Sunday afternoon, I went back out to the pier with my friend Al from church. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and many people were out enjoying the weather. On my way down to the pier I had a great conversation with an older gentleman named Richard as we walked down to the pier. Richard believed he was going to heaven and when I asked him how he knew that he began to talk about the importance of living according to civilization's standards. We talked about Nazi Germany's standards, the Aztecs standards, and American standards, which one should we live by? He was very clever with words and then finally I asked him about the standard of the Ten Commandments. He agreed it was a good universal standard of morality. As we discussed a few of them he told me he had never lied, at least never to deceive anyone. He also told me he had never stolen anything in his entire life (he was probably in his 70s). He told me he had never blasphemed and if he had, it was in a conversation that as a whole was glorifying to God...what....??? I just kept going. He did admit to lust, which is adultery of the heart, and hatred, which is murder of the heart. I then shared James 2:10 with him and how if we break the Law in one point, we are guilty of breaking all of it. At this point, he said "no one in the world will make it to heaven then". This is always encouraging when people come to that realization on their own, which is really the work of the Law, written on the people's conscience (Rom 2:15, Gal 3:24, Rom 3:19-20, Rom 7:7). He told me at this point, that the message I am sharing is not one he would like to hear, nor would anyone else for that matter.
(BTW, that is also an encouraging response, because it shows me that the Law was doing its work to stop the mouth of justification (Romans 3:19) and show the person’s sin to be exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:7). Only then, will they be able to appreciate the wonderful gift God has given to us in His Son).
At that point, I was able to tell him that what I have shared with him is only half the message, the bad news, and that my main purpose for coming down to the pier is to share the good news with people. But unless people truly understand the bad news, they will never understand and appreciate the good news. It was then that I was able to share the gospel with him; the love that God demonstrated for him at Calvary, and the amazing grace and mercy of our God, Jesus Christ. He listened quietly as I explained the exchange that took place on the cross and how God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9). He nodded in agreement as I shared with him some Old Testament prophecies about Jesus' life and death and seemed to be somewhat familiar with the Bible. Finally, I asked where he was at spiritually and if he had ever put his faith in Christ to save him. Richard told me he had trusted in Jesus before but had never heard the gospel presented as he had heard it today. After hearing the entirety of the message I came to share with people, he then encouraged me to continue doing what I was doing. I encouraged him to truly trust in Jesus ALONE and not to trust in himself or his works. We all are in desperate need of forgiveness and being "good" is something we are incapable of. I thank God for the conversation I was able to have with Richard and pray for him to trust alone in Jesus for salvation.
After talking with Richard I had some short conversations with other people and then ran into a lady named Josephina. She was just sitting on a bench enjoying the view of the ocean so I walked up to her and said hello. It was only a few benches up from the bench where I had sat and spoken with a young man named Ruben less than 48 hours earlier. As we talked she told me that she would like to spend eternity at the beach and that she wanted her ashes scattered there. She wasn’t sure where she would go when she died, but told me she had been looking into other religions recently. She was brought up Catholic but was looking for a better fit. As I took her through some of the Commandments, she told me she had told at least 12,000 lies in her lifetime. She also told me she had stolen, blasphemed and lusted (adultery of the heart). Then she said that God would probably see her as innocent on Judgment Day because He is good. That’s a fairly common response but it doesn’t make any sense.
Imagine a scenario where you come home one day to find a man in your home who had just murdered your family and was covered in their blood. You overtake the man and begin strangling him when your better judgment prevails and you tie him up and call the police. At the criminal’s court case, after he admits to the murder of your family, the judge simply lets him go because the judge is such a “good and loving judge.” That is absurd in the highest degree and there would be a public outcry. You would probably call governors and senators asking for the judge to be put in jail because he is more of a criminal than the criminals he excuses. Well, that is exactly what it would be like if God simply let liars, thieves, blasphemers, murders, adulterers, etc. into heaven simply because He is good. A good judge is the one who justly sentences people and makes sure the penalty for their crime is paid. After explaining this to her she agreed that God would be justified in sending her to hell for breaking His Law.
At this point, I was able to share the good news of the gospel with her and show her how God himself stepped into that courtroom and took her penalty upon himself to save her from hell. God was demonstrating justice and at the same time demonstrating his tremendous love and mercy to the guilty criminals who were sentenced to death. After sharing this with her, I asked her if she had repented and trusted in Christ she said “oh yeah, I did that a long time ago.” Interesting…Twenty minutes earlier she was telling me she was looking for a religion that was a better fit but was now saying the she had put her faith in Jesus. My heart breaks when I see people like this who think they are ok with God because they have simply prayed a prayer or been baptized or have accepted Jesus into their heart at some point in their life. Like Nicodemus they have no concept of what it means to be born again. If they are not born again, they will not enter the kingdom of God. They seem to believe in Jesus but do not trust him. I shared Matthew 7 where people actually call Jesus “Lord” but Jesus tells them to depart from him because he never knew them. I pleaded with her and encouraged her to examine herself (2 Cor 13:5) in light of 1 John to see if she has truly been saved. In the end, she thanked me for talking to her and was going to give these things some thought. I invited her to King’s Harbor and she said she would probably come visit sometime which would be awesome. I thank God for the opportunity to meet Josephina and pray that she truly does surrender her life to Christ once and for all!