One of the “joys” of approaching the middle-aged years is the reality of more frequent medical check-ups. In my case, this means more cold stethoscopes being placed against my chest, to make sure my heart is still functioning properly. It means more blinding light shining into my eyes, to make sure both pupils are dilating fully. And it means more questions being asked about my dietary and exercise habits, to make sure I am eating the occasional vegetable and jogging the occasional mile. While, in the moment, the annual physical exam can be seen as an annoyance, it no doubt is a vital part of staying physically healthy. 

As followers of Christ, we receive spiritual check-ups at many different stages of our Christian walk. We receive a spiritual check-up when we read the Bible, as it does its work of “piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow . . . judg[ing] the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). We receive a spiritual check-up when we are reproved, rebuked, and exhorted (2 Tim 4:2) through the faithfully-preached Word. We receive a spiritual check-up when we have accountability-related discussions with our brothers and sisters in Christ (Prov 27:6, 17). Then, there is the ultimate spiritual check-up: when we evaluate ourselves “to see if [we] are in the faith” (2 Cor 13:5).

While each of these areas of the Christian life is a key measuring stick of one’s spiritual health, a frequently-overlooked aspect of our spiritual check-up is in the area of evangelism. This article seeks to remedy this oversight by asking: as those who have received “so great a salvation” (Heb 2:3) through the finished work of Christ, can we credibly say we are committed to and actively sharing that singular message of salvation? Are we sold-out soul-winners? Or instead are we sideline-sitting silos of Scriptural knowledge? To make sure we are in the former category, and faithfully fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) as committed soul-winners, we need to check our hearts, check our sight, and check our excuses.

1. Check Your Heart

In the minutes it takes you to read this article, hundreds of people around the globe will take their last breath. Their lungs will push out one last heave, their hearts will deliver one last pump, and their muscles will give one last twitch. Whether it be through a car accident, cardiovascular disease, or cancer, tens of thousands of image-bearers check out of this world each day, with a ticket punched to one of two eternal destinations: heaven or hell. 

Heaven, of course, is the throne of God. It is His eternal dwelling place. Heaven is a glorious place, it is a prized destination, and it serves a central purpose—worship (Rev 4:9-10). In the words of Jonathan Edwards: “There is nothing upon earth that will suffice to represent to us the glory of heaven.”[1] It is indescribably glorious.

But what about hell? The Bible is clear that hell is a literal place where those who have rejected Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will spend an eternity in torment, facing the just wrath of God for their unforgiven sins. The words used in Scripture to describe hell include “outer darkness” (Matt 8:12), “eternal fire” (Matt 25:41) and “chains” (Jude 1:6), and a place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 22:13; 25:30). Those who die in a state of unrepentant sin and rebellion against God face a truly terrifying and tragic fate. In the words of John Bunyan, “what a miserable case he who dies in an unregenerate state is in; he departs from a long sickness to a longer hell, from the grips of death to the everlasting torments of hell.”[2]

The soul-winner is ever aware of the stark contrasts between the realities of heaven and hell, and earnestly desires that more would come to know Christ, receive eternal life, and enjoy the blessings of heaven. At the same time, the reality that tens of thousands each day are sliding into an eternity in hell causes the soul-winner’s heart to sink, his stomach to hurt, and his head to ache. 

Does this describe you? Knowing that your time here on earth is short, and eternity is—well, eternal—what is your commitment level to reach the lost with the saving message of the gospel of grace? In the words of William Gurnall in his classic work The Christian in Complete Armour, “Is there none, O man, that needs the mercy of God besides thyself?” 

Do you have the heart of a soul-winner? 

2. Check Your Sight

         We need more than a heart check, though, to determine whether we are living faithfully as soul-winning ambassadors of Jesus Christ. We also need a vision test. While being nearsighted is problematic in the realm of optometry, in the realm of evangelism, being nearsighted (that is, seeing the people who are right in front of you) is a necessity.

