Day 21: Let Me Be Clear

Just over a month ago marked the final day of our summer street evangelism. The Lord gave me a wonderful gift: a long conversation with a teenager who had taken a break from his skateboarding. He was relaxing in the shade and seemed open to talking. We talked for a long time about a number of things, but I can still remember how we transitioned to talk about spiritual things. You see, though I’m usually very direct from the outset with what I’d like to speak about (Jesus), this time I wasn’t. I just asked him questions about him; first about skateboarding and then, as the conversation took many twists and turns.

Often times people love talking about themselves, so I just kept asking him questions and got to know him pretty quickly. I learned of his passion and love for art. We talked about art for a while. I couldn’t help but ask him about beauty. How is it that we can appreciate it? Where does it come from? So I asked, “Have you ever thought much about where beauty comes from? I’m a Christian and I really appreciate the beauty in our world. I think it reflects the beautiful mind of the One who created it. What do you think?”

He acknowledged a higher power and embraced some elements of a theistic worldview, but his understanding of Jesus was certainly minimal and incorrect. I shared a bunch of Scripture with him and tried to explain the Gospel to him, but as we conversed, I noticed that I kept having to say, “Oh, well let be clear; I’m not sure if I was clear enough earlier, but …” The main truth that he didn’t seem to get was sin. I had been trying to teach him that we are so sinful that we cannot redeem ourselves; that we’re in need of total repair by someone else; that we’re guilty, evil and without hope in the world and in utter need of a Saviour.

He was a very agreeable person. He seemed to agree with everything I said! It’s tough to share the Gospel with people like this (but may God help us!).  When I asked him questions to check his comprehension one thing became increasingly clear, he didn’t really agree with me. Maybe I wasn’t clear. Maybe he was distracted. Maybe he’s not a good thinker. Maybe it’s just the blinding effects of sin. Maybe he’s so steeped in relativism that he can agree with the truth and yet disagree at the same time! I don’t know. But the main thing I can remember from that conversation was having to say, “Let me be clear.”

I was deeply impressed by the difficulty of ministering to the Agreeables. They just agree with you. But do they really? I doubt it.

One of the lessons I learned from that conversation, and that I have seen many times in evangelism, is the need to ask repeat direct questions of the people we’ve preached to. For example, you can talk to a guy about righteousness, sin, guilt, judgement and grace and it may seem that he has an understanding of some of these core truths. You can tell him that salvation by works (or even grace + works) is insufficient (and only further condemns!). And he might agree with you. But then ask him, “So, if you were to die today, do you think God will accept you or reject you?” And what will you hear him say? Sadly, and too often, “I think he will accept me.” And you can follow up, “Why?” Sadly, and too often (at least, among the people I speak too), you’ll hear these words, “We’ll, God knows I trying to be a good person, and he’s forgiving.”

May the Spirit give understanding and conviction! And may He give us endurance to keep preaching! God can save Agreeables! But may He give us wisdom to show them what they really don’t agree with. Direct questions (even if repeated many times) can help.

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Day 20: Laughed At

Our second last day of summer evangelism wasn’t without challenges. Ricardo and I sought to speak with a young lady waiting for her bus. I told her who we were, where we were from and that we were out sharing the Gospel. She instantly felt awkward and started laughing. I encouraged her that these are important conversations to have. By God’s grace she was too nice to dismiss us. She engaged in a conversation that ended up recruiting a small measure of mockery (and some more laughing).

What follows is an abbreviated summary of what happened.  Y refers to the lady; P refers to me; and M refers to another lady who joined in.

P: What do you think of Jesus?

Y: I don’t know. (And looking at me as though this was a silly question).

P: Well, what do you know of him? Surely you have thoughts of some kind.

Y: Well, I don’t really believe in God.

P: Why do you hold to atheism?

Y: I just grew up with it and I’ve always believed it.

P: Well, in light of the world we observe, do you think it’s a more reasonable position?

Y: I don’t know.

P: Do you believe in the big bang?

Y: Yes.

P: Well, why do you opt for order coming from chaos over the idea that God created everything with order?

Y: Well, I’m not saying it’s impossible. I just don’t believe.

P: Well, have you ever read the Bible?

Y: Not really. But the Bible is not reliable.

P: Why do you think that?

Y: It was written by men.

P: So you’re saying it’s corrupted because it was written by men and men make mistakes?

Y: Yes.

P: But think about this: you are a person. So how do you know you’re not making a mistake in your judgement of the Bible. You said men make mistakes. (She seemed to understand my argument and her body language indicated that she conceded).

