7/26/13 Ignacio about 45
Near the end of a gospel conversation on the sidewalk today, a well-dressed man named Ignacio told me “I’ve learned more in this short conversation with you than in all my years of attending mass and listening to the priest at my church!” It was a nice compliment to hear, but I needed to redirect his attention to the real reasons he had learned anything. We had already talked about basing our understanding of God’s truth on the Bible as God’s word rather than on human traditions or imaginations, but I also explained that “In church, the pastor or priest often feels limited in what they can teach from the Bible because they don’t want to scare people away; however there are many truths in the Bible that can be difficult or uncomfortable to hear, but we can’t just ignore them.” I had used God’s law to help Ignacio see his need for forgiveness, and I had called him not just to faith in Jesus, but to repentance, two sides of the same coin. Ignacio confessed that he felt he believes in Jesus, but can’t make the step of repentance for his sins. Is it possible to truly believe without repenting? I think of Peter in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, when he saw’ Jesus true nature in action when He filled his nets with fish. Peter came to a place of greater faith in Jesus and reacted with humility and, I believe, repentance: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) This kind of reaction can’t be conjured up by an act of the will, it can’t be duplicated by repeating someone else’s prayer. I believe repentance, like faith, is a gift of God, yet time and again throughout scripture we are called to repentance and to preach the need for repentance. So that’s what I did for Ignacio. I was glad he said he believed in Jesus, yet I know that true saving faith, by its very nature, involves repentance. So what more could I tell Ignacio? He knew he needed to repent but he didn’t feel he had the capacity to do so. “There is one thing you can do” I told him. “You can pray for repentance. That’s one prayer I know God will answer, because He wants everyone to repent.” I challenged him to make that his prayer, and I prayed for him, right there on the sidewalk, that he would do just that. Will you pray for him too?