Category Archives: Evangelism

John 6:44 and Acts 9:15

This morning I took a long walk during which I thought about what Jesus said in John 6:44: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” His point was that those listening to him would not believe until God the Father drew them to himself. It takes a supernatural work of God to convince sinners of their sinfulness, lack of righteousness, and future judgment.

My first thought was to consider the work God did in the demoniac of Gadera. This man was hopelessly lost and oppressed by demons. In his case, his only hope was to meet Jesus and be freed from his situation. What could be worse? When I got home from my walk, the Lord brought to mind another hopeless case: Saul of Tarsus. Saul was so blinded by his religious background that he fought against the very God he was attempting to serve. Remember how he held the coats of those who stoned faithful Stephen? And yet, God called this man despite his anti-Christian bias. On the same day that he meant to imprison Christians from Damascus, God called him and he responded.

But even Ananias, one of God’s faithful followers in Damascus, was skeptical. When the Lord told him to go to Saul, Ananias answered with an “Are you sure you want me to do that?” The Lord’s answer was simple: “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” God’s choice over ruled Saul’s hopeless situation. And the results from that effectual calling are evident not only in the book of Acts but in the inspired writings of Saul/Paul.

No matter how bad the situation, when God calls a sinful person to himself, he will come to him.

Chart of Salvation: Introduction

Is there a God? You may be wondering about that yourself. You’ve heard people talk about God at weddings and funerals, but as far as you’re concerned he doesn’t exist. When you look at the world you don’t see evidence for God. What you see is a bunch of people trying to make the best of life until death ends their existence. Where is God in that?

The truth is that God does exist and he is actively involved. Take a look at the world around you. Do you really believe that the intricate details of the world and its ecosystem simply came together by chance? How is it that our planet is just the right distance away from the sun? If it were any closer we would be burned up; if any further away we would freeze. How is it that just the right amount of oxygen is always available for us to breathe? It’s not by chance that trees and plants interact with the carbon dioxide we exhale and then produce more oxygen for our use. Things like this and many more point toward the existence of God, the one who created everything that exists around you.

But is the Creator just a being who wound up creation like a big clock and then left it alone? No, God is actively involved in our lives and he has revealed himself to us in a book called the Bible. The Bible is God’s way of communicating himself and his plan for all of us. As you read it, you will find out about the creation of the world, God’s desire for a relationship with mankind, man’s choice to rebel against God, God’s gracious remedy for that sin, and God’s wonderful plan for all those who believe.

In the next few paragraphs, I would like to show you this plan that God has formulated for everyone. It may be helpful to view the chart as well. In the first section (begins at the bottom center of chart), we will look at man’s problem and in the second (top center), God’s solution. By the end, my hope is that you will understand what God has done and that you will respond to him in faith.

Next: 1. Sinful man does not seek God.

The Key to Evangelism

As I have been studying the book of Revelation in Sunday School class, one thing has become quite clear. Regarding the judgments against ungodly men during the Tribulation, one commenter rightly sums things up:

… the greatest judgments that can befall men, will not bring to repentance without the grace of God. To be hardened against God, by his righteous judgments, is a certain token of sure and utter destruction.

This is the sad but true predicament that every man faces without God’s grace. Unless God graciously opens the heart to believe, all is hopeless … now and in the future. As a result, we need to pray that God would extend his grace to each person we meet. Only then do we have hope of seeing sinful people converted. Let’s pray this week and see what God is (and has always been) able to accomplish!

Chart of Salvation 9: God will one day take believers home

Previous: God gives assurance through growth.

When I was younger, we learned songs about the Christian life such as “Oh it is wonderful to be a Christian,” “There is Joy in Serving Jesus,” and “Happiness is to Know the Savior.” There is truth in each of these statements. But that joy is often overshadowed by the cares of life that we all face. Christians still struggle with temptation. We still sin and need God’s continued forgiveness. And we still face sickness, sadness, persecution, and death. And that is why this next point is so precious.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. —1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

In these verses, we learn that God will one day take believers home to heaven. Even though some believers have already died, all of us will be reunited when the Lord returns at a time called the Rapture. At that time, we will hear a shout, the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God. Then the Lord will descend from heaven and all believers (both the living and the dead) will meet him in the air! From then on, each of us will receive a new, glorified body which will be free from sin and death. And God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. And in this glorified state, we will live with him forever! As we face the ups and downs of life, we can become discouraged. But this wonderful thought will bring us comfort as we consider the great future God has in store for each of us who have believed.

