Obedience tastes sweet.

30 Jan

Last night, Travis and I went to a going-away party for a guy from Travis’ work. We drove down where the party was with our friends Ahren and Lauren (Ahren works with Travis too).

Just to give you a little background, Ahren and Lauren are fun to hang out with. We get along well and enjoy the same activities: hunting, camping, hiking, fishing, etc. But they are not believers. They go to mass and consider themselves Catholic, though they don’t believe everything the Catholic religion believes. They like to party (aka get drunk) but usually with us, they just chill and have a few.

Because I have been convicted of sharing my faith more earnestly, I have been praying and looking for opportunities to bring up the gospel. I had thought about calling Lauren up and asking her out to coffee, since I only ever hang out with her in group settings. And I still might do that. We’ll see.

So last night, when we were on our way to the party, we happened to drive past the Denver Seminary. Ahren said that he didn’t know Denver had a seminary, and that he didn’t even know what a seminary was. We got on the subject of priests and how many new ones we thought there had been in the past couple of years (not many). And I felt the Spirit prompting that this was my chance.

The question that popped into my head was “What do you think about heaven?” There was a lull in the conversation and it would’ve been the perfect time but I was so scared to bring it up that I kept my mouth shut. Then Travis said something else and the conversation got off topic so I thought I was out my chance. I could feel my skin burning, the way it does when I have been really, really, really nervous and am finally let off the hook.

But as we continued driving (this place was about a 30 minute drive away), I couldn’t stop thinking about it. If I truly believe that they’re going to hell because they don’t believe in Christ, I can’t just shrug the conversation off like “it just wasn’t the right time.” It is always the right time, whether it’s awkward or not.

So I just blurted it out: “What do Catholics believe about heaven?”

Ahren asked if I was asked about anything specific in regards to heaven and I said no, I just didn’t know much about the Catholic faith. He said that they do believe that there’s a heaven and that you get there by asking for forgiveness (or by living exactly the way they want you to, which both Ahren and Lauren admitted was impossible… so at least there’s that). I confirmed that they believed forgiveness was the way you get to heaven. They said yes, that and confession. You’re supposed to go every week. I asked if they do that. Both of them said that they hadn’t gone to confession in years.

“So you’re just banking on asking for forgiveness before you die?” I asked.

“Something like that,” they replied.

“Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yes, we do. We believe that he was the Messiah,” Ahren said. They said something else after this about Jesus and one religion not being for everyone but I can’t remember exactly what it was. But it prompted me to ask,

“Do you think Jesus is the only way to heaven?” They didn’t.

Then I quoted to them Jesus’ saying, “I am the way, the truth, the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.”

“Hmmmmm,” Ahren said.

“There’s a book called More Than a Carpenter,” I said.

“I’ve heard of that book!” Lauren said.

“In it, it says that Jesus was either a lunatic, liar, or Lord. So he’s either crazy, lying about everything, or he’s actually God. If he is God, then we have to believe everything he says because God is perfect.”

“Hmmmmm,” Ahren said again.

“He also says that we have to born again to be saved, that we get to heaven by putting our trust in Christ. That it’s not about how good we are, how we live, what we do with our lives, but about putting our trust in Him. He came to earth and lived a perfect life (it says in Hebrews that he didn’t sin), then died on the cross for our sins (he could do that because he was fully God and fully man), and we go to heaven by putting our faith in Him alone.”

“Hmmmm,” Ahren said.

At this point, we were reading the directions and trying to figure out where to turn so the conversation got a little distracting. But I didn’t want to lose the chance to share the gospel so I just pushed ahead.

Ahren started to say, “We do believe in the crucifixion, that Jesus died for our sins…” But then we found the place and the conversation was over. But Travis has a great starting point now the next Ahren and he go out to lunch to ask Ahren what he thought about what we talked about the other night.

I asked Travis later in the night what he thought of the conversation. He said that it was pretty awkward but that he thought it was good and that it might have always been awkward. It would be interesting to know what those kinds of conversations feel like on the other side. Maybe they just feel awkward to us because we’re the ones who are telling the gospel.

But I finally obeyed the Spirit! There have been other times when I thought about sharing the gospel (not necessarily with Ahren and Lauren) but I’ve kept my mouth shut because of somehow rationalizing the reason why I didn’t have to or shouldn’t share the gospel at that moment. I was able to convince myself that it wasn’t really the Spirit’s prompting, it was just an idea I had on my own. Not so! The guilt I felt after those missed opportunities showed me that it was the Spirit leading me, and I had disobeyed. Now I know from experience that instead of guilt, obedience tastes sweet.

I have been battling with the tension between living out my faith and being intentional about sharing my faith. I think that we are called to live out our faith always, even in the midst of sharing our faith. But we are also called to share our faith with unbelievers with words and intentionality. And I am so glad that I did that last night. Selfishly, I am also happy that it didn’t make things awkward between us but I’d rather it be awkward for them to come to know Christ than to maintain the peace and settle for being “friends” with people who we know are going to hell. (How can we be friends with them and be ok with that, is what I want to know? We need to remind ourselves that, like C.S. Lewis says, “There are no mere mortals.” Everyone we see is going to either heaven or hell. Greg Stier said that he always imagined people with “Bound for Hell” stamped across their foreheads to give him motivation to share the gospel. He even to the malls on the weekends when he was in high school to do cold evangelism.)

Anyway, I will pray for Ahren and Lauren, that God will plant a seed in them. I will also pray for Travis, that he has the boldness and opportunity to bring it up again with Ahren.

Something that has helped me is to remind myself while I’m talking to other people about the gospel that I have staked my life on this. This is what has shaped my entire being, values, daily activity, friends, etc. I am just sharing what I believe with others, not trying to cram it down their throats. I honestly what to dialogue about the gospel with people. If they don’t believe, that’s God’s business. But if they do, what an amazing thing to behold (it hasn’t happened to me yet but I’m hoping it will as I start/continue to share my faith!)

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