Try asking non-believers, “What do you think I believe?”

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Why can’t non-believers understand the Gospel?  OK, I know the reason they can’t believe it.  Absent the Holy Spirit making them spiritually alive they are incapable of believing.  But you’d think that they could at least properly articulate what it is we believe.

In my experience, no matter how many times you explain what we really believe usually assume we think we are saved by works.  It is often fascinating to hear non-believers describe what they think we believe.  I shared the Gospel many times with one guy who continually came back and distorted what I’d said.  I finally made a little progress after I wrote this to him:

I also want to clarify my views on Heaven / Jesus for you.   . . .  I just think it is completely reasonable for me to correct your misunderstandings of what I believe.  I must not have explained it well on the phone so I thought I’d try it in writing.  This doesn’t make my beliefs true – although I am always ready to defend their accuracy and historicity – but if there is a misunderstanding I’d like to correct it.

So here it is: Yes, I have great confidence that I’m going to Heaven, but it is not because I behave in a better than average way.  One of my primary verses to point to is this: 1 Timothy 1:15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.

That isn’t false humility, that is an accurate assessment of who I am and what I know about myself.  So yes, I think I’m going to Heaven, but I’ll do so in spite of what I’ve done and because of what Christ did on my behalf.  That’s it.  It is available to anyone who repents and believes.  He is the one true God and everyone will answer to him someday.  Making a god in one’s own image will gain a person nothing but an eternity in Hell.  You don’t set the terms and conditions, God does, so every person should seek and meet those terms with all their heart and strength.

To this guy’s credit, he called and said he realized he’d been misstating my views.  He still doesn’t believe, but I’m all for planting seeds.

So if you think someone doesn’t understand the real Gospel, try asking him to state what he thinks you believe.  You’ll get an insight into what he thinks and you can correct him from there.  It is also a charitable way to converse.

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11 thoughts on “Try asking non-believers, “What do you think I believe?””

  1. Good advice. Thanks. I recently asked a blogger who touts himself as a former Evangelical Christian why he is no longer a Christian. I am awaiting his reply. If we are able to have a dialogue, I’ll try to make sure he does not misunderstand what I believe.

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      1. I received a nice reply from the blogger. In short, he is convinced that science conflicts with Scripture and has “opened his mind to the idea that the Bible might not be infallible.” This has lead to the inevitable conclusion that he does not want to be a Christian. I replied to him that whenever I see someone claim they are a former believer it is invariably because they no longer believe the Bible is true. Since he claims that the Bible contains “many contradictions”, I have asked him to list them for me and encouraged him to reconsider that the Bible is in fact true. We’ll see how it goes.

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  2. My grandfather heard the gospel from all sorts of sources from me and his daughter (my mother) and my dad all the way up to Billy Graham. He read apologetics books given to him and never came away from a visit without another clear presentation of the gospel. Some 50 years into this we were talking about it again and he said, “Wait … are you saying that you can get saved simply by believing in Jesus??? That would mean that ANYBODY can become a Christian!” We were all stunned. That was NOT the first time he’d heard it, but it was clearly the first time it sunk in. He rejected Christ to his death, but it served as a reminder to me that even when you think you’ve told them, they haven’t yet heard. Tell them again.

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    1. Great point. I was reminded in “The Sovereignty of God” by A.W. Pink how glorifying it is to God to share the Gospel even if people don’t believe. Of course we want them to believe, but saying out loud how amazing God is for what He did is always a good thing.

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  3. Is it right to expect non-believers to articulate the beliefs of believers? Would have them quote a thousand biblical passages or understand the significance of a hundred?

    Articulation is the believer’s job. If they don’t respond like you hope, move on. No sense “beating a dead horse.”

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    1. To clarify, you’d be asking them to play back what they heard you say or what they have heard elsewhere. It is a basic conversational technique to ensure good communications, regardless of the topic. Keep in mind this is often part of a discussion with a “former” Christian who has spent time in church, claims to have read the Bible, etc.

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