Homeless man confronted with freeing message of Christ
“Have a blessed day.”
Though seemingly inconsequential, these words, spoken by a homeless man to a student from The Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, initiated an encounter between the homeless man and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Birmingham, Alabama, for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual Crossover evangelism effort, June 3-7, master’s student Ricardo Devine was traveling through a narrow alley when he passed by the homeless man. Devine extended him a standard greeting, asking how he was doing that day. The man said he was doing well and then added, “Have a blessed day.”
Though Devine had intended to keep moving, the homeless man’s use of the word “blessed” gave him pause; he realized this would be a good opportunity to share the Gospel.
Devine thanked the man for his kind words, noting that one does not hear such words often. He then inquired about the man’s spiritual beliefs.
“Oh, I’m saved,” the homeless man replied. Devine played dumb. “From what?” he asked.
“Well, you know, it’s been tough,” the homeless man said. “A lot of people look at me and they don’t want to talk to me.”
The conversation continued from there, with Devine explaining why he had journeyed to Birmingham from Fort Worth.
“Man, this is cool,” Devine said. “This is definitely a divine appointment that you and I are able to talk.”
“Oh, you’re a religious person,” the homeless man said, spotting Devine’s Bible.
“I wouldn’t call myself religious, but I am a follower of Christ,” Devine replied. “You said, ‘Have a blessed day.’ And many people who don’t have an understanding of Christianity don’t say that type of thing. So what about you? What is your story?”
The two spoke for half an hour, and the conversation ultimately settled on the homeless man’s sin. Though he insisted that he was saved, the man still engaged in alcohol and drug use.
“As a follower of Christ, we’re not walking in the old anymore,” Devine explained to him, evoking the language of 2 Corinthians 5. “God has called us into a new creation with Him, and He doesn’t desire for us to go back into a path of destruction. And looking at your life right now, that’s what you’re doing. Can you tell me, from the time that you received Christ, that your life has changed?”
“No,” the homeless man admitted. “I’m just struggling with sin and drinking.”
Devine walked him through the core components of the Gospel. Throughout, the man said, “Yeah, I believe that. I believe that.”
Finally, Devine confronted him, “But you don’t. Everything I’m sharing with you … your life doesn’t reflect that. Jesus makes it very clear that we will see the fruit of His disciples; but your fruit is drinking. That’s not following Christ; that’s living of this world.”
Convicted, the man broke down in tears. He shared that, having already struggled with alcohol, his consumption had intensified when his father died earlier this year.
“My heart really broke for this guy,” Devine says, “because I’ve worked with the homeless before as a counselor, and I could see the desperation of wanting to hold onto something that he was familiar with.”
Devine asked him, “So would your dad be proud of you, going into a position where you’re drinking more, getting into trouble more?”
“I don’t know where else to go,” the man replied. “I have no hope.” He proceeded to admit that he knew he was not a true follower of Christ.
“Today, you can be saved,” Devine assured him. “Christ says that all who come and confess and believe in Him will be saved. Today, you no longer have to be in this bondage of sin and chains.”
The man confessed that he was bound by drugs and alcohol. “But Christ has set you free,” Devine told him, “and all you have to do is place your trust in Him.”
With tears still flowing from his eyes, the man said, “I can’t do that. I know that’s right, and I agree with everything you’ve said, but I just can’t let go of the alcohol.”
The man had to leave, but Devine implored him, “Don’t walk away before you have that really deep conversation with Christ, to know that He can set you free.”
“I think that was one of the more difficult conversations I had during Crossover,” Devine reflects, “because he heard the Gospel and he knew his desperation, but as we know, the enemy is tempting always.
“So that was an eye-opener, because there are people who will hear it and reject it. All people are in need, and where they are is where we need to meet them, but at times, they will not receive.”
Devine now prays that the Holy Spirit will convict this homeless man to the point of repentance. Having heard the Word of God and been confronted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the homeless man knows that he can be set free—now, he only needs to believe.