the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Truths to Live By - One Day at a Time
“Salvation is of the Lord.”
We are all familiar with the zealous “soul winner” who dashes around, buttonholing unsuspecting prospects, leading them through a salvation formula, and badgering them until they finally make a profession in order to get rid of him. He chalks up another convert and then looks around for more heads to count. Is this evangelism?
We would have to admit that it is not. It is a form of religious harassment. Like any service performed in the energy of the flesh, it does more harm than good.
John Stott was right when he wrote: “Christ has the keys. He opens the doors. Then let us not barge our way unceremoniously through doors which are still closed. We must wait for Him to make openings for us. Damage is continually being done to the cause of Christ by rude or blatant testimony. It is indeed right to seek to win for Christ our friends and relatives at home and at work. But we are sometimes in a greater hurry than God. Be patient! Pray hard and love much, and wait expectantly for the opportunity of witness.”
We may not agree with much of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s doctrine, but we might well take to heart the following words of his: “The word of salvation has its limits. He has neither power nor right to force it on other men… Every attempt to impose the Gospel by force, to run after people and proselytize them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous… We shall only meet with the blind rage of hardened and darkened hearts, and that will be useless and harmful. Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want.”
Real conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit. It is “not of the will of man” in the sense that a man cannot produce it by his own efforts, however well intended. People who are pressured into a profession of Christ without the full consent of their will become disillusioned, disaffected and often become enemies of the Cross of Christ.
It is one of the great experiences of life when the Holy Spirit uses us in the salvation of another person. But it is bizarre and grotesque when we try to do it in our own strength.
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