"Are You a Good Person?" Surveys
For the past two and a half years I have made sharing the gospel with strangers a priority in my life. When starting a conversation with someone I don’t know I choose to use a direct approach . Some people are good at starting a conversation and eventually turning the topic to spiritual things. I find it easier to tell the person from the outset why I am talking to them. The most common method I use is to ask one of two questions. The first is, “Would you like to take my test on ‘Are you a good person?’”
The second, “Would you like to take my survey on spiritual beliefs?” will be addressed in my next blog.
When I engage with people about half of them agree to talk with me. The “Are you a good person?” test is adapted from material developed by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (livingwaters.com). The purpose of this exercise is to first show people that they have violated God’s law and then to present Jesus as the Savior who can meet their need for forgiveness.
When someone agrees to talk to me I ask them, “Do you consider yourself a good person?” Most people answer in the affirmative. About ten percent
admit that they are not good and another twenty percent say something to the effect of “I’m good some of the time.” To help them determine how good they really are, I ask each person, regardless of their self-assessment, about how they are doing keeping the Ten Commandments or other Scriptural standards. I listen as they rate themselves on coveting, lying, stealing, etc. Most people give themselves good ratings and downplay or justify their sins saying things like: “I don’t lie unless I need to” or “I don’t steal anymore.”
I am convinced that for most people the biggest barrier to saving faith is their inability to recognize and be sorrowful over their sinful state. If a person does not see that they have failed to meet God’s standards and need a new heart, they won’t see their need for a Savior.
Coming to this awareness is the convicting work of the Holy Spirit.
Consider a couple of examples I’ve encountered that illustrate this kind of spiritual blindness. At Clackamas Community College there was a woman who was reading my comic “Are You a Good Person?” The tract quotes Jesus as saying that a person is guilty of adultery even if he just lusts in his heart. Three times she exclaimed, “This
be true or I would be guilty over and over again!“
Surely, she couldn’t be guilty of sinning! She saw herself as a good person and adjusted her standard of goodness to match her own attitudes and behavior.
In another instance, I was at the downtown Eugene transit station conversing with a high-school aged homosexual. He had a church background and viewed the church as full of rules. He also felt that they judged him. We had a good talk about the gospel being something quite different than a set of rules. I left him with a tract. Later, he found me in a different part of the station and asked this question: “This says that a person is guilty if he looks at a woman with lust. What if I look at a man with lust?” (As is so often the case, he was looking for a loophole.) I explained to him that Jesus, in his statement on lust, was trying to show self-righteous people that a person can sin with their thoughts and attitudes as well as with their actions. O how deceitful the human heart is in justifying itself! But I believe the Holy Spirit was breaking in and showing this young man his need for the Savior.
After I ask about several of the Ten Commandments, I like to ask if the person expects to go to heaven. Most believe that they will, although some don’t believe that heaven and hell exist, and others feel it would be presumptuous for them to expect to get there. However, when a person answers that they do expect to go to heaven I ask them why.
This question reveals whether or not they know Jesus and understand the gospel. Most answer that they expect to go to heaven because they are a good person (e.g., they are kind, they do their best, they try to stay out of trouble or they haven’t done anything deserving of hell.)
This type of response reveals to me that they are trying to
eternal life by being good enough. Much to my disappointment, very few people are able to explain that their hope in heaven is because Christ died for their sins, was raised from the dead and that they have repented and put their faith in him.
Once, a high school student in Newport said that her grandmother taught her she had to “earn” her way to heaven. This student was very interested and intrigued when I explained the true nature of the gospel to her. Because the notion of “earning” heaven is so very common I make a habit of trying to gently confront the “works-righteousness” lie and to present the truth that salvation is by grace through faith. I do this by explaining that the Bible says we are all disqualified because
“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
People often get a shocked look when I say this. Their stunned reaction is a great entry point for me to explain the gospel: that God, who is both just and merciful, sent Jesus to pay the price for their sins and to die in their place.
Sometimes I use an illustration about the time that we will give an account to God for our lives. As I am standing I ask what would happen if they came and tackled me around the ankles. The answer is that I would fall!
This is because what I am resting my weight on (my legs) has been taken away. I then ask them if I were seated what would happen. The answer is that I would remain seated because what
I am resting my weight on (the bench or chair)
remains securely grounded. So it is at the judgment: if a person is relying on oneself
and one’s own ability to earn their way, they will fall because no one obtains eternal life that way. But if a person is relying on Christ, and what He has done for them, they hold fast.
Usually I will end our time together by doing one or more of the following: offering to pray for them, encouraging them to read the book of John or leaving them with a tract. Often after conversations like those described in this blog, people have expressed to me that they have come to understand the gospel for the first time. Hallelujah!
Next week: “Spiritual Beliefs Survey”
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013