I’ve been listening to John MacArthur’s sermon series on the book of Acts as my homework for leading a Sunday morning Bible study through the same book. Listening to all of the sermons and taking notes better prepares me for the task and provides me with some helpful ‘additions’ to the broader study material, also John MacArthur’s.
One of the sermons provided a short list of ways God points sinners to Christ that I found helpful. Listed below are the points presented in the sermon, for your thoughtful consideration, followed by some personal thoughts concerning their application in our evangelistic efforts.
The miracles, signs and wonders at the hands of Jesus and the Apostles were signs that they were from God. The Jews knew that they were seeing with their own eyes that which only God could do. Some did the math and believed, but many did not.
One man, who was blind from birth, even reminded the Jewish leaders that only God could have healed him and even asked those rulers if they too wanted to become a disciples of Jesus. Sadly, I think they thought he was just being sarcastic. (See John 9)
Today we don’t have Christ among us, but we are given the same knowledge through the written New Testament.
In the days following the birth of the Church at Pentecost, Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached to the Jews gathered in Jerusalem, accusing them of being guilty of their own Messiah’s death. 3,000 hearers responded with "what shall we do?" to Pater’s first sermon.
"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." – 2 Cor 7:10
The repentance of Peter for having denied Christ brought repentance and was ‘Godly’ sorrow. Judas’ sorrow for his betrayal was worldly sorrow that led to his suicide/hanging.
4. The goodness of God
"Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" – Rom 2:4
"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." – Acts 17:30-31
As I consider these points, several things come to mind concerning their use in evangelism:
First of all, only one of them, knowledge, seems to not be connected with the issue of our ‘sin’ problem. The miracles and signs performed by Jesus and the Apostles were signs that the both of their ministries were of God. Only God could heal the sick and raise the dead. In the same manner, we can ‘make known’ the God of the Bible and the mighty deeds of Jesus and the Apostles in the early church. The Bible is our ‘source’ of information.
The remaining four; guilt, sorrow, the goodness of God and judgment speak of repentance, or turning. There are, I think, two aspects of repentance in view here – turning from sin and turning toward God. While both ‘turnings’ should need no explanation, turning toward God might have had special significance to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and the days of the early church. Those same religious leaders thought themselves already toward God, while Jesus told them they knew not the true God. Go back and review some of the hard things Jesus had to say to them concerning whom they really served.
That four out of five ways God points to Christ deal with man’s issue with sin should be hugely significant. As we share Christ with a lost world, if we don’t take the conversation to man’s biggest problem, we are failing in our mission. That doesn’t mean we ‘pound people over the head’ with it, but we have as a goal to ‘get to the bottom line’, as it were. We walk gently down that path, with great concern and much care. We can even encourage those to whom we share Christ to actually identify the problem themselves, with ‘creative’ dialogue and conversation!
We need to remember that salvation is a work of God, and we are only messengers. We also don’t know which of our five points God will use in any individual to bring him/her to Christ. We leave the ‘convicting’ of sin, righteousness and judgment to the Holy Spirit. However, we just need to be like the Apostle Paul, and ‘unashamed’ of the entirety of the gospel message we present.
Lastly (for now) we must always bathe our evangelistic efforts with prayer. We should pray daily that God will open hearts to receive the gospel message and seize the divine appointments God arranges for us. We should be praying as we share the gospel message, both for guidance in that sharing and for God’s revelation to the hearer. We should be continuously praying for those to whom we share the gospel as they grow in Christ whether or not we are part of that growth, since we know the enemy will try and destroy seed that was sown.
So much for my thoughts. I have a couple of questions. Of the five points we just discussed, which ones seem to be most prevalent in most of today’s evangelistic culture? Which ones, if any, are missing? What are we to do about it?