Two Christmas Gifts And Many More...

Two Christmas Gifts And Many More...

In this touching blog post by Mike Barko, he shares his heartwarming experiences of spreading the gospel during the holiday season. From encounters at the gym to conversations on the street, Mike recounts meaningful discussions with people like Jessica, Jon, Owen, Sam, and others. He highlights the impact of the gospel message on these individuals as they grapple with their own sinfulness and discover the saving grace of Christ. Mike reflects on the transformative power of the message and emphasizes the significance of genuine repentance and trusting in Christ's righteousness. The post concludes with Mike's gratitude for the opportunities to share the gospel and witness lives being changed by God's grace.


Mike Barko

1/14/202014 min read



I trust that everyone had a blessed Christmas and is experiencing the grace of God as we head into 2020. The Lord blessed me with two special gifts on Christmas day.


My mom asked me if I wanted to go workout on Christmas. Sure. She and dad are members of a 24/7 fitness center in Clemmons, NC. I got to spend time with my mom and got a pump on Christmas. What else would you want for Christmas?

How about 2 souls for Christ? Mom introduced me to the first young lady named Jessica. She was walking on the stair climber and we exchanged pleasantries. Honestly, I did not really want to share with her. There is an introverted part of me that sometimes just wants to go hide in a corner. It is much safer there.

Also, I was not going to share with her while she was on the machine. Well, as God would have it, she dismounted after our initial pleasantries. Okay, God, I will give her a bracelet.

Like so many others, Jessica was 'hoping' she would get into Heaven because she was 'kind and good'. Like so many others, she was hoping that God would forgive her but really did not know why He would forgive her.

As I shared the law with her, she appeared to be convicted as I was talking about sin. She even commented that she and her boyfriend had been discussing spiritual things on the car ride over to the gym that day.

Jessica saw that Christ had already done the work for her by paying her sin debt in full. She understood that she had been trusting in her own righteousness (goodness) to get to Heaven. God would save her if she only trusted in Christ, His righteousness alone.

Jessica got some tears in her eyes and she prayed with me, transferring her trust to Christ alone. I told her that it was pretty cool to receive the best gift of all on Christmas day...JESUS.

Well, as God would have it, He wasn't done yet. Just as I was finishing my last set of leg extensions, my mom walked around the corner with another friend she also wanted me to meet named Jon. Jon is a naturopathic guru who spent quite some time sharing his wisdom with me.

When you share with one person and it goes well, it makes you more eager to share with the next one. I thought, 'Well, mom served me up the first one on a platter, maybe this second one will work well too!'

Before I shared, I needed to get mom's permission first. Mom and I had agreed that we would leave the gym at 3 p.m., and it was now past three. Permission enthusiastically granted.

Jon was unsure of his eternal destination. He told me, "Well, I know it's not by works ALONE."

Jon was about to find out that it is not by works AT ALL!

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law." (Romans 3:28) (Italics mine)

Remember what Charles Spurgeon said, "Nothing can damn a man but his own righteousness; (any works that he is trusting in) nothing can save him but the righteousness of Christ." (the work of God on his behalf) Parentheses mine.

Jon was really excited to hear the message. At one point as I was sharing I asked him, "Do you want me to continue?" His reply blessed me, 'Don't ask permission to preach, preach on!'

Jon was blown away as he heard the law...liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, blasphemer. He made comments like, 'Wow! Oh! Really? I have never heard this!'

I then preached the finished work of Christ. Jon commented, 'I go to church quite a bit, but no one has ever told me this. Thank you. Wow. I really needed to hear this. It all makes sense now.'

I was blown away by his receptivity. Maybe God was giving me another Christmas gift. Jon wanted my phone number and email so he could learn more.

Jessica wept a little, but Jon wept much. He was stunned, moved, and touched deeply by the gospel of grace. We prayed and Jon told me that God had saved him.



Johan, Karen and myself spent New Years Eve on court square downtown Harrisonburg sharing the gospel. We saw 20 people make professions of faith. Ministry volunteer and friend Rob Gilmer actually led a friend to Christ that night at a local restaurant. I will share one story from this night with you.

