What Brings You to Christ Doesn't Necessarily Bring Others
For those of us who have more than one child, we quickly learn that they are different. What appeals to one does not necessarily appeal to the other. While one prefers salt, the other prefers sweet. While one enjoys the texture of a cooked mushroom, the other can only eat a raw one. While one child is extroverted and quick to express feelings, the other is introverted, feeling strongly but saying little. All of these little tendencies, over time and self-discipline, form certain strengths of character that are unique and that qualify us to be labourers for the kingdom of heaven. God has gifted us for that purpose. However, no two gifts are alike any more than any two faces are alike. We have what the Bible calls “gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us” (Rom. 12:6).
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required (Lk. 12:48). Like the servant who was given talents by his lord to be put to use in the lord’s absence, so are we to put to use our gifts in an effort to save the lost. How do we do this?
To truly come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, certain things must occur. We must acknowledge the existence of God, the Creator. We must realize that He is in authority over all of us and has the power to determine whether we will go to heaven or to hell. We need to recognize that we are sinners and that God’s punishment for sin is death. We must understand and believe the good news: that Christ was crucified so that we should not have to die for our own sins and be cast into hell. We must know that there is only one God and only one way to get into heaven. We must repent of our sins, place our faith and trust fully in the Lord Jesus Christ. We must hold firm the truth of Christ and stand fast in our faith – publicly and without compromise. Lastly, we must share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ so that others may be saved from the fire.
Here’s how we put our different gifts to work. While one of us will stress the importance of getting into heaven, the other will stress the importance of staying out of hell. While one will focus on building our faith, the other will encourage us to do good works. While one will embolden, the other will humble. While one will edify, the other will warn. While one will sing praises, the other will preach. While one will rebuke, the other will exhort. One of you is an eye, the other is an ear. One is a hand, a foot, or a knee. Which member of the body of Christ are you?
The questions, then, that I ask are these: If you are a foot, do you think that your gift is better than or more important than that of a hand, an eye, or an ear? Do you compel other Christians to be more like you instead of respecting their differences? Do you chastise a hand for having fingers instead of toes? Do you let the dissimilarities within the body of Christ offend you?
Are we not all members of the same body, which is Christ, and should we not all have the same ultimate goal in mind, which is to proclaim the gospel of salvation to the lost, and to exhort, admonish, rebuke, equip, edify, and uphold the found? Are not all these things to be done with the self-sacrificial love of Christ which we must allow to emanate from within us? How is it possible that so many of us are so easily distracted from serving Christ by the envy, pride, and even fear, that is in our own hearts?
So when I read condescending comments like this one: “You won’t win any souls to Christ that way [sarcasm]”, I grieve. I wonder if the person doing the commenting has had the experience of bringing anyone to Christ at all. I know too many people like this. Some of them have been Christians for decades, but do not have a single conversion story. They will openly condemn a street preacher like Ray Comfort for calling sinners to repentance, but they will struggle mightily to speak of their faith publicly. Ray Comfort, like my husband, can tell you all kinds of stories of conversions that the Lord has made them a part of. I wonder if the condemners have seen, firsthand, the saving power of Jesus Christ working in the heart of a lost soul. I wonder if that person has read 1 Corinthians 12 and if they have, how is it possible that they didn’t get the point?
The bottom line is that not every approach works with every person.
What approach did Jesus use?
In Luke 12:49, Jesus said to His disciples, “I am come to send fire on the earth”. In verse 51, He said, “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division”.
In Luke 12:56, Jesus called the people and his disciples “hypocrites”.
In Mark 6, Jesus’ sent his disciples to preach that “men should repent”. Jesus told them, “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city” (Mk 6:11).
In Matthew 11, Jesus “upbraided” (rebuked or scolded) the cities that would not repent despite His visit there and the many miracles He performed. He said to them, “Woe unto thee… thou shalt be brought down to hell” (Mt. 11:21-23).
In Luke 13:1-5, Jesus said that unless the self-righteous repent, they shall all “perish” with the sinners.
In Matthew 25, Jesus said that the unprofitable servant will be “cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt. 25:29-30).
