Does Calvinism Limit Christian Love?

balthasar

Hans Urs von Balthasar, in his controversial well-known work called, Dare we hope that all be saved?, espouses a certain type of “Christian hope” for the salvation of all men. In the first two chapters, he covers and rejects Origen’s and Barth’s absolutist universalism, saying that the certainty of all people’s salvation must be rejected. However, Balthasar does espouse a softer position, saying that a Christian can reasonably hope for all men’s salvation.

Now, why can we reasonably hope for this?

Essentially, what Balthasar says is that hope in and of itself demands that all men could be saved. In other words, if we hope for someone’s salvation, what we are saying is that it is at least possible. So then, universalism is at least reasonably possible. And while we can never truly know if all would be saved, we can be equally uncertain that any will be damned.

Balthasar explains,

If someone asks us, “Will all men be saved?” we answer in line with the Gospel: I do not know. I have no certainty whatsoever. That means just as well that I have no certainty whatsoever that all men will not be saved. The whole of Scripture is full of the proclamation of a salvation that binds all men by a Redeemer who gathers together and reconciles the whole universe. That is quite sufficient to enable us to hope for the salvation of all men without thereby coming into contradiction with the Word of God.

So Balthasar cannot definitively know that any will be damned or saved. And while this may seem like a sort of agnostic universalism, what Balthasar argues is that Christian hope cannot and must not limit itself. If we are to hope that anyone would be saved, what we are implicitly saying is that their salvation is at least possible. If God wills that all men be saved, it must be possible, right? For Balthasar, hope demands this possible end.

Citing Aquinas, Balthasar says,

On to the virtue of hope, [Aquinas] establishes that one “has to believe of whatever one hopes that it can be attained; this is what hope adds to mere desire. Man can, namely, also have desire for things that he does not believe he can attain; but hope cannot exist in such circumstances.”

In other words, what is hoped for must at least be possible. Hope “cannot exist” if what is hoped for cannot be attained. To Balthasar, this is simply logical. So then, Balthasar concludes that universalism, while not absolutely certain, is possible.

As a necessary corollary, Balthasar argues that the doctrine of unconditional election limits Christian hope and love. Covering Augustine’s doctrine of the “massa damnata” (mass of the damned = the non-elect), Balthasar says,

[I]f someone thus sees mankind as a massa damnata from the outset, how can he still adhere to the effective truth of Christ’s statement that, on the Cross, he will draw all men to himself? …

… If one believes in the twofold predestination advocated by Augustine and adheres, on the basis of that, to the certainty that a number of people will be damned, one might object that love would have to stop at this barrier.

Balthasar brings in two arguments here: The first is that unconditional election flattens the universal offer of the gospel. How can Christ “draw all men” to himself if he only draws some? How can the invitation of the gospel be liberal if only some are elected? I’ve heard this argument too many times to count.

However, Balthasar brings in a second argument that is novel to me. Balthasar says that if unconditional election is true, then “love would have to stop at this barrier”. Put another way, Christians are responsible to love only those who are elect. Why? Because that is who God has chosen to love. Should the Christian’s love be more liberal than God’s?

Next, Balthasar cites German theologian Verweyen, saying,

Hans-Jürgen Verweyen…puts forward the thesis: “Whoever reckons with the possibility of even only one person’s being eternally lost besides himself is unable to love unreservedly.” And he stresses here, above all, “the effect of this idea on my practical actions. It seems to me that just the slightest nagging thought of a final hell for others brings on moments in which human togetherness becomes especially difficult, as does leaving the other to himself. If there may, in fact, be people who are absolutely incorrigible, why, then, should not those who make my life on earth a hell perhaps also be of that sort?”

So then, election restricts liberal love. If we are certain that God has not chosen some, or, if we are certain that a mass of sinners will inhabit hell, then for what reason should we love them?

How should we Calvinists answer this question? At this point, it might be helpful to respond to and correct Balthasar’s first point: that election certainly cannot restrict the universal call of the gospel — rather, election limits response to the gospel. In other words, believers preach to every creature, and are sure the elect will say “yes”, but are not sure who they are! With this clarification in view, one should see how universal love plays a part. We love everyone regardless of their election; and pray for their salvation, regardless of their place in God’s salvific plan. Why? Because we don’t know who is who in God’s drama of salvation. We share the gospel, knowing that no one is beyond salvation, and knowing that God will irrevocably draw all whom he wills to himself. This is the part we play in God’s mystery plan of salvation.

