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Dealing With Atheists, Agnostics, Unbelievers, and Scoffers, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #65)

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TEXT: 2 Peter 3:1-7

1 This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance:

2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour:

3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts,

4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:

6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:

7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

Dealing With Atheists, Agnostics, Unbelievers, and Scoffers, Part 1 (Pilgrim’s Progress According to the Bible #65)

Over the past year, hardly a week or two went by without us hearing of some new poll or survey informing us about the “rise of the nones” or the number of people leaving the church or the increasing number of people who publicly identify as atheists. One can hardly browse news on the internet without running across the writings of some modernist criticizing the Bible for being out-of-date, or some skeptic questioning basic theological beliefs that millions have held to down through the years. Indeed, some Christians (or at least those who used to identify as Christians) have publicly doubted (and, in some cases, outright rejected) Christian doctrine regarding hell, the second coming, homosexuality, and many other things.

The fact of the matter is that you are just as likely to cross paths with a disbeliever today as you are to cross paths with a fellow Christian today. In his classic allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan describes such a crossing of paths as it happens to the pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful, as they are on their way to the Celestial City. He wrote:

Now after a while, they noticed someone in the distance coming softly and alone along the highway to meet them. Then said Christian to his companion, “Ahead of us is a man with his back toward Mount Zion, and he is coming to meet us.”

Hopeful said, “I see him, so let us be very careful now lest he should prove to be another flatterer.”

So this man drew nearer and nearer until he came right up to them. His name was Atheist, and he immediately asked the pilgrims where they were going.

Christian said, “We are going to Mount Zion.”

Atheist burst into howling and scornful laughter. He said, “I cannot but help laugh on account of it being so obvious that you are both ignorant persons; for you have committed yourselves to a very tiring journey that will provide you with absolutely nothing for your trouble, other than a fruitless journey.

Christian said, “Why man, do you think it possible that we will not be received at our destination?”

Atheist said, “Received! But there is no such place that you dream of in all this world.”

Friend, it is highly likely that you will meet such a person as you walk along the straight and narrow way. Perhaps, you have already met such a person. Maybe it is someone on your job; maybe it is a family member. How do we deal with someone who says that what we believe is just make believe?

What does the Word of God say? While all of Second Peter chapter 3 deals with this issue, we are going to start out by looking at verses 1 thru 7.

First, notice the reminders that are meant for the saints. Peter says, “This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour…” We are not told exactly which group of believers Peter wrote this letter to, but we do know that this is the second letter he wrote to them, and he wrote it because he felt they needed to be reminded of some things. Peter tells them that his intent is to ‘stir up their minds’ by reminding them of some important facts about the word of God.

What are these facts? These facts are concerning the origin of the Gospel message. Peter says, ‘Let me remind you where your basis of belief has come from.’ First, it came from “the holy prophets”, that is, the Old Testament prophets. And, then, it also came from the “commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior,” the writers of the New Testament. Peter gives these believers a double-edged sword to wield against those who express doubt. The Old Testament prophets predicted the coming of the Messiah hundreds of years before He came, and now, the apostles of that Messiah are speaking and writing of their experience with Him.

In order to strengthen our mental and spiritual defenses against the anti-Christian tide that seems to have overtaken the world, we need to be reminded of what we believe and how those beliefs came to us. That is why it is important for us to read, study, meditate on, and hide the Word of God in our hearts. Many Christians have no idea what they would say if they were confronted by an atheist or a skeptic about their beliefs. Part of the reason why is because they don’t really know what they believe because they have not studied the Bible like they have been commanded.

So, the first step in dealing with a scoffer is to know what you believe and where those beliefs came from. And, the only way to do that is to constantly be reminded of those things through the reading and studying of the Word of God.

Second, not only must we remember what we believe, but we must realize that God predicted the appearance of scoffers. In verses 3 & 4, Peter writes, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”

Scoffers do not take God by surprise. He says here that they would come in the last days. Many Bible scholars will tell you that we have been living in the last days since the advent of Jesus Christ. Stephen Jones said, “With the advent of Jesus the last chapter of human history had opened, though it was not yet completed.”

The word “scoffer” denotes one who laughs at or mocks the Gospel or the Second Coming of Christ. They do not believe the Bible. They “walk after their own lusts” or fleshly desires. It is easier for them to do what they want to do as long as they can tell themselves that they do not have to give an account of their actions to God. However, what they don’t realize is that their very presence is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy. Their increasing presence tells us quite clearly that we are living in the last days.

Robert L. Deffinbaugh said, “Proverbs speaks of those who are simple, naive, and easily led astray due to their youth, thus a lack of knowledge and experience. Some are fools, who are more willfully ignorant and morally stupid. But the scoffer is a hard-core fool, a fool who vehemently opposes truth and wisdom.”

So, don’t be shocked when you hear atheists, agnostics, unbelievers, and scoffers attacking the claims of Christianity on television or in newspapers and magazines. If we are expecting the second coming, we ought to expect that as well. The lines are being drawn. Jesus is coming again. And those who are not with Him are against Him.

Finally, today, we must recognize the judgment that is in store for scoffers. Peter continues, “For this they [the scoffers] are willingly ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”

One of the biggest points of contention among scoffers is the Flood of Noah’s day. Some don’t believe the flood ever happened. They say it is just a fairy tale that people made up to keep others from disobeying a fictional god in the sky. Others, including some Christians, say it was just a regional flood, not a global catastrophe. But, what they do not realize is that the Flood is a model for another catastrophe which will not only cause the destruction of the present world, but will result in the judgement of those who have willfully rejected God.

Peter says that just as the heavens and the earth continued (or were ‘reserved’ by God) until the flood of Noah’s day, the current world is being preserved (held together) until the “day of judgment (by fire) and perdition of ungodly men.” The same God who made the world and then remade it through destruction by water, will once again remake it following a destruction by fire. And those who have rejected Him and refused to bow before Him will not survive.

The statement that God made with the flood was that this is a moral universe and that sin will not go unpunished. Even in the age of grace, God’s standard of righteousness has not changed. Yes, judgment may be a long time coming, and a merciful God will bear long with His creation, but He will not withhold punishment forever.
Our prayer for the atheists, agnostics, unbelievers, and scoffers among us is that they will come to the light before it is eternally too late.

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If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to share with you briefly how you can be saved from your sins and be guaranteed a home in Heaven with God today.

First, please understand that you are a sinner, just as I am, and that you have broken God’s laws. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Please understand that because of your sins, you deserve eternal punishment in hell. Romans 6:23 says “the wages of sin is death…This is both physical death and spiritual death in hell. That is the bad news.

But here is the good news. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

God loves you. We love you. And may God bless you.