Every soul-winner is in the secret of the Lord and has had a definite personal experience of salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which brings him or her into close fellowship, tender friendship, and sympathy with the Savior. The psalmist prayed, “Purify me from my sins. . . . Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you” (Ps. 51:7, 9–12 NLT).
“Then,” said he, “I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you” (Ps. 51:13 NLT). He saw that before he could be a soul-winner, before he could teach others the way of the Lord and lead them to salvation, he must have his own sins blotted out; he must have a clean heart and a right spirit, and he must be a partaker of the Holy Spirit and of God’s joy. In short, he must have a definite, constant, joyful experience of God’s salvation in his own soul in order to save others. It was no “hope I am saved” experience he wanted, nor was it a conclusion carefully reasoned out and arrived at by logical processes. It was not an experience based upon a strict performance of a set round of duties and attendance upon sacraments, but a mighty transformation and cleansing of his whole spiritual nature and a glorious new creation wrought within him by the Holy Spirit.
This must be a definite experience that tallies with the Word of God. Only this can give that power and assurance which will enable you to lead and win others. You must have knowledge before you can impart knowledge. You must have fire to kindle fire. You must have life to reproduce life. You must know Jesus and be on friendly terms with Him to be able to introduce others to Him. You must be one with Jesus and be “bound up in the bundle of life” (1 Sam. 25:29 KJV) with Him if you would bring others into that life.
Peter had repented under John the Baptist’s preaching, had forsaken all to follow Jesus, had waited with prayer and unquenchable desire until he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire, and had been anointed with power from on high before he became the fearless, mighty preacher who won three thousand souls in a day.
Paul was mightily changed on the road to Damascus, heard Jesus’ voice tell him what to do, and was baptized with the Holy Spirit under Ananias’s teaching before he became the apostle of quenchless zeal who turned the world upside down.
Luther was definitely transformed and justified by faith on the stairway of St. Peter’s in Rome before he became the invincible reformer who could stand before popes and emperors and set captive nations free. George Fox, John Wesley, Charles Finney, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, William Taylor, James Caughey, Dwight L. Moody, and William Booth all had definite personal experiences that made them apostles of fire, prophets of God, and winners of souls. They did not guess that they had experienced new life in Christ, nor “hope” so, but they knew in Whom they believed (see 2 Tim. 1:12) and knew that they had passed from darkness into light and from the power of Satan to God (see Acts 26:18).
This experience was not spiritual evolution but revolution. No evolutionist ever has been or ever will be a great soul-winner. It is not by growth that we become such, but by revelation. It is not until God bursts through the veil to reveal Himself in our hearts through faith in His dear Son; gives a consciousness of personal acceptance with Him; and sheds abroad His love in the heart, destroying unbelief, burning away sin, consuming selfishness, and filling the soul with the passion that filled the heart of Jesus, that we become soul-winners.
The experience that makes a man or woman a soul-winner is twofold. First, we must know our sins to be forgiven. We must have recognized ourselves to be sinners, out of friendly relations with God, careless of God’s claim, heedless of God’s feelings, selfishly seeking our own way in spite of divine love and compassion, and heedless of the awful consequences of separating ourselves from God. This must then have led to repentance toward God, by which I mean sorrow for and an utter turning away from sin, followed by a confiding trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior. We must have so believed as to bring a restful consciousness that for Christ’s sake our sins have been forgiven and we have been adopted into God’s family and made one of His dear children. This consciousness results from what Paul called the witness of the Spirit (see Rom. 8:16) and enables the soul to cry out in deep filial confidence and affection, “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15 NLT).
Second, we must be sanctified. We must know that our heart is cleansed, that pride and self-will and carnal ambition and strife and sensitiveness and suspicion and unbelief and every unholy temper are destroyed by the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We must experience a personal Pentecost and the incoming of a great love for, and loyalty to, Jesus Christ.
It must be a constant experience. People who frequently meet defeat in their own souls will not be largely successful in winning others to Jesus. The very consciousness of defeat makes them uncertain in their exhortation, doubtful and wavering in their testimony, and weak in their faith. This will not be likely to produce conviction and beget faith in their hearers.
Finney, Wesley, Fletcher of Madeley, William Bramwell, Catherine Booth, and scores of others walked with God, as Enoch did, and so walked “in the power of the Spirit” (Luke 4:14 KJV) constantly and were soul-winners all their lives.
It must be a joyful experience. “The joy of the LORD is your strength,” said Nehemiah (Neh. 8:10 KJV). “Restore to me the joy of your salvation,” prayed David (Ps. 51:12 NLT).
“I feel it my duty to be as happy as the Lord wants me to be,” wrote Robert Murray McCheyne, the gifted and deeply spiritual Scottish preacher, who was wonderfully successful in winning souls.
William Caughey, while preaching his sermon entitled “The Striving of the Spirit,” cried out, “Oh, my soul is very happy! Bless God! I feel He is with me!” No wonder he won souls.
Whitefield and Bramwell, two of the greatest soul-winners the world ever saw, were at times in almost an ecstasy of joy, especially when preaching. And this was as it should be.
John Bunyan told us how he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress in his filthy Bedford dungeon. He said, “So I was led home to prison, and I sat me down and wrote and wrote because joy did make me write.”
God wants His people to be full of joy. Jesus said, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11 KJV). And again He said, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24 NIV). John wrote, “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4 NKJV). “The fruit of the Spirit is . . . joy,” wrote Paul (Gal. 5:22 KJV), and again he wrote, “The Kingdom of God is . . . living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17 NLT). Joy in the Holy Spirit is an oceanic current that flows unbroken through the holy, believing soul, even when surrounded by seas of trouble and compassed about by infirmities and afflictions and sorrows.
We so often have thought of Jesus as the “man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3 KJV) as to overlook His fullness of exultant joy.
Joy can and should be cultivated, just as faith or any other fruit of the Spirit is cultivated:
- By appropriating by faith the words that were spoken and written for the express purpose of giving us fullness of joy. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. 15:13 ESV), wrote Paul to the Romans. It is by believing.
- By meditating on these words and holding them in our minds and hearts as we would hold honey in our mouths, until we have gotten all the sweetness out of them.
- By exercise, even as faith or love or patience is exercised. This we do by rejoicing in the Lord and praising God for His goodness and mercy, and shouting when the joy wells up in our souls under the pressure of the Holy Spirit. Many people quench the spirit of joy and praise, and so gradually lose it. But let them repent, confess, pray, and believe, and then begin to praise God again, and He will see to it that they have something to praise Him for. Then their joy will convict others and prove a mighty means of winning souls to Jesus.
Who can estimate the power there must have been in the joy that filled the heart of Peter and surged through the souls and beamed on the faces and flashed from the eyes of the 120 fire-baptized disciples, while he preached that Pentecostal sermon which won three thousand bigoted enemies to the cross of a crucified Christ? O Lord, still “make [Thy] ministers a flame of fire” (Heb. 1:7 KJV) and flood the world with Your mighty joy!
Brengle, Samuel L.. The Servant’s Heart (Samuel L. Brengle’s Holy Life) . Wesleyan Publishing House. Kindle Edition.