Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Handle, Code-3" -- The Need for Urgency in Evangelism


Modern evangelism methods have convinced many Christians that spiritual conversations with unbelievers are to be entered into slowly and cautiously while avoiding, at all cost, offending the sensibilities and sensitivities of the unbeliever. Subjects such as sin, judgment, and hell are rarely spoken of, and many Christians, if they do share their faith, believe that they must have the permission of the person with whom they are going to speak, before talking to them about Jesus Christ.

When it comes to evangelism, one thing that is lacking in the thinking and practice of many Christians these days is a sense of urgency. The message of God’s pending judgment, and His amazing grace for those who repent of their sin and put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, is an urgent message. The message is an urgent one because it has been appointed once for a person to die (Heb. 9:27), with each person having no idea when his or her day will come. The message is urgent because, as Christians, we should share the loving heart of God whose desire is for none to perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).

The police officer continually operates with a sense of urgency. The man or woman who dons the gun and badge realizes that any given call, traffic stop, or contact could be his or her last. In addition to this ever-present stress is the reality that during any given shift an officer may have to save a life, or take a life. The police officer daily faces the real possibility of dealing with emotional and physical trauma, tragedy, and death. The worldview of the Christian officer should be such that he or she recognizes the spiritual component of every aspect of the job—none more important than the responsibility to bring the truth of the Law and the gospel to lost people, whenever the Lord provides the opportunity. These are urgent times, and this is the day of salvation (Isa. 49:8; 2 Cor. 6:2).

The Question

So, when should we share the Law and the gospel with people? Should we wait until we feel led by the Holy Spirit before we talk to people about the consequences of breaking God's Law and their only hope for escaping the wrath to come? I say no. I do not believe Scripture supports it. I believe Scripture supports the premise that the born again follower of Jesus Christ is always led by the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to the Lord, which includes engaging in evangelism, because Scripture commands every Christian to be engaged in evangelism (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8). Some would argue that these Great Commission passages were directed specifically to the apostles and are not to be applied to every Christian today. If that were the case, then Christianity would have died by the end of the First Century, along with the apostles.

The Holy Spirit's leading will never contradict His Word. And nowhere in Scripture are we told that we shouldn't engage in evangelism. Therefore, the determining factor in one's decisions regarding evangelism should not be one's subjective feelings, but one's obedience to the Word of God.

The Holy Spirit is God (the Third Person of the Trinity) and should be believed as such, worshipped as such, and obeyed as such. But does the Bible teach that we should only engage in evangelism when we sense or feel the leading of the Holy Spirit?

"Led By The Spirit"

There are only two New Testament passages of Scripture in which the phrase "led by the Spirit" or "led by the Spirit of God" appears. They are Romans 8:12-17 and Galatians 5:16-18.

"So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh--for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, 'Abba! Father!' The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:12-17, emphasis added).

According to the above passage of Scripture, if one is led by the Spirit, he or she understands that they have been adopted into God's family, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:16-18, emphasis added).

The person who is led by the Spirit of God will behave as such (see Galatians 5:22-26). Through their righteous behavior, their holy living, and their obedience to God's Word, a Christian's life will continually reflect the Holy Spirit's leading in their life.

Neither of the above passages speaks to following a subjective feeling about the Spirit's leading before sharing the Law and the gospel with lost people. In fact (and I agree with Pastor John MacArthur on this point), "believers are not led through subjective, mental impressions or promptings to provide direction in making life's decisions--something Scripture nowhere teaches. Instead, God's Spirit objectively leads His children sometimes through the orchestration of circumstances (Acts 16:7), but primarily through: 1) illumination, divinely clarifying Scripture to make it understandable to our sinful, finite minds (Lk. 24:44-45; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; Eph. 1:17-19; cf. Eph. 3:16-19; Col. 1:9); and 2) sanctification, divinely enabling us to obey Scripture (Gal. 5:16, 17; 5:25)" (MacArthur Study Bible, pp. 1707-08).

Should We Wait To Be Asked?

"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (1 Pet. 3:15).

