INTRODUCTION: I had several profitable conversations with many students about the truth of God's grace yesterday. I handed out at least a hundred ministry cards with the gospel on it, and spoke with many, many unbelievers. Notable conversations were with one man of the Baha'i faith, two agnostics, and several people who claimed to be Christians but couldn't really explain anything about the gospel.
Question of the Day: In your personal opinion what does it take for a person to go to heaven?
Our Bahai friend
This man was the first person I spoke with face to face after handing out a few ministry cards. After handing him our ministry card he said, "What is this?" and I said, "I am a pastor of a local Christian church and this card has to do with the gospel of Jesus Christ; do you know what the gospel is sir?" He said, "Uh, no, why don't you tell me what it is?" So I started explaining the gospel to him and he interrupted me and explained that he held to the Baha'i faith. He then asked me if I knew anything about Baha'i and I said "very little". He then tried to turn the tables and proselytize me (which happens sometimes) and I he told me that the Baha'i believe the gospel of Jesus just like Christians. Then I said, "Let's see if that's true; please explain to me the main teachings of Baha'i." He then said that Baha'i had prophets and I said, "You mean Baha'u'llah, right?" He said, "Yes, but I thought you said you didn't know anything about Baha'i?" I said, "No, I said I knew very little about it, but I did know that." So he continued. He came to the point where he explained that Baha'u'llah was a prophet of God and I asked, "He's the second coming of Jesus Christ right?" He said yes and I said, "Well, there's the problem. Jesus warned us about false prophets and false Messiahs who would seek to mislead many saying that they were the Messiah (Matthew 24:4) and Jesus said that there were certain signs that would accompany His return, Baha'u'llah didn't meet those requirements, therefore Baha'u'llah was a false Messiah that preached a false gospel.
At this point he got a little hot and bothered that I would say such about his prophet and asked me, "Have you read Baha'i literature?" I said, "no", he said, "How can you say such things about Baha'u'llah and Baha'i when you've never read our literature?" to which I calmly responded, "I don't need to, if it contradicts the clear teaching of Christ regarding His second coming, Baha'u'llah didn't meet that criteria, then I know on the authority of Christ's teaching that Baha'u'llah is a false Messiah with a false gospel." Apparently some folks standing by didn't appreciate my Baha'i friend getting a little hot under the collar during our conversation and someone called the cops.
Here comes the heat!
The police officer arrived in his patrol car, walked up to us, and so I quickly but courteously ended my conversation with my Baha'i friend and then introduced myself to the officer with a warm handshake while identifying myself, told him my purpose for being there, and at his request I gave him my driver's license. This officer was one of the two that arrived on the scene in the Fall semester after an atheist came up and stood right in front of me laughing at me and blowing smoke on me when I was open-air preaching at UNCG on 8-24-2010. This officer kindly asked me to do all that I can to avoid upsetting people while distributing literature and talking to them. I assured him that I would, then I thanked him for his service to the community, and then gave him a parting handshake. As an aside, I want to remind my Christian readers that we must always show the utmost respect to the civil authorities as they are ordained by God for the general protection and welfare of society and for the punishment of evildoers (Rom. 13:1-5; 1 Peter 2:13-17). We must do this whether they are kind or cruel and we must obey them as long as they don't command us to do something that is sinful or prohibit us from doing something that is explicitly commanded in Scripture (Acts 4:19-20, 5:29). However, even when we disobey in those circumstances, we must still be polite and respectful and accept our punishment as the will of God (1 Peter 2:12, 15; 3:15; Philippians 1:29).
Talking to three day laborers
UNCG always has some kind of construction work going on, and I saw three men sitting outside on the brick patio of a nearly completed building having a smoke break, so I walked over to talk to them. After introducing myself, I asked them what it takes for a person to go to heaven? In a group of three, its almost always the case that one person is more talkative than the other two. So, the most talkative man of the group stated that you can worship whatever you want, as long as you are sincere about it. I then asked him that if I called the maple tree behind him "Jesus" and then bowed down and repented and believed on my maple-tree Jesus and feverishly worshiped it, would do me any good on the day of judgment? He said "Yes". All three men agreed that as long as I was sincere enough, it didn't matter what I worshiped, I would still go to heaven when I die. I then asked, "Since your criteria for whether a person goes to heaven or not is the degree of their sincerity, when the terrorists flew the planes into the World Trade Center on 9-11, they were sincere enough to die for their beliefs, so did they go to heaven?" Then the shuckin' and jivin' started and two of them slowly made their way back to the workplace.
