Friday, April 17, 2009

The Essentiality of the Resurrection!

Yes, Jesus Christ arose! So many of us yawn at these words, but if we would only stop a few minutes to ponder their importance, we would become wide-eyed with interest! Yesterday I FINALLY got to use my "The Resurrection Theories" banner on a college campus here - Fluminense Federal University (UFF). I hung my banner from a tree branch about 30 meters from the student cafeteria exit. Immediately 5 guys walked over, and three stayed to read my banner - a kind of flow chart - while I covered each theory with a large Post It note (I wanted to create curiosity :). I then began to explain, removing the Post It notes one by one, the various theories surrounding the resurrection while using my banner as my outline.

I only had 45 minutes for my debut (due to my need to be at our weekly meeting on campus), but I was able to clearly explain to four students why the theory of the resurrection of Jesus offers the best explanation for the facts surrounding what actually happened on the third day after His death! Each went away not only with a greater appreciation for the biblical account, but also with a clearer understanding of why Jesus died in the first place and the significance of the resurrection: "...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). And last, but not least, each heard how they could apply the sacrifice of Christ to their lives via repentance and faith! One of the three original guys - an Engineering student - asked for my e-mail after, while the fourth student came over after the other three left when he heard me say, "Do you realize that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ proves how much you deserve hell?!"

This Philosophy student was heading across campus to class, but made it a point to come back and talk to me. He confided in me that he was raised in a Protestant home - which is somewhat unusual in this predominantly Catholic country - but had abandoned his upbringing because he didn't agree with Christianity's view of God and hell. After spending some time explaining the reasonableness of hell (i.e., just punishment for sin, which is the transgression of the Law) and the Bible's teaching on it (which comes mostly from, of all people, Jesus!), I told him that if he didn't repent of his sins and place his faith/trust in Jesus as his Lord and Savior before dying, he would justly experience that which he believes does not exist. I told him that it really doesn't matter whether we believe something or not; if something exists, our belief or unbelief in it makes no difference. "Your problem," I said, "is that you've created a god in your mind that does not exist. Your 'god' would never send a person to eternal punishment. And you're right! Your 'god' would never do that because he doesn't exist!" He admitted to me that Jesus was cool, so I pointed out that practically all of our understanding of hell comes from Jesus own words. In other words, so much for sweet little "namby-pamby" Jesus, right? He had to get to class, so I encouraged him to continue thinking about the things we talked about, gave him an evangelistic tract and recommended our evangelistic website, (in Portuguese:

This was the start of what I hope will become at least a 3-day-a-week effort to expound apologetic material open air on the campuses here in order to then clearly explain the students' need for the gospel, not to mention clearly explain the gospel itself!

However, doing this kind of open air "speaking" - at UFF at least - will mean needing to get closer to the students! Thirty meters away has a way of not drawing much attention. I discovered that it wasn't my banner that drew those initial three Engineering students; it was the fact that they were going with three other friends to the grassy area just behind where I had set up shop. So, I hunted around the Center of Niterói after our weekly meeting for a self-standing banner holder. I found one, bought it and tried it out in front of the main bus terminal. WOW! What a difference a visual aid makes! As I stood next to my banner speaking via my bullhorn, people started stopping to read, watch and listen! And when one or two people stop, generally a small crowd will gather. And when a small crowd gathers, a larger one usually will stop. That's what happened yesterday afternoon!

I "spoke" and preached for two hours, drawing crowds of up to 25 people at a time.  The wind made things a little difficult at times, but I estimate that 75 people stopped to listen to all or part of what I had to say. Hundreds more "got an earful" as they passed! Now we'll see what the impact will be on the campuses as I try my new "toys" (i.e., my banner and holder) out on the campuses of Rio de Janeiro after next week. Why after next week? Because, due to two holidays, most universities will only be holding classes next Wednesday. This month we're having several holidays on either Tuesdays or Thursdays, which generally means no classes also on Mondays and Fridays! It's kind of crazy, but that's how things work here. It's nice when we want to have a ministry retreat, however! And it gives us as a family the opportunity to "get away" for a long weekend once in a while.