I went swimming recently. I had felt pretty “stressed out” the whole day, because of having sat at a computer virtually “all day”, so I decided to hop into the hot tub. Man, was that nice!
While in the hot-tub, I met a man named Philip. Now Philip was about 60 years old, and he said he had just been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Our conversation went something like this:
“What’s your name?” I said.
“My name is Philip”.
“Hi, Philip. My name is Dan. Good to meet you!”
“Good to meet you, too. Dan.”
“This is certainly a very hot tub, isn’t it?” [Note the profound “words of wisdom” here! However, they did lead to further conversation.]
“It sure is.”
“It’s a good way to unwind and relieve the stress.”
“Yes, and it’s a good way to help my hands, too, because I was just diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.”
STOP RIGHT THERE. What has just happened is that the Lord has given you a good opening to enter into the life of another person, because he has just shared with you something very significant to him that means a lot to him: his hands. The loss of being able to use his hands at work, or the prospect of an operation is never fun, so it’s something that you might be able to use to help build a bridge which could lead to sharing the gospel message.
I continued, “Carpal tunnel syndrome. Are you going to have to get an operation?”
“Yes. I just saw the specialist today, in fact. I’ll be getting one hand done at a time.”
“That must be a little scary,” I said. [Because I would not want to get the operation done myself, so it truthfully reflects how I feel about operations in general, which I would much rather avoid if at all possible.]
“Well, I would much rather get it done now than later,” Philip replied. “You see, I play the keyboard, and it really affects me when I am trying to play. I also have a hard time on the computer.”
NOW the man was definitely talking my language! So we started talking “computer”. We talked about ergonomic keyboards (which I am a great fan of, by the way) and how important it was not to stretch the tendons in your hand unnaturally (the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 (or better) is the answer to this, by the way, and is worth every penny and the roughly 1-week learning curve that will be required to get used to it).
At one point, Philip made the following “bridge” comment. When I say “bridge”, I mean, it allowed me to easily bridge into the gospel. You need to be ready for comments like this. The Bible says we are to make the most of every opportunity! (Colossians 4:5) Philip said, “I would rather get my hands done NOW than in 20 years. I might not be ALIVE in twenty years!”
I pondered for just a moment how I might reply to Philip, and decided to use the slow approach, and so I said, “Well, I hope you ARE alive in twenty years. I personally would like to be around in twenty years, myself. But you never know. We are all going to die. We need to be ready to face that possibility. I am a Christian, and I believe that the most important thing in life is to have faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, so that when you die, he will receive you into the next life.”
Philip all of a sudden started to look very uncomfortable. I hit upon a “taboo” subject.
I started talking about faith in God and how sometimes God would reveal things. Philip shot back, “That is your unconscious mind revealing things about the future! Your unconscious mind knows the future.”
Now please understand that, generally speaking, when a person takes this type of “approach” in a conversation, they are trying their very best possible to avoid giving any credit to God for things that happen. It’s an avoidance tactic, to be sure. The more I talked about God revealing things, and being in control, the more Philip resisted what I was saying and chalked it all up to the “unconscious mind”.
Be careful never to “give in” to this type of response. Remember, in Isaiah 42:8, God says, “I will not give my glory to another!” If, for even a second, you were to “give in” and say to Philip, “Yeah, you could be right, Philip,” you’d be playing into the devil’s hands. Remember, too, that James 1:17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
So, whatever is GOOD in your life, well, God deserves the credit for it! Be sure to GIVE Him that credit, otherwise you’ll be guilty of not giving God the glory! And, believe it or not, ascribing credit to someone or something ELSE when God in fact DESERVES the credit is a great sin indeed. That is why I think so highly of a man like Preston Manning, who is a politician, who, when he lost a certain campaign to another man, started out by saying, “I first want to thank my God and Savior Jesus Christ.” THIS man may not live on as being popular in all of the world’s history books. But he WILL live on as having done the “right thing” in God’s books!
