What do I do? What do I say? How can I correct this twisted view of Jesus to portray the truth of the gospel?
These thoughts were colliding in my head as I sat and listened to a speaker go way off course in her presentation and basically skewed the truth about Jesus and about the Bible.
“Take heart and have courage.”
God, I need your courage! Please uphold me and strengthen me! (Isaiah 41:10)
To be honest, I began writing down everything she said that was wrong about the Bible and about Jesus, as well as writing the verses that confronted and contradicted her points. I was angry that she would treat the Bible in this way and also that she would proclaim Jesus as a “sinner like the rest of us”.
I wanted to prove her wrong.
Some might call that righteous anger. Others might call it conviction. Others might even call it pride. Whatever you call it, I was desperate for God to give me clarity in the situation so I could react in such a way that didn’t hinder the message of the gospel.
So I prayed. Fervently, I prayed for God to close the ears of the hearers. I prayed that He would somehow redeem this message and allow the audience to hear the truth. I prayed for help in how I was to respond. Do you know what happened?
In the midst of my praying and angry writing, God gave me pause all of a sudden. I don’t know why, but I just felt compelled to stop writing down everything that was wrong with her speech, and simply listen to her. Thoughts of defense went to the wayside, and instead this thought came into my brain, “You don’t need to defend the Bible. You don’t need to defend me.”
So I stopped. I listened.
While she went on to explain part of her own story and then arrive on a slightly political platform for her speech, I had this urge to at least re-direct her spoken words. As the person who invited this speaker and hosted/emceed this event, I had to take the microphone next. I had no idea how to proceed.
I didn’t want this audience leaving with the wrong view of Scripture or the gospel, so I couldn’t just sweep it under the rug and pretend everything was all fine. Yet I also didn’t want to jump on the judgemental bandwagon where I slayed her and told everyone how wrong she was. I wanted to keep the integrity of the gospel and the integrity of my witness while I addressed this very wrong presentation.
I needed the courage of Joshua.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9
God instructed Joshua several times to “be strong and courageous” (Deuteronomy 31) and also promised Joshua that God would be with him. Courage corresponds with Joshua five times in the book of Joshua alone, three times in Deuteronomy.
Why did God repeatedly bolster Joshua’s heart? Reminding him of this command to “be strong and courageous” and also that he was not alone, but that the God of Israel – the God Almighty and the Creator of the world – would be with him? It’s because he needed it. He needed the pep talk and he needed the edification in his spirit to keep walking and trusting the Lord to do as He promised.
And God was faithful. God delivered Israel by the hands and leadership of Joshua. Joshua’s faith grew because he was strong and courageous, but not in and of himself. God made him strong and courageous. God sustained Joshua and God never left Joshua as he walked in obedience to what God was asking him to do.
As this speaker was winding down, I realized that I had about 2 minutes before I had to be up front addressing the crowd. I prayed for wisdom in how to handle the situation. I asked God to give me a gracious tongue but that this audience would not leave with a skewed version of the Bible, Jesus or the gospel. I asked God to give me the same courage He gave to Joshua, knowing that God was with me as I spoke.
In those two minutes, my mind was flooded with new Bible verses to say. Ones that didn’t contradict every wrong word from this speaker’s talk, but one’s that pointed people to the truth of the Bible.
I went up to the front with my Bible in hand. I don’t remember everything that I said but I do remember that I started with Pontius Pilate’s question to Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) and that Jesus had already answered that question twice earlier. Once in John 14:6 where he states, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.“ A second time in John 17:17 where he prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
I then proclaimed the gospel.
Was I scared? Yes. I didn’t want to offend anyone. I didn’t want to be seen as “that Jesus freak”. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself in any way. Yet I simply could not let people walk out the door without hearing the truth about the Bible and especially about Jesus.
In the end, I did offend the speaker even though I really believe that God helped me not be angry but gracious in my response. I realize that the gospel does offend. It confronts sin and calls people to humble themselves. It reminds us that we are not sufficient and we can’t do enough good to be good enough. That’s a glorious thing, but to those who reject the truth, it is enraging.
God gave me the courage of Joshua when I needed it the most. He didn’t take away my nerves or make it all easy on me. I still had to walk through fear and even turmoil in obedience but can I tell you something amazing? Since that day, at least one person in the audience became a Christian and another one has asked me to help her learn to study the Bible.
I don’t know if it was because of anything I said – it may not have been because of that event at all – but I know that sticking up for truth is so very hard sometimes and God promises to always be with us. He also promises that His word will accomplish all the He intends and not return empty (Isaiah 55:11).