Twice this week I've had the experience of sharing the Gospel with people who seemingly understand it. Twice this week I've walked away from those conversations with an overwhelming amount of uncertainty. However, of these two conversations there was hope and joy that the Lord is sovereign and He will do His will as He sees fit.
One, a co-worker returned to work and commented about a conversation we had previously regarding the realities of Hell. Although I noticed the look of concern upon their face when I initially dropped them off, all that I could do was pray that the Lord was using that conversation to reach them. This co-worker's comments were refreshing and comforting. What they had said assured me that the Lord is working all things together for His purposes and is revealing His plan of salvation to all people everywhere. This person's comments were, "After what you said to me, I've been thinking a lot about it. If I were to stand before God, I would have nothing to say to Him, or any justification for why I should be allowed into heaven." Since that conversation, our interactions and conversations have seemed to change 180 degrees! Please pray for this persons salvation and that the Lord continues to soften their heart.
Secondly, it's always interesting how the Lord continues to put you in places you least expect it, especially when it comes to people you thought you'd never see again. A decade ago I had a group of friends that was pretty tight nit. We did everything together, legal and illegal. If you were to label it, it was our "gang" and we never caused too much trouble, just enough to stay entertained. We also partied together, drugs, booze, and other illicit activities that don't warrant much mention. Eventually this group began to break up and everyone was going their own ways after high school. We all sporadically remained in touch over the years, some more than others, but eventually not like we used to.
As a result of our separations we all learned very quickly what real life was about, and it was no longer a joke or game. We all also continued to embrace our partying habits as if it were not a hindrance. The escalation of these habits were inevitable and 90% of us graduated to harder things, some sooner than others. As a matter of fact, all of us had resulted to using cocaine, heroine, meth, and many other hard drugs. Making a long story short, 28 years old being the median age amongst us, two have died and the remaining are hanging on to a thread called life.
One of these individuals has resurfaced and become reachable. I received a phone call two friends of mine were in the hospital and one was about to have her leg amputated from blood poisoning (resultant of heroin use). The other, my best friend from high school is there with her, and barely a shell of a man. The last time we spoke was at the funeral of our mutual friend who had also died from a heroin habit. My own heroin habit became as bad, if not worse than the rest of us, eventually leading to homelessness, but all of the group has become hopelessly lost and addicted and show no sign for the better. With this common thread running between us I called ahead to the hospital to inform them I was coming. They didn't know who to expect, junkie James, or a clean James.
The strongest testimony that I could've laid out before my friend was that I've been drug free since the last time we saw each other 2 1/2 years ago. Greater than that is the fact that its been almost 4 years since I last used heroin. He was amazed at this accomplishment and surprised that everyone is still hooked on heroin. He thought he was the worst and least of us all. I explained to him what it was that has kept me clean. I spoke to him about what really happened when I first got clean, and that Jesus Christ shattered my hard heart and made it new. I also told him that if he were willing to come 49% of the way, I would come 51% to help him. He nodded in all the appropriate places, agreed with all the things he should have, and even admitted to his need for help from God. But to no avail, the immediate evidence was not enough to give hope. I told him that he needed to cry out to God for forgiveness and ask Him to save him.
Joh 6:37 NASB "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out."
I did my best to make it clear to him that no program, simple little prayer, or church attendance would change him. He has a heart condition that can only be changed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and I hugged him, told him I loved him and promised to be there for him. I hope to return and speak with him further in the coming weeks, as they will be there for another three.
It's a daunting task to know that you can be utilized by God to convey a message and Gospel that utterly changes lives. It's also very encouraging to know that no matter what, your efforts are nil without the power of Christ behind them. Ironically, without Him, you are just blabbering jibberish that the human heart rejects and disdains on it's own. There have been many moments when I thought I would never see my friend again, and was just waiting for the phone call for the funeral to come. But maybe, just maybe, the change in my life that Christ has done will be the evidence provided to my friend that Christ can do that for him as well.
While it seems that both of these encounters illustrate that they "understood" their need and their sin, does it mean they really "understood?". Just as the Ethiopian Eunuch read the scroll and learned about the prophecy of Christ, he needed someone to explain it to him, and the Lord utilized that to bring about repentance and faith in Christ! (Romans 10:14-15)
When there's apprehension or reluctance to go and preach the Gospel to others, I always keep this in mind, they may not be here much longer. The doors Christ opens are often obvious and we must constantly observe and demonstrate obedience toward Him and His calling on our lives to be faithful ministers of the Gospel. And if that reluctance strikes and discouragement comes, just remember we've been instructed and commanded!
Mat 28:18-20 NASB And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. (19) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."