If we’re Christians, we’re not now what we once were. A great change has been wrought in our souls and our future. The apostle Paul captures it well:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
Which of the nouns describe your past? Most of them fit me: sexually immoral, idolater, adulterer, thief, greedy, drunkard, reviler, and swindler. I was not destined for the kingdom of God but for hell. “And such were some of you.”
I still marvel at God’s great grace and salvation. I marvel that I was that lost. I shudder when I remember that I was lost and I was confident I was right. “But….” The gospel and our evangelism is about that “But….” It’s the sweetest three letter word in the Bible. It turns the entire direction of a text and introduces a possibility so unlike the past or present it can sometimes hardly be believed. But God still interrupts people with “Buts….”
I was encouraged in my own evangelism by this account of a woman who was a thief and swindler. She was also a Muslim in danger of not inheriting the kingdom of God. “But….”
Miriam is one of Julia’s friends. She’s the one who severely stole from us a little over a year ago. Julia caught her, but also forgave her. Miriam stealing from us has been the best opportunity we’ve had to speak and show the gospel to Miriam. She later watched some evangelistic films we gave her and began reading some Scripture. At the end of the summer, however, she announced a new found desire to dive deeper into Islam, and even placed her niece into the local Muslim school. This new push into Islam also included a distancing from us, so that we had very little contact with her between August and December. All of a sudden, the week of Christmas, she came over for tea, unannounced.
It wasn’t exactly the best timing for Julia to drop everything and play the hostess for hours. But Julia’s angst and the bad timing only underscored the sincerity of what was taking place. Miriam poured out her heart to Julia: “Islam can’t help me. It doesn’t have the truth like Jesus does. Islam and Jesus are different!” She declared that she wanted to follow Jesus, and intuitively recognized that it meant breaking from Islam and joining a church. Julia asked her, “Who is Jesus to you?” to which she immediately replied “My Savior!” Miriam didn’t actually say “Son of God” or “God” during their conversation, but Julia again taught her about Jesus and the gospel very clearly, and it seems evident that Miriam regards Jesus as more than a mere prophet. She pleaded to come to church with us that weekend! She came with us to the local worship gathering on Sunday, December 30th. She seems to have genuinely converted. Her characteristic arrogant demeanor has markedly changed. We could never have imagined a Miriam this humble! Please pray for her growing grasp of the gospel and the divinity of Christ, that she will attend the church gatherings faithfully, that she might be baptized very soon, and finally that the church members would more warmly receive her.
I love how the Father met this woman as she was running headlong in the opposite direction! I love that though she seems to have tried delving deeper into Islam, He scooped her out of her sin and showed her the glorious difference in Jesus! Lord, show that difference again and again and again! Help me tell others in a way that they see the difference, too.