Jay Sanders, pastor
Towaliga Baptist Church, Jackson
When I was a teenager an evangelist challenged me to share the gospel with someone at least once a day. I took that challenge. And I failed miserably.
There were times when I would go to sleep at night and suddenly remember that I had forgotten to tell someone about Jesus that day. I would jump out of bed, write the plan of salvation on a sheet of paper and leave it on the steps right outside of my apartment door, hoping that someone would pick it up.
Paul was led by something much different than guilt and an evangelist’s challenge. It was a genuine love for Jesus and a love for sinners that fueled his evangelistic efforts. We may not have the opportunity to share the gospel with someone everyday. But we will have opportunities. When they come, we would do well to follow the example of Paul.
A passion for the lost – Acts 17:16-18
We have already seen examples in the book of Acts of people being provoked by the gospel. Here, we see Paul being provoked because of the gospel. Because he believed in the gospel, he could not just sit by while people were deceived by the idolatry so prominent in Athens.
It was his love for people and his love for truth that caused him to walk up and engage these philosophers. It matters that we approach the lost with the same Spirit. If we simply talk to them to ease our guilt or meet a quota it will show. But if we approach them as an act of love, that will show too and it will underscore the gospel message we proclaim.
A connection with the lost – Acts 17:22-23
The church has struggled with connecting with lost people in recent years. One the one hand, there are those who isolate themselves to such a degree that they could never share the gospel with a lost person. They don’t even know a lost person. And then there are those who are so immersed in the culture around them that the lost see no difference in the life they live or the message they proclaim.
Paul had the perfect balance. His commitment to the gospel was unshakable. But he also devoted himself to knowing the culture he was seeking to engage. He knew that his message had a better chance of being heard if there was a point of contact.
The false religion, the objects of worship, and the pagan altars did not scare Paul away. Nor did he jump right in on the festivities. Rather, he used them as a launching pad from which to proclaim the gospel. We must do the same. If we want people to know God, it will be helpful for us to take the time to know people.
A warning to the lost – Acts 17:30-31
No one has ever been saved simply by being in the presence of a cool, nice, and un-offensive Christian. We cannot win people into heaven. That’s God’s job. And He doesn’t need our watering down of the gospel to help Him. We must remember that we are His instruments, not His PR agents.
Paul did not shy away from giving a gospel warning and we should not either. There is a very real danger that comes with rejecting the gospel. The most unloving act a Christian can do is to avoid making that danger known to the lost.
The Church continues to have an unstoppable impact because of God working through people like Paul who refuse to remain silent while lost people die.