Monthly Archives: August 2014

The Medal of Honor and Jesus Christ

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In the U.S. military, soldiers who have acted valiantly above and beyond the call of duty receive the Medal of Honor. This honor recognizes their loyalty, service, and dedication to their country. It puts them in a special class and distinguishes them as those who have been exceptionally heroic in service to their country.

Soldiers who have given their all for those they swore to protect receive the Medal of Honor. There is another one who gave his all for us, to protect us and to save us: Jesus Christ. But how can we honor Christ?

That is a question that all Christians must answer. We have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19), and so we must glorify God with our bodies and our lives. I was discussing this topic with Zack Seals, the 2012-2013 Stoa NITOC Mars Hill Champion and 4th place Apologetics Champion, when he made a very interesting point. He stated that Apologetics is one of the ways that we honor Christ. That is, when we are able to defend what we believe, and show that Christ is the sure foundation of our faith, he is honored. Here’s how Zack explained it:

“We as Christians are responsible, and I would say required, to be able to give a defense or explanation for why we hold to the belief that we do. That doesn’t mean we are going to be able to in every situation. But it is shown to be something that we are required to know as a Christian. The command in 1 Peter 3:15 is to ‘set apart Christ as Lord,’ and in the prior verse Peter even refers to a section in Isaiah [Isaiah 8:13] where the same command is used to view Yahweh as holy. So the application is from Isaiah 8: In the same way as we are to regard Yahweh as holy we are to sanctify Christ as Lord. That’s the command. The way we show Christ as Lord of both our hearts and minds is described in the very next part of the verse, ‘Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that you have.’ So Apologetics is how we show that we are fulfilling that command to set apart Christ as Lord. Therefore we are required to respond to others. That is the objective in order to fulfill that command.”

Zack is absolutely right to say that by giving a defense of our beliefs we honor Christ. And if we look at 1 Peter 3, we see that Peter actually identifies two ways that we honor Christ. These are not contrary to one another but rather coordinate—they work together to achieve one end. Let’s glance at the entire passage, 1 Peter 3:14b-16 (ESV):

“Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”

First, we “honor Christ the Lord as holy” by “being prepared to make a defense.” Our faith is not blind. We see Christ—albeit in a mirror dimly—and are convinced that he is true. We should be able to explain that to others when they ask why we place our faith is Jesus. That is why Apologetics is so important. When we have a firm grasp of the basic doctrines of Christianity, we will be able to answer the questions of skeptics and unbelievers. When we show that the gospel is more than a child’s fairy tale, Christ is honored.

Second, we honor Christ when we have “good behavior in Christ.” Notice how Peter describes our actions as we are defending: we must be gentle, respectful, not doing anything that our conscience would condemn. As Christians, others will slander us. The unbelieving will often accuse us, grasping at anything in our lives that is worthy of censure. If we can talk the talk but cannot walk the walk, Christ is dishonored. Alongside Apologetics is, equally importantly, holy living. We do not want to be put to shame. Instead, we desire that those who slander us would be put to shame when they see our behavior and realize that their accusations are groundless. When Jesus’ people act like him, he is honored.

We are all called to honor Christ as holy. We don’t give him a medal like the Medal of Honor. Instead, we honor Jesus through Apologetics and through holy living. As you prepare for competition this year, keep that in mind. Study hard and live righteously, all in order to glorify Jesus.

Look!

I said that my last post was the beginning of a series intended to help you in your preparation for competition season. This article is the second post in that series. However, it may not be quite what you expected.

As I was getting ready to write this article, I happened to see that one of my very close friends had messaged me on Facebook. We check up on one another every few days to see how we’re doing spiritually and to exchange prayer requests. He asked me how he could pray for me, and I replied that the foremost request in my life right now is that I would find joy in Christ. See, I tend to focus on myself whenever I notice a sinful pattern in my life. I get very introspective, feel rather helpless, and tend to become despondent. I have found that the key to recovering “the joy of your salvation” (Psalm 51:12, ESV) is looking away–looking away from myself, that is. That’s part of why I titled this article “Look!” I need to keep reminding myself–we all need to keep reminding ourselves–to look away from ourselves.

The other part of why I titled this article “Look!” is even more important: looking to Christ. As I was replying to my friend’s message, I tossed in Colossians 3:2 (ESV) as part of my prayer request–that I would “set [my] mind on things above.” I realized that I hadn’t real the entire passage in a while, so I opened up esvbible.org and read the immediate context. As I read, I saw something that I hadn’t seen before–or at least had forgotten. Here’s how I explained it to my friend:

“I just went and opened Colossians 3 on esvbible.org to see the greater context. I had forgotten the context–right after this great paragraph about setting our mind on Christ and about our future glory, Paul says “therefore put to death what is earthly in you.” I think that’s what I too often forget–my putting to death of my sin can only be successful when it is a “therefore”. If I start killing my sin by looking at myself and seeing my own depravity, I will be discouraged. But if I start by looking to Christ, seeing the wonderful future he has in store for me, then I will be able to kill sin in the present.”

The starting point of my sanctification cannot be myself. Christ is the genesis of sanctification. As we look away from ourselves and look to Christ, we are given hope that “he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6, ESV). Therefore, we can “work out [our salvation] with fear and trembling, for it is God who works” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV) in us.

What does all of this have to do with competitive Apologetics? I think it relates in three ways. First, Apologetics cannot be divorced from other parts of the Christian life. A great Apologist who is a lousy Christian does not please God. But when we become more like Christ, our heavenly Father is pleased–after all, he wills and works in us “for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, ESV). If we want to please God in our Apologetics, we must also want to please him in areas such as sanctification.

Second, Apologetics competitors are still sinners. There have been times where I didn’t feel worthy to give an Apologetics speech. How could I, a sinner, dare to stand up and proclaim the truths of God’s word? How can you, a sinner, speak to others about holiness when there is still sin in your life? We need to answer these questions correctly. The answer is not to make ourselves holy by force of will. The answer is Christ. We must look to him and to his gospel, remind ourselves of his sacrifice, and live out of that. We sinners can dare to give Apologetics speeches not because we are perfect, but because he is perfect, and because he imputes his perfection to us.

Third, you will give bad Apologetics speeches. Some rounds will not go so well. What then? When you feel like you have let God down, how will you respond? Vowing to do better the next time won’t work, at least not by itself. You need unconditional love before you need commands–indicatives before imperatives. Look away from yourself at Christ. See how he loved you and died for you while you were still a sinner. See how his love pours from his head, his hands, his side, his feet, and drips onto the earth that he created. And as the earth shakes and the sky darkens, as the curtain that separates God and man is ripped in two, hear him cry “It is finished!” If Jesus loves you like that, then he will still love you after you give a bad Apologetics speech.

So that’s what this has to do with Apologetics. In Apologetics, and in every area of life, we need to Look away! from ourselves and Look to! our Savior, Jesus Christ.

God bless.