By Matt Tyler
Stick with me. I know this is another long post. In fact, it's even long after I broke it up into two parts. Bear with me. Shorter blog posts are coming.
I have a burden. This burden is for the lost. This burden is great because Jesus lives in me and He has a burden for the lost. I've always had a deep desire to proclaim the Gospel to people. However, within the last year, God has used some people to teach me that I have not loved nor been burdened enough for the Lost like God has been.
Charles Spurgeon said this: ""Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself, be sure of that."
There is a popular quote attributed to Francis of Assisi that goes like this, "Preach the Gospel and when necessary used words." I want to say two things about this quote.
Fact #1: Francis of Assisi NEVER said this quote. I do not know how it was falsely attributed to him, but he did not say it. In fact, Francis of Assisi was a street preacher (yes, he was one of those crazy, but completely Biblical, guys who went out on the streets and preached the Truth).
However fact #1 is not as close to the importance level as fact #2: This quote is a threat to evangelism and the Gospel. This is the truth I want to focus on and explain.
Interestingly, I do not know one single person who has come to know Jesus just because someone was "nice" to them. This I largely because there are many people who are 'nice.' In fact, atheists can be nice. Jews can be nice. Buddhists can be nice. Yet all of them lack a very important thing: They have not repented of their sins and put their trust in Jesus. Please do not misunderstand me. We MUST have Biblical Character in our daily lives. We must walk in obedience to God and much of that obedience is giving to others, talking politely to others, being self-controlled, and humble. But many people forget about the verses in the Bible that say things such as this:
"Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." 2 Timothy 4:2.
Or even more relevant: "How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10:14.
Many people forget that Jesus preached the Word with words. Jesus spoke the Truth. Do you really think that people wanted to stone and eventually crucify Jesus because he fed 5000 people and healed the lame? Absolutely not. They wanted to stone Him because He told them something extremely offensive. He told them that that they had sinned against a Holy God and were on their way to spend an eternity in Hell unless they believed on Him. Instead of skipping through the Gospels and reading only the parts about giving to the poor, eating dinner with sinners, and healing people, I challenge you to go read the whole Gospel. This includes the parts where Jesus' street preaching is so hardcore that people want to stone him. Go read in Acts where Peter stood up in the middle of the city and proclaimed the Gospel to people (three thousand people repented). Go read Paul's letters where he exhorts people to preach the Gospel.
Those most opposed to preaching the Gospel with words comes from the post-modern generation that we live in. They proclaim that words are meaningless. They claim that witnessing to people is "forcing Jesus on others" or "irrelevant" or "ineffective." The problem with this stance (besides the fact that it is completely contrary to the Bible) is that it is contradictory to what they are indeed saying. How can you proclaim that words are meaningless? Am I to believe that statement is meaningless? These people proclaim the problems of indoctrinating people. What they fail to realize is that they are indoctrinating people with that kind of rubbish. Do you, sir or madam, not realize that God communicated to us in words? Do you not realize that this is exactly what the Bible is? God's WORD. Do you not realize that Moses, who wrote Genesis, and John, who wrote Revelation, communicated their messages by PREACHING (out loud).
I've alluded to the fact that I completely agree that we must live clean lives and let our actions back up what we are saying. Preaching the Gospel is not an alternative to living a clean life, sharing lives with others, pouring into their life, giving and meeting their needs. Rather, they go hand in hand. You cannot effective preach the Gospel without living it out and you cannot effectively live it out without preaching the gospel! Now, allow me to be honest with you? Those of you who speak only of, "letting your actions speak" or relational evangelism, can I just be honest with you? You are the ones who are watching your R-rated movies, you are the ones who are into pornography, you are the ones who are using disgusting and dirty languages. I am not judging you, I am doing the Biblical practice of showing you that you are being hypocritical. In other words, you can go around proclaiming all you want to that your actions should be the things that leads people to Christ, but realize you, even you, are not buying into what you are saying. Your actions prove that.
Okay, I know that was a hard paragraph to read. Realize that I myself have struggled with some of those things in the past and there are some things that I still work on every day. I am not perfect. But I am trying. By the grace of God and with the help of the Holy Spirit I will overcome sin. Go read the book of 1 John, 1 Peter, and Jude; it will completely blow your mind when it comes to holiness.
Please don't just take my word for all of this though. The only way people can be changed is through the reading and hearing of God's Word. Look at just SOME of the MANY passages in the Bible that speak on this subject:
Read those passages and check back tomorrow for my conclusion.