Tag Archives: Law

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.

Back to the Bus Stops – An Hour with Steve F.

Georgie and I returned from our honeymoon this past Sunday (by the way, I love being married to Georgie!).  Upon returning we’ve been busy moving into our new place. So now, after about a month of silence, I am online again and ready to blog!

After feeling convicted for shying away from some evangelistic opportunities (and possible promptings) this past month, I felt burdened to hit the bus stops today. After spending time in the Word (2 Kings 6:8-19 and Phil. 1:29) and prayer, Steve F and I hit the bus stops at Islington and Elmhurst for about an hour this afternoon. What follows is a very brief summary/recap of two conversations we had:

A Catholic Trusting in his Works

Steve and I approached a guy at the bus stop. I told him we were from the church down the road and that we were out sharing the Gospel. I asked him if we could speak with him briefly while he waited for his bus. He was cool with that, but he reassured me that he too was a Christian for he was Catholic.

Then I proceeded to talk to him about Jesus as the only way to God. He then informed me that he is NOT really a devout Catholic but that his parents are more Catholic than he. I cut to the chase and asked if he thought God would accept him or reject him if he were to die today. He was convinced that God would accept him. He said he was a good person. He also mentioned that he had never murdered anyone or did anything really evil.

I told him that what ultimately matters on Judgement Day is the standards of the Judge. I said, “God standards are what matter. Jesus talked about these standards.” I opened up my little NT to Matthew and read Matthew 5:27-28 on Jesus’ standards concerning adultery and lusting. The bus came so I gave him the NT and really encouraged him to read the tract inserted.

Talking to an Agnostic with No Religious Background

We approached this young man (we will call him V) the same way as we did the Catholic. He did not seem to be excited about talking, but he definitely listened and seem to get more interested the more we conversed. I quoted from John 14:6 and told him that Jesus must be either the Lord, a lunatic or a liar. He agreed to these logical possibilities. I asked him, “Have you ever read from the Bible?” “No,” he replied. Then I said, “Do you have any religious background?” Again, he responded, “No.” I asked, “Do your parents have a religious background?” He said, “Buddhist.” Then he told us that he was basically agnostic.

Steve proceeded to explain the law of God. He asked V if he had ever lied, stolen, dishonoured his parents. If my memory is correct, V confessed to breaking these laws. After going through the law, Steve asked him how this all relates to his worldview as an agnostic.

On that topic the conversation swung back to me. I did not want V to think that he was somehow exempt from the law of God and it’s just demands simply by being agnostic. Thus, I decided to show him that his worldview is self-refuting and thus problematic. I said, “I am not trying to be rude with you here, I just want you to consider how being agnostic is self-refuting. Think about this: you are certain that you cannot be certain about things.” He said, “I guess you can put it that way.” I said, “I do not know exactly how your agnosticism fleshes out compared to other agnostics, but is true that you believe that we cannot know anything for sure?” He agreed (that we cannot know anything for sure). I said, “Listen closely, this position is self-refuting, it does not hold – you are saying that you are absolutely sure that you cannot be sure about anything.” I spelled this out slowly for I wanted him to see that he really is sure about something, namely, that you cannot be sure about anything. I am not sure if he has ever had anyone attack the very foundation of his worldview like this, but I hope the Lord uses it to shake his confidence in agnosticism and to drive Him to the Scriptures and to Christ.

We gave him a NT and encouraged him to read it and to read the Gospel insert as well. His bus came and he seemed to be slightly sad to leave. I told him that my contact info is on the literature we gave him. Then he left.

Praise God for giving Steve F and I the grace to go and spread His Word. May He keep us humble and may His Word bear fruit and multiply.

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.

