Saturday, 26 July 2014

Evangelistic Passion ::FRANK RETIEF looks at how we can regain our passion for the gospel.

Evangelistic Passion ::

FRANK RETIEF looks at how we can regain our passion for the gospel.
Source: Perspective Vo10 No2 © Perspective 2002

How can any Christian believer not have a passion to evangelise? When one thinks of the enormity of what Jesus did on the Cross for us how can we refrain from sharing it? FRANK RETIEF looks at how we can regain our passion for the gospel …
I am often introduced to audiences as a man with “a passion for evangelism”. The chairman sits down and I then have to face the audience wondering what he means. Is “a passion for evangelism” a sort of oddity, something to be scrutinised, marvelled at, perhaps even admired; but ultimately, something peculiar and unique to only certain people.
What, in fact, does it mean to have “a passion for evangelism”? Does it refer to a preacher who preaches with passion and fervour? It may certainly include that but there are rugby, cricket and political enthusiasts who are able to speak with great passion about their particular interest. Does it mean that it is given to some people in the church to have this “passion” but not others? Is passion tied to the “gifts of evangelism” but if you have the “gift of a teacher” you don’t need this passion? Is a “passion for evangelism” some sort of attachment that certain people carry around with them but which other Christians do not need to have – a sort of optional extra that is looked upon benignly by some who put up with the idiosyncrasies of those ardent and earnest souls who are always trying to win others? Is this passion indeed something that is outside of us that is somehow taken on board, or is it part and parcel of who we are as redeemed people?
In thinking about this “passion for evangelism” I would want to ask the opposite question: How can any Christian believer not have a passion to evangelise? When one thinks of the enormity of what Jesus did on the Cross for us how can we refrain from sharing it? Why is this salvation that Christ purchased for us considered so great and the consequences of not having this salvation so terrible that Paul could say in Romans 9:1-3:
I speak the truth in Christ – I am not lying, my conscious confirms it in the Holy Spirit – I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race ...
Or again we note that passionate statement in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11:
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due to him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience.
We remember the awesome darkness that came across the land as Christ suffered, reminiscent of the Old Testament prophets who used darkness as a symbol of God’s judgement (Isaiah 5:20, Joel 2:31, Amos 5:20, Zephaniah 1:14-15, etc.). Think of the significance of the terrible cry wrenched from the innermost being of Jesus as in the darkness he cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” About this event John Stott writes the following:
So then an actual and dreadful separation took place between the Father and the Son; it was voluntarily accepted by both the Father and the Son; it was due to our sins and their just reward; and Jesus expressed this horror of great darkness, this God-forsakenness, by quoting the only verse of Scripture which accurately described it, and which he had perfectly fulfilled, namely, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Cross of Christ p.81).
Then comes the mighty act of resurrection followed by his ascension to the throne of Heaven. These things constitute both a rescue for sinners from an unspeakable doom and a demonstration of God’s love for us that is difficult to describe. Hence Paul’s words in Ephesians 1:1-14.
True evangelistic passion is rooted in the belief that all these things are true. It not only happened but it all has a special meaning. It means that God has done something to make it possible for us to escape the final judgement and to live with Him forever. He sent His Son to die in our place on the Cross and to bear His judgement as our substitute. It means that all who believe in Jesus are pardoned, restored and transformed now. They experience God’s love and grace now in this life and have the promise of hope for the life to come.
Passion will mean that the true content of the Gospel is taught. It will ensure that the Bible is honoured and handled properly. But it won’t be a cold and sterile process, because true evangelistic passion will not be content until people have heard, understood and made some kind of response to the truth.
How can we not be moved, amazed, motivated by this? It is indeed given to some to express passion in a way others cannot. But this does not indicate a lack of passion on the part of others. It is a foolish thing to equate a passion to evangelise with mere fervour and zeal. It certainly includes that but is much more than that. We all have our own temperaments, personalities and characteristics through which the gospel is communicated. But evangelistic passion does not mean we all yell our heads off when we preach.
It does mean, however, that the gospel is always in our minds; that we constantly want to tell it; that we believe with all our hearts that it is the power of God to save people; that we feel immense pity and compassion for those who do not know it and consequently do not know God. Some may put their passion into preaching and teaching, others into writing, music or the arts. Yet others may look for different ways of expressing their evangelism that fits them as people with God-given abilities.
The truth of the Gospel will turn us into thinkers, indeed even “schemers”, always thinking of new ways to reach lost people. It will give us courage to do things we have never done before. It will make us willing to go the extra mile to help people. It will make us conscious that everything we do must count, for we can easily put people off. Thus we become focused on other people – their physical well-being, but most importantly, their spiritual standing before God.
In summary, here are some of the ingredients of evangelistic passion:
  • A grasp of the enormity of what Christ did for us by His death and resurrection.
  • A total conviction that this Good News is for all.
  • An inner sense of alarm at the consequences of people rejecting it.
  • A love for people who are lost.
  • A commitment to sincerity, patience and care in explaining the gospel and teaching the Bible.
It is hard to think of Christians with no passion for evangelism or churches that do not instinctively evangelise. Perhaps they have not understood the enormity of the gospel. What about you?
Frank Retief is a passionate evangelist and Presiding Bishop of the Church of England in Southern Africa.