Some Christians believe that they should wait to be asked about Jesus Christ before they share the good news with them. With more than 90% of Christians admitting that they do not mention Jesus Christ to a single lost soul, in a year's time, apparently not too many people are asking. I have traveled throughout out country, as well as to Canada and South America in order to minister to the law enforcement family. I have visited dozens of different law enforcement agencies, spending many hours with officers in briefing rooms and patrol cars. If my belief and practice were to wait for an officer (or anyone else for that matter) to bring up the things of God, I would rarely share the gospel with anyone. And as a follower of Jesus Christ, I am not called to rarely share the gospel.

Some of those who hold the position of not speaking about Christ until asked to do so might turn to 1 Peter 3:15 to support their position. They might emphasize the portion of the verse that speaks about giving a defense to "everyone who asks." However, this is a misinterpretation and misapplication of the verse. The emphasis of the verse is not waiting to be asked, but always being ready to defend your faith.

There are scenes in the Bible where people approached Jesus or the apostles and asked them questions (ex. Jn. 3; Lk. 18; Acts 16). However, none of these passages serve as a mandate for waiting to be asked before warning people about the wrath to come and presenting the gospel to them. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that we must wait to have a person's permission to speak the truth to them, in love. Nor does Scripture say we must first have a long-term relationship with a person before sharing the Law and the gospel with them. What we see in Scripture is Jesus and the apostles quickly developing a relationship with a person, by simply establishing rapport with them (ex. Jn. 4:7-26; Acts 8:25-40).

While it may be helpful information, we do not need to know someone's personal history or what may be troubling them presently before we can or should share the gospel with them. The reason is that our purpose for sharing the Law and the gospel is not to help a person feel better about themselves or to promise them a solution to their current problems--which, more than likely, have been brought on by their own sinfulness.

A Tourniquet, Not a Band-Aid

The Law and the gospel is not a self-adhesive band-aid designed to merely cover the superficial wounds of a sinner's felt needs. It is the tourniquet that must be applied with care, firmness, and urgency to the sinner's mortal wound. For the Law and the gospel is the only thing that will stop their eternal bleeding and the death of their souls, as they are brought to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

Consider the following scenario. You are a police officer who receives a call of a traffic collision, with injuries. As is sometimes the case, you arrive before fire and paramedics. You see a man on his back, in the middle of the street. He was thrown from his car, by the force of the collision. You rush to his side and see that his arm is broken and that he has a gaping wound in his chest, which is bleeding profusely. The man is in shock and is unaware of the seriousness of his condition. He can't see his chest, but he can see his arm. Still conscious, he looks up at you and screams, "Help! My arm is broken! Do something about my arm!"

It's obvious to you that the wound in the man's chest is far more serious than his broken arm. You bend down and begin to apply direct pressure to the wound in his chest. Your hands are now covered with his blood. The man screams again that his arm is broken. You holler back at him to lie still. The man demands that you stop putting so much weight and pressure on his chest and instead get a splint and bandage for his arm. What would you do?

Would you stop addressing the potentially mortal chest wound in order to make the man feel better about his arm? Of course you wouldn't! You have been called to protect and serve; and, under the circumstances, you are a better judge of what the wounded man needs than he is. Why? Because you see the extent of his injuries when he can't. You don't know how much time the man has left. But you do know that if you spend too much time addressing the injury to his arm he will die as a result of the chest wound. You don't want him to simply feel better. You want him to survive.

The man continues to be uncooperative--yelling and thrashing about--because all he can think about is his arm. "Look!" You tell him. "You have a terrible wound in your chest. You are bleeding severely. If we don't get this bleeding stopped, it won't matter that you have a broken arm. You'll be dead! Now, hold still so I can help you."

The man calms down. His arm still hurts, but he now realizes there are more important issues than his broken arm. He doesn't want to die. He understands that not only do you want to help him, but that you also know what you're doing. Instead of complaining about the pressure you are putting on his chest, he is thankful that you are trying to stop the bleeding.

As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have received the "Code-3" call to reach the entire world with His gospel. People are dying all around you--most of them now facing eternity in hell--and you know it. In the law enforcement family, one of our brothers or sisters behind the badge sacrifices his or her life, in the line of duty, every 57 hours. 2-3 times that many commit suicide every year. They are troubled with broken relationships, work stress, alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse, and a bitterness and hardness of heart that often comes from seeing the worst of what man can do to his fellow man. Yet most of them are completely unaware that they are bleeding to death, spiritually. They are blind to the fact that once they pass from this life they will stand before a holy and righteous God who will judge them in righteousness. "And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Heb. 9:27).