Grace Chapel’s Childrens Outreach: Week #3

On Thursday night we were back at the park for one more kids club! This marked our last Thursday outreach for a while. We may go back to the park in late August (details to come). Whatever the case, though there were not many out at the park, the Lord provided about 6-8 kids for a great evening of teaching, singing, learning and even snacking! He also provided a large crew of volunteer workers from Grace Chapel! I am humbled by their desire to serve and their faithful devotion to co-labour for the sake of His Name. They mingled with all of the adults at the park, looking for opportunities to spread the Gospel – they are a great encouragement to me. 

Again, Mary K. led us in a song filled with actions, volume and crazy fun! Daniel S. used a couple of tricks to teach us about the greatness of the Bible and the forgiveness of sins. The boys vs. girls game was a blast – I think the ladies won this time. For our lesson we looked at how God’s Provision of the Law ultimately points to Christ. The Law was a great stage upon which to preach the Gospel. Some of the kids who were there had never heard of the 10 commandments before, nor about Adam and Eve – oh that we continue to spread the Word to a biblically illiterate generation! May the Lord help us.

I was delighted to meet a Christian family (Alex, Elaine, and Samuel) from another Baptist Church in Markham. They came to check out the evangelistic ministry and expressed how encouraged they were to see the Gospel being preached to kids at the park. Their encouragement was a great encouragement to me. Alex took the picture below. This is a picture of the sketch at the beginning of the message:

gc.tencommandments

By the end of the message, we had looked at the 10 commandments that God provided to Israel to arrange a way for them to have a relationship with him. However, they broke his law and were cursed. We considered what Jesus said when he came: “you must be perfect” (Matthew 5:48). We considered how like Israel, we have sinned. We are not perfect. We need God to provide us with a way of having a relationship with him. Indeed, He has provided – CHRIST!

After the kids club, Rafi and I came across two friendly grade 11 students who were playing basketball (at the park). We asked if we could play with them. They were cool with that. We had lots of fun. I was happy, not only to play basketball, but also because the Lord opened the doors for us to share the Gospel with them for a while afterward (and to give them the NT Scriptures as well). Please pray for them.

P#3: God’s Provision Points to Christ

The Lord held off the rain (again!) and we enjoyed another fun night in the park! In our first two weeks in Exodus we saw how God’s Promises and Power point us to Christ. This week we consider how God’s Provision points us to Christ. Though God provides in many ways, we especially focused on God’s provision of the Mosaic law (especially the 10 commandments) which ultimately points to Christ. The answer to our word puzzle read as follows: God provided the law to arrange a relationship with his people.

We had our first guest from the neighbourhood join us! We originally met his grandmother through door-to-door flyer distribution. We were delighted to have him with us. May the Lord continue to bring him out! 

While waiting for the evening program to begin, Caroline V. led our kids in a game:

Carolinegames

Chisso W. used a magic trick to teach us about our need for the Spirit to battle sin with success. Daniel W. volunteered to try to balance the plastic question mark, which could only be balanced by the aid of the belt (just like fighting sin – you can only do it successfully by the power of the Holy Spirit). Here is a picture of Daniel and Chisso:

chissoanddaniel  

Nick and Alicia lead us in a song of praise to God. Though everyone is seated in the picture below, we were standing when singing and doing a variety of actions that went along with the song, “Lord I Lift Your Name on High.”

nickandalicia

The kids paid attention throughout the program, especially Will (see his attentiveness below!), and also Seth (though I do not know how he can see!):

willandseth

Olivia was happy to be there (and as cute as ever!):

Olivia

In our lesson time, I explained how God provided a law for Israel (which they broke). By his grace I tried to explain how the law ultimately points to God’s provision of his own Son, Jesus, who faithfully fulfilled the Mosaic Law all the while ushering in a New Covenant, in which he lived and died on behalf of all who trust in him. Daniel and Eric had the best seats!

pmacpreaching

The final sketch looked like this:

finalboard

Though it is difficult to see the commandments (which were written with candle wax), we looked at each of these commands, which God provided, and in which he established a way for his Israel to relate to him. We considered the grace of this provision, but then thought about Israel`s sin and contrasted it with the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. This law ultimately pointed forward to Jesus Christ and his provision of the New Covenant in which the forgiveness of sins is made available, in his blood, to all who believe.

