Friday, January 27, 2023

Please Pray for B———

Please pray for B——— to be given the new birth, saving faith in Jesus Christ, and repentance unto life.

He grew up in church, but hadn't really thought about spiritual or eternal things in years. This morning, on a podcast that he regularly listens to, someone made an offhand comment about God giving people suffering to get their attention. He didn't tell me what the suffering was for him, but the podcast got his attention.

Then he came to the gym around 10:30, where he found a Billy Graham book in the sauna and began reading. For around 45 minutes. At that point, I walked in, and he quickly apologized if he had been reading my book. I assured him that I would be much happier if it was indeed one of my books that he was reading. I think that surprised him, and he asked me what were the books that I liked. I told him that I liked Jesus's own book the best, but that after that, I liked books that help me understand the Bible correctly so that I may know Him better, and books that help me better to obey Him and serve Him. This definitely surprised him, as he looked at the Billy Graham book and then back to me as if to ask, "If those are the books that you ike, how can you possibly not like Billy Graham?" I took this as an invitation.

I told him that I have had too many conversations with people who think that they made a decision once and got saved, but who have no use for the church, no use for the ministry of the gospel, and no use for holiness. But that I know the Lord Jesus and His Word, and I know that when He brings people to saving faith in Himself, He gives them Himself as their great Prize in this world and the next. And that He starts working in them holiness, beginning with a desire for it, to prepare them to enjoy Him fully. And that two of the primary tools that He uses to do this are His church, imperfect as it is, and His ministers, imperfect as they are. But He is perfect, and those to whom He has been gracious, He also begins teaching to love His church and ministers and graciously bear with their flaws and love them for the sake of the Savior to Whom they belong, and Who uses them.

So, I am glad that Billy Graham will tell him that he deserves Hell, and that he needs forgiveness, and that he can get these in Jesus, Who is God-become-Man to live obediently and die atoningly. And I do like the way that Billy Graham did evangelism better than the way so many people don't do any evangelism at all, even though they could have stated things more accurately. But, I told him, that I would rather have him read better things because I have met so many people who think they are saved by Jesus, but the Jesus they imagine is not the Savior from the Bible, from History, and from heaven, before Whom they will stand on the last day. That they ultimately have believed in a decision they made once, and in an ongoing idea about that decision—and that while it's possible for a real believer to get many things wrong and still believe in the actual Jesus, that there's no encouragement to think that about people in whom He is not doing other parts of His saving work in addition to making them right with God and forgiven.

That's a fair summary, but it was longer than that, full of wonderful details about Who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, what it accomplished for whoever believes in Him, and what He proceeds to do in those for whom He died and whom He brings to saving faith.

And B——— listened carefully, apparently eagerly, to all of it.

At that point, he filled me in on his growing up in church and the podcast from this morning. I noted to him that the God Who had gotten his attention had then sent to him a minister of the gospel, and that I had in fact just 9 days ago preached on how when Jesus brings someone to saving faith, He brings him into a condition in which he rejoices over suffering. That before we believe in Jesus, our suffering reminds us that we don't deserve any of the easier or more pleasant times, and that what we deserve is in fact worse than any earthly suffering. So even the suffering of an unbeliever who is still alive comes in a sort of arresting mercy like he had been thinking about today.

By this time, he had been in the sauna an hour and a half and thanked me, but had to get out. I have a routine in the sauna that includes a few different things, the first of which usually takes me 20 to 30 minutes. After our conversation, I could only finish half of it before needing a break, and when I took that break, I found B——— waiting for me outside. He wanted to know what church I pastor, service times, etc. I gave him all of that on a Hopewell business card, with a link to the sermon on Rom 5:3–5 from Jan 18.

I then told him that I'm actually an hour later in my routine today than usual, which gave him the time to get deeply into the Billy Graham book before I walked in. He said that he was glad that it worked out. I told him that God is always working in everything, but that today he had done it in so many ways as to make that abundantly clear, and that now he mustn't waste what he has been thinking about and what he has heard but needs to follow through with the Bible, and especially by coming and sitting under the preaching of the gospel.

Please pray that he would. He looks around 45–50 years old and has a daughter who is young enough to be a high school distance swimmer (this came out when I was talking to him about the sufferings of believers producing endurance and made an analogy to physical endurance).

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