With that said, Balthasar’s complaint should be heard. And I’ve seen and known many Calvinists, who seem to struggle to love beyond God’s sovereign choice, which is unacceptable. It assumes a vantage point that is not our own, but only God’s. On the same note, I’ve known many Arminians who feel much of the same, even without the election bit.

Perhaps, ending on this warning by Balthasar (which I agree with) will help in humility for people on either side:

How can anyone equate hoping with knowing? I hope that my friend will recover from his serious illness—do I therefore know this? But: if I hope for you, for others, for everyone, then in the end I am also allowed to include myself. (Not the reverse: I hope for me; but I do not know with certainty whether you are among the chosen.)

[W]oe is me if, looking back, I see how others, who were not so lucky as I, are sinking beneath the waves; if, that is, I objectify hell and turn it into a theological-scientific “object” and begin to ponder on how many perish in this hell and how many escape it. For at that moment everything is transformed: hell is no longer something that is ever mine but rather something that befalls “the others”, while I, praise God, have escaped it…

…And at once the prayer is on [my] lips: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector” (Lk 18:11). Then one goes on to populate hell, according to one’s own taste, with all sorts of monsters: Ivan the Terrible, Stalin the Horrible, Hitler the Madman and all his cronies, which certainly results, as well, in an imposing company that one would prefer not to encounter in heaven. It can be taken as a motif running through the history of theology that, whenever one fills hell with a massa damnata of sinners, one also, through some kind of conscious or unconscious trick (perhaps cautiously, and yet reassuredly), places oneself on the other side.

We might ask the great Augustine, the teacher of grace and love who has the greater portion of mankind destined to eternal hell, whether—with his hand on his heart—he ever worried, after his conversion, about his eternal salvation.

Revival vs. Revivalism

Finney_Tent

Doug Wilson contrasts the difference between what a revival is, and what revivalism is. He says,

Revival, which is a gift of God, has been turned into a work of man through theological confusion. The result is revivalism, not revival…

In a true revival, doctrine is the emphasis, and the doctrine is God-centered. In revivalism,… man is [at] the center, [and] feelings are emphasized. In [true] revival, truth overwhelms the mind, resulting in an emotional response — inexpressible joy. In revivalism, the emotions are excited directly, and any number of teachings, true or false, can do that…

In a true revival, the change in the moral behavior of those blessed is significant and lasting. With revivalism, very little is done to teach the people to restrain their passions. In fact, because the “revival” encourages a lack of restraint in the church, it is not long before a lack of restraint is evident elsewhere, usually in the area of sexual immorality (1)

I couldn’t agree more with Wilson. Revivalism is about emotions, the show, the lights and the smoke. But it is all mustered up. It is all planned, without any consideration that God’s Spirit is the One who brings about real revival.

But, in true revival, God is at the center, with healthy teaching, and a biblical emphasis. And true revival is brought about through the Word and prayer by God’s Spirit, bringing about conviction, salvation, and passionate repentance. 

For more consideration of this, here is a great conversation between Keller and Carson on revival. Some great thoughts here:

(1) Easy Chairs, Hard WordsDoug Wilson

The Three Conversions: Christ, Church, and Mission

christ community mission

Jonathon Dodson, in his book, Gospel-Centered Discipleship*, says, “churches today have more in common with shopping malls, fortresses, and cemeteries than they do the church of the New Testament. They have become consumerist, doctrinaire, lifeless institutions, not Jesus-centered missional communities”.

Dodson goes on to correct this approach toward the gospel, saying, “when we are converted, we not converted to Christ alone…It is also important to consider what man is converted to. When we are converted, we are converted [to three things:] to Christ, to church, and to mission”.

What Dodson wishes to communicate here is that often churches preach a gospel that is all about individual conversion rather than Christ, his people, and his mission. Often, churches cater only to the personal experience of salvation. But the gospel is so much more than that. When we are redeemed by Jesus, we are not simply saved from our sin to Christ — we are also saved to Christ’s people and to His mission. 

