“The nature of Christ’s salvation is woefully misrepresented by the present-day evangelist. He announces a savior from hell rather than a savior from sin. And that is why so many are fatally deceived, for there are multitudes who wish to escape the Lake of Fire who have no desire to be delivered from their carnality and worldliness.” – Originally from article Saving Faith: Part 1 Signs of the Times. Cited in the DVD Amazing Grace: The History and Theology of Calvinism
I believe this quote from Pink is essential in developing a biblical approach to evangelism. It’s all too easy to gain ‘converts’ by scaring the ‘hell’ right out of people by conjuring horrific imagery of an eternal state of suffering and misery. Who in their right mind would choose this fate over one of eternal bliss? Heaven and hell are not the primary issues we are faced with everyday; righteousness and wickedness are. The bottom line is that we don’t choose heaven and hell. We choose between righteousness and unrighteousness. Heaven and hell are simply the eternal consequence of our choices between the two.
We must never use the idea of heaven as a dangling carrot God offers to lure people to salvation. God has lifted his Son up that all men may be drawn to him. Conversely, we must not use the fear of hell as our primary motivating force to get people to repent.
Sin is the central issue that must be dealt with in our evangelism efforts.
God hates sin and condemns it. Man loves sin and relishes it. This tension between God and man must be resolved. Our evangelism must start with God’s holy law, to show people that they have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. The Holy Spirit must convict them of their sin and their response must be to turn from sin unto righteousness – the righteousness that is only through Jesus Christ. Salvation revolves around our relationship with sin. My brother in Christ Paul Washer has said on several occasions that a person can’t have a relationship with Christ unless he has a new relationship with sin. In other words, unless we view the sin within us with disgust and loathing we don’t yet know Christ.
I must take a moment to balance this post out a bit. Talking about heaven and hell in evangelism is not taboo. After all, Christ spoke extensively on hell in the gospels. My point is, a fear of hell won’t save you, but fearing God who can destroy both body and soul in hell can. A holy fear of God is the result of hating that which he hates and turning away from the things he detests. If you don’t hate your sin enough to turn away from it, then no matter how much you dread the idea of spending forever in a lake of burning sulfur you will not be able to escape it.
Christian, don’t be afraid to talk about sin. You must talk about sin. It is the central issue of every single person’s salvation. I fear for the pastors of today who preach the modern gospel of coming to Christ for peace, prosperity, health and every other carnal reason but never confronts people with their sin. Any person who comes to Christ by any other way than the narrow gate of repentance from sin is a false convert.
I am suspicious of professing Christians who speak of their faith only in terms of the reward they will receive. If someone talks of going to heaven more than about reigning with Christ I wonder about their spiritual state. I’ve heard people say on more than one occasion that they are just hanging on, hoping to just make it into heaven by the skin of their teeth. People like this don’t usually speak of how precious Christ is to them or how much they love him because he has freed them from the power and penalty of their sins. All they see is the reward and not the rewarder. I fear for people like this and believe they are likely products of easy-believism ‘I said a prayer when I was eight and I’m forever saved’ kind of shallow theology that is so prevalent these days.
Our evangelism of the lost must also include re-evangelism of those who have been victimized by unbiblical outreach efforts of modern Christianity.