Call the lost to repent and believe
Last time, we looked at various Scriptures that command us to know and proclaim the gospel. This week, we’ll explore what it looks like to boldly call the lost to repeat and believe. Paul sums it up in Acts 13:38-39:
“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
This is the call to repent and believe. You aren’t really evangelizing if you aren’t leaving them with a call to action. Call them to repent and believe. Even share the consequences so they feel the weight of the decision.
A common objection to speaking about Hell is that it scares them into heaven or turns them away from the gospel altogether. But Paul does exactly this in verses 40-41. He’s warning them to not be hardened:
“Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:
Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.’ ”
Speak boldly in the power of the Spirit
There’s a conflict that shows a contrast in verses 42-47.
“As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,
‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
The Jews did not like Jesus being proclaimed. They especially didn’t like Jesus being proclaimed equally to Jews and Gentiles. The Jews, who were most likely the religious leaders, began to contradict Paul. They were taking their people away and the leaders didn’t like it.
But the contrast is subtle but serious. Verse 9 states:
“But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him.”
But these leaders weren’t. They were filled with jealously, sin. And in reaction to the gospel and in their sin, the Jews reacted exactly like Paul warned them from the Scriptures not to — they reviled, they scoffed. And unless the Lord saved them at some other time, it led to their perishing.
We live in the “Bible belt” where many are already so-called “Christians” and members of this or that church, go once a month and on Christmas and Easter, prayed a prayer and were baptized in Vacation Bible School but haven’t been back to church since, and don’t need to hear the gospel again.
In short, we live in a culture that reacts to the gospel in one of three ways:
- Oh, I know that and don’t have to worry about it anymore. I’ve been saved.
- Rejection of the truth of Jesus outright (sometimes in more hostile manners, though normally not).
- Tenderness in repentance and genuine conversion.
Obviously, we all want to see that third response, but we are going to run into hard hearts and hard rejection. It’s helpful to remember that we are the messengers, not the ones who stick it deep into their hearts for it to take root. Thankfully, that is God’s role.
We can follow this example and, in the power of the Spirit, start with what this culture knows and bring them to Christ. Here are several suggestions for you to think through, and they all require commitment and discipline:
In conversation, ask them what they believe about heaven and hell. Then respond with your conviction about how the world’s brokenness reveals a sin issue that only Christ makes right.
Ask them if they go to church. If yes, ask where and continue like we just mentioned. If no, ask why not and be sensitive to how the Spirit might lead from there.
Plan parties and get together with a mix of lost and believing friends to make gospel conversations more accessible. Remember to pray in the planning of the event as well.
Ask how you can pray for your neighbors or waitress and look for an opportunity to bring them to Christ from there.
You may be an introvert, but you are no less called to share. Does God expect you to share using the same methods? Not necessarily. Often, the Lord uses our strengths to open doors for evangelism, but if you aren’t prepared and sensitive to the Spirit and leaning on His power, you will most likely neglect evangelism in sin.
We often see time as the enemy as well. But in reality, that oftentimes is an issue with our priorities in our planning.
“Well, I just live out the gospel before others.”
Let me share with you a true story that I read:
There was a man who became a Christian during an evangelistic emphasis in a city in the Pacific Northwest. When he told his boss about it, his employer responded with, “That’s great! I am a Christian and have been praying for you for years!”
But the new believer was downcast. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?” he asked. “You are the very reason I have not been interested in the gospel all these years.”
“How can that be?” the boss wondered. “I have done my very best to live the Christian life around you.”
“That’s the point,” explained the employee. “You lived such a model life without telling me that it was Christ who made the difference, I convinced myself that if you could live such a good and happy life without Christ, then I could too.”
We can’t simply demonstrate the gospel, we must proclaim it as well!
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Leave the results to a sovereign God
Paul had some combative, hard hearts in the crowds, but God was working in some.
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district” (Acts 13:48–50).
God doesn’t promise success in evangelism according to our standards. I would argue that we are often afraid because we set an unBiblical standard for “successful evangelism” that we doubt we can keep.
Even with Paul, some believed, some didn’t, and some even persecuted him. But our God is sovereign and in sovereign control. How can we be confident of this and lean on the power of His Spirit? Look at the end of verse 48:
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
God didn’t lose anyone that day. All who were appointed to believe did so. When God works, people are saved. Yes, they were persecuted and driven from the city, but God did a work!
And the truth of the rejection is the same as the acceptance. When people hear our message and believe, do we say that they believe us? No! We say that they believe in Christ now. So why do we say that they reject us when they reject the gospel from us.
In one sense, yes they reject what we’re saying, but the truth goes much deeper and can be a much greater comfort to us.
Jesus says it like this:
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16).
Do not Be discouraged, keep evangelizing
Ultimately, if we define successful evangelism as the faithful proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ and call people to repent, and then leave the rest up to God, we will be much better equipped to fight discouragement.
I’m not naive. You and I will encounter discouragement from time to time.
The Barna Group did a research and found:
”We have found that nine out of ten individuals who attempt to explain their beliefs and theology to other people come away from those experiences feeling as if they have failed.”
This is why many don’t evangelize. They don’t deem their efforts successful. But was Jesus a failure when people like the rich young ruler turned away from him?
As theologian Don Whitney says:
”We need to learn that sharing the gospel is successful evangelism.”
And keeping our eyes on Christ with lead to encouragement. Having a solid church to evangelize alongside will lead to encouragement. We are doing this through the power of the Spirit. Remember Acts 1:8?
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
It’s from this place in the Spirit that we can respond to the difficult times and harvest times like Paul and Barnabas did:
“But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:51–52).
We keep going, filled with joy and the Spirit of God!
So like Paul, we too can say:
“I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Corinthians 9:23).