The bible is full of hard sayings. You know, the things that make you scratch your head because they really don’t fit the traditional way we think of faith. Jesus was full of these. One is his call to repentance. It’s a command; he’s not asking.
In two accounts of the gospel, Jesus’ first words when he started his ministry were, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17, see also Mark 1:15). That’s a command. He’s not asking.
It is important to understand this when witnessing. Because the gospel is met with such resistance, we’re tempted to use a “soft-sell” approach in the hopes we don’t offend anyone. To justify ourselves, we point to the loud-mouthed street preachers who seemingly intend to drive people away from Jesus. We don’t want to do that, right?
Wrong. Early on, Jesus switched his teaching to parables alone. Why? So that the crowds would not understand. The only ones that would benefit from the gospel were those whom God has chosen. For the rest, the gospel (and parables) are intended to harden the hearers’ hearts. This is a hard saying of Jesus. For more, see Matthew 13:10-17, Mark 4:1-12, and Luke 8:4-10.
We Are Accountable.
All this seems so very strange. The gospel is used to intentionally harden some hearts. Isn’t the goal to bring as many souls to heaven as possible? No, the goal is to bring as many as were appointed by God. The rest are hardened and refuse to come.
That seems unfair. We are accountable for our response yet the gospel in intended to harden hearts? Paul anticipated that with a rhetorical question. In Romans 9:19-20, he writes, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God?…'” Yes, are accountable for the hardening of our hearts, not God. The blame lands on the individual, as it should.
Therefore, we have no reason to concern ourselves with “selling” anyone. Jesus was blunt. We have no reason to be afraid of doing the same. That doesn’t give us license to be a jerk. One can certainly be polite but firm. Jesus commands all men to repent. It’s as simple as that. Remember, he’s not asking.
Accepting The Fact
It’s not easy accepting the fact that your gospel presentation is likely hardening it hearts. Keep in mind, we are ambassadors, not surgeons (see 2 Cor. 5:18-20). We carry a message from our king; that’s it. The Holy Spirit is the one who fixes the heart.
Jesus guides us in processing this. Recall when Jesus sent out the twelve (see Matthew 10:5-15). They were instructed to go into a house. If they were accepted, then they were to let their peace come to it. “And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” (v.14) This certainly gives the impression that we aren’t to let the seriousness of ambassadorship crush us.
Indeed, it is serious. Jesus goes on to say, “Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (v. 15) Don’t forget this. Rejecting the Holy Spirit has eternal consequences. Hell is real. Don’t fool yourself or others. Nobody benefits from hiding hell from the gospel presentation. In fact, it is a great disservice to the recipient and is clearly disobedience on the part of the ambassador.
Still, It Isn’t Easy.
Certainly, it is easier to “shake the dust off my feet” with some than others. With strangers, I can easily forget rejection. It’s a different matter altogether with ones I love. It isn’t easy knowing that someone you love will probably never embrace Jesus and spend eternity in the lake of fire. I can try make myself feel better with the idea that I’m “sowing seeds.” The truth is, it’s the soil that receives the seed. All the seed in the world won’t matter if the soil is bad. But, that’s not for me to decide.
I must be careful lest I begin to blame God for someone’s unbelief or for His judgment against it. God is wise and just in the way he does things. He is glorified in executing judgment as he is in extending mercy. Am I uncomfortable with that? If so, then I need to dig deeper into my bible so I understand these things. There are lots of good sources on this. Try this one by John MacArthur. Not to toot my own horn, here’s a previous post of mine.
Keep in mind, practice makes perfect. The more you share the gospel, the easier it will be to present the entire scope of it. You’ll begin to understand that it necessary to include concepts of the law, sin, and judgment. Eventually, you won’t be able to share the gospel without these. Why? Because only with them does mercy even begin to make sense.
Father, I thank you for your wisdom. Who could have ever imagined such a way of doing things! I don’t understand it all, but I do accept it as truth. Certainly, your ways are higher than mine. I’m OK with that. Amen.
Copyright © 2021 Scott Powers