How to Talk to a “None” About Jesus

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Perhaps you know that the Northwest is home to many nones. Nones are those who say they have no religion, which includes more than 30 percent of those living in the Northwest. Forty-two percent in Portland and 37 percent in Seattle say that have “no religion.”

What does this mean for those sharing the good news of Jesus Christ in the Northwest? First, it means that many of our neighbors have no faith system that they must “leave” to come to Christ. Leaving Islam or Buddhism presents multiple difficulties that do not exist for the nones. Coming to Christ from Islam means breaking with family and community, as well as Islamic teachings. It can even put one’s life in jeopardy. By contrast, those with no religion are not “leaving” a faith system as much as they are filling a void, i.e. the God-shaped hole in every human heart. Many of those coming to Christ are coming from this kind of background. In China, for example, tens of millions are coming to Christ from atheism and agnosticism.

Secondly, Jesus Christ provides the only satisfying answer to the deep needs of the heart. These include forgiveness, love, and hope, but I want to speak of two which you might not have considered, but which exist for every person, including the nones.

First, every human being yearns for justice, but without our God, justice cannot be had. On June 17, 2015 nine people were murdered during a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. In Syria and Iraq, thousands of Christians, and others, have been slaughtered by ISIS. These and other atrocities demand that justice be done. But how do you secure justice for those so grievously wronged? They are dead. Even if the killers are caught and punished, how does this help the victims? If there is no God, a God who is holy and all-powerful, so that He knows what is right and has the ability to produce the right, there is no ultimate justice. Without a just God to whom all must give an account, this world is reduced to “winners and losers.” Winners are those who get the most “stuff” and live a long and happy life. Losers are those who don’t get the “stuff,” and whose lives are cut short or impaired through bad health or bad luck (like being born in Afghanistan!). Ultimately we all lose because death comes to all.

To be clear, if there is no God, there is no justice, and therefore Adolph Hitler was a “winner” in comparison with his victims. Hitler died at age 56. For many years he enjoyed great power and luxury. By contrast, Anne Frank, one of Hitler’s victims, died at age 15. She suffered terribly under Hitler’s tyranny, as did millions of others. Little children, young men and women, were slaughtered by this evildoer. If there is no God, and no hope of ultimate judgment and resurrection and eternal life, then there is no true justice for the most evil among us, and their victims are life’s losers. This is a reality that nones and all unbelievers need to confront. Jesus Christ provides the only hope for justice and fairness.

Secondly, every person wants to live in peace, but without our God, there can be no peace in the truest sense. In the Middle East, we are not hoping for peace. Worldly diplomacy and military engagements are merely intended to end the killing and produce what might be called “peaceful bigotry.” The goal of the United Nations is not to make the Palestinians and the Jews love each other. The goal is simply make them stop the killing and live beside each other. If the killing stops we will call it “peace,” but really it’s a “peaceful bigotry” because there is no love. The same could be said of those fighting in Iraq, or even in the streets of some American cities. Our political and judicial system is meant to keep order, not produce peace. Only God can produce peace because peace requires a heart-change. In the human heart there is a longing for peace, but without Christ the best we can hope for is a peaceful bigotry.

We are privileged to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, which at the same time is one of the world’s great mission fields. About four percent of Northwesterners are in church on Sunday. But we have a powerful Gospel. We have the only message that addresses the great needs of the human heart, including the needs for justice and peace. It is a good day to share the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Northwest.

Keys to Helping Others Discover Jesus, Part 4 – Justice

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Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25f).

Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31f).

If there is no God, who both knows what is right and has the power to effect the right in a final resurrection and judgment, then Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Chairman Mao and every other wicked, murderous tyrant are the winners, while their victims, many of whom were women and children, are the losers. If there is no God, then life is about winners and losers, and the winners are those who get what they want, while the losers are those who get stomped upon, taken from, suffer and die young, either through the violent actions of evildoers, terrible accident, or through the bad luck of poor genetics.  

A basic teaching of Scripture is that there is a coming “day” in which the dead will be raised and God’s judgment on each person will be revealed. It is upon this teaching that man’s yearning for justice ultimately rests. Underlying the belief in resurrection, final judgment, and thus justice are three convictions.

Conviction one – God is. He exists.

Conviction two – God is good and He always knows the right thing to do.

Conviction three – God is able. He has the power to do what He chooses to do, and, conviction two means that what He chooses to do is always the right thing to do.

As we seek to help others discover Jesus Christ and submit to Him as Lord, consider the basic desire that people have for justice. It matters not whether a person is religious or irreligious, liberal or conservative, a democrat or republican, most people want justice to prevail. That doesn’t mean that “what is just” is always agreed upon, but the concept that things should be “made right” resides in most human hearts.  

Yet, without a just God, justice will never been secured. How can justice be secured for the victims of 9/11, or for those killed in the horrific school shootings that we have seen in recent years? What of the tens of millions of children who die each year through disease, war, abortion, or accident? What of the victims of crippling abuse? What does punishing the evildoer, assuming he is found and tried and convicted in a court of law, do for the victim who is dead or severely damaged? Nothing!

If there is no God, and there is no resurrection, then there is no justice. Without God we are left with “the survival of the fittest,” but even the fittest will one day succumb to the enemy which is death.

As you help others discover Jesus, show them that without Jesus, there is no justice. Few want to admit that life’s ultimate victors are those who get the most, even if by getting it they destroy others, sometimes millions of others.

This is not to say that all will be convinced because of their yearning for justice. Richard Dawkins, an atheist who delights in attacking religion in all forms, writes:

“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference” (River out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life).

Dawkins has made his choice to reject God, including the God revealed in Jesus Christ. But he understands that in doing so, he has also given up hope of a purpose, a differentiation between good and evil, and justice.

Few who have yet to discover Jesus have consciously given up all that Dawkins has. We need to help them know, however, that Dawkins has correctly identified what is at stake. Without God, there is no justice, no good, no evil, and no purpose. We are simply left with the lucky and the unlucky. And that means Hitler won, at least in comparison with the millions he murdered.