This is the first of several articles I want to publish that take us into real gospel conversations. All of these introduce the gospel from God's Word. Most of them are from my experience. All of them represent real people with real needs. In other words, I aim to provide abundant examples of gospel conversations we can all relate to, envision, and practice having with people every day. As I write these articles, I plan to publish them in an app that's being developed by the same name - gospelflow - that provides real-time gospel conversation practice with AI personas representing various walks of life, cultures, and languages. That gets me excited! I want to be as fluent as possible to communicate the gospel as often as possible with as many people as possible. Let's get started!
“For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Have you ever experienced a shift in a conversation where it moves to another level? That happened to me the other day. Rafi and I were talking as we often do about lots of things, the weather included. We all have these kinds of conversations with friends and neighbors.
But on this day something happened when I asked about his family. I knew about his wife and two grown daughters. He was proud of them both pursuing medical careers. But today Rafi seemed sad when I asked. He had not heard from his daughters in months, the eldest in almost a year.
The hardest part was that he felt it was his fault. He didn’t know what to do to make it better. He was angry. Mostly at himself. But, also at his wife because she didn’t seem to understand. They were drifting apart. He felt alone.
I asked him to tell me more. Life seemed to repeat itself, he said. Growing up he felt distant from his dad. Now his own children were distant from him. Generations of brokenness. What did he do wrong? Couldn’t they see how much he loved them? Did they not love him? Would they ever come home?
The sadness, loneliness, and shame had driven him to despair, and then to alcohol. Rafi feared the future.
I listened more. Then I began to tell a story. About a son who was lost and alone, far from home, away from his father. A son who had wasted his inheritance on reckless living, and ended up homeless, hungry, lonely, and ashamed.
I opened my Bible on my phone to Luke 15:11-32 where Jesus tells the story of the Lost Son. Every time I read or tell this story – whether in my time alone with God, or with a friend – I am reminded of God’s goodness in my life. It’s like I’m looking into a mirror and see myself in this lost young man.
We’ve all been there. I knew that’s where Rafi was. I slowly read, talked, paused, listened. I wanted us to take it in together - what Jesus was saying here. I sensed Rafi relating, getting it, perhaps thinking as I did, “Maybe this is my story, too?”
I slowed way down when we got to verse 17, where the lost son was at his lowest. This is also when he came to himself. When he began to turn his face toward home.
But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ (Luke 15:17-19)
Food to eat? A warm bed at night? This was as good as he could imagine. He resolved to return home, confess his sin, and maybe, just maybe he could secure a place among his father’s servants. Wouldn’t that be great?
And then a miracle happened. Luke 15:20 says, “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
I don’t think this young man ever saw this coming. That his father would see him from a long way off and feel such compassion for him. That he would run to him, embrace him, kiss him, and announce, “Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found!” (Luke 15:22-24)
His son had returned home hoping only for a warm bed and food. What he received was infinitely more valuable: sonship restored. This is a parable of how we come to God. Sinful and repentant. And how God receives us. As our Heavenly Father. Full of forgiveness and grace.
Luke 15:20 captures the miracle of our reconciliation with God. I memorized this verse mostly to meditate on God’s goodness, to remember the gospel in my life. But it also allowed me to quote it slowly from my heart, facing Rafi, and repeat it as my own story, “Then I arose and came home…” as we kept talking.
As I shared my simple testimony, we considered together what it means to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Rafi was beginning to understand the gospel. God was present, his Spirit at work in Rafi’s life.
God is always present in our daily lives, conversations, and relationships. The question is, how are we aware of his presence? I want to be more aware. I want to have more days like this day, more conversations like this one with Rafi. This was a good day, a good conversation. I want this to be my normal life.
I believe this is how God wants me to live. For me to abide in his presence, throughout the day - to listen, love, and pray into my daily conversations with neighbors like Rafi. I want to live from the joy of the gospel in my life and from the power of God’s word as it soaks into my soul, overflows into my relationships, and spills over into my conversations. I want this to be my normal, everyday lifestyle. What is it going to take for me to put this into practice on a practical and spiritual level?
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5)
Two days later I ran into Rafi. He told me the good news. His daughters had called him and were coming home for the holidays. He fully believed this was God’s grace upon his family in the wake of our conversation and prayer. Right then and there we thanked God together. We keep the conversation flowing. Like the Lost Son – and like me - Rafi has turned his face toward God. He is on the journey home. And I am honored to walk alongside him.