So, God`s PROMISES point to Christ, God`s POWER points to Christ and God`s PROVISION points to Christ! What will the fourth P be . . . you will have to come to find out!

Levels of Law and Mormonism

Steve F. and I were delighted to have three young Mormons at Steve’s place Friday afternoon. This was our second meeting with two of these missionaries. The topic of conversation: prophets. We talked for about an hour and a half or so, thus I will only share a brief summary with some reflections scattered throughout.

They said that each prophet brings a new law which is a higher level of law. Though they ultimately wanted to culminate our discussion with Joseph Smith and the new law offered by him, the two prophets we talked about most were Moses and Jesus. We spent much time talking about the relationship between the Mosaic Law and the person and work of Jesus Christ, which was a great stage upon which to preach the glorious riches of the true gospel of God’s grace.

I was able to read to them texts such as 1 Peter 1:10-12, Luke 24:25-27 and John 5:39, which all teach that the central role of the Law and the Prophets is to point people to Christ. I tried to explain that Jesus came to obey the Mosaic Law which Israel had broken. They seemed to be riveted on the fact that Jesus came to teach a new law because of the apostasy of Israel; however, they spoke without due attention to the fulfillment dynamic of Christ’s work and ministry. What I found especially interesting was their distinction between what they called higher law and lower law. This distinction is worthy of much attention. Is there such a thing as higher law and lower law? We know that Jesus spoke of the greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) and that he gave a “new commandment” (John 13:34), but have God’s standards changed? What did they mean by levels of law? They did not offer a clear explanation of the different levels of law, but assured us that they will be able to better explain this doctrine at our next meeting.

We talked about God’s standards for a while. I was uneasy with the idea that Jesus came to fulfill a lower law. My uneasiness quickened me to talk about the person of Christ and his perfect work on our behalf. The more I think about the standards of the Old and New Covenant, the more convinced I am that both demand perfection (consider Galatians 3:10 and Matthew 5:48). However, as one of my Pastors (Julian Freeman) explained to me today, though God’s standards are always the same – with greater revelation comes increased accountability. In other words, as he said, “you are only accountable for what has been revealed.” So, since the coming of Christ, who is the fullness of God’s revelation (cf. Hebrews 1:3), there is a sense in which we are more accountable to that standard of perfection, which was not revealed with the same degree of clarity in the past as has now been displayed in Jesus Christ and his New Covenant. When the Mormons spoke of levels of law, they seemed to have another explanation in mind; but I will wait to hear them further on this point.

Though I was unable to explain these distinctions to the Mormons during our meeting, I took the occasion to highlight the glorious work of Christ. Since they had also brought up the topic of the Sabbath (and incorrectly mentioned that it is commanded in the New Testament), I read to them Hebrews 4:10, preaching Christ as our rest. By God’s grace I explained how the Sabbath, the Law, the Psalms, and the Prophets all point to Jesus Christ. I preached that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of these things and tried to help them understand why Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” They had explained that this command is a call to hard work. I tried to explain that this statement functions (in context) to help people see their sin, and thus, to look to Jesus as the One who came to live a perfect life on their behalf (not that these commands are not binding on New Covenant believers; they are binding, but only by faith alone in Christ alone by the power of the Spirit are we to heed these commands). Accordingly, Matthew 5:48 functions to point us to fullness of faith in Christ and his perfect work. This passage is not a call to gaining God’s acceptance through Jesus + hard work. This topic of faith alone vs. faith + works was the major point of difference in our last meeting; thus, I took the opportunity to re-preach the truth of justification by faith alone in Christ alone.

