Today, the weather was beautiful but many of the students we tried to witness to seemed hurried, jittery, and "edgy". This was probably due to the fact that today was the last official day of classes and exams start in a few days. We handed out many Narrow Way tracts and spoke individually to several students who were professing Christians yet clueless about the gospel. A few notable folks that we interacted with included a man that used Word of Faith catchphrases, a muscular young man that knew the gospel, and two edgy atheists.
Professing "christians" that were Clueless about the Gospel
Today we witnessed to at least four professing Christians that could not tell me how to be reconciled to God. I was able to take the time to explain the gospel to all of them. The first two seemed completely disinterested in what I had to say given their body language. The second two listened quite well. Of course, poor body language may be due to several factors, but people seem to be doing quite fine before I start talking to them. I asked all four of them: "If you came to my home and I said I was a committed PETA donor; yet I kicked my dog and voraciously ate a hamburger in your presence, what would that say about my commitment to PETA's agenda?" They all said, "You'd be a hypocrite." I said, "Right. So, if you tell me you are a Christian, but you can't explain Christianity 101 to a dying man with a knife stuck in his back with 2.5 minutes to live, what does that say about your Christianity?" Responses ranged from apathetic to concerned. I am going to pray for both.
"I need to speak it into existence . . ."
One man we spoke to was able to articulate parts of the gospel quite well yet he told me that I need to speak my salvation into experience. I asked him if he knew what Word of Faith doctrine was and he affirmed that he did. I then had a detailed discussion with him about the difference between Word of Faith theology's definition of faith (faith is a force) and Christianity's definition of faith ("Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see." Heb 11:1 NET). He wanted to agree with me about the Hebrews 11:1 definition of faith, but also wanted to hold to Word of Faith concepts. I then asked, "Are you willing to clearly state that faith is not a force and has no power in and of itself?" and then instead of directly answering my question, he wanted to explain how the two could be merged together. I said, "The two are not the same. Faith has no power to create anything. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and being convinced of what we do not see because of our God-given trust in the promises of God's word. The Word of Faith definition of faith has nothing to do with saving faith and has its roots in the metaphysical, new thought cults started by Phineas P. Quimby in the 19th century." Of course, he had heard of none of this, so I exhorted him to go to YouTube and watch A Call For Discernment series wherein Justin Peters critiques the Word of Faith/Health & Wealth prosperity gospel in four parts: I, II, III, IV. He seemed skeptical and tried to argue that God's desire for His people to prosper isn't always associated with monetary gain (to which I agreed), but I told him that his bringing that up is irrelevant; what is important is the fact that the philosophical foundations of WoF theology are based not in a Biblical doctrine of God, salvation, and life, but in that of the metaphysical cults. I tried to talk issues of hermeneutics with him, but I sensed that was like a foreign language to him, so I urged him to watch the above linked videos and ask himself whether the "prosperity gospel" is the same message as that being preached by the apostles in the New Testament. I'm sad to say that he was a nice guy that was very firm in his WoF beliefs. However, the grace of God knows no bounds and I will continue to pray for this man in the ensuing weeks.
A Thick Neck with Good Theology
The next young man I had the privilege of speaking with was waiting at the Walker Avenue bus stop. I recognized his face since I'm a wrestling fan and I had seen him before at local High School wrestling tournaments that he had participated in as an athlete and then later as a referee. I introduced myself, asked him if he knew how a man could be reconciled to God and he quickly and succinctly said, "Yes, you must repent of your sins and believe that Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior." I about fell outta my skin. Rarely do I get an answer like that. I probed him a little more and he was the real deal. He confessed that he was commuting to and from campus each day due to not wanting to live on campus because of temptation to drink, party, and commit other sins. He said he wanted to live for the Lord (without my prompting him to say such), and that he tried living on campus but the temptation available made it near impossible to live out a Christian life consistently in such an environment. I commended him for his stand and exhorted him to stay spiritually well fed by sitting under regular sound teaching in his local church. It was at this point that I tried to talk to the girl that was sitting beside me but she blew me off and wouldn't even take a tract from me. Keep her in mind, for she plays a part in the next section.
