A funny thing happened

Deputation ministry is a glorious privilege. I get to visit many different churches and meet all kinds of people. Meeting the Lord's people never ceases to amaze, delight and educate me in the divine work of saving and sanctifying the sons of men.

Is this one of those meetings where you try to convert people of other faiths?

I was recently preparing to speak at a church. I had arrived, set up the bookstall and the Herald magazines, and the PowerPoint presentation was good to go. It was 7.55pm and the meeting was due to start in five minutes. A lady walked into the meeting, a visitor who was unknown to the members of the church. Since the meeting was fairly informal, she remarked: 'Excuse me, I might be in the wrong place, but is this one of those meeting where you try to convert people of other faiths? If so, I should leave. I thought this was an inter-faith gathering.'

And so began a lengthy half-hour discussion in the open meeting, during which she tried to convince us that all roads lead to heaven. I pointed out the inconsistency and falsehood of her comments, and showed how illogical her position was. Although she was silenced several times, she wasn't convinced and left before we eventually started the meeting. I wanted to be careful not to abuse the liberty or the privilege of being a guest at the church, so I checked if the members felt what I had said was OK. They were all happy for me to continue. Indeed, they left me to do most of the challenging since they didn’t want the discussion to descend into a free-for-all with everyone ganging up on the lady.

Some thought she might even be Jewish, but she didn't say. I asked her a lot of questions to see what she had to offer. 'What comfort would you have for me on my death bed?' I asked.

She replied, 'God is a forgiving God'.

When I responded that she made God's forgiveness sound cheap, she said, 'No, it is costly'.

'Yes, indeed,' I confirmed, and went on to show how the sacrificial substitutionary atonement, seen in the Old Testament animal sacrifices, pointed to the One who ‘redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.'

I told her that Jesus alone is the Jewish Messiah and the only means of atonement. He is the unique Saviour of all people: Jew and Gentile. On my death bed, Mohammed and Buddha just won’t do it for me.

I challenged her relativist argument firmly but simply. I asked her if two and two always make four? What if I said that for me, two and two equal five? Could I be right? What if I handed over £1 for a full bag of groceries, claiming that, for me, that was the right amount? What if I felt it was right for me to drive home on the right-hand side of the road, even if all the other cars on that side were coming from the opposite direction? Logically, she was stumped and had no answer except to appeal to what she had in her mind, the visions she had received and the feelings she had.

The relativistic, naïve, superficial, niceness of the 'all-roads-lead-to-God' mentality, needs to be smashed (in the most gracious possible way, of course!). We need to declare unashamedly that there is no one like Jesus.

I never heard that before

Another funny thing happened to me a few weeks ago. I was preaching at a church in Northern Ireland where solid exposition of the Word is both expected and enjoyed. The folk there regard anything less than forty minutes substantial stuff as a mere "Thought for the Day"! I had done my best to expound those momentous verses at the conclusion of Romans 11, the theological Mount Everest of the letter of grace, but while I was shaking hands at the door one member remarked, 'I have never heard Romans 11 explained in that way before'.

Now, that set alarm bells ringing! Since I haven't an original thought in my head, I never preach 'personal' or 'unique' interpretations of Scripture. However, the person put me at my ease – the comment was meant to be a compliment and I received it as such. I was glad he had been blessed by the Word but it distressed me to think that the understanding of God's purposes for Jew and Gentile I had preached should be deemed unusual, or even exceptional. Such responses are on the one hand encouraging but on the other hand worrying!

My ministry remains, at least for me, a unique privilege. Pray on dear friends, that deputation ministry may awaken the conscience of the Christian Church and that those of us who preach and teach may know their labours to be profitable for the kingdom work of Christian Witness to Israel.

This article was first published in the Spring Herald 2012

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