P: And surely it wouldn’t be too hard for an all powerful God to keep his Word pure, even through men. (She agreed on this theoretically).

P: The Bible is trustworthy and it clearly teaches that God created the world out of nothing, that he created everything good and that we are the ones who’ve messed up the world. We’ve sinned by disobeying God’s commands. And now we’re not good. And that’s why we feel guilt.  You ever feel guilt?

Y: Yes (smiling with the look of, “Why are you talking about this?”).

P: Me too. You know, the reason we feel guilt is because we have it. It’s that simple. It’s real, but that’s the very reason why God sent Jesus into the world. You know about the Cross? How Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead? The reason he came to do that was to save us.

Y: Wow. This is intense. (smiling)

M:  (Shouting from about 12 feet away, and with all manner of mockery), “What Jesus are you talking about?”

P: (I looked over at her and was silent for a few seconds, and with firmness I said back to her) The Jesus of Scripture that even non-Christians and liberal Bible scholars don’t deny existed.

(Though M was silenced, Y and M were now both laughing with each other at me).

P: (speaking to Y) Look, the reason we’re out talking to people is because these things matter and we care for you. Thank you for taking the time to let us speak to you. Take care.

At that moment Y walked over to M and the two became friends. We could overhear them laughing together and M saying how she needed to “save” Y from me.

By the grace of God, Ricardo and I prayed for them. And by the grace of God we truly considered ourselves blessed. But I really felt opposed spiritually. I felt little and despised by people. I was laughed at. I felt, in the smallest measure, something of what my Saviour felt. And it was good.

Day 19: I Blew It!

Exactly a month ago, I was at a bus stop talking to an elderly man about God. He told me that he’s not really into the Bible but that he’s got his own version of God (and that he’s quite comfortable with that). He was a kind man and quite fond of God’s kindness to him. Let me explain.

God’s kindness

He assured me that he’s on good terms with God. He told me about a couple of serious accidents that he endured and, with God’s help, fully recovered from. He acknowledged that it was God who kept him and helped him recover. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t need God’s mercy; God’s smile was upon him.

Time for me to speak

I listened to him for a while. And after he shared, I sensed the boldness of God to share some words from Jesus. I wanted to share what Jesus said about God being kind to the wicked. Indeed, God’s kindness is not a full proof indication that one is on good terms with God. So I told him, “You know what, everything you’re sharing makes me think of a passage of Scripture I read recently. It’s in Luke’s Gospel. Just one second. Let me find it.” (I pulled out my Bible and starting flipping around in Luke). I stood there searching and searching and searching. I keep telling him, I’m gonna find it; just one minute. This went on and on and on. No joke, I think at least 3 minutes passed! I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t find it! Where is that verse! The bus came. We said our good bye’s and that was it. I didn’t tell him anything!

I blew it!

I had the perfect chance to speak the Word of Christ into his life, but I didn’t have it memorized; and worse, I couldn’t find the address! I failed. This is especially bad because I had been struck by these words of Christ just beforehand and assumed I’d remember them! Bad assumption. So afterwards, I found the passage, and drilled it into my head, saying over and over (aloud), “Luke 6:35, 6:35, 6:35!”

In Luke 6:35, Jesus says of God, “he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Those are some pretty startling words to deal with. You should memorize this reference with me. Countless unbelievers appeal to God’s kindness to them as an indication that they are certainly in his good books. Well, though they may think this way, Jesus certainly doesn’t. God is kind to all. Assurance of being in his good books must be determined another way.

But the lesson to be learned here is this: memorize the reference!

Though I blew it, I know that man’s eternal welfare doesn’t hinge on my performance. May the Lord be kind to him with the loving-kindness of salvation.

Day 18, by Yosef: Youth Encounter

Yosef, a faithful brother and member at Westminster Chapel, has been co-labouring with us in the gospel periodically this summer. It’s always a great joy to have him work with us. Below he shares about a really neat experience he had preaching the gospel to a bunch of teenagers at Shops at Don Mills. 

A group of five teenagers were hanging out by the mall. My heart went out for them and, excited, we approached them and asked, “Can I ask you guys an interesting question?” “Sure,” they replied. “What do you think happens after you die?” “Oh, you go to heaven!” replied the youngest of a group of Filipinos who, soon we would discover, were exposed to Catholicism. So we began digging together around their misconceptions, and asked, “Everyone?!” He answered, “Well, only those who are good.” From there, using Jesus’ interpretation of the commandments (Matthew 5), we took some time to show them that no one is good according to God’s standards.

