ARE YOU PREPARED?
by Teresa Altman
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It was a cool, clear Wednesday morning. I stood impatiently at a busy street corner in anxious anticipation of a green light. Immersed in thought and oblivious to the motions around me, I was only vaguely aware of the small gathering of pedestrians. As we waited cautiously for the light to change, I was engrossed in thoughtful preparation for the day at hand.
Early meeting schedules, a trip to the cleaners, piano lessons, parent-teacher meetings and Wednesday night church service. How was I to get it all done? Every day seems to be filled with more errands and activities than I am able to accomplish, and yet, none of them give me a feeling of fulfillment or purpose. Many times I have asked myself, why? What am I missing?"
A long moment passed before I recognized the loud screeching sound of braking rotors… and then, that dreadful sound of someone being struck by a car'. It was the screams of bystanders that finally broke my concentration and aroused my awareness. As my gaze dropped to the street curb, I saw the young man once standing next to me lying mere inches from my feet, in a pool of his own blood. His eyes, wide in shock, were fixed on mine. Unable to move, I stood aghast at what I saw. Then I noticed his lips moving.
Was he speaking to me? Was he trying to give me the names of his next of kin? I couldn't make out what he was saying. Desperate, not knowing what I should do, I looked around for someone to help. The crowd had scattered and there was no one near. As I knelt beside him, I silently prayed that God would intervene… and intervene He did!
"Help me, help me!" he begged, "I'm dying and I don't know God! Please help me!
Fear suddenly swept over me. How can I share the gospel with this young man when there may be only scarce seconds before he slips into unconsciousness? I had only witnessed to people with whom I had established a relationship. What can I effectively say to this stranger?
It would be meaningless for me to tell him of the joy, peace and happiness he can experience from a relationship with Christ. He would not be interested in knowing about the God-shaped vacuum in his heart or that God has a wonderful plan for his life. But that is the only witness I knew and I had seen so many disillusioned Christians' that quickly fall away and return to their sinful nature when seeking only the fruits of salvation. Was I to be this man's last hope to receive the plan of salvation, for which I was completely unprepared?
While I stood frozen trying to think of the best approach to address salvation with this fatally injured man, he quickly succumbed to death with the door to his unsaved soul opened and fixed upon me. I fell to my knees in utter shame.
The ultimate test had been placed before me and I had failed. That young man would spend eternity in the torments of Hell because I had not been prepared for his final moment before judgment. There will never be another opportunity to save that soul. Now, I must face Christ at my own judgment. I was suddenly, and shamefully, awakened to the purpose I had been missing.
This story was not experienced in reality, but from within the realms of a deeply disturbing dream. However, the impact on my life was equally as great. The dream revealed to me that I was ill-equipped to effectively minister to a dying sinner begging for salvation. Thousands die suddenly every day, so the odds are great that one day my nightmare could easily become reality.
My evangelical preparation had always been focused on allowing my display of salvation's fruits (joy, happiness, peace) draw the lost, in other words, a witness by example. Spiritual fruits, the evidence of true salvation, attract the unsaved. Sinners will sometimes seek or desire the byproducts of salvation seen in a true Christian, yet lack the humble spirit and contrite heart necessary for a true conversion. Warning: The lack of contrition will always result in false conversion.
Some modern evangelism methods have used the appeal of happiness, joy, and peace to reach the lost. I fear that a generation of souls has claimed faith in Christianity but has never really faced their sinful nature or experienced a contrite heart. In my dream, I questioned whether my learned witness was adequate for the salvation of a dying sinner.
Those uncertainties lead me to begin a search of the scriptures for the Christ-proven' method of reaching the lost. I discovered a necessary sequential order in the salvation process. The lure of spiritual fruits was not part of the process.
God said, "But on this one I will look: on him who is humble and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at my Word" (Isaiah 66:2b).
Unless sin is acknowledged by the sinner and his spirit contrite, God will not look upon him. This verse expresses the importance of contrition and brokenness as a necessity for true conversion. But how is contrition produced in the sinner's heart?
Paul tells us in Romans 3:19-20 "by the law (Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:1-17), every mouth is stopped and the entire world becomes guilty before God. The knowledge of sin comes from the awareness of God's law."
Psalm 19:7 says that "God's law is perfect to convert the soul".
Every man has a measure of consciousness of the law that is written within his own heart (Romans 2:15).
The law is our schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24).
Christ and the Apostles first used the laws of God's Ten Commandments to make the individual aware of his own transgressions, or sins. The laws are used as a mirror to reflect sinfulness. Let's explore some examples...
Do you believe you are a good person? If so, let's explore that with a few questions. Have you ever told a lie…A white lie, a deception, or exaggeration, even if you are the only one that knows? Then according to the ninth commandment of God's laws, you are a liar...
Have you ever stolen anything…A pack of gum when you were a child, time or materials from your employer, or have you ever cheated on your taxes? Then according to the eighth commandment, you are a thief by nature...
Jesus said a man that looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5:28). Have you ever looked upon someone with lust in your heart? If so, you have violated the seventh commandment...
Many people will say that God is good and just, so He won't really make them go to Hell because of His goodness. This belief, idolatry, violates the second commandment because the person has created a god that suits their desire to justify a sinful nature...
What are the consequences of sin? God says that all liars, idolaters and the sexually immoral shall have their part of the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8). We have only visited four of the ten laws and it doesn't look good, does it?
It is BECAUSE of God's goodness and just nature that He MUST punish the sinner. But because of His love for us, He has also provided a substitute to take our judgment for us. We only have to acknowledge our own sin, repent (or turn) from our sinful lifestyle, and accept His gift of salvation...
In the scriptures, once recognition of sin (in light of the Law) and judgment of death (as sin's consequence) is revealed to the sinner, Jesus and the Apostles revealed and offered the sacrificial, redeeming gift of salvation.
Evangelizing the lost is not intuitive. It is a learned process. By allowing my own life to distract me, I had neglected my responsibility to the Christian's commission of "seeking to save the lost". It took a deeply disturbing dream to give me the insight that I was ill-prepared to answer the call.
Today, I no longer rely on a lure of spiritual fruits to reach the lost. Revealing "Goodness" (or lack thereof), in the light of 'The Law', has become my approach in reaching the lost and a means to prepare my way to answer an immediate, dying plea of a sinner. What about you?
...Are you prepared?
'Do you want to go to heaven alone? I fear you will never go there. Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.' Charles Spurgeon
"It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27 (NKJV)
"Therefore, prepare yourself and arise, and speak to them all that I command you." Jeremiah 1:17 (NKJV)
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