Many people this night did not walk directly in front of where we were set up. They were either directly across the street or even further across the street to the right of us. I found myself frequently hollering across the street.

I've done this long enough to know that you might get 20 refusals, but if you can get just one to come over, isn't it worth it all?

Owen was a young man on a skateboard who was going into a local restaurant across the street and to our right. Surprisingly after I hollered the invitation, he got off his skateboard and came over to get a bracelet.

Owen wore black oxford shoes that looked like they had recently been shined. He also was very mature and well spoken for a high school student. I commented that he wasn't your 'prototypical skate boarder'. He replied that he hears that a lot.

This very respectful young man was hoping he would get to Heaven because, 'I'm good'. No one had ever explained to him that in God's eyes he wasn't good.

It was very refreshing as he completely submitted to God's law...liar, thief, adulterer, murderer, blasphemer. No bucking, self-justification, or lying. This was especially refreshing for me as one young lady had become deeply offended by the law, handed the bracelet back to me, and walked off.

Owen then heard about the one who had kept all of the laws for him (His righteousness) and had paid his sin debt in full.

Owen saw that by trying to get to Heaven by his own goodness, he was trusting himself as the Savior. He wanted instead to repent (change his mind) and trust in God the Savior instead.



Then he prayed,



Finally, Karen and myself spent last Wednesday downtown Harrisonburg sharing at our normal location. Two of the first four that I shared with (William and Seth) had heard the message from me on a previous occasion. Based on the initial diagnostics, these two needed to hear it again.

Some people have told me that it was the third time they heard the message that they really got it. We share the gospel, sometimes multiple times. It is God who saves. Let's be faithful to share. God will be faithful to save.

The other two, Mazra and Linda, were initially trusting in themselves but after hearing the gospel wanted instead to trust in Christ alone...





Let me share in more detail now what happened with Sam, a young E.M.U. student. Sam's initial condition accurately represents the condition of many people in the local church today. When the Lord opened his eyes, he really got excited.

Sam was initially 90% sure that he would go to Heaven. He gave me many common yet ambiguous church answers...I believe...He forgives...I got to church. We went through the law together, and he acknowledged his sin before God.

The first major red flag came up when Sam told me that he deserved to go to Heaven. There are many professing Christians who are telling me this. This is a simple basic truth that people are not understanding, because they are not understanding the true gospel.

We have all sinned. (Romans 3:23) We are not good. (Luke 18:19) We earn (deserve) death when we sin. (Romans 6:23)
As a good judge, God must punish our sin. (Genesis 18:25(c))

Believing that we deserve heaven is indicative of our pride. When we understand the true depths of our sin in the light of the true holiness and justice of God we are undone before Him. We see in our hearts that we truly deserve Hell.

The question is no longer, "How can a good God send anyone to Hell?"

The question is now, "How can a Holy God allow anyone into Heaven?"

Mercy is not getting what we do deserve...Hell.

Grace is getting what we don't deserve...Heaven.

How can a person understand God's mercy and grace when they think they deserve Heaven? Fact is, they can't.

The second major flag came up in with regard to the word 'repent'. I asked Sam what he meant by that. He told me, 'I confess and I ask forgiveness.'

I asked Sam if he had ever gotten a speeding ticket, and, as God would have it, he had just come out of court after paying one. The penalty was $160.

I asked him, "Sam if you said to the judge, 'I confess to the crime and I ask forgiveness', but you don't pay the fine, what does he say?"

Sam understood that because the judge was just, the fine or penalty must first be paid before there was any forgiveness.

We then took it to God's courtroom and I explained the same principle. God's penalty of course, wasn't $160, it was 'spiritual death' in Hell. (Romans 6:23)

How could that fine be paid so that God could forgive Sam?

Sam must have told me at least 3 times...'I will confess and ask forgiveness' before the light came on. You see, these 'church answers and formulas' are so ingrained in people's thinking that it takes a while to 'root them out'.

