I sometimes wonder if the Nike Marketing Group has had a hand in influencing the modern American church’s gospel message. There is a certain level of “Just Do It” fervor in the sermons and Sunday school lessons of evangelical churches.
In our zeal to get God’s work done we tend to lead and end with an exhortation for every man, woman and child to go “invite, tell, contextualize, evangelize, and do whatever you can” to get the gospel out. Just do it, just do something, because doing anything with a Christian flavor is better than nothing!
There may not be anything wrong with this.
In a sense this can be a very biblical exhortation (Colossians 3:23). A little bit of Bible study can quickly show us that the Great Commission is the last charge Christ made to all who would claim to be His followers (Matthew 28:19-20).
But a little bit of truth with no context can be a dangerous thing; If we preach the gospel mission as mainly an emphasis on doing, trying, and moving for God, an ungodly deduction could be made in the mind of the listener: “If I don’t move, God can’t. God is dependent on me. God is impotent to get glory if I don’t go get it for Him.”
If we are not careful, in our mind the cosmic tables can be turned. And in a very real sense I can believe with all my heart not that I desperately and daily need God above all else, but that now that I’m a Christian:
“God needs me.”
Jesus is the antidote for this natural man-centered bent of our heart’s. When He spoke and acted, Christ placed the emphasis of evangelism back at His Father’s feet:
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)
Here is how modern evangelicalism has rendered this verse in so many ways: “The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few; therefore GO! Can’t you see? The lost need you! God needs you! The world needs you now! It’s your destiny!”
But this isn’t how Jesus appeals to the blind and hurting world he saw around him. He was driven to tearful compassion for His shepherdless sheep, and the response He wanted us to have was not to hastily run out and use any means to reel them in (JUST DO IT!). The first compassionate biblical command Jesus gave us for a world going to hell with out a Savior was to
This seems so counterintuitive to our über busy lives and the works based gospel we have quietly submitted to in the name of church attendance and behavior modification.
Jesus knew without divine unction and calling, mankind could do nothing of eternal value for mankind. Without the Father first preparing vessels for His glory, the sending out of laborers would be in vain. And as a result, all meaningful evangelism efforts must be rooted in humble fervent prayer before the Father asking Him to graciously give what we can never produce:
A harvest of souls.
Revival doesn’t necessarily begin in big tents or rousing services, it begins with us in our prayer closet on our knees tearfully pleading for the Sovereign Ruler to have mercy on us (2 Chronicles 7:14). It is not first about doing, it is first about depending.
I believe this is true even for those seemingly hum drum daily routine prayers we unload hastily at the end of a busy day.
The way a person prays may betray their true theology.
In my bedtime prayer with my son I don’t appeal directly to his will (or his inherent ability to turn to God), I appeal to the God of Justice and Mercy to make Himself known to him based on the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In reality, almost every parent I know prays for their child this way, regardless of the theological system they claim.
In a word, I pray God will make him willing (Psalm 110)
Would anyone be motivated to pray for another’s salvation otherwise?
If I am not convinced that God can accomplish my son’s salvation and prepare him for an apprehension of grace, what motivation for prayer is there?
This is a weighty privilege and responsibility for parents. Our supplications can be one of the many tiny levers that has helped set the great wheel of God’s sovereignty into motion for our child’s salvation. In prayer, we place our child’s destiny into the caring hands of the merciful Father, for God forbid these precious ones be left up to their own fallen devices.
I know there is tension and mystery on the subject of human responsibility and divine sovereignty. His sovereignty does not negate our responsibility, but rather should motivate and empower it. The God who can be trusted on as a loving Father, can also be depended on to carry out his purposes as a powerful King.
So I pray over my son every night. Standing on the undying promises of a King who can never be thwarted (Eph 1:11):
“God you make Josiah a man of God, You make him a man after Your own heart…You give him a heart of flesh to know You and fear You, and You save him by Your grace.” (Ezekiel 36:26-36).
I know without the Holy Spirit moving on his little heart he will have no inclination to repent and believe the gospel in his lifetime (Eph 2:3-5).
At the conclusion of our bedtime prayer Josiah looks up at me as I say “In Jesus Name.” And he always responds with a hearty drawn out, “Aaaaamen!!!” or, as the word means, “So be it!”
A three year old knows his utter dependence on the Father’s mercy. Let us find that same childlike dependence in prayer, and our interceding and going and preaching will not be with vain appeals of man-centered movement, but with the Father’s blessing and divine power.