You have the answer--not an answer to making all of their problems in this life go away. Remember, Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). You have the answer (the cure) for their mortal wound--the terminal disease of sin. You know the One who has overcome the world, the One who can and will forgive their sin and grant them everlasting life--if they will turn from their sin and, by faith, trust Jesus Christ alone for their salvation. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

When will you tell them? Will you wait until they ask? They may never ask. Will you wait until you feel "led," when you have already been commanded by Scripture to share your faith? When you are working the streets, you don't need a supervisor to tell you before every shift to go out and make arrests. You don't need the dispatcher to come on the radio and encourage you to make a traffic stop or to contact a suspicious looking person walking down a darkened alley. You know your job. You know why you are out there. You know the law and your department's policies and procedures. You know how to talk to and treat people. You know the right thing to do. The same is true when it comes to evangelism. "Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).

These are urgent times. An estimated 150,000 die every day. Thousands of people died in the time it took you to read this article. Don't wait any longer. When it comes to evangelism, you do not love people with your silence. Handle evangelism the same way you would handle a "Code-3" call--with care, courage, wisdom, discernment, and authority (in the case of evangelism, the authority of Christ and His Word). If you have been saved, then you have been led to share the Law and the gospel with lost people. Now, go share your faith, while you still have time.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

'Big Bang' Believer Backslides

I spent Saturday afternoon at the Huntington Beach Pier, with three of my local GNN team members (my daughter Michelle, Chris, and Matt). We joined Ray Comfort, Scotty, and Anita for OA, one-to-ones, and tract distribution. The crowds were small, but the hecklers were good, which kept the crowds engaged.

At one point, Ray used a great analogy to point out how one heckler saw herself as good, when comparing herself to the rest of the world. Ray said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Look around you. You can see smog in the air, over all of the cities surrounding Huntington Beach. But if you look straight up, the sky appears a beautiful, clear blue. You can't see any smog in Huntington Beach.

"But if you were in a plane, looking down at Huntington Beach from thousands of feet in the air, you would see that Huntington Beach is shrouded with smog, just like every other nearby city. You see yourself as good because you are comparing yourself to the people around you. You see their sin, but you are oblivious to your own. Instead of comparing yourself to others, you should see your sin the way God on high sees your sin. He looks down and sees that your sin is every bit as dirty as everyone else's, just like the air in Huntington Beach is as dirty as the air in the cities surrounding Huntington Beach."

After Ray and the WOTM team left, we stuck around to hand out tracks and strike up conversations. I gave "A Gift For You" tracts (the tracts in which you place a real dollar bill) to three teenagers. They gladly took the tracts. But within moments they walked to a nearby trashcan, tossed the tracts and pocketed the money. I confess that my first thought was, "Why, you little brats!"

A short time later, Michelle and I were walking along the pier when Michelle saw the same group of three teens. She tried to hand them "Smart Card" tracts. The three were caught off guard when I said, "That's okay, Michelle. They threw away the tracts I gave them a few minutes ago."

All three kids had that hand-caught-in-the-cookie-jar look on their faces.

I asked one of the kids (a 13-year-old named Dane) why he threw the tract in the trash. He said, "Well...I didn't want to carry it around all day."

"Did you bother to read it?" I asked.

"It had something to do with God." He answered.

"Dane, do you believe in God?" I asked.

"Nope." He said.

"So, would you consider yourself to be an atheist?" I asked.

"Yep." He said, with a sarcastic, confident grin on his face.

"Are you aware that in order to be an atheist, in order to truly believe there is no God, you must know everything there is to know about everything? I asked. "You would have to have perfect knowledge about the entire universe. Do you know everything about everything?"

"No." He answered.

"Think of it this way." I continued. "In order to believe that Australia exists, do I have to know everything there is to know about Australia? Would I have to talk to every person who has ever lived in Australia, or everyone who has ever visited Australia to believe that Australia exists? Would I have to walk every square inch of Australian soil, look under every rock, or swim in every lake and river to believe that Australia exists?"

"No." He answered.

"Would I even have to visit Australia to know that Australia exists?" I asked.

"No." He answered.

