Andy Bannister writes:
From Edmonton I went a few hundred miles southwards to Calgary, where the university mission was also really well attended. At the first lunch bar on the Wednesday (which was about the resurrection of Jesus), there was standing room only, we must have had 200 hundred students in the room. They asked really great questions too! It was great to see people really taking the gospel seriously and thinking about what was being shared.
Then I did another dialogue with a Muslim scholar, and again there were dozens of Muslims as part of the audience. And the same subjects came up as at Edmonton: sin and salvation. One of the most poignant moments for me was when the Muslim Imam I was engaging with actually said, “In Islam there is no salvation: there is no salvation in Islam. You are responsible for your own sin, and responsible for working your way out of it, there is no salvation”. What a profound contrast with Christianity: in Islam and Christianity, we really do have two very different gods—one who leaves us to get on with it, and the other who says, “No, you need my help, and I will help you.” So again this topic of sin, how bad it is, what God’s solution to it is and what God’s solution isn’t; is at the heart of the difference between Christianity and Islam.
On the last night of the mission I spoke on the subject, “Why Did Jesus Die For Me?” It’s a hugely important topic, because as Christians we talk about the cross, we talk about salvation; but the question people often have is, “Why did Jesus have die for me?”
In the talk, I took on two objections. The first is the response by some people: ‘I don’t need a saviour thank you very much, I’m a good person.’ So we addressed that challenge. Then I addressed a second question, ‘Why did Jesus have to die for me? Why couldn’t God just forgive me?’ I explained that forgiveness is always costly; there’s no such thing as free forgiveness. There’s always a price to forgiveness. If you damage someone else’s car, and you can’t afford to pay, you’re not insured, but the other driver whose car you damaged forgives you and let’s you off the debt, well that forgiveness isn’t free, it has cost them money! Or if someone hurts you personally, someone stabs you in the back, betrays you, insults you, and then later asks for your forgiveness, and you forgive them—well, there is a cost to that forgiveness. You have to carry the cost of that forgiveness within yourself without reminding them of the hurt that they have done to you. Therefore it should come as no surprise that given how badly we have wronged God, that God’s forgiveness wasn’t free but cost God a great deal. Of course the rest of the story is that His love is so great for us that He was willing to do it.
It was great to see responses during the mission—some people giving their lives to Christ for the first time and about 40 people signed up for the Alpha Course. Alpha is a ten week programme which lets people explore the Christian faith and the claims of Jesus at their own speed.