17 June 2009

Heart Changer

Opportunities to preach the gospel, I've always felt, should be taken very seriously especially by those called to preach. It's a shame, when after the preaching of God's word, you decide to speak to someone, after, perhaps a church service or evangelistic meeting, and upon asking them how they got saved (since 9/10 Zambians respond in the affirmative when asked whether they are saved), they respond, "Oh, well, I was born a Christian." or maybe "I go to church and do lots of other good things." Upon hearing such a response, I quickly look for the person responsible for such a response, because someone obviously didn't do what they ought to have done. Either the preacher was unclear or lacking in the content of his message or perhaps the particular individual slept through the whole sermon!

I have always felt that preachers should be very clear when preaching the gospel. I have never appreciated evangelistic sermons that are comprised of bombastic words and theological terminologies that unchurched individuals would struggle to grasp. I mean if the majority of your audience is unconverted why use words they probably won't understand? I thought the whole point was to get the gospel message across!

The first/next time I/I'll ever preach, my introduction will be something like this:

"I'd hate for anyone in this auditorium to leave assuming certain things, especially since it's me preaching, and so just to make sure, I'll just make a few clarifications from onset. First off, going to church cannot save you, just like going to the garage doesn't make you a car neither does going to the Bata make you a shoe. Secondly, doing good things cannot save you because the bible says in Isaiah that our good works are like filthy rags before God. Believing in God's existence, lastly, doesn't make you a Christian because the demons believe it much steadfastly than you ever

This compulsion to always make the gospel plain has landed me in utter frustration. I always thought that if the gospel was preached such that a listener understood it explicitly and the right "atmosphere", one quiet and perhaps one with the hymn "Just As I Am" playing softly in the background, allowing the person to ponder the words of the preacher, then that person was going to get saved. I mean why not?! The sinner has understood the gospel and has had time to think it through-time to reason, how could that individual make it out of that place unrepentant?!

Ofcourse, I was sadly mistaken and terribly disappointed.

Not long ago, I commenced visiting a nearby college, LBTC, where my buddies and I would share the gospel for an hour, 3 times a week. I usually did the sharing myself. I made sure I wrestled with the person's sense of reason, showing them, through questions, that they did not, infact, know the way of salvation and I'd wait until that beautiful question was asked,"How, then, does one become a Christian?" I'd shoot my buddy colleague a quick smile communicating, non-verbally, the words, "We've got him/em' now!", and begin sharing the word ever so passionately. We were good. We had it all figured out. We were going to get the whole college saved before they'd ever have known what hit them. We forgot one thing though, one crucial thing:

It's God who changes the hearts of men.

You could create the most quiet atmosphere and even add a melancholic tune in the background after sharing the most passionate gospel message, with the clarity of the Lord Jesus Christ himself but if God is not pleased to send his Holy Spirit to convict that soul, that poor soul will not get saved!

That is why I always say to my friends that the man of God must spend more time praying than he does preaching because he, the preacher, only does less than 25% of the work, and that might be giving him too much credit! God does the most part. A preacher cannot always get his stuff right. He may be lacking in clarity, passion, depth or even general gifting but if God chooses to use him, his "below par performance" could save a hundred. Perhaps just one statement he utters could be the line God uses to bring home his own. And yet the most gifted man can preach the most powerful sermon in all senses, whereby, as my buddy says, "You feel like you could get saved again.", and yet not a single soul gets saved. Why? Because it is God who changes hearts.

It all really comes down to the one who God chooses to use, we should all pray that God is pleased to use us.

Now to the reason why I began writing this. There are people who seem like they'll never change. We all know them. The irresponsible relative (friend, colleague, father*, mother, brother, sister, cousin, uncle, aunt or gran) who is a constant burden and refuses to amend his/her ways. Always promising to change but nothing ever matures. The perpetual drunk we see all the time in the neighbourhood, reeling and cursing. Those mad men and women we see in the streets who have been passed as having suffered permanent brain damage. Those members of our communities born Muslims or Jehovah's witnesses or Atheists etc, who adamantly refuse to even hear the gospel. Those workmates or schoolmates who have no interest in the things of God.

These people make me thank God that he does the 75%+ of the work in as far as preaching the gospel is concerned. Because if it was left to us, how could we reach the above mentioned, many of whom hear the gospel but refuse to listen to it? How would we reach those who don't even want to hear the word "Christian"? Thank God that he's the heart changer. Thank God that there is still hope for those who we can't seem to even reach because with him nothing is impossible. Our role in the matter is to be played on our knees-praying that God would be pleased to change their hearts and saved them just like he saved us for Jesus sake, Amen!

*This article is dedicated to my sister Mwila, "Mwils, we're praying for the heart changer to change his heart!"