Recently I had lunch with an Indian couple. Having worked with the husband for a number of years, over and over he has told me that he “has a lot of respect for me”. Earlier this spring, I saw him at a social event and we were talking about some of our interests outside of work. I mentioned about a number of church activities I’m involved in, including Awana. When he heard about Awana, he sounded interested in it for his young child. So, recently I sent him an email telling him that Awana starts on September 9th and if he’s still interested, it would be a good time to register. Ultimately, due to time and location, we wasn’t interested in signing up this year, but he said that he is interested in me “teaching him” and just being around me to learn “the discipline”. Well, really, he was wanting me to teach his 3 year old. What an opportunity! So, I offered that maybe I could teach him first. He agreed and I set up a lunch meeting with him. It was kind of a surprise that he brought his wife along, but in the end, it turned out pretty good. We got to the restaurant and after ordering and some small talk, I got right into our topic. I commented about his having respect for me and how I appreciated that comment, but I have to give all credit Jesus Christ. He made me who I am today and without him I’m nothing. I explained a little bit about how my life changed so much after hearing the Gospel in that Easter service in 1999. We would get back to that more later.
I asked him what he knew about Jesus and Christianity. He started to recount the facts he knew. He said that Jesus was the guy that “killed himself”. Well, in a way, he was right because Jesus said in John 10:18 “No one takes it [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again…” But my colleague made it sound like Jesus committed suicide. I just agreed and clarified that Jesus died. I asked him and his wife whether they’d ever heard that Jesus was called Savior. They both said yes, that they’d heard that. I asked them if they knew why Jesus is called Savior. He replied, “because He died for our sins”. I thought – pretty good answer! Then I asked if he knew what sin was (since he’d mentioned sin). He said that sin was breaking God’s law. Again, I thought, pretty good answer. So, I asked him what God’s law was and where he could find it. He really didn’t know.
I thought it was a good time to introduce my gift to him. I pulled out a brown leather New Living Translation Bible and told him this was my gift to him. (I had found it for $2.99 at Goodwill, which I told him 🙂 ). So, I asked him whether he’d ever heard of the 10 commandments. He said he had, but he couldn’t tell me any of them. So, I turned to Exodus 20 and read through a number of them. While talking about the 10 commandments, I elaborated on several of them, like adultery, which can be committed in the mind as well via lust, murder, which can be committed in the mind via hate, and the first commandment having no other gods before God, which can be committed if you put anything else before Him (including your career, your family, your health or anything else). Later on in the conversation I would tell him that Jesus wants first place in his life, He wants all of him.
So, I told him that these laws are God’s standard – perfection in keeping them. Since no one in the history of the world has been perfect in keeping these (with the exception of Jesus), everyone is a sinner. I said that we may be “good people” when we compare ourselves to each other, but God doesn’t compare us to each other. God’s standard is 100% perfection. So, since we’re all sinners, we’ve got a problem, I told them, because God, as a righteous judge, cannot ignore sin – and give us a “free pass”. I told them about the example where if a person had murdered someone and then came in and asked the judge to let him off because of other good deeds he’d done, that judge would not be able to let the person off. The punishment for murder still needs to be carried out. In the same way, God has stated that the punishment for crimes against Him (sin) is death and eternal separation from Him, which is what is called hell. It is hell because everything good comes from God, so separation from Him is nothing good (and everything bad), which is hell. So, I told him, “As you said, Jesus was dying for our sins on the cross, paying the penalty we deserved”. I explained that He was able to pay for our sins because He was sinless and didn’t have to pay for His own sins. So, God’s word (the Bible) says that if we will repent, which means to change our minds about our sins and about Jesus and realize that we deserved the punishment that He took for us and if we embrace Him by faith, then God will forgive us of all our sins and declare us righteous in His sight. To reinforce this point, I quoted Romans 3:20
“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin”.
I shared how Jesus did start a religion in some sense, but religion seems to focus on what man must do to get God’s approval, while Christianity focuses on what Christ has done to save us.
Throughout the conversation, I checked with him and his wife to see if they were understanding what I was communicating. They are a very silent couple – just listening and absorbing the information like a sponge. I felt confident from their responses that they were understanding this material.
