Monday, May 21, 2007

The Message is Always the Same

Amanda and I prayed during most of the half-hour drive from our home to the Burbank Town Center. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was opening weekend for the movie "Shrek 3." We were looking forward to large crowds. But the largest sustained crowd in the area, throughout the afternoon was our relatively small team of evangelists (pictured above).

My first (and only) open-air preaching effort was a total bust. Even offering dollar bills and stuffed animals as prizes for answering trivia questions (a tactic that always draws a crowd) didn't work. So, we focused our efforts on one-to-one conversations, using our "Intelligence Test" display boards and "free books" table to get the people's attention.

Instead of drawing the attention of unbelievers, our first several conversations were with people who, as best as we could tell, were followers of Jesus Christ. After about an hour, I was concerned that we would spend the afternoon "preaching to the choir."

However, we kept at it, content with encouraging Christians, if that is how the Lord would have us spend the day. We also distributed several hundred gospel tracts, so we were at least getting the gospel into the hands of a lot of people. We also gave away several bibles, copies of Ray Comfort's book, How To Live Forever Without Being Religious, and copies of my book Running Beyond Inspiration. I also gave away several copies of my book, Take Up The Shield.

As I tell my fellow evangelists, the only time we fail in evangelism (so long as it is done biblically) is when we fail to evangelize. We knew the Lord would use our efforts, no matter how small, for His glory.

Brian and his mom (pictured above) were examples of the kind of people we talked to during the first part of the afternoon. They were humbled by the Law, expressed understanding of and agreement with the gospel, only to end the conversation by professing that they had already repented and believed the gospel, and were attending church regularly. But God's Word never returns void. If they were not truly born again, they heard the Law and the Gospel. If they were truly born again, then they were encouraged by the Law and the Gospel. Click here to listen to my conversation with Brian and his mom.

My sister, Cheryl, had a good conversation with a young man named Paul (pictured above). Paul was another person who professed faith in Jesus Christ. However, he had some questions regarding what he believed was man's goodness and God's judgment. Cheryl invited me to join the conversation and together we took Paul through the Law and the Gospel. Like Brian and his mom, Paul asserted that he had already repented of his sin and, by faith, received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Paul was new to the Burbank area, so I pointed him to a church in the Burbank area where some friends are members.

As the day progressed, the Lord blessed me with conversations with a couple of unbelievers--two men who were polar opposites, but bound for the same eternal destination apart from Christ. The first of these two men with whom I spoke was Arnold. He formerly served as a special forces soldier and is now serving as a federal agent. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Rudy was the name of the second young man. He dressed like, talked like, and carried himself like a member of the street gang sub-culture. Of course, nowadays, that doesn't mean he is/was a member of a gang. When I asked Rudy where he would spend eternity if God found him guilty of breaking His Law, Rudy said he hoped to go to purgatory. You should have seen the look on Rudy's face when I explained to Rudy that purgatory doesn't exist, that purgatory is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, and that purgatory was something religious men contrived in order to make death more palatable. The look on his face and the tone of his voice was one of both surprise and genuine concern. Click here to listen to our conversation.

Neither men walked away having repented of their sin and having received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; but spiritual seeds were sown. Pray with me that God will cause an increase leading to salvation for both men.

As I look back on yet another good day of evangelism, I was encouraged by the following observation. Doing evangelism in a biblical way--using the Law of God to show people their need for God's grace, forgiveness, and salvation through Jesus Christ--is effective regardless of what kind of person is standing in front of you.

I talked to people from many different walks of life, on Saturday. I talked to people from several different ethnic backgrounds. I talked to people from different religious backgrounds and to people with no religious background whatsoever. I talked to people young enough to be one of my children and old enough to be one of my parents. I talked to a gang member, an ex-con, and a federal agent. Every conversation was friendly, even though I was confronting people with their sins against God and warning them about their eternal destination if they do not turn from their sin and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I unashamedly used words such as "hell," "wrath," "sin," and "judgment."

The point (one that I have made several times on this blog) is this. If we share the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did, and if we do so in such a way as to express genuine care and concern for the people with whom we speak, we can talk to anyone--regardless of what they believe, where they live, what they do for a living, or what they look like.

Are there times when the conversations turn adversarial, even heated? Yes. Not everyone wants to hear the truth. But more often than not, people welcome such conversations with people who care for them. There have been many times when people, even if they do not walk away changed, thank me for taking the time to talk to them. They are thankful because no one has ever shared these things with them.

As you listen to the audios from last weekend's evangelism effort, you will notice something else. The message is always the same. Again, it matters not who you are talking to. The message remains the same. While the content and context of conversations may change according to the need of the moment, the message itself does not change. There is but one gospel for this lost and dying world.

With whom will you share the Law and the Gospel today?

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