Well, that is all I shall share for now. Steve F. and I were both encouraged as we contemplated the perfect work of Christ on our behalf – what a glorious gospel! We enjoyed seeing these men again. They are very friendly and a joy to see. May the Lord help us to continue to love these men and preach Christ to them. May the Lord grant us wisdom to know how to best converse with them to the glory of His Name.

Great Questions from a Conservative Jew

I was down at the Rexdale Mall with Medo on Saturday. There was young man slowly shuffling in my direction as he looked out the advertisements outside of the mall. I offered him a free penny with the 10 commandments on it. With a smile, I asked him “Can you name any of the 10 commandments? This is the trivia question of the day.” He was intrigued by the coin and responded, telling me that he knew some of them (which he named), but that he could not name all ten. I asked him, “Do you have a Christian background?” He said, “Jewish.” I was very interested and asked if he was Orthodox or Conservative (I forgot to mention “Reformed” as another option). He said that he would identify more so with the Conservative Jews. I remember from my world religions class (years ago) that “conservative” does not mean conservative in the same way that Christians use the term. From my limited study of Judaism, I learned that some Jews (either Conservative or Reformed – I forget which one) do not even believe in a Creator God. Accordingly, I asked him, “Do you believe in the Creator God?” He said, “Yes.” I told him that I love the Scriptures, and shared how I had read from the book of Judges that morning.

I asked him if he had ever broken the law: “Have you ever lied, dishonoured your parents or stole anything?” He responded, “I have lied and dishonoured my parents, but I don’t think I have ever stolen anything.”

After we had been talking for a little while, I told him, “I hope this does not happen to you, but, if you were to die today, do you believe that God would accept you or reject you.” He responded by telling me that that is a question that he does not like to think about too much. He basically told me that God is perfect and he will judge correctly, so there is nothing we can do to change this. I agreed with him that God is perfect and that he will judge correctly, but I asked him how he thought God would judge him personally. He was not sure at first, but then stated that he does not deserve eternal punishment.

I responded by appealing to the holiness and justice of God. I only referred to passages from the OT (for a while), which seemed to function as authoritative to him. He continued to submit his own logic and reasoning to the OT Scriptures which I shared. I told him that God is the judge and that his law displays his holiness and his righteous standards. We considered what Word of God through Habakkuk, that God’s eyes are too pure to look on evil and that he cannot tolerate wrong (1:13). We considered how the angels cry “Holy, Holy, Holy,” in the vision found in Isaiah 6. We also remembered God’s righteous judgment at the time of Noah as well as Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and his righteous judgments in Isaiah. He agreed with me and conceded that these passages teach the holiness, righteousness and justice of God. This discussion culminated in pondering Eden. I shared that God cast them out of his presence in the Garden of Eden because of their sin. He hated their sin and cast them out because he is holy.

I explained to him that if he lied to me about his name (which he had told me) “I could brush it off, for I know what it’s like to lie; but God is pure and holy. He is different. He has no darkness in him.” He cannot tolerate lies. A lie is extremely evil to God.

I explained to him that I too have broken God’s law, especially the first commandment – not to have any gods. I explained to him what that commandment really means (putting God first always, etc.). I shared with him how this sin (of having other gods) was the sin which God rebuked Israel for through Jeremiah. I paraphrased Jeremiah 2:12-13, which says, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this: be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” I explained how they (and we too) try to find life in “other things” (career, love life, material things, etc.) rather than in God. He understood me and seemed to agree with what I was saying. So, we came back to the law.  

I told him that since he has lied, as he had confessed, he is guilty before God. I assured him that good works do not undo sin and guilt. I quoted the words of Isaiah (which I later read to him from the Scriptures), “all our righteous deeds are like filthy garments” (Isaiah 64:6).

