Tag Archives: John C.

Bus Stop Evangelism: Reflections from John C.

John C. is a friend of mine from Grace Fellowship Church and a recent graduate from Humber College. I have been delighted to have him co-labour with me in the Gospel this summer. He put his graphic design skills to good use by designing the really cool flier which we distributed for our summer kids program (by the way, some totally un-churched people have been attending our church as a result of God’s blessing on that door-to-door work! Praise the Lord!). I am very thankful for his friendship and his servant heart. His reflections show his refreshing transparency and they serve to both encourage and challenge us to spread the Word. Please read his reflections – for your good.

Reflections from John C.  

On Tuesday August 4th I had the opportunity to go out with Paul to do some bus stop evangelism. This was definitely a new experience for me. In the short few hours that we were out God showed me a lot. In my limited experience I have seen that evangelism is not only a great opportunity to share the gospel with others, but that it simultaneously reveals a lot about our own hearts and the securities we try to rely on. Caring about what the world thinks is surely a stumbling block for effective evangelism. By God’s grace he revealed how much I fear the opinion of man. However, keeping in perspective the grave future of those who do not hear and accept the call of Christ really helped me to understand my purpose as a messenger of Christ. During the two hours we were out, many people either refused to talk to us or they rejected what we said. Their rejection was caused by their refusal to part with their own works righteousness. Thankfully, by God’s grace, there was one young man in particular that seemed very interested in talking about Christ. Like many kids his age (early teens) he had lots of questions. For example, he was unsure of how one could know the Bible was true, and whether or not Jesus was real. It was such an encouragement when he let the bus pass so he could continue to talk with us. Through the conversation it became clear that this message of the Gospel was much different from what his Catholic mother had taught him. There is so much confusion surrounding Christianity, especially considering the fact that much of the world perceives Roman Catholicism to be Christianity.

This brief encounter was a great example of how Satan twists truth in order to turn entire nations away from God through false religion. This sad reality emphasises the need for us, as believers, to go out and tell all people about Christ – and in doing so, reveal the lies that so many people put their hope in. Praise God for his grace in our lives, and for the work of evangelism in the city of Toronto!

Dealing with Misconceptions: A Loving Service

In this post I will first share some thoughts on “dealing with misconceptions.” Thereafter, I will recap of a conversation I had with a young man on Tuesday.

Some Thoughts on Answering Objections, Love and Sincerity

Dealing with misconceptions is an essential element of Gospel ministry. Christians and non-Christians alike struggle to think rightly about God. Mr. Unbelief, Miss Skepticism, and Dr. Doubt are not wimps. They are not only powerful, but resilient and tough. They dominate unbelievers. Though under the death sentence, they seem to have a twisted kind of prevalence even in the lives of most believers (until execution). However, when the eyes or our faith catch a glimpse of “the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:13-15), we see that there is hope indeed. Jesus is mighty to defeat Mr. Unbelief and his associates. By the Word of his power, Jesus will cause his people to think rightly about him and his Father. May we never forget the words of Christ: “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18b).

Misconceptions about God and his Gospel are from the gates the hell. What is amazing is that Jesus builds his church through his people (i.e., “you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church”). So, he works through us to do his will. Of course, it is preaching Christ and his Gospel which is our ultimate weapon of righteousness, but there is a place for defending the truth and answering objections (1 Peter 1:15; notice, this was written through Peter!).

Surely defending and preaching often go hand in hand. Whatever the case, let me cut to the point: it is loving to consider the interests of others. Why do I say that? Well, we are commanded: “love your neighbour as yourself.” And why do I say that? Well, here is the connection: some people are sincerely interested in hearing Christian answers to their objections (and questions). What an opportunity to lovingly serve them!

Sometimes, their sincerity may be masked with a form of arrogance (or some attitude which seems insincere). I think I have encountered this mask a few times this summer. At first, I thought I was dealing with insincere arrogance; but after a long dialogue, I learned that I was likely dealing with an authentic thinker with really good questions! Thus, we must be careful not to be over-confident in our initial assessment of people. We must love them and seek to serve them. Now, granted, not all questions are good questions. Even so, many are, and we need to lovingly interact with all objections and questions that come our way. We can also serve people by showing them the questions that they should be asking – and then by teaching them the answers that the Bible gives (i.e., What must I do to be saved?”).

When we meet people with objections (and questions), we can serve them by exposing any misconceptions they may have about the nature truth, God, man, sin and salvation. Now, this is not to say that true Christians have no misconceptions whatsoever, nor that we know all truth. But, this is to say that Scripture is the ultimate authority, and God has spoken clearly and plainly on many aspects of truth concerning himself, man, sin and salvation. On these issues we ought to speak and to reason with people. And we must always remember: our goal is to see Christ’s church built, not to win arguments. These are just some thoughts on “dealing with misconceptions.” These thoughts were initially stirred after a conversation I had this past Tuesday which I recap below.