In order to communicate the heart of Jesus toward people, I told them 2 stories from the gospel of Luke. One was the parable of the 2 men that went up to the temple to pray – the Pharisee and the tax collector. I told them about how the Pharisees were the Jewish religious leaders of the day – very proud and very legalistic – trying to follow the law to a tee. They had power and because Jesus made them look bad in the eyes of the people by pointing out their hypocrisy, they were His enemies. Then the tax collectors, who the Jewish people despised as the worst sinners and traitors to the Jewish people because they were collecting taxes on them for the Romans. In a conversational manner, I quoted this parable from memory (one of the big benefits of Scripture memorization):
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)
I asked them to take notice that the tax collector – the despised sinner – is the one who went home justified before God because he acknowledged he was a sinner and asked God to have mercy on him. I said this is very important to understand and this is what everyone has to do to be right with God.
Then I also told him that account of Jesus being crucified on a cross in between 2 criminals. I recounted how earlier, those 2 criminals had seen how Jesus forgave the people who’d crucified him (Luke 23:34) and now, in a conversational manner, I quoted this account to them from Luke 23:39-43
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.“
So, I told them, see how the one criminal acknowledged his sin and asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom? This was a deathbed conversion. This person had no time to do any good works – he was only hours from his death and yet he was saved by Jesus, which is evident because of Jesus’ statement “today you will be with me in paradise.”
Again, they seemed to understand all of this, but there were some points in the conversation where he indicated that he could never be as devoted as me. He asked me, “isn’t this kind of like a 2nd job for you? Don’t you work like 40 extra hours a week on this?” This grieves me to hear that people are pushed away after seeing my devotion to Christ. I turned his Bible to Philippians 1:21 and asked him to read it – out loud so his wife could hear it too. He read “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. We talked about this is the apostle Paul – one of those who met Christ. He was saying that if he goes on living in this world, it will be for Christ. But if he dies, that will be a gain, because he will actually go to be with Christ! They understood how it is good either way. He asked me how I got so devoted – how did this transformation of me happen? I told them that God did it. I said that when you repent and trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord, he gives you a new heart and new desires. That is called being born again. Just like we were all born physically, we all need to also be born spiritually. The reason is that when we were born physically, we were spiritually dead towards God. Jesus was talking to a guy named Nicodemus and told him that he must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus didn’t understand – he said how could he crawl back into his mother’s womb to be born again. Jesus clarified that he had to be spiritually reborn. I explained that this is a process that begins when you place your trust in Christ for your salvation, receiving Him as Lord and Savior of your life.
He also indicated that he doesn’t know if he can even understand all this. I told him – you’re smart and I have faith in your ability to understand this material. I said, “You know, the Gospel is so simple that even a 3 or 4 year old can understand it. Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – that’s it. Is that difficult to understand?” He said, no it’s not difficult. And he said, I do believe in Jesus. I just feel like God has put me here to accomplish some things with my career. I want to be successful and do great things. He was basically communicating to me that he didn’t have time for all of the Christian activities and study he saw me doing. I said, well, you’re married – so what if you got married to your wife and then said “I have to go work on my career and education for a year and I won’t be able to see you or have any time for you”? Would your wife think that you really loved her? His wife smiled and laughed… That’s the same way with Jesus, I said. He wants to be number 1 in your life. Jesus said ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.’ (Matthew 6:33) Things like career, family, success, etc. will come, but you need to get right with God first. Get that relationship established and everything else will fall into place after that. The family that builds their lives on Christ first has their priorities right.
At the end of our conversation, I offered to meet again – even weekly if he’d like – to learn more about the faith and read the Bible. I showed him where the Gospel of John was in the Bible and put the marker there. I said if you want to start reading the Bible, start here. I showed him how small the book of John is – very thin – it should be a quick read. I took him to the end of the book where John explains his reason for writing the book:
John 20:30-31 – Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
I emphasized that last part “that by believing you may have life in His name”.
There were several other things covered in this conversation, which I cannot remember the detail or order of right now. My main concern is for this friend and his wife and child that, as it says at the end of the book of John, they may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, they may have life in his name.