My Friend the Atheist
Lysa TerKeurst

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17 (NIV)

I have a dear friend who is a wonderful person and terrific mom. We enjoy watching our kids do sports together and when there is time, we work out together. We respect each other and care about one another, but we come from two totally different vantage points. I am a passionate, sold out Christian. She is a staunch atheist.

Without much discussion on the subject, we basically agree to disagree. But there is something going on behind the scenes that is so very exciting… she is seeing Jesus in me.

Just a few days ago, we were discussing ‘true beauty’ while sweating and straining through sit ups. She told me her counselor had recently asked her to describe a person who exemplified true feminine beauty and she’d quickly answered, “Deborah Norville.” But after a little more thought, she gave the counselor my name.

I laughed and told her that the only picture that should come to her head when she thought of me was a sweaty woman in workout cloths, a scraggly pony tail hairdo, and no makeup. How could that qualify as beautiful? Her answer stirred my heart, “Lysa, it is what you have on the inside that is so beautiful.”

I was amazed not because I took the compliment for myself, but rather for my sweet Jesus. I am convinced she sees the reality of Jesus shining through my many cracks and is drawn to Him in me. Even an atheist has God’s fingerprints all over their soul. Her inner most being was created by God’s hand and something inside her must recognize Him ever so slightly. So, that is where I start witnessing to her. No lengthy debates. No theological discussions. No hell fire and brimstone. I simply live and love and make the reality of Jesus known through my interactions with her and others.

She will not care to meet my Jesus until she meets the reality of Jesus lived out through my life. What a challenge for all of us! There are many people who are turned off by Christians because they hear us say one thing but live out another. I so desperately want to live Jesus out loud. I want to tell the whole world about Him, using words if only necessary. Then I am convinced I will have the privilege to one day sit down over a cup of coffee and have my friend the atheist say, “I want what you have. You make me think God could possibly be real. Will you teach me?” And what a day that will be!

Dear Lord, thank You for the privilege to know You. Thank you for changing my bitterness into joy, my horrible past into a hope-filled future, and my broken dreams into fulfilled promises. Help me to live everyday reflecting the reality of You in me. I want to lead many people to the glorious hope that can only be found in You. May it be so, every day of my life, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do you know Him?

Beautiful in God's Eyes, The Treasure of the Proverbs 31 Woman by Elizabeth George

Listen to Today’s Radio Show

Application Steps:
Write down the names of a couple of people in your sphere of influence that need to meet the reality of Jesus. Make a point to pray for these people. Then look for ways to be Jesus to them. List three things you could do over this next month for each of them.

Think back over the last year of your life. In what area has God chiseled away some of those rough edges that have made it difficult for others to see Jesus in you? Jesus spoke harshly to the Pharisees of His time, calling them “hypocrites” because they appeared to be righteous on the outside, but had hearts of stone on the inside. As you experience the reality of God in your own life, the power of Jesus will continue to chisel away the stone to make you effective as you interact with those around you.

Power Verses:
Matthew 23:27, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”

Romans 13:14a, “Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with every-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen Lysa! Your story brought tears to my eyes. We get so caught up in either the worldly pursuit of external beauty or else we try to be super-spiritual witnessing machines. Your life shines for Jesus THROUGH the cracks. I recently asked my husband if I could be doing more evangelism in our neighborhood. His response was, "Every time you walk out that door, people see Jesus in you. You don't even have to open your mouth because the Spirit is shining through you." Diane Sawyer just used those words, "shining," to describe Ruth Graham Bell who has gone to be with the Lord. She wanted to be a missionary, but God used her to shine for Him through her writing and her life. May that be true for all of us too!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking as a former atheist myself, I have to agree 100% with everything you wrote, Lysa. I used to listen to Christian music stations just to feel borrowed hope about the world. After all, to my atheist's mind, borrowed hope was better than no hope at all. Oh how I wished to believe what those folks singing believed! But at that time in college I didn't know any true believers (just some very angry hellfire types whose lived seemed much more miserable than my own.) Once I met some true and loving believers, it was still 5 years before I was able to come to Christ. Oh the sweetness to have Jesus with me now! Praise God for such daily opportunities we have to show Him to the world!
-Cristi Sims

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is exactly what I need to apply in my life. I will be living with a (relative) single parent like me and she is not a Christian yet. We both have childen and my motive is to win her soul for the Lord. My sister does not like the idea, because she believes it is not for my own advantage or practical and that she is just going to use me. I know the Lord is using me and my life as a witness to those around me, including friends or enemy :)
I pray my life will shine in the dark for there are many women longing to feel love and look at the wrong places/person and think that the cure is to sleep around with men in order to feel love. My prayer is that she will look into my life and know I am very much love and I feel very much in love :) even when I do not have a man/husband to love or make me feel love, she will see how much Jesus loves me and how I fell in love with my Savior; in that she will find or seek for herself the kind of true love found only in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Blessings to all who shines in the dark and the ones in the dark reading "My Friend the Atheist"
Thanks for your beauty tips Lysa!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the way you write. The phrase that your friend saw Jesus shining thru the cracks was such a great picture. May Jesus shine thru me that way today. Thank you.

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