When Philip persisted in telling me that my mind knew the future, and so denied God the glory, I thought for a moment, and I’m sure the Lord is the One who gave this to me to say to him:
“So, Philip,” I said to him, “If your unconscious mind knows the future, I’d like to test your unconscious mind out to see if it knows the answer to the following question:”
I said to Philip, “Will there be a future judgment in which you have to stand before God?”
Philip became irritated when I said this. I was getting to the “heart” of the matter. Philip did what can be EXPECTED in the matter, and he DENIED that there would be a future judgment!
I said to Philip, “Philip, you’re MISTAKEN! Your unconscious mind cannot even be trusted, because it doesn’t know the answer to that one simple question, which CAN be trusted, because it’s in the Holy Bible! Your mind is faulty. You should not trust your mind!”
Philip became even more irritated.
As Philip denied a future judgment, I could see that the man simply did not want to “fess up” that he was a sinner in need of a Savior. At this point, I knew that the most effective approach was to toss him the ten commandments and see what he would do with them.* So I said, “I’d like to ask you a few questions. Have you ever heard of the ten commandments?”
Philip replied, sarcastically, “No!”
I looked him, with his “beetie eyes”, and realized he was being sarcastic. I said, “I’ll take that as a ‘yes’.”
“Have you ever told a lie?” I asked Philip. Remarkably, this man, who is about 60 years old, calmly said, “No. I’ve never told a lie.”
I said, “Not even a small one?”
He said, “No, not even a small one.”
Ever so gently, I pressed him and said again, “Not even a small one? Are you sure?”
“No, not even a small one,” Philip said. Then he said, “Well, maybe a small one. But only to help someone out who needed help”.
I trust you can see the “brush” that Philip was applying to himself! It was the “brush of perfection”. “I’m a good guy”, he was saying. Was Philip really a “good guy”? Is this the assessment that God would give him? We are called to be like our Master, Jesus Christ. We are to share the truth in love. We are to be a light to those around us. God wants to use us to help people see the truth, so they can be saved.
Undeterred, I said, “If you told a lie, what would that make you?”
Philip didn’t quite get that, and said, “Well, someone who tells lies.”
“But specifically,” I said, “what would that make you?”
Philip replied, “Well, a bad person”. We were getting closer to the mark, but the word I was looking for was “liar”.
“Have you ever stolen something?” I asked.
Once again, Philip replied with the characteristic, “No, never”.
“Not even something small?” I said.
“No, not even something small,” Philip replied.
I pressed Philip a little further, and Philip finally confessed, “Well, I might have stolen some CANDY or something, but I’m not a thief like Conrad Black!” Now Conrad Black is a business tycoon who is currently standing trial on charges of fraud and racketeering. Philip ASSURED me he was “not like that” – and so, we can see, clearly, that Philip’s “defense” was starting.
You can see just how powerful the ten commandments are. Here I was asking some very simple questions, and Philip was responding, in fact, like a guilty man! He was defending himself and trying to paint a picture of himself as “not that bad”. In fact, if Philip had his way, he would have painted the rosiest, cleanest, picture, possible, of a man who was simply “purely innocent”.
You may think I was being a little hard on Philip, but guess what? At the judgment, when he gets examined by God, it will be MUCH HARDER STILL. In fact, at THAT judgment, there will be NO ESCAPE. So better here (on this earth), than there (where there is no escape). As long as our approach, as Christians, is without wavering and without hypocrisy, then we are standing on solid, biblical, ground, in defending the faith and helping a man like Philip to see his need for Christ. Note the ten commandments are paramount in this case. They must be used to help a man like Philip see his need, because he would otherwise not at all see any need for a Savior.*
Philip became increasingly agitated over my questions, and started to literally shout at me while in the hot-tub. The pool was a very LARGE INDOOR pool, and his voice became SO STRONG it could be heard in the ENTIRE AREA, which encompassed a large 6 lane pool, a small children’s pool, the hot-tub, and a large amount of walking area as well.
It was impossible for me to move on to “question number three” and Philip demanded that I tell him what I was asking him all these questions for. I responded, “Well, I’m trying to establish the fact that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, both myself and you, as well. If there is no sin, then you are guiltless, and you do not need to be forgiven. If you do not need to be forgiven, then there is no need of a Savior.”
