Monday, October 26, 2009

Taking The Gospel To Mormons

A few days ago, Kristie and I were dropping off our children at Grandma’s house so that we could make some pastoral visits together. As we drove onto her street, we saw a couple of Mormon missionaries knocking on doors. My heart became immediately heavy. I knew I had to engage those young men and share the true Gospel with them.
I prayed and had Kristie drop me off at the corner with my Bible. She parked and began praying for me. As I approached the young men, they were at the door of an elderly lady who looked quit perplexed. The lady asked if the guys were with me. I responded, “No Mam.” She said, “Good! You guys go talk to him!”
I invited the guys to step out to the sidewalk and out of the lady’s yard. I asked them what they were doing and they began to explain to me the message they were sharing. I had spent some time investigating Mormon doctrine and am well aware of their false belief system, which includes a false view of Scripture, a false view of God, and a false view of the atonement of Jesus Christ, just to name a few. As with most false religions, their message is works based. In fact, those two missionaries have devoted themselves to two years of service as part of their journey to merit Divine favor. This made for an interesting discussion when they asked my motive for stopping to talk with them, since I am not working for my salvation. I simply explained that I love the Lord, who saved me by His grace, and because of that I have a love for them. Therefore, I stopped out of a genuine concern for them.
I began talking to them about the One True God of the Bible, explaining the fall of mankind and the reality of our sinfulness. I pointed them to the law of God (the Ten Commandments), which demonstrates our lostness. I then explained that God is a Good and Just God, Who must punish sin. This, of course, poses a dilemma. How can a Good and Just God remain Just, while forgiving guilty offenders? That is where I highlighted the greatest act of love ever known, the cross of Jesus Christ. I explained that on the cross, Christ paid our sin debt in full, declaring from the cross, “IT IS FINISHED!” I told them that He completely wipes away our debt when we repent of sin and put our trust in Him ALONE for salvation, thus His work on the cross is credited to our account as payment in full. Our works add nothing to that Great Work. In fact, the teaching of “good works” as a necessity for salvation cheapens the message of the cross. I explained that genuine believers, who have been forgiven by God, respond by following the Lord in obedience. Thus, our good works are not the cause of our salvation, but instead result from having been saved.
We had some interesting dialogue concerning theology. I answered the questions they posed to me, continually pointing them back to the cross and the Gospel. As much as I wanted to debate them over their various points of belief, I was aware that ultimately, unless they heard the Gospel and responded to it with humility, I could debate and answer thousands of questions, to no avail. Therefore, I sought to keep the discussion cross-centered. I was able to go through the Gospel multiple times, making sure they understood clearly.
In the end, we shook hands. I again expressed my love and concern for them. I offered them a Gospel tract, which they accepted (very rare for a Mormon). As I walked away, praying for them, they got into their car and left the area. I do not know what will become of those guys. But this I do know, God allowed me to share the Gospel with them clearly, while avoiding my temptation to chase rabbits and debate. I do pray they will see the Love and the Glory of God in the atoning sacrifice of His Son on the cross. I pray they will grasp the reality that salvation is a gracious work of God in the lives of undeserving sinners, and not by human effort. Paul told the Ephesians, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9, NIV).

