6/26/12 Pedro, about 35
I used to think that the ability to disciple others required a much deeper understanding of theology than did simple evangelism. That was before I began to share my faith on a daily basis. While it is true that, like the Samaritan woman at the well, one need only have a living relationship with Jesus in order to be able to witness to others about it, the reality is that if I want to confidently approach strangers about matters of faith I had better be ready for all manner of challenges to Christian belief. It also helps to study the doctrines of cults and other religions in order to quickly identify them and get to the heart of their divergence from biblical Christianity. This usually has to do with their understanding of Jesus' divine nature and our relationship with God and need for forgiveness. For example, I met a man named Pedro at a park who told me he believes in God, but does not believe in heaven or hell. He believes he will simply cease to exist when he dies. This sounded to me like the Jehovah Witness (JW) teaching about the annihilation of unbelievers, and when he mentioned his wife's involvement with the JW's I soon found out that he is the lone holdout in a family of devout JW's. Now it might seem easier and more tolerant to simply overlook their different beliefs about Jesus, but I was able to explain to Pedro how the JW view differs from biblical Christianity and why it is important. In brief, they believe Jesus is the archangel Michael, a being created by God rather than the incarnation of the Creator God Himself. God's justice requires a just penalty for sin, and since our sin is ultimately against God Himself who has infinite worth and value, a just penalty would also require a sacrifice of infinite worth or value. The two ways in which God's justice is satisfied are either the eternal punishment of hell, or the substitutionary punishment of His only Son on the cross. If Jesus were only a created being with limited worth, His death wouldn't satisfy God's justice. I used a brief analogy to illustrate this to Pedro. I reminded him of the man in Iraq who threw his shoe at President Bush. If he had thrown his shoe at a dog on the street he probably wouldn't have been punished. If he threw his shoe at a regular man on the street, he might be charged with a misdemeanor. But throwing his shoe at the President led to a punishment of several years in jail. How much greater should the punishment be if he somehow threw his shoe at God? Two times greater? Ten times? Would it not be infinitely greater? Like all analogies, I'm sure this one breaks down at some point but I think it helps illustrate important theological concepts about the justice and infinite holiness of God and the infinite evil of our sins against Him. No mere angel or other created being can take the punishment we deserve. If Jesus isn't God incarnate, Pedro can have no hope for forgiveness, and neither will his JW wife or children - no matter how many doors they knock on.