"All I would need is some evidence to believe that Australia exists, right?"

"I guess so." He said. It was fun watching his young atheism evaporate.

"Okay, now that we've determined that you don't know everything, I can prove to you in less than two minutes that God exists." I said.

"Okay." He said.

I pointed to a small gift shop on the pier. "How do you know that someone built that building?" I asked.

"Well, it didn't just happen out of thin air. It's there, so someone had to have built it." He said.

"How about a painting? Have you ever seen a beautiful painting?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered.

"When you look at a painting, how do you know someone painted it?" I asked.

"Because the painting is there, and someone probably signed it." He answered.

"Dane, all you have to do is look around you to see that God is real. Right now, you are standing on a pier overlooking a beautiful beach and ocean. All you have to do is look at this amazing creation to believe that there is a Creator. Does that make sense?" I asked.

"Yes it does." He answered.

"Okay Dane, now that we've established that you don't know everything and you have to at least concede the possibility of God's existence," I said, "let me ask you another question. Do you believe in the Big Bang Theory?"

"Yes." He answered.

"All right. Listen to how unreasonable your belief is." I said. "You believe that something exploded out of nothing, and became everything. Does that make any sense to you?"

"Well...." He said.

"Do you remember watching the planes fly into the World Trade Center buildings?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered.

"Did those massive explosions create life?" I asked.

"Well, no." He answered.

"You're right." I said. "They didn't create life. They only destroyed life. The only thing created by an explosion is chaos and disorder. When you look at the world around you, you don't see disorder. You see very sophisticated design.

"Just think of your eye, for example. What your eye is able to do in a split second, the most sophisticated and powerful computer in the world cannot do. Can you see, now, how creation points to the very real existence of a Creator?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered.

"So, now that you realize that you don't know everything, and now that you realize that creation requires a Creator, let me ask you this. Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" I asked.

Dane, the sarcastic boy who had carelessly threw the tract in the trash and had smugly professed to be an atheist who believed in the "Big Band Theory," was now being humbled by the Law. The goofy, even disrespectful grin on his face was replaced with a look of concern.

After taking Dane through the Law and the Gospel, I asked him to carefully consider what I had shared with him. He said that he would. Then he said this.

"Well, one thing is for sure. I don't believe in the 'Big Bang' any more.

I handed Dane a Million Dollar Bill. "Here." I said. "Don’t throw this one away. Read it carefully."

We shook hands and said our goodbyes. Dane started to read it as soon as Michelle and I walked away. What a joy to watch a "Big Bang" believer backslide. Pray with me that the Lord will draw Dane to repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As always, to Him be the glory!

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.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Ithamar's Miracle of the Dead Sea

My friend, Chris Yarzab, and I have begun a discipleship and mutual accountability relationship. We meet once a week, spending the first hour discussing life and the great truths of Scripture, and the second hour engaging in one-to-one evangelism. Last night Chris and I spent our time at the Valencia Town Center—a mall that is part of the Westfield Corporation, where the gospel is anything but welcome.

Chris has been a follower of Jesus Christ for only four months. Yet he has already shared the Law (the Ten Commandments) and the gospel with more people than most professing Christians will in a lifetime. Although new to the faith, Chris is mature enough to realize that he has much to learn (as every Christian does) about biblically and tactically sharing his faith with others. So, our plan of attack was this. When we identified someone we wanted to talk to, I would make the initial contact, start the conversation, and swing the conversation from the natural to the spiritual. Once I made the transition, Chris would jump in and take the person through the “Good Test,” with the hope of sharing the Law and the gospel with them.

As Chris and I walked through the mall, we came across a kiosk selling a line of skin products called “Miracle of the Dead Sea.” Allegedly, the product line uses minerals and other properties from the Dead Sea in its skin care products. There was a young man working the kiosk—a young man who looked very bored. I pointed to the sign attached to the top of the kiosk and said, “Miracle of the Dead Sea?”

With an accent I could not immediately identify, the young man said, “It’s alive.”

“The Dead Sea is alive?” I asked.

“Yes.” He answered.

“But there are no fish in the Dead Sea.” I said.

“Yes, but there are bacteria and minerals.” He answered.

“Oh, I get it. You’re talking about micro-organisms.” I said. I pointed again at the sign and asked, “Do you believe in miracles?”

