3. Evangelism — Our Most Sobering Task
It was late in December, 1996. A large family gathered in Los Angeles for the joyous occasion of wrapping Christmas presents. It was a big family because it was the product of two marriages. There were so many gathered that night, five of the children slept in the garage. It was a converted structure, kept warm during the cold night by an electric heater which sat by the door.
During the early hours of the morning, the heater suddenly burst into flames, blocking the doorway. In seconds the room became a blazing inferno. The frantic 911 call revealed the unspeakable terror of the moment. One of the children could be heard screaming, “I’m on fire!” The distraught father vainly rushed into the flames to try and save his beloved children. He received burns to 50% of his body. Tragically, all five of the children burned to death. They died because steel bars on the windows of the garage thwarted their escape. There was only one door, and that was stopped by the flames.
You are back in time. It’s minutes before the heater burst into flames. You peer through the darkness at the peaceful sight of five sleeping youngsters. You know that at any moment the room is going to erupt into an inferno and burn the flesh of horrified children. Can you in good conscience walk away? No! You must awaken them, and warn them to run from that death trap!
The world sleeps peacefully in the darkness of ignorance. There is only one Door by which they may escape death. The steel bars of sin prevent their salvation, and at the same time call for the flames of Eternal Justice. What a fearful thing Judgment Day will be! The fires of the wrath of Almighty God will burn for eternity. The Church has been entrusted with the task of awakening them before it’s too late. We cannot turn our backs and walk away in complacency. Think of how the father ran into the flames. His love knew no bounds, and our devotion to the sober task that God has given us will be in direct proportion to our love for the lost. There are only a few who run headlong into the flames to warn them to flee (Luke 10:2). Please be one of them. We really have no choice. The Apostle Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
It was the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, who said the words, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that.” A Christian cannot be apathetic about the salvation of the world. The love of God in him will motivate him to seek and save that which is lost.
You probably have a limited amount of time after your conversion to impact your unsaved friends and family with the Gospel. After the initial shock of your conversion, they will put you in a neat little ribbon-tied box, and keep you at arm’s length. So it’s important that you take advantage of the short time you have while you still have their ears.
Here’s some advice that will save you a great deal of grief. As a new Christian, a friend of mine did almost irreparable damage by acting like a wild bull in a crystal showroom. He bullied his mom, his dad, and many of his friends into making a “decision for Christ”. He was sincere, zealous, loving, kind, and stupid. He didn’t understand that salvation doesn’t come through making a “decision,” but through repentance, and repentance is God-given (see 2 Timothy 2:25). The Bible teaches that no one can come to the Son unless God “draws” him. If you are able to get a decision but they have no conviction of sin, you will almost certainly end up with a still-born on your hands.
In his “zeal without knowledge” he actually inoculated the very ones he was so desperately trying to reach. There is nothing more important to you than the salvation of your loved ones, and you don’t want to blow it. If you do, you may find that you don’t have a second chance. Fervently pray for them, thanking God for their salvation. Let them see your faith. Let them feel your kindness, your genuine love, and your gentleness. Buy gifts for no reason. Do chores when you are not asked to. Go the extra mile. Put yourself in their position. You know that you have found everlasting life. Death has lost its sting! Your joy is unspeakable — but as far as they are concerned, you have been brain-washed. You have become part of a weird sect. So your loving actions will speak more loudly than ten thousand eloquent sermons.
It is because of these thoughts that you should hold back from verbal confrontation until you have knowledge that will guide your zeal. Pray for wisdom and for a sensitivity to God’s timing. You may have only one shot, so make it count. Keep your cool. If you don’t, you may end up with a lifetime of regret. Believe me. It is better to hear a loved one or a close friend say, “Tell me about your faith in Jesus Christ,” rather than you saying, “Sit down. I want to talk to you.”
It is important to realize that we should share our faith with others whenever we can. The Bible says that there are only two times we should do this — “in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). The Apostle Paul pleaded for prayer for his own personal witness. He said, “. . . that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak,” (Ephesians 6:19-20).
Remember that you have the sobering responsibility of speaking to other peoples’ loved ones. Many times when you open your mouth for the Gospel, you may be the answer to the earnest prayer of another Christian. Perhaps he has cried out to God that He would use a faithful witness to speak to his beloved mom or dad, and you are that answer to prayer. You are that true and faithful witness that God wants to use.
Never lose sight of the world and all its pains. Keep the fate of the ungodly before your eyes. Too many of us settle down on a padded pew and become introverted. Our world becomes a monastery without walls. Our friends are confined solely to those within the Church, when Jesus was the “friend of sinners.” So take the time to deliberately befriend them for the sake of their salvation. Remember that each and every person who dies in their sins has an appointment with the Judge of the Universe. Hell opens wide its terrible jaws. There is no more sobering task than to be entrusted with the Gospel of Salvation — working with God for the eternal well-being of dying humanity.