The bookstore (half of you thought my title referred to an immigration issue of some sort). That’s where I was yesterday with Tina, doing our usual studying in lieu of the weekly “date night” (I know, aren’t I the bestes boyfriend). As happens every time I step into a bookstore, I wandered off into the “Christianity” section where I was trying to find a book on Christian history; Tina tagged along to make sure I didn’t get too wild with my spending. This book that I was looking for had eluded me for far too long and I needed to make sure it was still being printed—I had to see it with my own eyes. But I couldn’t find it so I enlisted some help from one of the workers, an asian guy named Andrew.
Now, Andrew had been kind to us already. Earlier when we got there, we couldn’t find a place to study and we were actually about to leave when he approached us and told us about a “secret” study spot in a more remote part of the store. We followed his directions and found a huge table with only a couple people around it, so we were able to settle in and study.
I figured this guy was a nice guy, and as he led us the “Christianity” section he made a comment about how he knew this section very well. I proceeded to ask him if it was because he was a Christian and I asked him if he went to church. His response caught me off guard: he was a “bigtime” atheist.
Andrew said he knew the section really well because he was interested in religion, namely Christianity, but mostly in debunking the faith. I probed him about his convictions and his story shocked me. He had grown up in a Christian family, went to a large asian church, and even led worship for his youth/college group for ten years. He even attended revival meetings and different events with famous speakers and bands; he was into apologetics and defending the faith. But he said in college, he began to read books that created doubt about his faith, and he felt “free” after he rejected Christ and went apostate.
We talked for a while about faith and the rationale behind what I believed. With every criticism he threw out about the Christian faith, I threw back a bible passage that answered his doubt, but he would quote some obscure author or scientist and their work on the subject. It came to a point where we both were citing opposing sources—me, the bible, and him, worldly philosophies—and could not find common ground to stand on. At one point he motioned his arm in front of his face as if to illustrate an imaginary wall and said, “there’s not going to be any changing of opinions here!”
Eventually, he had to leave the conversation because his supervisor was pressuring him. I invited him to church (where more articulate and intelligent men could answer his questions) and he was relatively uncommmital to the offer, so we left it at that.
I was distraught after our meeting. How could a man who had served in a church fall so recklessly into sin? I’m sure it happens more than I know, but I was shocked at the fickleness of his faith. He was very well read, an intelligent man, yet he fell so heavily for worldly philosophies that he became blinded to the gospel truths and the clarity of Scripture. Tina and I spent the rest of the day praying for Andrew and for our own hearts that we would no so easily be led astray by the world’s false gospels.
It reminded me of Galatians 1:8-9 where Paul gives his rebuttal against Judaizers, legalistic Jewish Christians, who were preaching a false gospel. He writes, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” Paul is condemning those who create false gospels with, in the Greek, anathema, or literally “a divine curse from God.” He’s saying that all those who stray from the true gospel will face severe judgment before God. All the philosophies and other religions of the world will be destroyed by God and reap its proper punishment. Only the one true gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ and his free gift of salvation, will stand before God’s judgment.
Brothers and sisters, this world will continually be spewing out false gospels, worldly philosophies that seem appealing, but we need to hold firm to the one true gospel. Much like a jeweler familiarizes himself with real diamonds in order to be able to spot fake ones, we need to familiarize ourselves more and more with the true gospel in order to discern when false ones arise. Let us strive to know the greater depths of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross so that we can be more sensitive to deceptions and perversions from the truth. We need to protect our hearts by drawing closer to the cross.