Editors Note: This is a new series on spiritual growth designed to help our readers understand how to grow in Christ.
- Dave wrote the first post in this series on the blessing of the spiritual disciplines.
- Joey Cochran wrote the second post in this series on the four functions of prayer.
- Chris Poblete wrote the third post on the practice of private prayer.
- Chris wrote the fourth post on the practice of corporate prayer.
- Matthew Fretwell wrote the fifth post on finding the silence of God.
- Brian Hedges wrote the sixth post on how to lead family devotions.
- Chris in the seventh post in this series shares from Hudson Taylor about the importance of having a personal devotion time.
- Brian Hedges wrote the eighth post on how to nurture biblical love in the local church.
- Bob Hoekstra wrote the ninth post on answered prayer promised in Jesus’ name.
- Chris wrote the tenth post in this series on humility.
- Brian wrote the eleventh post in this series on how to receive criticism.
- Charles Spurgeon shared the twelfth post in this series on how to find joy in deep distress.
- Brian wrote the thirteenth post in this series about waiting on the Lord.
- Today Madison writes on evangelism.
One of the most significant means the Lord has used to spur me on to greater spiritual growth in my Christian life has been engaging in evangelism. I went from being someone who never engaged in evangelism to engaging in gospel conversations multiple times per week. The result of this was greater obedience and heartfelt appreciation for the gospel, which produced a greater love for Jesus and burden for the lost. I was far from confident when I first started engaging in evangelism on a college campus with my pastor. While I might not have left the campus that day feeling like a seasoned evangelist, I did leave with a greater burden for the lost people we encountered and a realization that all Christians have to regularly engage in evangelism.
Evangelism is an issue of obedience. Dr. Don Whitney states, “All Christians are not expected to use the same methods of evangelism, but all Christians are expected to evangelize.”[i] The commands of Jesus make this beyond dispute (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15[ii]; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). If the Christian recognizes these direct commands and lives a lifestyle directly disobeying them, how can they expect to grow in the grace of God?
Christians have been redeemed by Christ in order to be “obedient form the heart to the standard of the teaching to which you were committed” and freed from the bondage of sin in order to “become slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). Obedience to Jesus means casting off fleshly desires, putting on the Lord Jesus and obeying His command to preach His gospel. I know from personal experience that this isn’t easy, but obeying the command to engage in evangelism is a means that can aid greater obedience in other areas of our Christian life. Obeying God’s command to preach the gospel doesn’t only result in greater obedience, but also in a greater appreciation for the gospel. Every time you preach the gospel to someone else, you preach it to yourself as well. When preaching God’s love for sinners and the free gift of salvation found in Christ alone, you remind yourself of God’s love for you and His salvation that you have found by faith alone in Christ alone. On many occasions while preaching the gospel to others, I’ve experienced a fresh wonder and awe at the grace of God.
When my spiritual growth became slower, reminding myself of God’s unfathomable grace was like a burst of spiritual energy that pushed me to new heights of growth. All of this happened in the context of evangelism. Engaging in evangelism makes the Christian really meditate on the glorious gospel of God’s grace. After all, in order to faithfully and clearly present the gospel, the Christian must know it backwards and forwards. A superficial or one-dimensional understanding of the gospel doesn’t work in an evangelistic context. The evangelist must cherish Christ above all, feed on Him daily and rely on His gospel like the very air he breathes. Such an appreciation for the gospel will inevitably lead to greater spiritual growth.
Evangelism also leads to a greater burden for the lost. The Apostle Paul, for example, had such a great burden for lost Jewish people that he wished he could be accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of his kinsmen according to the flesh (Romans 9:3). Do you have such an unquenchable burden to see lost people turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ that you can not only echo what Paul stated in Romans 9:3, but also actively and intentionally model it to other Christians? By engaging lost people and acting as an ambassador for Christ, imploring people on His behalf to be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20), you will begin to see people as God does. This in turn will lead to a greater appreciation for the lost and how much they need a Savior. Since all of this is true, do you weep over the lost like Jesus did over Jerusalem? (Luke 19:41).
When you and I disobey the command to preach the gospel to the lost and make disciples, we are sinning. This is where the greatness of the Good News comes in, when we repent and obey His commands by His grace, we will experience spiritual growth. Before preaching the gospel to others, first, preach the gospel to yourself. In doing so, you will freshly stir your affections for the gospel, giving you a greater love of Jesus. Finally, by obeying God’s command to evangelize, you will continue to have a greater appreciation for lost people. Spiritual growth will result not in disobedience but by God’s grace in obedience to the commands of Christ. Rather than make excuses, I urge you to go out and reach the lost and make disciples because of the grace that has saved you, is sanctifying you and will one day glorify you. So go now, by His grace and declare to the world the greatness of His grace for His glory.
[i] Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1991, 100.
[ii] I am aware of the work in textual criticism that has been devoted to this passage. Despite its dubious origins, it is worth noting here with the caveat that it is not present in the earliest manuscripts.
[iii] On the importance of preaching the gospel to yourself, see Paul Tripp’s lecture delivered at Desiring God’s 2014 Conference for Pastors here: http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/preaching-the-gospel-to-yourself