With a late start to my day, I didn't get out for 1-a-days until after 4:30 this afternoon. I was a little nervous about what I'd find, but I didn't want to succumb to excuses. I headed toward UL, and quickly found a young man named Kyle who was sitting by himself and appeared not to be in a hurry.
Two elements make evangelism on college campus trickier than at Girard Park. One is that I don't have my fishing buddy, so it feels scarier. Second, you really have to be sensitive to people's time and understand how much time you have left to talk with them. With the Lord's help, I'm getting the hang of finding someone who looks like they have time to talk. It's a little trickier without the sight of my fishing buddy, too, but visual impairment is just another excuse the devil uses to try to keep me away from what I'm called to do. It's amazing how something that has never limited me in my whole life becomes a concern when it comes to evangelism, doesn't it?
So I sat next to Kyle on a bench, and asked him if he could talk with me for a couple minutes to help me with a project. He was happy to talk. I challenged him to name the ten commandments in 30 seconds to win $20.00. He got two correct- adultery and stealing. I told him that he tied for the record with two, and he got a kick out of that. "Those two?" he asked.
I told him I'd give him another shot at the money. He was excited. He said he thought he was a good person, but readily admitted to being a liar. I said, "Ever stolen anything?" "Yes." "What does that make you?" "A steeler." I said, "Well, if you're from Pittsburgh. But if you're not, you'd be a ...?" "Sinner." "more specifically a..." "Theif." Ype. An adulterer too.
He admitted he'd be guilty on judgment day, but thought he'd end up in Heaven. Why? "Because I ask for forgiveness." I asked him to try that in an earthly court room. Would the judge let him go if he asked for forgiveness? He said, "I don't know any judges like that."
So I talked to him about Hell. I emphasized God's holiness and justice, and asked, "But God is also loving, and merciful too, right? So how can God do both - punish your wrongdoing and let you go free? Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't have to go to Hell?"
Parents, please, I'm begging you with everything that is in me - listen up. Kyle went to a Christian church every day as a kid. Yet he had no idea what God did so that he wouldn't have to go to Hell. My children may not choose to follow Jesus. I can't control that. But if some guy comes up to them and says, "Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't have to go to Hell?" they will know the answer. Pastors, please, please preach the Gospel. How could anyone sit in your church week in and week out, no matter what age, and not know the gospel? I'm not better or worse than anybody. I'm just very sad about what this conversation says about the state of the Christian church. What could you possibly be preaching about week after week after week, that trumps a clear presentation of the gospel? Please preach the gospel. When your hearers take their last breath, nothing you've said about how to have a happy marriage, experience your best life now or have health and prosperity will matter to each one of them. What will matter is whether you clearly preached the gospel to them. At that moment, it's Heaven or it's Hell, for all eternity. Please...preach the gospel.
Back to Kyle. I talked with him about Jesus dying on the cross in his place, taking God's wrath upon Himself so Kyle could go free. He broke the law, Jesus paid his fine. It's a legal transaction. God can legally dismiss Kyle's case, because the fine has been paid.
I talked to him about the need to repent - turn from sin. If you're driving to Mexico and you see a sign that says, "Canada - 40 miles," you recognize you're headed the wrong way and you turn in the opposite direction. Instead of trusting yourself, you trust Christ, because he died in your place.
I told him that if he leaves our conversation and decides he's going to try to do better, it's like the man who murders on Monday, helps an old lady across the street on Tuesday, volunteers at a soup kitchen on Wednesday, gives all his money to the poor on Thursday, and faces court on Friday. None of that other stuff matters, because he's a murderer. Instead, trust in Jesus. He'll give you a new heart, with new desires, and you'll want to do things that please God - not because you're a religious fanatic, but because God changes your desires. It's called being born again.
I asked if he'd ever heard that before, and he said his mom talks to him about it all the time. I encouraged him to tell his mom some cross-eyed wierdo approached him at school and offered him $20.00 to name all of the commandments. He said he will. Hopefully, his mom will be encouraged, because I bet she's been praying for her son for a long time. Lord willing, tonight she'll know tangibly that God is working in her son's life.
I told Kyle that every day, 150,000 people take their last breath. Then it's Heaven, or it's Hell for all of eternity. His degree, job, happiness, and everything he holds dear won't matter to him at that point. And right now God's wrath abides upon him (my voice got real soft so that he had to lean in to hear. I always want to be careful to display the compassion of God by my demeanor when I talk about the wrath of God with someone who's not hostile). You're an enemy of God through your wicked works, I told him, but that if you repent and trust Christ today, God will forgive you and refresh you. For what shall it profit you, if you get your degree, a nice house, nice car, beautiful family, and everything else you've ever dreamed of, and lose your soul? You never know when your time has run out, I pleaded. Get right with God tonight, before it's too late.
He was very receptive and seemed to be open to what I was saying. You never know what's going on in the heart of the person you're speaking with, but I'm extremely encouraged and I can't wait until tomorrow.