Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Law and the Gospel Brings a Christian to Tears

It was a Friday night like so many others. Our local GNN team was at the Burbank Town Center, sharing the Law and the Gospel with whoever would listen. But the Lord quickly reminded me to never look at any night of street fishing as just another among so many others.

The evening got off to a quick and fruitful start. A group of curious high school students approached my charts eager to take the “Intelligence Tests.” Once we all had a good laugh, I asked a 15-year-old named Enrique if he wanted to take the “Good Person” test. He jumped at the chance.

Enrique was a polite young man who was quickly convicted by the Law. His concern for his eternal state grew as I moved into the gospel. By now, there were several people standing nearby listening to my conversation with Enrique. One lady, however, stood out in the crowd. She was standing directly behind Enrique with her head bowed and her eyes closed. It was pretty obvious what she was doing. She was praying.

Enrique expressed his desire to repent and put his trust and faith in Jesus Christ alone, for his salvation. I encouraged him to cry out to God, confess his sin, and ask Jesus Christ to be His Lord and Savior. For a moment, I thought he was going to do it right then and there.

Thinking that peer pressure might possibly be fueling his apparent hesitation, I said to Enrique, “You don’t want to stand before the God who is holy, righteous, and just and have Him say to you, ‘Depart from me. I never knew you.’ You want to hear Him say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into my joy. Welcome to heaven.’ On the Day of Judgment, none of your friends standing here will be standing with you then. On that day, it won’t matter what your friends think of you. It will just be you and God. The only thing that will matter is whether or not you have repented of your sin and have trusted Jesus Christ for your salvation.”

I gave Enrique a copy of “How To Live Forever Without Being Religious.” Not only did Enrique shake my hand and thank me for talking to them, but so did his friends. As they walked away, they were no longer the group of jovial kids who stepped forward to take the “Intelligence Tests.” At the very least, they were pondering eternal matters. They were brought to the realization that where they spend eternity is more important than where they spend Friday night.

After another brief conversation with a group of teens from Norway, my brother-in-law, Ian, introduced me to Shirley. Ian had also seen Shirley praying during my conversation with Enrique, and he contacted her. It turns out that Shirley attends a church in Burbank. She was out taking a prayer walk—praying that her church would develop a burden for the lost and would bring the gospel to the streets of her community. She told me she was familiar with Way of the Master and often purchases tracts through the ministry. We spent some time talking about the biblical principles of “Law to the proud, and grace to the humble.”

Shirley spent the entire evening with us. I would often see her in a posture of prayer as I shared one-to-one with someone or during the open-air session. But the most memorable moment for Shirley (and us) during the evening was when I had the opportunity to talk to Steven.

Steven is the 13-year-old son of one of our GNN team members. He’s an intelligent youngster who is well versed in “Christianese.” At one point, Steven’s dad approached me and asked me to talk to him. Steven’s dad was concerned about his son’s salvation. Steven had heard the gospel many times before, but his dad’s concern was that he was a false convert. Steven’s dad looked at me and asked, “Is there anything you can say to him?”

My first thought was about what I’m learning from a wonderful, new book, “What Jesus Demands from the World,” by John Piper (Crossway Books, 2006). I’m reading the book with my friends and fellow GNN team members, Chris and Matt, as part of our weekly time of discipleship. The first demand upon which Piper expounds is Jesus’ demand to be born again.

Piper closes the first chapter with these words. “Look away from yourself. Seek from God what he alone can do for you. Moral improvement of the old you is not what you need. New life is what the whole world needs. It is radical and supernatural. It is outside our control. The dead do not give themselves new life. We must be born again—“not . . . of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). That is what Jesus demands from the world” (p. 39).

I asked Steven if he was born again. He said that he was. I asked him if he knew what it meant to be born again. He said, “Believe in Jesus?”

It was obvious to me (and Steven’s dad) that Steven was unsure what it meant to be born again. After explaining to Steven that he must repent of his sin, put his trust in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation, and, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior to be born again, I asked him the following question. “Steven, you say that you are born again, yet you are unsure what that means.’ Do you think it is possible that you are not born again?”

Steven looked toward the ground and nodded his head.

“Steven, unless you are born again, you will never see heaven. You will spend eternity in hell.” I said.

Steven nodded his head again, a little slower this time.

“Steven, think of it this way.” I continued. “You and your family are living in a two-story house. Late one night the house catches fire. Your dad and the rest of the family are outside when your dad realizes that you are still in the house. Just as your dad comes to that frightening realization, he hears you scream. He looks up to see you leaning out your bedroom window. The flames are behind you and getting closer. The heat and the smoke are intense. If you stay in your room, the fire will consume you.

“You scream to your dad, ‘Dad, help me!’ Your dad holds out his arms and yells, ‘Steven, jump!’ What would you do? Would you stay in your room, or would you jump?”

“Jump.” Steven quickly answered.

“Why? I asked. “Is it because you would trust your dad to catch you?”

“Yes.” Steven answered.

“Well, Steven.” I said. “That’s what it means to be born again. The fires of hell are at your back and closing in on you. Either the flames will consume you as the just punishments for your sins against God, or you will turn away from your sins and jump into the arms of Jesus Christ, trusting that He alone can save you. Does that make sense?”

Steven nodded his head.

“Knowing what you know now—that you are not born again, is there any reason why you wouldn’t repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

“No.” He answered.

“Is that something you want to do?” I asked.

“Yes.” He answered.

I looked at Steven’s dad, then back to Steven, and said, “Well, maybe tonight is the night that you will be born again. Maybe tonight is the night you become a genuine Christian. Maybe you and your dad should take a walk and have an important conversation.”

Father and son agreed and the two walked away, together.

As I watched Steven and his dad walk away, I praised God for the apparent work He was doing in the heart of the youngster. Unbeknownst to me, however, Steven’s heart was not the only heart impacted by the Holy Spirit, during the conversation.

I turned to my left and saw Shirley, the prayer warrior who hoped that her church would one-day love the lost enough to take to the streets with the gospel. She was weeping. I asked her what was wrong. It took her a few moments to compose herself enough to be able to speak.

Still sobbing, Shirley said, “I’ve been wrong all these years! I’ve been doing it wrong all these years! I’ve never shared the gospel so straightforward, the way I just saw you share it with that boy. I’ve told people about Jesus and God’s love, jumping from place to place in the conversation, but never really getting to the point. I understand, now. I understand why I have to warn people about God’s judgment.”

Friday night I saw the reality of the power, of God’s double-edged sword—the Word of God, the Law and the Gospel. One edge of the infallible, inerrant Blade penetrated (and hopefully repaired) the heart of an unsaved young boy, with surgical precision. The other edge, equally sharp and equally precise, gently cut away the scar tissue surrounding the heart of a Christian—scar tissue caused by years of modern evangelism methodology. One person may have been given the gift of eternal life. The other person will, from now on, present the offer of eternal life to lost souls the way Jesus did, by presenting the Law to the proud and God’s amazing grace to the humble.

To God alone be all the praise, honor, and glory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I missed Friday night. That all sounds incredible. A great reminder that sharing your faith shouldn't become a boring task, as God has important appointments for us with people who desperately need saving.