When the light came on, Sam got really excited and said, 'I got it!' The Spirit had brought illumination, and Sam now understood the gospel.

Then he said, 'Wow! That's great! I wasn't expecting this today. Thank you!'

Sam finally saw that Christ had already paid his fine when he experienced spiritual death on the cross. The resurrection receipt was proof that the judge of all the earth had already accepted the payment...PAID IN FULL!

Sam now understood that repentance was not 'confessing and asking forgiveness.' Repentance was 'changing his mind' and believing the gospel. "Repent and believe the gospel."

Sam had repented when the light came on and he 'got it'. The Spirit of God had brought illumination, his mind had been changed, and he saw for the first time that Christ had already paid his sin debt.

He repented and believed the gospel.

"With the heart Sam had believed unto righteousness; and with his mouth he was about to make confession unto salvation." (Romans 10:10) Paraphrased.

We prayed and Sam told me...


Then he prayed and told God...



Listen to what he told me before he left...

"I am glad that I came here today. God sent me to you. My mom told me that God would have me at the right place at the right time. I was at home today and I really did not want to come to court today and pay my fine, but I decided to get it out of the way today and I am glad that I did!"

Here is a one minute video...

Like the Owen on New Years' Eve, this particular Owen was also walking across the street and he also was an older teenager. He was out of school because of a snow day.

Yes, I hollered, and yes, Owen came across the street. Owen initially thought, like everyone else, that he might go to Heaven because he 'helped people'.

After sharing the law, Owen saw that he was a guilty criminal in God's courtroom. What would pay his spiritual death penalty demanded by God's justice?

He told me, 'I will stop sinning.'

Just like Sam with 'confessing and asking forgiveness', it also took Owen 3 times before he understood that 'stop sinning' would not pay his fine. Then, the light came on...

'Okay, I am going to Hell.'

Isn't it interesting that Owen was relying upon his 'stop sinning' to pay his penalty. This is many people's concept of repentance. They will 'stop sinning' and then God will forgive them.

Notice that it was only after Owen had relinquished this answer, understanding that it would not pay his penalty, that he was able to understand that he was going to Hell.

Owen needed to repent for his repentance, before he truly repented!

People are trusting in their 'stop sinning' instead of trusting in Christ alone. This is their wrong concept of repentance.

True repentance is this: I can do absolutely nothing to save myself. Even 'stop sinning' won't save me. Only Christ can save me. I rely upon Him alone to do so.

Remember the hymn...'the vilest offender who TRULY BELIEVES, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives'.

Also...God "justifieth the ungodly." (Romans 4:5 part)

Let me clarify...

Our message to the people on the streets is designed primarily for the nonbeliever. The nonbeliever needs to turn from his unbelief and put his trust in Christ...REPENTANCE.

"...not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works..." (Hebrews 6:1 part)

However, for those of us who have already claimed Christ as Savior, yes we are called to 'stop sinning' and live holy lives.

"Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." (2 Timothy 2:19)

I preached Christ to Owen and Owen wanted to rely upon Him only for his salvation.



Owen actually came back a bit later and brought Karen and myself two drinks from the convenience store...'fruits meet for repentance?'. (Actually, the drink he brought me was a fruit drink. lol)This one was really cool. I got to share with a grandmother (Brenda), daughter (Jennifer), and granddaughter (Kalei) all at once. None were initially certain of going to Heaven. All mentioned being 'good'.

This presentation wasn't slow and methodical. I preached and kept the presentation moving forward with joy. I didn't spend a lot of time on the law here. I really enjoyed sharing with these three ladies.

All really seemed to understand and prayed with me. The granddaughter Kalei really got excited and said a few times that her heart now felt 'amazing'.


Listen to the email that I got from her mother Jennifer the next day...

