I INVITED A FRIEND OUT TO COFFEE. He is older and doesn’t have long to live. Because I care deeply for him I looked for an opportunity to share the gospel. We visited for about 45 minutes about things we had in common. Finally, I screwed up my courage.
“Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
“No, I don’t mind.”
“Were you raised with any particular religious beliefs?”
“I grew up on a cattle ranch. We didn’t go to church. I didn’t receive any religious training. I don’t have any particular beliefs,” he answered.
“What do you think happens to people when they die?
“I suppose they just disappear. Maybe they just quit existing. I don’t know,” he answered.
“Has anybody ever explained to you what Christians believe?”
“No, not really.”
“Would you like to know?” (Here is the crucial question. I never violate my listener’s will. If they say “no” I change the subject).
“Well, I suppose I’d be open to hearing,” he cautiously answered.
“The Bible teaches that God is holy,” I began. “That means he is not like anyone you know. He hates sin and loves virtue in a way we cannot imagine.” In addition,” I continued, “because God hates evil, moral perfection, or what the Bible calls righteousness, is what you must have to get into heaven.” I was carefully positioning myself to convince him of his great personal need.
“Well, I suppose no one is perfect,” my friend answered.
“That’s right,” I said. “In addition, this God, whose standard is perfection will be our judge. That means that on the final day we will all stand before him and give an accounting for our life. Everyone found imperfect will go away into eternal condemnation.”
“Are you serious?” he asked with alarm.
“Yes, I’m serious,” I answered. Now that I had explained his great spiritual and moral need I hoped he was ready to hear the Good News.
“That is why Jesus came,” I continued. “He wants to prepare us for the Day of Final Judgment. He lived a perfect life in our place. In addition, on the cross he took the judgment that we deserve. When we put our faith in him God imputes his perfections to us, and Jesus take the judgment that our imperfections deserve. Based on that transaction, the Day of Final Judgment will be a time of great joy for Believers. God promises to give all Believers, not what they deserve, but the reward that Jesus deserves.”
As my friend listened attentively, and the reality of what we were talking about hit home, he began to get mildly agitated. We talked for a few more minutes about other subjects and eventually he left.
Why were the specifics of this conversation important to his salvation? First, apathy or a lack of felt need, keeps most from conversion. They think they are good people, certainly as good as average, and all good people obviously go to a good place after death. However, God’s standards coupled with the reality of the judgment to come, expose our infinite need. They are sure to provoke one of two responses. The listener either rejects their problem and God’s solution, or they respond to the gospel.
There is a second reason the details of this conversation mattered. Evangelism is simply telling people the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Evangelism is not results. Evangelism is graciously and winsomely exposing the unbeliever to eternal realities. And the knowledge that a Day of Final Judgment is coming is essential to that process. Why? It takes us to the heart of things. It exposes our great need. It opens the door to God’s great mercy and grace. Then the results are up to God.
My friend has not yet responded to the gospel. But I am in earnest prayer for him, and I am working to maintain my relationship with him. I have great hope that he eventually will.