Contrition is a genuine sorrow for sin, and the Scriptures tell us that it is the catalyst for genuine repentance. So why don’t we focus on this attribute in modern evangelism?
September 9, 2021
Be a Ready Witness
The Scriptures say, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). We should be ready to preach the gospel to everyone we meet, at all times. One way to keep yourself always prepared is to constantly think about the fate of the unsaved. Think of yourself as a person living in the midst of a terrible drought. You have been given a supply of food and water to share. So how do you prepare yourself? You make sure you have food at hand for when you see someone who is starving to death. Our “food” is the gospel. That’s what we want to get into the heart of dying humanity. You can use gospel tracts to get their mouths open. So, here’s a summary: 1) Be prayerful. 2) Carry tracts. 3) Go over the gospel in your mind until you know how to present it biblically in three minutes, or in thirty minutes.
“We should be ready to preach the gospel to everyone we meet, at all times.”
Those who use the excuse that they don’t know what to say are perhaps those referred to in Scripture as being “ashamed” of the gospel. They are usually those who have never studied to show themselves approved as “a worker who does not need to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15). Don’t let that be true of you. (We have plenty of resources available to help you.
I thought that I was “always ready” to give an answer, but the other day I found that I wasn’t. I was riding my bike to work when I saw a gentleman walking on the sidewalk. As I rode past him I offered him a Ten Commandments coin and said, “Did you get one of these?” He grabbed it from my hand and said, “Hey! Thank you very much!” He didn’t know what it was, but he was so enthusiastic I immediately wished I had stopped and engaged him in a conversation about the things of God. All the way to work I was kicking myself for not stopping, and I spent some time thinking about the incident. I came to the conclusion that I was not “always ready.” I had a subconscious mentality of “hit and run.” I needed to have a predetermined mindset to engage in a conversation, before I encountered anyone.
A few days later I was riding to work when I saw a teenager on a skateboard heading for me. Suddenly, he slipped and sent the skateboard flying onto a busy road. He quickly ran out and retrieved it, and jumped back onto the sidewalk. I said a friendly, “That was close!” and followed with, “Here’s a million dollars for you.” He smiled, then I said, “It’s a gospel tract. What do you think happens after someone dies? Do you think there’s a Heaven?” There was no offense on his part. He said, “I’m not sure.” “Do you think there’s a Hell?” “Definitely.” That reply was interesting. So, we went through the Commandments, opening up their spiritual nature.
“If you are a chicken like me and you fight inner fears, do yourself a big favor. Deal with your fears in the prayer closet, and predetermine to be ready.”
It turned out that he had lied, stolen, lusted, and blasphemed God’s name. He became rather sober, and it concerned him that because of his sins he was heading for Hell. I then shared the good news that Jesus paid his fine and rose from the dead, and upon his repentance and faith in Jesus, God would grant him everlasting life. We shook hands. He went on his way, and I went on mine.
So if you are a chicken like me and you fight inner fears, do yourself a big favor. Deal with your fears in the prayer closet, and predetermine to be ready. Always.
Make the Bullet Hit the Target
It is obvious from Scripture that God requires us not only to preach to sinners, but also to teach them. The servant of the Lord must be “able to teach, patient, in humility correcting” those who oppose them (2 Timothy 2:24,25). For a long while I thought I was to leap among sinners, scatter the seed, then leave. But our responsibility goes further. We are to bring the sinner to a point of understanding his need before God. Psalm 25:8 says, “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way.” Psalm 51:13 adds, “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” The Great Commission is to “make disciples of all the nations,…teaching them to observe all things” (Matthew 28:19,20). The disciples obeyed that command as “daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42).
The “good-soil” hearer is he who “hears…and understands” (Matthew 13:23). Philip the evangelist saw fit to ask his potential convert, the Ethiopian, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30). Some open-air speakers are like a loud gun that misses the target. It may sound effective, but if the bullet misses the target, the exercise is in vain. He may be the largest-lunged, chandelier-swinging, pulpit-pounding preacher this side of the book of Acts, but if the sinner leaves the meeting failing to understand his desperate need of God’s forgiveness, then the speaker has failed. He has missed the target, which is the understanding of the sinner. This is why the Law of God must be used in evangelism. It is a “tutor” to bring “the knowledge of sin” (Galatians 3:24; Romans 3:20). It teaches and instructs. A sinner will come to “know His will, and approve the things that are excellent,” if he is “instructed out of the Law” (Romans 2:18).
The Fruit of Your Labors
When you share the gospel, you may have times when you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything. Christians may come up to you and say things like, “I led 169 people to the Lord last week, praise the Lord. All glory to Him for what He’s doing!” And there you are, faithfully laboring away, and you haven’t seen anyone come to the Lord.
More than likely, the main reason that you don’t see “decisions” for Christ is that you fear God. And because of that healthy fear of the Lord, you don’t want to lead a single soul into a false profession of faith. We know how easy it is to get decisions and impress people with numbers, but we also know better. It would be easy to say to those who have heard the gospel, “Do you know for sure that your name is written in Heaven? Would you like to have that knowledge? I could lead you in a sinner’s prayer right now, so you can know that when you die you will go to Heaven. Would you like to pray?” God forbid that you and I would contribute to the numbers of tares that are sitting among the wheat in the contemporary church.
“Divorce yourself from the thought that you are merely seeking ‘decisions for Christ.’ What we are praying for is repentance within the heart.”
So divorce yourself from the thought that you are merely seeking “decisions for Christ.” What we are praying for is repentance within the heart. This is the purpose of the Law, to bring the knowledge of sin. How can a man repent if he doesn’t know what sin is? If there is no repentance, there is no salvation. Jesus said, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), and God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Many don’t understand that the salvation of a soul is not a resolution to change a way of life, but exercising “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). The modern concept of success in evangelism is to relay how many people were “saved” (that is, how many prayed the “sinner’s prayer”). This produces a “no decisions, no success” mentality. This shouldn’t be, because Christians who seek decisions in evangelism become discouraged after a time of witnessing if “no one came to the Lord.” The Bible tells us that as we sow the good seed of the gospel, one sows and another reaps. If you faithfully sow the seed, someone else may reap. If you reap, it is because someone has sown in the past, but it is God who causes the seed to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6,7). If you lead someone in a prayer of committal, but there is no conviction of sin and therefore no “godly sorrow [that] produces repentance leading to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10), then you will end up with a stillbirth on your hands—and that is nothing to rejoice about. We should measure our success by how faithfully we sowed the seed. In that way, we will avoid becoming discouraged.
I preached the gospel for twelve years almost daily, and hardly saw a soul come to Christ. However, after I left New Zealand and came to the United States, I started to hear of individuals surrendering to Christ who had listened to the gospel so long ago.
So here is the way to keep yourself encouraged. See yourself as sowing in tears, then read these verses over and over, until you are familiar with them and understand them:
“And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together. For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored, and you have entered into their labors.” (John 4:36–38)
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Never be discouraged. Keep asking God that you may see fruit for your labors, but don’t let seeing fruit now be your source of encouragement and motivation. Let it simply be the fact that God is faithful to watch over His Word. There’s nothing wrong with the seed of the gospel and it’s up to God to cause it to bring life, in His perfect timing. You will see fruit in eternity. That’s where it counts.