By Chuck Griffin LifeTalk Editor
Acts 2:37-42 (NRSV)
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Most preachers would sacrifice their eye teeth or maybe even other body parts to see sermon results like what is recorded in today’s Bible reading. The report comes in the midst of the Acts account of the first fully developed Christian sermon.
Delivered by Peter shortly after the Pentecost experience, the sermon establishes the goal of any act of evangelism, be it carried out by the professional preacher or any other Christian. At some point, we want our audience, even if it’s just an audience of one, to be “cut to the heart,” asking pertinent questions about how to be saved.
Yes, there is an art to all of this. There are rhetorical flourishes that are helpful, communications techniques that shift and change from era to era and culture to culture. The core of the message remains the same, however. The need to repent of our sins and submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior has to be declared.
We struggle in bringing people to Christ, I think, because we have shied away from getting to the point. Meditate on this today: “Am I comfortable declaring my belief in Jesus Christ to someone who needs to hear this truth?”
As you meditate, don’t treat the question as a theoretical possibility, as if it’s an outside possibility that you might encounter a lost soul one day. Frankly, if we are out in the world at all, we encounter lost people every day. When we fail to engage those who don’t know Christ as Savior, it’s a safe bet we’re not comfortable doing so.
If you’re wriggling a little as you read this, I may be able to explain why. You may be equating what I’m talking about with “cold evangelism,” the declaration of the gospel to strangers. Cold evangelism is really hard to do—Peter was successful because God preceded the apostle’s preaching work with powerful signs from the Holy Spirit, triggering mass curiosity.
On a day-to-day basis, most of us must rely on a different approach. For starters, if you identify a person who needs to know Christ, it helps to befriend that person. If you’re genuine in your desire to befriend that person despite his or her “otherness,” you will eventually earn the right to talk about your beliefs in an easy, straightforward manner. It’s been my experience that people will signal to you that it’s time to talk about Jesus Christ by asking you pointed questions.
If the idea of that moment unnerves you—well, you might want to spend a little time studying how to talk about your faith and answer the more pressing questions that nonbelievers raise. I think these skills are best developed in a small group dedicated to evangelism as its primary mission. If you want to join such a small group or learn how to form one, let me know.
Just remember, if you want people to be cut to the heart, you at some point have to cut to the core message about what we believe.
Lord give us eyes to see and ears to hear those who need to know you, and give us your wisdom and courage to speak the truth, knowing your loving grace arrived in their lives long before we showed up. Amen.