I have read the story of Arthur Katz’s conversion on several occasions but was particularly moved by it this evening. I am praying the Lord uses His Words tomorrow to save some.
There was a man who felt the Spirit of God reveal the depths of his heart simply by reading a story in the Bible. I was so struck by this man’s story that I want to share it with you. It shows the power of God to reach the lost across time, simply by having them read His record of what His Son did long ago.
The man’s name is Arthur Katz. Some of you may be familiar with him. He tells some of his story in his book “Reality: The Hope of Glory.” Katz became an atheist and hardened cynic of life. Such cynicism leads naturally to despair. In the depths of his own such crisis, Katz found himself on a Greek ship, where a little book came into his possession that previously he would have scorned to read. But the deep crisis that then consumed his soul made him desperate enough to read that little book. It was a New Testament.
As he began to read it, in his own words, “things of unspeakable profundity began to break upon my heart; what shattering exclamations came at me from the mouth of Jesus.”
But, even though the Spirit of God spoke to him through the entire book, there was one episode in Jesus’ life in particular that penetrated to the depths of his soul: Jesus’ confrontation, in John 8, with the religious authorities over the woman caught in the act of adultery. Katz says, “My heart was pounding because I saw myself as one with her, caught in the sinful act, and I knew that I deserved what she deserved: the judgment of God–stoning, death.”
Katz describes himself at this point in his life as an atheist and cynic, who “did not know the meaning of the word ‘mercy’.” He then goes on to describe further what was going on inside him as he read the rest of this event in the life of Jesus. He had earlier read that Jesus had said that he came to fulfill the law, and Katz was quite familiar with what the law said about the situation: It demanded the death of the woman by stoning. If Jesus really meant to fulfill God’s law, he would have to call for her death. But that would mean negating all his message about love and mercy. Yet if he refused to do so, he would be guilty himself of breaking God’s law–he who said he came to fulfill it. One course of action would make him at least an accomplice to murder; the other a hypocrite and liar. There seemed no way out.
At this point, Katz closed the book, his heart pounding, his mind racing to find some way to deliver Jesus out of his moral predicament. There was none, no human way out, no answer.
Katz had found wanting the men of note that he had formerly looked up to: Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein. These former heroes had no answer for his questions; they had been gods who had failed. He re-opened the book with trembling hands, anxious to see what answer his new hero would give.
The description of the scene, as recorded in the Bible, burned itself into his mind: Jesus bent over, poking his finger into the dirt, while the self-righteous religious leaders watched him closely, eager to pounce on him whatever his decision. They had him trapped, they thought, with no way to escape.
In his mind’s eye, he saw Jesus arise, the tension reaching its maximum at that moment of decision for those attending that moment long ago–and also reaching its climax centuries later for one desperate to find truth. Here was a stark confrontation between those who knew only the letter of the law and its harsh demands, and One who knew the Spirit of that same law. What would Jesus do?
Breathless with anticipation, the modern-day reader let his eyes fall on the line of the page that would reveal all–and he read the words of Jesus: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7).
Katz describes his reaction to Jesus’ verdict:
“When that line floated up off the page and passed through my eyes into my brain, my body began trembling violently. It did not stop in my head, where I thought my life was, but moved down to where the true seat of life is, in the heart. I was cleaved in two by the power of God; the word that had issued out of the mouth of Jesus had divided my soul and spirit asunder (Heb. 4:12). No mere human mind could have produced that divine wisdom. At that moment I knew with complete certitude, atheist that I was a moment before, that this was the Word of God.”
That was the moment that Art Katz, cynical atheist, came to know him who is God and Truth.
But before that moment arrived, God, who is timeless but sees the end from the beginning, had arranged for a time of preparation for that culminating moment. Only later, after returning from his trip on this Greek ship, did Katz learn just what that preparation was.
He was giving his testimony about his newly found faith at a small church near where he lived, and afterwards a woman came up to him and told him that her daughter had been a student of his in high school. This daughter knew that he was an atheist and a radical and would come home in tears, weeping over him. The mother went on to say that since that first time that happened, she and her daughter had been praying for him.
At those words, Katz says something exploded in his heart. His own words of reply seemed to him like a needle stuck on a record: “So you’re the one, so you’re the one, so you’re the one whose prayers have entered me into the kingdom of God.”
I have chosen these two incidents in the life of one man to illustrate the profound realities of how one comes to know Christ. It is the deepest experience a person can have, yet it has its roots in the common, ordinary things of everyday life: a class in school, a trip on a ship, reading a book that one has been taught to shun–and most of all, Truth seeing the true hearts of those who would judge others while their own hearts are filled with worse sins than those they judge. ….”
The Words of Jesus and the prayers of one who loved enough to pray – God’s means are simple but awesome.