Walking The Roman Road – Lenten Season 2019
“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3: 15,16 NIV).
The 5 Pillars of Evangelism
“What if I don’t believe in God?”
“That’s your perogative, John.” I said. “But isn’t that an easy way out? You heard all the evidence that Nicky Gumble just presented. You have to admit, it’s pretty impressive.”
John was quiet. We were having coffee after our weekly Alpha get together. Alpha was an evangelistic program created by Pastor Nicky Gumble from the Anglican church in England to deal with the basic questions of life. It was a good event to invite people to and get them talking about what they believed about God.
“Do you believe in God?” I asked quietly.
“Yes. I guess I do.” He looked up at me. “That’s why I’m here. I want to get to the bottom of this before I get married.”
John was a friend from work and I knew he had proposed to Mary, a good Catholic girl and her family wanted to know where John stood with regards to the church.
“You sound like me when I was your age,” I said with a smile.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I grew up in a pretty religious family. Protestant, of course. And in High School I won some awards for public speaking. Naturally everyone expected me to become a Pastor and, frankly, I was open to the idea.”
“What did you do?”
“I decided to go to Bible College in the States. I promised myself that I would stay for at least a year and get to the bottom of this religious stuff. I wanted to know the truth of it before I commited my life to working in the church.”
John shifted in his seat. He was getting interested in this line of thought.
“So when I got there and got settled in, frankly, I made the professor’s lives hell for that first year. I asked so many questions and I didn’t let them get away with anything.”
“Like what? What kind of questions did you ask?”
“Well, you know how everyone always says that Jesus is in your heart?”
“I would ask my teachers what in the world that meant. “My heart is a pump for blood,” I would say. “Are you trying to tell me that there is a little man in there?”
John laughed. “You were pretty irreverant back then. Did you get into trouble?”
“No,” I said. I was smiling too. “They put up with me pretty good. And they came up with pretty good answers too.”
“Give me an example.”
“They asked me where I was, in terms of my body. Where would I locate my consciousness? I told them probably in my mind somewhere. And they said, wherever you are, that is where Christ is as well. That made me think.”
“Uumph” John’s response was noncommital.
“Later on I realized that we know more about human biology than they did in the past. They used to think that emotions were in the stomack because of what you feel there when you are excited, or scared, or in love. The same was true for the heart. They knew that the heart was a pump but they also knew that the heart beat faster when you were scared or excited. So it just became a way of saying that Jesus was in the inmost part of your soul. Today it would be more accurate to say the mind.”
But I knew he wasn’t convinced yet. It was too early anyway. We were just getting started.
“So are you trying to tell me that there is a little guy named Jesus who is living in your mind somewhere?”
I could see the smile playing at the corners of his mouth.
“No, not a little guy,” I said. “Of course not.” I paused. “Unless of course you, yourself, are a little guy running around in your brain.” Now it was my turn to smile.
“Ok. I see what you mean. My soul is not material, if I even have a soul, and so Jesus doesn’t need to be material either.”
“Exactly,” I said. “But to be more accurate, we would say that it is the Holy Spirit which lives inside a believer.”
“Is that something different from Jesus?”
“Not really. Think of it as the Spirit of Jesus but also something more.” The conversation was going in a more difficult direction so I tried to steer it back to the main issue.
“Don’t worry about understanding all that right now. Let’s start with the basics. God exists. You want to understand who He is and what this business is all about. I was the same way.”
“Well, obviously you came to the conclusion that this was all true.”
“Yup. But they made me work for it. They let me ask all my questions but they gave me extra homework, made me write essays and papers and generally made my life hell as well for about two years.”
“So when did you know? You know, that it was true.”
“The first thing that happened was that I realized there was a lot of evidence out there for the existence of God, the truth of the Bible and all of the historical evidence to support the main points of Christianity.”
“Yup. I realized that the problem was not the evidence but rather me. I just didn’t do my homework up until then and the more homework I did, the more convinced I was that it was true.”
“But when did it happen?”
“I had a roommate from India who was a very spiritual person. He used to tell me that all of the evidence in the world was not going to convince me that God was real and that I needed Jesus in my life.”
“What did you say to him?”
“Naturally I argued with him. I was good at arguing and we spent hours going over everything but he always came back to that one central point. Evidence was not enough.”
John just looked at me, wanting me to go on.
“So I finally stopped arguing and asked him outright why the evidence won’t be enough. And do you know what he said?”
“Don’t keep me in suspense. Just tell me.”
“Ok, ok. He said that it was because God would never let it be enough.”
“Really? That makes no sense.”
“Well, it did after he explained it to me. Apparently, the problem with us is not that we don’t believe in God’s existence but rather that we don’t trust Him to be our God. The problem is that we don’t want a relationship with Him where He is in charge. So it isn’t about evidence. It’s about trust or what we often call faith.”
John was quiet.
“I thought that was a pretty good point,” I said. “It was true for me. I was checking all of this out, remember, but that doesn’t mean I was ready to do everything God wanted me to do. He had a lot of rules and most of the stuff He didn’t want me to do, I rather enjoyed.”
“I know what you mean.”
We both sat there quietly for a moment.
“There was something else my roommate told me that really got my attention.”