One man was left finishing his cigarette and I sat down beside him, asked him his name, and he said "Omar". He said, "Preacher, I want to ask you one question, if what you believe is true, why is it that most people don't believe it." I said, "Omar, that's a great question, one that the writer of 2/3 of the New Testament had to deal with. The Apostle Paul gave God's answer to that question in Romans 9." Then I began reading and explaining God's sovereignty in salvation from Romans 9:6-23 and Ephesians 1 and he was transfixed on me. I explained to him that most people are created for destruction and that they will glorify God in said destruction; but that God has chosen some to receive mercy through faith in Jesus Christ and that that is one of the reasons I am out there today. I explained that the preaching of the gospel is the means that God uses to gather in His elect, and at that point, he seemed to get convicted. I then explained the good news to him in a way I thought he could understand it (i.e., sin problem > Jesus' active obedience throughout His life > Jesus' passive obedience on the cross > faith in what Jesus did on the cross = justification). We shook hands, he thanked me for my time, and I was off.
A happy agnostic
The next conversation I had worth reporting was with a young, agnostic student who listened to our debate with the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics, and Skeptics. I asked him why he was an an agnostic and the only really good reason he could give me was the problem of hypocrisy in the church. He said it drove him away from "organized religion". I asked him if he liked "disorganized religion" instead. He laughed and I agreed with him that hypocrisy in the church is a real problem and then I went on to explain that many people are religious but not converted and briefly explained the doctrine of regeneration and the problem of false conversions in evangelicalism. I told him that I used to be a skeptic and so he asked me why I became a believer, and I said, "Because the Holy Spirit did a work of regeneration in me as I just described to you." I then went on to explain, "It was only when I had the light of Christ that I was able to make sense out of things like moral realism, human nature, evil, and scientific and logical paradigms. He wanted to talk more and was a great guy, but he had to scoot.
An unhappy agnostic
After having several other conversations with people, I spoke with another agnostic student named Jessica. Based on Jessica's body language and eye-rolling, she wasn't interested in talking, but I persisted. I asked her if absolute truth existed, she rolled her eyes and said no. I then asked her if that proposition itself was absolutely true and she hesitated a little and said "uh, I don't know." I said, "How can you be sure that absolute truth doesn't exist if you can't know if that sentence itself is true?" I'm not convinced that she was following me, so I moved on to ask her what basis she has for grounding moral standards given naturalism. She hedged a little in her answer and I suggested "Do you believe society makes up moral standards?" and she said, "Who else, if not society?" and I said, "Well, I'd argue that morality is ultimately grounded in God, but that's not what we're talking about just yet, so I want to know how you can condemn another society's actions if each individual societies get to make up their own morality?" She said, we don't. I said, "Really? Do you really think what Nazi Germany did to 12 million people was okay?" She said, "Yeah, I guess" (eyes-rolling). I then said, "So, what you're telling me is that it would be okay for a society to legalize the torturing of little girls for fun?" She agreed that it would and I said, "Oh c'mon, you don't really mean that do you? What about if it was your little girl?" to which she responded, "Well, I wouldn't personally agree with it, but I'd have no choice since society said it was okay." I then said, "You've just given me a great example of why I am thankful for being a Christian. You see Jessica, you may think that what I believe is hooey, but if you begin with the Christian God, you can declare something to be wicked even though society says its okay because God has the final say-so in any matter. I then explained to her, that contrary to her intellectual beliefs, she actually lives in a way contradictory to said beliefs and expects moral order, uniformity in nature, and the absoluteness of logical laws. I then asked, "Do you care that you are being irrational by contradicting yourself like that?" and she rolled her eyes again and said, "Not really." I then said shook her hand, thanked her for her time. Please pray for Jessica, she had a very hard heart.
IN CONCLUSION, I've said it before and I'll say it again: more and more intelligent people I witness to don't care that they are irrational; that they hold to mutually exclusive and contradictory beliefs. As long as they are comfortable, they are quite content to ride the wave of irrationality. I think this is providential, for it is a call for Christians to focus on the gospel as the power of God unto salvation while not leaving the rest of the apologetic task undone.