This particular Friday, Justin and I decided to make our way to the Gold Coast a couple hours earlier than usual, and continue our outreach till the usual time of 10pm. When we arrived we read through Matthew 10:24-42. In this passage Jesus commands not to have fear of men three times, a very good passage that counters timidity. With this in our minds and after praying, we walked to Cavill Ave.
Greek Orthodox young man
We handed out gospel tracts for quite a while, and then both started getting into some conversations with the people there. One chat I had was with a Greek orthodox young man. I asked him the question about whether he thought he was going to Heaven. He said, “Yes, because I try to do my best.” I then brought up Matthew 5:48 where Jesus commands us to be perfect. What that means is that trying to do our best will not be enough, God demands perfection and He cannot have any sin dwelling in his sight. But the problem is that we have all sinned against God.
I then asked the man, “Have you ever lied?” “Yes”, he said. I asked, “Ever stolen anything?” “Yep.” “Ever looked at a woman with lust?” “Every day”, he said. I then asked, “So if they are some of the standards on which God will judge you on the day of Judgment, would you be innocent or guilty?” He recognised his guilt, that he had not lived well enough and knew he was deserving of Hell. So I then explained the message of the cross to him, and that if he truly repents of his sin and trusts that the only reason why his sins are forgiven is because Jesus died for him, he would be saved. I also mentioned that Jesus then rose from the grave on the third day. I tried to stress with him that faith alone is what saves, not works.
But this is where he disagreed. He said, “how come James says that faith without works is dead. Therefore what saves a person is faith plus the things they do.” I explained that what James is talking about is that a genuine faith will produce good works, and a fake faith won’t. A fake faith won’t save, a real one will. But it is not the good works that save at all, it is the faith in Jesus. I then brought him to Ephesians 2:8-9 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
This passage clearly teaches that faith alone saves, in no way can works contribute to our salvation. But he kept trying to go back to “faith without works is dead”. I would have to say that that verse in James’ epistle is one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. For if people simply read the verse in context of the whole book, and then in the context of the whole Bible, it is very clear that the verse does not contradict Ephesians 2:8-9, or Romans 4, Galatians 2:15-21, etc etc.
Eason the Taiwanese
The next chat I had was an encouraging one with a Taiwanese guy called Eason. He is in Australia on a working visa and does not know much about Christianity. Right from the start he thought he was going to Hell because he has done too many bad things in his life. So after briefly touching on the issue of sin and the day of judgement, I was able to present him with the gospel which he has never heard before. I explained how Jesus, who is God in human flesh, lived a perfect life on this Earth, and yet was crucified on the cross in order to pay for sins, rising from the dead three days later. So that if he repents and trusts only in Jesus for his salvation, he would be forgiven.
This seemed to make perfect sense to him. So I asked him the question, “When will you repent of your sins, and trust only in the death of Jesus for your forgiveness?” He said, “Right now.” That was so exciting to hear. But I wanted to make sure he truly understood what I was saying, so I asked, “If God asked you, why should I let you into Heaven, what would you say?” He responded, “It’s only because of the death of Jesus!” I got his contact details and he’s able to meet up in the following weeks to go through the Bible together. Praise be to God. Please pray for him.
"Love the tracts, but it's missing one thing"
During this chat, there was a guy who came over and asked for one of my tracts that I had in my hand. I gave one to him and then he walked off. After I finished the conversation with Eason, this guy returned and said that he loved the tract, but it’s missing one thing – Acts 2:38. I knew immediately when he said that what his viewpoint was, he thought baptism was a requirement of salvation. I asked him, “Why do you think baptism is a requirement of salvation?” The only verse he could think of was Acts 2:38, and pointed out that lots of people in the book of Acts got baptised.