Chart of Salvation 8: God gives assurance through growth

Previous: God requires Faith and Repentance

From the moment you turn from your sin to Jesus, God begins a wonderful transformation of your life (2 Cor. 5:17). Every new believer is given a new spiritual heart and God’s Holy Spirit to guide him. As wonderful as this change is, there are times when you may experience doubt about what has happened. Does God really love me? Did he really forgive me of my sins? At times like this, the best thing to do is follow the advice of Scripture.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
—2 Peter 1:5-9

In these verses, Peter tells new believers that assurance comes from a growing relationship with God. As you continue believing God’s promises, add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. These characteristics are developed with the help of the Holy Spirit as you submit to his leadership every day. Then, as these characteristics become a daily habit in your life, God will give you assurance that you are his child and will keep you from stumbling back into your former sinful life.

Next: 9. God will one day take believers home.

Chart of Salvation 6: God grants eternal life through Jesus.

Previous: God must intervene.

During their forty years in the wilderness, the Israelites provided a good illustration of faith in God. On one occasion they complained against God and Moses in the wilderness (Num. 21:4-9). God was displeased with their ingratitude and punished them with poisonous serpents. When they saw their predicament, they asked Moses to pray to God for their deliverance. God answered Moses’ prayer by telling him to raise a brass serpent on a pole. He told Moses that anyone who was bitten need only to look at the brass serpent and he would live. Through faith in God’s provision, all those who looked at it lived.

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. —John 3:14-16

Jesus used this event in Israel’s history to explain how he would provide eternal life through his death on the cross. All of us deserve God’s eternal punishment for our sins. And yet God loved us and provided Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. This was the only way that each of us could be saved from the horrible punishment we deserve. God became man and lived on the earth. His name was Jesus, the perfect Son of God, who lived a perfect life and then willingly died on the cross for the sins of the world. Because he became a man, he understood the temptations we face. And because he is God, he could pay the overwhelming debt for the sins of the world.

Next: 7. God requires faith and repentance.

Chart of Salvation 7: God Requires Faith and Repentance

Previous: God grants eternal life through Jesus.

My youngest son and I were talking one evening about salvation through Jesus Christ. After explaining the truth to him, I gently asked him if he would turn from his sin to God. His response at that time was, “It’s just too hard.” It wasn’t until months later that God finally convinced him of his need. During a message by a visiting preacher my son was willing to listen and respond in a positive way to the gospel. This was a happy occasion for us but one which needed to be handled carefully because of a dangerous trend today.

I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. —Acts 20:20-21

In the past 30 years or so, it has become popular to present a partial gospel that emphasizes faith without repentance. While the Scriptures do emphasize faith, they also show that repentance is also required. Think of it this way. Why would anyone want to believe in Jesus if he was planning on continuing to wallow in his sin? Repentance is a change of mind regarding one’s sinfulness that leads to not only faith in the Savior, but also to a different attitude toward sin. This is what God requires of anyone who will be saved.

Next: 8. God gives assurance through growth.

Chart of Salvation 5: God must Intervene

Previous: Sinful man deserves Hell.

On occasion you hear the story of someone who was rescued from a hopeless condition. A firefighter pulls an infant from a burning building just before it collapses. A search party finds a lost fisherman floating on the top of his overturned vessel in the vast ocean. The individuals in these situations were hopelessly lost until someone did something.

The same is true for sinful people like you and me. Because all of us are born spiritually dead toward God, we are unable to do anything about our sin problem. While we may sense a problem, none of us is willing to turn to Jesus for help … unless God does something.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
And I will raise him up on the last day. —John 6:44

The point is that those listening to Jesus would not believe until God the Father drew them to himself. It takes a supernatural work of God to convince sinners of their sinfulness, lack of righteousness, and the fact that they are deserving judgment. Consider an example of this from the Scriptures.

One of the most hopeless cases in the Bible is a man called the demoniac of Gadera. Please read the account in Mark 5:1-20. This man was possessed by many demons. Every night they would cause him to run wildly through the graveyard, screaming and cutting himself with sharp stones. The authorities had tried to stop him. They even tried to bind him with chains. But this demon-possessed man wrenched the chains off his arms and ran away! His situation was hopeless … until God intervened.

Through his divine power, Jesus commanded the demons to leave the man. When they left his body, he became a normal person again. What a difference was made in his life! The people who witnessed what happened were amazed. The man was so different that he wanted to become a follower of Jesus.

