Forceful Evangelism

I went to a meeting last night with the leaders of my church. Before the meeting started the gentleman we were meeting with was praying and prophesying. My pastor went next door and had one of his employees come over so he could receive prayer. This particular employee is not a Christian. After he received prayer the guy who prayed presented him with the gospel. He gave a few different illustrations that made Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice plain and simple to understand.

So the gentleman asked the employee if he understood. The employee said that he did. The gentleman then asked the employee if he would accept what Christ had done for him. The employee said, “I’m not ready to get saved.” The gentleman proceeded to say that he didn’t know what the employee meant by “saved” and he kept asking if he was ready to accept Jesus. At this point the employee started to get a bit agitated. He had stated his lack of desire for Jesus to be his Lord and the gentleman kept playing a semantics game in an attempt to get the employee to agree to something he didn’t want to agree to.

I spoke with the employee later and asked how he felt about the whole thing and he said that he believed the gentleman meant well, but he felt like he was trying to trick him into agreeing and saying something that he didn’t want to say. That’s pretty much how I saw it as well. But other stuff happened that I haven’t mentioned and my ultimate assessment was that folks were trying to force the employee into the kingdom. The problem is that we can do no such thing (John 1:13). If we could, then trust me, I’d do it with everyone I ever came into contact with.

But as I was speaking to the employee I simply told him that he’s not good where he’s at, which is to say that he’s not in Christ and that’s not a good place to be, but also that he’s not going to move until God draws him (John 6:44). I encouraged him to start reading the Bible and asking God to reveal himself. I also shared with him Jesus’ teaching about discipleship, which is placing Jesus above any and everything else (Matt. 10:34-39). Preaching the love of God, the forgiveness of God, and the grace of God is wonderful and necessary; but we need to tell the whole story.

It was this part of the story that was tripping the employee up. He simply didn’t want to place Jesus first at that particular point in time. And he can’t be forced or tricked or debated into doing so. All that we can do is continue to plant seed and prayerfully wait for the harvest. I firmly believe that God will save this employee but it’ll be through a joyous reception of the gospel and not through any effort on the part of those preaching it.



4 thoughts on “Forceful Evangelism

  1. Hi Nick: I really liked your comments about forceful evangelism. I have been subject to friends who insist that I must be “saved” and that will get me a ticket to heaven. I have been a Christian for almost 70 years (I’m 78 now) but I know enough Biblical Greek to know that the word for saved also can mean “being healed” or “being made whole.” Some of the early Christian believers and writers thought that sin and death were illnesses and that Jesus healed that illness by being raised from the dead. I do not believe in the “substitutionary” stuff although I know that many Christians do believe that God required a substitute. That’s not my God, and my friends think that I am badly mistaken and won’t be with Jesus when I die. I think that I will see Him and be with Him and love Him forever. He is King of the entire universe! I was not forced to believe anything.

    But anyhow, thanks for your comments. I really enjoy your website. There are only a few bloggers that I would wish to meet, but I think that you would be a fine person to know. Keep up the good work! I look forward to your blogging.

  2. Larry: Thanks for the kind words!

    I agree with your friends that being saved is the ticket to heaven (although heaven is only the interlude to eternity in God’s kingdom on a new earth), and I agree with you that the Greek terms translated as “saved” can refer to healing or being made whole in certain contexts.

    I wish you’d reconsider that substitutionary stuff since it’s what the Scriptures teach us from the OT to the NT. Paul tells us that Christ died for us, the ungodly (Rom. 5:6, 8); the author of Hebrews says that Jesus is the sacrifice offered up to God through the eternal Spirit in order to cleanse us (Heb. 9:14); Peter says that Christ bore our sins in his body that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24), and also that he died for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). He gave his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). I could go on but I think you get my point.

    So I’d agree with your friends in thinking that you’re badly mistaken but I won’t presume to know whether or not you’ll be with Jesus when you die. I think our understanding of the atonement in important, and I think the atonement is a huge part of the gospel, but I don’t know that a perfect understanding of it is necessary for salvation. I think what’s more important is a basic belief that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day (1 Cor. 15:3-4); a confession of Jesus as Lord (Rom. 10:9); and the understanding of who he is in relation to the Father as both Messiah and Son of God (1 John 2:18, 22).

  3. Nick: Thanks for your thoughts. I grew up in a church which would agree with you and I studied for the ministry in that church. At some point I had to leave my ministry training as I could not believe in a God of judgement who would penalize people just for being humans. I respect your beliefs and I was aware that you believed in substitutionary atonement, whether penal or otherwise. I spent a lot of time ministering to people dying of aids, and held the hands of two while they died. The verse that seemed to comfort most of them (and they all professed to be Christians) was Romans 8:38-39 – that absolutely nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in King Jesus our Lord. My own favorite verse is Romans 10:9 (in my own paraphrase but reasonably accurate): If you can sincerely say that Jesus is Lord and King of the Universe, and can sincerely believe that God raised Him from the dead, then you have been healed and you have been made whole. I spend lots of time in prayer asking the Spirit of God to guide me. I will never be the first to throw a stone at someone else’s beliefs.

    Keep up the good work, Nick. I look forward to receiving your blogs and book reviews.

  4. Larry: I believe in substitutionary atonement without the penal part. It all hinges on a perceived difference between Christ suffering for our sins (which I believe he did) vs. Christ being punished for our sins (which I don’t think is what went on). But I respect your right to disagree. I just felt led to share what I believe to be the case from my study of Scripture.

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