Dear all at IPC,
I was recently asked after speaking to a group of non-Christians ‘If there was anything that would cause me to walk away from the faith or not believe the gospel?’
It’s a brilliant question and has haunted me since it was asked. What the questioner had in mind was if there was some evidence that came up which completely disproved the gospel, would I be willing to
give it up?
I think our best answer to this question leads us to the character of God. As Christians we know from God’s word that God is not a man that he should lie (Numbers 23:19), and so there is no evidence out there waiting to be discovered that will destroy Christianity’s credibility. We also know that in 2000 years of people trying to destroy the reliability of the Bible and the trustworthiness of Jesus Christ, they have failed. We recently watched the film version of ‘The Case for Christ’ and again the sheer weight of evidence for the resurrection of Christ is overwhelming. Our faith rests on evidence that we would do well to consider and reassure ourselves on.
That isn’t to say that we don’t doubt. Spurgeon the great 19th Century preacher said: ‘I would barter everything I had, and I do not believe there ever existed a Christian yet, who did not now and then
doubt his interest in Jesus. I think, when a man says, “I never doubt,” it is quite time for us to doubt him.’ That is the normal Christian life, to go through periods of doubt. We mustn’t mistake doubt for unbelief, but doubts call out for faith and trust. We go to God and his Word with our doubts.
As I’ve teased out the question, I recognise that sin and a desire to make living the Christian life that little bit easier is the big temptation. I want to round off the sharp edges of scripture, soften the commands, live for myself and my own pleasures: that is the road to walking away from Christ. That is the real temptation. To be like Peter and ‘follow at a distance’ which quickly turns into denial of our Lord. It wasn’t that Peter didn’t know, or didn’t believe in Jesus any longer, or that he had become convinced he wasn’t the Son of God. Peter just caved in. Praise God he was wonderfully restored, but the following from afar often leads to giving up on Jesus.
So for me, and probably for you, the danger isn’t that intellectually you’ll suddenly be convinced that the gospel isn’t true. But what we must see is that the sinfulness of our hearts could well drive us in a
direction away from Christ. It’s knowing that our hearts naturally go astray that will ultimately help us be aware of our dangerous spiritual state before we go too far along that road.
Of course, there is a wonderful counter-balance to this that provides glorious reassurance and that is found not in ourselves but the character of God. What God has begun in us he will complete
(Philippians 1:6); Jesus says there are none that will snatch us out of his hand (John 10:28); we have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God until the Day of Redemption (Eph 4:30). God keeps those who are
We know our hearts are desperately wicked. Scripture tells us that he who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). And yet we have this glorious assurance that God’s call is irrevocable (Romans 11:29), there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38)
One of my favourite hymns is a Debtor to Mercy Alone by Augustus Toplady (1740-78) which expresses
this truth far better than I can.
A Debtor to mercy alone,
Of covenant mercy I sing;
Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on,
My person and offering to bring.
The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Saviour’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view
The work which his goodness began,
The arm of his strength will complete;
His promise is yea and amen,
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Not all things below nor above,
Can make him his purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from his love.
My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace;
Yes, I to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The glorified spirits in heaven
Is there anything that would cause me not to believe the gospel or to walk away from it? The answer from my own heart is tragically my sin may. But Praise God! He is greater than my heart, he has dealt
with my sin and he will keep me to the end.
Your minister and friend,