My grandfather had undoubtedly heard the gospel many times throughout his life but had never been saved. When I shared it with him for what would be his last opportunity, his response blew me away.
“No one ever told me that before!”
That’s what my grandfather said when I shared the gospel with him just a couple of months before he died. What had I done differently that made it stick this time?
There’s no one tried-and-true method, although I do like Bill Fay’s Share Jesus Without Fear! He cites a statistic showing that the average people needs to hear the Word of God 7.6 times before deciding to follow Jesus.
I trust in the work of the Holy Spirit that God will inspire in me with the best approach for whomever He brings into my path depending on where they are on their path.
But here’s how this particular encounter with my Grandfather went.
Why God created heaven and hell
God had created heaven as His dwelling place. (Psa 103:19) He also created hell, where any angelic beings who disobeyed Him (Matt 25:41) would face the justice of eternal death. (It seems that angels have free will like we do.)
Little is known about the conflict in heaven between God and Lucifer. Lucifer wanted to be like God so he staged a coup. God wasn’t having any of that so Lucifer and a third of the angels, who followed Lucifer, were thrown out (Isa 14:12-15).
For whatever reason God chose to carry out His enemies’ death sentence later. Perhaps their sin “is not yet complete” as in the days of the wicked Amorites (Gen 15:16). And God is also famous for using for good that which was meant for evil. (Gen 50:20)
In the meantime Lucifer and his insurgents were banished to earth… where they would unwittingly serve God’s purpose anyway.
The key thing here is that hell was never intended for human beings.
It’s only when a human being — part of a species who joined Lucifer’s rebellion — chooses to reject God’s invitation to be restored back into fellowship with Him that they remain His enemies, and thus subject themselves to that fate.
Why God created people
Ok, this one seems much simpler. Why do people choose to own pets? Simply for the joy of companionship. Not that we’re God’s pets, but people were created just because it pleased God to do it (Rev 4:11 KJV).
So we were created for God’s pleasure and for His glory.
I can somewhat relate to that. I created this blog because writing makes me happy, and I hope it serves a good purpose (albeit not for my own glory).
Humanity plays a glorious purpose in God’s victorious war against evil, just as evil plays a glorious role in humanity’s redemption.
Why people have a choice
God gave people free will. Why? God wants a love relationship with people. That would be impossible if humans were “pre-programmed” to love Him. Love for God must be given to Him.
My wife chose me, and I chose her (My taste in women far exceeds her taste in men!). Therein lies the beauty of the love relationship.
What does it mean to choose to love God? Jesus, God the Son, defined loving Him as obeying Him (John 14:15).
How Satan fooled man, but God fooled Satan
Call it some kind of cosmic vendetta, but Lucifer, or Satan (literally translated “the enemy”), decided to try to stick it to God. He masterfully tempted God’s first created man, Adam, into the same sin he himself harbored — pride. It worked.
This deception led Adam to eat from the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, which God had forbidden. (Gen 3:1-7) Whether or not that tree actually held any kind of supernatural power I don’t know. But there was certainly destructive power in Adam’s choice to disobey. He instantly became aware that there was an option other than obeying God’s command. He now knew the difference between good and evil.
Satan knew God’s Law is preeminent and eternal, and all of creation — angelic or human — is subject to it and its penalty.
Adam became the original host for the hereditary virus of sin that infected all of Adam’s offspring (Rom 5:12). That means you and me. We cannot avoid it.
Imagine Satan’s twisted pleasure — thinking he checkmated God by forcing His justice on mankind. For God to be God He would have to sentence mankind to eternal death. But Satan unwittingly started his own doomsday clock.
How God deals with the crime of eternity
Imagine walking up to another person on the street and punching him in the nose. What might happen? If he didn’t punch you back he might call a police officer and have you arrested for assault and battery. Maybe you’d be found guilty and sentenced to community service or given a fine to pay.
But imagine that when the police officer arrived you then punched him in the nose too! Assaulting an officer is a much more serious offense, carrying with it a much stiffer penalty — maybe some jail time.
Imagine that at your sentencing you walk up to the bench and punch the judge in the nose. Now you’re probably looking at a lot more jail time. And you’ve established a pattern of violence and lawlessness. He’ll probably throw the book at you!
Maybe you’re father knows the governor and is able to pull a few strings for you. Your dad and the governor actually come and visit you in jail, but while he’s there you punch the governor in the nose too! Now you might be headed for a maximum security prison for a very long time. You’ve just assaulted the governor; you’ve made national news; and you’re clearly not safe to let back out on the streets.
Being certain you’ve been framed you decide to bust out of prison. If only you can take this up with the president of the United States himself you can clear your name. By some crazy happenstance, which could only happen in an illustration like this, you get yourself a chat with the commander in chief. It doesn’t go well. One thing leads to another and… well, you know.
In some countries this would get you the death penalty. You’ve assaulted a head of state. You’re going to get exactly what you deserve, and rightly so. Who would disagree with that?
So how do you think God should handle a crime committed against Him by a habitual offender? Wouldn’t a crime against a person who is infinitely more powerful and important than a head of state warrant an infinite punishment?
So how could God save us from that punishment without compromising His perfect and just Godly status?
That plan was initiated on earth when God created the process of animal sacrifices as a symbol of His solution for dealing with humanity’s crime of sin. Atoning for sin meant a person would have to sacrifice his most perfect and valued animal — pretty pricey for someone who made their living by raising livestock.
Symbolically, people’s sins were “transferred” to the sacrificial animal — often a lamb but not always — which died in place of the people who sinned. But it would never come close to truly atoning for sin, and God knew it (Heb 10:4).
A crime against an infinite God requires infinite atonement to avoid infinite death. There’s no way around it but there is a way though it!
Jesus Christ, God the Son, left heaven and entered human history to become that sacrifice once and for all. All of mankind’s sins — past, present, and future — were placed on Jesus, and He was killed. Only His death could satisfy God’s justice, and reconcile mankind with God the Father.
Why God’s plan is so ingenious!
God ingeniously created a way to save sinners like us from eternal death without having to simply overlook our sin.
He saved us while, Himself, still remaining completely just.
Once we accept His free gift He begins to sanctify us — remaking us by sending us up against the enemy every day in order to simultaneously batter us into the perfect image of Jesus, defeat Satan by dismantling evil, and glorify Himself in the process. We are more than conquerors! (Rom 8:37-39)
And one day we’ll reign with Him when the fullness of His plan is carried out in this world!
Talk about turning the tables on both Satan’s rebellion and our downfall! Brilliant!