[A snapshot of life outside P&P]
Scene: While training a new hire at UPS this morning . . .
Anne: So you being a missionary and all, do you try to persuade people to believe in Christianity?
Timmy: Absolutely. I would love to persuade you to believe in Jesus.
Anne: You mean that people actually are persuaded and believe?
Timmy: That’s correct. There’s a guy down there who is a supervisor on _________ belt. I encourage you to go ask him about Jesus and when He changed his life. There are others as well. Can I tell you their stories?
Chad: So you are a Roman Catholic I hear?
Timmy: Not exactly. I am a Christian, meaning that I have trusted in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. Do you profess a faith Chad?
Chad: No. Well, I was raised Roman Catholic, but I don’t believe in any of it anymore. I mean, I believe in God, that he created us, but that’s it.
Timmy: So would would you consider yourself an agnostic, atheist, or deist?
Chad: I’m not sure really.
Timmy: Just curious, but how do you know that God exists, and that he has created life? In other words, how do you know what God is like?
Chad: Well, I just know it to be true, kind of like I know what is right from wrong.
Timmy: True. But why do you think we as human beings are given a conscience? Does that not make us moral beings?
Chad: I guess, but that does not mean that what is right for me has to be right for anyone else.
Timmy: But we all are moral beings, don’t you agree?
Timmy: Then what grounds our morality is the fact that we were created in the image of God, who is moral. God says he is holy and righteous, and our conscience continually reveals to us that we are not holy and righteous. That’s why we feel guilty. We are living in moral rebellion against God. The Bible calls this sin.
Chad: But how do you know what God is like?
Timmy: Well, God has chosen to reveal to us what he is like. No one has the right to define or describe God except himself. Any other definition would be an idol because God cannot be subject to any other being in the world. And God has revealed Himself to all people outwardly in creation and inwardly in conscience. But he has also revealed Himself fully in Jesus Christ and the Scriptures which He has given us.
Chad: Well, I just cannot believe. Unless I see God for myself, I cannot believe.
Timmy: Chad, even if you could see, you still would not believe. Many saw Jesus in his day and lived in unbelief. You are living in sinful rebellion against God, and your heart is darkened to the truth about Jesus Christ.
Chad: I guess that’s true. But I don’t go to church because I don’t like it. It really bothers me.
Timmy: Of course you are going to be bothered. It is in the church you are told that you have a big problem that you cannot fix. You are bothered about it because you are under conviction, and you know as well as I that the truth hurts sometimes.
Timmy: Imagine with me that tomorrow you woke up feeling really sick, and you go to the doctor. He does some diagnostic tests and brings you the horrible news that you have cancer. I am sure that news would bother you, wouldn’t it?
Chad: Of course it would!
Timmy: Right. Then the doctor tells you that in order to deal with this problem of cancer, you are going to have to undergo immediate surgery to remove the cancer cells and undergo radiation and chemotherapy for the next six months. That would be an extremely painful experience. But if you didn’t do it, you wouldn’t be healed.
Chad: I agree, so what’s your point?
Timmy: My point is that you cannot see the cancer, yet you believe the diagnosis to be true. This is a matter of faith. On account of the doctor’s word, you act on the information he has told you about your sick condition and agree to undergo surgery in order to be healed. Chad, you have a much greater sickness, a sin sickness, that covers your entire nature–your mind, heart, and will. It is painful to the bad news. But in Jesus there is good news. God, through the sending of His Son Jesus to die on a cross provided a way for us to have a new nature and a new heart. Just like you have faith on account of the doctor’s word, you must likewise believe on account of God’s Word that you need Jesus who alone can do surgery in your heart and give you new life.
Chad: I see what you are saying. Makes sense. But are you telling me that I have to believe in Jesus, and if I don’t, I will go to hell?
Timmy: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man can come to the Father except through Me.” Anyone who does not believe in Jesus will die and go to hell.
Chad: Anyone who says that is an asshole. That is crazy for someone to say that you must believe in “me” or else you are going to hell! That’s ridiculous!
Timmy: What you are calling an asshole statement I consider a very loving statement. Chad, you believe that 2+2=4, right?
Chad: Of course.
Timmy: So if you say that 2+2=5, and I tell you that you are wrong, does that make me an asshole? You see, there can be only one answer for 2+2. It is four. I know that sounds intolerant, but I would be lying to you if I said that it was anything else but four. In the same way, there is only one answer to the problem of sin. It is not in being a good person, faithful church attender, or devoutly religious. The only answer is believing in Jesus as the only one who can forgive you of your sin. There are no other answers; therefore it is truthful. There are no people who do not have this problem; therefore, to share with you the answer is most loving.
Chad: Oh, I guess I have never thought of it like that.
Timmy: Here’s another way to think of God’s love. Imagine you were a convicted criminal guilty of murder in the first degree. You know you are guilty. The evidence is everywhere. The verdict from the judge is the sentence of death. Yet before the judge sentences you, someone else steps in, completely innocent, and chooses to take the punishment for the crime you committed. As a substitute, he takes your place, and instead of death, you get life. If someone gives up their life to pay the punishment you deserve by dying the death you are supposed to die, is this act of sacrifice the most loving expression you could ever know?
Chad: (pausing without a response)
Timmy: You see, Chad, this is what Jesus did for sinners. We are guilty before God. We have offended him with our sin, and what we all deserve is death. Yet Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves by dying on the cross for our sin so that we may have life. In the presence of such necessary justice, there is unfathomable love directed towards us who are guilty. This is the love God wants you to know and experience.
Chad: (again pausing and musing) Uh, I think it is time for me to go on break . . .
Father of mercies, would you open Chad’s heart like you did Lydia’s? You who let light shine in darkness can cause the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ to shine in his heart that he might believe in you. The god of this world has blinded Chad from believing, and the world’s vain philosophies have taken his mind captive. I pray that the cross no longer be foolishness to him, but that he would be called to You by Your Spirit to know its power. Help me to take every thought captive and bring it to obey Christ, demolishing every stronghold set up against the knowledge of Him. I am so insufficient for these things, but I do pray that you make me the fragrance of Christ to spread the knowledge of Him everywhere, to those perishing as well as to those who are being saved. My desire is to make much of Jesus, and in doing so help coworkers like Chad to be happy in Him. Do it, O Lord I pray, for your name’s sake. Amen.