Confounding the Conventions

  • Steve Hatter
Open Bible on a wooden table

A careful reading of the gospels proves Jesus Christ was often confounding the conventions of the political and cultural norms of the days during which He walked the earth. To confound means to cause surprise or confusion in someone, especially acting against their expectations. Some synonyms for the word confound are amaze, astonish, surprise, stagger, shake, unnerve, even dismay, which means Jesus shook things up when the moment called for it. Jesus Christ—ever on mission—confronted evil with truth, and in so doing He challenged power. He confounded Roman wisdom even as He kicked the legs out from under the unholy conventions of the Jewish leaders. He shined a light of righteousness on the ways “things were done,” especially within the power and prestige hierarchy of Jewish rule.

As I have thought about this simple reality as recorded in the New Testament, I am convicted to think about whether the modern day church is, or is not, confounding the conventions of an utterly depraved culture. Do Christians stand out in our day as confounders who, in communicating gospel truth in love, amaze, astonish, surprise, stagger, shake, unnerve, even dismay? Do we, through the witness of our uncompromising pursuit of righteousness, challenge worldly power? Or, are we a stealth presence that lacks both visibility and credibility? Or, worse, are we a compromised voice that has rejected the Scripture and embraced heresy? I fear the church is more the negative latter than the former and I am challenged to understand why.

Do not get me wrong, confounding the conventions as Jesus did is not a search for a fight to pick, nor is it foolishly “leading with the chin” through baiting would-be attackers. Getting headlines is not the goal. Winning souls to Christ is the goal, and the unholy trinity of world, flesh, and devil will fight this noble goal to the death. Therefore, the fight will indeed come to us if we are faithful and willing to speak the truth in love. So, we need to be ready. We need to think of ourselves as being “on call” twenty-four seven. Like the F-22 Raptor jets sitting alert at Elmendorf AFB who can scramble pilot and aircraft in minutes to race to America’s sovereign airspace boundaries with armed missiles when enemies probe our capabilities and national will, every Christian should be ready with an answer as it says in 1 Peter 3:15: “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” Running for cover, when a legitimate fight for truth comes to us, whether corporately or individually, is not pleasing to the Lord. Being filled with knowledge but with no accompanying will or plan to use such knowledge—always, of course, in dependence on God’s power and not our own—indicates weak faith.

So, back to practical application. What am I to do? I know that in my life over the last year and a half, opportunities to share the gospel through the circumstances of my own story about what God has done for me have come with greater frequency. They have also come from unexpected places—from people I never thought would be interested to hear about the Christian faith. From people who had written me off as “one of those religious types” who, though pleasant and respectable, had not much to add to “important” conversations. Something that has really helped me out with having answers is an exercise we were required to do in one of my seminary classes. The challenge was this: give someone the gospel, in your own words, in five minutes, without looking at notes!

This assignment proved to be tougher than I thought when I first contemplated how I might successfully meet the requirement. The more I researched and prepared, the more I found I had never really honed the skill to present the elegance and beauty of the gospel at moment’s notice—the single most important reality in all of history! But the number one thing I learned through my seminary academic drill was simply this: knowing the Scriptures is the key to communicating anything about God and truth! Therefore memorizing a few key verses to have at the ready can make you that F-22 scrambling successfully against the forces of darkness! Here are a few verses I might suggest you memorize:

Romans 3:23: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Every person is born in sin and must come to the realization they have sinned against a Holy God.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death,” and Ezekiel 18:20 “The soul who sins shall die.” As we realize we have sinned against a Holy God, we also must understand that the penalty for that sin is death and hell. This leaves us with a huge problem we cannot solve ourselves!

Romans 5:8: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” and John 3:18: “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” Salvation comes by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone, to the glory of god alone. Jesus Christ lived the perfect life, then became the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus died for our sins, but God raised Him from the dead to triumph over sin and death.

Romans 10:9: because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” Our only hope is trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Nothing else has the power of God to save.

If you speak the gospel truth in love, you will confound the conventions just as our blessed Lord Jesus showed us how to do in His life and ministry.