Q: What hope did the man have before Jesus arrived? What hope do you have without him?

Next: 6. God grants eternal life through Jesus.

Chart of Salvation 4: Sinful Man Deserves Hell

Previous: 3. Sinful man cannot please God.

I must admit that this is not one of my favorite topics. But the Scriptures are very clear that those who love their sin and reject the Lord Jesus Christ will face a terrible punishment in the future. But should this really surprise us? When a traffic law is broken, should we be surprised if we receive a fine? When a politician breaks the law, should we be surprised if he faces jail time? So, why is it different when we consider God’s judgment against sin?

You have to recognize that your sin is against the One who created you. When you rebelled against his commands in the Bible and chose to go your own way, did you expect that he would simply look away and not hold you accountable? His law is very clear that sin ultimately deserves death. From the very beginning, God told Adam and Eve that their disobedience would result in death. And when they chose to break God’s first law, death became the sad reality for us all. And according to our sovereign God, our sin still deserves death.

You have to recognize your sinfulness against God. Most people do not recognize their sinfulness. They compare themselves to those who have done worse and get the idea that they are not that bad. But the Bible says that all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:19-23). Falling short has the idea of shooting an arrow at a target and missing completely. That’s the way God describes sinful man — completely off target. But if you still think you measure up to God’s perfection, compare your life to the Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
  3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and your mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet.

No one can look at that list and still consider himself holy before God. And when you consider that Jesus considers lustful and angry thoughts as bad as adultery or murder, there is certainly no one without sin. All fall short of the glory of God. But what happens after an unrepentant sinner dies?

Recognize the punishment you deserve. The Bible states very clearly that those who have loved their sin and rejected God’s salvation through Jesus Christ are deserving of a terrible eternity of punishment. At the end of time, all those who have died without God’s forgiveness will answer to him at the Great White Throne judgment.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. —Revelation 20:11-15

This terrible judgment awaits all who have loved their sin and rejected Jesus. The Scriptures say that without Jesus, all sinful humanity will be judged without partiality according to their deeds. Look at the Scriptures again and see how terrible this judgment will be. No matter how great or small, all unrepentant sinners will stand before Jesus with no excuses to offer. Did you notice that books will be opened with records of each sinner’s guilt? It should not surprise us that God knows all that we have ever done and will hold us each responsible. Then at the end of the judgment, the Book of Life will be opened. This book holds the names of all those who have repented of their sins and believed in Jesus. But anyone whose name is not found in that precious book, will be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity. This terrible punishment is what God has prescribed for all who reject him. This is why you need God to intervene in your life. Read on.

Next: 5. God must intervene.

Chart of Salvation 3: Sinful Man Cannot Please God

Previous: 2. Sinful man is deceived.

When you take a plate of cookies to your new neighbor, that is a good thing to do. They appreciate it. When you stand up for a friend who is being bullied, that is a good thing to do. Your friend appreciates it. When you control your temper instead of yelling at someone, that is a good thing to do. Everyone appreciates it. From our perspective, those are all good things to do. But are they pleasing to God? Is he impressed by our “good deeds?”

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew the answer to this question. In Proverbs 15:8, he wrote, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” Solomon saw that God is not fooled by our outward actions. He sees straight to the heart. A wicked person cannot fool God into thinking that they are a good person just because they offered a sacrifice. God sees right through that hypocrisy. The point is that nothing you do can please God, because he sees your sinful heart. And apart from God’s influence, sinful man cannot please God.

The Lord Jesus spoke about this in Luke 18:9-14. He told the story of two men who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who was a respected, religious leader. During his prayer, he listed all the good things he had done: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men — extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.” You can smell his arrogance from across the room! And if you are honest, you have probably compared had the same kind of attitude. “I’m not as bad as that guy!” By comparing yourself to someone who is worse than you, you will come out looking pretty good. This man thought his good deeds impressed God, but God saw straight through to his sinful heart and was not pleased.

The other man had quite a different response. “And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!'” He saw himself from God’s perspective and knew that there was nothing he could do to please God. So he did the only thing he could: he cried out to God for mercy. And what was the result? The Lord Jesus proclaimed that this man was justified by God rather than the other. The point is that you are a sinful man who cannot please God. Your only hope is to turn to God and beg for his mercy.

Next: 4. Sinful man deserves Hell.