Probably one of the quickest ways a pastor can induce guilt in his congregation is to talk about evangelism of the lost. Very few professing Christians ever, in their lifetime, share the gospel with someone they believe to be apart from Christ. I’m not talking about a Christian word or two thrown into a conversation but the provision of a roadmap of Scripture that would enable someone to understand God’s plan of redemption and how they too might come to know Christ trusting in Him alone for their eternal salvation. I would venture to say that the statistics are sobering – maybe 2% or less of those who profess to be “born again” Christians ever really tell another human being how he or she can be “saved.” Yet, there are some who very much want to be able to share their faith but don’t believe they have the tools to do so in a way that is biblically accurate, clear and cogent. Al’s article deals with the apathy that so greatly permeates the average evangelical church in America today but I’d like to personally address the other side of the fence. This is why I hope to provide a winter course in our Adult Sunday school curriculum (Dec-Feb) entitled “Help Me Share Christ – Presenting the Gospel with Clarity.” In the meantime, please take the article below seriously and begin praying that God would burden your heart for the lost and provide you with a plan of action whereby you are prepared and equipped to give an answer of the hope within you to anyone at anytime. May God so energize us unto that end.
- Dr. Gary R. Cox
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS, volume 10, number 34, August 25, 2011
I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, Romans 9:3.
As Jack Miller planned to open a missionary training center in 1993 in London, he wrote a paper in which he lamented “me-firstism” as he called it, the failure of believers in the west to grasp the lost condition of mankind and the tendency we have to live for our selves. More specifically Miller wrote, “We must throw away our lives for Jesus as we take the gospel to the lost. This intelligent carelessness is our true security. Anything less is dangerous compromise. We who once were enemies have been justified by faith. We must not fall asleep in self-preoccupation and comfort zones.”
To go further, could any of us say with the apostle Paul that we are willing to go to hell for the salvation of others? I will level with you—too much of the time I am apathetic about the lost, those who live in this world without the benefit of eternal salvation in Jesus. Apathy comes from two Greek words—a meaning no, and pathos, meaning passion or great emotion. If Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 14:6, Acts 4:12), if mankind is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1) and living under the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9), if indeed man is without hope and without God in this world (Ephesians 2:12), if men without Christ suffer conscious, endless torment in hell (Mark 9:42-48, Revelation 20:11-15), if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), if we are to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12), then surely we ought to be impassioned, zealous, fervent, bold, and unrelenting in going to people with the gospel, the good news of full and glorious salvation through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).
Are you apathetic about the lost? If so why? Perhaps you are like Jeremiah who was preaching repentance for many years with no positive response (Jeremiah 20:7-8), who finally in exasperation tells God he will quit preaching. Or maybe you are like Paul who preached in the agora, the market, in Athens (Acts 17:17) and on Mars Hill but was mocked (Acts 17:32). You regularly preach on the streets of your city, or engage in one-on-one evangelism at your local University, but see little or no positive response, and you are beginning to say, “What’s the use?” Or maybe you are like Elijah who was depressed because the many miracles God had wrought had done nothing to slow down the apostasy of Israel (1 Kings 16-19). Elijah just wanted to die (I Kings 19:4). Or like Peter who was intimidated by the servant girl and who thus denied Jesus three times (Matthew 26:69ff) maybe you are ashamed of the gospel (Romans 1:16) because people belittle the simplicity of it (1 Corinthians 1:18). Maybe you wish to have a place at the table of erudition with the intelligentsia of your community. The tendency there is to minimize the troubling doctrines of Christ’s exclusivity, eternal punishment in hell for all who do not embrace Christ as their Lord and Savior, and the hot button political and social issues of the day, things like abortion and gay marriage that cause unbelievers to roll their eyes at your simplemindedness. Or maybe you are like those to whom Paul refers when writing to the Philippians, calling them enemies of the cross of Christ, those whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, those who glory in their shame, those who set their minds on earthly things (Philippians 3:18-19).
May I suggest a few sure fire ways to reveal your apathy? You know you are apathetic about the lost when you rarely think about their condition, when you rarely pray earnestly and urgently for them. If you go more than a day or two without directly engaging someone, somewhere in gospel conversation, then surely you are apathetic. If you hear of someone in your community who has recently died and you do not ask yourself the question, “Where is he now?”, then you are apathetic. If you find that you never literally weep or groan in prayer for lost friends and family members, then you are apathetic. If you rarely, if ever, pray, asking God today to give you an open door, a wide open gospel conversation with someone, then you are apathetic. You are being apathetic when you make excuses for not sharing the gospel, saying, for example, “I believe in election and predestination. If God wants them saved, then He will do it without my help . . . I believe it is important to be a good example with my integrity and work ethic. I leave that kind of talk to the evangelists in my church . . . I believe we must win the right to be heard by people. I don’t want to shove my religion down their throats . . . We live in a post modern world and direct evangelism does not work anymore . . .” Do any of these statements sound like you? If so then you are allowing your apathy to override the clear teaching of Scripture.
What should you do to eradicate apathy and renew evangelistic passion? Well, consider Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul, and Peter. Jeremiah came to realize the word of God was a fire in his bones and he must get the word out of his heart to the people, regardless of whether they would listen or not (Jeremiah 20:9). Elijah sought Yahweh in the wilderness of Sinai and was met powerfully by Him, being given assurance of God’s judgment on evil doers, and the promise that He still had seven thousand who had not bowed to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). In fear and discouragement Paul was met by the resurrected Jesus who told him to keep on preaching because He had many people in that city who were to be saved (Acts 18:9-10). And Peter received the grace of restoration from Jesus and later the Holy Spirit, thus equipping him to become a mighty preacher and apostle (John 21:15ff, Acts 2:2ff).
So what do Jeremiah, Elijah, Paul, and Peter all have in common? They have been into the sanctuary of God (Psalm 63:1-2). They have seen the glory of God in the face of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6). They have been gripped by the holiness, justice, goodness, kindness, and saving grace of God (Romans 11:33-36). They have looked into hell, as it were, understanding they deserve it, but seeing their deliverance from it by the merciful hand of God through Christ’s atoning death (Romans 3:23ff).. In other words, they were filled up with Jesus. He was in their hearts, in their minds, and on their lips. With the apostles they could say, “We cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). When Moses came from God’s presence at Sinai the people saw the Shekinah glory on his face (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). The Psalmist asked that God’s face would shine on him that the nations would be glad in the Lord (Psalm 67:1-4). When Stephen was being stoned by the Sanhedrin, Luke tells us that his face shone like that of an angel (Acts 6:15). When John saw the glorified and resurrected Christ he fell at His feet like a dead man (Revelation 1:17). Saul the persecutor, after seeing the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus, became Paul the apostle, one who suffered greatly for the gospel (Philippians 1:29-30). All of these men gladly, unreservedly, and whole heartedly surrendered everything to the true and living God. They risked their reputations and their very lives. They lived, as Miller put it, with an “intelligent carelessness.”
So the only sure remedy for apathy is to live in full surrender to Jesus, as you see the glory of Jesus’ person and work with your mind and heart. It then must come out in your speech. Get a fresh glimpse of God’s mercy to you in Christ. Understand that if God was to count your transgressions against you, then you would be utterly condemned. Understand that all you have is from God’s mercy.
FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS is a weekly devotional by Reverend Al Baker, pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. The Heart of a Servant Leader, C. John Miller, page 307ff.