A Different Message

I was enjoying my second scone of the night as we walked out the gate of the Puyallup Fair. Just outside, we encountered a man holding a big sign. I don’t remember all the words, but here are some of them that stayed with me: alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, and rock-in-roll. At the end of the list was something about Jesus being a Savior. As we got closer to the sign we were intercepted by a young man handing out tracks. I told him I was a pastor and that my first impression of their sign wasn’t favorable. The sign’s message, as I explained, seemed to be one of “stop doing these things” and when you did, Jesus becomes your Savior. I said something to him about legalism and a list of rules. He pointed to the bottom of the sign, and said, “No, it’s about Jesus.” I said something about mine being a different approach but thanked him for his testimony and his zeal and the conversation ended. But I didn’t stop thinking about his sign.

I’m not a big “street evangelism” guy; it has its place, I suppose, I just think “friendship evangelism” is a better way. But I kept thinking about their message. What struck me in the days that followed was that I was quite capable of their list of “no’s”; that is, I could do their list. I probably would even enjoy “doing” their list. Truth be told, I do some of their list in a God-honoring way: An occasional glass of wine, being intimate with my wife, and I’ve been known to turn up Journey’s “Greatest Hits” really loud in my car. All of which got me thinking about how non-Christians may have viewed their sign: “Yep; that’s a fun list—I enjoy doing them, too.” And then I feared their conclusion: “Why do I need Jesus as my Savior? I like what I do.”

So how about a different sign? How about one with this list instead: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And then, at the end, something like: “I wish I could be those things; but I can’t, it’s why I need a Savior.” That message is totally different. The ensuing conversation with the non-Christian then becomes the Gospel and I can explain: “I didn’t make myself right before God by my actions; Jesus made me right by His.”

The first sign tells me what I’m not supposed to do but do. The second sign tells me who I’m supposed to be but am not. Isn’t the second sign a more compelling reason why I need a Savior?

Pastor Rich Hamlin
September 20, 2012


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