Dodson calls this a three part of conversion: we are converted to Christ personally, to the church communally, and to Christ’s mission vocationally. And he says, the gospel by nature entails all three of these things; not just to one-third of the gospel. “Failure to convert to the church and to mission is a failure to grasp the [entire] gospel”.

Dodson talks about conversion to Christ’s people: “The gospel reconciles people to God [but also] to one another, creating a single new community comprised of an array of cultures and languages to make one new humanity”. It is important to realize that when we are joined to Christ through faith, that we are also joined to one another. Peter says that the church of Christ is like a temple of “living stones…being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:4-5). Peter gives the imagery of a temple, being built on Christ as the cornerstone (1 Pet 2:6). And each person placed on the Cornerstone is also placed next to one another. And we cannot be the temple that God has called us to be unless we are converted to one another! We are meant to live for Jesus with each other. 

But also, as we are converted to Jesus and to his people, we are also converted together to his mission. Jesus has a mission, and he has given us the task of accomplishing it. Dodson says that “when anyone becomes a disciple of Christ, the temple expands and a living stone is added. [And] God’s grand plan, from the beginning, was for the garden-temple of Eden to expand throughout the whole world, to be populated with new stones who worship Jesus Christ, the great Cornerstone”. As living stones, we as participants in Christ’s kingdom now go out to continue to populate his glorious temple, made of peoples from all nations. This is indeed the church’s mission: to be ever expanding, ever heralding Christ’s redemptive work on earth, and declaring that He is King.

“When we believe the gospel, we are converted three times”, not just once. We are given to Christ, to his people, and to his mission.

 

*Quotes taken from chapter 6, Communal Discipleship: The Three Conversions

 

What is the Purpose of Baptism?

Baptism

What does baptism do for believers? Since salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone (Rom 3:25), what does baptism really accomplish? Jonathan Dodson, in his excellent book, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, explains the purpose well: *

Dodson says that the primary reason for baptism is to express publicly our acceptance and understanding of the gospel. He says that baptism is a means to illustrate and express that by faith, “Jesus’ death and resurrection becomes our death and resurrection…it signifies our identification with Christ in his death as we are lowered into his ‘watery grave’, and identification with his life, where we are raised up into his resurrection life”. In that sense, baptism then is not merely a public ceremony of sorts, but rather a public confession of the gospel. This is in fact what Paul says, that “we were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Baptism then becomes this public declaration that we have died with Christ, and live a new life in Him

Dodson continues with a second purpose found in baptism. He says, “second, we are baptized into two overlapping communities. The first is the divine community of the Trinity: ‘Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). The second community is the church: ‘For in one Spirit we were baptized into one body’ (1 Cor 12:13). Baptism results in our participation in a new, spiritual family–the family of the Trinity”. Baptism then is not only a public confession of the gospel, but also a public identification with the Triune God and his people. It is a joining with the divine community, and becoming one family in Jesus. Peter goes so far as to say that this one corporate body is like a temple, built together as oneand founded on the cornerstone, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5). In this way, baptism is not merely a private matter, but a corporate celebration and adoption.

Lastly, Dodson says that baptism is about mission. This was something new for me to think on. As a person that has identified themselves with Christ, and with his body, they are missionaries for Jesus (John 20:21, Mt 28:18-20). This becomes part of their identity. Dodson says, “baptism is missional because it is the outcome of obedience to the Great Commission”. This is very true! Jesus sent his disciples out, commanding them to share the message of Jesus and to baptize disciples (Mt 28:19). Dodson gives good insight to this, saying, “in a sense [then], baptism is the end of the Great Commission and, at the same time, it is its beginning. Baptism begins our participation in the wonderful gospel mission. Whenever someone is baptized, another disciple is sent in the power and authority of Jesus to join the mission of making disciples…”. In this sense then, baptism fulfills Matthew 28, and also starts the process over again! As a new believer emerges from the water, they are identifying themselves with the mission of Jesus and his church.

I think this is an excellent summary of the purpose and power found in public baptism. In baptism, the Christian identifies himself with the gospel, the community of the gospel, and the mission of the gospel.

These quotes come from pages 32-33 from chapter 1, “Making Disciples: Evangelism or Discipleship?”