Before the beginning of time, God saw not only the cry of his heart, but the cry within every human heart. The Mighty Three, the Triune God, broke through the hosts of hell to draw water from the Well of Bethlehem. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Now the offer to sinful humanity is: "Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).
The true convert holds the Cup of Salvation in his trembling hands. He has seen the cost of his redemption. He sees that he was not redeemed with silver or gold, but with the precious Blood of Christ. Like David (2 Sam 23:15), he cannot drink of that cup in a spirit of self-indulgence. Rather than drink in the pleasures and the comforts of the Christian life, his reasonable service is to present himself as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable, and pour his life out as a drink offering to the Lord.
Man. Illustration copyrighted.I was killing time in a department store when an elderly man struck up a conversation with me. It wasn't long before the conversation swung around to the things of God. When I asked this man if he had a Christian background, his answer was interesting. He said, "Oh, I am a churchgoer. I believe in God the Father; and the Son, He's around too…somewhere." His reply was both humorous and tragic. This man went to church, obviously had faith in God, believed in the deity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, yet he was not saved.
If you love God, your heart will go out to the millions who are in such a state. They are in the “valley of decision.” Valleys are often without direct light, and direct light is what sinners need. They don't understand the issues. They are so close to salvation; it is as near as their heart and mouth. Yet without repentance, they will perish. Such thoughts are grievous. If you are born of God's Spirit, you will find that something compels you to run to the lost, to reach out to the unsaved, because God gave you a new heart that delights to do His will.
Well-known author and pastor Oswald Chambers said, "So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does." Bible teacher C. F. W. Walthers said, "A believer is ready to serve everybody wherever he can. He cannot but profess the gospel before men, even though he foresees that he can reap nothing but ridicule and scorn for it; yes, he is ready also to give his life for the gospel."
One cannot help but see Peter's passion for the lost, so evidently portrayed for us in the Book of Acts. He put behind him the three denials of his Lord, and stood before a multitude on the day of Pentecost. When a crowd gathered around the lame man who had been healed, he boldly preached the gospel to them. He testified before the very ones who had murdered the Savior, and he told them so. He had a passion for his God and a passion for sinners.
What was the apostle Paul's greatest passion? This longing, this aspiration, this yearning, was simply for the salvation of the lost. His greatest passion was for evangelism, something made evident by his own words. In the introduction of his letter to the Romans, Paul said that he was in debt to the world. His evangelistic zeal was so great that he said he would give up his relationship with Jesus Christ if it would mean that his brethren would be saved. Look at these sobering words:
    I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh (Romans 9:1-3).
I have looked at a number of Bible commentaries to see what they make of these verses. They have said that Paul could not be speaking of his own salvation. The reference is rather to Paul's willingness to be cut off from Israel. It's my understanding that the apostle was already cut off from Israel because of his faith in Jesus. If it was merely a reference to being cut off from his people, why did he say that he had already suffered the loss of all things? If they were but rubbish to him, why then does he have to back that up with (what seems like) oaths to make his point?
It is as though Paul was writing to hearers who would not be able to understand such love. How could evangelistic intensity weigh so heavy on a man that he was prepared to be cut off from any association with the Lord Jesus, to see that desire fulfilled? Such a statement could not penetrate selfish minds without a thoughtful preparation. They would not believe him, so Paul testifies that in what he was about to say:
