As I arrived to our usual witnessing area in Surfers Paradise, Rick and Glenda were already there busily handing out tracts. They had arrived about an hour early, as they had to leave the outreach earlier than usual. It is really great to see them both so keen for witnessing that they do it even before the rest of the team arrives.
Today was a unique day, as just recently a local Church had finished their evangelism training programme, and so they wanted to all hit the streets together and put what they had learnt into practice. So there were about fourteen of them, making today's team definitely larger than usual.
Before those guys arrived, Rick and Glenda had gotten into a conversation with two Mormon ladies from New Zealand. Rick called me over after a number of minutes asking if it says anywhere in the Bible that we were all pre-existing, as this Mormon lady was claiming the Bible did say it. I told her that in the beginning was just God, and He made everything (Gen. 1:1).
I then tried directing the conversation to talking about salvation, and how she thinks a person is saved. She said that if a person doesn't get all their sins worked off in this life by doing good, they can be worked off after they die. I was happy to hear a Mormon actually admit that their doctrine of salvation is actually work-righteousness, for so often they like to claim it's all by grace, yet in actuality they believe in salvation by works.
So I pointed Scriptures to her, such as Ephesians 2:8-9 and Galatians 2:16 which both talk about salvation not being by our works. Instead of addressing those Scriptures, she diverted the conversation by asking, "What is the work of God?" I then said, "Jesus Himself was asked that very question, and so let's take a look at what He said." I then turned to John 6:28-29 - 'Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”'
She, first of all, had a problem with the Bible we were using, because it was a New King James at the time, and not the King James. So I said, "Here, I have the King James Version right here on my phone." I then read it out to her. She followed along and said, "No keep reading" So I did.
"So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”"
At that, she exclaimed, "See! It mentioned 'work' three times in that passage. We are saved by our works!" She was fully serious, and so it was hard to hold back the laughter. I tried explaining to her that even though it says 'work' in that passage, it doesn't talk at all about working for our salvation. In fact, it pretty clearly states the opposite, Jesus was exhorting them to 'believe in him whom he has sent.' Faith not works.
I challenged her whether she could really know that she was going to go to Heaven and whether she believed in and followed the real Jesus. She then stated, "Of course I do, the Church that I go to is called, 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints'! So I definitely follow Jesus." I had to be to the point with her, and so I said, "Look, by what you've been saying, believing you are saved by your works and so on, shows that you aren't actually a Christian. And the reason I am telling you this is because I don't want you to get the surprise of your life when on Judgement Day God would have to say to you 'Depart from me I knew you.'" I then turned to the passage in Matthew 7 where Jesus said this and read it out to her. I explained that the people Jesus would reject are those who proclaim to have done many good works, but those works did not save them. But she rebutted, "This can't be the Bible, for there are no summaries at the start of the chapter telling us what the chapter means!"
She continued, "Both Revelation and Matthew so clearly teach salvation by works." We asked where abouts exactly, but she couldn't point to any verses. So we explained the real way a person is saved to her, not by their works, but by grace through faith alone, because of Christ's death alone. She wasn't very open and had taken offence that we would even think that she was not a Christian. She kept stating that she was born a Christian because her parents are. Rick responded, "If I was born in MacDonald's, it wouldn't make me a hamburger." After a bit further discussion, she said that she didn't want to talk about it anymore, and so we thanked her for her time and said goodbye.
By this time, the Church group had since arrived and were already handing out tracts. They all seemed very keen, which was awesome to see! They were all anxiously waiting to see someone preach in the open air, as most of them had seen Ray Comfort do it on DVDs, but they wanted to see it done in real life. So after not too long, I got up on the council provided preaching block and told a true story about a man who drove the wrong way up the freeway in Sydney for 50km without realising it. I used that story to show that even though many people think they're heading in the right direction, heading for Heaven, it could be that they are mistaken. They don't realise they're heading in the wrong direction. This story is an interesting one, and so it attracted a crowd, but I didn't do any call outs to try and get hecklers because I didn't know who was part of the Church group and who wasn't. So I preached the awesome news of the gospel, calling everyone who was listening to repent and believe.
I then noticed one particular fellow who was listening intently, so I called out to him, asking, "Do you think you'll go to Heaven?" He thought so because he was stand-up bloke. So I went through the commandments, showing him that in fact we are all sinners deserving of God's judgement forever. This seemed to concern him, so I told him that there is a Saviour, Jesus Christ, and that His death can atone for all of this fellow's sins. When I share the gospel with a person, I always try and see if they actually understand what the gospel is at the end of it. So I commonly ask, "If God was to ask you the question, 'Why should I let you into Heaven?' What would you now say?" This guy didn't get it at first, so I explained the gospel again to him and it seemed to click.
However at this point, a very loud women started to heckle. She started complaining about how bad the Church is, that all Christians are bad people and God doesn't care about the world. She explained that she had tried going to some Church's for help, but they didn't help her. She asked why God would let her be in an abusive relationship and not do something about it. So I responded by saying, "God will definitely make sure all the injustices that people commit in the world will be dealt with one day. And God has given us governments to maintain justice in society in the meantime. Governments are instituted by God and we are to obey them." At this point, a regular heckler piped up talking about how rubbish governments are. Not to let the discussion go off the topic at hand, I told the regular heckler to wait his turn. I then addressed the lady again, explaining that not everyone who says they are a Christian is actually one. And even though a person might have bad experiences with Christians, that is not a rational reason to dismiss Jesus. She explained that she had been living on the streets for a number of weeks due to her abusive husband. At this point, a person part of the group from the Church went up to her and gave her $40. She was ecstatic and very appreciative of the generous gesture.
Since the lady had been very loud and vocal, it had caused a sizeable crowd to gather. So I made sure to preach the gospel to everyone listening, as the lady didn't seem interested in talking any further at this point.
After preaching for about 45 minutes, I stepped down and had a conversation with a person who had been listening near my feet. I asked him what he believed. He explained that he knew every religion was wrong, especially Christianity. He claimed this because he said Christianity had been copied from other belief systems. So I asked him, "Even if that was so, does that prove that the beliefs of Christianity are wrong?" His face changed, and he seemed to realise the flaw of his thinking. I continued, "Furthermore, similarities between two books does not necessitate copying. Moreover, in actuality there aren't really many similarities at all!" He resorted to saying, "Well I still do kinda believe in God" I was able to briefly share the gospel with him, but he wasn't very open.
At this point, we all had lunch as a team. The team did an excellent job today, handing out lots of tracts and many conversations were had too. There were so many of us, that we had to split up and go to different locations. That's a great problem to have!
To God be the glory!