What about the Bible? What about other Religions? What about . . .

John C. and I met a young man by giving him a coin with the 10 commandments on it. I quickly learned that he comes from a Catholic home (but that is not not devoted to his parent’s religion). At one point he said to me: “I believe that that Bible is not a book of rules.” I agreed, “You’re right, the Bible is not just a book of rules; it is the revelation of God. But, it does contain rules.” He replied, “The way I see it is that the Bible is more like a book of guidelines.” I asked him, “Have you read the whole Bible?” He said, “no.” I said, “Do you read the Bible?” He said, “no.” I said, “Then how can you claim to know what it is like? You do not even read it.” I think he followed my argument. I had tried to deal with his misconception about the Bible, but the conversation suddenly took a new spin.

Before I knew it, he had switched the topic and asked me, “Well, what about other religions. There are so many religions – how do we know which one to believe?” There are many different ways to respond to such a question. On this occasion, I told him to study. I said, “you have to study to find out which one is true.” I went on, “Faith is reasonable trust” (if my memory is correct, I think I learned this definition from William Lane Craig). There are at least two reasons I said this: 1) He is not reading the Bible (and he needs to study it!); and 2) it really seemed as though he was suggesting that one faith (religion) is equal to all kinds of faith (religions). In other words, all faith is on equal ground. Many people believe this. There is one massive problem with such a mindset – it fails to evaluate the object of faith (that is, what people are believing in). Just because a religion exists does not mean that it is based on truth . . . even if it has many followers! The question ought to be: which faith believes what is true? Or since there may be elements and traces of truth in various faiths, a better question may be: which faith is absolutely true? To deny the possibility of absolute truth from the outset would be to hold to the absolute truth that absolute truth is unattainable. This position is clearly self refuting. Accordingly, consistency suggests that we presuppose the possibility of absolute truth.

Back to the conversation: I discerned that he had a misconception about whether or not absolute truth exists. Thus, I told him: “Imagine being in math class and you are given a problem to solve. Suppose there are ten students who answer the question and seven different answers are given. They cannot all be right. Only one is right or they all are wrong.” He did not seem satisfied with my illustration. Whatever the case I was attempting to deal with two misconceptions. First, I was trying to show that there is absolute truth (only one answer can be right). Second, I was trying to teach that we can know it (through looking into the matter). Possibly he believes that the nature of truth in mathematics is just different than the nature of truth in religion. Thus, my argument carried no weight for him
(at least, I think it didn’t; the Lord knows).

Again, he wanted to know, “how can we know what religion to follow? There are so many?” By this time, we had already been talking for a while and he had already decided NOT to get on his bus, but to wait for the next bus in order to keep talking (this is always very encouraging!). I figured it was time to talk about Jesus. “Well, Jesus Christ is the person we need to focus on for that question. Every religion has something to say about him. We know he existed. Even liberal scholars who do not believe in Jesus (as the Son of God) do not deny that he was a real person who lived. All religions say something about him, but only Christianity believes that he rose from the dead. Do you believe that he rose from the dead?” He said, “yes.”

I said, “I don’t know about you, but if someone can raise himself from the dead, I will listen to him – I don’t care who he is.” He replied, “many people have risen from the dead.” I said, “no, only Jesus.” I went on to explain: only Jesus raised himself from the dead. Then I proceeded to tell him about something that Jesus taught. I pulled out my Bible and read John 14:6, saying, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

I asked him if he knew of C.S. Lewis. He did. I proceeded to tell him the Lord, Liar, Lunatic argument: Jesus must really be the Lord, or he was a liar or a lunatic. The bus came. I handed him a clear presentation of the Gospel (which he took). He was really appreciative for our talk (and so was I). He expressed his thanks. I hope to see him at the bus stop again.

I struggled with my own misconception of him – at first, I did not think he was being sincere, but the more he spoke, the more I realized he really wanted to hear the Christian position on selected questions. May the Lord help him (and all of us) to think rightly not only about each other, but about truth, God, man, sin and salvation. Amen.

The Privatization of Religion in Canada

John C. and I were out at the bus stops at Islington and Elmhurst yesterday. I approached an elderly man, offering him the 10 commandment coin. He refused. I explained to him that we are out on the streets spreading the Gospel, and asked if we could talk for a bit while he waited for his bus. He agreed and started to talk about war. Later, I realized that he misunderstood me, for he originally thought I was asking him to teach me. He argued that we need a pope in Israel.

