Phil K. and I hit the bus stops Saturday evening. We had some good talks about God’s righteous standards and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God gave us grace to continue ministering in a spirit of prayer. We continued to pray for the Lord to lead us to the right people. Interestingly, we saw a man sitting down at a bus stop just a minute or two away from us (corner of Islington and Elmhurst). Thus, we went and met him. I approached him giving him a penny with the 10 commandments on it. I explained that we are from the church down the road. I also told that we were out spreading the Gospel. I had asked him we could talk to him while he waited for the bus. He was fine with that. I learned that he is originally from India and currently attending an Anglican church.
He was thankful for the coin and wanted to know, “Why are you handing these out?” So, why do I hand out penny’s with the 10 commandments on them? Well, there are a few reasons why I do this (possibly I will post on this in detail later); but I only took the time to elaborate on one. I explained, “The 10 commandments were given to Israel. Israel agreed to obey the law, but they failed. But God, in his love, sent Jesus do be faithful in a way that Israel had not been faithful. And all of us, well, we are like Israel, we have failed to obey God’s standards which Jesus taught when he came.” He wanted to talk more. When the bus came, he suggested that we jump on the bus to keep talking. Now that was an exciting suggestion! I asked Phil, “you got your metro pass?” I had change . . . on the bus we go!
We got on the bus and though it took me a while to dig out the right change (pocket full of 10 commandment pennies!), I eventually sat down and we resumed our conversation. If my memory is correct, I think I went on to talk about the righteous standards of Jesus, which he preached when he came (cf. Matthew 5-7). However, we did not talk long on the bus, for we got off soon to go to a coffee shop where he wanted to treat us to some coffee and to sit and talk more! Bus stop to coffee shop! I love it!
We sat down and began to talk for a bit. Before long he explained to us that he had recently talked to his pastor and asked, “If I follow the theory of Christianity and the principles of Jesus and his teaching, what will happen to my soul when I die?” His question was not simply a theological test for his pastor; his question was sincere and he was concered about his soul. His pastor told him that he would get back to him with the solution (sometime in the next week or so). He told us, “I know my body will go into the ground, but what about my soul?” I was stunned. I have not met too many people at the bus stops who seem to be truly concerned about the state of their souls. I was (and I am) really thankful to the Lord for orchestrating this meeting. I told him, “Do you want the answer which is small in length, medium, medium to large or large?” He looked at the clock. Seeing it was almost 9 PM, he needed to go and get milk before a neighbouring grocery store closed. Accordingly, he went to go get his milk. While he left, Phil and I stayed put with his stuff. We prayed for the Lord to help us. I was a little troubled – where do I start? Matthew 25 came to my mind. This passage is the clearest passage which I know of which clearly spells out eteral life and eternal punishment (thus, telling us about our soul). Then he came back and our conversation resumed. We studied the Bible for well over an hour!
I gave him a New Testament which we hand out for free. We started in Matthew 25. Phil was our public reader. He would read the Scriptures aloud as my friend and I followed along in our Bibles. After the reading of each portion, we would go back and study it, interacting with it and talking about the meaning of the text. We read Matthew 25:31-46. Conclusion: the condition of our soul will depend on whether we are righteous or cursed. The righteous go into eternal life and the cursed (non-righteous) go into eternal punishment. Out of curiosity, I asked him, “is there an emphasis on explaining and teaching the Bible at your church?” He said, “no.” I encouraged him to come to our church where the Bible is explained and taught. I told him how important it is to better understand the Bible, for it is the very Word of God.
After that, we looked at Luke 18:9-14. We spent a while studying this passage. I tried to teach that there are two kinds of people in this passage – (1) those who believe not only in the need for God’s grace, but who also “trusted in themselves,” and (2) those who rely completely on God’s mercy and do NOT trust in themselves at all. He seemed to understand the point of the parable; however, he was not identifying himself with the Pharisee. I find this to be the greatest problem with most of us . . . we do not realize the we really are the Pharisee; even though our self-righteousness is not nearly as blatant, we really do tend to believe that our performance counts for at least something (even in a little bit) when it comes to gaining God’s acceptance.
Phil also directed us to John 11:17-27. We looked at how Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We spent quite a bit of time in Romans 3:9-26, especially 3:19-20. He seemed to understand that we are all guilty before God. I think we also looked at the standards of Jesus in Matthew 5-7, that we cannot even lust after a woman (5:27-28) and that we must be perfect (5:48). I tried to explain Jesus’ subsitutionary life for all who believe, and his substutionary death for all who believe. The major point of concern seemed to be his apparent misunderstanding of faith alone in Christ alone which results in works vs. faith in Christ + works for Christ in order to gain God’s acceptance.
Phil directed us to Hebrews 9:11-28, and he explained the sufficiency of Christ’s work, specifically in his sacrificial death. I cannot remember where we studied after that, but we kept talking about the sinfulness of man and the sufficiency of Christ’s work. Whatever the case, we helped him carry his groceries as we walked him home. On the way home, he made mention of the “theory of Christianity.” We took time to passionately emphasize the Christianity is centered in the person of Jesus Christ who has risen and is alive. I explained that Christianity is not simply as system of principles to believe, but a real relationship with Jesus Christ. I referred to John 17:3, telling him, “this is eternal life, that you know the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent.” When he got to his place, he invited us in and we watched a video of him performing music and dance for a Christmas festival (he is certainly talented!). Thereafter Phil and I both prayed for him. We encouraged him to come to church in the morning.
Guess what! He came to church! I was delighted to see him again. He really enjoyed the teaching. The saints welcomed him with much love. Georgie (my fiance) and I took him out for lunch and at we had a great dialogue again Sunday afternoon. Again, we talked about God’s standards and the Gospel. Georgie mentioned that it is not our performance that gets us right with God (or keeps us right with God). She emphasized that it is Christ’s work that seals our standing with God.
He wanted to know about hypocrites who say that they have faith but do not have works. He was convinced that they have no right to assurance. Georgie and I agreed that those people to do not have real faith (cf. James 2); however, works do not equal saving faith. An important distinction is the following: are our works simply the result of genuine faith (which is faith alone in Christ alone), OR do we believe that our works somehow contribute, in conjunction with Christ’s work, to make us right with God?
If someone is trusting in their works to help gain God’s acceptance, they ought to take these words to heart: “you are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). Now, of course, the Galatians did not think they were saved by works of the law alone; they believed in Jesus and knew that Jesus was the Messiah. However, they started to think that trusting in his work alone was not sufficient. They started to believe that they must obey certain parts of OT law in order to help make themselves fully acceptable to God (to be a full/real son of Abraham). However, notice what Paul says, if you want your works to count at all, you are “obligated to keep the whole law” (Galatians 5:3). So, for God, you must trust in Christ alone; if you don’t, you will be judged according on your own performance (Christ’s work does not count for you).
Near the end of our discussion he indicated that though he knows he is a sinner, he does not think he deserves eternal punishment. Thus, I spent a while sharing about the holiness of God, referring to Isaiah 6, 1 John 1:5 and especially Genesis 3. Thereafter, I asked, “In the courtroom of heaven, if you were to die today, do you think you will be innocent or guilty?” He said, “A little bit of both.”
I am thankful to God for all the time we spent together. He is a very friendly man. I am really hoping that he will keep coming to the church to hear the Bible expounded clearly. I am also hoping and praying that God would open his eyes to see that, like me (and like all of us), he deserves eternal punishment, so that in believing so, he may beat his chest and cry out to Jesus, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.” I also gave him the option of doing Bible studies together. We will see how the Lord leads. Praise God for this amazing weekend! You never know where bus stop evangelism may lead!