Alex Honnald – article cover picture — was featured on the cover of the May 2011 issue of National Geographic. He is free soloing (no climbing aides, no ropes) Mount Half Dome in Yosemite Valley in northern California.  Photo purchased for use herein.

In parts 1-3, an older saint has engaged fellow transit riders in a discussion of apologetics (reasons to believe in and enjoy the Almighty God of the universe).  Using the National Geographic picture of Alex Honnald (left), we have imagined humanity on a narrow cliff. 

The crowd on the L was getting restless. Newspapers shuffled; pages turned.  So the dignified saint skipped over some things to finish the Parable. 

“Suddenly from high above,  Mountain Man moved toward Everyman. Calmly He came down the face of the cliff, without ropes, pinions or other climbing gear. In total command. Purposeful. His voice booming like a thousand rivers, certain of His authority over the mountain and all the things that terrified Everyman

“Convincing the desperate, frightened man to trust Him was not easy. To climb on Mountain Man’s back, Everyman had to give up the “security” of his perch by hanging out over nothing for an instant. He had to trust MM.  But seeing reality, Everyman became Believingman, anddid the only logical thing – he gave himself to Mountain Man, Jesus Christ, by climbing on His back.  Then – to the utter amazement and delight of BelievingmanMountain Man’s steady gait swallowed the cliff at a rapid rate and reached the top.  Safety! Security!  Peace!” 

The teenager was silent. In went the ear buds.  The businessman quietly turned away. People shifted their gaze and weight;  the crowd shook out along natural fault lines. 

But others seemed doubly intent on hearing every word the Saint spoke.  Some people even pressed in closer to hear.  

The young adult asked, “Explain to me how to get off the ledge.”  Dropping the Parable, the august man spoke directly to him.  “In terms of gaining redemption, the only thing that pleases the Almighty is what Jesus Christ did when He died for our sins.

“Ephesians 2:8-10 says:  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves – it is gift of God, not by works so that no one can boast.  If a moral life had been adequate for redemption, God the Father and God the Son would never have planned His death.  We need to believe in what Jesus Christ accomplished for us on the cross.

“What did he accomplish?” – the question came from the saint’s right, so the elder statesman turned to engage the eyes of the questioner. “His accomplishment was paying the penalty for human sin and providing salvation for all who would believe. God is angry about sin. Since sin is the opposite of His purity, God hates sin.  Because Jesus took on our sins, God viewed Him as having done the evil that we have done.[1]  Therefore, Jesus died under the judgment of God the Father, taking the bullet of God’s wrath that we all deserve.  Because of what Jesus Christ did, we can be forgiven of ALL sin.”

“What makes Jesus special?” asked another.  Jesus Christ is God in a human body.[2]  He lived a perfect life.  Fully God, fully man.[3]  In New Testament times, the choice was clear – either people had to fall down and worship Jesus (because He was claiming to be God) or kill Him for what they interpreted as blasphemy.[4]  Eventually, they chose to do the latter via a Roman cross (which did not surprise God and was His plan all along). 

“The Creator died for the creature, leaving nothing for us to earn, pay for, or do (except believe).  “. . . if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved . . .  for whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”[5]

“We must repent of what we are: sinners. That means we have to agree with God that we are ruined, needy people. God already knows this (as does our family and people around us).  To repent is to change your mind about being the god of your own life.  Theologian Wayne Grudem wrote, ‘Repentance is heartfelt sorrow for sin [not unhappiness that we got caught; not pouting about the circumstances our sin has created for us—k.kaynor], a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ. Repentance, like faith, is an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong), an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (a sorrow for sin and a hatred of it), and a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead).’[6] 

“All efforts to impress God fall short of obligating God to redeem us.[7]  Being an  interested observer is insufficient.  People have the human idea that if our good works out-weigh our bad works, we will live happily ever after. Some think that if they are baptized and pray if they are in trouble, that God will tolerate everything else.  Such a convenient god is not the True & Living God of the Bible.  That is casting a god of our own making, his chief responsibility being to take care of us and smooth the way before us.  That attitude is more walking east and west on the ledge. 

“There is a war going on for the minds, wills, emotions, allegiances, souls and energies of people.  In this war, Satan, the vile, toxic spirit of the universe, seeks to smear God, create a false picture of Him and retain the allegiance of all people. Spiritually dead, in pride and self-will, sinners dismiss Jesus Christ as belonging to yesterday, and being for the unenlightened. In this war Hollywood is a powerful ally of the Devil. It has given us a false picture of who and what Jesus Christ is.[8] 

“Biblical Christianity is unique because of Jesus Christ and because it is the world’s only grace religion. It is based exclusively on grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. That is, salvation is a free gift, available to all on the basis of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. In all other religions, one earns the favor of a supernatural being (trying to keep the Ten Commandments; achieving grace by keeping the ordinances (Catholic);  obeying the five pillars of Islam – Christianity is not do, do and live.  Christianity is believe in Jesus Christ and He grants life transformation and certainty. 

