Evangelism: Part 5

stoning of stephen

Some may not look forward to evangelism because of the fear of men. But this is a joyous service, and the love to and from God will preserve the hearts of His servants from the promised onslaught of persecution and reviling when the evangelist goes out and does his work. This love of God that the evangelist has will be superior to the variety of distresses that may come his way.

It is the love to God and the godly love to men that keeps him away from the “slough of despondency” when it seems that his seed has been cast upon the trodden path and stony fields and has taken no root in anyone’s heart, tempting him to believe his strenuous efforts were in vain. It will preserve him from the promised oppression and will cause endurance, boldness, and even joy in the face of persecution. Though abuse will be aimed directly at the evangelist’s body and soul designed for maximum grief and pain, it will not hinder him from going forward to face this scorn and reproach.[1]

It is also because of the love of man that will cause the servant of Christ to face these bitter situations with confidence and strength.

This love toward man is a different kind of love that is commonly understood within the general realm of humanity. There certainly may be a kind of civil goodness that unbelievers extend to one another, and it may be characterized by a “common grace” kind of love. After all, Jonathan Edwards notes that love disposes men to exercise all favorable duties toward his neighbor.

Instead of seeking their harm, you seek justice for them. Instead of strife and contention, peace and friendship is desired. Instead of fraud and deceit, truth. Instead of arrogant competition, it will be met with humility and a seeking of their good reputation. It disposes men “to all acts of mercy toward their neighbours.”[2] To some degree, these are the kinds of activities that can be observed on the surface of all walks of life, believers and unbelievers alike.

However, Kuiper would have us know that there is a difference between the love that God graciously grants to preserve the common population of mankind and the love that is a fruit of saving grace.[3] Though it is possible for the unregenerate person to love another in a common way, it is a love that only goes so far. It seeks merely the temporal and material good of man and has no concern for their eternal wellbeing. It is divorced from the love of God and co-exists with the hate of God in unbelief.

Through the common grace love, it is easy to love those that love back, but it will not incline a man to love those that seek his destruction for his love to God. Because of this, it is wholly deficient and is no true love to their neighbor.[4]

Galatians 6:10 says that we are to seek the good of all men, including the good of our enemies. Since the natural love to our fellow man will drive us to help them in their times of material and emotional need, then consider how much more needful they are of spiritual good, so what better good is there than to seek their salvation by sharing the work of Christ? “Insofar as we really love our neighbors as ourselves, we shall of necessity want him to enjoy the salvation which is so precious to us.”[5]

When Christian love is rightly exercised, all expressions of it are from the same motives. It is because of the Christian’s spiritual regeneration that he begins to love God rightly, for His holiness, and so people are loved for holiness’s sake because they bear the image of God.[6] True Christian love toward their fellow man will not stop at one’s material wellbeing, but it will have their eternal wellbeing in view. It will seek to glorify God by seeking to make them glorifiers of God on earth.

Part of the nature of true conversion is that the one who has been renewed to love God is increasingly conformed to Christ’s likeness through the instrument of the Holy Spirit’s sanctification. Part of the character of Christ is that He has loved men and died for them even while they were His enemies, giving us a true example of what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves.

This same quality is to be in His servants. Just as it would be natural and expected for a family member or friend to rise quickly to share something that would greatly affect those he loves, so it should be the same for the believers, whose situations have been affected eternally for the better, to readily express their love and concern for all their neighbors’ eternal wellbeing by sharing the gospel of Christ.[7]

apathy 2

It is unbecoming of Christian love to have an attitude of leaving the world to their own devices.

Jonathan Edwards explains this through commenting on Luke 9 where Christ’s disciples were calling for Jesus to reign hellfire down upon the Samaritans for not receiving the Messiah. Jesus met their request with a sharp rebuke: “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.”

Edwards notes that Jesus rebukes them not so much because they were ignorant of what spirit was within in them, but that they were ignorant of what spirit they were ought to have as followers of Him. “[T]hey did not know and truly feel what kind of spirit was proper and becoming to their character and spirit as his professed disciples, and becoming that evangelical dispensation that he had come to establish, and under which they were now living.”[8]

They were ignorant that Christ had come to establish a kingdom of love and peace, even toward the unbelievers like the Samaritans. He came to rescue them, as well.

Many of us have an attitude of leaving outsiders like them to their own devises, hoping and waiting for the hellfire of God to consume the ungodly as an act of infinite and just retribution for being His enemies. But this kind of attitude is “exceedingly unbecoming”[9] of one who has attached Christ’s name to his own within this age because the believer, too, was once an enemy of God.

Yet He not only showed love to His enemies from afar, but His love for His enemies caused Him to come down from His glorious seat of majesty, to clothe Himself in our flesh, to take upon our nature, to dwell among us, to serve us, and to die for us. If anyone has gone out of his way to show love to another, it is Christ. Believers are to put on the same spirit as imitators of God and be willing to extend love to those we may deem to be unseemly.

This same Christian love demonstrated to unseemly enemies has been exercised toward every believer through a string of evangelists throughout history. Evangelism has been done by families having been preserved within the household of God, or by the current pastors or evangelists who have preached to or conversed with men about Christ. All believers are a product of evangelism.

It is also unbecoming of a Christian to be reluctant to share the good news and to find excuses not to do so. Pride often causes believers to be ashamed of the gospel because they would be viewed by men as strange or ridiculous and their reputations would suffer. “Ought these things to stop us loving our neighbor? … We need to press on our conscience this question: Which matters more- our reputation or their salvation?”[10]

Christians are given a great truth and are stewards of it upon this earth. One of the facets of this truth is that there is a great need in the world. Everyone is “on their way to a never ending eternity. But their plight is desperate… Men and women are hastening to destruction, and the sad part of it is that they are not conscious of their own plight.”[11]

If one were to be standing in the middle of the road and, unbeknownst to him, a truck was barreling toward him at full speed, the loving thing to do would be to call out to the man and bid him to get out of the way. But an act of hatred would be to let the truck run him down.

Ezekiel 3:18 illustrates the seriousness of bearing the gospel message: “When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.” This ought to rouse us to the fact that we certainly are our neighbor’s keeper.[12]

All believers are being renewed to the proper exercises of love. It is being renewed vertically to God, and renewed horizontally to man. The Christian who is consumed by the glories of God will hold dear to him the gift that keeps on giving: his salvation through faith in Christ. Though not all Christians are called to traverse the earth or to be a street preacher, we all have been given the responsibility to share our faith in whatever capacity or gifts that God has given to us. It can often be an intimidating thing, but Christians are to take heart at the prospect of evangelism. Whether we are speaking to a co-worker, the cashier, or a dear friend, we have the promise of the Spirit of Christ to be with us in every situation, even unto the end of the age.

[1] Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism, 103–105.
[2] Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 7–8.
[3] Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism, 99.
[4] Kuiper, God-Centered Evangelism, 100.
[5] Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 76.
[6] Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 5–6.
[7] Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 77.
[8] Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 17.
[9] Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits, 23.
[10] Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 78.
[11] Grand Rapids Board of Evangelism of the Christian Reformed Churches, Reformed Evangelism: A Manual on Principles and Methods of Evangelism, 143.
[12] Grand Rapids Board of Evangelism of the Christian Reformed Churches, Reformed Evangelism: A Manual on Principles and Methods of Evangelism, 145.

 

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