I finally got my chance to share the full gospel message with the two student workers I have been chronicling about in my past several Adventures in Evangelism posts. Ned is the scientifically minded skeptic who nonetheless is considering adopting Judaism as his faith. Michael is a citizen of Zambia who is a Hindu by upbringing.
Last week as they were leaving my office I made an appointment to meet with them at the student union after work, have a drink and discuss religion. They agreed without hesitation to meet on Tuesday. The day came and I had them working with me that afternoon. We never discussed anything about the meeting or religion during work. At 5:00 they headed home. I almost forgot the appointment myself. I raced out the door and caught them just outside the building.
I said, “Remember our appointment today? Are you guys still game?”
They exchanged quick glances and nodded affirmatively. I told them to go on ahead, I had to finish up a couple of things. Fifteen minutes later I took my seat with them at their table. Michael the Hindu was my main focus in the conversation, since I had talked with Ned at length on a previous occasion. I asked Michael about the Hindu faith, since I have little knowledge about it. Specifically, I inquired if they believed in one true god or in a multitude of gods. He explained that Hindu’s actually believe in one god, but many incarnations. This one god wears many masks, from what I could gather. He manifests himself in various forms revealing himself in different ways.
This surprised me, really. My understanding of Hinduism was of a clearly polytheistic faith. I asked him about his home country of Zambia. He surprised me again by stating that it was considered a Christian country with a mix of Muslim and Hindu worshipers.
“Oh”, I said. “Then you must be familiar with the message of the gospel.”
He shook his emphatically. “No. I know nothing about the Christian faith.”
I was again surprised. “You mean no one in Zambia has ever shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with you.”
“No. Never.” He mentioned that the Christian religion was taught in government schools, but he had different schooling.
I took a moment to absorb all the information I had gathered. I realized that for him to have any understanding of salvation from sins I had to explain sin, its origin and why it is an issue even to this day. I also needed to present Christ as the perfect satisfaction for all man’s deficiencies. But first, I needed to explain the concept of one true God who manifests himself in three persons. I had to do this while separating the concept of the Trinity as separate and completely different than Hindu’s one god, many incarnations theology.
So, I did just that. I explained the Trinity as best as humanly possible. As expected, Michael had trouble with the concept. (Join the club!) I established Jesus Christ as the Son of God and God made flesh. He chewed on the thoughts and had a couple of questions, but he did not contend against the idea. I moved on to the creation account, discussing the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, and how Adam’s sin has been passed on to us, since he stood as humanity’s representative. I spoke of sins as transgression of God’s law and as a power that drives every soul to rebel against God.
Ned and Michael contended with me about Adam’s mistake causing all the rest of us to become sinners. Ned didn’t understand how God could blame us, and send multitudes of people into hell because of something Adam did centuries ago.
I simply replied, “The bible clearly teaches every man is accountable for his own sin.”
“How? Why?” Ned asked, mystified.
“Because each one of us sins willingly. We love our sin. We do it because it makes us feel good, if but for awhile.”
Ned expressed great disdain for Adam. “I’m going to start an ‘Adam Haters’ club on campus. It’s all his fault!”
I chuckled, but quickly refocused the conversation back to Christ and his redeeming work on the cross. I explained the sinlessness of Christ and how that he fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. How his death on the cross was a substitutionary sacrifice for the penalty due for our sins. I explained God’s grace in freely forgiving our sins as we come to him turning from our sinfulness and trusting in the blood of Christ to cleanse us of all sin.
Michael asked several questions and seemed quite engaged in the conversation. I talked for well over an hour, until I feel I had exhausted every detail of the gospel message. Ned, for the most part, took on the attitude of ‘Been there, heard that’. I implored them both to consider seriously all that I told them and invited them to a bible study I plan to begin soon. They both vigorously declined the invite, much to my disappointment.
Before we parted ways I asked Michael how a person is saved from his sins in Hinduism. He said they went through some ceremonial cleansing ritual in a particular stream or river, I don’t quite recall all the details.
I pointed out to him that Christianity was not about doing any meritorious deeds to recommend ourselves to God, but rather that we are utterly dependant in every way upon the work of God done on our behalf according only to his mercy and not by any other factor.
I said, “God has done all that is required for us to be saved through Jesus Christ. Trust on him to save you by faith alone. This is God’s grace.”
Michael sent my heart tumbling to the bottom of my shoes with this reply. “I think I’ll stick with my gods.”
I left him with this thought. “Are you sure your gods can save you?”
I know that they cannot. His gods cannot see, or hear or speak. They have nothing to offer because they are not real. I told him as much, yet he did not take offense. The God of the bible is real, and he hears our cries for mercy and answers us with love and compassion.
Addendum: I worked with Michael a few days later. He again brought the subject of Christianity up with no prompting from me, whatsoever. His questions were focused around the different Christian sects. I explained to him that Christendom is divided into two major branches; Catholicism and Protestantism. I dismissed cults such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses as outside Christianity altogether. I discussed denominations within protestant churches, how most churches held to the core doctrines of the gospel faith but differed on other secondary doctrines.
The conversation became a little tricky at this point and I’m not sure I spoke wisely. I thought it important to help Michael see the difference between shallow, showy Christianity and the simple devotion of heartfelt faith in Christ. He mentioned having watched Benny Hinn at times. I advised him bluntly to not judge the Christian faith on the basis of such men. I went as far as to say that he shouldn’t watch the majority of the preachers on TV. Most (not all) distort and twist Christianity into something it was never intended to be.
Harsh, you say?
Personally, I believe exposing himself to these kind of teachings will ultimately only bring injury and hinderance in coming to Christ. I shared some of the more emotion laden, subjective experiences I have witnessed over the years in church settings that were a product more of the flesh than of the Spirit. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to subject him to the seamy underbelly of the contempary church. But at the same time I wanted to give him a vivid illustration that not all that calls itself Christian is authentic and true. He took it all very well, I thought.
I ended the conversation driving home the sober reality of God’s righteous wrath against sin at the last judgment, when all the dead would rise from their graves and receive their just due. Michael was a bit puzzled at this concept. He wondered how people who were cremated could be resurrected if they were never put into a grave. Good question. I’ve pondered it myself. My only answer is that God remembers. No man is lost or falls through the cracks. Every hair on our head is counted.
Our day ended shortly after this dialogue and I thanked him for a good conversation. I sincerely believe God’s Spirit is working on his heart, bringing an ever increasing awareness and burden of sin. I thank God for allowing me the opportunity to plant and water. God will bring the increase.