“Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).
If, as we believe, Jesus is the only avenue through which we can access Father God, then everyone we meet is either in one of two categories. They are either in God’s marvelous grace as souls saved by faith, or they are lost and separated from God. The coworker we are with every day and the lady in the grocery checkout line in front of us are either saved or lost. And how lost are they? There is no such thing as partially saved or halfway lost. This understanding of humanity should goad us all into a constant desire to share the great escape provided through Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary.
Conversion in the Book of Acts
The book of Acts is my favorite for one obvious reason. It contains the marvelous accounts of those who were lost and found. The souls at Pentecost, who were among those who screamed for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified, had responded to the gospel presented that day by Peter and the other apostles. They asked the greatest question one could ask. And the answer to that question has not changed in the centuries that followed. They were told to “repent and be baptized” so that they might obtain a three-fold blessing: 1) remission of sins, 2) the gift of the Holy Spirit, and 3) addition to the community of Christ. What a fantastic way to begin with a study of the early history of the body of Christ.
Then we read of the Ethiopian nobleman who heard the good news from Phillip while riding in his chariot. “Hey! Here is some water. What’s to keep me from being baptized now?” We read of the jailer being baptized the same hour of the night even when Paul might have bled all over his carpeting. We read of Lydia and Cornelius and even Saul himself who, while lost, was arresting Christians and seeing them slaughtered. He was zealous as a persecutor of the way. Then Jesus found him on the road to Damascus. “Why do you kick against the goads, Saul?” Ananias appeared to him and asked, “What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.”
Who Is My Neighbor?
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he answered with the two greatest. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27). Just how do we do that? By loving our neighbors we are loving God as well. When we feed a neighbor, we are feeding the Lord. When we visit a neighbor, we are visiting Jesus. When we offer hope to those among us who are lost, we are honoring, worshiping, and loving the Father.
If we had a terminal disease and a neighbor knew of a sure cure for it, how would we feel if they refused to share that good news with us? If the roles were reversed, would we not eagerly share our knowledge of the remedy? We have news that is far greater than a cure for some physical disease. It is the greatest news in all of human existence. We have access to the cure for sin and death. His name is Jesus. Yet, what do many of us do with this tremendous information? Shall we not shout it from the housetops?
An Evangelistic Mandate
The last thing Jesus said to his disciples was to go everywhere and teach the good news of salvation to anyone who would listen. At what point did the church lose her sense of urgency regarding the “lostness” of the very ones who surround us daily? Even our children are being lost to the world. How is this possible? What will it take to adjust our thinking and the awareness that most people who cross our pathways are without hope? Some are even unaware of it. How does one become saved when he doesn’t even realize he is lost?
Do we awaken each morning with a prayer on our lips that God will place someone before us who would be open to the gospel? Shall we not learn to plead for God and his Holy Spirit to aid us in discerning those opportunities to confess Jesus as Lord? We are busy. We are often so overwhelmed by our jobs and families and hobbies and addictions that we may go a day, a week, or a month without even considering how we might share the salvation message with others.
Often our approach concerning our lost neighbors is to invite them to church. Jesus didn’t ask us to invite people to gospel meetings or to church. He asked us to tell people about the greatest news ever proclaimed. But how we do this is vital. A holier-than-thou sanctimony doesn’t work. Our words and actions must show how attractive Jesus and his salvation are. Packaging is important. I bought some questionable fragrance once because the salesperson showed me the lovely packaging and promised a gift with my purchase. I needed no more cologne. Should we not at least show Jesus as the beautiful Savior he is?
Here are some ways we may reach out to those sad souls who live their lives of quiet desperation missing the very purpose for their existence:
- Live in the will of God before those we influence. The best/worst way to turn off someone we want to share the good new with is to be hypocritical in our own walk.
- Present the gospel in the most appealing way. Canned presentations are easily rejected. Talking about Jesus should be as easy as breathing.
- Become familiar with the 10 conversion accounts in Acts. Learn them by heart. Know where to find them. Open Bible study with a seeker is one of the best and most logical approaches.
- Be spontaneous. It’s okay to share Jesus in the marketplace if someone’s interest is obvious. Have a presentation in your mind that will work in such a situation.
- Ask questions that will help you see who has an interest in spiritual matters. “Bill, you have shown me you believe in God. May I ask you a personal question? Have you come to a place where you know you are right with the Lord?” Be prepared to respond whether the answer is yes or no.
- Refuse to be shy about asking someone to obey the gospel. “Bill, wouldn’t you like to go to sleep tonight knowing that when Jesus returns he will count you among the saved?”
- Don’t fear a forceful invitation. I will invite someone to make a decision for Christ in several ways. But in the end, if they refuse to budge, I will get very bold and say, “Bill, you know I love you. And I think you know Jesus loves you. So I want you to know right now that if you find yourself standing before Jesus and he were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my Heaven?’ realize that you could never answer, ‘Well, Lord. Nobody ever took the time to tell me how much you love me. Steve never begged me to accept you as Lord.’”
Steven Clark Goad is the author of 12 books and over 1,500 articles for national and international religious journals. He has been a senior minister for 30 years in Southern California. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.