Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Saturday Afternoon at Burbank Town Center

I spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon at Burbank Town Center, with Leon, Lin, Ty, and Mike (pictured to the right). John and Justin dropped by and spent a couple of hours with us. During a 4-hour period, through open-air preaching and one-to-one and small group conversations, we shared the Law and the gospel with a couple hundred people. We also recorded quite a bit of video, some of which I hope will be acceptable and useable for the third season of the Way of the Master television show.

Our team was small yesterday, and traffic through the public square was light, but everyone on the team stayed busy, with plenty of people to engage in conversation. Leon joined my in open-air preaching. Mike began the afternoon with one of the toughest skeptics we talked to all day. Ty and Lin manned the cameras, with Lin engaging several people in conversation.

As for me, I talked to a thoughtful yet skeptical law student that said, “I want to believe.” The difficulty he had was in trusting the reliability of Scripture.

I asked him how he determined the reliability of the law books he reads for his classes. He told me that he listens to others who have read the books, comparing the books to other texts, comparing what he reads with what he hears from his professors, and testing what he reads against his experiences. So, I talked to him about the thousands of pieces of manuscript evidence, with copies as close as 100 years of the original writings; the fact that new archaeological discoveries further validate the truth of Scripture every day, but no such discoveries have invalidated Scripture; and the evidence of the tens of millions of people whose lives have been changed by following the Bible’s clear teaching of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, for salvation.

The young man walked away realizing that he could no longer hang his skeptical hat on the unreliability of Scripture, which left him even more concerned about his eternal destination. However, he was genuinely thankful for the conversation.

I talked to a professing Christian who found the use of the Law in evangelism to be offensive. When I presented her with the “Three Minutes to Live” scenario, all she could tell me was to believe in Jesus and confess him with my mouth. When I told her I didn’t believe in Jesus, she gave up. She simply said, “Well, God bless you.” Even though I was dying, she couldn’t bring herself to warn me of what I was about to face, as I stood before God. I would later learn that she believed baptism was required for salvation. Her inability (or lack of desire) to articulate the gospel, plus her belief that the work of baptism is necessary for salvation, led me to believe that I was talking to a false convert who may never come to genuine repentance and faith (Hebrews 10:26-31).

I talked to a young, married couple that, our of curiosity, approached me to take a couple of humorous intelligence tests and the “Good Person Test.” As I took the young man through the courtroom analogy, after he appeared very humbled by the Law, he put his hand on my shoulder and confessed that he and his wife were new Christians who are being baptized tomorrow! Unlike the professing Christian, these new followers of Christ found the use of the Law to be fascinating and effective, and they were hungry to learn more about this biblical evangelism principle.

I talked to a group of three teens, all from different ethnic backgrounds. One of the three expressed no concern about dying and standing before God on Judgment Day—that is, until I used the Virginian Tech massacre to show him that he really did value his life.

I looked at the young man and said, “It’s last Monday morning. You are an engineering student awaiting classes to begin in Norris Hall. You hear screams and gunshots. What would you do? Would you hide under a desk, or would you stand in front of the gunman and say, ‘shoot me?’”

The young man admitted he would hide from the gunman. I then posed the question if he would seek to protect his physical life, shouldn’t he be even more concerned about his soul, about where he will spend his eternal existence. He conceded the point. I went on to share the gospel with all three, since they all showed concern about facing God on Judgment Day.

I talked to a teen that is a regular visitor during our Friday night outings. He wanted to know how he could get out of a ticket if stopped by the police. I think I finally helped him to realize that where he will spend eternity is infinitely more important than his driving record.

I was able to put a copy of Take Up The Shield into the hands of three Burbank police officers that walk through the public square. And I had one quickly moving heckler, during a session of open-air preaching, who simply stomped by shouting over and over again, “You’re an idiot!” It was a good day. Thanks be to God for each and every opportunity each of us had to share the Law and the gospel, with lost and dying souls.

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