Tag Archives: Phil K.

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.

Bus Stop to Coffee Shop to Church: He Came to Church!

Bus Stop

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!

Coffee Shop

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.

Church

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!