Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Can a Person Rightly be Silent Regarding the Gospel?

This is a new thought I've been pondering lately: We as American Christians, never having experienced persecution for our faith, and being expedient people as we are, have to be careful against having a too-bold approach in sharing the gospel with unbelievers especially when we are in a foreign culture, especially one where persecution is more the norm. Perhaps it is true here in our own bold culture as well, where people are for the most part walking in darkness and rarely seeing what is to them the unfamiliar light of Christ. This is a very new thought for me, and I am a very unlikely person to think it. I am the one who rushes in where angels fear to tread--too much of the time--and who knows how many people I've clobbered with my Bible (figuratively of course).
The Bible does say to be bold; it says to preach the gospel to every living creature...but it also says to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16); to not cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). Jesus and Paul didn't go everywhere and tell everyone everything about coming to salvation; Paul said things about the Spirit restraining him from certain places, such as Asia and Bithynia in Acts 16.
Many times I've heard people say they'd hate to have Jesus come back and have someone they had the opportunity to share the gospel with miss salvation because of their own hesitation. However, I think they put pressure on themselves that way that the Holy Spirit never intended; they end up walking in their own strength and awkwardly blind-siding someone with something the person is not prepared to receive, sometimes increasing the person's hostility to Christ. That's what I did with my brother Mark when I was a brand-new believer. He was visiting us, and I took every opportunity to share things with him that he was nowhere near wanting to hear. He was my captive audience and I clobbered him. At the end he said it was not worth it to visit us, and I haven't seen him since. That was about 17 years ago. Hopefully it could be understood since salvation was still such a new and exciting concept to me, and most new believers are known for such stuff. Still, I regret how aggressive I was, and it would intrigue me to know how things might have gone if I'd followed the Holy Spirit's leading instead...His quiet, gentle light might have been much more effective than my blaring searchlight straight in the face of one who'd known only darkness to that point.
So something inside of me is changing. I think I'm getting more aware of the track I should be on, and the feeling that comes with being off it. It's disheartening to me when I think back at how I pressured myself to do things, thinking that the bolder I was, the greater was my obedience to Christ. It was probably only my own feeling of urgency pressing me on, no doubt causing spiritual havoc in places. I increasingly want to walk in the Spirit of Christ and not in my own flimsy strength, not in the American boldness, and am hoping that I am developing an increased perception and awareness of the difference. Perhaps it will be a more fruitful and genuine walk.

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