Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Christ Raises the Dead!

On the bus ride home Monday, I settled into the very back seat of the bus, excited about spending time in God’s Word. I read in John 11 how “Jesus wept” then raised his beloved friend, Lazarus from the dead. This mighty demonstration of His deity and authority over death happend even after four days of decay!

My relative solitude was disturbed when a 40-something, disheveled man took the seat next to me. I didn’t notice him at first, and tried to keep my nose in my Bible, but his odor and apparent desire to talk woke me up. “How ya doing, sir? Good to see you’re reading the Bible.” I looked up and noticed right away he had a nasty black eye. “God bless you,” he said. “that’s the Lord’s work.”

I introduced myself, his name was Mark. I asked if he was a believer and read the Bible himself, and he explained how Jesus Christ came to die for his sins (of which he had repented) and had made Him his Lord and Savior. He was baptized as an infant in his dad’s church (when will I learn that EVERYBODY will proclaim their own goodness!). Only problem is … his life never changed and he continued to sin despite being "sorry". Was this man a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). He still cursed like a sailor and drank excessively (in fact he often pulled out his bottle of vadka from his bag to flavor his clear cup of ice water). The shiner I mentioned was received by some guys who—like himself—don’t act much like Christians. He also complained of broken ribs from being shot recently. Amazingly he constantly gave credit to God’s grace for his even being alive.

His sad story included jail time (I didn’t ask what he was “in for”) and some pretty shocking and tragic family history. I thanked God for His longsuffering and for placing him next to me on the bus.

As Mark shared his story, I prayed and listened and did my best to steer the discussion. He gladly welcomed questions, which I used to try to guide the conversation. This proved to be somewhat like like pushing one of those shopping carts with an obstinate wheel that points the wrong direction! Soon, though, God allowed me to explain to Mark his need to consider his standing before God, and the urgency of testing his salvation in light of his life and Scripture.

To my amazement Mark freely admitted he should be reading the Bible. As if he expected me to pull one out for him, he said he would gladly take one if I had it. The day before this, I had SIX gift New Testaments in my backpack, but I had inexplicably taken them out! I’m ashamed now that I didn’t offer him my new ESV Bible (later I felt like Gollum in LOTR!)

"My precious!"

I did have some Gospel tracts with me and several printed copies of the Bible verses MacArthur put together in showing how to present the Gospel to your children in his book on parenting, (see my last blog, Bad News First, Please!) This is one of the the most biblically comprehensive presentations of the Gospel I’ve seen! Mark coached me to present what I had, but often interrupted to tell about his hard life.

The more I learned about Mark, the more I thanked God that I’m naïve and trusting, because if I'd known this man was as scary as I later learned (he claimed to have killed a man!), I never would talked so candidly with him. In fact, I felt very at ease ... aside from the profanity, I rather enjoyed his open-minded honesty (was it the boos?)

I later became aware that my voice was carrying and those around us were listening as well, though no one seemed to want to join our conversation (or even make eye contact!) I remember wishing I’d spent more time memorizing the Gospel passages! Boy, how I struggled to present a clear message! If I had recorded the conversation, I could sell copies to show how NOT to witness!

But God is sovereign, and Mark appreciated that I seemed to care. The bus arrived at the parking lot of the Great Mall and we "stumbled off", Mark because he was now drunk, and me because of my excitement, and because I can’t walk and witness (or even pray) at the same time! A light rain began to fall and a gust of wind scattered the 4-page Gospel printout I gave him. No worries, I took out another copy and took the liberty of putting it directly in his backpack!

As we waited for my bus, I encouraged Mark—with a burden and passion for this man that only Christ could have ignited—to turn his back on the sin in his life, throwing it away from him like he would a live hand grenade (if you hold on to it will destroy you), and to run to Christ in faith! I think I heard this from reading an entry in Adventures in Christianity. I'll never forget that when it was time for me to go, Mark gave me a hug and thanked me for sharing with him.

Not sure what will happen to Mark. A relative of his agreed to give him some work the next morning, if he was sober and showed up at 7:00 am. That truly would be only something God could orchestrate after watching him put the vadka away.
He told me he would read everything I gave him, and would pray to God that night, about what we talked about. He didn’t think he could give up “the drink” because his pain was so great, but I told him over and over he needed to turn his back on it. I also encouraged him not to try to clean himself up, but that God will take him where he's at. I heard MacArthur say once that God justifies sinners and makes them righteous, not the other way around. We don’t get ourselves righteous by cleaning up our life so that God will accept us! This man has nothing to offer God, nor does anyone! “A person cannot receive anything unless it has been given him from heaven (John 3:25-30)” We’re all sinful creatures who only seek our own good. Without God's grace, and Christ's transformation of our lives, we would be just as pitiful and despicable as this man. In fact, we'd still be dead spiritually (Eph 2:4).

Unless God changes Mark’s heart and imparts a new life to him, he’s without hope. Pastor Neal (one of our associate pastors at Countryside) preached Sunday night on Romans 5:1-3. The phrase that I took from that is “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” For Christians who God has transformed, we have a hope that is certain. The Greek for “hope” used in this verse doesn’t leave any doubt as to the outcome. Our English word says “I hope the weather will be nice," this hope is used to convey something that is inevitable! Like Lazarus, all believers were once dead and without hope, but Christ has called us out of our tomb of sin. I pray that Mark will receive that same call and will "come forth" as well. May Jesus Christ, “The Resurrection and the Life” receive all the glory!
If you do not have an assurance of your salvation, take a minute and take this test to see if you are "good enough" to get to Heaven: Good Person Test

1 comment:

From the Wilderness... said...

Sounds like a neat encounter! I used to work with a guy or two like that. Those people sometimes seem so hopeless because they "know" all about the gospel but seem unwilling or unable to act on it. I'm so glad though that you were able to exhort him, that was blessing.

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