Friday, March 16, 2007

What comes to mind . . .

I thank God for the wonderful weather we’ve had the last few weeks, for with the warmer weather and the longer sunshine hours come people who linger after work downtown. I would like to say that the reason they linger is to hear the gospel, and providentially in God’s sovereignty this must be so, but they don’t realize it yet.

I’ve been praying that God would make our conversations more fruitful, more intentional and real than most would have in “cold call” evangelistic techniques. Now, I am not a person that converses well, and part of my prayer has included the request that God would make me a better listener. The answer to these prayers came through a board game (and I am not one who plays board games, save Chess perhaps) that caught me by surprise: The UN-game. This “Christian” version contained some questions that not only caused me to think, but struck me as the kinds of questions that can be used as spring-boards for conversations. I’ve honed the questions and the list down to these (some are not asked, but I have them on-hand to help guide through conversation). Since people love surveys, I ask them to help me with the following:

  • List four things for which you are thankful.
  • To whom are you thankful for these things?
  • Which of the following do you need most in your life right now: love, joy, peace or hope?
  • Has anyone ever said something like this to you: “God has a wonderful plan/purpose for your life?” What comes to you mind when you hear this? What do you think?
  • How do you think you are fulfilling your purpose/God’s purpose in life?
  • Do you have any spiritual goals?
  • When someone mentioned “God” or you heard “God” mentioned as a child, what came to your mind as you thought about God?
  • What do you think of Him now?
  • Give three reasons why you believe/don’t believe in God.
  • How would you describe God to someone (whether you believe or not).
  • Does God care about right and wrong?
  • Are God’s standards the same as ours?
  • Will God punish sin?
  • Is there a hell?
  • Do you avoid hell by living a good life?
  • Do you think good people should go to heaven?
  • Would you consider yourself to be a good person?

You know what I find as I use these questions? People are willing to spill their hearts out and someone (me) is willing to sit and listen while folks talk about their favorite subject: themselves!

Then I remember:
Proverbs 20:6, “Most men will proclaim their own goodness.”
Proverbs 16:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight; but the LORD weighs the motives.”

Since I’ve been thinking (and writing) in this area, “Does It Matter What I Believe?” I would like to zero in on one area of the survey: people’s thoughts about God. Of those I’ve surveyed, people have said their childhood impressions of God included: “no idea”; the Bible; some kind of spiritual being; someone who “is”; creator; a higher being or power; mysterious worker; no idol; “gonna get you.”

Here’s what folks think of God now: mysterious worker; good; #1; still think of Him as Creator, but . . .; some kind of spiritual being; forgiving; loving; great; one who pulls you through life.

In retrospect, I perhaps should have asked what made the change (if any) from early thoughts to present thoughts. After presenting the gospel, only one I spoke with would not see God as just, while another (see previous post) saw God as a Universal Savior and disbelieved in hell.

I am struck at how often people can come face-to-face with the reality of their sin, even admit their guilt and against God's perfect standard are fully deserving hell, but they will do nothing about it. I pray God works on their consciences!

Then I hear Jesus say this (my bold for emphasis): “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13).

This is so powerful, that He actually says it twice! Near the end of His ministry, there went this conversation:

And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, “Lord, open up to us!” then He will answer and say to you, “I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets”; and He will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.’ (Luke 13:22)

Of course, "strive" does not mean "work for your salvation." It means that entering through the narrow gate is like a tough squeeze--it costs everything to go through and people are not willing to let go of their sin. Everything, in effect, must come off. Like going through the airport security: everything must be shed (save the clothes, which in this case limits the illustration, but the principle is the same). Wallet, change, keys, PalmPilot, pens, pencils, whatever--it all goes in the tray before you can go through the gate. Set off an alarm, and you go back.

Same thing with eternal matters: shed it all, or go back. That first quote (Matt 7:13) actually carries the thrust of "there are few who enter even once," meaning, few only get the first chance to go through!

How horrible it is that so many hear the gospel and do not act on it. They think they will enter the Kingdom by recognition or by their intellectual consent without repentance. I am so burdened when I hear the disbelief in the God of the Bible, in the dismissal of hell or a Jesus that does not exist, when scripture speaks of the day to come when “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—“

Pray for those we meet. Pray that the god of this world will loose his kingdom and those who hear the gospel will be delivered into the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of light!

Reminder to self: we are casting seeds. Some sow, some water, but God causes the growth.

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