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By Pastor Bruce Sikes
Perhaps one of the most obvious reasons every believer must actively evangelize is that we do not know when we will die. As I was sitting at my computer writing this article, I received a phone call informing me that my mother had fallen and was being rushed to the hospital. I stopped writing immediately and went to be at her side. After six days of being in a coma, she died. A few days later, I was preaching at her funeral. My mother was a very healthy and active woman. She was out at a restaurant having lunch when she fell. This was a sudden and completely unexpected accident.
Nevertheless, Praise God! My mother knew the Lord! I will see her again. Even though she exemplified the Christian lifestyle with more good deeds and kind words than most believers I know, that is not what saved her. She is only in heaven by the grace of God because someone dared to tell her about the Gospel of Christ and she dared to trust in it!
Three weeks later, I sat back down at my desk to continue writing this article when once again I received an unexpected phone call. This time I was informed a dear friend of mine was on his death bed. So, I left immediately and went to be at his side. A little over a week later, I was preaching his funeral. Praise God once again! He also knew the Lord!
However, imagine if my mother and my friend had not previously decided to repent, accept and follow Christ. Instead, they had chosen to wait for that "perfect" time to make a decision. Also, imagine if those who had shared the Gospel with them did not do so, because they were waiting for a "perfect" moment to tell them about Jesus.
Time and timidity are not our friends. These two scriptures are such powerful reminders of that fact.
"No man knows when his hour will come...". (Ecclesiastes 9:12)
"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace." (2 Timothy 1:7-9)
We are placed by God to be among our family, our circle of friends, co-workers, and all those we see each day, so that we may become messengers of eternal life. When we actively share the Gospel as part of our daily lives, we are ever ready to overcome the fear that death attempts to hold over us and others.
That leads us to another consideration regarding time running out for us to evangelize. As we all experience the natural progression of time towards our own death, sometimes sooner than later, we are also experiencing the rapid supernatural progression of time toward the end of the age. "No one knows the day and hour..." (Mk 13:32) Jesus has said. Yet, He also says if we can recognize changing weather, we should be able to "interpret the signs of the times". (Matthew 16) As we look at the world around us, it is clear that springtime for man is in the distant past and mankind now stands in the dead of winter. There is precious little time left to rescue the perishing. Among the many signs and events Jesus, the prophets, and apostles foretold us would proceed the Lord's return is His warning of an "increase in wickedness". (Matthew 24:12)
As I read this, I wondered how the church could let that happen. It's not that the Gospel has lost its power to covert people, we have just not been sharing it. It became apparent that we were not doing our job. We were not confronting the wicked with the Gospel. We were not evangelizing. It is true that what Jesus foretold will certainly happen, but we do not want to be counted among those who let it happen. Let us choose to be counted among the obedient Remnant who proclaim the Gospel message in such a time as this.
In the book of Revelation, the Lord spoke to the church in Sardis saying;
"Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. (Revelation 3:1-3)
This is a powerful reminder and warning why we must personally share the Gospel. Without evangelism, the church will die. And indeed, one could easily say the church "is" dying because of the lack of it. Twenty-five or thirty years ago, evangelism was a big emphasis for many major church denominations. However, critics argued that evangelism programs were outdated and didn't work on the "new generation". This trend away from the mainstream church emphasis on evangelism has only continued and even accelerated as we entered into this new century. It was being quickly replaced with a social gospel along with ad nauseum preaching and teaching on achieving healthy human relationships while developing cross-cultural understanding through inter-faith partnerships. Or, in other words, anything but evangelism. Somewhere along the line, the Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel was lost. The blood of Christ was being replaced with an artificial plasma. Yet, no man-made substitutes can keep the church alive.
Evangelism is the life blood of the church. It is the proclamation of the Gospel, and only the proclamation of the Gospel, that carries the life-saving blood of Christ throughout the church and into the world. It heals, it builds, it strengthens and brings new life to the body of Christ. This is true for the Church as a whole, and for the individual Christian as well. Sharing the Gospel fundamentally changes us.
That is why we must train ourselves to become better personal evangelists, just as we train ourselves in every other activity we do. There are several good evangelistic ministries devoted to helping make us better at spreading the Gospel. I have several listed on the www.VoiceOfTheRemnant.org web site under "Links & Resources". Even so, there is an idea out there, that when it comes to witnessing, it's all supposed to be "natural" and that nothing is to be planned or practiced. The heavens will suddenly open up and a beam of light will shine down on the poor, lost person, and then God will grant us supernatural wisdom and ability to speak to them about Jesus. As great as that might be, I simply don't see that in Scripture.
What I do see is Jesus telling us in the parable of the great banquet, "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." (Lk14:23) We are to "Go" and not wait for them to come to us. We are to "Go out into the highways and hedges" which means everywhere! Furthermore, we are not to hint to them about the Gospel by whispering a polite suggestion into their ears. No! We are to "compel" them to come in; that's something quite a bit different. Compelling is more than just asking someone to consider an idea. It's an heartfelt appeal. We are appealing to them from our heart to their heart, compelling them out of great concern for their eternal salvation. It's passion, not platitudes.
I also see the Apostle Paul telling Timothy to "Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist and discharge all the duties of your ministry!" (2 Tim 4:5) Paul says, keep focused in all situations, even in hard times. He wisely mentions this in the same sentence as doing ministry and evangelism. It is a reminder to us that witnessing is not something that occurs in a vacuum. We must witness in the midst of life's challenges and troubles, both our own and of those with whom we are sharing the Gospel. We hold on to Christ as our anchor and reach out to those drowning in a sea of troubles with the lifesaving Gospel.
Paul also tells us that evangelism involves work. Too many Christians today ask, "What can the Church do for me?" They want the pastor and the "church" to do all the work for them. Yet, we are the Church! The work of evangelism is part of what we are to be doing as followers of Christ.
But thankfully, we do not work alone. Always remember that you cannot save anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can bring about conviction in a person's heart, leading them to salvation. In a phrase I borrowed and adapted from Evangelist Bill Fay, "Successful evangelism, successful witnessing by you is not contingent upon the person"s acceptance or rejection of the message. Successful evangelism is simply sharing the Gospel with the lost. If you have clearly shared the Gospel with a non believer, then you have successfully witnessed!"
After that, we pray for them, we make ourselves available to them, but salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our duty is to tell them the Good News of Jesus.
One last thought: we all know a person cannot do enough good deeds to earn salvation. So why is it so many Christians try to do it for them? We cannot do enough good deeds toward another person to bring about their salvation. No matter how many cans of soup we collect for the hungry, without sharing with them the Bread of Life - a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they are lost. That relationship starts when we tell them the Gospel of Salvation. There is not a greater deed we can do for another person than to share the message of eternal life with them. From this all other good deeds flow.
What a joy it is when a person finds what has been missing in their life: the God who saves them! What a joy it is when the Christian finds what has been missing in their life: the joy of sharing the Gospel of Jesus!
Evangelism brings new life to both the hearer and the sharer. There is nothing to lose, and everything to gain, when we share the Gospel. Won't you tell someone about Jesus today? Pray. Have faith. Have courage. Be bold. Trust God
For Christ and His Remnant,
Pastor Bruce Sikes
VoiceOfTheRemnant.org © 2011