Although most followers of Christ are probably aware that they should be sharing the gospel, my guess is that many will tell you that they feel convicted about their failure to do so. Either they don’t do it well, or, more often, they hardly do it at all. This often leads to guilt, which, those same people can tell you, is a poor motivator in personal evangelism.
What should motivate us as we tell unbelievers the good news of Jesus Christ?
In The Gospel and Personal Evangelism, Pastor Mark Dever shares three biblical motivations for evangelism. The first motivation is, quite simply, a desire to be obedient. That’s good and right, and it shouldn’t be labeled as legalism. After all, the Great Commission commands us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). The second motivation for personal evangelism is a love for the lost, which Jesus himself has uniquely modeled for us in his life, death, and resurrection. Both of these motivations are crucial if we want to continually engage unbelievers.
Finally, Dever mentions a third and more foundational motivation in our evangelism – love for God. This may sound obvious, but it’s true. Our greatest need is not a spiritual pep talk or more willpower, but rather a greater love for the One whom we proclaim. Now that doesn’t mean that our love of God has to feel sufficient before we speak; our love will always feel too weak. But it does mean that our pursuit of unbelievers must be the fruit of our pursuit of God. To put it another way, obeying the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) should be the fruit of obeying the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-37). Dever cites John Cheeseman on this point:
Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love, and when difficulties seem unsurmountable [sic], only a deep love for God will keep us from following his way, declaring his Gospel, when human resources fail. Only our love for God–and, more importantly, his love for us–will keep us from the dangers which beset us. When the desire for popularity with me, or for success in human terms, tempts us to water down the Gospel, to make it palatable, then only if we love God will we stand fast to his truth and his ways. (100-101)
How will this observation change your approach as you seek to be faithful in sharing your faith and live out the Great Commission?
(1) John Cheeseman et al., The Grace of God in the Gospel (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1972), 122.