I have been challenged often, since becoming a follower of Christ, to “evangelize the lost”. There are times when I am passionate about this and eagerly seek out people to share this grace that I’ve experienced. Then, quite frankly, there are times when I am so wrapped up in myself that I don’t even see the opportunities God places directly in front of me. And what saddens me deeper still is that there are times when I don’t care. Why is that? How is it that there are times when people are just objects in my path, viewed as obstacles to my greater comfort, and then there are times when I am overwhelmed with the reality that everyone around me has an eternal destiny? I think I have found a concise answer within the book entitled, “A Gospel Primer” by Milton Vincent. I’ve posted his thoughts titled, “A Heart for the Lost” below:
The more I rehearse and exult in gospel truths, the more there develops within me a corresponding burden for non-Christians to enter into such blessings. This is also what seems to happen to the Apostle Paul while writing the book of Romans.
In Romans 5 Paul exults in his righteous standing before God. In chapter 6 he speaks of freedom from sin which Christ has accomplished in the lives of believers, a freedom which Paul later confesses had not yet become fully realized in his own daily practice (chapter 7). Nonetheless, coming into chapter 8, he recounts the fact that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. With increasing flourish, he rehearses numerous gospel themes throughout the length of chapter 8, and he climaxes the chapter with a triumphant exclamation regarding the endless love of God which enables Christians to conquer overwhelmingly in all things.
What effect do such gospel meditations have upon Paul? What emotions do they produce in him besides the obvious joy he feels while reciting them? Paul bares his soul at the very beginning of chapter 9: I have great sorrow, he says, and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ, for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
Coming down from the heights of the gospel meditation, Paul’s heart is devastated by a burden for his fellow-Jews to experience the saving power of the gospel. His burden existed long before he started writing, but it is undoubtedly intensified by his rehearsal of gospel truths in Romans 5-8, a rehearsal which inevitably leads his thoughts toward the plight of those outside of Christ.
Hence, if I wish to have a “Romans 9” kind of burden for non-Christians, I should become practiced at celebrating the gospel as Paul does in Romans 5-8. Over time, my joy in the gospel will become increasingly tinged with grief, and this grief-stained joy will lend a God-inspired passion to my ministry of evangelizing the lost.
I have thought back to the times when I have been most passionate about those around me who are lost, as well as the times when I have been apathetic toward any who may be without Christ. My passion has ebbed and flowed in direct correlation to this principle related above. You cannot escape the necessity to be consistently and constantly rehearsing the gospel, the very grace shown to you, in order to be the person Christ desires you to be. When I understand my need of grace and salvation, and the depths to which I have fallen, then I also fall so in love with Christ that I desire to share Him with others.