This week I’ve been reading a new book by Elliot Clark entitled, Evangelism as Exiles: Life on Mission As Strangers In Our Own Land. Clark is looking at how the letter of 1 Peter instructs Christians today as Exiles called to witness to Christ. I’m reading the book because we are currently studying 1 Peter. However, I wish I could have read it before my sermon on Acts 17:16-34 this past Sunday.
In one section of the book, Clark talks about how coming judgment should motivate our evangelism. His words compliment well Paul’s approach with the Athenians in Acts 17. Paul tells them that God created them, that they are accountable to Him as their creator, and that He will judge them at an appointed time in the future. In light of this coming judgement Paul calls them to repent. Paul is compelled by this reality to proclaim the Gospel.
Listen as Clark tell us how this reality motivates evangelism:
…the gospel must be proclaimed, because all will give an account to One who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:5-6).
Have we really taken into account the end and outcome for our friends, relatives, neighbors, and coworkers? Is our failure to evangelize really an issue of fearing too much, or not fearing nearly enough? Do we cherish our comfort and others’ respect more than we cherish God’s glory and their deliverance? Will we love them enough to fear for them, to show them mercy and kindness by warning them and snatching them out of the fire? The consistent testimony of the New Testament is that if we have the appropriate fear for them and of God, we’ll preach the gospel. We’ll speak out and not be ashamed. (pg. 58, emphasis original)
He later wrote:
When we observe that our problem in evangelism is fearing others too much, we should note the form such fear takes. We typically aren’t running from people in terror…Rather, fearing others more than God usually demonstrates itself in trying to please them more than God. (pg. 59)
Christians who try to please people ultimately fail at pleasing God and fail at proclaiming his gospel. And far too often this is the problem in our evangelistic endeavors: We’re fundamentally committed to keeping people happy and having them like us, having them think we’re smart, contemporary, hip, tolerant, progressive, fun, approving—and the list goes on. We want to please them; and we want them to approve of us. (pgs. 59-60)
May the Lord give us a reverent fear of Him and a sincere love for others. When this happens, we will be motivated to proclaim the Gospel for God’s glory and their good.