Monday, 12 December 2011

Apologetic Sound Bites: ‘How can you claim there’s only one true religion?’ Tim Chester

.‘How can you claim there’s only one true religion?’ You may be asked this question as you’re at the photocopier at work or at the bar buying a round. Here’s the second part in the apologetics series that will give you some ideas of how to respond when you only have five minutes.

1. People often liken religions to blind men encountering an elephant. The first blind man feels the stomach of the elephant and concludes it is a wall. The second feels the trunk and concludes it is a snake. The rest conclude it is a spear, tree, fan and rope, depending upon where they touch. The story purports to prove that all religions reflect the truth, but none grasps the whole truth. If people tell this story, ask them: ‘How do you know it’s an elephant?’ In other words, the story assumes the teller is as enlightened, objective observer.

2. People may say: ‘If you were born in Iran, you’d be a Muslim not a Christian.’ But the same goes for the pluralist. ‘If you’d been born in Iran, you wouldn’t be a pluralist.’ In other words, your belief that all religions are equal (or misguided) is as culturally and social conditioned as my belief in Jesus (more so since going to church is now a minority activity in our society).

3. Jesus claimed he was the only way to God (John 14:6). If all religious roads lead to God then Jesus was a liar and Christianity is false. In which case, not all religions lead to God.

4. People sometimes ask if you fully investigated all religions before deciding to follow Christ. Two responses: (1) You don’t need comprehensive knowledge before you can be confident something is true. You don’t read every newspaper and interview multiple eye-witnesses before believing a sports result. (2) I didn’t decide Christianity was the best religion; Jesus laid claim to my life.

5. Ask people to define religion. Jesus is not another religious figure, but the end or opposite of all religion. Religion is about an upwards movement of humanity towards God. Jesus represents of downward movement of God towards humanity.

6. Because Jesus is God’s initiative towards humanity, the message of Jesus is a message of grace. It is not dependant on human achievement, but upon God’s gracious and completed work. So Jesus alone gives assurance of salvation.

This material is adapted from a Porterbrook Learning module.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


What a huge need there is for people to serve as leaders. If you want evidence of the shortage of potential leaders, look at the painful process by which the United Nations struggled to find a new Secretary General or the process by which the USA and other countries select the handful of people who are fit and willing to stand for the highest political offices. There is a need for Christians to take up leadership too, not as an honour or a prize but as a way of serving the Body of Christ with the gifts and ministries given them. Many will become leaders, especially in their local church, who never expected it.

We need more of an emphasis in the church on the training of leaders, old and young. I am often reminded that those leaders of the church in Thessalonica with whom Paul corresponded were just a few weeks old in the faith. Training can start young. I am committed to the task of training people for leadership right where they happen to be while at the same time presenting them with the truth of a world vision. What a power house the church would be if we could find an amalgamation of the kind of biblical teaching that creates dynamic spiritual leaders in home countries with the kind of vision which we read about in Acts 1:8. This would lead the church into a greater forward thrust into world missions. There is a need for leaders who will "mobilise the people of God for adventurous and imaginative mission". (Paul Beasley-Murray in "A Call to Excellence") May God give them to us.


Much of what I have to say in this chapter concerns the tough reality of being a leader in the church and mission work today, but I won't finish without reminding you of the glorious resources available to leaders in Christ. Over the years as director of Operation Mobilisation I have spent much time in the training of leaders. Sometimes when speaking at a leaders' conference I will deal with the special spiritual and character qualities needed by leaders in God's work. These are important and I will write about them later in the chapter. Sometimes I even get down to the details of how to make decisions as a leader and how to organise yourself. This too is important. Most often, however, I find myself speaking to leaders about the need for them to work on the basics of the Christian life - their own walk with God and spiritual development. Nothing is more important for leaders than this. It follows that in their relationships with others, leaders must do everything possible to edify, build up and help people come more and more into conformity with Jesus Christ; giving full consideration to the different circumstances in which people work in the organisations and movements that have been raised up by God to work together in the task of world evangelism.

Most of all what I want to emphasise when speaking to leaders is, "Be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18) because it is the Spirit who is the director of all Christian work. Oswald J Sanders in his book "Spiritual Leadership" calls his chapter on the Holy Spirit "The Indispensable Requirement". He says that there may be many desirable qualities for spiritual leaders but only one is indispensable - that they should be Spirit-filled. I am convinced that there needs to be a greater consciousness of the Holy Spirit and His work in believers. Each one must be taught that it is a privilege to know daily the fullness of the Holy Spirit as He exalts the Lord Jesus and is sovereign director of our lives and our affairs. This fullness is not only to do with the emotions and the inner spiritual life. It is also to do with the quiet reality of how we live our lives from day to day (see Galatians 5:22-25) and with the making of plans and the development of strategy in our Christian work. I am especially concerned to say to leaders that we must depend more on the Holy Spirit for directing us as we move forward in mission work. It is so clear from the book of Acts that the Holy Spirit directs missions work.