While three of them were showing signs of interest and understanding, others remained silent, indicating they were either contemplative (maybe convicted) or simply disinterested. Overall, they seemed to show a partial understanding of what Jesus has done. They seemed ignorant to the deep offense of sin against a pure, blameless and holy Judge. After we thoroughly explained the gospel and challenged them to give their lives to Jesus – to which they responded with stifled faces – we decided to let them dwell on it. Rony and I left them with some tracks, played with their skateboards to show friendliness, and parted ways. Our prayers are that God would preserve the seed planted in these young people’s lives and give growth to their faith. May they, like us, be brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. Amen.

Day 17: No Report

I got into the bad habit of not taking notes sometimes this summer. This wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t wait close to a month to report what happened! When this happens I usually rely on my notes to jog my memory.

Well, as for Day 17, all I have recorded is “talked to a guy from Bangladesh [and] Catholic girl.” Unfortunately, I have no recall of those conversations. So I have nothing to report. Sorry. I’m taking my little notebook and pen with me this Friday … and I’m actually going to use them!

Please pray for us as we hit the streets!

Day 16, by Rony: We Were Worldviews Apart

Rony was our intern at GFC this summer. He is a faithful brother who served (and continues to serve) GFC in many ways. Though he’s currently working on his MA, he knows how to do more than research. Below he shares his experience doing street evangelism in Don Mills about a month ago.

We Were World-Views Apart

About a month ago a friend of mine and I began talking to a young to middle-aged man. We spoke for around an hour, if not more. We were/are world-views apart. Here are four examples:

He believes that there is some divine force, but that all religions are man made. I believe that there is an eternal and triune God who has revealed himself in His Word.

He believes that Jesus did not claim to be God, but was merely pointing people to God. I believe that Jesus claimed to be (and is) God incarnate.

He believes that Paul misunderstood, misrepresented, and distorted Jesus. I believe that Paul rightly understood Jesus and preached accurately about Jesus.

He believes that we are all gods. I believe that I am not a god, but rather a sinful mortal man.

We are worlds apart. We have very different world-views and there was very little that we agreed on theologically or philosophically. This man had, according to his report, done his own research. He had studied the various religious systems and come to his own conclusion.

Two Reflections

1) You can do lots of research and be very wrong. Of course it is good to study. It is good to do research and to investigate truth claims in order to adequately assess them. But simply because a person has “done the research” does not mean that they have necessarily come to the right conclusions. This man may have done his research, but he is (in my opinion) still very wrong and perhaps even further confirmed in his error by his research.

2) What stood out most clearly to me was this man’s pride. He was so insistent on his own way. Of course, pride is not simply being confident or insistent upon a truth claim. It is rejecting God’s authority and ways and asserting yourself and your ways and boasting in your glory. Unlike the humble man, the proud man does not and cannot “tremble at God’s Word”  (Isaiah 66:2). Just as God has humbled countless proud people to submit to the authority of Jesus, so may he humble this proud man. As the humbled Nebuchadnezzar said, “those who walk in pride he is able to humble”, may God humble this man to likewise eat grass and be able to say the same.

Day 15: Ricardo Shares about an Afternoon at U of T

Ricardo has been faithfully partnering with us in the work of the Gospel every Thursday this summer. He has been a great encouragement to me. Below he shares about an afternoon he spent with Ewan, spreading the Gospel at U of T.

I started talking to a guy who seemed to be an x-Muslim. He had some issues with how unfair life seems to be. He didn’t let me talk much. He just kept telling me how bad life is and that, while trying to be good, his girlfriend cheated on him. He mentioned that when he was bad, all girls liked him. The conversation continued and I got to speak with him about God.

When I tried to explain the Gospel, he responded, “If I was going to believe in God, I would rather believe in Islam.” I told him that the god of Islam could not be both merciful and just. He kept cutting me off when I tried to speak. Eventually he left because he had to go to an exam. He said he was too upset to hear about God anyhow.

Ewan was busy talking to an Orthodox guy, so I started handing out million dollar bill tracts. When handing the bills to two young guys sitting on a bench, I asked them, “Why would you make it to heaven?” They seemed to know about Christianity. I can’t recall exactly how they answered, but I got to explain the Gospel thoroughly and they seemed to understand!

Afterwards, I approached two women near the subway and asked them the same question. At first, they said something like, “There is no God.” I said, “How else can you explain the harmony of the heavens under about 28 different forces that are so accurately set and necessary for life?” They said they’d rather believe in Buddhism. I questioned the Buddhist goal of achieving various levels of purification to achieve the reward of nothingness (Nirvana). They said that though it is nothing, at the same time, it is everything. Soon afterwards we parted ways. I came back to meet up with Ewan. We were drained, so we prayed and left.