Tag Archives: Grace

Day 10: Talking to a Muslim Lady from Albania

I was greatly encouraged to have 6 co-labourers this past Saturday! Two brothers and also two married couples from our church! Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon with your spouse!

Though we had many good conversations, I was especially encouraged by one that I had with a Muslim lady from Albania (her teenage daughter was there too).

I approached the bus stop, introduced myself and why I was out talking to people on the streets. What follows is an abbreviated summary of our conversation. P stands for me; and M for the Muslim lady.

P: Do you have a religious background?

M: Yes, we’re Muslim.

P: Oh, what kind?

M: Sunni.

P: And where are you from?

M: Albania.

P: Ah, yes, I’ve been to Bosnia; I know that Bosnia and Albania are predominately Muslim nations. So, how long have you been here?

M: 12 years.

P:  Well, let me ask you, what do you think of Jesus?

M: Well, I don’t know. I’m not really into religion much.

P: Oh, so do you not go to mosque?

M: No, we don’t really do that. Were not really practising.

P: Well, I’m not sure what you’ve heard about Christianity, but I’d like to share a bit about Jesus.

M: Okay, but the religions are all similar.

P: Well, actually the Bible teaches something very different about how to receive the forgiveness of sins. In the Bible, there is a letter written to a group of Christians in what is now called Turkey.

M: Oh yes, we know Turkey. It is because of Turkey that Albania is Muslim.

P: Well, there were Christians living there 2000 years ago, and Paul, who was one of Jesus’s followers wrote: “It is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” So, the way to be saved from the punishment for our sins is not by trying to be good or going to church.

(She looked very interested and somewhat surprised).

P: It is a free gift. That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross. He was being punished in the place of sinners so that we could receive forgiveness by trusting in Jesus and in what he did for us. The way to receive forgiveness is not what we do, but trusting in what Jesus has already done.

M: Then you can just go on and live however you like!

(At this point in the conversation, I couldn’t help thinking of Romans 6:1 as I spoke to her).

P: No, we always seek to please those we love. For those who really believe in Jesus and love him, they will truly seek to live for him. There are false Christians who say they believe in Jesus, but they are fake; they really don’t follow him.

M: They would be like us! (she chuckled, admitting that she is not really a true Muslim, but merely one culturally).

P: Have you ever heard this before? Or did you know that the Bible teaches that people receive forgiveness not because of what they do, but because of trusting in the work that Jesus has done?

M: No.

P: This is true Christianity. And it shows God’s love for us, sending His own Son to die for us.

M: You say that Jesus is God’s Son; that’s not right.

P: Well, I know it may sound crazy to you, but have you never had this experience before – where you thought something sounded crazy, but later you found out it was true? (She looked contemplative). Look, please consider these things. And thank you so much for taking the time to let me speak with you. Here, please have this little booklet that explains what the Bible is about and why Jesus came (Two Ways to Live booklet).

M: Okay. Thank you.

That ended our conversation. I pray that she took me seriously and did take time to consider the things we spoke about.

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Day 7: Arthur Preaches Christ’s Call, “Come!”

I have been really encouraged by a new friendship that has been forged with a young man named Arthur. He’s been faithfully coming out with me every time I hit the streets. In this post he shares about a great conversation he had last Thursday.

I noticed a young lady enter the bus shelter in front of us. So I went to talk to her. I handed her a tract and said, “there is a million dollar question on the back, and the question is this: will you go to heaven?” She smiled and said, “that’s a good question.” We went on to talk about the importance of speaking about eternal matters.

I asked her, “What would you do if you were to stand before God in order to enter heaven?” In all solemnity she said, “I don’t know.” I began to explain the Gospel to her, telling her that our salvation has already been accomplished for us outside of ourselves even before we were born! Instead of us trying to earn salvation, I told her we must trust in Christ, for he earned our righteousness on our behalf and then was punished for our sins! I explained to her from Scripture how we must put our faith in Christ and that when we do that, God grants us eternal life; old things pass away, all things become new.

I noticed she was wearing a cross and asked her if she had a Christian background. She said she was Greek Orthodox. I said, “I come from an Orthodox background myself. But, instead of trusting in good works we must trust in the Gospel of God’s grace.” We talked about how eternal life is a gift that we receive by faith.