Two Edgy Atheists
I continued to talk to this young man about the goodness of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf in hopes that the girl next to me would ask me to shut my yapper, but about that time, I looked up, and a young girl with a UNCG polo shirt and a UNCG employee name tag was walking up to the bus stop and she had been given a Narrow Way tract by another person from our group and she was shaking her head in disapproval. I then piped up and asked, "Ma'am, I noticed that you were shaking your head at our literature, I'm curious, why?" She said, "I'm an atheist" to which I responded, "Really, why are you an atheist?" to which she responded, "I really don't want to talk about it right now" and I said, "Oh, okay, it's just that I used to be an atheist and I'm interested in talking to those who still are and asking them why they still are." She curtly replied, "Well, I don't want to talk about it. I just got off work, I had a rough morning, and I don't want to talk about religion!" I said, "Okay, no problem." At that point, the girl that was sitting to my right said to the young atheist girl, "You're in the Bible belt" to which I responded, "Actually, the buckle of the Bible belt is pretty corroded here in Greensboro and there are few churches that are really preaching, teaching, and living out Biblical Christianity." I then offered this girl a tract again and tried to engage her in conversation and she said, "No." At that point, the atheistic young lady seemed to get more frustrated as I continued to make an effort to talk about the gospel without directly addressing her and so she made a call on her cell phone and said something to the person on the other end like, "Hey, will please hurry up and come and get me." At that point I said, "Okay, I'm leaving. I can tell when I'm not welcome anymore." At that point, the young atheist lady shut her cell phone and said, "I'm not talking about you!" to which I responded, "It's cool, no problem. I'll be on my way." Of course, there's no question that she was frustrated with me, but sadly, I think I got a little frustrated at her too; especially since she was rude right off the cuff when I tried to enter into a friendly conversation. I'll pray not only for her, but for my own sanctification as I need to remind myself that the carnal mind is hostile toward God (Romans 8:7-8).
As I was walking away from the bus stop back to our group, another young lady was reading one of our Narrow Way tracts and I walked up, introduced myself and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" and she said, "I'm a foreign exchange student from Germany, and I can't believe that people in America actually do things like this?" I said, "Do things like what?" and she retorted, "Talk about religion." I said, "Why? Do you think is it weird to talk about God?" and she said, "In Germany, if you go to church, you're like a geek or something?" I said, "Really? So, in Germany, it's silly to believe that all of this was actually made by God? After all, where do you think the ball of dirt you're standing on came from?" and of course she said, "It evolved." I said, "So, you're an atheist huh?" and she said, "Yeah, pretty much; I think that the stuff about loving each other, and peace and stuff is really good, but I don't take the stories literally." I said, "Upon what basis do you determine that loving someone and promoting peace is the good and right thing to do when you believe that there's no objective transcendent standard to determine such things and all we are is a bunch of evolved pond scum? After all, why should you care what one bag of pond scum does to another?" She said, "We don't need some god to tell us what's right and wrong!" to which I said, "Actually, you're wrong. We do. And if you don't believe that, you're going to end up in a mass of self-contradiction and those who follow godless philosophies to their logical conclusions will end up hurting a whole lot of people in the process. That's exactly what history shows us." At this point, I wanted to ask her about her own country's preoccupation with killing Jews about 65 years ago, but she didn't let me go there because she immediately retorted, "Nobody really has the truth anyways" to which I responded, "Is that true?" and she said, "Uh, um, yes." I then said, "Ma'am, do you realize that you just contradicted yourself? You basically said that that no absolute truth exists. Then you refuted yourself by agreeing that nobody has the truth. If there is no absolute truth, then you can't make an absolute truth claim like 'nobody really has the truth anyways' because you have to affirm the very thing you just denied. You see, this is why you need God." At this point she said, "This is why I don't like talking to people about religion" to which I responded, "So, it's uncaring and unkind for me to point out when you are thinking irrationally?" At this point she hesitated and said, "Um, no" and I said, "So, it's a good thing to want people to think clearly, right?" and she said, "Yes." I said, "Well then, are you willing to give up your relativism and consider what I have to say about the gospel?" and she said, "Nope, I'm not interested in talking anymore." It just goes to show that some people would rather be irrational than bow the knee to Jesus. We shook hands and she was on her way.
In conclusion, we had a productive semester at UNCG because we were faithful. God never asks us to "produce converts", He just asks us to be faithful to glorify Him with our lives in whatever sphere of influence He places us in. Only eternity will tell what happened to all the small seeds faithful Christians have sown through the years in their families, their workplace, their churches, and their communities. May God cause us to be faithful to Him until death, looking for the crown of life which the Lord will grant to us on that day, and not only us, but to all who love His appearing!