Two Weeks Off, but Lots to Blog: Reflections from Alex P.

Two Weeks Off

Well, as an engaged man, I have learned that working full-time in evangelism, while trying to do a Master’s thesis is tough to say the least. There are some who could likely manage, but not me. I am thankful to the elders at Grace Fellowship Church (GFC) for giving me two weeks off to work on my thesis (the written part is due August 20th!). Accordingly, my 8 week internship has now become a 10 week internship. I will be working for GFC into the first week of September. 

But, even though I am officially off work, there is a lot of “unposted stuff” from the first 5 weeks – especially from co-labourers. Accordingly, this blog will continue to be active during my two weeks off. Furthermore, I am going to two weddings on my two weeks off – please pray that the Lord would open doors for the spread of the Gospel at these events . . . I will keep you posted.

The post below was written by my friend Alex P. (who I just met this summer). I just learned that he is the chaplain at Peoples Christian Academy. I was delighted to have him co-labour in the Gospel with Phil and I on Saturday afternoon. I was encouraged by his love for the truth, his sincerity, his boldness and his concern for the spiritual condition of people. He was certainly a blessing to me. I am thankful that he responded to my request to write a post – I hope that you will learn from him the way I have and that it will be an encouragement to you as well.

Reflections from Alex 

I have been asked by Paul to capture some of what happened on Saturday, August 1, 2009.  Having come to learn about Paul’s work, I faithfully tracked his progress through this blog and, with my wife, prayed for him and the advancement of the gospel in Toronto. 

Wanting to bless Paul, I asked if I might join him.  He graciously agreed and invited me to participate.  I met him that afternoon in the parking lot of Grace Fellowship Church.  He was accompanied by Phil.  Paul invited us inside to spend some time in the Word of God and in prayer.  We feasted on a sizeable portion of 2 Corinthians and digested some of the meal with each other – sharing any encouragements or insights from the word.  We prayed and sought the favour of the Lord on our preaching.

Upon leaving the church, we walked the short distance to the Islington Avenue.  Along the way, Paul shared about some of the residents in the homes we passed by.  It was evident that Paul was incarnating the heartbeat of his namesake when he wrote that he loved the Thessalonians so much that he not only the gospel with them but his life as well.

Hostility to Jesus

With ESV’s in hand, Christ in our hearts and the gospel on our tongues, we approached the bus stop where a half-dozen or so individuals stood.  Phil went to one direction while Paul and I approached an elderly looking gentleman.  When we introduced ourselves to the gentleman and asked him if he had heard of the 10 Commandments, he seemed to come alive with a spirit of contradiction.  Although I had difficulty understanding him at points and although the conversation seemed to spring from subject to subject, my overall impression is that this man found the judgement and punishment of God on some and not on others to be deplorable.  Let me explain.  This gentlemen informed us that he had trained for the priesthood but at some point abandoned it.  As such, he seemed to have a working knowledge of the Biblical narrative.  It was the story of God’s judgement against Ananias and Sapphira that seemed to upset him, especially in light of the fact that there were many others who were similarly disobedient but did not face a similar fate as they did.

His concerns were expressed with great force and certainly found a hearing.  We explained to the gentleman that Ananias and Saphira received what each of us deserved but God is gracious and does not treat us as our sins deserve.  Therefore, the dichotomy he feels is not a dichotomy between “fair” and “unfair” but actually between “fair” and “gracious.”  If God treats us as our sins deserve he is only being fair.  Ananias and Sapphira experienced God’s fairness.  We, who have not experienced that, are enjoying God’s grace.

During our conversation this gentleman worked himself up to the point where he bombastically declared that Jesus was the “worst sinner in hell.”  The comment flattened me under both confusion and fear – fear for him for carelessly blaspheming Jesus and confusion in regards to the source of his conviction.  I asked him how he could support such a statement.  He admitted he could not support it at the moment.  To this, we encouraged him to read the 4 gospels again and reassess his view of Jesus.  The bus arrived and Paul offered him the New Testament to read. 
I pray that God would lead this man to repent and that the beauty and purity of Jesus Christ might dazzle him.

Talking to a Hindu: “I am happy with my religion”

After he boarded the bus, Paul and I approached a younger gentleman, seated on the ground who was waiting for a bus.  At first he did not seem interested in speaking to us but as we sat down beside him, on the grass, it seemed that he opened up more and more.  He shared with us that he was happy with his religion, Hinduism, and that he was using it to find peace in his life.  Asked how he was achieving this peace he said “meditation.”  I shared with him that true peace is found through mediation, not meditation.  Because of our sin and rebellion, the wrath of God is upon us.  However through the mediation of God’s son, Jesus Christ, who bore the wrath of God on the cross, we can enjoy peace with God.

This gentleman agreed with us until we mentioned Jesus Christ as the only means of having peace with God.  He said that “Jesus” was the same as Allah, Ram and Krishna.  We explained that a real 20 dollar bill and a Monopoly 20 dollar bill had some superficial similarities – they were rectangular in shape, green in colour and had a 20 printed on them.  However, these superficial similarities paled in comparison to the substantial differences: one was real, the other was not.  We hoped to continue sharing with him but his bus arrived and he departed.

My prayer for this gentleman is that the excellence of Jesus Christ would loom large in his life and that the false gods with which he is associating Jesus would be revealed for what they are: worthless idols.

Evidently Interested: This Man Let the Bus Pass Twice!

Paul, Phil and I recollected and spent some time in prayer for the individuals we had met.  Afterward, I joined Phil and approached a middle-aged couple.  I led the conversation asking if he knew the 10 commandments.  He named 2: do not murder and do not commit adultery.  We read through the commandments from Exodus and asked him if he had violated any of them.  I was surprised by his sincere but negative response.

We informed him that according to God’s word, all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  Furthermore, the wages of our sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.  This gentleman was sincerely interested in what we were sharing with him, although the woman with him seemed correspondingly uninterested.

He inquired about why a person could not simply obey the law in order to gain salvation.  I explained to him that if I did good for the sake of impressing God or earning His favour, then the good things that I was doing would be shot through with selfish motivation.  Thus, they would not be good.  The only way that we could be free to do good for “goodness’” sake is through the gospel.  For, in the gospel, Christ earns the favour of God through His obedience, even unto death.  Now, the favour of God is upon the repentant believer in Jesus.  That believer now can actually go out and do good without the nagging ambition of trying to impress God.

The gentleman seemed intrigued by this and let not just one but two buses pass.  He was genuinely interested in the gospel and its relationship to works of righteousness (though he did not use that term).  He wanted to know what place obedience had in relationship to the gospel.  I explained to him that true obedience was the product of faith in Christ.  Obedience to the law was a good way to live but a terrible way to be saved for only one person could ever and has ever accomplished it – Jesus Christ.  We warned him to not build his life on the platform of his own obedience but on the platform of Jesus’ obedience for the former will crumble but the latter is strong.

His final issue concerned the exclusivity of Christ.  How could we claim Christ as the “only” way when there were so many other religions available?  We asked him how many numbers there were.  He replied “billions.”  (In fact it is significantly more than that already large number.)  We asked then asked him, how many of those numbers answer the equation 2 + 3.  He replied “only one.”  Similarly, while it is true that there are many religions and religious teachers, there is only one who adequately addresses the problem of sin – Jesus Christ.

The gentleman was sincerely grateful for the chance to discuss these matters with us and told us that he had a KJV at home. It is my prayer that if he has not already done so, he would take the Bible he already possesses and feast on it. After this conversation, our time had come to an end.  We returned to the church’s parking lot where we sought the Lord’s favour on our efforts and asked that God would bring revival to our city.

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