The evangelist said to the sinner, "have you heard of Jesus?"
The sinner replied, "uh, yeah. It rings a bell. Who is that?"
"Jesus is the Saviour of the World! He died to save you from your sins!" the evangelist eagerly responded. With that, he told the sinner his usual salvation spiel.
"Ummm.... okay. Do I have to do anything?" the sinner asked, looking at the evangelist suspiciously.
"No, not at all!!!" the evangelist answered. "Well, actually, you must repent and believe, and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and that He died for your sins. Then you will be saved. Look, it says so right here in the Bible!"
"Oh, is that all?" the sinner pondered. "But wait, what do you mean by 'repent'?"
"It means to change your mind about your sins...and to turn away from them."
"What are sins again?" asked the sinner.
"They are things that we do that don't please God, like when you disobey your parents or cheat on your taxes or tell a lie." the evangelist answered.
"Ok. I confess that I have sinned, and I won't do so anymore. I believe that Jesus died for me. And He is my Lord" said the new convert with a smile. "Is that ok?"
"Yes, it is! You are now saved, praise God!" the evangelist rejoiced. "Now, I have a copy of the Bible for you. It is the Word of God, and you must read it everyday. And you also need to join a Church and go there every Sunday".
"Uh, oh ok", said the convert as he collected the book from the evangelist. "Which Church can I go to? I guess the one near me will be okay."
"Oh no, you can't just go to any Church! There are cults and sects that twist the scriptures or even have corrupted versions of God's infallible word!" the evangelist responded. "You know what, just come to my Church. We are good, Bible believing Christians. Here, this is our pamphlet".
"Okay then", the convert said, as he collected the pamphlet and readied himself to leave.
"I'll enrol you for our discipleship class, so that you can get baptized and officially join the Church as soon as possible" the evangelist offered.
"Uh, baptized? What's that and why do I need it?" the convert asked, perplexed.
"Every new convert must be baptized by water. Jesus commanded it when He gave us the great commission to go into all the world and preach the good news."
"Do I need to do that to be saved?" the convert wondered.
"Well, yes and no. But if you really are saved, you will obey Jesus", the evangelist responded with a reassuring smile.
"Ok, I guess. Thanks." the convert muttered. Curiously, he asked, "is there anything else?"
"Oh, there's so much more... That's why we have to go Church, to learn God's commandments so we can obey them", the evangelist responded. "You also need to make sure you have the right understanding of the Word so you can grow in the faith. There are many false teachings out there."
"Ok, thanks, I'll read the Bible when I get home."
"Read and pray, so God can reveal the truth to you!" the evangelist emphasized. "See you in Church on Sunday. Bring an offering too, as you can't come to God's House empty handed," he added with a smile.
"I beg your pardon?" the convert frowned.
"You'll understand when you read your Bible. It's all there. And you will need to give God your tithes too. That's ten percent of what you earn - before taxes. The Church will use it to do God's work".
"Uh, you know what... this is not what I signed up for. You first said I don't have to do anything, but now it seems there's no end to the rules", the convert grumbled.
"No, I think maybe you misunderstood me", the evangelist said. "You can't earn your salvation, God has done it for you already. It's free, like a free citizenship in a new country. You still need to learn the laws of the country and abide by its traditions. Otherwise, there would be chaos. Do you understand?"
"Ok, I understand".
After a few more exchanges and a brief prayer, they went their separate ways.
Later that evening, the convert fetched his Bible from his bag to put it on his shelf. He decided to open it and read a verse or two. He opened at Matthew 5, and didn't stop reading until he had finished the Gospel according to Matthew. He went back to the beginning to read the first four chapters also, and was amazed by all he had learnt. Some of the things that stuck out to him were Jesus's statements in Matthew 6 about not worrying about food and clothes, and about how no one can serve God and money, and how Jesus said to lay up your treasures in Heaven, not on Earth. It felt like God was talking to him, but he wasn't sure he understood what he had to do. He decided he would ask the evangelist all about it at Church the next day.
At Church, he met the evangelist at the door. He was also an usher. They decided he would ask his questions after the service. The sermon was focused on tithing and not robbing God.
"No, no, Jesus didn't mean it like that" said the evangelist, when the convert asked him about selling off his possessions. "He only said it to the rich young ruler, because of his greed."
