by Bruce Mills
I listened to a sermon recently which really got me to thinking about our modern day assumptions about the nature of man and the impact of those assumptions on our evangelism. The modern psychologically-driven concept is that man is basically good; that he loves God, and that his evil deeds are aberrations rather than the inner desire of his heart. To the contrary, Scripture is clear that man is not basically good. Rather, he is corrupt to the core. There is nothing about him that desires, seeks, or does anything that is good, righteous, or worthy (cf. Romans 3:10-18). That is not to say that man is incapable of doing things which are "good" within the context of human relationships, but that even man's righteous deeds are filthy to God (cf. Isaiah 64:6). Thus, man is not the good person he considers himself to be.
This understanding has tremendous implications for our evangelism methods. Many modern day evangelicals have adopted the world's viewpoint that man desires that which is good and genuinely seeks to know God, so they think that if they can craft their presentation of the gospel in a particularly persuasive way, those who hear will be convinced of the truth contained in it and will thus turn to Christ.
But when we recognize that man is not basically good and does not seek after the things of God, we will understand that our presentation of the gospel, no matter how clear and convincing it may be, is incapable of convincing anyone to turn from his sin to Christ. Unless the Holy Spirit is working in the human heart to draw a man to the Lord, no one will ever seek after God on his own.
This takes the pressure off of us in presenting the gospel. When we realize that salvation is entirely the work of God who sovereignly elects those who will believe and then draws them to Himself, granting them the faith to believe the gospel, we will recognize that it is not essential that our presentation of the gospel be persuasive and convincing. We are only called to be faithful to present the gospel. Yes, we must include important issues such as God's holiness, man's sin, the need for repentance, and saving faith in Jesus Christ alone, but we are not responsible for the response of those who hear. That is God's sovereign work. He has ordained those who will come to faith, and He has ordained the means by which they will hear. The Holy Spirit takes the truth of the gospel, applies it to the heart of the hearer, and then draws those who will believe to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sin.
So the next time you present the gospel to someone and they don't respond like you prayed that they would, don't beat yourself up later, telling yourself, "If only I had said this..." or "If only I had said that..." If He chooses to do so, God is able to take the most stumbling, inarticulate presentation of the gospel and draw the hearer to Himself. In fact, Paul discusses this whole issue in 1 Cor. 1:18-31 where he talks about the foolishness of the gospel message and how God chooses the weak and foolish things of the world to shame the things that are wise. So don't worry about how stumbling and disjointed your presentation of the gospel may have been; just be faithful to Him by presenting the gospel and then trust that He is able to accomplish that which He desires in the hearts of those whom He intends to save.