While many skeptics are interested in genuine dialogue with Christians, some are simply looking to pick a fight - or hoping to discredit the Bible. How, then, does a Christian know if they are "wasting time" talking to such individuals about Jesus?
In a recent "My Answers" blog post, evangelist Billy Graham shared his thoughts in response to a reader unsure of whether to continue engaging in religious dialogue with an unbelieving friend.
The reader, identified only as "K.R", asked "A friend of mine likes to argue with me about religion, but no matter how often I answer one of his questions, he immediately comes back with another question. Am I wasting my time talking to him about Jesus?"
The 98-year-old evangelist responded "I'm thankful you are concerned about your friend's spiritual condition and are willing to answer his questions and tell him about Jesus. Remember: Like every other person on earth, your friend has an immortal soul, a soul so valuable that Jesus Christ willingly gave his life to redeem it. Could anything be more important than sharing the Gospel with someone who doesn't know him?"
However, Graham acknowledged that some people will do anything to keep God at arm's length. Thus, it's important to understand that some skeptics are simply pretending to be serious about God - and there are two questions Christians can ask to identify such people.
"One way is by focusing on Christ in your discussions and not just on his minor questions," Graham advised. "The central question he needs to answer is the same one Jesus asked his disciples: 'But what about you. ... Who do you say I am?' (Matthew 16:15). This is the question you need to ask your friend, and if he refuses to face it, I seriously doubt his sincerity."
Second, it's important to ask, "If I answered all your questions, would you be willing to give your life to Jesus? Or would you still refuse?"
"Even when some people admit the Gospel is true, they still resist Christ and are determined to run their own lives," the evangelist explained. "Remember: Only God can break through the hardness of our hearts by his Spirit. Pray for your friend, that God will open his eyes and draw him to Jesus."
According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Graham has preached the gospel of Christ in person to more than 80 million people and to countless millions more through TV and radio. Nearly 3 million have responded to the invitation he offers at the end of his sermons.
Unsurprisingly, Graham has encountered his fair share of skeptics throughout his ministry. Last year, the evangelist boldly accepted an atheist's challenge to change his mind.
"Give me just one reason to believe in God," the skeptic demanded.
Graham said he could give the reader many reasons to believe in God, but simply pointed to the most important one: Jesus Christ.
"Why do I say this? The reason is because once you understand who Jesus is, you'll never doubt God's existence again," the evangelist said. " In fact, you'll have every reason not only to believe in God, but also to make Him the foundation and center of your life. You see, the Bible says that Jesus Christ was not just a great man; He was God in human flesh. In other words, when you look at Jesus, you are looking at God-in all of His compassion and love and mercy and power. Only Jesus could say, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).
He continued: "Is this true? For over two thousand years, millions of Christians have believed it is. But they have believed it because they have discovered Jesus' life and teachings-and most of all, they have discovered the truth concerning His death for us and His resurrection from the dead. This is why I urge you to read with an open mind and heart the eyewitness accounts of His life, as they are found in the Gospels of the New Testament."