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Dec23WedHow? Evangelism starts with sanctification. December 23, 2020 by Major Stephen Court
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This is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated new year of the millennium. Most of us were happy to bid farewell to 2020 by Founders’ Day on July 2!
The social restrictions prompted by the global pandemic—from lockdowns to distancing to mask-wearing—overflowed into many spiritual practices, including evangelism. But with 2020 firmly in hindsight and gusts of fresh hope billowing through and flipping the page of the calendar, it’s time to dust off our passion for the Great Commission.
Let’s be intentional. What would happen if each of us reading this aimed to personally introduce 21 people to Jesus in 2021? It would be a vast number. And behind each number would be a story of transformation—lives cleaned up, characters reconstructed, relationships reconciled, families restored.
Easily said. But how? Our first encouragement for evangelism is sanctification. That is, get holy. As the Apostle Paul famously instructed, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). While this is basic for every Christian, you might wonder how it particularly helps evangelism. It does, in four ways:
1. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the disciples: “I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-8). Yes, the Holy Spirit does the convicting. But in some sense, as the Holy Spirit is filling us, he is convicting people of their guilt concerning sin.
2. Holiness is equated by the apostle John with “perfect” or “complete” love: “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:17-18). One of the big arguments against evangelizing is fear. Perfect love—or, enacted holiness—drives out fear. In this context, holiness equals fearlessness. Impediment gone.
3. We don’t have to guess or rely on our own skills and abilities. We can more ably and appropriately partner with the Lord. This is how Jesus describes it: “‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19). As the Holy Spirit is filling us, we can more clearly see what the Father is up to in our daily comings and goings. And so, as we’re looking to evangelize, we can pray, based on this verse, “Help us to see what you’re doing and do what we’re seeing.” This helps turn good intentions into divine appointments.
4. Holiness removes the concern that we might be embarrassed or offended. Forensically, the negative side of holiness is the neutralization of our sinful nature, our natural inclination to act selfishly (see Romans 6:6). This is most famously, in Salvation Army circles, celebrated in an old Sunday school lesson based on Paul’s testimony: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). So, if we’re dead to sin and our life is Jesus living in us—then there is nothing in us to be offended for being insulted or mistreated or ashamed or embarrassed. Holiness makes us offence-proof.
Why not stop now and repent of anything dodgy you’re involved in? Why not renounce anything questionable that makes you vulnerable to attack? Why not consecrate every area of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? Why not ask the Holy Spirit, right this minute, to invade and fill your whole life?
Now 21 in ’21 doesn’t seem like as much of a stretch! Now that we’re relying on the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin and need; now that we’re missionally fearless; now that we’re seeing Jesus better and following his lead; now that we’re offence-proof; now that God’s love is saturating and overflowing us to others, it only seems (super)natural that we will have all kinds of opportunities to represent the Lord Jesus Christ, with his love and plan, to all kinds of people over the 365 days that will compose 2021.
Salvationists presume everyone we meet needs to get saved unless and until they demonstrate otherwise. We presume every social interaction is a divine appointment. Filled with the Holy Spirit we spread Jesus’ love everywhere we can and introduce everyone we can into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Major Stephen Court is the evangelism consultant in the Canada and Bermuda Territory.
Photo: SDI Productions/E+ via Getty