The young man quickly answered, with a subtle shake of his head and a smile. “No.”

Chris took this as his cue to ask the young man his name and if he had a Christian background. He said that he had no religious background, but he had read portions of the New Testament.

He said, “My name is difficult to pronounce in English. My name is Ithamar. I’m named after one of the sons of Aaron.”

Aaron, Moses’ brother, had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. God killed Nadab and Abihu for sinning against God by offering profane fire in the Lord’s Holy Place (Leviticus 10:1-7). Eleazar became High Priest and it was through him that the unique line for future high priests was designated (Numbers 25:10-13). Ithamar, the youngest and least known of the four brothers, was responsible for overseeing the assembly, dismantling, and maintenance of the Tent of Meeting (Numbers 4:21-33).

Chris effectively took Ithamar through the “Good Test,” helping Ithamar to see his true state before a holy and righteous God. Ithamar said that the thought of being found guilty of breaking God’s Law and sentenced to eternity in hell concerned him. It’s always so beautiful to see a person humbled by the Law of God.

Chris carefully, lovingly, and biblically shared the gospel with Ithamar. He listened intently, like a dry sponge absorbing fresh water. During the conversation, it appeared that Ithamar was confused about the place of good works, in salvation. At the next pregnant pause in the conversation, I asked Chris if I could join the conversation.

When witnessing with a partner, it is always best to allow one person to do the talking, while the other person listens, watches, and prays. This tactic is helpful in avoiding making the person to whom you are witnessing feel as though you are ganging-up on them. It helps to maintain a steady, forward-moving flow in the conversation and it helps to keep the person who is doing the witnessing from losing their train of thought.

I explained to Ithamar, that for the Christian, good works are acts of obedience to God that are performed as a result of one’s salvation, not acts that lead to salvation. I shared Isaiah 64:6 with Ithamar. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind take us away.”

I shared the “parachute” analogy with Ithamar. When I got to the part where I asked him if simply looking at the parachute under his seat, and believing that the parachute was there, would save him when the plane crashed. No.” He said. “I have to put it on.”

I could tell by the look on his face that Ithamar understood the truth behind the analogy.

Ithamar asked, “Do you believe the Old Testament?”

I explained to Ithamar that together the Old and New Testaments make up the entirety of God’s Word, and that the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ. I explained that the Law of God shows mankind that God’s standard is perfection and that because every person is sinful, it is impossible for anyone to perfectly obey God’s Law. I briefly explained the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, the requirement of a blood sacrifice of a spotless lamb for the remission of sin, and how Jesus Christ is the perfect fulfillment of that system—the Lamb of God who shed his blood to atone for man’s sin and to take upon Himself God’s wrath and our place of punishment.

“Ithamar,” I said, “The wages of sin is death. The just punishment for your sins against God is either going to be your blood or the blood of Jesus Christ, which He shed on the cross. But not only did Jesus die on the cross. He rose again and He is alive today.”

Ithamar’s eyes opened wide. The look on his face was that of a man who just heard something amazing, for the first time. Then he asked, “You mean Jesus is alive? How can that be? He died.”

I was taken aback by Ithamar’s expressions and questions. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Here we were, in Southern California, in the United States of America, talking to a young man who had never heard about the resurrection of Jesus Christ! I thought back to Ithamar’s statement at the beginning of the conversation, in which he denied the existence of miracles.

I leaned forward and whispered, “It’s a miracle.”

I spent the next few moments explaining the resurrection of Christ. Eventually I came to a point where I shared John 14:6. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”

Now it was Ithamar leaning forward and whispering. “Say it again.” He said.

I repeated the verse, a bit slower this time. I was under the impression that Ithamar didn’t understand the verse. I was wrong. Because as I recited the verse again, this time breaking up the verse into phrases, Ithamar repeated each phrase after me. He was trying to memorize the verse! When we finished saying the verse together, Ithamar tried to recite it on his own. When I saw that he was struggling to remember the entirety of the verse, I reached into my pack and removed a copy of “How To Live Forever Without Being Religious,” which contains the Gospel of John.

The book was one of several brand new, never opened copies I had in my pack. I opened the book to John 14:6. (Since my conversation with Ithamar, I’ve tried several times to open other copies of the book directly to John 14:6. I haven’t been able to do it.) Ithamar and I reacted the same way, simultaneously. “Whoa!” We said.

