Sunday, March 18, 2007

Preaching at the Auto Parts Store

Michelle (my eldest daughter) and I went to an auto parts store this morning. Those who know me well know that I have no business being in an auto parts store. I am not, shall we say, mechanically inclined. But, for those of you who might worry about such things, fear not. I was in the store to purchase an item for my daughter's car that requires no assembly, no special training or certification to use, and it is not used to repair anything.

Michelle and I approached the counter to make our purchase where Bob greeted us. As Bob rang up our purchase he repeatedly glanced at my T-Shirt (see photo).

My good friend and fellow evangelism team leader, Jerry Parker, designed this particular T-shirt. Pictured on my T-shirt were several $5 bills and the following text:"Are you a good person? Pass a 3-question test and I'll give you 5 bucks cash, right now, on the spot! This is not a joke."

"So, what's the test?" Bob asked."It's the good person test." I answered."Can I give it a shot?" Bob asked.

"Sure! Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" I asked.

I must admit, I was a bit surprised by Bob's interest. He was the first person to ever inquire about the test, after reading my T-shirt. I have worn the shirt several times and have looked forward to using it to initiate spiritual conversations with strangers. Needless to say, wearing such a T-shirt requires the other person to take the first step toward a conversation. It probably wouldn't work well if I walked around asking people, out of the blue, to read my T-shirt.

"Yeah. I think I'm a good person." Bob answered.I began the conversation by asking Bob if he was familiar with the Ten Commandments. With the help of another store employee who overheard our conversation and was curious, Bob named seven of the Ten Commandments. I praised his effort, since most people can only name two or three.

I asked Bob if he thought he had been able to keep the Commandments. He said that he thought he had."Bob, have you ever told a lie?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered."If you tell a lie, what does that make you?" I asked.

"A sinner." He answered with a smile on his face.

"True." I said. "But, more specifically, if I were to lie to you, you would say, 'Tony, you're a...'"

"A liar." He answered.

"Have you ever stolen anything?" I asked."Yes." He answered.

"So, if you have stolen something, what does that make you?" I asked.

"A Thief." He answered.

"That's right. Have you ever taken God's name in vain—meaning you have used His name to express disgust or excitement?" I asked.

"Yes I have." He answered."That's called blasphemy. In fact, the Bible says that the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." I said.

I could tell by the look on Bob's face that he had an idea where the conversation was going. Wanting to be sensitive to the fact that I was talking to Bob while he was working, I said, "Bob, I don't want to interfere with your work. So, we can end the conversation whenever you need to."

"How would you define adultery?" I asked.

"Cheating on your spouse." He answered.

"That's true. But Jesus actually said, 'Everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.' Have you ever looked at a woman with lust?" I asked.

"Yes." Bob answered with a chuckle.

"So, Bob, by your own admission, you are a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. Does that sound like a good person to you?" I asked.

"No it doesn't." He answered.

"Well, Bob, you didn't pass the good person test." I said. "I can't pass the test either. I'm guilty of breaking God's Law, just as you are.

"Now, here's where it gets a bit more serious." I continued. "If God judges, using the Ten Commandments (His Law) as His standard; if you were to die today and stand before God, would He find you innocent or guilty of breaking His Law?" I asked.

"I would be guilty." He answered.

"And if God finds you guilty of breaking His Law, do you think you would go to heaven or hell?" I asked.

"Well, I hope I would still go to heaven." He answered.

"I'm sure you would like to go to heaven. But based on God's standard of the Ten Commandments, where do you think you would go?" I asked.

"Based on that standard, I would go to hell." He answered.

"Does that concern you?" I asked.

"Yes it does." He answered.

"Do you know what God did so that you might not face eternity in hell?" I asked.

"He sacrificed His life." He answered."That's right." I affirmed. "Bob, have you ever been in a courtroom?" I asked.

"No." He answered.

"But you're familiar with what goes on in a courtroom, right?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered.

"Let's say that just as you've admitted to breaking God's Law, you break man's law. You are caught. You confess to committing the crime. And the evidence is against you. You're guilty. You're standing before the judge on the day of sentencing. The judge looks at you and says, 'Bob, you're guilty of breaking the law. The just sentence for your crime is a one-million-dollar fine or life in prison.' Could you possibly pay a one-million-dollar fine?" I asked.

