2/17/17 David about 45
Asking engaging questions and being an active listener are important to beginning authentic outreach conversations on the street and in the marketplace. Yesterday I asked a man named David for his views on life after death, and I sure did get an earful. He takes an "anything but God" approach to spiritual belief and told me about all his favorite theories he has read about and heard online. I listened patiently until it became apparent that he is simply enamored with his own imagination, speaking with an authoritative tone and dismissive of others to the point he has not even the patience to listen to anyone he may disagree with, such as my own based on the Bible.
So how can we capture the attention of those that only want to hear themselves talk? After I had listened long enough to engage David in conversation and understand his beliefs, it was time for a little push-back. But how? Jesus said “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." I could begin by telling David about God's love and salvation in Christ, but I could tell from the conversation that David would have trampled these precious truths under his feet. What he needed was some way to appreciate the good news of Jesus, and he was a long way from that. I could spread the seeds of the Gospel, but they would have fallen on the stony path of his hardened heart.
But God has given us a way to break up the stony ground of hardened hearts in preparation for Gospel seeds. He has given us a way to help people appreciate the precious truths of forgiveness and salvation. In Romans 3 we read that under God's moral law "…every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." David needed the law to help silence his mouth long enough for his ears to listen, so I broke in to his boastful musings and asked "What if you died today only to find out that God does exist and you are being held accountable before Him? How would you do according to God's standard?" I gave him a short "good person" test, using the law to help him become conscious of his sin. I personalized it, asking about specific sins, rather than simply referring to sin in general. Has he ever lied? He had, so that makes him a liar; he has stolen, so that makes him a thief. After five or so references to God's Commandments, David could see his sin more clearly, and now his mouth was silenced except for the questions he began to ask about how one might be forgiven.
So what is the dramatic end to David's story? Only God knows. What I saw in him was an intellectual concern, but not a heartfelt conviction. This is pretty typical of my Gospel conversations using God's law to show people their need for Christ. Proud people need the bad news about their sin and condemnation before they can appreciate the good news about forgiveness in Christ and a right relationship with God. For an excellent resource on initiating Gospel conversations like these, check out www.livingwaters.com