Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rudy: A Gospel Presentation in Three Hats

I went to our local mall the other day to have a few baseball hats embroidered. My plan is to use the hats as conversation starters. I made my way to the embroidery kiosk, picked out three hats, gave instructions to the person working the kiosk regarding what I wanted on each hat, made payment, and then left for a meeting.

When I returned to the mall, my hats were finished. Rudy, a 25-year-old Hispanic young man, was working the embroidery kiosk that day. Before Rudy had an opportunity to bag my hats, I asked him if he was at all curious about what I planned to do with the hats. He said, “Well, now that you mention it.”

I took the three hats and lined them up on the counter of the kiosk. I pointed to the first hat and read the embroidered print on the crown. “Did You Get One of These?”

“If I’m wearing this hat,” I said, “my hope is that someone will ask, ‘Did you get one of what?’”

I reached into my jacket pocket and removed a billion-dollar bill and handed it to Rudy. “Did you get one of these?” I asked with a smile on my face.

Rudy laughed as he inspected the billion-dollar bill. I redirected Rudy’s attention to three hats. I pointed to the second hat and said, “Now if I am wearing this hat, which says, ‘Ask Me,’ my hope is that someone will ask, ‘Ask you what?’ I would answer by asking, ‘Do you know the billion-dollar question?’”

Rudy asked, “So, what’s the billion-dollar question?”

“Do you know what’s going to happen to you when you die?” I answered.

“I think I’m just going to become energy.” Rudy said.

“Why do you think that?” I asked.

“I think I learned it in science or something.” He said.

“Do you believe in the existence of heaven and hell?” I asked.

“I believe in heaven.” He said.

“What must a person do to go to heaven?” I asked.

“They have to be a good person.” He said.

I pointed to the third hat, which had the following question embroidered on it: “Are You a Good Person?”

“So, Rudy, would you consider yourself to be a good person?” I asked.

“Yes, I’m a good person.” He quickly answered.

I took Rudy through the “Good Person Test.” He admitted to being a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. Rudy acknowledged that if God judges him based on the Ten Commandments God would find him guilty of breaking His Law, but he still considered himself a good person.

“Do you live at home?” I asked.

“I live with my girlfriend, Beth.” He answered.

“Let’s say you decided to invite me to your home to meet your girlfriend. We walk in the door and you say, ‘Beth, I would like you to meet Tony. He’s a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. But other than that, he’s a pretty good guy.’ Do you think Beth would think I’m a good person?”

Rudy laughed and said, “No.”

“In fact,” I continued, “Beth would probably wonder why you are hanging out with the likes of me. Rudy, you’re just like me. You’re not a good person. He conceded the point. However, Rudy still thought he would go to heaven. When I asked him why, he said that he believed God would take into account the good things he has done.

I led Rudy through one of the courtroom analogies. “Rudy, let’s say you were standing before a judge, convicted of breaking the law. The judge is about to pass sentence upon you, but you say, ‘Wait a minute judge. I’ve helped two little old ladies across the street. I’ve given to charity. And I haven’t been caught breaking the law since my last arrest.’

“Rudy, does the fact that you’ve tried to do good things change the fact that you’re guilty of breaking the law?” I asked.

Rudy shook his head and said no. “But God is forgiving.” He asserted. “Won’t God forgive me if I ask?”

“Yes, God is forgiving.” I said. “But let’s go back to the courtroom. You’re standing before the judge. You’re guilty of breaking the law—any law. You’ve confessed to the crime and there is plenty of evidence to convict you. Once again, the judge is about to pass sentence and he asks you if you have anything to say for yourself. You look at the judge and say, ‘Your honor, I’m really sorry for what I’ve done. I promise I will never do it again. Please let me go.’ The judge thinks about it for a moment and then he says, ‘Okay. You’re free to go.’

“Would the judge be a good judge, following the law, if he just let you go?” I asked.

Rudy thought about that for a moment. I could tell he was trying to think of something to say.

“How about this.” I said. “Let’s say that Beth was driving home one evening and a drunk driver crossed into her lane and hit her car, head-on. She died instantly. The drunk driver is arrested, stands trial, and is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter. You’re in the courtroom with Beth’s family on the day of sentencing. The drunk driver who killed your girlfriend stands before the judge and asks the judge to forgive him. The judge looks at the man who killed your girlfriend and says, ‘You’re free to go.’

“What would you think of that judge?” I asked. “Would you consider him to be a good judge?”

“No.” Rudy said.

“So then, if God won’t take into account what you perceive to be your good deeds when He judges you, and he’s not going to let you off the hook just because you say you’re sorry, if He finds you guilty of breaking His Law, will he send you to heaven or hell?” I asked.

“I would go to hell.” He answered.

“Does that concern you?” I asked.

Rudy told me that the thought of going to hell concerned him. When I asked Rudy if he believed in heaven and hell at the beginning of our conversation, he only acknowledged a belief in the existence of heaven. Now, he was expressing at least some concern about going to hell.

I shared the gospel with Rudy, explaining to him that he must repent of his sin and, by faith, receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. When I finished I asked Rudy if what I shared with him made sense. He said that it did. “Well, what are you going to do about it?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” Rudy asked.

“You’re going to die someday, Rudy.” I said. “It might be fifty years from now. It might be on your way home from work. The time to get right with God is not after you die and you are standing before him waiting to be judged. It will be too late for you then. The Bible says that today is the day of salvation. The Lord is giving you an opportunity, right now, to turn away from your sin and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. You said that you are living with your girlfriend. I know it’s none of my business, but is it reasonable for me to assume that you are having intimate relations with your girlfriend?”

“Yes.” Rudy answered.

“Then you are committing adultery—not only in your heart, but in the flesh by sleeping with your girlfriend. You’re sinning against God and unless you turn from your sin, which includes your sinful relationship with your girlfriend, He is going to give you what you deserve on the Day of Judgment; and that’s a death sentence—eternity in hell for breaking His Law. On that day, God is going to see you for who you really are, according to His standard—not as you see yourself.

“Rudy, I’m having this conversation with you because I don’t want you to go to hell. So, please consider what I’ve said to you. Will you do that?” I asked.

“I will.” He said. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

We shook hands. I thanked him for talking to me and for the embroidery work he did on my hats. I thank God for the opportunity to present the Law and the gospel to Rudy—a presentation in three hats.

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