To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. (Philippians 1:15-17 HCSB)
“Why do I defend the faith?”
I encourage all Christian philosophers and apologists to ask themselves this question. It is a question, I admit, with an answer I’ve been ashamed to discover at times. Sometimes, the answer is “I defend the faith because I feel smart doing so” or “I defend the faith because it makes me look good.”
The defense of the faith is not about yourself. The focus is, and should always be, on Christ. Troubles come the way of the defender of the faith. It is not easy to continue to press on towards knowledge and truth. The Christian philosopher faces the scorn of his fellows, and the Christian apologist the ridicule of those who disagree. Yet in such striving, one can rejoice in the salvation of Christ and His glory alone.
It is often too easy to get wrapped up in yourself when you are defending the faith. Look at the people discussing the arguments you make! Look at those who think you are so strong; so faithful; so spiritual! I tell you, Christian brothers and sisters, such glory is nothing to be had in comparison to the glory of Christ crucified.
Further, do we preach the Gospel in such a way as to gainsay others? Paul experienced those who did this very thing; such people are in our midst to this day. Let us not use the Gospel to slander or attack. Rather, let us preach the grace of God.
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13 HCSB)
Thus, it is not by ourselves that we spread the Good News. It is God’s work in us, empowering us and enabling us to do His work. We cannot take credit for this, but should always turn our victories back to God. When we are tempted to delight in our own wisdom or knowledge, we must ask for forgiveness and acknowledge that it is from God.
Paul’s warnings ring home to me. I have too often congratulated myself with a successful argument, a sound rebuttal. These things matter not if we do not advance the Kingdom. Let us unite with each other, build each other up, and encourage one another. By doing these things, we can work together, each with his or her strength covering another’s weakness. Let us together hold firmly to the message of life (Phil. 2:16).
Read Philippians 1 and 2. Reflect on Paul’s joy in the spread of the Gospel and his own striving to keep the focus on Christ, not on himself.
Dear Lord God,
Help us to keep our focus always only on you. Please forgive us for the times we struggle and delight in the admiration of others. Forgive us for using your message for our own ends. Help us to forgive others when they stumble, and grant us the grace to lift them up. We work for your glory, oh Lord.
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As a Christian Apologist and Philosopher (if I may be so bold as to refer to myself in such a way) it is important to maintain an intimate relationship with my God. Often, it is easy to get lost in all the “If… then…”s the “therefore”s, and the premises of arguments about God and forget that God is the Living God, who wants to interact on a real, personal level with all His people. It is a trap that awaits those who talk about God in such abstract terms: forgetting that that same God is there and should be praised and loved.
Thus, it is important to maintain a devotional life. I encourage readers to set their own routines for exploration of God’s Word, prayer life, etc. It is important to utilize those periods of downtime–be they periods of an hour, two hours, or even ten or fifteen minutes–in order to expand knowledge of Word and Truth. I’ve outlined my own routine below (though I sometimes stray from it) in order to provide a potential base for study and some recommendations.
Daily (or as often as possible)
1. Read at least 1 chapter from the Bible: This may be done all in order (as I’m doing right now) or by a variety of other methods (such as following a “read the Bible in a year” type of thing).
2. Devotion: I use and very highly recommend the Treasury of Daily Prayer, which has readings from Scripture, church fathers, etc. along with liturgies for personal devotion.
3. Pray: This can be done independently or by using various books of prayer (I utilize the Lutheran Book of Prayer).
4. Hone Greek/Hebrew Skills: This one takes some prior study and knowledge, but I definitely recommend learning Biblical Greek and Hebrew in order to study the Word (a wonderful Hebrew Text is here, while a great introduction to Greek is here). Once one can utilize these languages, they can be used in daily meditation by taking a reader (such as this one) to practice this wonderful gift.
5. Other readings: Normally, I’m working through at least one “hard” book and one “light reading” book at a time. An example of a “hard” book could be God and Necessity while a “light reading” can be C.S. Lewis. Daily, I would say try to read as much as possible in whatever downtime one has. A fifteen minute period can mean 10-20 pages of reading for a “light reading” book, while I usually save “hard” books for times I have an hour or more. Utilize a notebook to take notes on the readings you do. Also, sometimes it’s good to read both a “hard” and “light” book from the same author, as this will reinforce the ideas (for example N.T. Wright–one could read The New Testament and the People of God [hard] and The Challenge of Jesus [light]).
Weekly (at least)
1. Church: Attending worship with fellow believers is extremely important for spiritual nurturing.
2. Extra reading: Take at least one day a week to sit and have some serious reading time from Scripture and books you are reading.
3. Exercise: Don’t forget to utilize the body God gave you. Take a 1-3+ mile run 1-3 times a week. While running, reflect on the gifts God has given. Pray, think about topics you’ve read from Scripture or other readings, recite verses.
4. Memory work: Try to memorize at least one verse a day. You may not retain them all in your memory, but once you start to do this, you will find you’ll be opened to an even more intimate understanding of Scripture.
Hopefully these ideas will serve to encourage others who are looking for devotional life. Do not neglect prayer and reading the Word; these are vitally important to the spiritual life of the Christian.
The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author.