7/11/12 Robert, about 24
Robert is a Marine from Tennessee who just finished a tour of duty in Afghanistan. He was standing outside a bar at the beach in North Carolina where I handed him a million dollar gospel track as a conversation starter. He immediately recognized it and told me he has received several others, including one that was left in his truck after someone broke the window. We tried to figure out how that could have happened, which led to talking about his beliefs. He grew up Catholic in a Bible-belt town full of Baptists, and is thoroughly indoctrinated in two central beliefs: 1.) That the way to heaven is by being a good person, and 2.) That he is most definitely a good person. He knows he isn't perfect, so telling him that "all have sinned" as Romans 3:23 says only helps him find safety in numbers because he feels he is morally better than most people. Actually, knowing "all have sinned" is more valuable to me as I share the gospel, because it reassures me that everyone needs what Jesus gives - forgiveness and a right relationship with God. It lets me know that Robert needs what I call a "personal relationship" with his sin. He needs to take personal responsibility for going against what he knows to be right and, ultimately, rebelling against God. I tried almost every explanation I know to help Robert understand that he isn't the good person he thinks he is, but to no avail. He either denied any guilt or had excuses for every sin he commits. "Surely God understands that the world is far more full of temptation now than it was back in Bible times, especially for a young guy like me." he said. The Bible teaches that the way to salvation is through repentance and faith in Jesus, but if a person thinks they have no reason to repent, why should we move on to their need for faith in Jesus? Biblical evangelism calls for "law to the proud and grace to the humble". I could see no indication of humility in Robert, so I felt there was no point in moving on to talking about grace. However, we had discussed much about sin and next to nothing about Jesus, and it felt horrible to me. I love to tell the good news of forgiveness in Christ to hearts that can admit their sin and their need for a savior, but Robert never did. I decided to leave him with this thought - "Whom did Jesus die for, sinners or good people?" "Good people who have made mistakes" - Robert answered. "No, the Bible teaches that Jesus died on behalf of sinners, and until you can admit your need to repent from your sins, you won't believe you need a savior." Please pray for Robert and his brother and several others who listened in on our conversation, that they will drop their pride so God can indeed give grace to the humble.