In this post I am wrapping up the story of the discussion I held with my ‘devil’s advocate’ friend and the student worker ‘Ned’ in my office. You can read the first part of the dialogue here. The bulk of the discussion had thus far been dominated by Barney and I. After he left, the door stood wide open for Ned and I to continue speaking about religious matters.
I quickly discovered Ned staunchly believes in the ‘all roads lead to God’ approach to salvation. I tried to sum up his worldview with the following analogy. I said, “So God has set up the religions of the world as a kind of buffet of beliefs, where people can choose what system best fits their tastes. All God requires in return is sincerity and adherence to the commands and dictates of that faith.”
Ned shrugged, “Sure. Why not?”
I replied, “Jesus plainly said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ The word proclaims there is ‘no other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved’. ‘Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved’. “
This barrage of iron-tipped scripture arrows left him unfazed. He couldn’t accept the idea of only one true religion while the practitioners of all other faiths would meet a fiery fate. I understood his viewpoint. I thought as he did once. First, I corrected his statement by saying that only through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, could any man be saved, not through any mere religious affiliation. Nevertheless, Ned thought if my position were correct, salvation is nothing but a crap-shoot; a tempting buffet of goodies where all but one selection contained deadly poison.
I replied, “If our salvation were left in our own hands, then I would be forced to agree with you. However, salvation is of the Lord. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. The foolishness of preaching is the means God uses to save sinners. The Holy Spirit brings the word alive in our hearts and makes believers of everyone God calls.”
He didn’t have much to say in response to this. We had a few awkward moments of silence before I asked him his faith background. He said he had been raised in the Federated Church, which is a conglomeration of different denominations, none of which I know anything about. He displayed to me a distinct distaste for this particular church. He said the hypocrites helped drive him away from the faith. I quickly interjected a bit of my best cliche’ wisdom.
“Don’t let hypocrites stand between you and God. Because then the hypocrites will be closer to God than you are.”
I felt confident this contemporary proverb would cut to the heart. However, all I received in return was a quizzical look and a drawn out “Whaaat?”. I repeated it again, using hand gestures to show the position hypocrites took in relation to him and God. By that time my intended impact was long gone so I waved it all away and continued on.
Ned voiced a strong belief in the existence of God so I asked what choice from the world’s ‘buffet of beliefs’ he had settled on. Ned had not made a final selection, but admitted he had a strong leaning toward Judaism.
I asked, “why?”
The conversation gets a little fuzzy in my memory at this point so I cannot recall the reasons he gave in support of his belief.
I do remember questioning Judaism as a valid means of obtaining eternal salvation. Pointedly, I stated the main issue in religion is man’s sin and guilt before a just and holy God. In order for man’s fractured relationship with his creator to be mended the offense of sin must be removed. Since God is righteous, He cannot simply overlook our transgressions or wave His hand, dismissing all charges without reason.
I asked Ned how God forgives sin in Judaism?
He responded, “the Day of Atonement.”
I asked what Jews did on the Day of atonement to atone for their sins.
He replied, “sacrifice animals.”
I followed up with “Are they still offering sacrifices today?”
“There’s no temple to offer sacrifices in.”
I fell back on my original question. “How can your sins be forgiven, then? The bible says, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.”
Again, my memory goes hazy here. I don’t recall his defense or if he even offered one.
I asked him to consider the possibility that old testament sacrifices were only types and shadows of the ultimate sacrifice God had foreordained in order to save lost sinners. That animal sacrifices were only acts of faith looking forward to a coming redeemer who would give his life a ransom for many. That he would shed his own innocent blood for the sins of a vast multitude no one could name or number.
I proclaimed Jesus Christ did indeed fulfill all old testament sacrifices and prophecies concerning salvation from sins. His sinless, perfect life of obedience to the Father allowed Jesus to die for sins other than His own. He bore the full brunt of God’s wrath toward sin for the sake of people everywhere. The blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse any lost man of all his iniquities. His resurrection from the dead insures the deliverance of men’s souls from eternal death into everlasting bliss. Repentance from sin and faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross is all God requires in this age of grace. The complex system of sacrifices in the old covenant have been done away with, forever.
I concluded by pleading with Ned not to put his hope of salvation into the shed blood of a mere animal, but into the divine blood of Jesus Christ. I quoted from scripture that the blood of bulls and goats were not sufficient to cleanse people of their sins. I didn’t go into any theological detail, I just allowed the Holy Spirit to work those truths into his heart.
5:00 had arrived and I was afoot. I asked Ned for a ride home and he kindly did so. As he pulled into my driveway, I simply asked him to give serious consideration to the things we spoke of that day. He said that he would, so I bid him adieu and he sped on his way.
I feel our conversation was worthwhile. it allowed me opportunity to give a fairly well-rounded presentation of the gospel message. That is all I ask for in encounters with lost people. I pray the Holy Spirit works life into the hearts of both Barney and Ned by the testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the word of God.