In Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples the night he was betrayed, he told them that we testify. But we are not alone. The Spirit testifies along with our testimony (John 15:26–27). “The Spirit of truth,” he said, “will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8, 13). Yes, we must prepare ourselves to give an answer (1 Pet. 3:15). Yes, we must engage opponents with gentleness and patience (2 Tim. 2:24–25). Yes, we must reason with others and explain and give evidence (Acts 17:2–3). But the Spirit is the one shouldering the burden of bringing others across the finish line. Not us.
I want to tell you why you will never be able to change anyone’s mind on the truth of any spiritual issue.
This may sound strange coming from someone who has given his life for the defense of the true story of reality—the biblical story—and who, for nearly half a century, has worked to persuade critics that Christianity is worth thinking about. But it’s true. I have been powerless.
There’s a reason for what, at first glance, appears to be my personal ineptitude. I want you to consider what the biblical record says about our opposition—that is, the forces arrayed against us.
The devil, commanding spiritual forces of wickedness in heavenly places (Eph. 6:12), employs demonic schemes to deceive the whole world (Rev. 12:9), blinding the minds of the unbelieving so they might not see the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). Thus, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
Paul tells Timothy that those in opposition to the gospel are in “the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:25–26). He therefore tells Timothy not to be quarrelsome, but to be patient and gentle with his opponents, “if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare.”
Did you notice something about that last passage? God is the active agent who clears away the deceptive demonic fog and brings people to repentance, not us. That’s why Luke says of Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14).