A private word
Over the last couple of months I have struggled with discouragement and despair. This is in part to do with the hardness of people's hearts, partly stress and sheer tiredness, and partly to do with my own misconceptions about what my life should be like. I have come to see (by the grace of God through many precious people around me) that this attitude is not right.
What reason do I have to despair, indeed what right? My Lord and God has been merciful and kind to me far beyond this hell-deserving sinner should have ever expected. As a Christian I have been purchased with the precious blood of Jesus Christ and my life is no longer my own; I have been purchased at great cost. As one who walks in the path of my saviour I should expect nothing more than the responses my Lord faced, if I am indeed being faithful (Mt 10:16-25).
In the work of evangelism there are times of frustration, pain, offence, hurt and rejection and these things are hard to bear. But this does not change, who we are, nor who our Lord is. He is good and wise and has promised to be with us always, working everything to the good of those who love Him; I should bring our frustrations to Him! As His child, knowing His mercy and grace I will take up my very small cross and follow my Lord who bore the shame and reproach of my sin before me. If my all is lost in this world and I die an unknown scorned and abused street preacher I am satisfied to be called Christ's, and lose all else. For as Paul wrote so truly:
Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as dung, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Php 3:7-12
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phillipians 1:21
This Friday Jim, John and Cedric gathered together with me to pray before John and Cedric headed away (I was late getting out from work). Jim and I remained and set up to preach in Fargate. I stood and preached the gospel to those in the mall; while not many stopped to listen, there are now many people who sit on the chairs nearby so I preached with them in mind. Afterwards a man named Rowan came up and encouraged Jim and I in what we were doing. Rowan works among the gangs of our city on the north side, sharing the gospel with the youth. I likewise encouraged him to continue in his work for the Lord and will be keeping him in prayer.
While I continued to chat to Rowan, Jim was preaching and doing an excellent job.
A couple of hecklers opened fire on Jim and he gave a great response showing clearly that we can know that God exists if only people open their eyes to see. Part way through Jim's apologetic the young man left, but quickly others stood up to object to the gospel he was preaching.
A Muslim man was trying to persuade others in the crowd that Jim was wrong and now stepped forward to say that the bible was changed and that Jesus never claimed He was God. Sura 29:46 commands all Muslims to believe the revelation found in the bible at the time of Muhammad. Jim used this along with the fact that our current bible texts predate Muhammad by hundreds of years to point the crowd to John 5. Here among other things Jesus claims to be equal with the Father, worthy of the same worship as the Father, and having all authority over life death and judgement. Though many Muslims hate to hear it, their own scriptures command them (through the words of John) to worship Jesus and tell them and all others that Jesus will be their final judge. Why will the Muslim never submit to this? The same reason the Jews would not, they do not believe the word of God revealed in the prophets:
"If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (Joh 5:46-47)
The discussions following this continued until 5.30pm and Jim was able to share the gospel with the people present many times.
This Saturday we had the unfortunate combination of Anna being unwell and my workday being extra long. Because of this we were out for only a short period of time and Anna came as support only (what a wonderful wife she is - she should have been in bed).
I preached on atheism and the foolishness and emptiness of this position, it makes a non-sense of purpose, morality, rationality, justice, aesthetics, and hope after death. During this a group of youth wandered past and I urged one of the young men to stop and consider if he was good by God's standard. We went through the good person test but he left as we came to the consideration of what the law would mean for him when he appears before God after death.
During this a Muslim man stopped and I asked him as the youth left what he thought of all this? After a small discussion he said to me he believes that the bible is not true, because he was a Muslim. At this I firstly used Jim's apologetic from a couple of days ago to point to the demands of the Muslim scriptures that he believe what the bible says.
At this point I raise the natural consequence of this apologetic. Can the quran be trusted and is it a divine revelation from the God of the bible? I showed him that the quran contradicts the bible on key doctrines (the unchanging nature of God, the divinity of Jesus, and the crucifixion to name just three), though claiming the bible is the authority the quran depends on and defers to. Because of this there is only two possibilities, the quran is wrong and the bible is right; or both the quran and the bible are wrong.
Unfortunately at this point work intervened again and I had to leave, thankfully I was able to hand out tracts to some of those gathered. Praise God that He gives us such clear revelation of Himself!