He asked me, “If God is holy and judges all sin and if there is no way to undo sin, what can be done [to get rid of sin/fix the problem]”? I took him to Isaiah 52:12-53 and let him look at the Scriptures as I read selected portions of that passage in the open air (I love doing that!). As I pondered the power of Isaiah 53:5, I read it to him aloud from the page of my Bible: “But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” I told him, “This is referring to Jesus. He was the one who was despised and rejected by men (52:3); He was the one who suffered for our transgressions (53:5).”

He responded by telling me that he has a Christian friend who told him about Christianity. I asked him what kind of Christian. He told me that he was saying similar things to what I was teaching. He then went on to ask how it can be that people who are stained by sin can be made perfect because of what someone else does. I told him, “That is a great question.” I said, “Because this is God’s way. God is the owner of everything. This is the way God chose to redeem people.”

He asked me, “But how is it that people can be redeemed? Are they made perfect?” I said, “That is a great question. You are asking great questions; this is very refreshing. I do this often . . . talking with people about God and Jesus, and I do not normally encounter these great questions. I appreciate your logic and your reasoning – you reason well.” I told him that there is a very important distinction that he needs to understand in order to know the answer to his question. I told him that there are two facets to consider when thinking about whether or not a Christian is perfect. First, there is the Christian’s judicial standing before God (justification), and secondly, there is his Christian experience of living life as a believer (sanctification). I explained to him that God declares a sinner to be perfectly righteous if he has completely rooted and grounded all of his confidence in the perfectly righteous life of Christ on his behalf. If my memory is correct, I think I also spoke of Christ’s substitutionary suffering on our behalf, and our need to need to have faith in the sufficiency of his work to pay for our sins. This person’s judicial standing is righteous, not guilty.

He asked, “Is that person perfect?” I said, “That is a good question. The answer is yes in the sense that God really considers him righteous in the courtroom sense – this is the Good News – you can be counted righteous for the work someone else has done!” I said, “However, there is the other side – the life that the believer lives now.” I explained that I am not perfect and that perfection is impossible in light of how sinful we really are. I said, “Christians cannot be perfect now, for the Bible says that anyone is claims to be without sin makes God a liar” (1 John 1:10). (In retrospect, I wish I would have also talked to him about the beginning point of sanctification, which is regeneration and the end point, glorification [resurrection body, etc.], which really is perfection!)

I explained how the Christian will grow in holiness and gain a certain degree of victory of certain sins by the help of Jesus. He was very interested in the concept of battling sin. He asked, “Is it sin for me to have the inclination to sin if I do not give in but restrain myself? Is that still sin?” I said, “I do not know.”(In retrospect, I would say that that is still sin, but at the time, I was unsure how to answer him, for it seemed a little awkward to tell him that his decision to obey his conscience was still sinful). I told him, “I am not sure if I can answer your question in a way that will fully satisfy you, but I can tell you what the Bible says about this, which will help you better understand the biblical position.” He wanted to learn more. I quoted Psalm 51:5 (“I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me”). I explained to him that we are all born with sinful inclinations and impulses. I told him about the teaching of the apostle Paul in Romans 5, briefly stating that Adam is the representative of all of mankind. Thus, we he sinned we all sinned. I said, “Adam and Eve were the only people with a fee will who experienced life without inclinations to sin.” Our will has a measure of freedom (in other words – we are not robots), but ultimately we are in bondage in our sin (bondage of the will to sin).

He wanted to know how sin can be obliterated (that is, in one’s life). I quoted from Romans 8:13 (“If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live”) and explained that God commands Christians to, by his strength (Spirit), put sin to death. I testified to him that though I still sin in many ways, God has really helped me to overcome certain sins in a big way (and I thank God for his grace in these areas!).

By that time, we had talked for a long time and he had to go. I gave him a New Testament with my contact info and the church info as well as a presentation of the Gospel (from this blog), which is an insert in the NT Bibles which I hand out to those I speak with. I was greatly encouraged by his great questions, his attentiveness, and his apparent sincerity. May the Lord help him to see that, like me, he is not good and that Christ is his only hope.