The "how tos" of evangelism are important to discuss, and I will address them in my next post. But I want to start by going back to "scratch," or even further back to "itch," by first talking about some doctrinal truths that will form the foundation of the practical suggestions that will follow...
SIX TRUTHS FROM SCRIPTURE THAT SHOULD SHAPE OUR APPROACH TO EVANGELISM:
1) The radically corrupt nature of man (Gen. 6:5; Ps. 51:5; Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1)
As a result of the Fall, every person born into this world is spiritually dead and utterly unable to respond in faith and love toward God, because it is his nature to depend upon his own resources and love himself supremely. We always choose according to our strongest inclination, which is determined by our nature; therefore in our unregenerate state we will always choose to suppress the truth of God (Rom. 1:18), either through an outright denial of the truth or through some form of false religious practice.
2) The gracious choice of God to convert a great multitude of people from their sin and forgive them in Christ (Isa. 43:1-13; John 17:1-9; Rom. 9:22-24; Eph. 1:3-14)
Although God would have been perfectly just to leave all of mankind to our deserved doom of continued unbelief and eternal destruction, He did not (Hallelujah!!). Before the foundation of the world, He decided to demonstrate His love to “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9) by mercifully delivering them from the bondage and consequences of their sin.
3) The perfect obedience of Jesus Christ and His effective, substitutionary atonement on behalf of His people (Isa. 53:4-6, 10-12; John 10:14-16, 25-30; Rom. 8:28-34; Acts 20:28)
God accomplished the salvation of His chosen people by sending His Son Jesus to be their representative by living and dying as a man. Just as Adam had represented all mankind in the Garden and had plunged us all into sin and ruin, so Jesus Christ represented all who believe in Him with His perfect life of obedience and His crucifixion, where He bore the Divine wrath that was deserved by sinners. We were condemned to the hopeless bondage of sin by the actions of our father Adam; we are gloriously saved from that bondage by the actions of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12-21). Jesus did not merely “provide a way” for people to be saved; He actually accomplished their salvation on the cross (John 19:30). We cannot add anything to His accomplishment—even our faith. Our faith is merely the means through which God has chosen to give us the blessings of Christ.
4) The effectual conviction and call of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who are being saved (Ezek. 36:25-27; John 3:3-8; 6:44, 65; 2 Thess. 2:13-15).
The benefits secured by the atonement of Christ are applied to God’s people during their lives by the Holy Spirit, who shows them their sinfulness and need for Christ, and then transforms their nature so that they trust in Christ alone and desire to do His will. Without this supernatural work of regeneration, there would be no true faith, regardless of the variety and intensity of religious actions or experiences. And because both true repentance and true faith are a result of God’s work in the heart (2 Tim. 2:25; 2 Pet. 1:1), it does not lie within the power of men to “decide to believe” at any time. God alone has the power and the prerogative to bestow His gifts of mercy whenever He wills to do so (John 15:16; Rom. 9:15‑16). And He does this through the clear proclamation and explanation of the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
5) God’s continuing work in the hearts of His children (John 8:31; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 3:14, 10:36)
True believers will never stop believing. Their nature has been so radically altered by God that they can now be called “slaves of righteousness” (Rom. 6:18). Thus perseverance in faith is a condition of salvation in Scripture (Matt. 24:13; Col. 1:22‑23)—not because it is the basis of our salvation, but because it is an evidence that our salvation is genuine (Matt. 13:18-23). True saving faith will also inevitably produce works of obedience (James 2:14‑26), and therefore godly changes in our attitudes and actions are an essential source for a full assurance of salvation (2 Pet. 1:5-11; the entire book of 1 John).
6) The nature of saving faith as a reliance upon the mercy of God alone, with no contribution whatsoever from our own merit, effort, or choice (Luke 18:9-14; John 1:12‑13; Rom. 4:3-8, 9:16).
It is the tendency of our sinful nature to think that we contribute something to our salvation. This is because of our prideful desire to think well of ourselves, and also because the idea that we can do something to secure our destiny is a much easier “road to heaven” than being subject to the sovereign choice of God and dependent on His work of regeneration in our hearts. We also can find assurance much more quickly in a “decision” or “4-step process” because we have now “done it,” and God presumably is obligated to save us because we have “done it.” But when we understand that salvation comes through biblical faith, which is not a one-time act but an ongoing state of the heart that produces a genuine love for God and works of obedience to Him, then we realize that our fate is not in our hands, but in God’s. This truth is quite troublesome to the unregenerate mind (and even to Christians in some cases), but we must be very careful not to accommodate unbelief by redefining faith as a work that someone can perform. There are many Christians today who essentially do this, and although their enthusiasm and good motives are to be commended, their methods and terminology have unfortunately left thousands of people with the impression that because they raised a hand, walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or performed some other work of man, their eternal destiny is settled forever. So many of those converts, not fully understanding the righteousness of God, have sought to establish a righteousness of their own (Rom. 10:3). Their greatest need, and the greatest need of every sinner, is to be led to “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Rom. 3:22).
Meditate on those truths for awhile and think about how they might practically apply to the way we tell people about Christ. In the next post I will give you my ideas on that subject...