The fruits of sin are such that the salvation of your son or daughter, your colleague or neighbor, can only be accomplished by a miracle of grace. The breath of Christ, the splendor of Christ is the only thing that’s going to overwhelm this spirit that’s at work in him or her. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thess. 2:8). This is why missions and evangelism must have at its center proclaiming Christ’s splendor and praying for Christ’s breath. This is why the Apostles said that whatever else goes on in the church, we must give ourselves to the ministry of the Word and to prayer (Acts 6:4).
Someone told me a few weeks ago that he was witnessing to a colleague at work. He said, “You know, Colin, this guy lives like the devil, but he is good at heart.” I said, “Well now, wait a minute. How can he be good at heart if he lives like the devil? Surely if he lives like the devil, there must be something wrong with his heart!” After all, Jesus said,
Out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality… greed, malice… envy… arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’ (Mk. 7:21-23).
What you believe about sin will shape your convictions about missions and evangelism. How we engage in this work, and what we think needs to be done, will in large measure be shaped by what we believe the human problem really is. Sin is a secret power, mysteriously at work in the soul of an unbeliever.
Three Ways to Use the Truth About Sin
Use it to mature beyond naïve optimism.
Years ago, back in England, Karen and I were enjoying an evening with some good friends who served alongside us in the church. We were playing a game where one person secretly answers a question, and then the rest of the group has to try and guess their answer.
The question was, “By nature, are people good at heart, bad at heart, or somewhere in between?” The answer our friend chose was, “By nature, people are good at heart.” We had some good conversation about it, but I still remember how distressed I was driving home.
I’d been preaching the Bible in this church for 10 years and one of our closest friends, who loves Christ, attends church every week, is deeply engaged in ministry, and reads the Bible, believes that by nature people are good at heart. How is this possible?
Many Christians are utterly unrealistic about what we are up against when it comes to missions and evangelism. That may be one reason why we are often weak on prayer.
Use it to shape your convictions about missions and evangelism.
People who have an optimistic view of human nature tend to have an unrealistic view of missions and evangelism. There’s the informational view: “All we need to do is tell them.” There’s the friendship view: “All we need to do is love them.” There’s the environmental view: “All we need to do is connect them.” If Johnny has good friends, Johnny will be a good boy. All these things are necessary, but none of them are sufficient.
The fruits of sin are such that the salvation of your son or daughter, your colleague or neighbor, can only be accomplished by a miracle of grace. The breath of Christ, the splendor of Christ is the only thing that’s going to overwhelm this spirit that’s at work in him or her.