A few weeks ago, my oldest son Andy and I ran a 5K. It was actually the first he had ever run. We didn’t train for the run in the weeks leading up to the race. I just thought that we would run it for fun. However, as we drove out to the run on Saturday morning, it became apparent that Andy was bound and determined to win the race.
I gently attempted to remind him that there were going to be people there who had trained for the run, and that we should probably just pace ourselves. But my words fell on deaf ears. As unprepared as Andy was to actually run this race competitively, he was blinded by his ambition and determined to win a medal.
We took our mark behind the starting line with all the other competitors, and as soon as the whistle was blown, we all took off. I was planning on keeping pace with Andy as I didn’t think he would be able to run very fast. But to my surprise, he bolted ahead of the pack. In fact, he was running in second place to a grown man who apparently had done many of these races.
Andy was running as fast as he could. From way behind I could see the excitement on his face as he realized how well he was doing. All the preparation and training that I had told him were necessary to win a race did not seem to be needed by my twelve year old future olympian.
However it was not long before I saw my son slow down to a brisk jog, followed by a very sluggish walk. I finally caught up to him and after he caught his breath, we finished the race together. Although neither of us won a medal.
Failure to properly prepare for anything will yield disappointing results. We can have extraordinary passion and excitement for the endeavor, but without preparation, passion alone cannot win the race.
Just as there are crucial necessities that are required in order to win a race such as having the right training, the proper running shoes, the correct attire, and so forth, there also are important elements that are needed, but often times neglected in our evangelistic efforts.
We can have an abundant amount of zeal and willingness to tell others about Christ, but without being properly equipped, our efforts will most assuredly fall flat. Here are five crucial elements that are needed in our evangelism.
It would be foolish to attempt to drive a car without having any gasoline in the tank. We have no power in and of ourselves to will or cause the car to move. And in the same way, if our evangelistic efforts are not fueled by prayer, then we are setting out to do what only God can do without God. Prayerless evangelism is not only foolish, it is the height of arrogance on our part. It is to say that we think we have the power and ability to save man by being convincing enough.
Jesus taught the disciples that they had the power to do nothing without Christ (John 15:5). As R.C. Sproul once rightly said, “That nothing that Christ spoke of is not a little something.” In Him we move and have our very being (Acts 17:28). If we are dependent on the power of Christ for the very breath we breathe, what makes us think we have the power to raise the spiritually dead with our words?
The Apostle Paul describes the lost man as one being in a state of spiritual deadness (Ephesian 2). The book of Romans in chapter 3 tells us that no man, in his fallen nature, seeks after God. He has a will, but that will is enslaved to the things of this world and completely dead to the things of God. Man’s fallen and spiritually dead will must be set free from the bondage of sin. And mere flesh and blood does not have the power to awaken what is dead. Only the Son of God can do this.
“So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36.
“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke 10:22.
One of my favorite chapters of the Bible is Ezekiel 37. It is a vibrant picture of how evangelism works. The prophet Ezekiel has a vision of a desolate valley of dead and dry bones. In the vision, the Lord speaks to Ezekiel who is standing in the midst of these bones. The Lord says, “Ezekiel, how is it that these bones shall live again?” Ezekiel responds, “Lord, only you know.”
In this we see Ezekiel’s utter dependance upon God. He knows that he has no power to bring the dead bones back to life. He acknowledges that it would take a supernatural act of God. When we neglect to pray for God to work in and through us in evangelizing to the lost, in essence we answer the question “How will these bones live” by saying to God, “No problem, I got this Lord.”
In Ezekiel 37, we find that Ezekiel merely has to speak the Word of God, and through his obedience in proclaiming the spoken Word, it is God who supernaturally brings what was once dead back to life. How can the spiritually dead be born alive again? Only the Lord knows. Therefore, we are utterly dependent upon Him and should precede our evangelistic efforts with desperate prayers.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6.
Far too often believers attempt to evangelize with their main concern being not to offend anyone. But when we preach the truth of the Gospel to unbelievers, the message will without question be seen as offensive.
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18.
If the message we preach is not foolish or offensive in some sense to unbelievers, then we are not giving them truth. It is impossible to candy coat the Gospel, because in doing so it is rendered ineffective.
It is not enough to merely tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. And it is not enough to describe to them a pitiful picture of Jesus knocking on the door of their heart, just begging to be let in. Not only is this a distortion of the Christ of scripture, but this type of evangelism actually elevates man above God.
In our evangelism, we must give them the bad news before they can appreciate the good news. No one in their fallen nature thinks that their sins are really that bad. And therefore, fallen man does not see his need for a savior. After all, if our message is that God loves everyone and just wants them to be happy, whats the big deal about a little sin?
Therefore, if we are to evangelize properly, we must point them to the the Biblical truth of God as well as the truth about themselves.
God is not a beggar, He is Holy (Isaiah 6:3). This is to say that God is so separate and pure, that He can have no fellowship with sin. Immediately a great dilemma is exposed. God is good, and we are not.
We are sinners and have broken each and every law that God has given. And according to the Apostle Paul, the curse of death is the apt punishment for not keeping each and every one of His laws (Galatians 3:15).
I’ve heard many lost people attempt to justify their sins and find comfort in their rebellion against God by quoting Romans 3:23, “For all have fallen short of the glory of God.”
