Using Biblical Integrity to Evangelize Catholics
After 17 years in corporate sales, I found myself using similar marketing techniques to evangelize the lost as I had used to persuade clients to buy my computers. I would present the features, advantages and benefits of trusting Jesus as Savior and then use unbiblical methods to try and close the deal. When people refused to repeat a prayer or acted disinterested, I would keep going back over the Gospel presentation, trying to coerce them to believe. Whenever the Gospel was rejected, I felt like a failure, totally frustrated and defeated.
Little did I know at the time that conversion is solely the work of our triune God. Unless the Father draws and the Spirit provides illumination and conviction there will be no conversions, no matter how clear the Gospel of Jesus has been presented (John 6:44; 16:8-11; 1 Cor. 2:12-15). Since then, I have come to know my responsibility as an ambassador for Jesus Christ is to live my life worthy of His calling and to deliver His message faithfully, accurately, completely and clearly. It is only Godís sovereign power and grace that can bring forth new life as the imperishable seed is planted in the hearts of His elect. This has been so liberating for me! Godís word corrected my man-centered approach to evangelism. As I sow the seed (Godís Word), I now know only God can cause the growth (1 Cor. 3:7).
Over the last 100 years many unbiblical methods of evangelism have crept into the church and have produced many false converts. Many well-meaning soul winners are using these methods today. I pray we would all evaluate our doctrine and methods so that Jesus will be fully glorified and represented accurately in our witnessing. Our evangelistic efforts should be motivated, guided and controlled by Scripture, not by using "craftiness or adulterating the word of God" (2 Cor. 4:2). Only then will we see the great number of false conversions reduced. Only then will the number of unregenerate "professors of Christ" who bring shame and dishonor to the name of Jesus be minimized. And only then will the number of people living with a false hope of salvation be curtailed.
Make Disciples, Not Decisions
We must avoid using half-truths and reducing the Gospel to nothing more than a fire escape in order to manipulate people into making a decision. Asking sinners to choose heaven over the everlasting torment of hell is easy. However, the goal of evangelism is not to make decisions but to make devoted disciples of Jesus Christ who will be conformed to His image and bear fruit (Rom. 8:29; John 15:8). As ambassadors for Christ, we must entreat sinners to be reconciled to their Holy God and Creator (2 Cor. 5:20). We do this by teaching them to observe all that Jesus commands (Mat. 28:19-20). Jesus calls sinners to bring and leave their sins at the cross, and follow Him in the newness of life (1 Pet. 2:21). Then, having been freed from the power of sin, they are to follow Him as slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:18).
Call For Repentance
As Jesus began His earthly ministry His first command was: "Repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15). He came to call sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). So, if we neglect calling sinners to repentance, we risk adding them to the group of "professing Christians" who will meet Jesus at the Great White Throne. They will be stunned when they hear Him declare: "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Mat. 7:23). What an irreversible tragedy for these victims of "evangelists" who used unbiblical methods to convert them or who failed to communicate what it means to trust Jesus.
Christ-centered witnessing is calling people to trust the Lord Jesus, not only to be delivered from the punishment of sin but from sin itself (Psalm 39:8). Those who have no desire to be released from the bondage of sin are not candidates for conversion. Anyone who loves darkness because it hides their sin, will reject the light of the Gospel. For these we must pray that God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, who has held them captive (2 Tim. 2:25-26). When God grants repentance (Greek: metanoia), it effects a change of mind from error to truth. This change of mind will be evidenced by a change of behavior, a turning from dead religious works and sin to faith in Christ for forgiveness and deliverance (1 Thes. 1:9). Accordingly, Jesus said, "repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name" (Luke 24:47). Since it is God who grants repentance that leads to life, repentance is never a condition for salvation, but evidence that the sinner has received divine power to turn from sin (Acts 11:18).
Clearly, the grace of God that brings salvation instructs us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:11-14). Salvation is by grace but grace does not give converts license and freedom to live in the flesh, but power and instruction to live in the Spirit. Jesus bore manís sins in his body on the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). Those who hear the Gospel and do not repent must be warned. If they go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment (Heb.10:26-27).
Proclaim Jesus As The Only Hope
As I interact with people throughout each day, I ask them about heaven and how they hope to get there. Would you be surprised to know that four out of every five responders never mention the name of Jesus Christ? Most people believe their good works will qualify them for heaven. Others trust sacraments, baptism, repeating a prayer or their religious activity. These facts appear inconceivable in a country where 86% of the population profess Christianity. How can there be so much ignorance concerning the Gospel? The answer is convicting! There are few Christians proclaiming it clearly and still fewer contending against all the counterfeit gospels. Needless to say, the churches in America represent a huge mission field. There are many "professing Christians" who "accepted" Jesus but do not know what it means to trust Him. Others may have repeated a prayer without ever understanding the Gospel. True faith is not just lip service. Jesus condemned those who honored Him with their lips but not with their hearts and lives (Mat. 15:7-9). To trust Jesus for salvation is to forsake all efforts to save oneself and to have complete confidence in His finished work of redemption. This means to forsake any attempt to merit salvation by self-righteousness, good works, baptism, sacraments, indulgences, obeying the law or church membership. Grace is the only means by which God saves sinners. Sinners must come to Jesus with empty hands of faith.
Warn of False Teachers
The Apostle Paul, known as the greatest evangelist in the first century, is an excellent model for us to follow. He not only proclaimed the Gospel faithfully against relentless opposition, but he also warned of "professing Christians" who would distort the truth and draw away disciples (Acts 20:30). For this reason he taught antithetically, proclaiming what the Gospel is, as well as, what it is not. This technique is so important when witnessing to "professing Christians" who have been led astray by a perversion of the true Gospel. Paulís antithetical teaching declares salvation is by grace and not of works (Eph. 2:8-9), by Godís mercy and not righteous deeds (Titus 3:5) and according to Godís Holy calling and initiative, not manís (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 8:28-30). If we follow Paulís example we will warn Catholics that: 1) sinners are justified by personal faith in Jesus, not by water baptism; 2) sins are purified only by the precious blood of Jesus, not by purgatoryís fire; 3) the expiation of sin is accomplished by the redemptive work of Jesus, not by penance and indulgences and 4) grace must be without works otherwise it is not grace. Unless we exhort Catholics to trust Jesus alone, we are not proclaiming the truth.
All Christians are given the royal privilege of being an ambassador for the King of kings. The King will measure our success by faithfulness, not results. We must faithfully share His message as He revealed it in His Word! To deviate from His Word is to give error an opportunity to corrupt the only way sinners can come to God. Let us all evaluate our evangelism in light of Godís holy word and emulate the apostles. They were faithful, bold, fearless, dogmatic, intolerant and unaccommodating of sin and error, inflexible concerning the Gospel, controversial, devoted to Christ and willing to die for Him and His Gospel. To God be all glory and praise!
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