I was able to go witnessing at the Pueblo, Colorado Christmas parade on Saturday, an event that attracted thousands of people. A friend and I passed out 500 tracts in about 30 minutes, covering only a portion of the parade route and one side of the street.
I asked a group of teens what they think happens when they die, and the young lady who spoke up said she would be going to heaven. I asked why she thought that, and she said she was going to heaven because she’s a good person. I specifically asked if we have to be good to go to heaven, and she responded in the affirmative.
This is a pretty typical beginning to a conversation. Most people think they’ll go to heaven because they’re good people. After that, I discussed a few of the Ten Commandments; she admitted to breaking them, and she seemed humbled by the law.
I asked her if she knew what God did so she could have her sins forgiven; she said Jesus died on the cross.
I elaborated on the gospel a little bit. She seemed to agree with everything I said. At the end of the conversation, her brother, who was listening to our conversation, said they were Christians—and that their dad is a pastor.
I didn’t ask what kind of pastor, but I was shocked that the teenage daughter of a pastor could think of herself as a Christian, and still be so confused about why she’s going to heaven.
The sad part is that this conversation, while alarming, isn’t all that abnormal. Many people claim to be Christians, but do not give a proper reason for why they’re going to heaven. It is pretty rare to catch someone who can correctly explain why his or her sins are forgiven.
If there is one thing I want to drum into my little boys, it is what the Bible says about how to get to heaven. It is by the cross of Christ alone, and not by any of our own good deeds.
How many of the people sharing our pews don’t have a proper understanding of why they can go to heaven? It seems to me that pastors aren’t doing a good job of explaining this fundamental truth.
It used to frustrate me that I would discuss the law and the gospel, and at the end of the conversation, find out that this “good” person I had been talking to was a Christian.
I used to think that I should get in the habit of asking people more about their beliefs so that I wouldn’t inadvertently witness to a Christian. But if someone who claims to be a Christian thinks he or she is getting to heaven by being good—even if that individual is genuinely saved—that person needs to hear the law and the gospel.
NOTE: Witnessing at the parade was a great experience. People are happy, friendly and open to talking or accepting tracts. It is a privilege to be able to proclaim the gospel at a Christmas parade where most people are thinking about Santa Claus and decorating their house for the season. It’s a privilege to remind them of the real reason for Christmas.
Feel free to download the Christmas tract I wrote a few years ago (here), and hit your local parade. The tract was inspired in part by “It’s About the Cross,” a song by Go Fish.