A few weeks ago Tabernacle began a visitation ministry on Monday nights. Basically this involved going from house to house handing out tracts, inviting people to Church, and sharing the Gospel if possible. This kind of ministry in a religious town like Barrouallie (I’ve been told there are as many as ten Churches in the area) makes those conversations very interesting.
Many towns in SVG could be called “religious mission fields” because almost everyone goes to a Church. This results in a culture of unsaved people who think they are saved, and may be able to give answers that a saved person would share, but have no real relationship with Christ.
The big problem is people like this actually understand the Gospel, but haven’t placed their faith in it. Mack Stiles says in his book “Marks of the Messenger“explains their spiritual need this way, “Understanding is not enough, there must be heartfelt, deep-seated faith and trust in Christ, His work and His call to us personally.” This is bad news for many people in Barrouallie (and around the world) who have an understanding head-knowledge of what the Gospel teaches, but it’s never affected their heart.
Last night during visitation I noticed a teenage girl who sometimes attends Bible Club nearby so I walked over and gave her a tract. As we were talking the Lord led me to use one of my favorite questions when sharing the Gospel,”if you went to Heaven today and God asked why he should let you in, what would you tell him?” (this question comes from Share Jesus Without Fear by Bill Faye, I find his questions and conversation starters very useful when witnessing.)
Our question went something like this
Me: “Anna (not her real name) if you died today and after getting to Heaven God asked why should I let you into heaven? what would you tell Him?”
Anna: (thinking a moment) “I would tell Him I am a child of God”
Me: “okay, so how does somebody become a child of God?”
Anna: (biting her lip) “umm do good things?”
Sadly our culture is filled with Anna’s who can explain the Gospel but have never truly experienced it for themselves. Even more heartbreaking they believe that understanding of Salvation is enough to get them into Heaven.
So how do we reach the Anna’s of this world? While it’s definitely not an easy task I believe in the words of Mack Styles we must explain “understanding is not enough.” Christ Himself made this very clear when encountered by a demon-possessed man in Mark chapter one.
Mark 1:21 And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.
Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:23 ¶ And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,
Mark 1:24 Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.
Mark 1:25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him.
Mark 1:26 And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. (emphasis added)
Obviously this demon (notice the words “us”, and “we” that proves its the demon speaking not the man) knew exactly who Jesus was, but Christ sent him out of the man. Later we are told Jesus didn’t allow the demons to speak because they knew who He was (Mark 1:34). Christ knew their confession came from fear of being cast out instead of true-repentance. Again “understanding (confession of Christ) is not enough, there must be a faith and trust in Christ.”
Now I could spend hours explaining to Anna why calling herself a child of God couldn’t save her if she got there by doing works, and didn’t have a firm grasp on what it meant to believe in Jesus. But it’s my personal opinion a knowledge that understanding the Gospel isn’t enough to save her comes through the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
So its my job to MOVE PAST THE BASIC GOSPEL ANSWER and with loving questions bring that uncomfortable moment when they bite their lip. This through prayer and conversation puts what Ted Koukl in his book “Tactics“calls “a pebble in their shoe.” That small seed of doubt (what would I say to God?) is used by the Holy Spirit to bring Biblical conviction, and prepare for future Gospel Based conversations.
May God break our hearts over the Anna’s of this world, and give us opportunities to lovingly show understanding is not enough to save them.