Why inviting people to church is easier than sharing the gospel

stop-inviting-to-church

A couple days ago, my wife and I were spending time with our neighbor, and we got into a conversation about religion. As a Christian, I want to take every opportunity to share the hope of Christ with our unbelieving friends. And so, we got into a conversation about Jesus and the fact that I am a Christian.

And I knew that this was the time when I should open my mouth and declare the truth about the gospel. But for some reason, the first thing that started coming out of my mouth was the fact that I went to a church, and that it’s just “right down the road”, if he’d “like to join us on Sunday”.

Sounds like a good invitation, right? Well, the problem is that that is not the gospel. That is just inviting people to church. And so, before I went any further, I had to stop myself from talking about my church, and redirect the conversation to the actual content of the gospel declaration.

It was so strange. Of the many times that I’ve proclaimed the gospel with people, I have found that it is so much easier to just invite people to come to church with me on Sunday. So much easier. But why? Why wouldn’t I just share the very simple truth of the gospel first?

I think there are several reasons why it’s easier to invite people to church than to share the real truth of the gospel:

We don’t have to confront them:

The first reason should be obvious. We don’t have to confront them with very offensive truth. Peter calls the gospel a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense” (1 Pet 2:8), and Paul calls it a “folly” and a “stumbling block” to both Jews and Greeks (1 Cor 1:18-25).

And the reason the message of gospel is foolishness, and a cause of stumbling and offense is because it assaults the pride of the human heart. The gospel tells all men that they are by nature sinful, unable to do anything good. The gospel attacks the very core of human pride by telling us that “none is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks after God” (Rom 3:10-11). We must sit in front of our neighbors and coworkers and proclaim to them that they are not good, nor do they desire it, nor have they ever desired it. In fact, the intentions of man’s heart have always been, from the time of their birth, sinful (Gen 6:5).

More than that, we must tell them that the wrath of God is rightly directed at them for their sin against him. We must tell them that they are by nature, children of wrath, and that nothing that they do can remedy this problem (Eph 2:3).

Finally, we must tell them that the only way they can be saved is by looking and clinging to a humble carpenter, who though he is God, made himself nothing, and bore the wrath of the Father in our place, and rose again (literally) to everlasting life (Phil 2:5-10). And that means that nothing that we do earns us salvation, and we have no room to boast (Rom 3:27-28).

The gospel tells us that we need a salvation that we cannot earn. It tell us that even our best efforts fall eternally short. It tells us that we are all sinners. It tells us of the just wrath of God.

It is so much easier to invite someone to a ministry meeting, or a church service, or a Bible study, because that means that we don’t have to tell them any of that stuff. Indeed, sharing the gospel takes a good amount of Holy Spirit courage. Even Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, asked for boldness (Eph 6:19-20). He didn’t simply want to send out a Facebook invite to his next Wednesday night Bible study — he wanted to go deep, and share the entire gospel with all whom he encountered. And this gospel proclamation takes confrontation.

We can give the weight of responsibility for evangelism to the preacher:

The second reason it’s easier to invite people to church is because we can hand off the responsibility of evangelism to the pastor. Rather than being present in our communities, and bravely and courageously confronting the unbelievers in our lives, inviting people to church puts all the pressure on the preacher to bring a nice convicting sermon. All the weight of the Great Commission is shrugged off our shoulders and onto the minister.

This is not right. It encourages Christians to be indifferent concerning the state of their neighborhood and city. There is no weight of responsibility, and no brokenness over the lost state of friends and family. There is no weeping over the death of an unbeliever. There is no urgency. There is no sorrow and unceasing anguish in our hearts (Rom 9:1-3). And why? Because, in having a culture in which the preacher is the only one who bears the responsibility to evangelize, we are led to lazy apathy in evangelism. It really become irrelevant to us.

But biblically, the preacher is not the main evangelist, and neither is your outreach pastor (Eph 4:11-12). You are. But, because it is easier to simply bring a friend to church and let pastor preach at them, we don’t feel that weight. We don’t feel the urgency of the Great Commission. We don’t pay any attention to unreached people groups, much less our lost neighbor across the street. It is simply easier not to think of it.

But really, we should feel the weight of Paul’s anguish when he tells the Romans that he is “under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to the foolish” to share Christ (Rom 1:14), and that he has “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart for his lost brethren (Rom 9:2). Indebted to share the gospel, and broken over the lost. This should be our heart. And indeed, it is hard to sit under that weight, which is why we give that burden to the preacher.

