Monday, July 14, 2008

If They Truly Knew

No one is good except God alone.
Luke 18:19
Research findings of the Barna group reveal that 83% of Americans identify themselves as Christians. 83%! Was that same 83% asked to define what they believe Christianity to be? If so, I wonder what they said. If not, I wonder what they would have said.

With each day that passes, I increasingly wonder how many people truly know what Christianity is. And the more that I think about it, the more I am convinced that most people just simply don't know what it is. The sad truth is that I grew up in the church, got saved when I was a sophomore in college, but I don't think I truly knew what Christianity was until after I had graduated from college. If someone had told me what it truly was when I was younger, would I not have believed then?

On Friday, a co-worker asked me if I wanted to come to lunch with a group of others who were going out. Being the introvert that I am, I hesitated before agreeing to go along, and then whispered a prayer to the Lord that He would give me an opportunity to witness for Christ over lunch.

We walked over to a new Indian buffet in town, got our food, and sat down to eat, each beginning on his or her own after filling a plate with delicious food. I sat down after a few of my co-workers had started eating and bowed my head for a short prayer (which I don't usually do with my non-believer co-workers), asking the Lord again to give me an opportunity to speak about Christ.

Very soon after, one of my co-workers said something to another co-worker about how I'm very religious. Now, I know that this is the way people today talk about spiritual things but I hate being called religious. The most religious people are the prideful ones who judge others and it was these that Jesus condemned. So I quickly took this opportunity to explain that this was the reason why I didn't think of myself as being religious.

Co-worker: What are you then?

Me: I believe the truth. Jesus Christ says He's the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And the truth is that I am a great sinner who needs a great Savior.

One of my co-workers, a Catholic, then went on to pronounce himself guilty of committing every single one of the "seven deadly sins." I'm slothful. I lust. I'm vain. And he just kept going.

Me: So why are you Catholic? What does it do for you?

Co-worker: It sets guidelines for us to know how to be good people.

Me: But didn't you just tell me that you are filled with all this evil?

Co-worker: Well as long as I'm nice to people and don't do anything too bad then that's good enough.

And therein lies the problem with almost everyone at work or wherever I go that I have attempted to talk to about God and Christ. They think that they just have to be good enough. And as long as that is the case, Christ is utterly irrelevant. All it takes is one thing, as the rich young ruler learned, to make Christ utterly irrelevant compared to the other things life holds out.

At this point, I simply asked: Can I tell you what I understand Christianity to be from the Bible?

They said yes. And so I proceeded in about 90 seconds to unfold the gospel. God has told us what it means to be good in His Word. None of us are able to live up to His standard. None of us is good. Because of that, we are guilty. All of us. But there is One who was good, Jesus Christ. And He lived a life that was perfectly good, doing what none of us could do. Then He died on a cross so that those who trust in Him as Lord would receive the reward of eternal life that He alone deserves for being good and He would take the punishment that we deserve for our inability to be good.

Co-worker: But wouldn't Jesus have had to suffer an eternity in hell for that to work?

Me: Yes, the suffering Jesus experienced on the cross was equivalent to an eternity in hell.

For a minute or two, as I had the great privilege of sharing the gospel with three of my co-workers (and any others who could have been listening in), it was a holy moment. But then (and I can't even remember how) someone moved us off topic and that was the end of that. It's amazing how quickly someone can go from talking about the most glorious realities in the universe to those things which, in comparison, are infinitely trivial.

I am convinced that the Christianity I told my co-workers about is not the Christianity they thought they knew about, even for one who grew up hearing about Jesus every day in school.

How many more is this true of?

More than we know.

Which is why I think that the 2009 Desiring God Pastors Conference entitled Commending Christ: The Pastor, the Church, and the Perishing is the one that, Lord willing, I will choose to go to out of all others in 2009. I can't think of another topic I need more help and encouragement in than that of clear, biblical, relentless, uncompromising gospel-telling. Would you like to join me?

I praise the Lord for answering my prayer and giving me an opportunity to share the gospel with more than one person at once. I don't think that has ever happened before in a work setting. Perhaps I should make it a habit of more regularly bowing to pray for my food instead of just silently doing so because I don't want to make my co-workers feel awkward when in reality it's me who feels awkward.

If they truly knew what Christianity was, would they believe? Yes. But let us remember that no matter how clearly we communicate the gospel, divine illumination is required from the Holy Spirit for anyone to truly know what Christianity is.

And let us make sure we tell them about a Christianity that the Holy Spirit would be pleased to open their stopped ears, minds, and hearts to. It's not a religion that shows us how to be good. It's the truth that reveals to us that even though none of us is good, there is One who was, in our place.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Thank You, Father, that You have made us to know the truth through Your Holy Spirit, that You have made us to know Your Son. And still there is so much of Him that we don't know. None of us fully understands what Christianity is. None of us fully understands the fullness of the implications of Your gospel. I pray that You would make us a people who give ourselves to daily unfold the infinite depths of the glorious gospel of our blessed God! And I pray that You would take my five loaves and two fish, which You provided, and multiply it in the souls of the co-workers You enabled me to set it before. Water the seed. Give the growth. And bring them to salvation in Christ, that Your Son may have a few more to praise Him for His infinite worth. In His precious name, Amen.

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