Salvation in the Soup Line
Melinda Means, Author, cbn
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, …” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
I was hungry and in a hurry. My eight-year-old son was doing his best Energizer Bunny impersonation, while my weary body, on the other hand, was ripe for a recharge. I wasn’t interested in small talk. I just wanted food – fast. But as we waited for my soup at the local deli, a stranger kept eyeing me curiously. At first, I kept my head down and tried to ignore his gaze. Finally, I glanced up and offered a strained smile.
“I see you voted today,” he said, spying the conspicuous “I Voted” sticker on my lapel.
“Oh, great,” I thought. “This is worse than small talk. This guy wants to discuss politics!”
“They were holding early voting at the library today,” I replied politely, hoping to put an end to the subject.
Instead, he launched into a diatribe about the candidates. Before I knew it I had been sucked into a spirited discussion about troops, terrorism, and the terrible state of society.
Finally, he said, “I just think that if we all meditated more and focused on peaceful thoughts that would help everyone get along a lot better.”
I sensed an opportunity.
“Well, if you look at history, our problems escalated when this country began to take God out of the equation,” I countered.
“Hmmm… what do you mean by that?” he said with genuine interest.
With the deli staff as my captive audience, I explained how moral absolutes originated with our Creator, which led to a fairly deep exploration of the spiritual. It ended with me inviting my new friend to church.
“If your church discusses these types of issues, I just might visit,” he said.
Just then a man standing nearby piped up, “What church are you talking about? Maybe I’ll come, too.”
I shudder when I consider how many soup-line experiences I’ve probably missed over the years because I’ve been more concerned about the soup than the souls of those around me. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility “to give the reason for the hope” (1 Peter 3:15) that is ours in Him. Jesus was a Master at weaving the extraordinary into everyday experiences. Here are a few ways we can move closer to His example:
- Live deliberately. Jesus was not unconcerned with immediate needs; however, he was always driven by His Father’s agenda. A consistently chaotic schedule drowns out the subtle promptings of the Holy Spirit and causes us to view others simply as barriers to our productivity.
- Confront the controversial. Jesus boldly tackled sensitive subjects, including legalism and adultery, but always with the “gentleness and respect” also mentioned in 1 Peter 3. Rather than cower from confrontation, we can bring truth and light into potentially divisive discussions by listening, asking insightful questions and sharing the transforming work God has done in our own lives.
- Reserve judgment. Tax collectors, poor fishermen, prostitutes … Jesus saw past society’s labels and straight to people’s need. His free gift of salvation is for everyone. We are His conduit for extending the invitation.
Although I haven’t yet spotted my deli friends at church, I trust God will use my words to make a difference.
“My word … will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)
After a baby takes his first steps, the parents call loved ones. They excitedly announce the awesome accomplishment, which is the beginning of a new life of greater mobility and maturity. In the same way, the Christian life begins with a first step—salvation. But it’s only the start of a new life of increasing spiritual growth.
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). It’s simple enough that even a child can do it, and after salvation, we are all like babies taking our first steps. A new believer doesn’t understand all the doctrines of salvation any more than a toddler knows all the mechanics of walking. However, once we are saved, we have a responsibility to learn what God has done for us and to take more steps of obedience in the Christian life.
Genuine salvation always results in transformation. When we receive Jesus as our personal Savior, He comes to live within us through the Holy Spirit. Our old way of life no longer fits our new identity, and the Spirit works within us to make us more like Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.”
Has there been a particular point in your life when you recognized your sin and then asked Jesus to forgive you and become your Savior? If so, how has your life been transformed since then? Spiritual growth is one of the ways we can know that we are saved.
The Miracle of Salvation
“We’re not sure Dad’s going to make it this time,” Linda said to her family.
Linda’s father had been in the cardiac intensive care unit for ten days. He was dying of congestive heart failure. The most recent crisis was that his kidneys stopped working. Now he was on dialysis.
Linda said, “I had a crushing burden to witness to Dad before he died. He wasn’t a believer, and I didn’t think I had done everything I could for his salvation. I went to see him early in the morning so other visitors wouldn’t be there. Another man was moved into his room, and a curtain was pulled between their beds. I prayed for Dad and told him how much God loved him and wanted to receive him.”
Linda still did not receive assurance of her dad’s salvation. “But I felt at peace about it,” she said. “I told him what I felt God wanted me to tell him. The Great Banquet is prepared for everyone, but sometimes they turn it down.”
Linda was referring to the story in Luke 14.
Jesus replied, “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.” Luke 14:16-18 NIV
The Great Banquet signifies the Kingdom of heaven. Everyone is invited, but sometimes people make all kinds of excuses for not accepting the invitation.
As Linda went in and out of her dad’s room during the day, she could see that the man in the next bed was dying. He was only 42-years-old and his name was Joey. Toward evening, Joey’s mother was there with him.
“Mother,” said Joey, “Will you please go to the lady sitting in the chair on the other side of the curtain? I want to talk to her.”
Linda walked around the curtain to Joey’s bedside. “I overheard you praying with your dad. Will you pray for me? I want to receive Jesus into my life.”
Linda led him in the prayer of salvation and asked him to repeat these words:
Dear Father, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I am a sinner, and I am very sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived. I repent of my sins and ask your forgiveness. I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and shed His blood for my sins. I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. I invite you to come into my heart and become my Lord and Savior. Amen.
“It was so beautiful,” said Linda. “I could see that he had a sense of peace after he accepted Christ.”
Joey died later that night.
“I thought it was my dad who was supposed to receive salvation that day, but it was Joey. My dad and Joey shared that room for only one night, but it was long enough for this miracle of salvation. Dad got better and was able to go home from the hospital, something we never expected. Now he attends church with us and I continue to pray for his salvation.”
Streams in the Desert – July 5
Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t
I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness…And I will give her her vineyards from thence (Hosea 2:14-15).
A strange place to find vineyards–in the wilderness! And can it be that the riches which a soul needs can be obtained in the wilderness, which stands for a lonely place, out of which you can seldom find your way? It would seem so, and not only that, but the “Valley of Achor,” which means bitterness, is called a door of hope. And she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth!
Yes, God knows our need of the wilderness experience. He knows where and how to bring out that which is enduring. The soul has been idolatrous, rebellious; has forgotten God, and with a perfect self-will has said, “I will follow after my lovers.” But she did not overtake them. And, when she was hopeless and forsaken, God said, “I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”
What a loving God is ours!
We never know where God hides His pools. We see a rock, and we cannot guess it is the home of the spring. We see a flinty place, and we cannot tell it is the hiding place of a fountain. God leads me into the hard places, and then I find I have gone into the dwelling place of eternal springs.