At THIS, Philip RAISED HIS VOICE AT THE VERY TOP OF HIS LUNGS and even moved RIGHT BESIDE MY EARS and shouted directly into my ears, “You EVANGELICALS and your JEEESSSSUUUSSSS CHRIST! You think everyone needs JEEESSSSUUUSSSS CHRIST!” This went on for about thirty seconds, with Philip continuing on in the same manner.
I was unmoved by the experience and knew it would pass. It did.
Finally, I was able to ask him my third question!
“Philip,” I said, “have you ever used God’s name in vain?”
This time, Philip responded quite differently.
“Yes, all the time!” Philip shot back in an angry tone.
As words of anger kept on coming out of his mouth, I said, “Philip, does it not concern you that, in the Bible, it says, God will not leave him unpunished who uses his name in vain?”
Philip did not like what was being said.
The incident was very confrontational, to say the least. But really, all I did was ask him a few simple questions. That’s all. What is very “revelatory” about this whole situation is that, at the first, when I talked with Philip about the ergonomic keyboard, he presented himself as a “delightful” person to speak with. But when the topic of God or Jesus or the Bible came up, he began to attack and stereo-type (I have not, of course, included the entire conversation here but the essence of it – he was very attacking towards evangelical Christians, and the very mention of God’s name or the Bible always caused him to become increasingly agitated).
Philip is one man among many who will stand before Jesus Christ in judgment one day. In fact, we will all stand before the Lord to be judged by him. First and foremost, if we have rejected God’s offer of salvation, and claim that we do not need a Savior, we are in “really big trouble”, that’s for sure.
Jesus said to the Pharisees of his day, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.” (John 9:41) In other words, all those who say they are without fault and do not acknowledge that they are sinners in need of a Savior will by no means be accepted by God when they die. The Bible tells us that they will go to hell, which is a place where there is everlasting torment and an eternal impossibility of being able to cross over from that life to the life in heaven. So, once you die without Christ, your fate is sealed for all eternity. Is this not worth the time to talk with a man like Philip here on this earth, while he still has the chance? I say, we really need to think about these things, because NOT to say anything is to “sentence” many to an eternal future without Christ. As it says in the Bible,
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:9-15)
Where do you stand in this situation? Are you guilty or guiltless? The defense that Philip gave proves that he is actually guilty. He was doing everything possible to try and avoid being seen as a “sinner”. He simply did not like having to “bow the knee” to this “man” called “Jesus Christ”. And yet the Bible says that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).
Jesus Christ gave his life for you on the cross. It is not God’s will that YOU should suffer. But God MUST punish sin. All wrongdoing is sin in God’s eyes. Jesus Christ TOOK your sin on the cross when he suffered and died on it. God wills that you should ACCEPT the free gift of salvation which is offered freely to anyone who sincerely repents of their sin and trusts in Christ as their Lord and Savior. But to him who has no sin, there is no need of a Savior. According to the Bible, that person is not forgiven and will face an eternity in hell, apart from God, forever.
Today, be SURE that you are saved from God’s wrath and anger against sin. Be sure that you KNOW Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Confess him before others, because Jesus said, “everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” (Luke 12:8-9) If you are truly saved, you WILL confess Jesus as Lord before others. If you do not, and you think it is okay not to, it puts your entire salvation in question and logically places you on the side of the unsaved. You do not want that, do you? So prove that your faith is real, and begin exercising it, if you say you are really a Christian. Otherwise, you may one day find yourself sitting on the wrong side of the fence. Jesus himself said, concerning those who rejected his message, “In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.” (Luke 13:28) This is a serious warning to unbelievers and those that persist in rejecting Jesus Christ as Lord. As you can see, Jesus was not mincing his words.
In summary, you are SO valuable to God that God sent the Lord Jesus Christ to take your punishment on the cross. If you have not done so already, graciously accept him as your Lord and Savior by confessing that you need him today. He promises to never leave you nor forsake you if you do, and your eternal destiny will be secure. What more could you ask for?
* For some excellent resources on how to EFFECTIVELY use the ten commandments to minister the gospel message, please visit www.livingwaters.com.