And let’s not forget Jesus’ withering condemnation of the Pharisees in Matthew 23:13-33, which ends with the words, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”
And yes, Jesus also uttered countless words of comfort and hope. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30).
Peter Coleman has laboured in the Lord to bring many people to Christ. We don’t keep a list. We don’t count the lost. We rejoice with the angels over the saved. Peter Coleman has a gift. He uses it wisely, faithfully, and for the glory of God. What is his method?
He follows after the things of Christ.
He protects the weak. He comforts the feeble-minded. He warns the unruly and he rebukes the wicked.
Peter Coleman does not believe that living by example is sufficient because people of all different world-views lead exemplary lives. Christian acts of kindness are no different from anyone else’s unless their actions are performed in Jesus’ Name and for Jesus’ glory. Christians can lead godly lives, enjoying the hope of their eternal destination for everyone to see. They can give their love freely away to others, treating them with unbiased acts of kindness and empathy. But unless they’re ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them – for their unfettered and unwavering faith in Jesus Christ when times are tough – all of their good works will fall to the ground (1 Pet. 3:13-16).
Today, most people claim to prefer the “love-bomb” (positive reinforcement) approach and promote it in others. This is not because it is more effective, it is because society’s current humanist philosophy elevates people’s egos over the truth. It has bred a generation of ego-maniacs who are too fragile to withstand the fact of their sin (this includes “Christians”). Can any of us come to Christ without first acknowledging ourselves as sinners? Can a Christian restore herself with God (not to salvation but to a blessed life) without acknowledging her sin? The answer is no. This is why God gave us the law – to show us our sin, and show us the high standard of His holiness. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). So, if we avoid telling people about their fallen condition, heaven and hell, how can anyone see the need for Jesus? It is essential to our salvation that we recognize exactly what we are saved from – death and hell. This fact cannot be omitted from any of our evangelical efforts or from our personal testimonies.
I did not come to Christ because I was love-bombed. I did not suffer through a lengthy and indirect speech suggesting, with frequent apologies and interminable flattery, that I might need a saviour for the innumerable sins I had committed. I needed “both barrels” (as my husband calls it). I needed a blast of the plain and simple, logical, brutal and direct truth. If Peter Coleman had not explained to me in no uncertain terms that I was a sinner destined for hell, I would have been lost forever in a world of vanity and self-deceit. I praise the Lord for Mr. Coleman. If only you could meet him and learn from him as I have.
So when I hear people tell me that sinners only come to Christ by the delicacy of indirect, positive suggestions we give them via a circuitous and inoffensive route, I am dismayed. I am living proof of the contrary.
If you have the gift of evangelism, you don’t need me to tell you that your listeners must recognize their fallen condition and the consequences of it. Don’t leave them uncertain. An uncertain conversion is like a robe that exposes half your body. It is moot. You don’t need to use the double-barrel shotgun approach the way Peter Coleman did; you need to determine through the power of the Holy Spirit what your gifts are and use them for His glory. Please don’t second-guess your gifts or waver because the person with the soft-sell approach calls you too harsh. Be bold if boldness is your gift.
In 1944, before he was executed by the German Gestapo for his faith, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that the churches of the future would be filled with people who would embrace the saving grace of Jesus Christ without feeling the need to make a single sacrifice for it. He called such people “spiritual corpses”.[i] These are the nominal Christians of today who claim that “God looks on the heart”; with an excuse such as this, they do not have to repent of their sin if they have justified themselves by their own ungodly standards (2 Cor. 10:12). They call the worldly choices they make “personal”, condemn those who love them enough to correct them (by calling them condemnatory) and claim that chastisement is “the opposite of love”. They are blind to the truth and their condition is infectious. Remember, the Lord chastens those He loves (Heb. 12:6, Rev. 3:19), but He leaves the “bastards” to their sin (Heb. 12:8).
I agree that not everyone is a gifted evangelist. But if you are a mother, you need to know how to make a disciple out of your child. If you are a sister, you need to know how to encourage your siblings in the Lord. If you are a best friend, you need to confess your faith with words (Rom. 10:9). If you are a wife, you need to minister to your husband. If you are idle, you are not fit for the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 25:30).
Thanks for reading.
[i] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: SCM Press Ltd., 1959), p54.