"No." He answered.

"Neither could I. The fine is beyond what I could ever pay." I said. "So, the judge is about to send you to prison for the rest of your life, when someone walks into the courtroom—someone you have never met.

"The man walks up to the judge's bench and puts one million dollars on the judge's bench. He looks at the judge and says, 'Your Honor, I've sold everything I own. I've given up everything and I've raised one million dollars. Because I love Bob, I want to pay his fine. Please let him go.'

“The judge looks at the payment, and then he looks at you. You’re still guilty of breaking the law. That hasn’t changed. But the judge sees that your fine has been paid. Justice has been served. The law has been satisfied. The judge says to you, ‘Bob, your fine has been paid. You’re free to go.’

“Bob, would that be good news to you?” I asked.

“Yes it would.” He answered.

“What would you think of the person who did that for you?” I asked.

“I would be grateful.” He answered.

“Bob, that’s what God did.” I said. “God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ—fully God, while, at the same time, fully man. He lived a perfect, sinless life. And He died a bloody, horrible death on the cross, taking upon Him the punishment you deserve for breaking God’s Law. He paid the fine you should pay for every time you have lied, stolen, blasphemed the name of the God who gave you life, committed adultery, and for any other sin you have committed against God. Three days later He rose from the grave and He is alive today.

“But it’s not enough to simply believe these facts in your head. Have you ever been on a plane?” I asked.

“Yes.” He answered.

“Think of it this way. You and I are on a plane. The pilot comes over the speaker and says that the plane’s engines have lost power and that the plane is going to crash. He tells us that we are going to have to jump out of the plane and that there are parachutes under our seats.

“We look under our seats and we find the parachutes. We believe they are there. We are happy that they are there. The plane drops to about 10,000 feet. The doors open and we are told to jump for our lives. I put my parachute on. You don’t put your parachute on. We both jump out of the plane. Which one of us is going to survive the jump?” I asked.

“You are.” Bob answered.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you put on the parachute.” He answered.

“And that’s what it means to have a genuine, saving faith in Jesus Christ.” I said. “In order to be saved from receiving the just penalty for your sins, which is eternity in hell, you must put on the Lord Jesus Christ the same way you would put on a parachute—trusting Him to save your life, the way you would trust a parachute to open when you jump out of the plane.

“Bob, you need to turn from your sins. This is called repentance. You need to turn from your sins and, by faith, put your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. You will never be good enough to earn or deserve God’s grace and mercy. Neither will I. No one is. Trying to be a good person won’t save you. Going to church and doing good works won’t save you. Only Jesus Christ can save you. Bob, I don’t want you to go to hell.

“The promise is this. If you turn from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, instead of receiving what you deserve when you stand before God—which is eternity in hell, you will receive what you don’t deserve—which is His grace and mercy, and eternity with Him in heaven.”

I reached into my back pocket a removed a tract wallet that was given to me by my friend, Ray Comfort. Inside the wallet I keep $1 and $5 bills, along with billion-dollar gospel tracts. I pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to Bob.

“Bob, you didn’t pass the good person test. No one can. I know I certainly can’t pass the test.” I said. “But just to show you that I’m not playing games with you, I want you to have this $5 bill. It’s an example of grace. The definition of grace is receiving something you don’t deserve, something you haven’t earned. It’s a free gift. Likewise, salvation is a free gift.”

I also removed a billion dollar gospel tract from my tract wallet and handed it to Bob. “And thanks a billion for talking to me today. You will find much of what we have talked about, on the back of the tract.”

We shook hands and said good-bye. As Michelle and I walked out of the auto parts store, I noticed that several of the store employees and customers had been listening to my conversation with Bob. Michelle and I walked to our car praising God—thanking Him for the opportunity to preach the gospel in an auto parts store.

Pray that Bob, and anyone else who heard the preaching of the Law and the Gospel, will be drawn by the Holy Spirit, to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Jerry Parker said...

Nice T-shirt! LOL. Wow, this is so encouraging to see God using a T-shirt as a tool to share the Gospel. Praise Him!!! And thanks Tony for being faithful to Him brother.