She began to confess that she was going through some difficult things. I remembered how I myself was once burdened and heavy laden and how God had given me rest. Accordingly, I showed her in Scripture that Christ says “Come!” Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt 11:28-29). I told her we can come to Him at any time. She said, “you are right.” I explained that Jesus gives us a rest that is beyond understanding. I asked if I could pray for her and we bowed our heads and prayed.

Eventually I realized she had skipped several buses to stay and talk with me and I thanked her for that and gave her a booklet called Two Ways to Live. I told her how she could get in touch with us and that I looked forward to seeing her one of these Sundays!

The Joy of Evangelism

Here is an encouraging post from one of my fellow workers. I have been really encouraged by Ewan’s decision to carve out time on Saturdays to spread the Gospel with me. This is what he writes about last weekend’s work:

Recently I had the opportunity to join Paul, Julian and Joe on a Saturday afternoon at Don Mills and Lawrence for community outreach. It was a cold, blustery, rainy, gray day and we were a bit put off by the weather. We were worried that nobody would want to stop and talk with us, but setting our faces like a flint, we sallied forth.

Some amazing conversations

As it turns out, we had some amazing conversations. We met an Iranian man with a half-hearted commitment to Islam. Paul approached him and he quickly opened up in response to Paul’s friendly and self-effacing manner. We began to talk about the differences between Islam and Christianity, in particular the contrast between the two faiths in terms of self-justification vs. atonement. This fellow knew almost nothing about Christianity – for example, he didn’t know that Christians held Jesus to be God. We had at least 10 minutes of conversation with him before his bus pulled up and he had to go.

Next came my turn. We walked into one of the bus stops, thankful for the shelter from the rain and wind. Standing alone was a Philippino woman, middle-aged, bracing herself against the cold. I introduced myself and Paul, explaining that we were from a local church and we were speaking with people to invite them along. I enquired about her religious beliefs and it turned out that she was Catholic. I asked her to explain how she believed she could get to heaven and she replied with the usual Catholic mantra of faith mixed with some variety of self-effort and self-righteousness. It was on this point that we discussed and debated for the next ten minutes. Borrowing Paul’s Bible, I pointed her to Ephesians 2, emphasizing that salvation was God’s gift, not our works. She seemed surprised. I explained that all our attempts at righteousness are woefully inadequate and even displeasing in God’s sight. This concept of the vanity of works and our utter dependence on Christ’s righteousness proved a stumbling block – she just couldn’t wrap her head around it, and she kept coming back to her own righteous works, despite my best efforts. The bus arrived, the seed was sown, and we saw her off with a friendly handshake.

Ironically, the very next person we spoke to was also a Catholic woman, and Paul tackled the same problem (more efficiently than me, I think) of trying to show the vanity of works righteousness. He brought her back time and again to Ephesians 2 and Romans 3. Sadly, the same unwillingness to recognize the emptiness of self-righteousness revealed itself. They spoke for a very long time (the bus schedule is thankfully quite slow on Saturday afternoons).

I was filled with joy

As I stood beside my brother bearing witness to the glory and all-sufficiency of our Saviour, I was filled with joy. At one point as he stood there explaining the gospel I realized that everyone in the bus shelter was trying hard not to pay attention and failing miserably (and there were a lot of people huddled into that shelter). It dawned on me afresh the desperate need of all these souls – people created in the image of God, corrupted through sin, children of disobedience, blind and dead to God and the things of the Spirit, under wrath and judgment. How desperately they need our message! What a joy to stand there and invite fellow humans to be reconciled to God.

The message we hold

One of the things I love about the practice of evangelism, at home or at work, at school or at the rink, online or on the street, is that it keeps the beautiful simplicity and incredible power of our message fresh and real. Nothing enables you to appreciate the gospel like telling someone who has never heard it before. In our hands we hold the central truth that makes sense of our world, reveals our destiny, and restores us to a right relationship with God.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

From a medical standpoint

From a medical standpoint, it would be like writing a prescription for the cure for all cancers. This boggles my mind – how humbling to be appointed to dispense the ultimate cure for the human condition: “We have this treasure in jars of clay…” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Joy and evangelism are inextricably linked. The very purpose of our gospel is joy. “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Moreover, there is joy in heaven at the salvation of sinners (Luke 15:7). Yet also, simply sharing the gospel brings great joy, the Spirit’s reward for testifying to the value of Christ. Such joy bears so much fruit – it enlivens our walk with God and enflames our zeal for His glory. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This is what full Christian living is about.

So give the gospel, and get the joy.