Dear Pastor Andy, I was reading this really great article that was talking about how to effectively witness to people. It was saying that you can go around all day saying that “Jesus loves you, and you need Jesus in your life” but it won’t make a difference unless people are first convicted of their sins. Take this analogy for example: You go to your neighbor’s house, and tell him that you paid a lawyer to represent him in court for a crime he committed, and the lawyer got him released of all charges. He is cleared of all fault, he just has to acknowledge the fact that he committed the crime and he’s sorry. Well, your neighbor looks at you like you’ve grown two heads. He didn’t even know he had committed a crime!
The point the article was making was that people will not truly accept or appreciate what Jesus did unless they know that they needed a Savior. If people don’t believe they are living in sin and have broken God’s law, then they can’t fully realize they need salvation. So this article was implying that we need to teach the Law first, because that is what makes a person realize they have sinned. Then, we can teach the Gospel. But how do we do this? You can’t just walk up to someone on the streets and say “Hey! You are a sinner and you are going to hell, if you don’t accept Jesus in your life.” They will take offense to this, and you will drive them even further away from Jesus. How would you go about doing this? Thanks!
In several of his letters, the Apostle Paul explains that there’s really no point in judging non-believing Gentiles by the Law, since they never had it in the first place. I mean, a soccer player can’t judge a football (USA) player because he touched the ball with his hands. They’re two completely different games – they don’t follow the same rules. And what’s acceptable in one culture might not be acceptable in another, so you wouldn’t condemn a person in one for doing something that’s not allowed in yours, because they don’t follow the same standards. It’s the same way with Gentiles and the Law. They never had it, so it won’t mean anything to them if you show it to them.
The Mosaic Law was given by God to His people – not to the Gentile nations, but to His people. It’s good for us Christians to know the law in terms of standards to live by, as well as understanding the importance of being holy, as God is holy, but that’s really all it does for us. It doesn’t save us, it doesn’t make us righteous in God’s eyes, we’re not told to follow it…
The Galatians were dealing with a similar issue. Another place where this was an issue was in Acts 15. See, they were Gentiles, but certain Jews were going around telling them that if they wanted to be Christians, then they needed to first know and follow the Law. The problem with that though, as Paul addressed (or Simon in Acts 15), was that doing such would be like taking a huge step backwards, for though the Law does show one their sin, it does nothing for them in terms of righteousness or grace. It’s like, before they knew Jesus, they were slaves to sin. It was their faith in Christ that freed them, not the Law, nor was it knowing that they sinned. But observing the Law enslaves them all over again, not only because it takes their focus off from God’s grace, but also because none of the Jews’ ancestors could bear, either.
So understand now, when Jesus died on the cross, He actually died for everybody. However, that doesn’t mean that everybody is automatically saved (that’s something called “Universalism”). Similar to your example with the lawyer, yes, the neighbor would be rescued from the crime, but not freed from it (not righteous, either), since he never accepted it. Would he be saved? Not in the sense of going to heaven when he dies, because it’s only by faith in Christ that we’re saved.
Sorry, am I confusing you? Jesus died for the sins of all, but in order to receive this awesome and free gift, we must accept it. We do this by repenting of our sins, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, inviting Him into our hearts, and following Him (deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him).
Sure, you need to recognize that you’ve sinned before you could repent of them, but I’ve seen some people on TV ask people questions that show their sin and it only caused them to put up a wall or brush it off, rejecting Christ altogether. They’re not convicted of the sin until they’re ready to accept that they’re a sinner, and they usually won’t accept that they’re a sinner until the Holy Spirit reveals it to them.
I’ve actually come to learn that the best way to evangelize to somebody is to befriend them. That way, they see Jesus in you through your actions, and become more comfortable with asking you about Him and theological questions they may be confused about, or listening to you when you talk about Him. So anytime He’s brought up, it’s on good terms with a friend. I also think that the movie “Bucket List” shows a good example of evangelism to a friend. Take special notice to the way the conversation was brought up on the plane.
But you’re right…especially in this day and age, going up to a stranger on the street and telling them they’re a sinner and need to repent will most often just turn them away.