"I don't mean Matthew 19. He said it in Luke 12:33 to His disciples too. I checked the cross references".
"Jesus couldn't have meant it literally, otherwise, we would all be poor", said the evangelist. "It makes sense if you are a missionary, but not everyone is a missionary. If you work hard and pay your tithes, like the Pastor said, the Church will the use the money to send out missionaries who will help the poor".
"Okay. Did Jesus say we should pay tithes?" the convert asked.
"Well, yeah...sort of, when He told the Pharisees that they should have been just, merciful and faithful, He said they still needed to pay their tithes" the evangelist replied. "God also said in Malachi, that we are robbing Him by not paying our tithes".
"Okay, are we supposed to give a sin offering too?"
"Jesus was our sin offering once and for all, so we don't sacrifice lambs anymore. It's only an offering, because we must never come to God's House without a gift. That's what God's Word says. But you can also give a thanksgiving offering, or a first fruits offering," the evangelist explained. "Look, come to the Bible Study on Wednesday, and we can start from the basics".
Back at home, the convert was confused. It seemed the evangelist had dismissed the words of Jesus. He figured the evangelist had a better understanding. He picked up his Bible again, and this time, he opened to Galatians. He decided he would start from the beginning, seeing as the Book of Matthew was so interesting. Just like before, he couldn't put the Bible down until he had read everything! It was so intriguing. He followed the cross references to understand more fully what Paul was referring to when he spoke about the law, the promise and the Spirit. It seemed like Paul was saying that they were free from the religious practices of the past. He decided to give his new friend a call, seeing as he couldn't wait until Wednesday to ask.
"It's too late to call now, I am with my family and we are trying to sleep" said the evangelist, as he looked at the clock, which confirmed that it was almost midnight. "Call tomorrow, or better yet, let's speak on Wednesday at Bible Study. I have work tomorrow".
"Oh, ok" said the convert. "I'm sorry for calling so late. I just needed someone to talk to. I'll see you on Wednesday".
"No problem. Just pray about it, until we meet." And with that, he dropped the call.
By the time Bible Study came around on Wednesday, the convert had read through all the epistles in the New Testament, as well as the Gospel according to John and the Acts of the Apostles, and was starting to read the Book of Revelation. He had a zillion questions about the faith he had joined just a few days back. He hadn't figured out how to pray yet, but he just kept asking God to help him understand and to do His will.
The Bible Study was really interesting, because he was taught who Jesus was. He learnt that Jesus was God's Son and also God too. He wasn't sure he understood that, but he accepted it. He learnt that Isaiah had prophesied about Jesus' coming, and how "He was bruised for our iniquities". He made a mental note to read the Book of Isaiah next. After the Bible Study, the pastor in charge opened the floor for discussion. They warmly welcomed the new convert in their midst.
"In Acts, the Bible says that the disciples sold their possessions and lived together. Why don't Christians do that anymore?" the convert asked.
Everyone looked at the pastor for his response. "They did that in the beginning, because they were just starting out, and needed resources to send out missionaries," said the pastor. "We still share our wealth with others when we give our tithes and offering, and when we give to charity and community projects".
"Ok, that makes sense. But what did Jesus mean when He said that "unless you forsake all, you cannot be my disciples"? Doesn't that mean it is a requirement for discipleship?" the convert asked cautiously.
The pastor stole a look at the evangelist, and then responded patiently "you have to be careful with the way you are interpreting the Scriptures. There is nothing you can do to earn your salvation. Jesus meant that our new lives as Christians will cause us to put everything on the line, and we must be ready to do so. Even ready to die. That is what He meant when He said to forsake everything, take up our crosses and follow Him. It doesn't mean we should look for persecution".
"Ok good. I was going to ask about that too", said the convert.
"As a disciple, we have to be ready to learn. Are you ready to learn from the people who brought the message of salvation to you?" the pastor asked, with an eyebrow raised.
"Yes, I am. Sorry, I don't mean to be rude" said the convert. "It's just that he said that the reason we have to get baptised is to obey Jesus, and I started wondering about the things Jesus said we should do, that no one seems to be doing anymore."
"What do you think we are not doing that Jesus said we should do?" asked the evangelist.
