Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Will to Believe

"Believing is a matter of the will. A man does not believe without being willing to believe."
C. H. Spurgeon 1834-1892

I do like this Spurgeon quote. While I firmly believe that …

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17 KJV)

… I’ve found that people will hear what they want to listen to. Too often our minds are closed to anything that does not confirm or agree with what we wish to hear. Very often mankind becomes defensive rather than keeping an open mind and hearing what an opponent has to say. Or, maybe we’re just more in tune to that now in this political season.

We do need to listen, verify that what we heard is what was originally meant, then make a decision based on our research. That’s how we should react to politics – and how we should react to religion.

Rather than a blanket, “That’s wrong,” we need to be able to explain why we think it’s wrong as well as offer an explanation as to how we came to that conclusion.  Too often we can’t and end up closing down communication that is beneficial to both parties.

I think of Paul standing on Mars Hill:

Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars' hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. (Acts 17:22 KJV)

Now, if we were to accuse someone of being too superstitious, I wonder if they would listen to anything else we said. But, the Athenians heard Paul out:

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; (Acts 17:23-24 KJV)

I’ve not had enough curiosity to discover why there was such an altar – did they have a fear that they might slight a powerful God? Or, did they feel there was something more powerful than what they knew?

After hearing Paul’s message, their response what just about what people experience today:

And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. (Acts 17:32 KJV)

Only Dionysius and Damaris were named as those who believed. Pretty much, again, as it is today. Few open their hearts and minds to hear the message. We never hear about these two again. There is no pauline letter to the church at Athens to tell us more about them. Did they hold meetings in their home as a church grew?

Would we today? I know a couple – not missionaries, not a pastor and his wife, just an ordinary Christian couple – who did. They opened their home to strangers to worship and learn. What can we do? Speak publicly as Paul, host meetings, witness to others or mock, as some did.

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