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Evangelism: You Make the Call

by Bob Wilkin

The National Football League is upon us once again. If you have ever seen an NFL TV broadcast, you probably have seen a segment named, "You Make the Call." In these segments they show a play and ask you how you would rule if you were the referee.

I have found this a helpful exercise concerning evangelism. I give people some actual witnessing situations which happened to me and ask them how they would have responded.

I will give four actual case histories. Your job is to decide if each person has eternal life or not.

"Larry" is a very moral person. He prays and reads his Bible daily. He attends church faithfully. He believes in the inerrancy of Scripture and the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ. He believes that Christ died on the cross for his sins.

You make the call.

"Steve" is an accounting major in college. After hearing the gospel he said that he would like to become a Christian because he wanted Jesus Christ's help with all of the pressures associated with accounting.

You make the call.

"Suzy" attends church a lot. She prays often. She takes communion regularly. When I shared the gospel with her she said she was already saved because she often prayed asking God to help her and because she took communion regularly.

You make the call.

I met "Lance" in a city park. He was a vagrant and a wino. I found him laying on a bench which had been his bed the night before. He agreed to talk about his views of Christianity. When I asked him if he had come to the point in his religious experience where he was sure that he had eternal life, he answered positively. When I asked him why he thought so he said that a few years before he had been in a church and heard that Christ died on the cross for all his sins and that those who believe in Him have eternal life. He said that while he wasn't living the way he should be and that he didn't deserve it, he knew he had eternal life because he believed in Jesus Christ and all who believe in Him are guaranteed eternal life.

You make the call.

OK, let's go over each one.

Larry. Did you decide he was saved or not? Actually, I didn't give you enough information.

While it is true that I indicated he believed that Christ died on the cross for his sins, what people mean by that today is not necessarily what the Scriptures mean. When the Scriptures use that expression they are referring to one who trusts solely in the fact that Christ died on the cross for their sins.

I went on to ask Larry why he thought that God should let him into heaven. My goal was to determine where he was placing his confidence. Here is the answer he gave: "I believe that God should let me into heaven because I believe that Christ died for my sins, and because I have confessed and continue to confess all of my sins, and because I have turned from and continue to turn from all my sins, and because I have been baptized, and because I am doing my best to obey God day by day.

Now what do you think?

Based on the testimony of Scripture, Larry is not trusting in Christ alone and hence is not saved. He is trusting in Christ PLUS. Christ plus his works.

Steve. All indications suggest that he is confused. The gospel is not about getting help with accounting pressures. The point of the gospel is that we need salvation from eternal condemnation which we deserve due to our sin problem. Steve evidently doesn't grasp this. He is yet unsaved.

Suzy. Like Larry, she is trusting in Christ PLUS. She is primarily looking to her prayers, church attendance, and taking of communion to save her. She lacks eternal life.

Lance. At first glance one would be tempted to conclude that he must be unsaved. Clearly his works are abysmal. Carnality marks his life.

However, when we look a little deeper we see something remarkable. Here is one who in spite of his disobedient lifestyle is clinging to Christ alone to save him. He does not doubt his salvation for he knows that it is Christ, not his works, which opens the way to eternal life. He knows that Christ won't let him down.

Lance is a saved, albeit carnal, man-like the believers at Corinth that Paul rebuked in 1 Corinthians 3:3 and 11:30.

I went on to talk to Lance about God's discipline here and now and about the coming Judgment Seat of Christ where our works will be evaluated. We had a word of prayer and he threw away his bottle and gave some indications that he was going to turn back to the Lord. However, whether he did or did not, that doesn't alter that fact that he falls under the category of whoever that Jesus spoke of in John 3:16.

When we share the gospel we must make it our number one objective to convey that the one and only condition for eternal life is trusting in Christ alone. We need to call people to give up all other confidences. I often find it helpful to ask them on what basis they hope to get into heaven. Why should God let them in? If they are trusting in anything but Christ alone, I steer them to Him as their only hope. I point out that no amount of moral reform, pledges to be good, confession of sins, praying, good works, or church attendance can make me good enough. Only Christ can blot out all my sins. He alone guarantees eternal life to all who believe in Him.

As you share your faith, be discerning. Find out what the person you are talking with believes, what they are trusting in. Then, after you make the call, point them to the only One who can save them.

Bob Wilkin is the Executive Director of Grace Evangelical Society.

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