“I think repentance is a lot like the high jump.”
Startled with that statement, I turned my head to see a woman next to me speaking to her husband at a high school track meet. Wearing a BYU jacket on a cool spring day in Idaho, the husband continued to stare straight ahead at the high jump competition before us. I was hoping she would continue to explain her analogy. Being a newcomer to Idaho, I was intrigued by the many Mormons who lived around me and what they believed.
“I mean, with the high jump,” she continued, “if you miss it the first time, you get two more chances.” The husband didn’t reply back but continued to stare out at the track obviously uncomfortable with his wife’s commentary. Unabashed by the awkward silence around her, the wife was about to make a profound statement that would rattle my soul. But it wasn’t her words that stick with me today. It was my reaction. I did nothing and said nothing. The guilt associated with my lack of response has been a catalyst in my work in preparing timid Christians like myself to be ready to given an answer.
The Lord has provided that work at Truth in Love Ministry. It’s a ministry devoted to sharing the real Jesus Christ with those lost in the false teachings of Mormonism.
Sharing God’s Word with Mormons is not easy, because it’s difficult to present truth in lieu of a culture and religion that presents a portrait of an abstract Jesus. Like viewing an abstract portrait on a museum wall, anybody can interpret it as they please. Attempting to interpret the Bible can be the same way when theology is determined on a few isolated verses. As a result, the rest of Scripture is viewed with jaded lenses. For these reasons, when a Christian presents the real picture of who Jesus is and why, most people will turn away in disgust. A bloodied substitute on the cross who is there because of what I have done is a tough message to behold and a difficult one to share. Coupled with the fact that we also live in a time where many are rejecting the message of salvation through faith alone in Christ – and turning to something different.
But that’s not always the case.
“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed.” (Acts 14:1)
Can you imagine that scene? Thousands of people coming to faith in Christ. Many trapped into the culture and theology of Judaism with the hundreds of laws and rituals to abide by are receiving the message of the real Messiah. Struck by the Holy Spirit through the power of God’s Word, miracles of faith are blooming like mountain wild flowers in the spring.
We long to see similar scenes in our time. Thousands coming to faith. Perhaps hundreds once trapped by the culture and theology of a false religion now filling Christian sanctuaries. If not, then how about dozens coming to a Bible study? Or perhaps that one prodigal family member that dominates our thoughts and prayers. Faith is a miracle and when you examine the ministry of Jesus, you may notice that his miracles were one-by-one. They were not the massive conversions we see in Acts.
Sure, there was the miracle feeding of the five thousand. But I think only a few really knew what was going on. All they saw was the baskets of bread and fish being passed around. In fact, Jesus had to leave the area because he didn’t want to be forced to be a bread king. When the water was changed into wine, all people saw were the pitchers being filled on the table. They just didn’t know.
Jesus’ miracles are intensely personal. A need was met. A longing prayer was answered. The real Jesus was confronted and received. A lonely, rejected woman at the well, the Roman centurion with a sick servant, a bleeding woman touching his robe – Jesus’ miraculously confronted those intense personal needs and provided the message of Himself to touch the soul.
Sharing God’s Word today requires the same personal touch that Jesus provided in his ministry. Witnessing requires an investment of our most valuable resource — our time. Time is needed to garner trust to either uncover a particular stress point or to carefully define a Biblical term.
Which brings me back to the Mormon lady at the high school track meet .
“I mean, with the high jump, if you miss it the first time, you get two more chances.”
Anxiously awaiting the next attempt of her friend’s son, she continued to ponder out loud by stating, “Repentance is the same way. If you don’t get it the first time, you get several more chances.”
The essence of Mormonism presented so clearly at a track and field meet. Mormonism teaches that repentance is a process. Full forgiveness is only granted to the truly worthy. And if you don’t get it right the first time, you are granted several other chances. You are saved by grace, but only after all you can do. My soul was shaken because I saw first-hand how lost Mormons are to a gospel that is far different than the one I know from the Bible.
I wish I were at a well in Samaria instead of a high school track meet in Idaho. I would have liked to have Jesus with me in sharing an answer and meeting a need. But it was just me. Or, so I thought. God has promised that whenever we go out into the world to preach and teach the gospel, he goes with us. He stands by us or sits next to us. He can provide the words, the strength, and the courage. But, I chose to ignore those promises and said nothing. A wasted opportunity.
Since that time, I have worked to help people myself to not only have an answer, but be bold enough to provide one. I prepared a Bible study entitled, “Preparing for an Adventure” for people like myself.
It is my prayer that someday that lady at the track meet would be provided with an answer. They could say, “Wow! What a profound statement. I would agree that repentance can be like the high jump. Despite my errors and misses, Jesus the has already determined that I made the judgment bar necessary to receive eternal life with Heavenly Father.” And I would stop there. I would patiently wait to see if I have aroused her curiosity to ask me how I could say that. Then, I would speak the truth in love to share with her that the object of my faith is on the completed work of Christ. The seeds of God’s Word is planted.
The Lord may not provide us the opportunity to reach thousands like Paul, but he provides those unique opportunities to reach one soul, to meet one need, to be a part of an amazing miracle when a soul confronts and receives Jesus Christ as Savior.