Following the astounding events at Pentecost, Jesus’ apostles walked in the power of the Spirit. They were given power from on high through the Spirit Baptism, and this gave them the means to be bold in Jesus’ Name. The Lord had taught them for three and a half years, He had opened their minds to the entire Word of God, and He had literally supercharged them to walk in all His ways. This included the grace to heal others in the Name of Jesus; more than that, to be bold when their flesh would normally have them cower. God gave them His authority, and there was nothing in their preaching that showed that they worried about people’s tender sensibilities.
But wait … but wait! Aren’t we supposed to coddle people these days and tell them how much Jesus loves them? We certainly don’t want to hurt their feelings, right? I mean, if we do that, they might walk away from church or us when we’re talking to them, and they might miss the chance to be saved.
Well, let’s look at that from a Scriptural perspective.
Following Pentecost, Peter and John went to the temple regularly. On one particular day they encountered the lame beggar who they’d probably seen a hundred times before. However, this day was different. God put him in their path. He had no clue that this day was any different. His “job” was to gain the sympathy of those at the gate where he lay and beg a few coins to assure he could come back the following day. Instead, in his encounter with Peter and John, the Lord healed him. Talk about life transformation!
As usual, there were many people at the temple. The man was familiar to them, and when they saw that he was leaping, walking, and praising God, you can bet this got their attention. How often had they seen him in his pitiable state, and maybe even tossed a few pennies his way? His healing got their attention.
God used that to give Peter an audience to proclaim His Word. Here’s where it gets dicey for our evangelistic outreaches of today.
Did Peter say they just have to give their heart to Jesus and all will be well with their lives? No way. Consider what he said in Acts 3:14-15:
“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”
These people Peter was speaking to killed the Author of Life? They killed God? They were responsible for the death of Jesus, who was God Himself? Isn’t this a little harsh?
By today’s standards it is. But should we evaluate this from our westernized Christian perspective? I don’t think so. Perhaps this, in fact, is a major problem with our approach to evangelizing these days. Maybe we water down the Gospel so much that the power of God is lost.
Peter accused his listeners of murder. He told them they had no option but to repent of this great and unforgivable sin. Why? The murder of someone else according to the Law of Moses – the Ten Commandments – warranted the death penalty. As Paul later put it: the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Peter spared them nothing. He wanted them to know the severity of their actions. In fact, he repeated what Moses had told the people of Israel. In Acts 3:23, Peter said:
“ ‘And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ “
Those who heard Peter knew very well what he reiterated from Moses’ declaration in Deuteronomy 18:15. Another prophet like Moses would arise. Peter made it clear that this was Jesus. The people were to listen to Him well. If they didn’t, and also do what He said, God would destroy them.
Their only hope was what Peter stated in Acts 3:19:
“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”
True, heartfelt repentance at the full understanding and acknowledgment of their sins would stay God’s hand of wrath upon them. Without this deep commitment toward God through this act of repentance, they were lost for all time. But, God had made a way, and that was in humble contrition, asking for forgiveness. Through that, God would restore them even as He had long ago promised (Acts 3:21).
Peter told the people how wicked they were in their sin. The Holy Spirit did His part – just like with Peter’s similar message at Pentecost. They were cut to the quick. True, Holy Spirit conviction came over them. Many were saved.
And what do we do today? Very little, if any, of this. Is it any wonder that people feel the need time and again to respond to an altar call for salvation? How many times does it take?
That’s not a trick question. If someone is truly convicted by the Holy Spirit; if he knows the depth of his sin and how hopeless his life is trying to compensate for that; and if he repents of that sin from the depths of his heart – there is no question.
That’s not the norm these days. It’s one of several reasons why the latest Rasmussen Reports poll showed that 57% of Americans consider themselves religious. I don’t have the numbers for twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago, but I could pretty well bet that the percentages were quite a bit greater. And, this isn’t even reflecting those who are actually born again. Rest assured, that number is a lot lower!
So, what’s my point? There is a point, trust me.
If we want to see fruit in telling someone about Jesus; by and large, I think we should be unsparing in what salvation in His Name really means. Yes, there are circumstances whereby a truly gentle approach is necessary because of the pain of hurt and brokenness they’ve experienced. I don’t want to disregard this fact. But the truth of the matter is that we are far too comfortable in the West. American Christianity has been so weak because the Gospel presentation has been just as pathetic.
The Bible tells us plainly that in the latter days, many would fall away. They would turn from the truth and embrace the world. Well, here we are. The end is inevitable, and thank God, it will be just! However, in the meantime, perhaps we can change the dynamics in our own little spheres. When God opens the door for us to proclaim the Name of Jesus – to share the Gospel with someone – how about if we declare it as the REALLY Good News that it is?
If we do that, perhaps in our meager efforts, we won’t contribute to that prophesied decline in true faith.