Evangelism in a Christianized Culture: How Biblical Love Sustains Honest Evangelism
Galatians 5:14, 22-23 “All the law is fulfilled in one word, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”
Why do what you do? Why are you willing to sacrifice time and energy for any cause? The answer to the question “why” is quite revealing. Motive can turn the noble sacrifice into secret sin, stripping sacrifice of its value, and twisting it into a detestable action. Consider Paul’s perspective of his own pre-conversion discipline and labor. In Philippians 3, he states that the things that he treasured as a natural man, meaning his strict adherence to the law, his public blamelessness, and passion for his faith, were now but dung in his eyes. In 1 Corinthians 13, he states that the gifted man, full of Biblical understanding, willing to sacrifice his body, and his riches did it all for naught when not done out love! Sacrifice only has eternal value if it is motivated by Biblical love. Remember Christ’s warning to the Ephesians in Revelation 2. He commended their works, strenuous labors, perseverance, hatred of evil, and discernment, yet He commands to repent of their lovelessness. Their sacrifice had turned to sin. This is a serious concept to digest. Some men go soul winning, write books, spend hours in the word, live in deliberate poverty, and sacrifice worldly pleasures for no eternal value! It is easy to labor because we fear men, desire to earn God’s favor, are proud, selfish, or crave the praise of men. I ask, “What is your motive?” Are you passionate for God and His glory? Do you labor out of pure love for God and passion to see His glory revealed? Do you love the world in the same sense that He loves the world? Are you willing to sacrifice out of love for Him alone? If not, it profits you nothing! Look at the text we put under the opening of this section. Love fulfills the law, and is the first evidence or fruit of the Spirit’s residence and work in believers. Are you walking under the Sprit’s control and influence?
So what happens when someone enters the “Christianized culture” without proper motivation, especially if the culture is accommodating? Let me suggest three possible outcomes. First, if he is a naïve or sloppy evangelist, he will become frustrated when his “converts” fail to persevere and lack motivation. He will wonder why they have embraced the message so willingly, yet seem to fall away. Christ explains this phenomenon in Luke 8. “When they hear, they receive the word with joy; yet because they have no root, in time of temptation they fall away.” In other words, these professors of the faith had embraced what they heard, though it was not yet enough information for them to be converted. Their response in temptation reveals their understanding of the message was not yet complete. While it is impossible to prevent false professions, if we are not precise, sloppy, or impatient in our evangelism, we invite them.
Secondly, if he is honest with the gospel and understands the nature of genuine conversion, he will likely quit once he realizes how complex evangelism can be when dealing with the “cultural Christian.” What happens after an extended period of countless hours spent laboring to present the gospel precisely, answering a barrage of questions, and countless illustrations, only to see someone reject the message once they come to understand it? He will likely quit.
Thirdly, if he is pragmatic, he will likely be tempted to trim or generalize the message, knowing that this “works.” Whether it is through high pressure invitations, working to make the message more palatable and positive, or manipulating people by crafting a highly emotional atmosphere that moves people into a willingness to make commitments, the pragmatist does what “works.” What is the end result? The gospel is stripped of its power. It ceases to be the gospel, and the fruit that follows this message reveals its inability to convert the soul. The man whose heart is properly motivated will guard the integrity of the gospel and labor from a loving passion for God’s glory and the conversion of his fellow man. Let me close with Paul’s words for 1 Corinthians 13: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”