As Christians it can be tempting to avoid evangelizing people of other religions and worldviews. They already have a transcendent purpose for their lives. There is no “God-shaped” hole in their heart that only Jesus can fill, or so it seems. Even if someone doesn’t believe in God they may have a worldview that fits snuggly into this “God-Shaped” hole, such as Humanism. There’s already something there. Yet when we read the New Testament we see Jesus coming, not to just reach the non-religious, but the religious as well. His first sermon recorded in Luke 4 was given in a synagogue during a religious service. The Apostle Paul in the book of Acts repeatedly preached the gospel to religious Jews, God-Fearing Gentiles, and Greek philosophers. Multiudes of religious and non-religious people were won to Christ! So, how do we do this today?
A Stalemated Exchange
Some of you have tried to speak to people from various religious backgrounds about Jesus only to encounter argument, misunderstanding, or confusion from your hearer. I know I have. A few years ago I was speaking to a Buddhist Uber driver about Christ, and the conversation seemed to be going nowhere. I shared about how the miracles of Christ pointed to the uniqueness of Christ, to which he responded, “There are also religious people in India right now who are performing miracles. So, what?“ The conversation turned into a sort of spiritual trench warfare as we spoke back and forth. None of us were giving up an inch in our views. At the end of the Uber ride I hadn’t even gotten to the gospel yet! This guy definitely had a filled “God Shaped” hole in his heart but, it was filled with Buddhism and Eastern religious philosphy!
Put Them In Prison
When trying to reach religious people for Christ, it doesn’t do much good to speak about the uniqueness of Christ, the miracles of Christ, or even his death and resurrection at the outset (there are exceptions of course). They have no context, especially if the person are satisfied with their current religious views. They already have a god, a goal, and a means of obtaining that goal. A crucified Savior will probably sounds nuts, if not down right offensive. To reach religious people with the gospel of grace you first have to put them in prison. What do I mean by that? The Apostle Paul describes it clearly:
“ But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Galatians 3:22
“…..for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20b
In Galatians 3:22 when Paul says “the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin” he means that the Law of God (Romans 3:20b) contained in the Scripture has enclosed, confined, and even trapped everyone within the knowledge and guilt of sin. Why? “So that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe”. What’s included in this promise? We are told by Paul in Galatians 3:13 that it’s redemption from the curse of the Law. This curse is guilt and condemnation for breaking the Law and failing to live up to its standards.
We are bought out of this curse of the Law by Jesus who took the curse upon himself on the cross, securing forgiveness for all of those who trust in him. The Law must precede the preaching of Christ and Him crucified if the religious and non-religious person will flee to him for forgiveness. When the Law enters he sees that no good works can remove the penalty of sin. In most world religions the adherents have to do good works and sincerely ask God for forgiveness to be rewarded and have a right standing with God. The Law of God will show them that this is impossible.
Religion Has No Adequate Answer
So, next time you’re speaking with someone who is religious but not a Christian take the time to “shut them up under sin” by the Law of God and the Scriptures. This can be done by asking them if they’ve kept the Ten Commandments, and if they were to be judged by God on the basis of the Commandments would they be “innocent or guilty?” Depending on their background they may object: “There is no judgment”, “I’ll just ask for forgiveness”, “Only God knows”, “I’ll just repent”, “My good deeds outweigh my bad deeds”, “I don’t believe in the Bible”, “I don’t believe in the Ten Commandments”, or “I’ve been baptized”.
However, everyone has a conscience and believe it’s wrong to lie, steal, murder, commit adultery, hate someone, gossip, break promises, insult someone, and neglect to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which is the essence of the Law. When you use in judicial terms in your conversation most, if not all objections outside of justice for sin being satisfied make no sense. A lack of belief in the Law or judgement doesnt change the reality of their existence. No good works or moral behavior can remove the guilt of sin anymore than prior obedience to most laws can absolve a criminal from the guilt of his crimes.
So, remember to use the Law. Put them in Prison!