My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. — Acts 20:24
Welcome to session one of Making Your Case for Christ. This study is about how we can better understand, explain, and defend our beliefs as Christians.
It’s likely that you grew up going to church, hearing Bible stories, memorizing verses, and singing worship songs. That’s a great heritage, and it’s certainly something to be thankful for. But it can also lead to assuming that the people around you know what you know, or at least understand what you believe and why it makes sense.
But the reality is that more and more people are growing up today without any sort of solid biblical teaching or understanding. If they believe in God at all it’s often a fuzzy, generic belief — not a clear understanding of who Jesus really is, why they should trust in Him, and the difference it will make in their lives, both today and for eternity.
These people may not know God, but God still loves them and wants to reach them with His offer of forgiveness through Christ. And whether they be in your school, your workplace, your neighborhood, or even your family, Jesus said to
Go and make disciples… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” — Matthew 28:19–20
To do this effectively, you’re going to have to be clear about what you believe and some of the reasons why you can be confident it is true. Put another way, you need to be ready to make your own case for Christ. That’s what this six-week study is designed to help you do.
As we begin, let’s read together a verse that sets the foundation for all of our discussions:
In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. — 1 Peter 3:15
There are four key elements in this verse. Let’s talk about each of them briefly.
- The first phrase says we need to “revere Christ as _________________.” Why do you think Peter mentions this first? Have you ever seen people try to help others spiritually without making sure that they were right with God themselves? What were the results?
- The second element says we need to “always be __________________.” Can you imagine a sports team going into an important game without doing good preparation ahead of time? (Maybe a team comes to mind?) The good news is that you’re here today — doing some of the preparation Peter was talking about.
- The third element is the focus of our preparation — to be ready “to give _____ ___________” to anyone who asks you for the reasons behind your faith in Christ. As we’ll discuss today, a lot of people are just a few good answers away from taking the gospel seriously. So, you need to be ready to give them those answers.
- The final phrase in the verse says that you should give your answers “with _______________ _____ ___________” (some translations list this as verse 16). You live in a culture in which these attributes are hard to find, especially in social media and other online interactions. Why do you think it’s so important to address spiritually curious people in a gentle and respectful way? Getting yourself prepared and taking the kind of approach Peter prescribes will go a long way toward helping your friends understand and consider the case for Christ.
Now watch the video for session one, in which you’ll meet the authors of this course, Lee Strobel and Mark Mittelberg, and hear them discuss the topic of this session: “Helping Friends Consider the Case for Christ.” As you watch, use the following outline to record any thoughts or concepts that stand out to you.
Some people say, “You can’t argue a person into the kingdom of God.” While that’s true — you need more than just information — evidence and apologetics can play a critical part in breaking down the barriers in that person’s journey toward Christ.
First Peter 3:15 is the imperative that tells us we need to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in Christ — and give it gently and with respect.
John Stott said, “Truth without love is too hard, and love without truth is too soft.” Jesus had the perfect balance, and He’s calling us to seek the same balance.
We need to look into the evidence for our faith. We need to know why we believe what we believe. As we gain that knowledge, it will help grow our confidence to share our faith with others.
In the Bible, we read of at least two examples in which Jesus provided evidence to back up His claim that He was the Son of God:
John the Baptist testified that Jesus was the Son of God, but doubts crept in when he was thrown in prison. Jesus told his followers to go back to John and tell them about the evidence they had seen with their own eyes.
The disciple Thomas questioned that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus did not shame him, but instead He told Thomas,
Look at the holes in My hands and the scars in My side. Check out the evidence for yourself.
Paul would sum up his ministry by saying,
We do what we do to persuade people. We want people to know our claims about Jesus are true.
It is necessary in the kind of culture we live in today, in which people have moved away from a Christian worldview, to be prepared to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus.
We tend to think people are resistant to hearing the gospel, but the reality is that we are the ones who are often more afraid to talk about it! People want to talk about spiritual matters.
In the first scene at the restaurant, see how Alfie brings up spiritual matters after the events surrounding Alison have taken place there.
In the second scene in the car, notice how Alfie asks questions and talks honestly with Leslie about matters of faith.
It pays to have our antennae up, watching for the opportunities God brings our way to engage people in conversations about Christ.