"It was such a pleasure meeting you yesterday!! I know God puts people in our lives at times when we really need them. Yesterday your message really touched me. It opened my eyes and I was so excited to go home and tell my fiance' yesterday. Thank you so much for sharing with us. It was amazing to see my daughter excited and smiling about the Word of God. She lost faith several years ago after a little boy she prayed and prayed for died from cancer. She didn't understand how God could take him after we all prayed so hard for him. Thank you for putting that smile on her face."Kayleen was initially trusting in her 'good'. After hearing the entire message, at the end, I asked her...

"Can you save yourself?"

She replied...

'As long as you're a good person.'

Obviously, since we had already been through the law, what I had previously shared must have gone in one ear and out the other. I decided not to go back, but just move forward. I held up Luke 18:19...

"No one is good except God alone."

I asked her..."Are you good?"

An emphatic reply...'NO!'

"Can you save yourself?"

Another emphatic...'NO!'

"Are you the Savior?"


"Do you want to trust Him to save you instead?"



We prayed. Her prayer to God at the very end really blessed me...

"THANKS FOR SAVING ME. I'M EXCITED TO FOLLOW YOU NOW." (I had said just a little at the end about growing with God, so for her to say that she was 'excited now to follow' was great.)

Adam initially said he 'had a good heart'. What does the bible say?

"The human heart is deceitful and wicked, who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9)

After sharing the law, Adam saw that he did not have a good heart. After sharing Christ, Adam wanted to trust in Him instead.


"HE CHANGED MY WHOLE PERSPECTIVE. (MY HEART FEELS) A LOT BETTER...WARM." (Perspective has to do with how we view things, or how we think. Remember, repentance is a change of mind)Like Sam, Kailie and Brianna were stuck on, 'Please forgive me.' They really didn't understand the gospel.

After going through the law, I asked if they would be "innocent or guilty?"

They said, 'Innocent.'


'I ask forgiveness.'

"Okay, Why does He forgive you?"

They had no idea why.

So, like Owen, we did the speeding ticket illustration and they both understood that a fine first had to be paid in order for them to be forgiven.

What would pay their 'spiritual death' fine before God so that they both could be forgiven?

Listen to what they told me...

'I'll do good things.'

Wow. Again, so many are asking forgiveness and have no idea why God would forgive them. Others are basing His forgiveness upon their own goodness! These are professing Christians!

People really don't understand why God would forgive them. They are not basing their forgiveness upon God's atonement.

His death paid the fine, and the resurrection receipt says, "PAID IN FULL!"

Trust in Him alone and find your forgiveness right there! God will forgive you because you trust in Christ!


There was a lot of joy here at the end when these two young ladies understood the gospel for the first time. Both told me that God had 'saved them' and that their hearts were now 'happy and full.'After being so blessed by all of these previous ones, I really didn't expect the last one to be so amazing...

Aminata and Angel had come downtown to get a marriage license. They were ready to tie the knot. Where did they stand spiritually?

Both hoped they would get into Heaven because they did a really good job of helping people. This is nothing other than 'our own righteousness'.

After sharing the law, I had Angel read Luke 18:19...

"No one is good, except God alone."

Angel exploded...


After he composed himself, Aminata spoke up...

"I've been telling you this."

The rest of the presentation was like coasting downhill. Angel's expression had completely changed. Something had changed.

Both had been trusting in their goodness (Angel more so), and now both had humbled themselves and acknowledged that they were not good. Only God was.

Both saw that they had been trying to save themselves by 'helping people'. Both understood, that by doing this, they were trying to be their own Savior.

Could they save themselves?


Did they want to trust in God the Son to save them instead?

'Yes.' (They had seen the truth a while back)

Both prayed and told me that God had saved them, saved their lives, and blessed them. Both had new joy.


Angel was just COMPLETELY BUBBLING OVER. It was really amazing to see. When he hugged me, he just squeezed, and squeezed and squeezed...

Angel hugged me for a considerable amount of time. He didn't want to let go. What a special experience it was for me as the joy of the Lord had consumed him.

I commented before they left...

"Before you both married each other, God wanted to first marry each of you! Now that you are married to God, you both are now prepared to marry each other! Praise the Lord!"