Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Jesus is the only way to God, Jesus is God, if you believe in Jesus you shall not perish. But if you don’t place your trust in Jesus, then you will perish. Jesus talks about this eternal perishing as hell, hades or eternal fire. In a previous post I talked about four ways that Christians can respond to this heavy truth.
For this post I want to try and help us wrestle with the question, “What are we doing about it?”. A great model for us of someone who knew the heavy truth that Jesus was the only way to heaven and actually did something about it was the Apostle Paul. Once Paul gave his life to Jesus, he didn’t just plop down in the nearest church, sing his favorite songs and wait around for Jesus to come back. He spent the rest of his life trying to empty hell and pack out heaven. Here’s what drove Paul and what should drive us as well:
1. Wake up! “Wake up, sleeper! Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:14-16
Life is short! No one is promised tomorrow, not you, not that friend that you love that doesn’t yet believe in Jesus. Life is short, so wake up! What am I doing today, what are you doing today, to empty hell and fill heaven?
2. Have a heart. I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it through the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Romans 9:1-4
Do you see the depth of emotion Paul shows, how his heart breaks for his own people? He was willing to go to hell himself if that meant his own people would trust in Jesus. Does your heart break for the lost? Now, this isn’t a justification to grab a bullhorn and start yelling at people “Repent! Turn or burn!” The goal is not to yell at them on the way to hell. The goal is to get them into heaven, and yelling at them isn’t usually the best motivational tactic.
Think about it like a teacher. Your goal as a teacher is help your student fall in love with whatever subject you’re teaching and to help them pass the class. If all your students fail, you never feel satisfied saying, “Well, I told them. I told them they needed to get smarter or they would fail. It’s their fault.” You would never say that as a teacher because you have a heart. In fact, if all your students kept failing you would say, “What am I doing? How do I need to change my approach?” Why? Because you care about your students. You have a heart!
Well, if everyone around us continually drives right past our churches on Sunday mornings and they continue to march straight towards hell, maybe we need to ask, “What are we doing? How do we need to change our approach?” Perhaps we need to ask God to truly begin to break our hearts about the vast sea of lostness that we’re swimming in every single day.
3. Live different. I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 2 Corinthians 10:2
These next two points come from a letter Paul wrote the church in ancient Corinth. How are we living differently than the world? What’s different about us? What compelling reasons are we giving people to trust in Jesus, not in our wealth or our possessions, but in our joy and love and faith? Personal holiness matters. If people look at us and don’t see anything different than the world, why would they ever consider following Jesus?
4. Fight the real enemy. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4
This is just a reminder that your muslim neighbor is not the enemy. Your gay friend is not the enemy. People are not the enemy, and that’s why we’re called to love our neighbors. Your friends may be captives of the enemy, but they are not the enemy. The enemy is Satan, the devil, the Father of lies who deceives the multitudes. If you want to get angry and fight somebody, fight him. Fight the real enemy.
5. Become a prayer warrior. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. Ephesians 6:18-20
If you’ve ever meaningfully tried to engage with lost people and convince them to follow Jesus, you realize just how humanly hopeless it is. People’s hearts are hard. For some people, there’s no argument, no presentation, that will convince them. For many, it’s not a head issue, it’s a heart issue, and only God can change the human heart. That’s why if you read Paul’s letters, you’ll see him praying and referencing prayer all the time. That’s where the battles for human hearts are fought, on our knees when we pray.
6. Sacrifice something to save someone. Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:19, 23
Once Paul knew what the goal was, once Paul focused in on the mission: to empty hell and fill heaven, he was ruthless in his flexibility. In this passage, Paul talks about his approach. If he speaks to a Jew, he’ll talk about the Jewish law and use that to lead to Jesus. If he’s talking to a Greek, he won’t mention the Jewish law. What are we willing to sacrifice to save someone?
7. Invite people to follow Jesus. “Then I asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’
“ ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ the Lord replied. ‘Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me.’
Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”
Paul replied, “Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” Acts 26: 15-16, 28-29
When Paul was talking with a skeptic, he was intentional to keep the focus on Jesus. There are so many things to get sidetracked by, especially when talking to people of other faiths. There are different beliefs about how this world was created, about sin and how it effects us, even about the afterlife and what happens after we die.
At the end of the day, keep laser-focused on Jesus. Non-religious people and even people of other faiths tend to be very standoffish and resistant to the Christian religion as whole, but they’re fascinated with Jesus as a person, because Jesus is a fascinating person.