Church numbers and celebrity pastors appeals to the flesh:

Lastly, it is easier to invite people to church, because programs, celebrity preachers, and concentration on church attendance appeals to even the unbelieving heart. When we invite someone to church, appealing to the great children’s ministry, the goofy youth pastor, or the great sermons, we are ultimately appealing to the pride of the flesh. We appeal to the hunger in our flesh for human recognition and self-glory.

We don’t appeal to the glory of Christ; ultimately, we appeal to human strength rather than the glory of God. And that is something that every unregenerate soul can relate to, and even craves. We can all relate to the inner resume that boasts in our own greatness. And so, inviting people to church can really have a negative affect.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians, dealt with this issue. There were factions between the members of the Corinthians church over which preacher was the greatest. Some followed Paul; some followed Apollos; some followed Peter. And they all argued over who was the greatest pastor. Paul wrote them, and rebuked them for becoming “puffed up in favor of one against another” (1 Cor 4:6).

It is easier to invite someone to church, because we can appeal to the greatness of the programs, and boast with our unbelieving friend in the flesh. But this couldn’t be further from the gospel.

This is why I make it my aim to preach the explosive power of the gospel first. And even though it’s harder, more burdensome, and eternally more humbling to share the gospel, it is also eternally more rewarding. We should always accept all who come to our church, but never at the expense of preaching the truth of the gospel, boldly, with much fear and trembling, and all to the glory of Christ.

Why Our Evangelism Falls Short

I remember one time sitting at a Starbucks, reading my Bible. Every time I read my Bible there, I try to get a good gauge of my surroundings, to see if I might be able to strike up a conversation about the gospel. This time was no different. I was reading Jeremiah, and wondering if the guy across from me might be open to hear the truth of the gospel. After a half hour of reading, I was able to strike up a conversation with the guy. We talked about a lot, and he was a nice enough guy–but for some reason, I couldn’t muster up the guts to mention the gospel (ugh). After talking for about 15 minutes, I had to leave…and I left, feeling defeated, cowardly, and useless for the name and fame of Christ. Why couldn’t I simply open my mouth, and mention something about the gospel? Why couldn’t I just say…something…anything. I hope I’m not the only one that chickens out when sharing (or attempting to share) the gospel.

Why does our evangelism fall short, though? As I meditated and prayed about this, I came to a few conclusions about my own short-comings, and why our evangelism as followers of Christ might fall short:

1) When we shrink to share the gospel, we minimize Jesus’ rule over all the nations and his right to receive glory and honor among all peoples:

There are several texts, both in the Old and New Testament, that describe Christ as the rightful King over the entire universe who deserves glory and honor because of his kingship. Take these verses for example:

Psalm 2:7-8 — “I will tell of the decree: The LORD (God the Father) said to me (Jesus), “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession”

Colossians 1:15-16 — “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible, and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him”

Colossians 2:14-15 — “This (our sin) he (God) set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Christ)

Philippians 2:8-11 — “And being found in human form, he (Christ) humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”

The point of all of these texts is that Jesus, being the God-man, who has defeated sin, Satan, and death, is the rightful King and Victor over the entire cosmos. He alone has defeated sin and death, and in him alone is life forevermore.

And it is because of this that he alone deserves glory, worship, and homage. And, Jesus rightly demands worship. Every nation must hear about King Jesus. Every people group must know about how Christ is the rightful King over the entire globe.

And among the nations and people groups, this includes my fellow Starbucks drinker sitting across from me. He is among the nations of the earth that must hear about the glory and victory of Jesus Christ. He is among the peoples that Jesus rightfully deserves honor and glory from.

Jesus deserves this glory. Jesus deserves this honor. And who am I to shrink back in fear? I tell you, the issue is that I don’t truly realize the glory that is being robbed when I don’t declare that Jesus, being humble and taking on the form of a servant, took on your sin and died. I don’t realize the glory being robbed when I don’t declare that Jesus, though being dead and in the grave, rose again to new life, and now reigns in glory and power, and calls all men to himself. My fear is a Christological issue–I don’t truly understand the power and glory that Jesus has right now, and the honor and worship that he absolutely deserves right now.