“What was that?” John’s head was hanging low, his arms on his knees, his posture a bit dejected like he was facing some big decisions in his life and didn’t like it one bit.
I decided just to keep going. I sent a quick prayer into heaven and started talking some more.
“He said I was taking a big risk not believing in God and following Christ. After all, if I died and nothing happened, then so be it. It’s done. But if I die, and on the other side is God, then I’m in trouble.”
“Why would you be in trouble?”
“Remember that this was before I became a committed follower of Christ. So the danger was that I would die without the protection of Jesus.”
“We need the protection of Jesus? For what?”
“Well, according to the Bible, after we die we will face the judgment of God and without the protection of Jesus, we would be in big trouble.”
“You mean we would go to hell? I don’t believe that.”
“Who wants to believe in a God that sends people to hell?”
“I used to ask the same question. Do you know what I figured out?”
“It may not be God that sends us to hell. We might be sending ourselves there.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Sure it does. Think about it for a moment. If God really exists, and He is perfect and holy and cannot abide any sin, and if we are sinners, full of pride and selfishness and problems, we can’t live with Him in heaven. Maybe we send ourselves to hell because we can’t stand the heat in heaven.”
“So it isn’t God’s fault that we go to hell. It’s just the nature of the situation that we can’t survive in heaven?”
“Exactly. Look at it another way. Every time an angel shows up in the Bible (or even God himself), humans are full of fear. It’s a natural reaction in the face of the divine, apparently. So if we enter heaven and we are in fear of God, in fear of the punishment we deserve, we won’t last very long in heaven.”
“What can we do about it?”
“That’s the whole point of Jesus dying on the cross. It was a substitution of sorts. The cross represents all of the punishment of hell. Jesus experienced all of that for you and me and in exchange we get to have his perfect life as far as God is concerned.”
“So he becomes the sinner and we become saints?”
“Right. It’s an exchange. But more than that, it’s like a marriage or having a kid. The whole point was to restore our relationship with God and we do that by following Jesus and becoming more like him. That’s the deal.”
It was time to wrap things up. I wanted to say one last thing.
“You know, this new relationship with God without fear is a bit like getting married.”
That got his attention. His head came up. “In what way?”
“When you’re single, you just don’t get what it’s like to be in love. Your single friends give you a hard time about your wife and call her the “ball and chain” and seem to think that being married is some sort of hardship.”
“Yeah, I have friends like that.” He smiled.
“Me too. But they just don’t get it. I want to be at home with my wife. I love her. Being with the guys once in a while is great but I don’t think of my relationship with my wife as a slavery or a hardship. I want to please her. I want to do things with her. I’m not interested in other women or flirting with the barmaid on a Saturday night. I want to be at home.”
“That makes sense.”
“Call it voluntary slavery if you want but I call it true freedom. That’s the difference that love makes. It’s the same way with kids. Once you hold your first kid in your arms, you’ll know what I mean.”
“I can’t wait. Really. I’m looking forward to it.”
“But it isn’t easy. You will have sleepless nights and a cranky wife. She will probably not be in her best shape or the best of moods for a while but it will be worth it. Believe me.”
“I do. I’m getting married after all.”
“That’s right. And that is how it is with God. It’s a process of course and you need to progress down the path, but the more you understand Him and get to know Him, the more you realize that you don’t want to be anywhere else. Call it love. Whatever. But it isn’t a hardship, that’s for sure.”
John was quiet for a long moment. “It’s starting to make some sense, at least,” he said finally.
And I knew that was about all he could handle for one day. We said goodbye and he promised to come back the next week to continue our videos and talk some more.
“Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity to talk to John. Keep him safe and bring him into your family. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
The Five Pillars of Evangelism
- Start with some evidence for the existence of God, the truth of the Bible, or the resurrection of Christ from the dead just to get the discussion rolling.
- Give your testimony of the process you took to become a Christian to verify that they are following the proper path by asking questions and getting answers.
- Remind them that all the evidence in the world won’t convince them entirely of the truth of Scripture because the real issue is relational. We don’t trust God with out lives. We don’t want Him to be our Master in any way.
- Let them know about the Judgment to come after death and that the only way to survive it is to replace our fear of God with love but we need to do that while we are alive. You can’t learn to love God when you are overwhelmed with fear in His presence.
- Tell them that Jesus was our substitute on the cross to deal with the problem of sin and fear but the trade-off is that we get a new relationship with God where He is in charge. We need to accept that willingly and wholeheartedly like a man getting married to the woman of his dreams.
Evidence. Testimony. Relationship. Judgment. Substitution.
You can see all of these elements in the story above but the most important part of the process of evangelism is prayer and fasting. Evangelism (and Discipleship) is true spiritual warfare and should never be taken lightly. You and I cannot convince anyone to become a Christian. It is a spiritual work but requires our prayers which demonstrates to God that we are taking it seriously and want it badly. These are the five pillars of evangelism and should be applied diligently at every opportunity.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I want to be used by you in evanglism. I know that there is no more beautiful experience than to be involved in the transformation of the human heart. Teach me how to have spiritual conversations with the people around me. Also teach me to pray for people and even fast so that the spiritual forces affecting them can be turned aside and your Holy Spirit can invade enemy territory and change hearts. Teach me your ways, O Lord. In your name I pray. Amen.