A scene in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid comes to mind. Butch and the Kid had just robbed a train. The owner of the rail road had finally taken steps to stop all the easy robberies taking place. He had a team of lawmen riding in a second train that was following the one with the money in it. When the first train was stopped for a robbery, the lawmen could mount their horses and ride out of the second train, chase down and arrest (or kill) the robbers.
When Butch and the Kid realize what was happening, they leave most of the money, mount up and try to outrun the lawmen who are now hot on their trail. Even when Butch and the Kid split up from two other robbers, the lawmen just ignored the two other robbers who were going in a different direction than Butch and the Kid. Instead of splitting up their forces, all the lawmen came after Butch and the Kid.
The lawmen knew exactly who they were after and, spotting them from a long way away, they were not going to be tricked into pursuing the wrong men. Among the company of lawmen were the best two trackers in the world. When Butch and the Kid finally began sizing up the lawmen who were chasing them, they knew they were in trouble and needed to take a break to let the scene cool down before continuing their train robberies.
What does lawmen tracking robbers successfully have to do with evangelistic tracts intended for a world in need of love? At least this: if you don’t know your intended target, you might not have the right thing to say when you finally catch up to him. You need to be able to track him before you can offer him a tract that he will most certainly want to read. If you’ve tracked the wrong person ~ that is, if he is not the person you thought he was ~ or if you are offering the wrong message to the person that you have tracked ~ a message that he is not convinced has any relevance to him ~ you will have wasted your time.
There are lots and lots of evangelistic tracts being used today. I am not opposed to the use of evangelistic tracts when a person is sharing his faith with another. In fact, I love them. I wish every Christian would use one if that is what he needs to be more aggressive and opportunistic in sharing his faith in Jesus Christ in a more consistent way. But the issue with evangelistic tracts is their content or message. Does the tract you use set forth the inerrant, infallible message of the Bible? Or has it garbled that message because it tries to faithfully adhere to assumptions that are not Biblical?
For example, would you change the tract that you are using if you was to discover that man is neither totally depraved or in a unalterable state of spiritual death before God? Would you change the message of your tract if the goal wasn’t to help a person get to heaven? Or escape hell? Would you change the message of your tract if forgiveness of sins might not even been needed by the person to whom you are sharing your faith even though he has not believed in Jesus yet? The tract that you are using was developed to communicate a particular understanding of the Bible. Are you sure that the understanding that you are sharing with others is correct?
Here are some questions and facts to ponder.
Does you tract suggest a way for a person to find the path to heaven?
It may surprise you to learn that the Bible doesn’t really tell a person how to get to heaven. Think about all the passages you know and all the persons singled out in the Scriptures, especially in the Book of Acts and ask yourself, where is there an example of someone sharing his faith with another person and in the process explaining how that listener can get to heaven. Now I know we can make a passage say these things, but the question is, “Does it really address these issues itself plainly and explicitly?”
Does you tract presuppose that the person reading it is on his way to hell if he doesn’t believe some specific doctrine that is exclusive to your particular spiritual background?
It may further surprise you to learn that nowhere in the entire Bible is a person’s final judgment based upon what he has believed. Every judgment that the Bible mentions is based upon what a person has done during his lifetime. So, for example, believing in Jesus won’t automatically assure you of heaven, and rejecting Jesus as Messiah, Son of God will not automatically set hell as your destination. Beliefs certainly have an affect on our actions. But radically different beliefs can also produce the same actions. The important point here is the undeniable truth that each person’s final judgment is based upon his works.
Does your tract limit the ways in which the reader can be forgiven of his sins?
If there is only one way for a person to have his sins forgiven, then that way must be universally accessible for all men or God is partial after all. For example, if believing in Jesus is the only way for a person to be forgiven, then the message of Jesus must be universally proclaimed so that all men would have the chance to receive that message and be forgiven. But we know that there are still millions and millions of people who have never heard the name of Jesus. Are they just out of luck?
Some of the other questions that also may need to be pondered are these:
Does your tract offer a forgiveness that includes all future sins a person may commit?
Does your tract require the person reading it to become just like you?
Does your tract require the person reading it to become a member of your spiritual group?
If any or all of these things are true, you might consider the possibility that your tract is not as faithful to the message of the Bible as it needs to be.
The Bible is not telling a person how he can make it to heaven. It isn’t explaining how a person can escape from hell. It certainly is not offering these blessings if a person believes some specific doctrine, regardless of how true that doctrine might be.
The Bible is rather clear that forgiveness of sins can be obtained by several different ways, none of which involve believing in Jesus.
And the Bible also doesn’t have as its goal the conversion of a person to Christianity if he wants to spend eternity in a happy state.
None of these beliefs can be verified in the Bible without the use of assumption after assumption. So let’s talk to people about what we know the Bible plainly says rather than the conclusions that some men have drawn based upon viewing the message of the Bible through a particular lens.
Here is what we know the Bible teaches:
God loves all men and has provided a way back into His presence should anyone ever wander away from God for any reason.
He also has provided a way to experience the astoundingly wonder life of His Son in each person’s daily life to enable him to successfully deal with every trial that he faces.
Life will become a beautiful experience and will take on a meaning and a purpose that it never had before when this life is experienced consistently. May that be your personal experience.
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