6/17/14 Carlos, 21
Carlos, 21, was sitting at a table at a Burger King, minding his own business and enjoying a burger and fries. Suddenly, out of the blue, a stranger walked up to him and asked if he had time for an interesting question. “Have at it” Carlos said, so the stranger sat down and began to ask him some questions about eternity and God that he really hadn’t considered before. Carlos’ numerous tattoos proclaimed what was most important to him, revealing a worldly preoccupation and mindset that was confirmed by his lack of concern about spiritual things, but what the stranger was saying about God made a lot of sense, how God has given everyone a conscience or sense of right and wrong; how He has every right to expect that we will do good with the good gifts He has given us; how He will hold us accountable in the end for what we have done with the life and gifts He has given us; how we are not guaranteed another day of life and how we should consider how we might get into a right relationship with our Creator while we can. These were issues raised by a stranger in the mind of a young man who, only moments before, was probably wondering if they had put enough ketchup on his burger! That stranger was me. I am well aware that taking the initiative to begin witnessing conversations usually catches people off guard, and that many would say we need to wait until they are ready enough to initiate the conversation themselves, but I would disagree. My five years of daily gospel conversations has shown me that the reason most people don’t consider the things of God much is because they very comfortably believe themselves to be good people who deserve God’s blessings. They know they aren’t perfect but they believe that if there is a heaven they will be good enough to go there. We could wait for them to seek us out as Christians for answers, but they really see no need to do so until there is some sort of life crisis. Too often, however, that comes too late. This is one reason I am compelled to initiate Gospel conversations, and to use the law to show people their need for Christ. Yet, I don’t carry the conversation through to the “sinner’s prayer” as many evangelists do. I am slow to believe the people I talk to genuinely understand what they are called to believe. My half-hour conversation with Carlos may have woke him up to the possibility of some truths he had never considered, but I think it fell far short of helping him truly understand it. This last weekend, I had a conversation with a brother in the Lord and evangelist who correctly identified that and challenged my belief that intellectual knowledge of the Gospel normally comes before heartfelt belief. I feel the need to explain the Gospel before calling people to it, but he told of many instances in his witnessing conversations when people felt called to the truths of the Gospel before really understanding them, and so he often helps them pray a sinner’s prayer of faith in Jesus. Whereas I trust in the Holy Spirit to eventually bring people to a faith relationship with the Lord based on the new information my conversations bring; he trusts in the Holy Spirit to eventually bring people to the truths of the Gospel after having rather immediately helped them begin that faith relationship through an initial prayer. His background as a salesman, and mine as a teacher, might explain our differences. Either way I think we both understand salvation as the result of a regenerated heart that ultimately only comes by grace through faith in Jesus and the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.