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Lesson From Batman

Several months ago, my family and I took a trip to Six Flags Over Georgia. We took some Gospel tracts with us and made it not only a family outing, but also a mission trip. It was great working with my boys to pass out Gospel tracts. But there is a personal experience I want to share with you.
While my wife took the two younger boys to enjoy some time in the Looney Tunes section, my older son and I went to partake of Batman The Ride. It is a crazy roller coaster that travels at speeds reaching 55 mph. As we were waiting in line I heard someone comment that this was the ride involved in the death of a teenager recently. Suddenly that became the talk of some in the crowd, as they began speculating and discussing how the tragedy took place. Yet as they discussed, there was a steady movement toward the ride. Finally, after a long wait, we got on the roller-coaster and fastened in so tight that there was barely room to breath. Then we were off, twisting and turning at high speeds. Then suddenly it was over. The ride lasted what seemed to be less than a minute. But then it happened! As we were pulling back into the terminal, the ride broke down. The operators began putting on their orange vests and came walking down to let us know that we would not be able to get off the ride until the maintenance man arrived and let us off.
It was hot out there and I remind you we were fastened in extra-tight. An extra bonus to our situation was a crew of young teenage girls screaming and singing really loud. I have never suffered from claustrophobia, but I began to understand what it is like. I could hardly breath and the sound of the screaming was becoming unbearable. Dallton was handling the situation much better than I was. I began to pray and quote scripture silently (Phil 2:5-11)...and after several minutes, the maintenance man arrived, fixed the problem and then we were set free.
I got to thinking about how that experience is much like the life of a lost person. We had spent 45 minutes waiting in line to get on a ride, all while ignoring the warning signs and tragic stories, and all for a one minute thrill that ended in suffering. But the difference maker was the messenger who came to tell us of our condition. The message was, “You are stuck here and there is nothing you can do to free yourself, and no one can help you, except the maintenance man.” The messenger enlightened us to the problem and then told us about the remedy; the maintenance man. Suddenly the maintenance man was the most important person on earth in the minds of everyone on that ride.
Friend, that is the Gospel. We live in a world filled with people who are going about life, experiencing little thrills here and there and ignoring the warning signs. Our job is to be the messengers that enlighten people to their problem and point them to the solution. This is the message, “You are in trouble! You are lost because you have sinned against God! You have broken God’s law! There is nothing you can do to save yourself and no one can save you, except Jesus Christ!” Suddenly that enlightens people to the reality that Jesus Christ is indeed the most important person in life, because He is indeed the Savior. A little while later, my son and I were walking through the park and we came upon the Superman ride. We looked at the long line and thought about partaking. But then we noticed that the ride was broken down and people were trapped. Of course we had learned our lesson, so we turned and walked away. And as we did, I thought to myself, “The maintenance man is coming.” And I looked at the sea of people walking the park, many will die without Christ. It reminded me that we have a big and important be messengers of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Christ Remains

I will never forget a story I read in The Times Picayune (the New Orleans newspaper) a few years ago. The story was of a young child (we will call him Chris) who had been abandoned by his father in a Metairie neighborhood.
As the story was told, Chris was regularly locked out of his house while his father both used and dealt drugs. On one of those evenings, as Chris stood outside in the mosquitoes, he heard his father talking to his girlfriend about getting rid of him. A few moments later, Chris was put into a car and carried across the city to a neighborhood. The father stopped the car, reached over and opened the door, and told him to get out. Like any terrified child, Chris began crying and begging his father to not leave him. His father punched him in the face, pushed him out of the car, and drove away. The paper reported that Chris chased the car, screaming apologies to his father, until the car was out of sight.
After wandering unfamiliar streets for a couple of hours, the frightened child approached the home of complete strangers. The resident of the home opened the door to find a scared and shattered little boy. Chris asked the lady if he could use the bathroom, then proceeded to tell his story. The Sheriff was called, Chris was picked up, and the father was later arrested.
As I read that story, my heart broke. My anger raged at the father. Yet, at the same time, I wanted to grab Chris and hold him tightly. What would happen to that young child? Where would he go? Who would take care of him?
The next morning, the cover story pictured Chris walking down an aisle at a local Wal-mart accompanied by his aunt and Jefferson Parish Sherif Harry Lee. The article noted that the aunt would be taking temporary custody of the boy and that the reason they were in Wal-Mart was that Sherif Lee was providing the boy with a shopping spree for clothes and even some toys.
What do you think the picture on the cover looked like? Well, it was not that of a child skipping through Wal-Mart on a shopping spree. Instead, the boy was pictured walking in front of the sheriff and his aunt, but looking back. My heart was gripped by the news that as the boy walked through the store, he was constantly looking back. He was looking back for security. The writer noted that the aunt finally sensed his anxiety and spoke the words that Chris desperately longed to hear, “I’m not going to leave you.” Can you imagine what those words must have sounded like to those young ears?
As I read that story, while my heart was indeed broken, I also was reminded of redemption, the magnificent reality that God Himself has sought out the lost of this world through His own Son, Jesus Christ. Because of the work of Jesus Christ, the lost are redeemed, the weak are made strong, the poor are made rich in Him. The redeemed in the Lord love and honor Him, not as giver of worldly things, nor as the source of our shopping sprees, but as our Great Redeeming Lord. Christ Himself becomes the Supreme Treasure of our lives. He is our Savior, our Shield, our Stronghold, our Source, our Sustainer. When all of life seems to be crashing down, Christ remains. In Scripture, God issued a promise to both Moses and Joshua, a promise also quoted by the writer of Hebrews, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5, NIV). We need never look back to see if God is still there. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13:8).