2) Our evangelism falls short because we don’t appreciate the horror of hell that awaits a person, should they not repent and believe upon Christ:

This issue should really not have to be explained. But at that Starbucks, when I walked away without sharing the utter glory and honor due to Christ for his cross-shaped victory over sin and death, I put this man at risk of dying and going to hell. I should be broken over this. I should mourn over this…and yet, I don’t have this perspective most of the time. I have my temporal needs set in front me before I share the truth of the gospel–comfort, safety, ease. I do not recall to mind verses like Revelation 20:7-15 that speak of a punishment reserved for the ungodly in which they will be “tormented day and night forever”.

This torment coming to those who refuse to accept Christ should grip us with fear, and should eclipse our fear of rejection in evangelism. So what if they don’t accept what we say? Is it better that we say nothing? Absolutely not! We need perspective of the horror that awaits the ungodly at the end of age. This type of perspective should give us an urgency in sharing the gospel. Why walk away without sharing the gospel, when this man could die and go to hell today? This alone should make all Christians weep. It should make us all share the gospel with every chance we get. This is why our evangelism falls short.

3) We don’t share the gospel because we feel too much responsibility to convince others to believe

Now what I mean by this statement is this: Rather than trusting that God will awaken faith and new life in those with whom we share the gospel, we believe it to be solely our responsibility to convince others to accept Jesus.

I have shared the gospel many times (most times, in fact), only to leave the conversation shut down and rejected. They simply wouldn’t believe anything about the gospel. What’s more, the gospel, and even the concept of God, was foolishness to them. And so, I walked away defeated, sure that I had failed.

But when we feel so defeated after having been rejected, we miss a central point of the gospel: God is the one who creates new life, not us. God is the one that produces fruit, not us. Paul says this emphatically in his epistle to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 1:30“And because of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus”. (Notice here, Paul is sure to point out that he wasn’t the one that saved them–God did.)

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 — “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth”

We proclaim Christ crucified and risen, but we are only instruments–only God can give the growth. Practically, this means so many wonderfully freeing things about the evangelist.

First, it means that even though we may walk away from a gospel conversation having made no apparent progress, God may be making measures of wonderful progress within that person’s heart. There is truly no telling what God used in that conversation to bring a person closer to himself.

Second, this means that prayer and child-like dependence are more effective than the actual conversation itself! Why? Conversation, and the foolishness of the gospel is only the means to bringing a person to Christ–God is truly the one who does it. And so prayer before and after we share the gospel is infinitely integral and important to success. We truly have no idea what God can do when we walk in obedience and simply open our mouths about the truth of Christ and his cross.

Our evangelism often falls short because we put the weight of the world on our shoulders. We think that if this person doesn’t accept Christ here and now, well, then we’ve failed. I guess it’s hopeless–well, no, it’s not.

This simple fact that God brings about the fruit should give us confidence, assurance, and rest in the fact that God will do what he wants with the conversation. We are simply instruments in his hands.

4) Our evangelism falls short because we’ve forgotten the immense grace we’ve been given in Christ

This last point is so important. What I mean here is that evangelism should always be in the context of our own experience of God’s saving grace. If we don’t know and cherish the grace given us in Christ Jesus, how can we share that with others? Christ said that whatever comes from a person’s mouth has first been in their heart (Mt 15:18). One thing that this means is that if you aren’t sharing the gospel, it is safe to assume that you aren’t thinking about the gospel. If the gospel is ever-present in your heart and mind, it should naturally come out in your conversations with everyone, including non-Christians. Peter also says that someone who lacks qualities of godliness (which includes gospel-witness) has forgotten their own experience of God’s grace (2 Pet 1:3-11).

If gospel-grace does not spill from our lips, it is safe to say that we have forgotten the grace given to us in Christ. Before sharing the gospel, it is an incredibly fruitful and helpful thing to meditate on the sin that you were redeemed from. Where were you when God rescued you from your Pharaoh of sin and death (Rom 6)? The same grace he has given you, he longs to give to others–and he loves to give that grace through you.

Don’t let you evangelism fall short. Remember that Jesus deserves glory from among the nations. Remember that humanity stands at the edge of hell and torment. Remember that God can and will work through you to produce the fruit of faith. And, most importantly, remember that you too have received grace.