I love a good spiritual conversation. But I also hate wasting time.
For instance, I was talking with someone recently, and something about his demeanor seemed like he was playing games. His words triggered a red flag.
Had I heard things between his words that he just wouldn’t say out loud? Or was I jumping to conclusions?
I decided to ask.
“So, if I’m understanding you, you want to go to hell?”
“Yes,” he said.
Then the smokescreen disappeared and the fire of his hatred came out.
He called Christianity a cult, he called me a few names, and then he wanted me to stay around so we could argue. He didn’t really believe in hell, but he wanted to get a rise out of me. He wanted to ruffle my feathers and turn it into a fight.
Before, because of my previous nature to love a good fight, I would have. I would have tried showing him all the ways he was wrong or misinterpreting things. I would have played the verbal sparring and parrying game with questions, logic, and analogies.
Instead, thanks to something I heard Alex McFarland say, I turned it into a question and a statement which still may become a seed for him which God can use in the future.
“Why would I disrespect you if you’ve already made your mind up? God loves you enough not to force you to spend eternity with Him in Heaven, so I’m going to leave you alone now too,” and I walked away from him knowing he had resources he could explore when (and if) he really wanted to look.
He had already shown himself dug in, scorched, and skeptical. While hurting, he denied needing help. Jesus was adamant about recognizing only those who realize they need help would be capable of seeing him as the Great Physician (Matthew 9:12-13). Otherwise, the gospel which cures the broken relationship with God created by our sin is only an offense to those who hear (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Anyone sharing the gospel faces the possibility of rejection. But I promise any rejections you face are less than those Jesus suffered (John 15:18), and worth it even if one person comes to saving faith in Jesus (Luke 15:10; Proverbs 11:30).
The darkness does hate the light (John 3:20). We seek to do good by sharing the gospel, yet worry about any harm we may receive in return. Luckily, in America, at least for now, most of it will be verbal, though others have been sued in their businesses as some attempt to destroy their livelihood. 1 Peter 3:13-17 shares:
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil.
While the conversation had initially seemed to be spiritual, he really didn’t ask for me to defend my faith.
He was doing something Frank Turek described when he said, “I’ve found that the machine-gun-objection approach is common among many skeptics and liberals.”
I’d like to add this approach is also common among those who want to make the Bible mean what they want it to say due to their behaviors which the Bible clearly defines as sin. Instead of secular arguments, they try to bring new meanings to an inerrant Word to tickle ears and blind eyes (Matthew 15:14). They want to redefine the moral restraints God spells out in the Bible.
Nobody likes being told they’re wrong, which is why I believe the faith creating salvation is a work God starts and finishes in us (Hebrews 12:2). God provides the growth of seeds planted and watered.
Turek continued by writing, “They throw objection after objection at believers and conservatives but never pause long enough to listen to the answers. It doesn’t matter that you’ve just answered their question with an undeniable fact – they’ve already left that topic and are rattling off another objection on another topic as if you hadn’t said a word. They don’t really seem interested in finding answers but in finding reasons to make themselves feel better about what they want to believe. After all, a skeptic of one set of beliefs is actually a true believer in another set of beliefs.”
So what is someone to do who hates wasting time, but loves spiritual conversations that are relevant?
Gauging a heart’s readiness with one question
How do I determine if this person is someone who I can plant or water seeds in about the gospel so God may choose to grow them (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)? And once I know this question, will it change how or who I spend time talking to in spiritual conversations?
For instance, I remember serving on an overseas mission trip where I talked for an hour with a man named Robert. He said he would talk, but he wouldn’t pray anything with me. He later found me by the docks and then accused me of stealing his cellphone which he had lost.
Knowing the question you’re about to learn, would I have spent an hour with him even if I knew he would accuse me of stealing his phone? I’ll answer this after we look at the one question Frank Turek recommends in this short 3-minute video:
- The one question every believer should ask an unbeliever during the spiritual conversation.
- What to do if they hesitate.
- What it means if they hesitate.
- How many times Frank Turek has been told “No” to the question, and what it means.
- Another question to ask atheists.
- Why the second question is important if the atheist is in search of truth.
In case you don’t’ have time or connection speed now, the question is:
“If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?”
This cuts to the heart of their heart.
Even Turek says if they don’t answer yes to this, it might be better for you to just go out for pizza with them. Strange, huh? Perhaps you’ve heard you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. Unless Jesus has salted their oats to make them thirsty, they may not be ready to drink from the Living Water he provides.
So, if the man I met overseas had said Yes to the question, then yes I would have spent the same time or more talking with him – even knowing I could possibly be accused of stealing his phone. I probably would have had the conversation even if he said Maybe or I don’t know. I guess I would have let the Holy Spirit guide me in each of those moments.
Some conversations are worth it, especially if Jesus restores their relationship to God and frees them from the tortures of hell. These conversations may seem like small hills to some or tall mountains to others (Isaiah 54:10), but they can change someone’s eternity if we would only share the gospel. Would you pray for God to train you to have more of these conversations in your lifetime?