OK. First, let's talk about two weeks ago. We ventured out toward the park, blessed to have my buddy Nathan along this time. Before we even got to the park, we found a guy walking cross the Louisiana campus. We hopped out the van (well, Charlie did) and grabbed him. Me and Nathan stayed in the van talking, till Charlie came back with a puzzled look on his face that said, "Y'all coming fishing or what?"
It was the least productive two hours of witnessing I have ever experienced in my life. One conversation that went in so many different directions, targeting everything but the Gospel. Brandon was full of misdirection and redirection. Turns out he's ... um...let's say he's a post-Catholic pre-Mormon. Yeah, that's about how it went.
Two things he said that I want to record, though. One: baptism is required for salvation. When Jesus talked to Nicodemus about being born again, he was talking about baptism. Second, that when you "repent," you have to actually try hard to reform your life or it doesn't count.
About an hour into this conversation, I decided it was about time to wrap it up. Know how I know he wasn't listening to us? I addressed his assertion that baptism was neccessary to be saved:
"Why did Paul, who's life's work consist of preaching the Gospel and pleading with people to be saved, so much so that he was stoned, shipwrecked, left for dead, beaten, etc many times, say 'I'm thankful I never baptized any one of you?' (1 Cor 1:14-17) if baptism was required for their salvation?
And the theif on the cross...was he baptized? Jesus told him, 'today, you will be with Me in paradise.'"
Brandon said, "You don't know that the theif on the cross wasn't baptized."
Listen carefully, my Mormon friends. If you're reading this, I'm sorry to offend you, but that is intellectual dishonesty, at best.
It is appointed a man once to die, and after that the judgment (Heb 9:27). Nothing is done by proxy after you pass on, according to God's Word. When you leave this world, your fate is sealed, and it's Heaven or it's Hell for all of eternity. If you believe the theif got off the cross and went to be baptized and came back, or that someone came along later and was baptized for him, that's intellectual dishonesty. Besides, did that happen the same day? Because Jesus said, "Today, you will be with me in paradise ((Luke 23:39-43))." Thankfully, to follow Jesus, I don't have to check my brain at the door.
Second, repentance has nothing to do with "trying hard." Friend, you can't try hard enough to scrub yourself clean in God's sight. If I murder on Monday, help an old lady across the street on Tuesday, volunteer at a soup kitchen on Wednesday, say 100 Our Fathers on Thursday, read my bible and go to church every day, and wash the judge's car on my way into the courtroom for my trial on Friday, I'm still guilty of murder.
In fact, God sees even your righteousness as filthy rags (Isa 64:6). Not the bad stuff you've done. The "good" stuff. Because your "good" stuff is tainted with selfishness and pride and rebellion to God. Don't take my word for it. Read it for yourself.
Your trying hard isn't worth a dime in God's economy, and neither is mine. You need a new heart with new desires, and a change of mind about who God is that leads to a total change of the direction of your life. That is a gift from God that only comes when you release your trust in anything you contribute to your salvation and place that trust in the One who stepped into your courtroom and paid your fine by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. He does all the work, so that He gets all the glory. He gets all of the credit. If you contribute, whether by your repentance or your baptism, you earn your way to Heaven. That's not going to happen.
To be clear, you must repent. Jesus said so. And if you're born again, you will repent. But that doesn't save you. That's evidence you've already been saved.
And you'll get baptized. Not because you have to, but because you're commanded to by your Lord. Because you want to. Again, you now have a new heart that desires to do God's will. But you do this because you are saved, not to earn any kind of favor with God.
So I pointed these things out, and just as I was getting ready to utter, "Hey, thanks for talking with us. Have a great day," the conversation veered into another hour plus of fishing-time-stealing frustration.
Won't happen again, though.
Was so blessed and encouraged by Nathan coming with us. He loves the Lord and cares about people. He listens with empathy and he knows the Word. He was a tremendous encouragement!
We learned a lot from this conversation. It was far from a waste of time. The more I practice sharing my faith, the more I learn and the more I'm challenged to get into the bible and to pray hard. I can't wait to make more mistakes so that I can learn from them.
Thankfully, our last fishing trip (report coming) was much better...