Downtown Last Thursday
August 25, 2015
Last Thursday, while witnessing downtown at the bus and train stops, I had many excellent and exciting conversations (as I so often do) with people about what it means to follow Jesus. Really, I have a very easy mission field compared to the fields many are sowing in, and I am certainly thankful for it. Many people give me the thumbs up signal as they walk by, or even, from across the street (or railway tracks), some yell something positive to me about my signs. Each time I go, there will be some individuals, and occasionally even those in law-enforcement, who will come up to me and say, “Thank you for what you’re doing. It’s appreciated.” Others come over and ask me to pray for them, or will ask me a question about God’s Word and requirements, and commonly, while we are talking, others will come up and join in the discussion. Truly, it is a huge joy to be smack in the middle of the Lord’s will, sharing the Gospel for hours in the power of the Holy Spirit!
There are two things I wanted to mention, though, regarding this last Thursday. One was that, during the last hour down there, the Lord gave me a unique blessing by which I presented Him. A preacher that is often down there (who I don’t like because he often jumps around screeching, saying judgmental things about those he knows nothing about) finally left the spot that is most conducive for preaching. So I hung out there, and had many more conversations. But I kept feeling the Lord wanted me to lift up my voice to the crowds (which I have done periodically, mostly by quoting Scripture verses), but no, that didn’t seem to be exactly what God was prompting me to do. So finally, instead of praying quietly (as I do while waiting for another person to approach me), I started softly singing songs I was making up with the Spirit’s help. This I habitually do as well, but this time I got louder and louder. Pretty soon I was singing surprisingly loud –very loud –and beautifully (for without the Spirit I do not have a good singing voice). It was really special!!!!!
The thought came to me at one point, “You look foolish and no one can hear but a few words, if any, as they drive or walk by.” However, immediately the Lord reminded me of 1 Cor. 1:27 in His Word (truly, when the devil attacks, it is highly beneficially to know the Word well), saying to me, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the ‘wise’.” I accepted this encouragement and felt extreme joy, boldness, and love well up in me, so that all the more I sang wonderful praise songs to God, as well as intercession songs for His mercy to come to the people. The Lord also encouraged me by telling me that even if many could not hear me, they could certainly see me and see Him shining through me. Isn’t this what Jesus commissioned us to do in Mt. 5:16? For He said, “Let you light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise you Father in heaven.” This is a command (not a suggestion) –that we put His Light, which is in us (–the Light being His Spirit), in a visible place so that men may see The Light and glorify God for who He is and what He has done. I too praise God for using those things that, “by human standards” (1 Cor. 1:26), are “despised and weak” (see v. 27,28), for that means He is able to use me, and even powerfully! This should encourage everyone willing to submit to being a light for Christ!
The other experience I wanted to write about is this: Right after the other preacher left and I went and stood near “his” spot, a young man came up and with obvious anxiety over the state of his soul, asked me questions about holiness, sin, and judgement. While we were talking, another guy came up and let me know, cordially enough, that we should be sure we are presenting the Gospel as it really is, and that is, that God is love and grants salvation to all who believe. See, my back sign said, “Jesus delivers all those who APPLY His Words. John 8:31-36”, while my front sign said, “Christ’s cross doesn’t cover a continuation in sin. Heb. 10:26”. This second man stated that he himself is an evangelist and that he has been one for many years.
While talking with this guy, and the first guy quietly listening, a third man came up. Pointing to my front sign and frowning worriedly, his remark was something to the effect of, “I really don’t think that is a good message, nor exactly true, for even believers sin every day and we are still saved. I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years and I know about this.”
Right about then, a fourth man came up and said something like, “Yeah, the Gospel I know about tells us to love and not judge, so this is really bad what you’re doing.” Thankfully, that guy just put in his “two cents worth” and kept walking.
So, here I was, having been encouraging the first guy, who was obviously welling up with hope in the fact that Someone (Christ Jesus) had emancipated sinners from their sins, and two other “Christians” had to step in and try to negate what I was saying. The third man brought up that even Paul, in Romans chapter seven, says that he struggled with sin, to which the evangelist laughed triumphantly, while heartily agreeing. “No,” I countered quickly. “Paul says at the end of that chapter, ‘But Jesus Christ rescues me from this!'”
Truly, it is awful that “Christians” believe they can fall back on Rom. 7:7-25 where Paul, using a first-person, present-tense literary (and debating) style, is showing how knowing the good one ought to do is not powerful enough for actually doing good and that we need the One who really does give freedom. How awful that they can see in Rom. 6:18 Paul telling us that we “have been set free from sin”, telling us in Rom. 7:14, “I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin”, telling us in verses 24,25, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God– through Jesus Christ our Lord!”, telling us in verses 1-6 (and elsewhere, like in Col. 2:11) that we have died to, and been liberated from (actually severed from), the sinful nature which once chained, owned, and controlled us, and telling us in Rom. 8:9, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you”, and still think that the person belonging to Christ cannot help but sin daily!!! Did the Holy Spirit live in Paul? Of course. And while often telling us that he, and we, are new creations in Christ, Paul also tells us at least six times throughout his writings to imitate his example! No, Paul, in that Rom. ch. 7 passage –which sin-safely-lovers think they can fall back on– is putting himself in the role of the unregenerate man –the man still locked in the prison of sin (v. 23) –the man who has not yet let Christ rescue him.
So, we were all being polite, but it was certainly alarming to see that the two “Christians” who claimed to be following Jesus were trying to nullify the reality of believers’ freedom and explain away the verses I was bringing up, even while the non-Christian appeared to be eagerly trying to grasp the Word and its Great News. The two “Christians” just kept insisting that the Gospel does not state that (true) believers have been freed from sin, even when I quoted 1 John 3:9 which says, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s nature abides in him. He cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” And even when I quoted Gal. 5:24 which says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” There were several other Scripture verses that I quoted during the course of the debate, along with their references in case they wanted to check them out for themselves in the Word, but the only one really taking the verses to heart seemed to be the initial inquirer. In fact, about an hour after this encounter, he came back to me and asked me some more questions, including, “What happens if we don’t repent?” to which I answered with sadness, “Jesus says in Luke 13:3, ‘Unless you repent, you too will all perish.’ And perish means banishment to Hell.”
Well, the man who had claimed to be a Christian for over 20 years suddenly saw that his train had arrived and so he hurriedly exited our presence. The “evangelist”, who seemed a little persuaded, reminded me some more about God’s love, stating that he hardly ever mentions sin but rather just encourages people. Smiling, and seeming to be satisfied that I was probably giving a message of hope and love, he too soon said goodbye, but not without adding as he went, “They call me ‘Soldier for Christ’.” “Hmmm…” I thought. “I wonder if the Lord calls him that, considering all those whom he has refused to alert concerning the cancer within them.” I was saddened to think of his impotent message and I felt great dismay as I thought of how false Christianity has indeed become the norm for those who claim to be Christians. Contrary to God’s Word, their gospel is not about renouncing and rejecting all known sin, not about freedom from sin’s power, not about consistent obedience to Christ, not about f-o-l-l-o-w-i-n-g His commands, not about walking in the will of God daily, and not about being controlled by the Holy Spirit at all times throughout each day and night. By not believing the Truth, even when faced with clear statements from the Word of God, they deny God’s Word and thus walk in a counterfeit truth.
Aside from this troubling experience, the majority of my encounters were wonderful –absolutely wonderful. Definitely, it is exciting to be used of God to present the Good News of Salvation, Freedom, and Righteousness, and to explain how to walk in Truth’s Power. Without question, no task could be better.