The Gospel is good news. It’s unbelievably amazing good news but it has horrifically bad news closely associated with it which should ALWAYS be emphasized in evangelism. The focal-point of the good news and the bad news is on the Day of Judgment. A billion years from now all that will matter is the Day you stood before the God of the universe, “from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away”, and whether you stood before Him in righteousness or unrighteousness. When it comes to an unregenerate (unsaved) person the ONLY issue is that Day. In evangelism, for the most part, the emphasis should not be on any natural (physical, emotional or material) blessing people would receive from God in this life by coming to Him. The urgency of the message is the fact that as a sinner the condemnation of God is upon them right now and if this does not change they will one Day stand guilty before God and be thrown alive into the lake of fire. (For the scriptural reality of this here are a few scriptures that you might not hear much from ministers these days: John 3:18-21 and 36. Romans 1:18, Colossians 3:6, 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). If we care at all about the lost we need to do what we can to first bring them to the realization of this dreadful condition they are in right now before God AND the end result of that condition on The Day of Judgment.
The sinner won’t appreciate the good news unless they first understand their current and future condition before God as a sinner. The good news is that God has graciously and sacrificially made the way for us to receive the forgiveness of all the debt we owe Him, through Jesus suffering the brutal punishment of our disobedience, and to give us the assurance of standing before Him in righteousness on the Day of Judgment. The love of God for an unbeliever is often wrongly communicated on an emotional level. For example “For God SO loved the world…” as if “so” emphasizes the intensity of God’s love for us. But “so” only means thus and should read “Thus God loved the world.” Thus is connected to verses 14 and 15 which refers to the judgment that came upon Israel for complaining against the Lord and the remedy God provided for His judgment. The judgment was not retracted but healing was provided for the plague that God sent on the people that came through Israel’s disobedience.
5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.” 6 So the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.
7 Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD that He take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict people of SIN and the need for RIGHTEOUSNESS offered by God in the context of the reality of the Day of JUDGMENT. It’s always important that all three realities are at work in a person’s life to effectively draw them to God. This is the goodness and the severity of God working together to effectively bring a person to God (Romans 11:22). I want to emphasize the fact that we CANNOT bring about this conviction, only the Holy Spirit can do this but we are required to do our part. Many, without referring to scripture assume that Holy Spirit will do this without our involvement or without the preaching of the Law and the Gospel but I am convinced that we should NEVER assume that this is the case. If we truly want to see people (especially loved ones and family members) come to Christ then it’s crucial that we play our part and unless we do the Holy Spirit is not likely to do His part.
The obvious example of this is the story of Cornelius in Acts 10. In this case the Law had already done its work. In verse 2 it says that Cornelius was a “devout man, and one that feared God with all his house.” All that was left was for a person to share the Gospel with them. The fact that neither God nor the angel did this emphasizes our need to present the Gospel to people. Verses 6, 22, and 32 emphasizes this. Peter preaches the Gospel and Holy Spirit showed up in power!!! If we want to see the power of God on this level then we are going to have to put at least as much emphasis on Peter’s example of preaching as we do our outreach programs to show our communities the “love” of God.
Look at part of what Peter preached to Cornelius and his family:
42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead (Judgment Day). 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (The remission of sins is the same as the gift of righteousness)
Another great example is the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. Jesus never directly addresses the issue of JUDGMENT with this woman but He does clearly address the issue of SIN and RIGHTEOUSNESS. The reason that Jesus does not address the issue of judgment is, like in Cornelius’ case, the reality of God’s judgment was common knowledge. In the book “John Wesley: A Biography” the author Stephen Tomkins talks about the perception that ordinary English people had of God in Wesley’s time (1703–1791).
“One thing to remember is the vast majority of them were as confident and unquestioning of the invisible reality of God, sin, judgment and the world to come as their descendants today are of the invisible reality of, for example, humans rights. Even the Kingswood populace “so ignorant of the things of God that they could only be compared to the beasts of the field” probably had a stronger sense of sin than many 21st-century Christians.”
From this statement we can see the urgent need for America and other parts of the Western world is the fear of the Lord which again consists of the knowledge of personal sin and the consequences of personal sin on the Day of Judgment. The Samaritan woman’s knowledge of these things would have been as real to her as the English people in Wesley’s time. But Jesus does point to her personal sin and her violation of the 7th Commandment (Adultery). Some would mention that this woman needed compassion because she had probably been tossed aside by her five husbands and I would agree. Jesus obviously showed compassion to her. Every attempt to reach out to the lost should be founded in compassion. But the unfortunate circumstances of this woman’s life does not cancel out the responsibility of her personal sin against God and the need (for her sake) to draw attention to it by the Law.
Notice how Jesus ministers to her:
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
Jesus, moved with the motive of compassion draws this woman to Himself with the ultimate desire for anyone who labors and is heavy laden (Matthew 11:28). The thing that she desires is rest and that’s what Jesus is promising her. But today’s evangelism stops there, leads the sinner in a simple prayer; pope-ishly declares them to be saved and wonders why their discipleship program isn’t working when 90% of all the “converts” slip off the church’s radar. It’s amazing to me how many churches claim hundreds or thousands of salvations in a years time but can’t claim even one miracle on the level of the miracles of the book of Acts. The proof that people were saved in the first century of the church were not those who made a decision to follow Jesus but those who were added to regular attendance, fellowship and teaching (Acts 2:41-42). At this point Jesus moves on to do something that many Christians would never consider doing. He highlights this woman’s personal sin.
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
Her response? Awkward at first but soon she becomes Samaria’s first evangelist!
28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” 30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
Because of the balance between the goodness and the severity of God this woman became someone who not only responded to Jesus’ offer of rest but became someone who bore fruit for God.
Jonathan Edwards in his sermon Natural Men In a Dreadful Condition said:
“They (the sinner) have nothing on which to depend for conversion. They have nothing in the world, by which to persuade themselves that they shall ever be converted. Left to themselves, they never will repent and turn to God. If they are ever converted, therefore, it is God who must do it. But they have no promise of God, that they ever shall be converted. They do not know how soon they may die. God has not promised them long life; and he has not promised them that they shall be ready for death before they die. It is but a peradventure, whether God will ever give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth. 2 Tim. 2:25. Their resolutions are not to be depended on. If they have convictions, they are not to be depended on; they may lose those convictions. Their conversion depends on innumerable uncertainties. It is very uncertain, then, whether they will be converted before they die.”
An unsaved person has nothing in them that can enable them to come to God or come to their senses about their need for God. On top of this there are so many other things working against them to prevent them from coming to the place of repentance. Jesus Himself said that “With men it (salvation) is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” Jesus said this in light of a rich young man who had just rejected eternal life because he could not cooperate with the terms that Jesus required. These days the biggest obstacle to people coming to Christ is us – the so-called Christians. Whether it’s that we will not preach the Gospel at all or our message is weak and un-Biblical OR we choose a “superior” way than what God has prescribed. Not to mention the countless people that have been declared saved without any evidence that they ever were genuinely saved.
What chance do the unsaved have in America?
17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: 18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.
20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” Ezekiel 3:17-21