"Well, I remember reading in Matthew 23 that Jesus said we should not call ourselves by titles, but that we are all brothers and sisters, but there are so many titles for Church Leaders" said the convert. "Why do we still say Pastor So and So or Reverend So and So?"
"You, my friend, have a legalistic spirit!" said the pastor. "The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. How can you understand the Bible when you do not have the Spirit of God? The Spirit is not against showing respect, because the Bible also says that we should give honor to whom honour is due, and we must respect authority!"
"Um umm" agreed the evangelist. "You have to take the Bible as a whole, you can't pick and choose."
The convert fell silent, as he pondered on what had transpired. Did he actually have a legalistic spirit? He was just trying to understand. He decided that he would not ask anymore questions for now, and just listen.
"Have you been baptized yet?" the pastor asked.
"I think I was when I was a baby. Does that count?" the convert asked.
"No, it doesn't. You must be baptized properly, by full immersion, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" said the pastor.
"Yes, some Churches don't baptize by full immersion. Some only sprinkle. That is just disobedience!" said the evangelist.
"Yeah, some don't even do it in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. They just do it in the name of Jesus. That is why you need to be careful that you fellowship with the right Church, those who follow the Bible" said another Christian attending the meeting.
"Okay", said the convert, trying not to think too much about the contradictions. It seemed clear to him that there was a whole lot of legalism going on here, but he dared not ask any more questions.
"The next set of Baptismal classes start next Wednesday. It's an eight week course. After that, you can get baptized with all the new converts", said the pastor.
"What is the course about?" the convert asked.
"It is about the basics of the faith, and about fundamental doctrines about the Virgin Birth, the inerrancy of the Word, the Resurrection, everything you need to know to have a sound faith. You will also learn about the Church, and your responsibilities to the Body of Christ", the pastor answered.
"What about the baptism of the Holy Spirit?" the convert asked, boldly.
"That will also be covered in the course, including the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit", answered the pastor.
"No, I mean, in Acts 11, Peter says that the Holy Spirit fell on them as he was telling them about Jesus. Then he remembered that Jesus had said "John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost"", the convert responded. "What does he mean by that?"
"I think you should save your questions until the discipleship class. We will cover all those things then," the pastor answered. Turning away, he said "let's pray".
After the abrupt end to the discussions, the evangelist took the convert aside to chastise him on his attitude, and encouraged him to be more humble, so that he can learn from those more experienced in the faith.
The convert went home and pondered on everything. He tried to continue reading the Book of Revelation, by he couldn't focus on it. It had quite a number of imagery he didn't understand. He decided to read Isaiah, and was even more confused, as he didn't know what much of the prophesies were about. He put down the Bible and didn't pick it up again until Sunday morning.
Come Sunday morning, the convert didn't feel much like going to Church, but he decided he would anyway. He got there in time for the worship service and found a place at the back to sit. He hadn't seen the evangelist at the door today, but he recognised a few people from the Bible Study. They smiled and shook his hand, as they welcomed him to Church.
The sermon was about the Sower and the seeds. The pastor talked about the seeds that fell on the rocks, who were devoured by the devil. He lamented about how those can not even bare any fruit. As he caught the new convert's glance among the congregation, he talked about the "legalistic spirit", and how that stifles any chance for spiritual growth.
The convert looked away, hurt. He hadn't expected to be the topic of the pastor's sermon. What was he trying to say? Wasn't he also saved like the rest of them? As the sermon continued, the convert became more sure than ever that he didn't want to be among these people. Even if they had the truth, they didn't seem to have love. When no one was looking, he slipped away and left the Church never to return.
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matt 11:28-30).
Unfortunately, this is not the experience many get when they learn about Jesus. They rather butt heads with a bureaucratic system, which exhalts above truth the traditions of men.
"They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them" (Matt 23:4).
"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me" (John 17:21).
Jesus prayed that His Church would be one, which will be evidence that God sent Him. But lacking His Spirit of grace and truth, we squabble over needless issues!
"For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? ... For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect" (1 Cor 1:11-17)
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:34-35)
The world is watching us. Our united witness is either bringing them to the foot of the Cross, or sending them running in the opposite direction. They don't care about what we believe...just what we do!
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be" (Rev 22:12)
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