No matter how rich, famous, good-looking, powerful, and popular a person is, only one thing matters at the very second of their death: were their sins forgiven?
The question as to whether or not God has forgiven a person’s sins should haunt us every time we step into a pulpit. It should haunt us whenever we step out of a pulpit. It should plague us when we see our neighbors, pass strangers in the supermarket, or pass them at a sporting event. When Jesus looked at the crowds surrounding Him, compassion filled Him (see Matthew 9:36). Their salvation was His priority, and that compassion drove Him to lay down His life for us (thank God).
Imagine how our lives would change if we could see the word “Forgiven” or “Unforgiven” on every forehead and, consequently, their eternal destination. Imagine how our churches would grow if every member saw sinners through Jesus’ compassionate eyes. Imitating Him in His passion for the lost should be our No. 1 priority. But how do we make that happen when we each have everyday hassles that become our priorities? There is an answer to that question.
I was riding my wonderful electric bike toward a local college when a young lady on a horse called out, “Don’t go down that pathway! There is a man down there with a Doberman that is not on a leash. That dog attacked my horse and bit its leg! Don’t go down there!”
This woman didn’t even know me, yet she cared enough to warn a stranger of possible danger. I thanked her and told her I would steer clear of the vicious dog.
When I arrived at the college, a police officer steered me in another direction. There was no dog, but there had been complaints of skateboarders nearly colliding with students. I rode away from my usual path to another part of the college, where I spotted two young men who were more than willing to let me interview them for YouTube.
One answered my opening question about believing in God by saying, “Of course. God is good all the time!” Then he said he didn’t trust the Bible. I gently told him that even though he thought God was good, there was great danger waiting for him on his chosen path.
If God is good, He must deliver justice like any good judge. And that puts us in trouble. This is because it’s His goodness that will condemn us. He will see that perfect justice is carried out on the Day of Judgment. And that’s why we should be warning every man of this danger, in much the same way the woman warned me about the dog and the police officers warned me of the skateboarder, that we may present every man perfect in Christ (see Colossians 1:28).
That “irksome task”
When challenging my fellow believers to reach out to the lost, I rarely use the word “evangelism.” If you use it from the pulpit, you may scatter your flock. This is because it has as much attraction as a root canal. Charles Spurgeon said of evangelism, “We must school and train ourselves to deal personally with the unconverted. We must not excuse ourselves but force ourselves to the irksome task until it becomes easy.”
Some don’t find evangelism irksome. I’m not one of them. My life would be easier if I didn’t carry this daily burden. But it’s only a burden because I am selfish. One of the greatest indictments of human selfishness is the Great Commission. Jesus commanded us to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature (see Mark 16:15). That’s like commanding a doctor to share a cure for cancer. Jesus shouldn’t have to command it. And we should run to dying sinners—if we cared about their eternal salvation.
I recently read one of the Psalms when I broke down in tears. I suddenly remembered receiving a small Gideon Bible when I was just 13 years old. I began to read it each night, even though I wasn’t born again (and certainly didn’t understand the gospel). It wasn’t until nine years later that I would come to saving faith.
I also recalled a strange experience from a few months before my conversion. My wife and I had dinner with a local pastor. After the meal, I went to collect our jackets from a bedroom, and as I did, I sat on the bed and yearned for him to come speak to me—but I had no idea what I wanted him to tell me. In retrospect, I was crying out for salvation, like a groping blind man longing to have someone show him the way.
The tears I shed as I read that Psalm were tears of gratitude. Thankfully, someone forced themselves to “the irksome task” of evangelizing me when I was young.
It is that gratitude—mingled with compassion—that causes me to see the word “unforgiven” on sinners’ foreheads, even if I find the task of evangelism irksome. I am overwhelmed by love to share the gospel with them.
May you and I have an “overwhelmed by love” mentality. That is how you motivate your flock to reach out to the lost. They will begin to see your passion, and your zeal will inspire many to follow.