8/6/13 Raphael about 60
I’ve been engaging in Spanish conversations at a park near my house in preparation for an upcoming church outreach trip to Mexico. I use “million dollar” gospel tracks as conversation starters, and when I find out the person only speaks Spanish I engage in a longer dialogue. A retired teacher named Raphael, however, was an English speaker, but he didn’t want me to just walk away after I gave him the gospel tract. “Do you have anything else I can read about this?” he asked. It turned out he is very interested in learning more about the things of God. “I have several Christian friends, and I’ve gone to church with them. I admire their faith, I really do, but I just can’t find it in me to believe like they do.” he told me. This brought to mind several scripture passages as I offered him counsel in reply. First, I told him about my own conversion experience, how I truly feel that I didn’t choose to believe, but just sort of “woke up” after hearing the Gospel and found myself believing. “Jesus described it as being ‘born again’ “ I told Raphael. “We can’t reduce the way God works to a magic formula or a set series of steps. Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus described it like the wind - “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3) Second, in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, we are told that even the greatest miracle – a dead man rising from the dead – isn’t enough to bring a person to salvation. ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” (Luke 16) Even the fact that Raphael had high respect for his friend’s faith wasn’t enough to save him. He needed to believe “Moses and the prophets” – the Law and warnings of God’s judgment. Many Christians, mistakenly in my opinion, use a “bait and switch” approach to sharing their faith. They convince their friends how happy and blessed they are as believers, and wait to tell them about the need for repentance much later. No wonder someone like Raphael becomes disillusioned and finds it hard to believe, especially when things get tough, so I told him right away of his need for repentance. Third, I thought of Paul’s admonition - “…how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10) – so I preached/shared the gospel with Raphael and advised him to put himself under the preaching and teachings of the Bible regardless of his unbelief. Finally, I encouraged him to pray the prayer of the desperate father of the spirit-possessed boy in Mark 9 - “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”. I told him I would be praying for him, and went on to other conversations. As I walked by later, I saw Raphael, now with his wife, poring over the literature I had given him. I think he does have some belief – please pray for his unbelief!