FAIRMONT – Taking the advice from a student last week, I switched up the date and decided to try Fairmont State University on a Tuesday. The weather was warmer and I set up in front of the main student center and awaited the lunch crowds with a sketch painted up and ready to go. Sadly, after handing out about 30 tracts to the meek number of students who did meander by, I was all but ready to give up and call it a day. Yet, a Gospel conversation was in fact waiting to be had.
As I was handing out tracts, a young man took a tract and shook my hand and thanked me for what I was doing. Not the typical response when a college student receives a tract. I asked him if he was a believer and he affirmed it. All too excitedly, he told me of the church that he attends and then the ball dropped. He mentioned one of his favorite Bible teachers with the caveat that “a lot of people do not like him…” and proceeded to proudly tell me, “…it’s Joel Osteen.”
I immediately remembered a philosophy we see practiced in the Scriptures “law to the proud, grace to the humble”. So, as he was a very kind and humble guy, I explained that while I don’t hate Joel Osteen, I do hate his theology because it leads people astray. I went on to explain a simple example where Osteen failed miserably to stand on John 14:6 when pressed by Larry King on CNN (you can listen to Dr. Steve Lawson describe it here). When I posed the same question that Osteen failed on, “What happens to someone who doesn’t accept Christ as the Messiah?” He honestly answered, “Well, you’d go to hell…”
I knew that it was likely he had never heard the full Gospel message. I began to walk him through the law and any confidence he had was quickly fading. After demonstrating that by God’s standard he was not a good person, I posed the question, “So if God is a just Judge who has to give the criminal his due punishment, what should he do with you based on your admissions of breaking his Law?” After an uncomfortable 5 seconds, “Well, I guess He’d send me to hell…”
I then posed the question that is often referred to as “The Great Dilemma”, “But God is love. So how can God be just giving you the punishment you deserve and satisfying His wrath, yet still be love?” After another uncomfortable 10 seconds, he hopelessly shrugged. I then showed him the cross that I had with me. And across the cross beam it says “Love and Justice”. “At the cross,” I explained, “love and justice kiss…” You could see some relief showing now as the wheels were turning and he seemed to be getting how the cross works in our salvation.
After some more discussion, he asked one question before he left. “Let me ask you one question,” he said. “I ask this of every preacher/pastor I talk to. How much to I have to do or how much do I have to confess to be sure I can go to heaven because I know no one can really be sure…” This screamed of Arminian teachings. I realized I had to circle the Gospel wagons because this kid just didn’t get it. So back to the cross we went.
I asked what Jesus’ last 3 words on the cross were. He had no idea. When I told him, I asked if he know what was finished. Again, silence. After explaining Christ’s work again and pressing in on how Christ completely satisfied God’s wrath for those who would seek Him and turn in repentance and faith and that he could not earn his way (Isaiah 64:6), it seemed the light bulb was finally lit. Please pray for Tyler.
Soli Deo Gloria!