“God loves people. He was motivated by love to create people.  Someone has said ‘There is a God-shaped vacuum in us only He can fill.’  We have a sense of foreverness. We feel incomplete.  We feel guilty. If these bring us to salvation in Christ, these can be seen as evidences of God’s love. And if loneliness, grief and shame turn us to God, they are another form of love.  God’s love led Him to become a Person who walked this earth and then absorbed the wrath we deserve. That’s love! 

“People who have surrendered their lives back to the One who created life are among the happiest people in the world. 

“Many have responded to this good news, which is called the Gospel and their lives have been transformed. Though not perfect, they live happy, contented, full lives.  To experience the love of the God of the universe is the ultimate love.  My life was transformed in February, 1965, much for the happier.  I went from a brooding, self-righteous church attender into a personal, fulfilling relationship with the Redeemer, Jesus Christ. While I do not deserve it, I have enjoyed the love, guidance and provision of the glorious Father.  Rags to riches. Delights at every hand.  A secure future.  Amazing grace (that would make a good song).

The 24-year-old motioned for attention. He asked, “How does one become a Christian?”  “Agree with God that you are a sinner, ask God to forgive you and give your life over to the Lordship of Christ.  If you have genuinely done that, God will come into your life and change it. Attitudes and values will change.[9]  And over the years, your no face will become a yes face.” 

Part accusation, part question the 24-year-old asked, “I’ve met some who claim to be Christians who were no different from how they lived before they supposedly became a Christian – that’s confusing.”

“Yes it is. Some who claim to be Christians may not have been genuinely redeemed by God.  If a person has no (or little) interest in enjoying God . . . if one remains primarily self-oriented and there is no change in his/her values and attitude, if that person has no appetite for God, little eagerness for Truth, such a person is not a Christian. Not everyone who mumbles the name of Jesus is a genuine believer. While some are not for real, most of us know someone whose life has been genuinely transformed by Jesus Christ.

“Another point about ‘hypocrites in church’ is that spiritual growth in a new Christian can take time.  God will correct His own and grow them on His timetable. Don’t look to Christians – we will disappoint you. Instead, dwell on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  He will never disappoint you.

Matching the slowing down cadence of the train for his stop, the elder statesman slowed his speech for emphasis.  “You   need    to   (1) study   the   Bible. It   is God’s   loving   and   authoritative   message   for   our   well-being. Start   in   the Gospel   of   John.     (2) Get  into  a   Bible-believing   church.  Ignored as a man-made institution, the church is still God’s method of advancing the spiritual health of society. A local church is to be enjoyed, joined and participated in.[10]   And (3) seek   out   genuine   Christians.  Ask them to explain when they were redeemed and how their lives have been transformed.  If they do not have a clear statement about redemption, seek others.” 

Email addresses were exchanged. Then the patriarch doffed his hat and joyfully exited the L with a spring in his step. The 24-year-old thanked him earnestly, got off, went across the tracks to take the next train back to his stop.

[1]  II Corinthians 5:21. 

[2]  That’s what Christmas is about. God became a Man.  Jesus Christ is the God-Man.  

[3]  John 10:31-33. 

[4]  John 8:58

[5]  Romans 10:9, 13.

[6]  Bible Doctrine, by Wayne Grudem; Zondervan; Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999;  page 309. 

[7] God is pleased with moral goodness, but such human activity falls short of deserving salvation.

[8] Martin Scorsese’s Jesus Christ Superstar was a blasphemous portrayal of the Redeemer.  Make no mistake, there is a lot of religious deception occurring in our world.  Deception is part of the spiritual warfare of our time (See Matthew 24:4,  11, 23 & 24).  Another example of Hollywood’s half-truths was its treatment of Louie Zamperini whose life story was told in the 2014 movie Unbroken.  Mr. Z gave his life and his hate of the Bird (the man who tortured him in a Japanese prison camp) to Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham crusade, but Hollywood did not tell the viewers about that because the Gospel is opposed to their agenda and values. Research it yourself and find out the truth.

[9] II Corinthians 5:17.   If there is no change, then you need to go back and examine whether or not you have repented and believed.  Once a bank teller brushed me off by saying, “It did not work for me.” No one wants to be telling the Living God what works and what does not work. Whatever is lacking, it is in people, not God.

[10]  Be careful when looking for a church home.  Some churches quote the Bible but have abandoned the Gospel for a social message of human morality. Yes, morality is important and pleases God, but the danger of a mostly moral message is that it becomes a substitute for genuine salvation.