Wednesday, June 10, 2009

We Never Saw It on This Fashion

I was reading my Bible today from the book of Acts. Paul was told by the Holy Spirit that he would be going to Jerusalem. As he was speaking to the elders of the church at Ephesus, he testified this and it has stuck with me today:

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. --Acts 20:26

Which, then, I thought back to Ezekiel's words:
When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. --Ezekiel 33:8

Then Paul goes on to say:

...by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. --Acts 20:31

So what exactly am I getting at? I live in the "Bible Belt." I grew up around the corner from Pensacola Christian College ... literally. And I still live within driving distance of it. I can't even count the number of fundamental churches in the area. It seems to me, and I see it in myself, that we Bible Belt dwellers think that everyone's heard the gospel. As I wonder how many people will not be raptured and I wonder how many of those people, who live here in the Bible Belt have never heard the gospel. How many could say honestly to the Lord, "I just didn't know." Of course, they would still be without excuse...Romans 1 explains that.

If you've read my salvation testimony, you'll know that it was not until I was 16 that I heard the gospel. I knew people who had never heard the gospel. I was not the exception. Most of my friends at that time had never been to church before. I mean never...not even for a Vacation Bible School. It seemed like the church kids were friends and the non-church kids were friends, only talking enough to be polite. Once I started working people would give me tracts, but all the ones that I can remember were teaching works-based "salvation." I grew up never hearing the gospel.

I'm speaking to myself first in all this. But how can this be? We live in probably the most gospel saturated place in the world. Here is some of what I've observed. We encourage people to bring your friends to church. Bring your co-workers (if that applies). Bring your family. That's all fine and good. I'm willing to bet, though, that most of the people who fall into these categories have heard the gospel. After all, people who are not saved live and act like people who are not saved. Saved people are not ... at least they shouldn't be ... completely comfortable around lost people. The one who swears like the proverbial sailor, the woman who has 4 children by 4 different men and isn't with any of the fathers, the one who is telling the dirty jokes ... these are not the people we're sharing the gospel with. I think of, with the teens, we'll encourage them to bring their friends to special activities or to Sunday School. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. The teens that are the friends of our youth typically already go to church somewhere or they have at least been saved. And I'm not saying that's a bad thing. But why not bring in the guy you know spends all weekend partying or the girl who has the "reputation?" Is it that we don't want to get our hands dirty? When did inviting people to church take the place of door-to-door soul winning?

Well, they'll probably say that they wouldn't come to church. Or they wouldn't talk to me again if I try to share the gospel with them. Maybe so. But I look back at my life. When I was invited to church for the very first time at 16, I was no angel. I don't talk about my life before salvation because I'm not proud of it and I won't give place to the devil. But I was not hardened toward God. Going to church for youth night sounded like fun to me. I went. I heard the gospel. I was under Holy Ghost conviction and I flatly denied the gospel and Jesus Christ. But my blood was not on that girl's hands.

After I did finally get saved, I learned that the same girl and her mother had prayed for my salvation nearly daily. They wept for me. They were burdened for me. I wasn't one of the "clean" kids, but they still wanted to reach me. I did eventually get saved, but I firmly believe that it can be attributed for them praying for me. As far as I know, no one ever cared about my soul except them.

Paul began his ministry in the "Bible Belt" of his time. His hands, by his testimony, were clean. How many people out there are like me when I was growing up? How many would come to the Lord if someone would only pray?

I don't make posts like this often, but it's really been on my heart this morning. Hope it all made sense.

2 edifying expressions:

Lori said...

Elizabeth, You are so right. There are many towns in Montana that doesn't have a single church of any kind.Then there are some that do not preach the True Bible.
We drove through several while while we lived there.

It was really hard for me to get over the shock of meeting people, that have NEVER heard of Jesus, God or Heaven.They thought that the Bible was just another book. These people live in our country.

Tammy said...

Elizabeth, this is an excellent post, and you came across perfectly clear!

We should never assume the stranger we're talking to has heard the gospel, not even the telemarketer that interrupts our day.

There are so-called evangelical churches in almost every town here, but the people we encounter who attend those "churches" are sadly ignorant of Bible Truth.

That devil, he is a tricky one, and he's real good at deceiving people with what looks and sounds like the truth. If he can keep them in the dark long enough, they'll be lost forever.