When I was in college and for the past decade, their has been a strong emphasis in the Christian community on apologetics. We felt we needed to defend our faith against attacks and prove it to people who didn't believe, so that they might come to believe in God. It was the whole premise of Modern Thought--that everything can and should be explained. There was a flaw in this. God cannot be fully explained. God is far bigger and greater than any of us can fathom.
Now, I think the world is using another age-old tactic to keeping people from believing--it's blatant and dangerous in my eyes.
There are three sources of temptation--the world, Satan, and our selves. The world and Satan blur together and it isn't really all that important to distinguish the two. The tactic I'm concerned about this morning is one that is employed by the world, but that the self jumps on board with and runs with it.
It is the idea that one must choose God or Self--the idea that we must pursue our own happiness. Our world is telling us that we must be happy--that we deserve to be happy and that walking with God and living according to His truth will not allow us to be happy.
"The world...is characterized by the subtle and relentless pressure it brings to bear upon us to conform to its values and practices. It creeps up on us little by little. What was once unthinkable becomes thinkable, then doable, and finally acceptable to society at large. Sin becomes respectable, and so Christians finally embrace it. It is my perception that Christians are no more than five to ten years behind the world in embracing most sinful practices." Jerry Bridges, p. 211, The Discipline of Grace
But Bridges goes on to explain that our self is actually the most dangerous source of temptation. The heart is deceitful.
"Knowing that our hearts are deceitful by nature, we should be especially watchful that they do not turn our liberty into license." Jerry Bridges, p. 221 in The Discipline of Grace
What I think is happening is that many people today are choosing not to believe in God and saying that they just don't know if they can believe. I believe that many people who are saying this actually don't think they want to walk with God. They want to be happy and though they know God and His Word, they are choosing to believe the world--that they won't be happy if they walk according to God's Word. Some people are actually honest in saying that they don't want to walk with God because they want to live the way they want to live. But, I think that many people use doubt as an excuse for the desire to have license to live the way they want to in their hearts.
I see people making two choices in this place: 1) choosing not to believe and not walk with God because then they would have to live according to God's Word or 2) choosing to take what they want from God's Word and not believing all of it--essentially discounting parts of the Bible as not relevant to our culture. You could use another word in the place of relevant, but it would be the same idea.
I am deeply concerned for young people today who are being inundated by the messages of the world. They even see Christians in the public eye say that the Bible was mistranslated as a way to justify their own sin.
14but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
We have to be careful and guard against the temptations in our own heart. We need to be grounded in the Word. That is the way we fight this temptation and the messages that the world tells us about what we deserve and need in life.
Giving in to self will not lead to happiness, but rather to unhappiness. God's way is best for us. We may struggle with that and it may often not be easy, but it is best.
11 For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.