I asked, “Oh, are you Catholic?” “Yes,” he replied. I inquired about whether or not he thought God would accept him or reject him if he were to die. He was not happy with my question, and responded, “why are you talking to me?” “Because Jesus commands me to preach the Gospel.”  He looked disgusted. Pulling out my little Bible, I said, “Here, I will show you where Jesus commands this.” He said, “No, don’t read that to me.” I said, “You don’t want to hear the Bible?” He insisted that I not read from the Bible on the streets. He said that such a thing is to be done in the church. The he said, “What you need to do is go to South East Asia and preach there.” I don’t doubt that South East Asia has great need for the Gospel, but so does Toronto!

I tried to persuade him that the Scriptures teach that we are to spread the Word everywhere and that even Jesus taught on the beaches and mountains. He did not want to hear it. I transitioned back to my original question: “if you were to die today, do you believe that God would accept you reject you?” He said, “If he was sleeping.” I said, “What if he is not sleeping?” With a jot of humour he replied, “Then we’ll get drunk. Eat, drink, and tomorrow we . . . (he could not remember the end of the phrase, but eventually went on) . . . work.” If my memory is correct, I think John C. said, “die,” in order to help the man (“… tomorrow we die”).

I thought, “what a great time to go to 1 Corinthians 15.” I said, “The Bible speaks of this idea. Let me show you what the Bible says about this.” I really wanted to go to 1 Corinthians 15 (for Paul approves of this mindset ONLY IF there is no resurrection from the dead . . . BUT there is a resurrection from the dead). Again, he did not want to hear from the Bible. He said, “Don’t read it. You should do that in private! It is to be done in secret. That is to be done in the church – not out here.” I said, “That is not what the Bible says. The Bible says that I am commanded to preach everywhere.”

I considered how old he is and that he may not have any contact with people who know and preach the Gospel. I was sincerely concerned for his eternal destiny. Without anger, but in gentleness and boldness, by the grace of God, I told him, “You will go to hell if you do not respond to this.” He turned from me, took a few steps away, and looked down the street awaiting the bus. He was still within about five feet of me (certainly within an ear shot).  With sincere concern for his soul, I felt compelled to speak. By the grace of God, with sternness I spoke thus: “I will speak for no more than one minute before I go, but I have something to say: salvation has come near to you today; you will be judged; before it is too late, you need to turn to God and trust in the work that Christ did and not your own works; I hope to see you again.”

You never know how the Lord will use this call. God is mighty to save. And what about the privatization of religion in Canada? This man was simply saying out loud what many Canadians hold deep in their hearts. The reason for this is simple – people love peace more than truth. The problem with this love affair is that they fail to learn where true peace is found.  How do we as Christians respond to this tenet which is so prevalent in our culture? Well, God is not silent on this issue - may his voice have an effectual force on his church in Canada: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20, emphasis mine).

Church in Canada: arise, let us hear the call of Christ our Captain!

Islam and the Forgiveness of Sins

John C. and I met a kind Sunni Muslim lady from Somalia at a bus stop yesterday. She did not want the 1o commandment coin which I hand out. She told me that she is Muslim. “Oh, Muslim, I enjoy to Muslims and I know they often like talking about religion” I replied. I told her about how I have read 81 of the 114 surahs in the Koran. I shared with her how like her –  I too believe that Jesus was a prophet, and that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, and that Jesus performed miracles. These three items are areas of agreement between Islam and Biblical Christianity.

Then I proceeded to tell her, “But there a great difference between Islam and Christianity that I would like for you to consider; well, let me ask you this: if you were to die today, do you believe that God would accept you or reject you?” She said, “He will forgive me.” I responded, “Now I am not trying to be smart with you; I just sincerely want you to think about this question, why do you believe that God will forgive you? Surely, he will not forgive everyone, for even the Koran teaches that many will be punished. Also, think of Hitler; surely Hitler will not receive the forgiveness of sins. Thus, how do you be confident that God will forgive you?”

She said, “I do not know.” Then the bus came. She kindly declined from receiving a copy of the NT. If I had more time with her I would have tried to help her see that God is holy and just and that even though he is forgiving and merciful, he must punish sin. I would have tried to preach the Gospel of Christ’s substitutionary death on this note. I am fully aware of the length of time it often takes Muslims to convert upon first hearing the Gospel. Even so, you never know the way the Lord will use conversations like these. May the Lord have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

Grace Kids Remix Starts Tonight!

I am excited about this summer’s kids ministry at GFC! We do a summer ministry for kids on selected Wednesday nights called “Grace Kids Remix.” Throughout the year, the kid’s discipleship and training classes are on Wednesday nights. The classes are called Grace Kids (1, 2, 3, etc.). However, during the summer, many people are on vacation and attendance can be very sporadic. Thus, we group all the ages of kids together and mix them up; hence, “Grace Kids Remix.”

