This is the most eagerly anticipated new year in this millennium. Most people were happy to bid farewell to this past year by Founders’ Day on July 2! And the social restrictions overflowed into many spiritual practices, including evangelism. For much of the year, the changes in habits, from lockdown through distancing to mask-wearing, made evangelizing an awkward, sometimes unnatural-feeling exercise. But with gusts of fresh hope billowing through and flipping the page of the calendar, and with 2020 firmly in hindsight, we can dust off our zealous disciplines and great commission passions for a greater year than has ever been experienced.
Let’s be intentional. If we kick off this new year looking for the unprecedented, we’re likely to see it. How about this for something new? 21 in ’21!
What would happen if each of us reading this, every one of us – 1,636,388 million junior and senior soldiers worldwide The Salvation Army Year Book 2020 – and the readership of Rescue the Perishing – aimed to personally introducing 21 people to Jesus in 2021?
Well, if we all hit the target, we’d see 34,363,980 people get saved, transferring from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of Life, from the power of Satan to God, all of them starting an eternal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s just the raw number. But each number composing that total is a story. And when you add up all of those stories, you’ll recognize that all kinds of transformations will have occurred: relationships will be reconciled, lives will be cleaned up, character will be reconstructed, the trajectory of family lines will be redirected, sin will decrease:
- cases of abuse crater
- use of porn dwindles
- the exploitation of women slumps
- addictions plummet
- racism dissipates
- crudity shrinks
- selfishness and greed and bitterness and rage all tail off
Our first encouragement for evangelism is sanctification. That is, get holy. Have the Holy Spirit fill you. As the apostle Paul famously instructed, “Be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b NIV).
Now, while this is basic for every Christian, you might wonder how it particularly helps evangelism. Well, here goes, in at least four ways:
First, Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 16:7b-8 (NIV): “I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” Yes, the Holy Spirit does the convicting. But HE has come TO the disciples and does the convicting. In some sense, as the Holy Spirit is filling US, He is convicting people of their guilt concerning sin.
Second, holiness is equated by the apostle John with ‘perfect love’ or ‘complete love’. Here is 1 John 4:17b-18a NIV): “This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: in this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” “In this world we are like Jesus”! It’s even stronger in NASB: “as He is, so also are we in this world”! One of the big arguments against evangelizing is fear. Perfect love or, enacted holiness, drives out fear. In this context, holiness equals fearlessness. Impediment gone.
Third, we don’t have to guess ‘at random’ and rely on our own skills and abilities. We can more ably and appropriately partner with the Lord. This is how Jesus describes it, in John 5:19 (NIV): “‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” As the Holy Spirit is filling us, we can more clearly see what the Father is up to in our daily comings and goings. And so, as we’re looking to evangelize, we can pray, based on this verse, ‘Help us to see what You’re doing and do what we’re seeing.’ This helps turn good intentions into divine appointments.
Fourth, holiness removes the concern that we might be embarrassed or offended. Forensically, the negative side of holiness is the neutralization of our sinful nature, our natural inclination to act selfishly (see Romans 6:6). This is most famously, in Salvation Army circles, celebrated in an old Sunday school based on Paul’s testimony in Galatians 2:20 (NIV): “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So, if we’re dead to sin and our life is Jesus living in us – then there is nothing in us to be offended for being insulted or mistreated or ashamed or embarrassed. Holiness makes us offence-proof.
We could go on.
But why not stop now and repent of anything dodgy you’re coddling? Why not renounce anything questionable that makes you vulnerable to attack? Why not consecrate every area of your life to the Lord Jesus Christ? Why not ask Holy Spirit, right this minute, to invade and fill your whole life?
Now, 21 in ’21 doesn’t seem like as much of a stretch! Now we’re relying on the Holy Spirit to convict people of their sin and need, now that we’re missionally fearless, now that we’re seeing Jesus better and following His lead, now that we’re offence-proof, now that God’s love is saturating and overflowing us to others, it only seems (super)natural that we will have all kinds of opportunities to represent the Lord Jesus Christ with His love and plan to all kinds of people over the 365 days that will compose 2021!
Salvationists presume everyone we meet needs to get saved unless and until they demonstrate otherwise. We presume every social interaction is a divine appointment. Filled with the Holy Spirit we spread Jesus’ love everywhere we can and introduce everyone we can into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
Blood and Fire!