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When your preconceived notions collide with Christ

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When was the last time you were forced to admit to yourself that your preconceived notions about someone or something had been incorrect? Whenever we are not well-versed in a particular matter, we can easily get it wrong by forming ideas and opinions based on a small subset of factors.

Author Elizabeth Thornton described it this way: “If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that sometimes our assumptions and preconceived notions are wrong, and therefore, our interpretation of events is incorrect. This causes us to overreact, to take things personally, or to judge people unfairly.”

I suspect each one of us can remember times when we have been guilty of this sort of thing.

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Even Christ’s first disciples had faulty preconceived notions about the Messiah. One day, “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’ The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about” (Luke 18:31-34).

The disciples were operating under the assumption that the Messiah had arrived to usher in an earthly kingdom of temporal grandeur. They were unwilling to believe that their Messiah would be taken into custody and then put to death.

Matthew records an incident that highlights the agitation and confusion Christ’s disciples were experiencing. “From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” (Matthew 16:21-23).

Peter refused to surrender his preconceived notions. Have you ever done that? You read something in the Bible that challenges your personal view, but you are unwilling to consider it because it might mean that you would need to adjust your perspective. Christ’s first disciples demonstrated this stubborn mentality. They could not wrap their minds around the upcoming events Jesus told them were going to take place. Since the message completely contradicted their expectation, they failed to comprehend it. 

Preconceived notions about Christianity are a dime a dozen. For example, atheist Richard Dawkins stated, “Faith can be very very dangerous, and to deliberately implant it into the vulnerable mind of an innocent child is a grievous wrong.” Dawkins has a boatload of defective ideas about Christianity, and he has allowed these bankrupt opinions to completely corrupt his ideas about the Lord. He refuses to be open to the reality that Jesus truly is the way, the truth and the life (see John 14:6).

The greatest thing you can do for children is to teach them about God’s love in sending Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. The less people know about God’s love, the Gospel and the Bible, the more likely they are to embrace false ideas about Christianity. Sadly, universities today are saturated with professors and students who hold erroneous opinions about the Christian faith.

Religious skeptic Bill Maher had an interesting conversation recently on his podcast with comedian Chris Distefano, who said: “I went to Catholic school my whole life. But after reading this book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, the factual evidence that He existed, it’s kind of overwhelming.” He encouraged Maher to read the book, and it sounds like he is going to do so. We will see if, by the grace of God, Bill Maher finally discovers why his misguided opinions about Christianity are dead wrong. You see, even a seasoned vocal critic like Maher can be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.

Interestingly, Lee Strobel was an investigative journalist and an atheist who came to the Lord only after his preconceived notions collided with Christ. But multitudes of unbelievers refuse to research the topic. Rather than zeroing in on the Person of Christ, many people become distracted by a variety of diversions. I addressed this issue in my 2013 CP op-ed, “Rejecting Jesus for All the Wrong Reasons.” People die every day who are oblivious to their fallacious assumptions concerning Christianity. Such notions, however, are quickly dispelled on the other side of the grave. 

A common misconception is that Christian faith and science are incompatible. And yet nothing could be further from the truth. Mathematician John Lennox helps to clarify things with these insights: “The very success of science in showing us how deeply ordered the natural world is provides strong grounds for believing that there is an even deeper cause for that order.” “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence … It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule.”

Lennox also said, “We have only to see a few letters of the alphabet spelling our name in the sand to recognize at once the work of an intelligent agent. How much more likely, then is the existence of an intelligent Creator behind human DNA, the colossal biological database that contains no fewer than 3.5 billion ‘letters’?”

Open-minded people are willing to look at the evidence. Do you have an open mind? If so, I encourage you to read Josh McDowell’s book, Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Are you willing to go wherever the evidence leads you? The only alternative is to keep your head buried in the sand and ignore the overwhelming evidence surrounding the most important Person in history.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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