, daring to take a firm stance on church beliefs and fight for the Lord as one conscripted in the army (2 Tim 2:3–4).

Initially, we may employ tact, but in the face of opposing beliefs, we must stand up for our faith and not consent to erroneous teachings. We should point out where the misconceptions are and present the teachings of Christ the way it was imparted to us. It all boils down to this: not being afraid to be different from the world and being willing to suffer for the Lord by offering our lives to Him. For in living out our faith in this manner, we take our understanding of the truth to a different level, a higher ground in which we can concretely experience God.

CONCLUSION

In summary, our daily decisions for God contribute to our boldness for Christ. If we can keep our faith over the little things, we will be trained in righteousness to handle matters of greater importance. Let us honor our status as children of God. May the influence of the Word pervade our lives, and the teachings of Christ translate to godly actions so that when it is time for us to testify for the Lord, we can be unashamed like the apostle who willingly gave up his life for the sake of the gospel (2 Tim 3:10–12).


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Author: C. Ang
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