My heart was burdened after a great talk I had with a nice young lady at the bus stop at Islington and Elmhurst yesterday. I met her by giving her a “Quest for Joy” pamphlet. I explained that I am a Christian sharing the Gospel. She said “no thanks, I am not a Christian anymore.” She handed the pamphlet back to me. I asked her what happened that caused her to stop believing. She mentioned that she was not born in a Christian family but that a friend introduced her to Christianity. She was attending an evangelical church for a while but was disturbed and turned off by Christians’ “putting words in God’s mouth.” Though I do not know all the details of her exposure and experience in this particular Christian church, I do have an idea of what she was talking about. This “putting words in God’s mouth” is a massive problem in evangelical churches at large (and in many denominations). It is amazing how many people are claiming that God told them such and such. When people make such a claim, they make their claim untouchable and unquestionable, for how can anyone question God’s Word? I can only imagine what kind of damage is done to people who are sinned against and taken advantage of in the guise of “God told me . . .”
It seemed as though her concept of Christianity was largely dictated by her bad experience in this one church. My heart truly goes out to her. I talked to her about the difference between the Bible and people who say “God told me . . .” She was very reasonable and discerned that indeed there is a big difference. The Bible claims to be the Word of God and there is great reason to trust that it really is the Word of God (though I did not give a full-orbed defense on the inspiration of Scripture). Since I did not know if she has ever heard a clear presentation of the Gospel, I asked her if she’d be willing to let me share with her what the Bible teaches on the Gospel while she waited for the bus. She was willing.
I thank God for this opportunity to speak of the goodness of God displayed in Genesis 1-3. We considered how God was Adam and Eve’s God and they were his people and how He dwelt with them in the Garden. Everything was good. They were to enjoy all that God had given them, including each other and especially God. However, we considered man’s rebellion and the devastating effects for all of mankind. I was just beginning to speak of God’s plan and work of redemption when she asked me a very good question: “do Christians go to heaven while Hindus and people of other religions go to hell?” I assured her that all of us, because of our sin and rebellion, deserve our just punishment, which is hell.
However, before fully answering the question, I shared with her what Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Now I was ready to better answer her question. Even “Christians” go to hell; that is, people who go to Christian church and profess to be Christian. I explained to her that not everyone who claims to be a Christian is truly a Christian. We considered Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7, that many religious people are on the road to destruction. So, all people suffer eternal punishment in hell EXCEPT those who have true faith in Jesus Christ (which certainly does not include all professing Christians). She understood me. I am not sure if she agreed, but she seemed to understand that it is only those who have sincere faith in Jesus Christ who will be saved from God’s wrath and enjoy fellowship with him.
I was also able to tell her that God is a hedonistic God who created us to find pleasure, joy and life in him (Psalm 16:11). We considered how our problem largely rests in the fact that we seek to find pleasure, joy and life in other things (before God). This sin seriously offends God. Furthermore, we settle for things that do not ultimately satisfy. However, Jesus came to redeem a people for God so that in the end God will be their God, they will be his people, and he will dwell with them. There will be no more death, no more tears, sin, suffering or pain; those who have sincere faith in Christ will dwell with him forever in the fullness of joy in God’s presence.
The bus came. She expressed her thankfulness for our conversation and accepted the Bible I gave her as she went on the bus. I really hope that she examines the Scripture (God’s sure Word) to see if the things that I said are so. My heart is still burdened by her exposure to evangelical Christians “putting words in God’s mouth.” I am thankul to have had the opportunity to put God’s Word (from the Bible) in her ear.