“Were you raised in the church?” I asked Willie, one of my Old Testament students, this question as we were getting to know each other as a class. “I was raised in West Texas, and as a kid I did go to church. Then at nineteen, I had everything figured out. I left home and left the church. Moved west and started drinking a little and doing some other stuff I knew was not right. I got a good job, moved ahead in my career, but I couldn’t shake those foundational truths I learned as a kid.
Years later, on a Friday night after work, I was headed for a club. Now earlier, an evangelist had asked me to come to the last night of his meetings in a small church in town. I brushed him off, but he persisted, ‘Hey, you don’t have to stay. Just drop bye.’ I turned him down.
My girlfriend was in my truck. I turned on the ignition, and we were headed for the club. But she said, ‘Hey, why not drop by the church?’
I sat way in the back, the right place to make a quick exit. When they invited folks to come forward for prayer, I turned to go, but again my friend said, “Come on, what harm could a little prayer do?’ I walked forward and God’s Holy Spirit touched me. That’s the only way I can explain it because that night I became God’s child and I’ve been living with Jesus ever since. He’s given me a hunger for the Word and that’s why I came to Southern Bible and I can hardly wait to get going in my second semester in this class!”
Psychologists and sociologists can hypothesize about what causes a person to say yes to the Gospel, but the bottom line is that it’s a mystery. God chooses to open our hearts and we’re responsible to respond. It’s like the mystery of falling in love, only this time God is doing the wooing.
When Paul, Silas, and Timothy walked into Thessalonica, it was only about eighteen years after Jesus had died, risen, and ascended to Heaven from Jerusalem. The city was full of emperor worship, idol worship, and the only hope was that there was a synagogue where the true Scriptures were studied, read, and taught. What chance was there that when Paul told these Thessalonians about Jesus, that some of them would respond like Willie did that night and be transformed? Listen as Paul reminds them about how God chose them.
“For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our Gospel did not come to you only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit demonstrated by deep conviction. You also know how we lived while with you. It was for your benefit. And you followed our example as we followed the example of the Lord. In spite of intense suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
Willie had joy on his face as he shared with the class about that moment when he remembered the Gospel he heard as a kid and made it his own as an adult. I hope, like Willie, you’ve experienced that joy that only Jesus’ Spirit can give.
LORD, give me confidence as I share with others about Jesus that you will open their hearts, no matter what their background might be. Just like the Thessalonians, there are those who can become part of your chosen people.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!