But this verse was never meant to give the sinner comfort or find solace in the fact that everyone sins. Rather, the fact that all humanity has fallen short of the demands and standards of our Holy God should terrify sinful man. Because our shortcomings in sin have placed each person who is outside of Christ under the wrath of God.
It is not the love of God that presides upon the unbeliever. It is His unmitigated wrath.
“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36.
How do we point unbelievers to truth? By exposing them to the law of God, and showing them how in their rebellion, they are viewed as law breakers. There is no amount of penance, work, or begging that a criminal can do to escape his due penalty. The lost man has fallen short of the righteous standards of our Holy God and in doing so rightly deserves death.
This is why they need a savior. And this is why we point them to the finished work of Christ crucified. It is only in understanding the truth of our desperate depravity before God that we can rightly understand the person and work of Jesus Christ. That God the Father sent Jesus, His only Son, to live the perfect life that we couldn’t live, satisfying the demands of the law.
And through Jesus death, burial, and resurrection, He imputed His righteous record to all who would repent of their sins and believe the Gospel. Jesus took upon Himself the sins that should have buried us in the grave and in return gave us His righteous standing before God. Jesus Christ died in our place and for our sins. This is the Gospel truth.
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4.
It is true that we are to stand on the truth of the Gospel, no matter how offensive it may be to our hearers. However, our intention is never to hurt someone, but rather lovingly point out the danger of their soul in it’s fallen state. We are to speak the harsh truth of the Gospel in love.
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15.
We do not preach the Gospel to others as we stand upon a high mountain top with our cape of self righteousness flapping in the wind. And we are not to consider ourselves better than anyone else, because we are not.
Rather our approach in pointing out the truth should be one of humility and love. It is a message that tells the lost man, “Sir, I am no better than you. In fact, I was the chief of sinners. I deserved nothing but God’s wrath. But Jesus gave grace to a wretched sinner like me. He saved me from the justice of God and took it upon Himself. If you will repent of your sins and put your faith in Him, He can do the same for you.”
Truth and love go hand in hand in our evangelism. One without the other cannot stand.
The Gospel message is no doubt jagged in its content, but it is out of love that we deliver it to our hearers without sanding away any of it’s cutting edges.
The Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation. But unless this message has personally pricked us first, our efforts will seem forced and insincere.
Imagine that a great new steak restaurant had opened up, and in order to get the word out, the owner hired a few men who had never tasted their food to pass out flyers on the street. Having never sampled their steaks, the men begrudging passed out the flyers with little care regarding if people actually came to the restaurant or not.
Now consider that the owner of the steak restaurant took a different approach. Instead of merely giving these men a stack of flyers, the men were each treated to one of the best cuts of steak on the menu, cooked just they way they liked it. After the meal, the consensus among the men was unanimous that it was the very best steak they had ever tasted.
They now had not just heard about the product that they were telling others about, they had experienced it’s rich flavor for themselves. And in telling others about it, they could now speak passionately about the experience.
It is one thing to tell people about the grace of God. It is quite another thing to have actually experienced that grace and then tell others. When we truly grasp the implications of the Gospel, the dire straights that our sin had placed us in, and the great exchange that Christ made with those who place their faith in Him, evangelism is not merely a duty, but it is the Christian’s delight. And joyful passion in our evangelism replaces viewing it as a dutiful procedure.
“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” Psalm 43:3-5.
One of the biggest hinderances to evangelism is the believer’s lack of urgency. It is easy to become complacent in the comfort of our own salvation, and grow lazily satisfied at just gazing upon Christ in our own devotions, prayers, and church activities. The disciples experienced this problem after Christ had asended into Heaven before their very eyes.
After His resurrection and before His ascension into Heaven, Christ told the disciples to go and preach the Gospel to all of creation. This was the Great Commission. It was Jesus way of telling them that they were to be preaching the Gospel to the world until He returned. But in Acts 1, after His ascension, we see the disciples just staring up into the Heavens.
“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11.
Basically, these angels were saying to the disciples, “What are you staring at?!? You were given a Great Commission to urgently pursue before the Master returns…so get going!” Jesus will return. And for all of those including our family and friends who are not presently known by the Lord Jesus Christ lies a dreadful day of judgement ahead in their future.
This reality should not cause use to rest easily in our own salvation, but to urgently plea with sinners to repent of their sins before the return of Christ. For He will not return as a gentle lamb, but vengeful Warrior King, bent on making war upon the wicked.
“Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Revelation 19:11-16.
If one of my children were about to touch a hot stove or run into the midst of on coming traffic, I would be urgent in yelling at them to stop and run in the other direction, away from the danger, regardless of if it hurt their feelings. I would much rather their feelings be hurt than their life be taken.
What a terrifying picture we see at the return of Christ in Revelation. When we plead with unbelievers to repent of their sins, we are in much the same way asking them to turn away from their current path that will lead them to eternal destruction.
Preaching the Gospel to people in your life is not something that can be put off until tomorrow. It is an urgent plight. Because there is no guarantee that tomorrow will ever come. The Great Day of the Lord could come upon us at anytime. When Christ returns, there will be no second chances, and swift destruction will come upon the wicked. Therefore, our evangelism cannot be delayed.
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3.
No one ever said running the race that has been set before the saints would be easy. But it is worth it. Evangelism is not merely an option, but it is a command given to every believer in Christ. And it is one that we must take seriously. This great task set before us is impossible if done in our own power. But what is impossible with man is made possible through Christ Jesus. Let us run this race with preparedness, perseverance, and joy!