“You opened the book right to the verse!” Ithamar said.

“I know.” I replied. “It amazes me, too.”

Ithamar followed along as I read the verse aloud. He took a step back, nodding his head. When I tried to give Ithamar the book, he lifted his hand in front of him and said, “Oh, no. I can’t take it. It is your book.”

“It’s okay.” I explained. “I have many copies. And I brought it with me so I could give it to people I talk to—people like you, Ithamar. Please take it. It is my gift to you.”

Ithamar took the book from my hand. Handling the little book ever so gently, he placed the book in his shirt pocket. What he did next was beautiful. He slowly placed his hand over the book and his heart. “Thank you.” He said.

I told Ithamar that I might not ever see him again. I told him that Chris and I cared about him and that we cared about where he would spend eternity. Without a hint of sarcasm, Ithamar asked, “Why? Why do the two of you care so much?”

“If I know that God has saved me from the just punishment for my sins against Him,” I said, “and I know that so great a salvation is only received by those who repent of their sin and, by faith, put their trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation, then how can I not tell people? If I don’t warn people about what will happen to them if they stand as guilty sinners before God, on the Day of Judgment, and if I don’t share with them the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, then I don’t really care about them.”

Ithamar nodded his head in agreement. “May I ask you something?” He asked.

“Absolutely.” I answered.

“Christianity is the largest religion in the world.” He began. “With so many Christians in the world, why aren’t there more people like the two of you doing this? Why aren’t there more people saying the things you are saying to me?”

I found it difficult to hold back the tears. There were no excuses I could make. There were no excuses I wanted to make. So I told Ithamar the truth. “Sadly, many of the people who claim to be Christians are not Christians. They might be religious, but they do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There’s a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Him as Lord.

“In fact, if you read the gospels, you will find that more often than not, when Jesus talked about religion and religious people, He referred to them in a negative way. Many times He referred to them as hypocrites. In fact, Jesus said this, ‘Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

I asked Ithamar if he understood everything I had shared with him. He said that he did. I asked him if he believed what I was sharing with him was true. He again answered in the affirmative.

“Ithamar, do you understand if you died in your sins, God will judge you and find you guilty of breaking His Law?” I asked.

“Yes.” He answered.

“Do you understand that if He finds you guilty He will sentence you to eternity in hell?” I asked.

“Yes.” He answered.

“I assume you don’t want to spend eternity in hell.” I said.

Ithamar shook his head.

“Ithamar, is there any reason why you wouldn’t repent of your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation?” I asked.

“No.” He answered.

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

“Yes.” He answered.

“Then cry out to God.” I said. “Ask Him to forgive your sins and tell Him that you want to turn away from your sins. Ask Him to be your Lord and Savior. Believe, by faith, that He can and will save you from His wrath to come. Commit your whole life to Him. Serve Him and follow Him all the days of your life.”

Ithamar smiled. Although I could not read his mind or his heart, I believe what I saw in his eyes and in his smile was the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit, drawing a sinner to repentance and faith. “May I ask you one more question?” He asked.

“Sure.” I said.

“What does it mean to be a fisher of men?” He asked.

What a remarkable question from a young man who, only minutes earlier, was amazed at hearing about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the first time. “Among Jesus’ disciples were several fishermen—men who worked hard to catch fish, to make a living and feed their families.” I said. “Jesus taught them that more important than meeting their own physical needs was devoting their lives, in obedience to God, to the work of reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to be a fisher of men. And that’s why Chris and I are here tonight.”

Ithamar shook our hands and thanked us for talking to him. We said our good-byes. Chris and I made our way toward the exit, but we had to sit down on a bench and take a moment to catch our breath and debrief. Before heading home, we spent some time in prayer praising God for what He allowed us to do, and for allowing us to watch Him work. We also prayed that Ithamar would not pass a restful night until he did, in fact, repent before God and put his faith in Jesus Christ alone.

What started out as a conversation with a young man who didn’t believe in miracles, ended with what appeared to be a miracle in the making. It wasn’t the miracle of the Dead Sea. But maybe it was the miracle of a sinner being drawn to repentance and faith. I pray that it was.