The Foolishness Conundrum
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18
Personal evangelism isn’t easy; God didn’t intend for it to be. It requires courage and especially persistent commitment to Jesus and His commands. You already know from your own experience that obedience to Jesus is an unceasing endeavor in which perfection escapes us. There are not only a few stumbles; they are daily occurrences. Personal evangelism is part of that obedience. “If you love me, you will do what I command, Jesus said. “Whoever acknowledges me before men I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown Him before my Father in heaven. The task is even more demanding in that Jesus commanded those who love Him to “make disciples, not professors. There are many who profess to know Jesus, but whose lives show no fruit. The definition of “making disciples found in the Great Commission is “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you (Matthew 28:20). The harder work of personal evangelism is not just telling the good news to others; it is implanting in lives the marks of a disciple.
The conundrum in this task is that many hearers of your narrative of the Gospel, even hearing your own testimony of God’s genuine transformation in you, may well find your message to be foolishness which is defined as silliness, folly, stupidity, imbecilic, imprudent, nonsense; which in our increasingly secular world is becoming fairly universal. In addition to this, God tells us he has blinded the eyes of the world to the truth of the Gospel, He has put a scale over their eyes, and He has deadened their hearts. So isn’t it a “foolish proposition to obey Jesus’ command to preach the Gospel to every creature? Especially, when their state is futile to receiving what the cross means for the world and for them?
At the Paul Anderson Youth Home we are able to witness to, evangelize, disciple young men for an average of a year to a year and a half. For those who profess to become a Christian we observe their life at the Home and we wait with anticipation after they graduate to see the fruit of their profession in the world. Some young men refuse to respond to the Gospel in those 14-18 months. The experience for the staff covers the whole gamut of frustration, weariness, questioning their ability to rightly articulate the faith to varying individuals, joyful in seeing growth, sad in seeing none, perplexed in seeing no apparent sign of spiritual heart penetration after months of concerted effort, blessed when seeing authentic transformation. Whose fault is it? The staff reevaluates always thinking they can improve; there is a constant need to sharpen skills in evangelism and discipleship, and in living the faith day in and day out. But you can never leave out what God is about in this whole process. This is always the transformative factor; and it is your encouragement to never give up.
This foolishness conundrum strikes fear in your mind to begin a conversation with just any unbeliever in your world when considering acknowledging your love for Christ and explaining the gospel message. Will this person ridicule the foolishness of the message of the cross? Will he be in a state of blindness, impenetrable to the truth of the Bible? Will her heart be dead to spiritual realities? Fear is a real factor. And so is pride, because we do not want to be ridiculed or labeled as stupid or extreme. These are two of the enemy’s most effective weapons to thwart personal evangelism: fear and pride. It is the very reason you draw back. If it all rested on you, your charm, your personality, your knowledge, eloquence, and persuasiveness, of which you have questions anyway, it isn’t going to work. You alone have no ability to open blind eyes, revive a deadened heart, or penetrate a defensive mind convinced none of this is true.
You must specifically engage the power of the Spirit of God through ongoing prayer and study of the Word. Just as your body requires regular fuel, food, or your car, gasoline, every so many miles, you cannot survive spiritually without prayer and the Word. The Bible says to be ready at any moment to give a reason for the hope that is in you. Readiness arises from prayer, Bible study, and meditation and anticipating those unknown moments that can slide by before you think to get a word out. It also involves prayerfully focusing on a known person the Spirit has put on your heart to speak to or to build a relationship with the object of reaching their soul. You can have no greater love for another than this. Asking regularly and sincerely for the guidance of the Spirit will give you all you can handle in terms of your time. None of us are omnipresent or weary-free. God is your link to being everywhere at any moment and He never sleeps.
Do not be stifled by a response you already know is probable, because God has told you in advance. Never think that blindness, a deadened heart, or a closed mind is an impenetrable fortress. Lack of perceived success should never deter your efforts. Keep on keeping on because of the God who stands behind His promises and who will reward every effort to “make disciples.
“The warning bell of judgment tolls, above us looms the cross; around are ever dying souls—how great, how great the loss! O Lord, constrain and move thy church the glad news to impart! And Lord, as thou dost stir thy church, begin within my heart.
(4th verse of Anne Ortlund’s hymn, “Macedonia, 1966)
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