Yesterday I had a post entitled “Is salvation a matter of urgency?” and today I continue with a few more thoughts. Perhaps the post left you wondering how you can know if the Holy Spirit is bringing conviction in someone’s heart. If we don’t want to push someone before they are ready, how can we know when they are ready? This is a good question to consider. Here are a few thoughts…
Methods of evangelism in our modern era are different than the methods in the New Testament. Too often in the modern era, the method is to urge, plea, and coax for people to come to Christ. High pressure tactics or emotional manipulation can be used. Certain parts of the Gospel may be over or under emphasized in order to make it more appealing. A variety of legitimate or not-so-legitimate reasons can be behind these methods. It may be genuine concern for people, yet pressuring for a decision before the Spirit has brought conviction can lead to a false profession and cause more harm than good in the long run.
In contrast, let us consider the Apostle Paul. First Corinthians 2:1-5 (along with other passages) indicates that Paul was evidently not a very gifted or captivating speaker. His oratory skills were apparently rather average. Yet, Paul preached “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” and relied on God’s power, and Paul is likely the greatest Christian missionary that ever lived whose ministry directly or indirectly brought countless people to Christ. This reminded me of a couple CH Spurgeon quotes:
The gospel is like a caged lion. It does not need to be defended, it just needs to be let out of its cage.”
“I question whether the defenses of the gospel are not sheer impertinences. The gospel does not need defending. If Jesus Christ is not alive and cannot fight His own battles, then Christianity is in a bad state. But He is alive, and we have only to preach His gospel in all its naked simplicity, and the power that goes with it will be the evidence of its divinity.
Another incident to consider is Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2. After his sermon, it says the people were then “cut to the heart” and asked “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). If you keep reading past verse 37, you’ll notice in verse 40 that Peter now warns and pleads with them.
What?! Isn’t this a contradiction in the argument I am presenting? Peter is pleading!
Yet carefully note the order of events: Peter preached his sermon (no pleading), and this pricked the people’s hearts and caused them to ask questions, and then Peter told them to repent and accept Christ, as well as warned and pleaded with them.
Or consider Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail in the book of Acts. Their Gospel witness in the prison led the jailor to ask, “what must I do to be saved?”. And then Paul directed the jailor to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The point here is that: Peter, Paul and Silas did not plead with the people to become Christians before they had the desire to. The preaching or witness of the Gospel brought people to a point of conviction, and then the needed response of faith or belief in the Gospel was more carefully explained and encouraged. It seems we have too often reversed this order in our modern day. We are pleading and coaxing before the Spirit has brought a sense of need or conviction of the truth. We are trying to create the conviction ourselves! It seems we have misplaced our trust. We are trusting our method rather than the message.
The Gospel has POWER (Romans 1:16). Do we really believe it? It appears not if we feel the need to add pressure tactics or fancy gimmicks or even alter it to make it more appealing.
**I recently read a book that I recommend. It is an old one (1919) that has been re-printed, and its message and concerns seem timeless. It is: True Evangelism, Winning Souls through Prayer by Lewis Sperry Chafer (Kregel Publications). The focus of the book is on the role of the Holy Spirit and prayer in reaching people with the Gospel. I did not really mention prayer in my post (Oops!). If we are relying on the power of the Gospel (and not our methods) that implies much time in prayer. Prayer demonstrates our dependence on God.