This post is a continuation of last post from 8-3-08. (Read that one first.)
About thirty minutes had passed. We were total strangers–still sitting a few tables apart from each other–having a great conversation about spiritual things (and adding quite a bit of interest to the cafe)! It’s awesome when the Lord arranges opportunities like this.
As our conversation in the Starbucks cafe continued, my “new friend” eventually came and joined me at my table. He brought up the subject of “resurrection” and life after death.
I explained how I am 100% sure that I’m going to Heaven, but that it’s not because I’m a good person; it’s because I believe the Bible when it says ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’ (Rom 10:13) and ‘these things I have written unto you who believe on the Lord that you may know you have eternal life…’ (1 John 5:13) [emphasis added]
There were about 10 other people in the small café pretending to read the newspaper, but I had a feeling most of them were listening to us.
My feelings were confirmed when another lady came up to our table and said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but your conversation was just so interesting! I just wanted to know what you were talking about.”
“Have a seat!” I offered.
Now there were three of us sitting around the table.
I asked her the same question: “Do you think eternal life is a free gift or something you have to earn?”
“Oh my, honey, you gotta earn it” she said. “You gotta work for it every day, doin what’s right, being a good person…”
“So how do you know when you’ve been good enough?” I asked.
“Well, if you’ve been a good person all your life, then you can pretty much just know that you’re going to heaven.”
“But” I said, “where does God actually draw the line between good people and bad people?”
“What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“Well, we may think that we are a good person compared to someone else we know, but we can’t just compare with those around us because God’s standards are higher than ours.”
“Well, you tell me what you think then,” she told me.
“Ok” I said. 🙂
I shared—again—the good news that we don’t have to earn our salvation, using the example of the thief on the cross. When he believed on Jesus, Jesus told him, “today you will be with me in paradise”. But the thief hadn’t even done one good work to get there. Not one! And even if the thief had done thousands of good works, it wouldn’t have gotten him into Heaven. He needed his sin to be paid for, and only Jesus could do that.
“That’s right,” the lady agreed emphatically, “You can’t get there on your own, no, no, we need God’s forgiveness!”
Hmmm…. I thought, She just said the opposite a few minutes ago. I wonder if she really understands.
So I said, “But if God is a just Judge, He can’t simply forgive anyone just like that. A truly good Judge wouldn’t let a murderer go free, would He? –no matter how sorry they are? God can’t simply let everyone ‘go free’ because they are sorry. It’s only because Jesus took our punishment that we can go free, and God still be just.”
About that time my friend, Ally, (a Bright Lights leader who has gone on many conference trips with us) walked in to Starbucks.
“Ally!” I waved her over, “I’m talking with two friends here that I just met, do you want to join us?
Now we had four people around the little table. This was getting fun! I was glad (and a little relieved) that Ally was now there to contribute to this conversation.
It is no coincidence that she walked in just now, I realized.
A guy sat down at a table next to us and opened his lap top. I wondered whether he was actually working on his computer or listening to us.
As we continued our discussion, the older man who I met first said, “In the Catholic Church, we go to confession. If we’ve confessed everything to a priest before we die, then we can be pretty sure we’ll go to Heaven.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with that,” I said, “But could you tell me where in the Bible it says that?”
“No” he said, “I don’t even know if the Bible teaches it.”
“Then, with all respect,” I asked, “why do you believe it?”
“Because that’s what I was taught,” he said.
I nodded. “That’s the same as most people,” I mentioned, “Usually Muslims are Muslims because that’s how they were raised. Hindus are Hindus because their parents were, etc. But the different religions can’t all be right as if all of them ‘eventually get to God’ (as some people say) because they teach very different things.”
Next we talked for a while about the accuracy of the Bible.
“I’d say” he mentioned, “that the Bible is kind of like God’s ‘reference-manual’ for how to live our lives on earth.”
“I’d give it a stronger definition than that,” I countered.
“Roadmap?” the lady suggested.
“One way I like to look at it” I said, “is by remembering an acronym for Bible. B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Eternity is a long time. Nothing is more important than knowing what God says in the Bible about what happens when we die.”
We talked for over two hours in the Starbucks cafe and I wish I could remember and record everything we talked about! Ally shared some good comments and a personal testimony of how the Lord had recently been working in her life.
I left with the excitement of knowing that God had orchestrated our paths to cross, and God would still be at work in their hearts. He is the One who draws people to Himself. It’s such a special gift that He allows us to help.