Difficult Case Witnessing

Q. How do you witness to friends whose unsaved parents have died? The thought of them suffering in hell turned them off so they won’t listen to the gospel.

A. The situation you described applies also to the surviving spouse whose husband or wife had passed away. They told me they would rather go to be with their spouse than to leave him/her to go to heaven. What would you say or do to help them?

First, I would console your friend. Witnessing is important, but so is timing. To give condolences and comfort your friend is important during his time of grief, or he won’t hear you.

Second, I would use the parable of the rich man and Lazarus:
Lk 16:27-28 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—in order that he may warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Even though the rich man ignored Lazarus’ plight during his lifetime, after he died he was concerned about his five brothers and wanted to warn them to repent so that they won’t end up like him. The deceased parent or spouse may not be pitiless like the rich man, but if they are unsaved and in agony, they would NOT want the same thing to happen to their surviving children or spouse. They would want them to be comforted in heaven, instead of joining him in suffering.

Besides, if your friend won’t listen and reject the gospel, his own children may be influenced to follow in his footsteps. So several generations may be affected by his foolishness. The past is gone and can’t be reversed. But he can affect the future by making a wise choice himself. So between comforting his emotions and appealing to his heart and will I would try to persuade him to commit to Christ. Hope this helps.

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Handing Out Tracts

Q. How do you greet strangers with a religious tract? I just say “God bless you”. Is there anything better? How do you greet a Buddhist so that he won’t brush me off ? How about “I am bringing good news from the God of your ancestors.”? I often look for ways to improve performance. Despite being a cult, Mormons often impress me with their seriousness in what they are doing with the way they dress themselves when they come knocking on my door. Color psychology suggests people are more receptive to others dressed in blue color. Have you noticed such reaction ?

A. Always smile to show that you are friendly & approachable. There is no need to ask “Would you like one of these?” That gives them a chance to say no. Simply give it. There are no fool-proof introductions, but I’ve used the following lines:
• Did you get one of these?
• Here’s a little gift for you.
• This is for you.
• Here’s something for you to read later.
• Here’s a free gospel tract.
• Here’s one of our church tracts.
• Here’s some food for thought.

When I distribute tracts to complete strangers on the street or in a mall, I have no idea what they believe, whether they are atheists, Buddhists, or any other religion. So I don’t presume anything until there is dialogue & I know something about their background. “God bless you” is ok, but “bringing good news from your ancestors’ God” sounds corny.

Mormon missionaries are always clean-cut & neatly dressed. Jehovah Witnesses are not badly attired either. They want to give a good first impression so that people are not put off before they even open their mouths. My rule is “give no offense”:
1 Co 10:32 Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;
• 2 Co 6:3 giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited,

Navy blue conveys power, authority, stability, conservatism, confidence. That’s why government officials & executives wear them. Just make sure your “packaging” matches your “content”.

God’s Choice vs. Man’s Choice (1 of 2)

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Q. Seems to me that allowing men to choose does not eliminate God’s sovereignty. God in His sovereignty allows man to exercise his free will in the matter of accepting Christ, just like He allows man to decide things in his every day life. However, He can also overrule and take that away any time. (Just like parents to kids.) He can choose to have mercy to anyone He wants, and He can choose to allow man to exercise his free will within the confines He defines. Otherwise why would God let us waste time to convert those who are predestined to hell?

A. I never said allowing men to choose eliminated God’s sovereignty. What I said was allowing men to have the final say eliminates God’s sovereignty. One word makes all the difference. Arminians claim that man has the final say in matters of accepting Christ, otherwise how can God hold man accountable? Calvinists claim that God has the final say in who gets saved, otherwise God is subject to man’s choice and not sovereign. The two views are mutually exclusive as both can’t have the final say. I side with the Calvinists based on scriptural evidence.

We can analyze this issue logically and biblically. For the moment, let’s put who has the final say aside. From God’s perspective, He can either elect (choose) to save a person, or pass over (bypass) him. From man’s angle, he can choose either to accept or reject Christ. There are thus 4 possible combinations:

God vs Man Choice

1. God chooses the person, and he chooses to accept Christ. The outcome is that he is saved.
2. God bypasses the person, and he chooses to reject Christ. The outcome is that he is lost.
So far so good. Both Calvinists and Arminians agree on the above outcomes. But 3 and 4 is where who has the final say becomes important.

3. God chooses the person, but he chooses to reject Christ.
a. If God has the final say (Calvinist), he is saved.
b. If man has the final say (Arminian), he is lost.

Sometimes the Calvinist view is caricatured as God dictating and cramming His will down man’s throat. We must avoid such fallacious straw man arguments. In fact God the Holy Spirit works on man’s conscience to draw him to Christ:
Jn 16:8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;
He arranges events and circumstances such that man comes to Christ willingly, because his eyes had been opened to see the plight he is in, and his heart, mind and will convicted of his need for the Savior. Calvinists call this irresistible grace or effectual calling, which precludes the possibility of those called rejecting Christ.

The Arminian view maintains that God gives prevenient grace prior to conversion that offsets the damaging effect of sin on a man’s ability to understand the gospel, releases him from bondage to sin, restores his freewill, but which comes short of efficaciously saving the person. This leaves the final decision of whether to accept or receive Christ with man, not God. Biblically, who is correct? I believe the former.

Who has the final say?
Prov 16:9 The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.
• Prov 19:21 Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the LORD will stand.
• Dan 4:34 All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’

Obviously God.

Is God’s will resistible?
Job 42:2 I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
• Isa 14:24, 27 The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, “Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, … For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”
• Rom 9:19-21 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, …

Obviously no. God as Creator has a right over man as creature, who are not His equal and can resist His will. They can try, but they won’t succeed.

(To be continued)

I Don’t Feel I Need Jesus

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Q. I am doing fine just as I am. I don’t feel I need Jesus or any religion.

A. This is a classic case of allowing the subjective to influence one’s decision, to the detriment of objective reality. The unbeliever feels that everything is fine and going his way. He is content with his situation and doesn’t feel the need to change. So why bother? The reality is that Satan had deceived him and lulled him into a false sense of security. He doesn’t see his true spiritual condition and the plight he is in, so he rejects the gospel:
2 Co 4:4 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
• Rom 3:10-12 as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.”
• Rom 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
• Rom 6:23a For the wages of sin is death,
• Jn 3:18b he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

It is the same in physical life. Some have terminal illness but do not feel a thing. No pain, no suffering, as if nothing is wrong. But when finally the symptoms manifest itself, it is too late. You see feelings do not change the facts; they only change how you behave. Emotions affect your personal preferences, and when you are self-deceived about how deplorable your actual situation is, you choose against your own best interests, which unbelievers tend to do:
2 Co 10:12b but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.
• Eph 4:18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

So the wise thing to do is to investigate for yourself what the gospel is all about, and then decide after you know the facts. That’s like deferring a prognosis until after a proper diagnosis, instead of refusing medication before even knowing how sick you are.

Why Evangelism?

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Q. If God foreordains who would be saved, then why bother with evangelism at all? He has already predestined everything, so it really does not matter what we do.

A. We evangelize because:
1. Christ commanded it:
Mt 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
• Mk 16:15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.
• Lk 24:47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
• Jn 20:21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
• Acts 1:8b and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

When our Lord commanded it in the Great Commission, that alone is more than enough reason for us to evangelize.

2. God ordained not just the ends, but also the means:
Rom 10:13-15a for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?
God chose who would be saved, but He also chose that they would be saved through hearing the gospel. So He sent preachers to preach the good news.

3. It is our privilege:
Rom 10:15b Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
Most feet are not beautiful, but those who bring the gospel are. It is an honor for those who are given the opportunity to share, and brings great joy when those we witnessed to come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. That’s why we evangelize.

Leading Seniors to Christ

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Last Sunday we received an urgent call from a former church member C. (name changed), asking whether we could visit her parents before her mom goes for surgery next week. They are in their mid to late 70’s, with health issues.

The mom had been a staunch Taoist, even pledging herself to be a disciple of Zhang Daoling, the first Celestial Master (張天師) in second century BC. However, when she had a near fatal illness nearly 10 years ago, she professed faith in Christ, but hesitatingly, as her husband was not a believer. He had been a businessman in Hong Kong (HK), but does not believe in any religion. Both retired and emigrated to Canada to live with their daughter in 1997, when HK was repatriated to China.

Two weeks earlier the church caring team had visited them to share the gospel, inviting them to trust in Christ alone for their salvation. The mom said she already believed in Jesus, but will follow her husband’s decision as head of the household, as many older Chinese wives are accustomed to do. The dad said he also believes in Jesus, otherwise why would he follow his daughter to church every Sunday? But he cannot trust in Jesus alone, since previously he followed Master Zhang and could not be disloyal. The team explained that Christianity is exclusive and that he could not put his faith in both, but he wouldn’t budge, as disloyalty is a grave sin with dire consequences. That’s when someone suggested C. contact us.

Prior to our appointment the team explained to us how their meeting went, so we were aware of the impasse. What the team said was correct, but there is a better way to present the truth to avoid the deadlock. After inquiring about their health to establish rapport, we transitioned to the gospel. We agreed with him that loyalty is important. Just as in a marriage the partners need to be faithful to each other and not leave room for a third-party, so in matters of faith one should commit wholeheartedly and not have divided loyalties. However, important as that is, there is an even more important issue to be resolved first. And that most important thing is to determine who the one true God is, and commit to Him alone and no one else.

We explained to him that in time past many Chinese did not know any better as they had not heard the gospel. They followed blindly the beliefs of ancestors without questioning, and were conned by demonic deception such as healing from a sickness or winning a fortune. Little did they realize that these are like sugar-coated poison, because the cost is to forfeit their soul (Mt 16:26; Mk 8:36; Lk 9:25). So the priority is to find out who the true God is, and then commit to follow Him only. He was a businessman and understood right away Satan’s tricks to lure people to follow him, so we invited them to settle their commitment once for all, which they accepted. After further clarification questions we asked them to pray to tell Jesus their commitment to trust Him alone. All were glad as we welcome them into God’s family. Hallelujah!

The gospel never changes, but how you present it can vary with the need. Always be ready to share with anyone, any place, anywhere. You’ll be glad you did, just as there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:10).