Evangelism: Self-Benefit as a Catalyst
- Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Sharing one's faith often is the mature believer's Achilles' heel. As we grow in grace in all other areas of the faith, we tend to lag behind in preaching the Gospel to unbelievers in our workplaces and neighborhoods. Excuses for our lack of obedience in this area abound.
While we see the immediate benefits that sharing our faith has toward unbelievers, we do not see the immediate benefits that sharing our faith has toward ourselves. Yet the benefits toward our own walks with the Lord should move us to share. Here are four benefits:
Sharing Expands Your Study of the Bible and Theology
As you share your faith with unbelievers, especially those less familiar with Christian culture and jargon, they are likely to raise questions about the Christian faith. In particular, they are likely to raise questions related to evil in the world or current events. But we do not always have the answers. So then we have to go back to the Scriptures, pull out commentaries, apologetics books, and systematic theologies so that we can be better equipped for answers to future questions. "Why is it that you must believe in theism in order to be morally good when many atheists seem to be upright citizens?" "Is Cain's wife a problem for the trustworthiness of Scripture?" You will need to study in order to answer these questions and give reason for your hope (1 Peter 3:15). In the process of study, your own knowledge of Scripture and theology will deepen.
Sharing Encourages You to deepen in Prayer
Regularly sharing your faith quickly will lead you to people who are hostile or simply will not listen to reason. Unfortunately, when we run into such people, we might be tempted to "win" an argument rather than explain the Gospel. This is prideful response—a one that focuses on oneself and the desire to be victorious rather than defeated. In effect, we act as if the Lord would be glorified only by our power to convince another. We fall into this self-centered response due to a lack of dependency on the Spirit (cf. Mark 14:38). In contrast, the Spirit's power comes through prayer (Acts 4:31).
Sharing Fosters Humility When We Realize our Weakness to Rescue a Soul
Being full of the Spirit through prayer does not guarantee the conversion of the one with whom we are sharing. Even our clearest presentations of the Gospel with the most loving approaches toward the unbeliever cannot make someone respond to the truth about Christ. A heart that is blind to God's glory, corrupt in its thinking about God, hateful toward its creator, and completely unregenerate is not overcome by the craftiness or perfection of our speaking. Only the power of Christ opens lost eyes to salvation in Christ; it is a work of divine grace and mercy, not of human skill.
For someone burdened for the souls of the lost, this can be frustrating. However, it should be humbling, for our lack of ability to convert a soul shows that we are yet helpless. Being helpless, we are unable to view ourselves as significant, important, or powerful. Instead, we are insignificant, unimportant, and weak. With this view of ourselves, we are prepared to receive great grace, "for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).
Moreover, Christ told his disciples that they would reap [souls] for "harvest" (salvation) where others had sown [the Gospel] (John 4:38). When we witness someone's eyes open to Christ as a result of our sharing the Gospel, even then it is because of work on the part of God through others. We, weak as we are to save a soul, only have been vessels of the Gospel.
Sharing Sensitivity to Lostness of World—to the Experiences of Others
Sharing my faith is a great vaccine against ministering to others in a manner that is overly influenced by my level of social mobility, healthy family background, or measure of grace given to my marriage. While sharing my faith, I run into people who have given up on "church" and "religion" because "life" has dealt them a bad hand - a hand with which I often have no personal experience. As the people on the other end of my sharing of the Gospel relate to me stories of childhood molestation, abandonment by a parent or spouse, their family's fall into poverty at the death of the breadwinner, or of growing up fatherless, I am moved to pity for them. However, if I stay in my isolated and protected world of a strong Christian church, and a faithful and loving family, I will miss hearing of the ravages of sin in the lives of others. By sharing the Gospel I stay sensitive to the various forms and consequences of sin in the lives of people.
Sharing Makes You Faithful to the Great Commission—to Giving Gospel to the lost
The most obvious benefit to ourselves is that we are obedient to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), and thus to the Lord. This comes with the added benefit of the promised presence of God himself: "I will be with you always, even until the end of the age."
Share your faith with others. You will bless them with the offer of the Lord's love, grace, mercy, joy, and peace through the preaching of the Gospel. In doing so, the sharing will bless you too.
Eric C. Redmond is Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Follow Eric at his blog, A Man from Issachar, and on Twitter @EricCRedmond.
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