This year we will be doing a five week series called, “Exploring Egypt to Sinai: 4 P’s to Point You to Christ!” Please bring your kids and/or spread the word. I will be preaching Christ from Exodus, using a sketch board and bright paints to help illustrate the truths of Scripture. We will do this on five nights this summer: every Wednesday night in July (starting tonight!) and Wednesday, August 19th!

What is especially exciting this year is that we plan to have our lesson (program) beside the playground area at Elms Community School! The reason for this is largely evangelistic; we are advertising these Wednesday nights to those who live in the community and we are also hoping that there will be many kids (and hopefully their parents too) at the park area when we begin at 7:30. Everyone is invited! I will be posting the summer series with pictures (so stay tuned). I plan to make the curriculum and the sketch board paintings free for others to use. Please let me know if you’d like to use this series on Exodus at your church (or summer camp).

I am thanking the Lord for John C.;  he was of great help yesterday, for he designed the fliers that we will be distributing today! I hope to post the flier (on this blog) somehow so you can see how we are advertising this summer program. I thank God that the body is made of many parts; John is gifted in artistic skill/computer graphics and has been a great help to me.

I spent the morning yesterday going over 12 weeks of detailed notes from my summer evangelism ministry two years ago; I had made many contacts who I plan to follow up with. I am especially planning to go visit those who have children to let them know about our summer Grace Kids Remix series. Please pray for the Lord to bless our efforts, that we might serve in the strength that he provides, and for Christ to be glorified and to draw many to Himself (even tonight).

Meeting with Some Mormons

John C. joined Steve F. and I for our meeting with a couple of Mormons in the afternoon. We met for an hour and a half or so . . . much to talk about. During our meeting, one of the mormons stated what the Gospel encompassed and looked to us for approval. We were not able to approve of his description of the Gospel, for he said the Gospel is a message centrally about faith, repentance, receiving the Holy Spirit, and perseverance. He taught us that there are 5 things man must do to enter into a right relationship with God. 

I responded  by telling him what I learned from John Piper (at T4G ’06), which is the Gospel in 5 parts (but NOT 5 things you must do). Here is the best explanation of the Gospel which I have heard:  The Gospel is a message about 1) historical events – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; 2) Achievements – the good things that Christ accomplished as a result of his work – forgiveness of sins (for people), removal of the wrath of God, installation of his Kingship over all things, completion of perfect righteousness, the defeat of Satan and death etc.; 3) Way of Transfer – the way for sinners “to get” the benefits and achievements of Christ applied (transferred) to them is by faith alone (which includes repentance), not by works (at all); 4) New Identity – the good things that are now true about the believer as a result of true belief – sons and daughters of God, counted righteous, receive the Holy Spirit, sins forgiven, etc.; and 5) God – the message of the Gospel is the clearest display of the character and glory of God – his holiness, love, justice, faithfulness, righteousness, grace and mercy, etc.

The Way of Transfer was the point of disagreement. They insisted that the way to get saved is not by faith alone, but also by faith and works. We spent much time debating this most important point of doctrine (called justification – how a sinner can be declared “righteous” by God the Judge).  We studied Ephesians 2. 4-10. Of special interest was their interpretation of Ephesians 2.8-10. They stated that when Paul says the way to get saved is “not a result of works” he really means “not by works alone.” In other words, they believe that the way to get saved is by faith and works.  Herein lies the difference of eternal life and eternal death.

There are many reasons why this Mormon understanding of how to get right with God is not true. The most clear reason is because that is NOT what Paul wrote. He wrote that the way to get saved is by free grace, for it is a “gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast.” He did not say we are saved by faith AND works. His main point is to make a positive-negative statement (yes to grace – no to works). If Paul (who is a master of precision) wanted to teach on the importance of grace in addition to works, he would have written that we are saved “not only by works, but also by grace.” Furthermore, if we are saved by works even in the least bit, there is no place for free grace; we would have to earn our way to heaven. We could have something (even a little bit) to boast about.

The reason why we are not saved by works (at all) is, as Paul said, “so that no one can boast.” True believers have no ground for boasting; the only thing they can boast in is the work of Jesus (Gal 6.14). As Paul said to the Romans, “Then what comes of our boasting? It is excluded” (Rom 3.27). There is no room for boasting because we are not saved by our own efforts (not even in the least bit).

 May the Lord have mercy on the Mormons as he has had mercy on me. It is only by God’s grace that I can see that the way to get saved from the wrath of God (which I deserve) is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

We plan to meet with these Mormons again. If you have any advice concerning how to best preach the Good News to Mormons, please let me know.