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Three Steps to Conversations That Affect Eternity


Scott Drew is one of the most appealing Christians in America these days. As the head coach of the Baylor University men’s basketball team, which won the NCAA championship in convincing fashion Monday night, he is understandably in the media spotlight. In stories about the team and their victory, Coach Drew’s faith almost always comes up.

For example, Sports Illustrated quotes ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who said of him: “He has an optimism, a sense of faith and a sense of family and togetherness that is real. People said early on he’s a phony; he’s a charlatan. But the more you see it, you know it’s real stuff. He’s like that Sunday school preacher, but he believes what he’s preaching. Optimism, with him, is like breathing.”

Such an attractive witness is especially vital in a day when evangelical Christians are being assailed on all sides. From lawsuits alleging discrimination on Christian campuses to accusations of right-wing political agendas to escalating threats against religious liberty, believers need to defend what we believe with urgency and compassion.

Yesterday, we discussed the priority of biblical thinking and God’s call to stand for biblical truth. Today, let’s look at practical ways to answer his call.

One: Choose courage before courage is required

We will frame today’s conversation in light of Acts 17 and Paul’s transformative encounters with the Greco-Roman culture of his day. From his experiences, we find a roadmap for effective engagement with our post-Christian culture.

The chapter opens with Paul’s experience in Thessalonica, where he and his followers faced a mob that falsely accused them of insurrection against Rome (vv. 1–9). Here we learn that standing for biblical truth often requires us to stand against untruth, commitments that often come at a significant cost.

Paul made the decision to stand courageously for his Lord long before he reached Thessalonica. Jesus warned him shortly after his conversion, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16). In nearly every city he visited in the Book of Acts, Jesus’ prediction came true.

Paul knew that his strength came not from himself but from his Lord. That’s why he could testify, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). And he could state, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). He knew that he needed the Spirit to guide him, use him, and protect him. So do we.

Before we go any further, would you stop and ask Jesus for the strength and courage you will need to stand for his word today?

Two: Invite people to consider biblical truth

Back to Acts 17. After Paul was forced to leave Thessalonica, he and his team traveled to Berea, where they began ministry in the synagogue there (v. 10). Luke reports: “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (v. 11). As a result, “Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men” (v. 12).

From the Bereans we learn a second principle: invite people to investigate biblical truth.

You and I cannot convict people of sin or save souls; this is the work of God’s Spirit (John 16:8-11). Our job is to present the truth and invite people to consider its claims on their lives. When we do so in an open, winsome, conversational way, they are often more receptive than if they feel pressured by us.

Charles Spurgeon noted: “The gospel is like a caged lion; you don’t have to defend it—just let it out of the cage.” If we will share God’s word in the power of God’s Spirit, answering questions as they arise in a spirit of genuine inquiry, God will use us to plant eternal seeds of truth in the souls we encounter.

Would you invite God’s Spirit to lead you as you share God’s word with those you meet today?

Three: Show people their need for biblical truth

Now we follow Paul to Athens, where he was invited to address the Areopagus, the intellectual leaders of the leading intellectual capital of the day (vv. 19–21). He began his address by referring to an altar he had discovered in their city with the inscription, “To the unknown God” (v. 23a). He stated, “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you” (v. 23b).

Paul proceeded to use reason in sharing the gospel with these rationalists. He showed them the illogic of believing that the God who made the universe would live in manmade temples such as they had constructed in their city (vv. 24–25). Next, he quoted their poets’ declarations that we are made by God as his offspring (v. 28) and exposed the contradiction of worshiping such a personal God as if he were “like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (v. 29).

The Epicurean and Stoic philosophers he addressed (v. 18) prided themselves on their logical consistency. By showing them the flaws in their reasoning, he opened the door to explain to them the logical and reasonable conclusion: the God who made them and everything else now calls them to repent and turn to him before facing judgment for their mistakes (vv. 30–31). 

Here Paul employed what is known as the “apagogic” task, which Merriam-Webster defines as “proceeding by the method of disproving the proposition that contradicts the one to be established.” He knew that people will seldom consider biblical truth unless they first believe they need biblical truth. If their beliefs are true and trustworthy, why would they change them?

Are you willing to help people face the (perhaps difficult) truth that they need to know the truth?

An hour on a train

We’ll continue tomorrow with two more practical steps. For today, let’s close with a question that was asked of the famed apologist Francis Schaeffer: “What would you do if you met a really modern man on a train and you just had an hour to talk to him about the gospel?”

Schaeffer replied, “I’ve said over and over, I would spend forty-five to fifty minutes on the negative, to really show him his dilemma—that he is morally dead—then I’d take ten to fifteen minutes to preach the gospel.”

Schaeffer explained: “I believe that much of our evangelistic and personal work today is not clear simply because we are too anxious to get to the answer without having a man realize the real cause of his sickness, which is true moral guilt (and not just psychological guilt feelings) in the presence of God.”

The Holy Spirit knows the heart of every lost person you know and wants to use us to lead them to salvation. However, we must choose to be courageous in sharing God’s word and helping them see their need for biblical truth.

Are you available to be used by God’s Spirit today?

Publication date: April 7, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/SDI Productions 

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries. Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at Denison Forum. He is the chief author of The Daily Article and has written more than 30 books, including The Coming Tsunamithe Biblical Insight to Tough Questions series, and The Fifth Great Awakening.

The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

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