Thursday, January 15, 2009

The most difficult encounter I've ever had

This was the hardest witnessing encounter I have had thus far. It is definitely harder to witness to those you love or know well when you know they are in danger of a Godless eternity.

This story actually begins in January of 2008. My husband and I had just returned at the end of December from a conference seeing Paul Washer among others, one of our favorite preachers. With the new insights I always gain listening to him, I was focused on obedience in my life. Meditating on the scripture and some notes I'd taken during the conference, I suddenly had a flashback to an event in my life from over 20 years ago.

Years ago, when I went to college, I realized that I had only made an intellectual ascent to Jesus and had engaged in a life of moralism since I made my profession of faith at age 9. I went to church, participated in Bible drill competitions, choir tours, was at church anytime it was open and just tried to be good. But, I was not saved.

That was my first mistake: believing that I understood what good meant. I was using the typical definition of good thrust upon the majority of teens at that time: don't drink, don't do drugs, don't have sex until you're married. I made it through high school without violating the sacred three and thought, "I'm really, really good." I then set out for college. I guess it was that first-born seeking to please syndrome.

I walked the aisle and said the prayer when I was 9. I knew what I was doing and so can't claim amnesia, but I literally thought that now that I have made this profession I am going to try to be really, really good to please Jesus and keep my salvation status in "good standing." I was baptized at 12 and went through a little class that taught me principles from the Bible. I can look back and see God's hand as it guided me to places and mentors, since I had none.

By the time I headed to college, I met a woman named Bev, through a campus fellowship group that began mentoring me. I started memorizing large quantities of scriptures and understanding more principles of holiness. I was finally arrested in my ignorance of the true nature of repentance and the arrogance of my true state was revealed. True growth as a Christian began.

About that time I had a boyfriend. There was another couple whom we double-dated with often. I'll never forget the conversation I'd had with my boyfriend's good friend, Brent. One night in a parking lot when I asked him about what his belief in God was he angrily replied, "If God is so loving, why did He send a flood to kill everyone on earth?" At least that is how I remembered it.

I was new at this and had never heard the principles of using the law. I had no answer for him nor did I offer one. I didn't know him very well, at the time, but I did know that he was still angry that his father had been killed sometime during his childhood. All I knew is that his father died in a helicopter crash and that's it. I knew that there was a lingering anger towards God that had never been addressed. The question haunted me. I didn't know the answer myself.

Fast forward to January 21, 2008. I didn't know why, but on this particular date, I had a flashback of that conversation as clearly as if I were watching a movie only my eyes were open and it played in front of me. I felt regret that I didn't know how to answer his question which was obviously masking deep pain and anger he had towards God for the loss of his father. I wondered if he ever accepted the Lord as his savior. I didn't know how to find him. It had been 20 years. So, I just prayed for him and let the memory slip back to the recesses of my mind.

I believed that I had an answer for Brent now. It is simply: because He is God. To even imply that God is somehow not good for killing wicked people in a flood is the ultimate in arrogance and contempt. For, not understanding the character and attributes of God left me powerless in the past. Knowing what unbelievable price He paid through Jesus Christ leaves me speechless at times knowing that I could never do anything to repay him for giving me life when I so clearly deserved death. Not understanding that I deserved death was what led to the delusion that I possessed anything that God would consider "good."

Right before Halloween 2008, I remembered the same flashback of this same conversation I'd had in January. I got on the internet and tried to find his contact information. I felt compelled by something beyond my own will to find him and share the Gospel. What I found stunned me. I not only found him but found an article about his father's death. He had died on January 21, 1978. Well, that was weird. That was the date that I had the flashback earlier in the year. I prayed for the words to say. I mean, how do you call someone out of the blue and say do you know if you're going to heaven or hell?

On November 5th, I called him. He was surprised, but pleased to hear from me. I asked how he was doing and he told me about his family. I then told him the purpose of my call. I said, "Brent, you said something 20 years ago that has haunted me. I never knew how to answer but you had asked, 'If God is so loving, why did he send a flood to kill everyone on the earth?'" Without missing a beat he said, "No, what I said was, 'If God is such a loving God, why did he send a flood to kill everyone and then says, 'Thou shalt not kill?'" Wow, twenty years had not erased the pain of an angry young boy. Obviously, the question was still in the forefront of his mind.

I asked him if he knew now. He said that he goes to church and he's a Christian. Something wasn't ringing true so I asked him, "If I were dying right now and had 3 minutes to live and I was scared that I wouldn't go to heaven what would you tell me?" He got really quiet on the phone and said, "Uh, I don't know." He told me that he was 'alright' with God and that he and God had come to an understanding. He shared that a personal crisis involving the near loss of his wife and son to death is what led him to that understanding. I still didn't hear anything come out of his mouth that sounded like he had a repentant heart. I pressed further.

I asked him if he read his Bible and he responded that he attends church. I asked if he repented and he said he had come to an understanding with God. Hmmm...

I tried to lead him through the law and he wanted nothing to do with it. So, I shared with him my experience of thinking that I was OK, only to find that I was a sinner even though I was "good" by the world's standards. I took myself through the law. I explained that if I would have stood before God on Judgement Day without repenting and believing in Jesus, that I most certainly would be sentenced to Hell.

He listened to the whole conversation, and at the end said, "I don't mind if you call and want to stay in touch, but I don't want to talk about religion. I'm fine, really." I told him that I wished him well and that I hope he would consider what I shared.

Since I am married, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to "keep in touch" with another married man, no matter how innocent. But I had two very real promptings that I believed I was to be obedient to share the Gospel.

I wept after I got off the phone with him. I have not been able to write about this experience until now. I have prayed for him and his family since November because I have never experienced a real Christian who didn't want to talk about their Lord and Saviour. All indications are that he is a pretender.

I was told that I should have reacquainted with him for several months or years and then gradually hope that he would "see my light shine." I disagree. I am not God, and thus I may not have had that time. We never know when we are going to die. I certainly wasn't going to take liberties that weren't mind. Obedience. It's a hard thing. You just want people to see the simplicity and truth of the Gospel and fall to their knees and repent, but when they don't, you grieve and pray that God brings that seed to fruition.

He was a dear friend so many years ago and I fear that he is unsaved and still an angry young boy trapped in a man's body shaking his angry fist at God. Please pray for Brent.

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