This Saturday Anna and I headed into Fargate together to bear witness to Christ. We shared a time of prayer first and then began by handing out tracts, while we were doing this I bumped into Ian, whom I had spoken with recently, whilst preaching. Ian had been hoping to see us again soon, and was (contrary to what some Christians believe) glad of the opportunity to speak with us further about the things of God.
Ian and I discussed some of the ins and outs of the Christian life and again I was impressed by his desire to find answers. He left with a smile, after shaking my hand and thanking me for sharing the gospel of Christ Jesus with him again.
We headed up the mall and set up in the centre to preach. I got up to preach while Anna and Paddy were doing good work, witnessing one-to-one and handing out tracts. Today appeared to be a day of hecklers and objections and the first up was Andrew. Andrew did part of the good person test with me, he began to object when I said to him that God would one day judge all he did and thought. At this point Sam chimed in also and basically just gave the assertion that God could not judge him because he didn't like it.
I tried to answer both Sam and Andrew and show that God is the judge over all of us by right because he has made us and gives us life. If someone makes a vase of clay they have the right to treasure or destroy it because they made the vase and thus it belongs to them. Likewise it is written that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and because of this God as our maker has the right to determine what rules will govern our existence. This was answered with another assertion (which is impossible to defend), "There is no God" and "You can't prove God exists". So we discussed the evidence that comes from design and the order of our world that positively screams, "God has made the universe".
The next heckler to step up to the plate was an atheist man who was determined to pin the cause of suffering in the world, on God. I tried to answer this age-old question in a reasonable fashion, but the interruptions were coming hard and fast. And he insisted that his assertion was right. After struggling backwards and forwards for some time on this topic, it finally became clear what he wanted to say. In essence his claim was that because God made us and is in absolute control of everything. He is responsible for our sin. This claim holds about as much water as a sieve, and is addressed far more ably than I, by many authors (e.g. J Blanchard in ‘Is God Past His Sell by Date?' and ‘Does God believe in Atheists?').
The bible teaches that first and foremost we are all responsible for our sin before God:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Secondly the Bible also teaches as this man rightly pointed out, God is sovereign and in absolute control of the world. Does this then mean that God is really at fault for our sin and we are off the hook? NO! While the two concepts appear to be in contradiction, to the mind of fallen and weak men and women, it is not the case. These concepts are taught as equally true, God is absolutely in control, but we are also are absolutely guilty of treason and rebellion against God. And as the letter to the Romans puts so clearly:
So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?
There were many other questions and different reactions to my answers varying between open hostility and accusations through to thoughtful nods and affirmations. Let them think what they will of me, I AM worthy of contempt (and eternal hell), but for my glorious saviour.
We pray O God that you will continue to work through your Spirit whenever the gospel is proclaimed, convict people of sin, righteousness and judgment. Save the people of our town and rise in your might to defend your people. May all be to your glory O God both now and forever where your people will join in singing around your throne:
"Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"