1/17/13 Joseph 22
Today a young man on the sidewalk named Joseph, 22, told me “I don’t know whether I believe in God, but I do know I have a purpose in life. I don’t know what that purpose is yet, but I do know I have one and I’m slowly figuring it out.” I pointed out that the very fact that he has a purpose points to the existence of a God who made him for a reason. We went on to a good conversation about how he can be forgiven despite his sins against God. “Only through faith in what Jesus has done on the cross – not in our own good works – can we find the forgiveness we need to be in a right relationship with God.” Joseph’s search for “purpose” reminded me of the “Four Spiritual Laws” approach to evangelism, beginning with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. I don’t doubt that God’s plans are perfect, but are they really “wonderful” in the sense that the typical unbeliever thinks of the word? Or are we setting people up for a selfish, man-centered and distorted view of the gospel when we take that approach? Paul wrote about God’s plans in a way we might find hard to accept in our “me”-centered theology: “Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?” (Romans 9:21-22) What? Some people are “prepared for destruction”? How then can we truthfully say that God has a wonderful plan for people? This Bible passage can’t be taken lightly and often takes believers a lifetime to comprehend and accept. It can’t be understood through sound-bites. It forces us to come to terms with God’s right to give and withhold mercy as He pleases. It should keep us from trying to share our faith with hollow, easily misunderstood promises of a “wonderful plan” that we think people want and focus instead on the wonderful forgiveness in Christ that we all really need.