         When you are talking across the backyard fence with your Mormon next-door neighbor, is your conversation peppered with talk about property lines and local politics, or are you engaging in gospel-directed discussions? When you are interacting with people in public places, do you view them as means to the end you want (e.g., food, coffee, groceries)? Do you view them as barriers to where it is you actually want to go (e.g., apartment, office, car, church)? Or are you consciously aware of the fact that each person you encounter today is hanging on to this life by a hair’s breadth, and could face their Maker tonight? Could you, like George Whitefield, say: “God forbid that I should travel with anybody a quarter of an hour without speaking of Christ to them?” Or would your testimony more accurately be: “God forbid that I should travel anywhere without glancing at my screen every 5 minutes, while ignoring those around me who are perishing?” 

Having a heart for the lost will not do anyone any good if we are unable to see the lost people right in front of us. To truly be winners of souls, we have to be willing to take the focus off ourselves and our preferences and our comforts. This means getting our eyes up and engaging lost souls around us with the saving message of the gospel. 

Do you have the sight of a soul-winner?

3. Check Your Excuses

We all do it. When we go in for a physical check-up, we make excuses. “No, doctor, I haven’t been eating right. But it’s my wife’s fault. She does all the cooking!” Or, “No, doctor, I haven’t been taking that prescription, I’ve just had a lot on my mind.” So it is in the spiritual realm. The list of excuses we make for not sharing our faith is seemingly never-ending. 

One common excuse is: “God is sovereign in salvation, so why bother?” This seemingly-spiritual, hyper-theologized excuse for not sharing one’s faith ultimately rings hollow. The inescapable truth is that Jesus has commanded His followers to make disciples (Matt 28:19), and the first step toward making a disciple is to share with them how they can become a disciple (by repenting and believing in the gospel, Mark 1:15). There are no caveats to the Great Commission. The magnificent truths of Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:3-6 do not supersede our call to proclaim the truth of John 3:16. 

         Another excuse often given for not sharing the gospel is: “I don’t need to share, since I preach the gospel with my life.” On the surface, this has some appeal, but it is completely wrong. By definition, the gospel message is “good news.” And like all news, the good news is a message that must be reported. It has to be communicated. Getting a cross tattooed on one’s arm does not save. Living a morally-upright, attractional life—though admirable—cannot be called “evangelism.” Rather, God saves through one means: the proclamation of His gospel (Rom 1:16).

         A final excuse commonly given for not sharing the gospel relates to our social skills and eloquence – or lack thereof. “I mumble.” “I stutter.” “My palms get sweaty.” “I don’t know enough theology.” Moses offered similar excuses, saying: “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent . . . for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (Ex 4:10). And what was God’s reply? “Who has made man’s mouth? . . . Is it not I, the Lord?” (Ex 4:11). At the heart of excuses like these is a man-centered (and ultimately, self-centered) view of evangelism. We reason that God will only be able to use us to win souls once we have attained a certain degree of spiritual depth or conversational fluency. But the power does not lie in us. It lies with Him. It is found in His message. 

         Are you willing to check your excuses?

Conclusion

So there you have it. Your spiritual check-up is complete. And what is the diagnosis? Are you a soul-winner? Do you have the heart of an evangelist? Do you have your sights set on the lost people around you? Are you committed to ditching the tired excuses and faithfully heralding the gospel message to the people around you? Are you, in fact, “for the gospel”? 


[1] John H. Gerstner, Jonathan Edwards on Heaven and Hell (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1998), 12.

[2] John Bunyan, Sighs From Hell: The Groans of a Damned Soul (Orlando, FL: Northampton Press, 2011 repr.), 19.

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Comments to: Soul-Winning Strategies: A Check Up
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    November 25, 2020

    I do not have any excuses what you have written has been my raison d\’etre for the last 13 years ever since the Lord healed me of 55 years of chronic clinical depression due to a childhood of appalling abuse of many kinds. What never ceases to amaze me is how few seek to fulfil the commission God gave us, I can only assume they have not been given as much as I have, I was given my life back after 64 years of misery – so, of course, the last 13 have been unbelievable.s

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