But Acts 2:38 does not really support the idea that baptism is a requirement of salvation, for verse 37 says that the people were “cut to the heart” and thereby implying that they were already beginning to believe what Peter had said up to that point. So in Luke’s (the writer of Acts) accounting of Peter’s sermon, he does not deem it necessary to record about Peter saying that you need to have faith (for he may have explicitly said it), for that is obviously implied based on everything Peter has said up to this verse. Therefore, Acts 2:38 should in no way be interpreted as saying that baptism is a requirement of salvation. It is something a Christian should want to do, but it’s not a requirement.
I then asked the man how he deals with texts like Ephesians 2:8-9. He had no answer. I then told him in the apostles’ day how the Galatian Church was saying that circumcision is a requirement of salvation (Gal. 5), and Paul says that is a completely different gospel and those who are teaching it he wishes they would be eternally damned (Galatians 1:8). So in the same way, if anyone adds baptism as a requirement of salvation have a completely different gospel.
His response was that those letters were written to people who were already baptised, instead he thinks we should just look to what the book of Acts says. That does not explain away those verses even in the slightest, and this man did not want to talk for much longer. I just tried pleading with him to not add works to salvation, but to trust only in Jesus alone for his salvation.
The Jehovah Witnesses - "144,000 only go to Heaven and that's full now"
Next I had three conversations not long after each other with three different groups of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The conversations all went in a similar fashion.
One of the longest was with a lady in a wheelchair and her husband. I said whether they thought they would go to Heaven. They said, “No, I’m going to live on the Earth forever.” I asked, “Who goes to Heaven then?” “The 144,000, and that number filled up in the 1930s”, she responded. I asked, “Where’s that in the Bible?” “Revelation 14”
So I asked her, “I’ve read that chapter before, and did you know that in verse 4 it describes the 144,000 as being ‘those who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins’. What that means is that the 144,000 are just male virgins, right?” She responded, “Oh, no there are women in that number too.” I asked, “How can that be when it clearly says that the 144,000 are those who have not defiled themselves with women for they are virgins.” She said, “That must be symbolic then.” I said, “Hold up, why is that detail symbol but yet the number of 144,000 is exactly precise and not symbolic? Do you see how what you’re believing in is inconsistent? Also, the fact that the quality of being a virgin is repeated twice in different ways more shows that it is not to be taken symbolically.” She said, “Um, I’ll have to look that one up.”
I knew that she would simply go back to the Watchtower and believe any explanation they could give her even if it was not good. So I challenged her, “As a Jehovah’s Witness, are you allowed to read theological books not published by the watchtower.” She didn’t like admitting it, but ended up having to admit that she is not allowed.
So I asked her, “Could the Watchtower ever be wrong?” She said, “Yes, they can.” So I said, “Then couldn’t the Watchtower be wrong regarding who goes to Heaven, who the 144,000 are and issues like that?” She responded, “Oh no way, they’ve done lots of study into this issue. They can’t be wrong.”
The problem with that is that the things that the Watchtower says they have been wrong about in the past were the very things they said they were certain about beforehand (eg: dates regarding return of Jesus, etc).
I then asked whether she believed in a real Hell. She said that she did not because how could a loving God punish people forever. So I brought her to Matthew 8: 11-12 -
“I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I explained that that passage clearly teaches that there is a real place of conscious torment and suffering. I then brought her to Luke 16 – Lazarus and the rich man, which makes the same point. She had no idea how to respond, and said she would have to really do lots of research in this. Please pray that she would, and instead of blindly believing the Watchtower, may she read God’s word instead.
Overall, a wonderful night was had by the team. Justin had a few conversations, and Greg and Judy and her daughter were able to join us as well for a few hours. To God be the glory! Praise God that His Word never returns void!
Sorry for the lack of recent reports here on the Battle log for the Gold Coast team, just reminding you that the team meets weekly even if no report gets put up. So if you are in the area and would like to join us, please feel free to contact me.
Gold Coast Team (QLD)
Meets 7:15-10pm every Friday night at Surfers Paradise on Cavill Avenue.
Contact Ryan Hemelaar for more information.