Have they sensed the seriousness of their sin and the implications of rebellion against a holy God?
Parents understand the body language of children under conviction. They squirm; look down, get very quiet, and some even cry. When we are gripped with a serious issue, it shows in our “body language.” If we are not sensing that the people we are evangelizing are gripped by the seriousness of their guilt and the implications of this guilt, then why should we proceed further, with an invitation to embrace the gospel? Once again, every person is different, and some people display their emotions much more obviously than others. Some people are very difficult to “read,” but as a general rule, you can recognize signs of comprehension of the truth and a humbling of the will. I have been guilt of this myself. Rather then trusting God to do the work that only He can do, I have pushed for “results.” Think about the way Christ dealt with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. His conversation was different then his conversation with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. The man came to Christ, a “seeker” of the truth as some would call it today, yet he walked away sorrowful, without salvation. Why? How could Christ miss such a golden opportunity to see a man embrace him as the Messiah? What is even more interesting is that Christ never once presented Himself as the Messiah to the young man, nor did he give him the traditional Roman’s Road. How could Christ not understand the simple plan of salvation? After all it is as easy as A admit, B believe, and C Confess. Why did Christ not tell the man that He is “the way the truth and life and that no man comes to the Father accept through Him.” The answer is found his view of self. This man was not griped with the reality of his sin. He believed he could do something to merit eternal life, and his view of self had to be exposed. He saw eternal life as a reward and not a gift. So then why did Christ command him to sell everything that He owned and give to the poor? Was this a secondary way to receive eternal life? Does this not contradict the message of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? If Christ’s statement was a gospel invitation, then salvation can be merited, and this cannot be the case. Scripture is clear that we are not declared righteous before God by our works. So then what is Christ doing with this young man? He is not inviting the young man to embrace the gospel, rather he is “calling him out” in his sin. He is skillfully exposing to this man that he is indeed a sinner who has broken God’s laws. He is exposing him as a man who like all others is not good and is under God’s wrath. He is showing him, that he is helpless apart from the saving grace of God. This is exactly what Christ did to the Pharisees when he told the story of the Prodigal in Luke 15. He highlighted the response of a “good” son to the father and the prodigal to expose the “good” son’s rebellion. The Pharisees were the “good son” who were actually in rebellion against the father. In Luke 10, Christ tells the story of the “good Samaritan” making a Samaritan, who the Jews loathed, the hero of the story, to reveal to a pious lawyer that the neighbor that the law demands he love is the person whom he hates most. In John 4, he asks a Samaritan woman to go get her husband, exposing her as an adulterer. The point is that Christ is doing the same thing here. He is revealing to this man his guilt with a simple command, go sell everything you have and give it to the poor as you come to follow me. This young man had not kept God’s law. He did not love his neighbor as he loved himself, yet he viewed himself as innocent.
So what do we learn from this example of Christ’s interaction with a lost “seeker?” Do not proceed to invitation without evidence of understanding and conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment. If a man does not see his need, then his profession is worthless. Until the sinner sees himself like the spiritually bankrupt publican in the temple who said God be merciful to me a sinner, then he is not in a position to whole heartedly depend upon the work of Christ and His righteousness. Let us be discerning about this aspect of our evangelism.
Pastor Joel Porcher Anchor Baptist Church and Mission Cape Coast, Ghana