How far can apologetics take a non-Christian?
Imagine there being a castle 50 miles from your home, and all who enter through the only door in the castle immediately receive everlasting life. Picture the various roads to the castle being filled with huge potholes and various types of debris, making it rather challenging to actually get to the castle.
Thankfully, Paradise is a literal place, and the Messiah provides the only way inside his eternal kingdom. Jesus said, “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved” (John 10:9).
The discipline of Christian apologetics involves reasoned arguments aimed at filling potholes and removing debris that keeps people from coming close to God. The obstacles on the road to Christ’s castle include philosophical issues, theological confusion, intellectual arguments and false assumptions, as well as the emotional baggage people sometimes carry due to unpleasant religious experiences.
In Matthew 13, Jesus explained that when the Gospel is proclaimed, “the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in a person’s heart” (v. 19). Christ compared this activity of the devil and his demons to birds eating a farmer’s seed on the ground. The devil often snatches the message from a non-Christian’s heart, preventing a person from understanding and believing the hope held out in the Gospel.
Jesus emphasized how easy it is for children to enter the Kingdom of God. You see, children typically have very little debris between them and their Creator. The older a person gets and the longer he lives as a non-Christian, the more debris piles up, making it even harder to come near to God.
So, what happens when a non-Christian makes it all the way to the door of the castle? A humble step of faith is still needed to go inside. Spiritual conversion involves accepting the good news that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. You also need a humble heart that is ready and willing to turn away from sin. Apart from repentance and faith, a non-Christian remains outside the door.
There is a tremendous amount of spiritual activity going on at the castle door, which is a supernatural portal into Christ's real kingdom of everlasting life in Paradise. The Holy Spirit produces the miracle of the “new birth” (1 Peter 1:3; John 3:5-7; Titus 3:5) as non-Christians enter through the door of the castle.
Demons continually spread debris along your route to the castle. The further you are from the door, the less likely you are to come to Christ and be saved. The devil and his demons are always scheming and striving to prevent you from making your way to the all-important door.
So where do you find yourself today? Inside the castle, as a believer in Jesus and follower of Christ? Or perhaps many miles from the castle, with tons of debris in your way. Or maybe you are much closer to the castle than you were three years ago, but you are still working through a few unresolved issues. I encourage you to keep an open mind concerning the claims of Jesus Christ and the good news of the Gospel.
Perhaps you say, “What good news? I don’t get it!” And you never will grasp the Gospel until you first understand the bad news about your sin, and how far your sins have separated you from God. This calls for genuine humility. Are you too proud of yourself to give serious consideration to the claims of the only person who has ever lived on Earth without sinning even one time?
There are numerous agendas in the world constantly clamoring for your attention. And on top of that, you have your career, your family, your finances and your health to be concerned about. Your greatest need by far, however, is to be reconciled to your Creator, and this reconciliation only happens at the castle door.
Once the soul of a non-Christian departs their body at the moment of death, it is no longer possible to enter through the door of the castle. Therefore, “today is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).
Apologetics books, such as Evidence That Demands a Verdict, have helped many non-Christians make it all the way to the door of the castle. After getting around the potholes and past the debris along their path, a non-Christians reache a crucial point on their spiritual journey. You could compare it to a woman finally going into labor after carrying her unborn child for 9 months.
God creates a little baby in the womb of a woman, and God works the miracle of the new birth in the soul of a non-Christian. Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). That is, the Holy Spirit gives birth to man’s spirit by bringing him to faith in Christ. Simply “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31).
Apologetics is an extremely helpful discipline that has helped many non-Christians get past their debris and come near to God. In order to make it inside Christ’s eternal kingdom, however, it is necessary for a person to “repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). This is how a non-Christian “crosses over from death to life” (John 5:24).
Everlasting life is only found in Christ’s castle, and Jesus is the only door into Heaven. You enter through this door by placing your faith in the One who endured the agony of crucifixion on a cross in order to pay for our sins.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
You can either trust in Christ as your Savior who paid for your sins on the cross or remain paralyzed by potholes and debris. One approach will bring you to an everlasting kingdom of majestic glory; the other will land your immortal soul in a place of suffering where people receive eternal punishment for the sins they committed.
And if you ever find yourself refusing to keep an open mind on this critical issue, who do you suppose will have outwitted you into staying far away from the castle door?
Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska.