Sometimes I wonder why I am surrounded by so many people who claim to be either agnostic (unconvinced that there is such a thing as God, but vaguely open to the idea should they be given sufficient proof) or flat out atheist. I know that some overzealous or downright false evangelists have turned many people away from the good news of Christ which is so very sad. I don’t blame people for rejecting Christianity if all they see of it are the charlatans (Leroy Jenkins, Peter Popoff, and other prosperity preachers) and the crazy people. I try not to be an obnoxious witness as there is a fine line between preaching God’s word and being taken as a holy roller.
I am a Christian (even though I am certainly not the best model of the Christian life- I have very far to go in the way of sanctification and my stubborn old nature fights it tooth and nail) and I have had life long struggles with theology and faith. At one point in time I was almost agnostic in my views and behavior, at another I almost ended up joining a Southern Baptist church for their emphasis on Bible study but I was downright terrified by their eschatological views. Knowing my luck the Rapture would happen and I would be taking a dump and be disqualified for partial nudity or I would be road raging and cussing someone out or doing some other sinful thing and because of that I would be Left Behind. The Catholics more or less creeped me out with the praying to saints and endless worrying over whether or not I would die suddenly in a mortal sin. Thankfully I ended up going to a Lutheran church in my teens- no praying to saints and no bizarre extrascriptural interpretations of the books of Daniel and/or Revelation. I learned Christ alone, faith alone, Scripture alone- and those “Three Solas” are the basic foundation of my understanding of theology. It’s Christ or nothing, as C.S. Lewis pointed out and Jesus Himself underscored in John 14:6.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Imagine growing up between a very observant old school Catholic mother and a born-again Bible believing Regular Baptist father and grandmother and it is a wonder I have any clue what to believe. So I had to learn and discover – work out my salvation in fear and trembling like the apostle Paul spoke of – which, by the grace of God He enables me to do. You can’t earn your way to Heaven and you can’t stand on your own good works which to me is good news- but what about the atheist or agnostic who has never come to the point that C.S. Lewis describes as realizing it’s Christ or nothing? It’s the point where you take Jesus at His word, or you reject Him and substitute your own system.
I had to learn the hard way that my system didn’t work. I was plagued with panic attacks. I was addicted to overwork. I was a binge drinker, a chain smoker, and I was not above sexual intrigues or just about anything else I could use to get my own way. By the time I was 30 years old that lifestyle was killing me physically, emotionally and above all spiritually. Either it was Christ or I would be nothing. My own doctor predicted that barring a radical lifestyle change that I would be dead by age 35.
Jerry’s friend Bob is a hard core atheist. He resists any attempt for anyone to talk to him directly regarding matters of faith, let alone to dare to suggest that there is an Almighty God and that apart from His Son Jesus there is nothing beyond the grave but the eternal torment of hell. I am not much for the hellfire and brimstone evangelizing but Jesus Himself talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Hell is real and you don’t get out of hell by being “a nice guy.” Human beings are intrinsically evil and we all fall short of God’s standards, which is why we need Christ.
I know that while there is life there is hope but Bob is most likely in the process of dying. I pray for his physical healing even though I know he would be outraged to hear of it. I pray even more that somehow, someway God will find a way through his hard heart and that he will accept the good news of salvation in Christ.
Sometimes the only way we have to preach the gospel is not through words but through our actions and care for someone, to be as Christ to them even though they don’t believe. I don’t know what if anything God can do with me but He is more than welcome to try.