  • He is telling the truth in Christ. The very One who was truth itself was Paul's witness that what he was about to say was true.
  • His Holy Spirit-regenerated conscience bore witness that he spoke the truth. He had cultivated a conscience that was tender before God and man, and the “work of the Law” did not accuse him of lying. His words could not be dismissed as mere exaggeration, or even hyperbole.
Deep within the soul of this man of God lay a burden--a great sorrow, a continual grief. Horror of horrors--he was saved, but his brethren were not.
Perhaps you do think Paul was lying when he said that his concern for the lost meant more to him than his relationship with Jesus. Maybe he had no fear that all liars would have their part in the lake of fire. Perhaps he had no concern that in bearing false witness, he would transgress the Ninth Commandment, for which Ananias and Sapphira where swiftly struck dead in their crooked tracks. Of course, we can't be the judge as to whether or not Paul was telling the truth in Christ, that his conscience was bearing witness in the Holy Spirit, but there certainly is evidence of his evangelistic priority in his writings.
Moses said a similar thing when he asked that God would cut him out of the book of life, rather than judge Israel.
In light of these thoughts, I don't know how anyone can call himself a Christian and not have concern for the lost. Charles Spurgeon said, "Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you are not saved yourself. Be sure of that." He continued, "The saving of souls, if a man has once gained love to perishing sinners and his blessed Master, will be an all-absorbing passion to him. It will so carry him away, that he will almost forget himself in the saving of others. He will be like the brave fireman, who cares not for the scorch or the heat, so that he may rescue the poor creature on whom true humanity has set its heart. If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for."
Ambulance. Illustration copyrighted.When an emergency vehicle drives through a city, the law demands that every other vehicle must pull over and stop. Why? Because someone's life may be in jeopardy. It is to be given great priority. That's how we should be when it comes to the eternal salvation of men and women. There is an extreme emergency. Everything else must come to a standstill, or we are in danger of transgressing the Moral Law, which demands "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Hell should be so real to us that its flames burn away apathy and motivate us to warn the lost. Do we see the unsaved as hell's future fuel? Do we understand that sinful humanity is the anvil of the justice of God? Have we ever been horrified or wept because we fear their fate? The depth of our evangelistic zeal will be in direct proportion to the love we have. If you are not concerned about your neighbor's salvation, then I am concerned for yours.The evangelistic zeal described on the previous pages should characterize a normal, biblical Christian. However, according to the Dallas Morning News (June 11, 1994), sixty-eight percent of professing Christians out-side of the “Bible Belt” don't see evangelism as being the number-one priority of the Church. Also in 1994, the Barna Research Group found that among American adults who said that they were “born again,” seventy-five percent couldn't even define the Great Commission. A survey by Christianity Today (a major evangelistic magazine) found that only one percent of their readership said they had witnessed to someone “recently.” That means ninety-nine percent of their readership were just “lukewarm” when it came to concern for the fate of the ungodly. According to Zondervan Church Source, ninety-seven percent of the Church has no involvement in any sort of evangelism. Only once in Scripture did Jesus give three parables in a row (Luke chapter 15). He did so to illustrate God's profound concern for the lost soul.
How is it that so many who are within the Church can profess to love God, yet neglect or even despise evangelism? The answer is frightening.