When It Doesn’t Last 24 Hours

Any believer who desires to see sinners come to Christ but also wants to trust God’s power rather than manipulative gimmicks will inevitably encounter situations where a difficult decision must be made (by the evangelist). The Gospel has been faithfully shared, the listener has been attentive and interested, and appears willing to “close the deal.” What should we do? Even though I cherish the doctrines of grace, there is still something inside me that compels me to lead them in a prayer right then, as if fearful that if I don’t do that, they will somehow “get away.” Call it my inner Arminian used car salesman:  “Friend, what do I have to do to put you into right-standing with the Almighty today?” But this often results in rushing in upon the work of the Holy Spirit. Now, rather than leaving the door open for the person to wrestle with the Gospel and speak with you about it more later, you have presented with a counterfeit version of what true, saving faith is. The long-term effects of such an experience can, obviously, be devastating.

I have been greatly helped in this matter by an illustration from Lloyd-Jones. There was once a man who was greatly affected during his preaching one Sunday evening, “weeping copiously.” But at the end of the service, Lloyd-Jones did not feel the Spirit urging him to say anything further to the man, and he did not want to interfere with whatever work was taking place there. The next night, he saw the man again:

He came across the road and said to me, “You know, doctor, if you had asked me to stay behind last night, I would have done so.”

“Well,” I said, “I am asking you now. Come with me now.”

“Oh no,” he replied, “But if you had asked me last night I would have done so.”

“My dear friend,” I said, “if what happened to you last night does not last for 24 hours, I am not interested in it. If you are not as ready to come with me now as you were last night you have not got the right, the true thing. Whatever affected you last night was only temporary and passing, you still do not know your real need for Christ.” (Preaching and Preachers, 276)

It is helpful to keep this story in mind when sharing the Gospel. If the Lord has truly taken hold of them, it will last for longer than 24 hours, and there is no need to fear letting them get away. Let us share the Gospel frequently, compellingly, passionately, persuasively . . . and then trust the Holy Spirit to give the increase.

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About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This entry was posted in Pastoral Ministry, Preaching and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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