"But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit comes on you; and you will be my
witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and
Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

"While they were worshipping the Lord and
fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for me
Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I
have called them.'" (Acts 13:2)

The book of Acts also makes it clear that those who lead missions work need to be filled with the Spirit. J Oswald Sanders says,

"It stands clear in the book of Acts that the
leaders who significantly influenced the
Christian movement were men who were
filled with the Holy Spirit. It is recorded of
Him who commanded his disciples to tarry
in Jerusalem until they were endued with
power from on high that He was Himself
"anointed...with the Holy Spirit and with power"
(10:38). The privileged one hundred twenty in
the upper room were all filled with the Spirit
(2:4). Peter was filled with the Spirit when he
addressed the Sanhedrin (4:8). Stephen, filled
with the Spirit, was able to bear irresistible
witness to Christ and to die as a radiant martyr
(6:3,5; 7:55). It was in the Spirit's fullness that
Paul commenced and exercised his unique
ministry (9:17; 13:9). His missionary
companion Barnabas was filled with the
Spirit (11:24). He would be strangely blind
who did not discern in that fact the
fundamental criterion and equipment for
spiritual leadership."

Some people regret the passing of the fervour often associated with an early experience of the fullness of the Holy Spirit but as H A Hodges says in his book "Unseen Warfare" this loss of fervour may be a sign of getting beyond the early stages and of "growing up". If you are going to be a Christian leader you have to grow up. You have to settle into a steady routine of having the Spirit guide you in the daily pursuit of your work and your plans just as we have seen in the book of Acts. This should be a constant daily filling but not a restless search for new "experiences". Many people feel that they need a fresh touch in their life and they go from conference to conference seeking something new. Of course I am not excluding the possibility of crisis experiences with God but there needs to be a "continuing programme for spiritual growth" to quote the subtitle of Ralph Shallis's book "From Now On". When God saved you and put the Holy Spirit into your life He put the ball into your court. He may be waiting for you to hit it back. To use another analogy, it may be that God is urging you, as Nehemiah urged the people of Israel, to "rise and build" (Nehemiah 2:18).

Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy." Revelation 3:4

We may understand this to refer to justification. "They shall walk in white"; that is, they shall enjoy a constant sense of their own justification by faith; they shall understand that the righteousness of Christ is imputed to them, that they have all been washed and made whiter than the newly-fallen snow.

Again, it refers to joy and gladness: for white robes were holiday dresses among the Jews. They who have not defiled their garments shall have their faces always bright; they shall understand what Solomon meant when he said "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart. Let thy garments be always white, for God hath accepted thy works." He who is accepted of God shall wear white garments of joy and gladness, while he walks in sweet communion with the Lord Jesus. Whence so many doubts, so much misery, and mourning? It is because so many believers defile their garments with sin and error, and hence they lose the joy of their salvation, and the comfortable fellowship of the Lord Jesus, they do not here below walk in white.

The promise also refers to walking in white before the throne of God. Those who have not defiled their garments here shall most certainly walk in white up yonder, where the white-robed hosts sing perpetual hallelujahs to the Most High. They shall possess joys inconceivable, happiness beyond a dream, bliss which imagination knoweth not, blessedness which even the stretch of desire hath not reached. The "undefiled in the way" shall have all this-not of merit, nor of works, but of grace. They shall walk with Christ in white, for he has made them "worthy." In his sweet company they shall drink of the living fountains of waters.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Base things of the world has God chosen."—1 Corinthians 1:28.

WALK the streets by moonlight, if you dare, and you will see sinners then.
Watch when the night is dark, and the wind is howling, and the picklock is grating in the door, and you will see sinners then.
Go to yon jail, and walk through the wards, and mark the men with heavy over-hanging brows, men whom you would not like to meet at night, and there are sinners there.
Go to the Reformatories, and note those who have betrayed a rampant juvenile depravity, and you will see sinners there.
Go across the seas to the place where a man will gnaw a bone upon which is reeking human flesh, and there is a sinner there.

Go where you will, you need not ransack earth to find sinners, for they are common enough; you may find them in every lane and street of every city, and town, and village, and hamlet.

It is for such that Jesus died. If you will select me the grossest specimen of humanity, if he be but born of woman, I will have hope of him yet, because Jesus Christ is come to seek and to save sinners. Electing love has selected some of the worst to be made the best. Pebbles of the brook grace turns into jewels for the crown-royal. Worthless dross He transforms into pure gold. Redeeming love has set apart many of the worst of mankind to be the reward of the Saviour's passion. Effectual grace calls forth many of the vilest of the vile to sit at the table of mercy, and therefore let none despair.

Reader, by that love looking out of Jesus' tearful eyes, by that love streaming from those bleeding wounds, by that faithful love, that strong love, that pure, disinterested, and abiding love; by the heart of the Saviour's compassion, we conjure you turn not away as though it were nothing to you; but believe on Him and you shall be saved.

Trust your soul with Him and He will bring you to His Father's right hand in glory everlasting.