I had the wonderful privilege of leading a teenager to Christ last week. He is a 14yr old country Carolina kid with little church background and his parents show virtually no interest in the Gospel. As I was walking through Eph. 2:1-10 with the guys in the Wed night youth class, it was obvious that “Jim” was wrestling with what he heard. When class was over I asked him to hang around for a few minutes and before we left the room he had repented of his sin and confessed Christ as His Savior!
Anyone who regularly shares his faith knows the struggle for balance in the way he presents the Gospel.We want to make clear the “good news” of salvation in Christ, but we must also be clear about the bad news that precedes it—the fact that we are spiritually dead, sinners who have offended a holy Creator God, and are deserving of His holy wrath.Both the bad news and the good news are true and we want both to be presented clearly in hopes of seeing the person converted to Christ.But, is that all?Is there anything else that we should be clear about when sharing the Gospel?I think so.
In Luke 14:25ff Jesus is being followed by great crowds, but He is well aware that each crowd member does not represent a committed follower. In this passage Jesus turns to the crowd and says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Strong words from the Savior! In verse 28 He says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Now, it is not uncommon for believers to be challenged with the message to count the cost.We are told to give up everything we have for Jesus and are reminded of Jesus’ hyperbolic language to ‘hate father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, and even ourselves’ to follow Him, but why do we not hear more of this on the front end?Why is it uncommon for a preacher when he is giving the invitation to remind the hearers to count the cost before committing to Christ?Why aren’t Christians taught in their evangelism training to make clear the cost of following Christ before they “pray the prayer?”
In his book The Gospel & Personal Evangelism, Mark Dever encourages Believers to seek this balance when sharing the Gospel. He writes, “First, we tell people with honesty that if they repent and believe, they will be saved. But they will need to repent, and it will be costly. We must be accurate in what we say, not holding any important parts back that seem to us awkward or off-putting.” (55)
It seems, then, that an appropriate way of doing evangelism is to make three things clear; the bad news, the good news, and the caveat. The bad news is that we are sinners in need of a Savior; the good news is that God has provided a Savior in Christ; the caveat is that it costs to be a Christ-follower. Praise the Lord for faithful Believers with a zeal for evangelism and a heart to reach people, but let’s be sure that while we seek to “persuade others” we also remind them that “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot by my disciple.” (Lk 14:33)
So, what difference will this make?First, we can be certain that fewer people will be hasty in their decision to follow Christ.For us Baptists this is difficult to swallow since we are prone to look at converts as “notches on our belt.”But I consider it a blessed thing when a lost person gives an honest response to an honest gospel presentation by saying, “I understand, and I need to think about it.”One young teenager told me after numerous conversations that he believed he was a sinner, and he believed that Jesus is the sinless Savior who died, but he simply wasn’t willing to pay the price to be a Christ-follower.I pray for his soul, yet I appreciate and respect his honesty.
As I talked with “Jim” and several other boys last week, I told them that I was confident I could coerce them to say a prayer and appear to have been converted.Then, I’m sure it wouldn’t take much to get them in the baptismal waters where their parents and grandparents would shed tears of joy and we could add three more to our baptism tally.But this does not serve them well; not to mention that it potentially places them in eternal peril.Thankfully, when “Jim” prayed, repenting of sin and asking Christ to save him, he did so fully aware of what he was getting into.He was fully prepared to be the only Christian in his home.He was prepared to find new friends.He understood that one day he could die for his faith!He was broken over the bad news, rejoiced in the Good News, considered what it would cost to follow Christ, and then said, “I want to be saved!”Praise the Lord!