“I can’t get them to see the light. But you know what? I’m going to keep working on them.” Perhaps you’ve heard this sentiment expressed by others or you’ve entertained this kind of thought in relation to the one who has not yet trusted in Christ.
I don’t know about you, but for me, one of the real challenges of the evangelistic endeavor is to see lost people as precious, not projects!
There are times I’m tempted to think that if I simply say the right thing, share that timely book, video or other resource, serve them through good deeds, or simply pray long and hard enough – that precious individual who needs the Lord will, in turn, receive Christ. And if they don’t, then I have done something wrong.
As Christians, we are called to pray, love, serve, and proclaim the gospel…with no strings attached. Why? Because people are precious. Ultimately, what happens between them and the Lord is between them and the Lord. We are simply called to be faithful in expression of our love for God and others and to proclaim the gospel message, the message of salvation in Christ Jesus.
Here are three principles that hopefully will sharpen our perspective and undergird our evangelistic efforts to people…who are precious:1. Jesus is our example.
In Luke 17:11–17, Jesus heals ten lepers, yet only one returned to Jesus, giving thanks and glorifying God. Jesus, in His omniscience, knew only one would return, yet it didn’t prevent him from healing them all nonetheless. Jesus healed them not because they would respond, but because they were broken and had a need.
After Jesus miraculously fed the 5,000 in John 6:1-14, the next day the crowd arrives for more. Jesus challenges them, saying, “you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26). Jesus fed the multitude, again knowing their motives and the intent of their hearts. Yet, He saw a need and met the need.
In our sphere of influence, we need the reminder to love people, serve people and proclaim the gospel to people because of their need for Jesus, not because they will respond the way we desire.
2. The Holy Spirit does the wooing and the working.
As His witnesses, the Holy Spirit works in and through us. In his second letter to the Church in Corinth, Paul instructed believers that as His “ambassadors of reconciliation,” God was “making an appeal” through them (2 Corinthians 5:20) to be reconciled to God through faith in Jesus. The same holds true for us today as His children.
Ultimately, it is He Who does the wooing (John 6:37, 44, 65), the work of conviction of sin (John 16:8), and the work of regeneration (John 3:6, John 6:63).
Yes, God’s desire for people to know Him is much greater than ours! For He desires “no one perish, but that all would come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), nor does He “delight in the death of the wicked” (Ezekiel 18:23, 33:11). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Therefore, in light of these truths, both rejection and reception of the gospel is a response to the Lord, not to us. And this should take the pressure off.
3. We are all in the same boat.
We are all image bearers of God (Genesis 1:26). Yet our image, as image bearers, has been shattered by sin. And the result – separation from God. That’s why Jesus came to reconcile us to Him.
Affirming people as image bearers of the Creator is huge. Because in the eyes of many, people are just random chance accidents and essentially, as some would argue, simply animals. Yet for the Christian, our affirmation of people as image bearers can create a platform of authenticity, caring, and gospel proclamation.
Remember, evangelism is not about ‘me and them’ – rather it’s about ‘us.’ Our shared humanity reveals our shared need – for our shared humanity reveals our shared brokenness – man’s image has been marred by man’s sin. And the consequence of our sin runs deep – “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). That’s why Christ ‘died for the ungodly’ (Romans 5:6-8).
In light of our shared brokenness and shared need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God as human beings, D.T. Niles describes evangelism as “one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread”.
As we seek to be salt and light among those who’ve not yet met the Savior, may we convey to them a sense that they are in fact, not projects, but precious to us and to the living God.
“Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honored, And I have loved you.” – Isaiah 43:4