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. — John 8:32
We’ve seen how important good answers and information were in the testimonies of both Lee and Mark. We also heard them emphasize the fact that we’ll never be able to give our friends that kind of information unless we first initiate conversations about spiritual matters with them. Alfie did just that in the movie clip we watched during the teaching. Let’s discuss what she did and how it worked.
- In the first scene, Alfie explained that she wasn’t at that restaurant, and therefore able to help little Alison, due to mere luck. Instead, she credited Jesus for leading her there that night. Did Alfie’s way of explaining that feel natural to you? What might you have said differently to bring up spiritual matters in that situation?
- You might think that what Alfie said was a little forced. But what would have happened if she hadn’t taken that risk? Or maybe a better question: what would not have happened? Have you taken a similar risk — one that might have felt a bit unnatural, but God used it anyway? How did it turn out?
- In the movie, when Alfie and Leslie talked again, Alfie invited Leslie to come to church with her, and Leslie accepted the invitation. Have you ever invited a friend to church or some other Christian gathering as a way to further your spiritual interactions with them? What happened?
- In the second part of the movie clip, you saw Alfie and Leslie talking in the car after they had gone to church together. What kinds of questions did Alfie ask Leslie? Have you ever just come out and asked your spiritually curious friends about their beliefs or religious background? How have they responded?
Let’s summarize some of what Alfie did well in order to help Leslie:
- Alfie served Leslie (and Lee) by intervening to help their daughter.
- She mentioned Jesus as the source of her ability to help Alison.
- She gradually formed a friendship with Leslie.
- She invited Leslie into an environment where Leslie could learn more about matters of faith.
- She asked good questions, drawing Leslie deeper into conversation.
Now let’s discuss ways we can apply these lessons from Alfie in our own relationships (if your group is large, break into circles of four to six people). Take a few minutes to discuss the following questions:
- Who could you serve this week in ways that might help them open up to God’s love? What could you do to best assist them? Are you willing to reach out and serve in that way soon?
- Who do you think you could have a real friendship with, and what practical steps could you take to initiate that kind of relationship? Often, we sense that a neighbor, classmate, or coworker would enjoy getting together and going deeper, but we’ve been too busy or preoccupied. Does anyone come to mind? What might you do this week to initiate or deepen a real friendship? Write down any names or ideas that come to mind here.
- Maybe you’ve already been serving or spending time with someone you’d like to share your faith with, but spiritual topics just don’t ever seem to come up. What could you say that would feel natural, but jump- start the conversation? Try to think of several possibilities, and write down any thoughts or plans here.
- Alfie inviting Leslie to attend church with her was an important part of Leslie’s spiritual journey (and Leslie’s later invitation to Lee played a major part in his journey, too). So, who might you invite this week? And what should you invite them to? A church service? A study group? An inspiring concert or film? Maybe ask them to watch The Case for Christ movie with you? Maybe a reading or crafts group with some Christian friends? A sporting event or fitness club? Other ideas? If you broke into smaller groups for the above interactions — and if you have the time — ask for members to share a few of their responses and plans with the whole group.
This session has been about how we can encourage our friends to consider the case for Christ. But before we can go deep into the reasons to trust in him, we first need to deepen their trust in us — including seeing that we’re safe to talk to about these important but personal matters. We saw from 1 Peter 3:15 that God wants us to “revere Christ as Lord,” to “be prepared” so we can “give an answer” to our friends who have spiritual questions, but to do so “with gentleness and respect.” We also learned from the example of Alfie that God can use us when we serve people, build genuine friendships, initiate spiritual conversations, invite friends to appropriate events, and ask good questions. The decision to make now is this: will we do these things?
As you may have already seen in the later parts of The Case for Christ movie, Alfie’s small step of mentioning Jesus in the restaurant started a spiritual chain reaction that ultimately led to Leslie, Lee, Alison, and their newborn son Kyle, all eventually coming to faith in Christ. More than that, countless others have come to faith through Lee’s books and talks, Leslie’s friendships, and the movie itself. Like Alfie, we also need to be willing to take small steps of obedience to God — and He delights in turning them into results we can’t even begin to imagine. So, will you take some small steps — little risks with the people you know — this week?
“Our purpose is to reach people with the message of Christ, to see them put their trust in Him, and to see their lives and eternities change as well.”
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