Fellow Christian, if you are anything like me, you want to tell the world about Jesus and how wonderful He is. You know His command in Matthew 28 is an imperative, not a suggestion. Yet sometimes we get timid and wonder if it wouldn’t simply be easier to “live out the gospel.” That is, to practice kindness, loyalty, and generosity; to be a good sport, and an even better neighbor. What a great way to display the gospel, right? Sure, if conversion was a result of our kindness and honesty. Alas, it is not. When the Philippian jailer was converted in Acts 16, it was not because Paul and Silas were decent enough to stay put after the great earthquake loosened their bonds. His conversion came about through explicit instruction to “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” (Acts 16:31). People are only brought into the kingdom of heaven through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Paul spoke well when he asked, “how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).
We need to open our mouths and tell people about Jesus. Let’s have a look at how we do that through the act of evangelism; the content of the gospel; and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry defines evangelism as “…the act of communicating the gospel. This includes warning people about sin and its consequences; explaining God’s remedy for sin, which is the gospel; and calling people to repent and believe the gospel.” To start, we’ll consider the requirement to warn people about sin and its consequences. Sin, in a nutshell, is disobeying God. This disobedience begins with a thought, wish, or desire that is contrary to God, and ends up as a full-blown act of disobedience(James 1:14-15). The wrath of God remains on the one who does not obey the Son (John 3:36) and sin has its grim reward, namely, death (Romans 6:23).
If people are to be saved, to be snatched out of the fire (Jude 23), we need to tell them what that fire is, what they are being saved from. We also need to tell them how to respond, which naturally leads to another requirement of evangelism, the call to repentance. Evangelism is nothing without this call (Luke 5:32). To repent requires a turning away from sin, as well as, a turning toward Jesus Christ. Yes, we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23), but there is no need to despair, for this just God is patient and wishes all to reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Wedged between the warning about sin and the call to repentance is the explanation of God’s remedy for sin. This is the meat of the evangelism sandwich, if you’ll pardon the food imagery. The gospel is divine therapy for man’s condition, and it originates with an all-wise Creator who, in His great love, made creation to share His love with. Being three in one – Father, Son, Holy Spirit – and eternally existing, God did this not because He needed to, but because He wanted to. However, we fell into sin which is something that separates us from God. Sin is not of God; it is profoundly anti-God. So, Jesus, being truly man and truly God, walked on this earth and lived a life without sin. Jesus lived the life that we were called to live, that we should have lived. In our place, He died the death that we deserved on account of sin. Three days later, He rose again, after dying on the cross. We have hope because judgment for sin has been dealt with fully and completely by God.
I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear this good news (again) when I was putting this article together. “I’m deeply encouraged by the fact that the gospel is not just for lost people, but also for Christians,” says Paul Washer. The gospel is Christianity 101, it is central and fundamental. Yet, as Sean Demars says, it is not something we ever graduate from.
So now evangelism is clear, we warn people about sin, we share the gospel with them, and we call them to repent and believe in the gospel. But how do we manage our expectations of evangelistic endeavors? It is natural to have high hopes, and to want to see people – with our own eyes – converted on the spot, which leads to much unnecessary self-flagellation. It is unnecessary because there is One who does the real work of conversion. Our work is simply to be obedient. Sure, that’s not easy, but it is straightforward.
A prolific Christian blogger, Michelle Lesley, sums it up like this “If you base your success or encouragement in evangelism on whether or not someone immediately trusts Christ, you’ll spend a lot of time discouraged and thinking you’re a failure at sharing the gospel.” Perish the thought! You are not a failure so long as you are obedient. Know this, and know it well: one plants, another waters, but it is ultimately God who causes the seed to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6). We’d also do well to remember that salvation is through faith, a blessed gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Boldness and endurance are just some of the things we need to persevere in Christ’s command to “go.” We have no need to worry though, for we have everything we need in Christ. Let us then pray to the Lord of the harvest that we ourselves would be those laborers eager to be sent out into His harvest (Matthew 9:38).