Saturday, August 05, 2006

How [not] to convince someone about the Gospel

In the late 1970s, I was trying to decide whether the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, made any sense to me. I knew there was something important to it, but it didn't make any sense, and I kept fighting it. One day, somehow God got through to me, and I remember thinking afterwards that I had wasted some years trying to make life work without considering the gospel and without knowing God. And the thought came to me, "Well, if I could go back in time and just explain this and this to myself back then..."

But then I realized that all I could think of -- others actually had said to me, and somehow I couldn't grasp it. That's what I thought of this morning when I saw this verse:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
1 Corinthians 1.18
... which explains why I couldn't get it earlier -- I was lost! But I'm thankful that people prayed for me and that God was reaching out to me.

A little later in 1 Corinthians is this part:
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
1 Corinthians 2.4-5
... which tells me that if somebody is lost, like I was, no amount of clever and persuasive speech will convince him. Not that we have to be anti-intellectual, but we must remember that power to persuade comes from the Spirit of God, not from rhetorical brilliance.

So let's pray for the lost, by all means share our lives and answer their questions, but let's not worry about finding some magic key to "make them see the truth" -- we can bring water to a horse, but only God can make him drink.

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