Sunday, January 9, 2011

Lessons in reaching people in love and truth

We are seeing the Gospel go forth in Key West on the streets, in homes, at the library, parks, and many more locations. I think that what  is important is that we "go" and tell, not stay inside the building and hope people show up. We have found that one of our greatest assets is just being out on the steps to greet passersby. We say "Hello" and many will stop to talk. We all wave to the trolleys and tour trains as they pass. We ask where folks are from, and many stop to ask about the church that gathers here. This is a good chance to share why we moved here, and the desire of this church to see souls saved and receive eternal life in Jesus Christ. 

I met a man last week at the library who just arrived from Michigan, a philosophical type who was quite friendly and has spent much time trying to find the truth about God, our reason for living, and is serious about living what he believes. This man was not like many proud folks seeking to have God bend to their demands, but really seeking to know what God wanted and honestly seeking. Some folks we meet seem to love to argue and point out how often man perverts God's Word for his own gain, but we are happy to be able to show them that not all calling themselves by the name of Jesus Christ are like that. It is sad that we even have to defend the Christian name, and we recognize that there are far too many attempting to use "godliness as means of gain" and leading many to doubt God's Word. We just want simply to be Jesus to them, to show His love and mercy, to proclaim Jesus as the only way, the truth, and the life. We must humble ourselves daily before the Lord and realize that we are His ambassadors. 

One of the local brothers and myself talked to this man outside the library for nearly an hour, finding out what influenced his  thoughts  about spiritual things, and were able to point him to the authority of God's Word, the eternally holy Father God that will judge sin, but desires repentance and salvation for all. He had a hard time comprehending a God that would send people to Hell, but believes in a God that takes people to eternal life in Heaven. This is pretty common to human nature, and I find that many religious folks do the same, wanting to see what God will do for us, but neglecting our responsibility to Him. This is basic human nature, but this man seemed quite honest about his attempts to find truth and understand it. 

He agreed to listen to the Bible's take on these things, as he brought the Bible into the discussion. So now, he is trying to figure out where to go from here. He believes the good parts of the Bible, but not the parts that condemn sinners. He feels that Hell may be real, but could only be temporary, a refining fire that burns off the bad and leaves only the good. We talked about this and other points from Scripture, and he listened. I enjoyed finding out more about my new friend, where he came from and what shaped his opinions on spiritual things. 

I think we often spend too much time talking and not enough time listening. We need to ask more questions and be willing to listen to the answers, as my dear brother Justin has been trying to tell me for years. I am often so excited to tell the good news to someone that I don't have a clue where they are coming from. I am learning, day by day, by God's grace to submit my will to the Lord and really learn more about those I meet in order to reach them, and God is blessing that desire even though I often fail. 

If we have the truth (and we do) and we lean on the Holy Spirit to guide our speech, we need not have some cleverly crafted speech that gets in the way of what God wants to do, we have to submit to the Lord's leading in every conversation. We must know God's Word and use it properly, in context, to reach out to precious souls that God created and Jesus died for. This can never be just an exercise in intellectual debate, and I have found that the more I really try to see where someone is coming from, that I need to have an intimate knowledge of Scripture to answer honest questions about God's character and His revealed plan for mankind. This keeps me in God's  Word often, ravenously seeking to know more of the mind of God in how we can present the message in truth, not letting human wisdom and debate trump God's. 

I believe this man we met is hungry for the truth, and I have been keeping up these last few days via text message. The last message I got yesterday said that he "won't promise to attend religiously, but I want to come tomorrow". We invited him to stay for lunch and he said he would most likely stay. We also have "Open Casa Monday" where we invite any contacts in the community out for supper. Others from this week have said they would come to that, though in reality most never show up. This man seems to be different, and I hope to get to know him better and truly love him like Jesus does. 

Olatunde ,a local brother here, was with me when I met this man, and will be speaking this morning during our teaching time. We look forward to getting to know this man better, and sharing more of God's Word with him. Please pray for conviction of sin toward God and his eternal salvation. I see his hunger and desire to find  truth, I pray that he opens his heart to the beckoning of the Holy Spirit and submits to the Lord in humility and repentance. 

This is just one of dozens of such conversations we have each week. Some have hardened their hearts to the Gospel, some have been hurt by "religion" and those calling themselves by the name of Jesus Christ. Still others are brothers and sisters in Christ that we can encourage and fellowship with, and we hope to be a source of unity in the body of Christ, true unity in the Spirit that is far too uncommon in this day. Pray with us that the hard hearts and the broken hearts will see God's love and justice in truth and come to Christ today for mercy, forgiveness, and salvation. Pray for us all as we go through our daily lives, each with unique struggles, but every one reminding us of our desperate need for the Holy Spirit's guidance as we seek to do His will and make Jesus known in all the earth, which for us starts in Key West. 

" Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. 
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love 
remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! Good and upright is the LORD; 
therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 
He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way." 
Psalm 25:4-9 ESV

1 comment:

  1. Our new friend joined us for the church meeting today, and enjoyed the teaching (as did I), staying for lunch and then a few hours of singing, playing music together, and we even recorded a little acapella singing of "Joy to the World" in between our discussion of God's Word and many such topics. Our friend plans to return for supper on Open Casa Monday Night, and we will probably sing a little too!