[url=http://www.theopenlife.com/audioblog/20090311%20-%20Run%20in%20with%20Robbers%20-%20Part%20II.mp3]Download .mp3 version[/url] [4.2 MB]
Some of you should recall last year, when I was attacked and robbed while riding a bicycle home from work. The astounding details of that incident are recorded in the post for July 7th, 2008, [url=http://theopenlife.blogspot.com/2008/07/run-in-with-robbers-part-i.html]Run in With Robbers - Part I[/url], but the gist of it was that I chose not to react violently because of my religious beliefs. Instead I prayed, gave them my knife and offered my possessions willingly and calmly in return for an opportunity to tell them the good news of Jesus. Rather than listen, the thieves ran off with nothing but an .mp3 player loaded with an audio bible and some gospel sermons. Afterward multiple police told me I should have attacked since it was not likely the men were armed. I held, however, to my belief that I was directed by God to refrain. I have wondered since then what I might do in a future similar circumstance.
Now, jump eight months forward to March 11, 2009.
Just after 2:00 PM I was riding my bicycle through the same infamous stretch of the Lowe's parking lot where I was mugged. During the daytime this is usually a busy area but at present I was alone, at least until a red Mustang sidled up and slowed to my pace. The driver was a unfamiliar Hispanic man, perhaps twenty-one years old, and he leaned over and pointed something at me. In his hand was a green iPod mini and some earphones. Sometimes people try to sell stolen items on the street, but an immediate thought which occurred to me was, 'don't stop pedaling, you might be getting set up again.'
He waved the item at me again and said, "Don't you remember me? I stole your .mp3 player last year." Instantly I clutched the brakes. My friend Erin was on the phone with me so I told her to pray and hung up. An enormous grin crossed my face as he stopped his car. Lord, thank you.
Again he expressed desire to give me the .mp3 player. "It's fine, man, I don't need it. I have another."
"But I want to do something for you... can I give you my number? I'll go to church with you... what can I do?"
I told the young man all I wanted was for him to go home and read the whole New Testament, and see for himself the Son of God who had transformed me from a worse criminal into someone capable of loving his enemies. As if to show his improvement without religion, he explained how he had cleaned up since the night when he mugged me. Apparently that event signaled the beginning of a realization he had about the foolishness of his life. Two weeks after, he totaled his car. Perhaps confronted with the thought of death, he resolved to live differently from then on.
Over the next eight months he walked out of drugs and crime, and into a regular forty-hour job. "Now I need to be a man and earn a living. I can't be a fool anymore. I need to do good to people." He confronted his friends and convinced one of the attackers to straighten up. Now that man is apparently living in another city pursuing a decent life as well. With sober pride he even confessed his acceptance by a semi-pro baseball league in Mexico which he will be joining soon. "I was raised Roman Catholic, but I'm not sure about religion. Now I'm trying to find my own path, to be a good person."
"You can't take credit for that," I retorted, shaking my head. "For weeks after, hundreds of people were praying for you, from my church and around the country through my website." With manifest care, I added, "You'll be the best person in hell, friend, if you trust in anything but the perfect sacrifice of Christ for your standing before God. " I pointed to the drink in his cup-holder. "Does that taste good?" He nodded and smiled, "Sprite? Yeah, Sprite is good."
"But," I went on, "what if you opened the lid and saw black filth inside, all around the walls of the cup? You'd be disgusted and throw it out the window. Your deeds may be outwardly good but God sees your motives. The greatest commandment is not to love others, but to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Every thought, action, intention, is supposed to be for Him. Instead of using your muscles to rob people, you ought to be using them to help others for God's sake. Even a dog licks the hand of the one who feeds it, but how thankless towards God are you? If your ultimate reason for doing good things is not to glorify God first, but to magnify your self-worth, or elevate others, or shut your conscience up, then God sees it all as filthy rags. That's what Isaiah said."
This whole while he listened intently.
"It's a matter of values. If you saw someone kick a dog, you might not think twice. But if you saw someone kick an infant you would be enraged. That's because infants are more valuable to you than animals. But to God, every sin that a man commits is against the Lord, Himself. He takes it personally. Psalm 5:5 says, "The foolish shall not stand in God's sight: the Lord hates all workers of iniquity." After David committed murder and adultery, he said, "Against God alone have I sinned." The Bible says that only perfect people will be acquitted at God's judgment. And since God is infinitely valuable, His punishment upon offenders will go on infinitely. It's justice."
"But that's where Jesus comes in. From before time, God foresaw selfish, wicked, God-hating people like you and me and determined to save them by His grace. The Bible says, "Christ died for the ungodly," not those whom He foresaw doing good works to earn salvation. He wanted to magnify His kindness and generosity to undeserving sinners. So Jesus came and fulfilled the moral laws of God; he lived the way you and I should have. And then He suffered God's wrath as a substitute on the cross. He took the whole penalty in his soul and became accursed for others. He bore all the sins of everyone who would believe on Him, so that anyone who will believe can have faith that since Christ, the infinite Son of God, bore their entire judgment, they will receive His righteousness credited to them. It's a transfer: God looks at Jesus suffering to death and sees you; God looks at you and sees Jesus obeying throughout His life."
"God doesn't want you to try to earn anything. That takes away from His glory. It makes salvation a wage that you earned, instead of a gift to be received. He doesn't even want you to have faith in your faith. He wants you to turn from doing everything He hates, just to please Him, and to rely on Jesus' life and death to be good enough to satisfy the Father's justice. Rely on the resurrection as proof that Jesus was accepted by the Father."
"Anyways," I concluded, "I don't mean to overwhelm you."
"It's cool," he laughed, extending his hand. I gripped it and smiled once more.
"I just want to see you in heaven, and I want you to trust Jesus instead of your actions. Do good because it's right, but not in order to be right with God. When you believe, you're born again and obedience and good works come supernaturally by His Spirit."
"I've done a lot of bad stuff, man... that night we had a gun, we wouldn't have hesitated to shoot you."
"It doesn't matter. Christ bore all for all who believe on Him. He changed me. All I feel for you is love, bro. God bless you."
We shook hands again and he drove out. "Lord, thank You!" I shouted. Oh, how the Lord is good to such an undeserving sinner as me.
In consideration of the gun, I now realize more fully how close to the threshold of eternity I was! But really, am I further now? This life is a vapor that vanishes away.
Please pray for this man. He is near to the Kingdom of God.