Many aspects of this post will not be easy to read—they’re not easy to write.
I’m working on a fourth novel, set in D.C., with angels and demons which are visible to the reader, though not to the characters in the story, similar to my first novel, On The Edge.
This new novel requires a scene about a non-believer being escorted to the Throneroom of God by spiritual beings, to face God at the Judgment Seat. There was a similar scene in On The Edge; I have to recreate it here following the death of someone who is a nice person, with all our usual human faults and gifts, and she is even a hero in the story. But she is not a follower of Jesus Christ and does not have a relationship with him. In fact, without thinking a lot about it, she has rejected him as a myth, as millions do every day.
I have to describe what happens as she stands before Him and her whole life plays before them.
Please take a moment and imagine that you are working on this same scene. What does it look like? What does she say to Him? What does He say to her?
When God the Father asks the Son at His right hand whether her name is written in the Book of Life, it is not.
Because she is not a believer, she is sent to live in eternity without God, but with constant punishment. Her whole adult life she has wanted nothing to do with God, and so He grants her request for all of eternity. What happens then? What does she say?
As demons lead her away, I imagine that she begs for another chance, but after death there is no second chance. Only on this side.
That is a tough scene to visualize, and yet some close version of that is what our faith describes will happen to everyone who does not put their faith in Christ as their savior. Everyone.
Now imagine that the person being led away without Christ’s atoning grace is not a fictional character in a novel, but your own daughter, son, parent, colleague, friend or loved one. That’s when it really gets tough.
But that’s what our faith, spoken clearly by Christ himself, says is going to happen. Visualize it. Now, what do you do?
There are many great people with many good answers to that question. I cannot possibly improve on their advice, except to repeat a bit of it, and to encourage us all to do something.
First, pray for guidance, that He will lead you. We have no idea how God has been working in someone’s life. Typically, someone (like me at age 37) may have rejected His calling for years and yet, due to His recent transformational work, may be open to finally hearing His Truth right now. Pray for His preparation in those whom you love, and pray that He will lead you to those close to you on whom He has been working.
Second, make a list. Then pray specifically for each person by name. Stand in the gap and claim them for God’s Kingdom, rebuking the lies repeated in them by the world, the flesh and the demons. Pray for their preparation, transformation, and acceptance of His free offer of grace and eternal salvation. And for His guidance to you for supernatural wisdom on how best to approach them.
Third, let Him lead you to what each individual on your list will best respond to, given where she or he is and what is happening with them right now. And it may be that because of other issues in your relationship, you are not the right person to do this communication firsthand. So also pray that God will bring the right people into your loved one’s life to speak His pure Truth into their life without any interference.
If the person is going through a difficult or frightening time for health, financial, or other reasons, your personal testimony–about how God used your coming to the end of your rope to make you His child–may be the most powerful thing you can say. And how He has walked with you since then.
If the person is angry because of something he perceives God did in the past, remind him that, like with his own little children, God’s ways, as our Creator, are much higher and wiser than our own. We just don’t understand. But we can ask Him for His grace and wisdom to do so.
If the person is an intellectual who believes that God is a myth and that Science and Faith are opposites, I recommend Tim Keller’s books, like The Reason For God. And his free sermon download of “Who Is This Jesus?”. I’ve also penned a couple of posts targeting those who think they’re too smart to need a Savior: “I’m Too Smart to Follow Jesus” and “Faith is Reasonable”. And each one includes additional resources.
In general, I find that sharing my personal story of His transforming power, and asking questions, are the two best avenues for unlocking a discussion that is least likely to anger or intimidate the other person. No one can really argue with your own account of what has happened to you. So be ready to speak.
And our questions communicate great interest in the other person. I find that we usually get to a statement from the other person that he is just fine, because ____. My next question then is, “And how’s that working out for you?” But you have to stay quiet and refuse to break the silence until they answer, no matter how long it takes. Usually their answer will include at least some tiny crack in their armor, which you can then ask another question about. And so on.
Evangelism is typically a process over a season in someone’s life. As with farming, more time is spent planting and watering than harvesting. So maybe your words and actions are part of God’s transformational process in a person’s life that someone else will harvest in weeks or months. For that reason, be open to those daily Kairos Moments when you can plant a seed, or nourish a seed which was planted earlier by someone else.
Keep copies of a favorite short book in your car so that you can retrieve one and give it to a cashier or a server with whom you have a brief positive encounter, as a means of encouragement.
If you have experience reaching others with God’s Truth, please share your advice with us in a Comment below.
Finally, God directs us to suit up and to compete hard every day, but He keeps the scoreboard, not us. The outcomes are ultimately in His hands alone. So, as the old saying goes, Pray like it depends on God, because it does; and Work like it depends on you, because it does.
Death and our eternal afterlife are as real as Life and the world we inhabit every day. They are real and they are coming. If you are ready for that eternity, pray for and help others whom you know and love to join you in Heaven, singing His praises forever, saved by His grace alone.