[The deadline for my manuscript is almost upon me, and I have the joy of preaching this weekend. Staying with Tuesday's theme of evangelism, we take Danny2's suggestion from this thread, and reach 'way back to 2006 to re-consider the following.]Suppose I imagined that God commonly gave extra-Biblical revelation today. I so many kinds of don't—but suppose I did.
And suppose God said, "I want you to go tell this guy the Gospel, because I have hardened his heart so that, not only will he not repent and believe, but he'll become infuriated and want to kill you and torment the people you care most about. I'm going to use this situation to do all sorts of wonderful things."
The whole prophetic revelation thing aside—what would I think?
"Okay now, wait—'because'? You want me to talk to this guy, knowing that he won't believe? In fact, You're going to make sure that He won't believe? But for us who believe in Your sovereignty, the whole premise of evangelism is that we don't know who is and isn't elect, so it's our place to sow in hope, and leave the results to You. But here You're telling me, right off the bat, that it's going to be a bust? And that's why You want me to go in?"
It struck me that this is precisely Moses' situation in dealing with Pharaoh, and specifically in Exodus 10—
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, 2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD."Wouldn't that be grim news? "Go in... for, because, I have hardened his heart." Were I in Moses' sandals, it might be hard to get motivated.
But might that not be because our whole motivation is out of whack? Why would it bother us so much?
Well, it would bother us because we don't like to fail. Might as well be honest about it: we don't. "Here, try something you have no chance of achieving" isn't much of a sales pitch. We do things because we hope we might succeed in doing them. "Thirty Days to Miserable Failure" wouldn't be a catchy title for a church program, I'm thinking.
And then of course, on a higher level, it would and should bother us because we care about the person we're talking to. Unless there's something very wrong with us, we don't want to see anyone go to Hell. We want to be used by God for deliverance, not judgment. We don't evangelize to seal folks' doom. We evangelize in the hopes that the Word will bring hearing, and hearing will bring saving faith (Romans 10:17).
So what motivation does Yahweh offer Moses, apart from the mere and sufficient fact that it is He who calls him to talk to Pharaoh? I see a threefold motivation:
- "that I may show these signs of mine among them"
- "and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them"
- "that you [plural] may know that I am the LORD"
So in the final analysis, Moses' entreaties and warnings to Pharaoh weren't about Moses and his success-quotient, they weren't about Pharaoh and his wellbeing, they weren't even just about Israel. They were about Yahweh, about His glory. Indeed, they would be instructive to Moses (6:1), Pharaoh (8:10), the Egyptians (7:5), the Israelites (16:6), and their children (10:2). But the main star occupying center stage would be Yahweh Himself. This "evangelism" was, in the final analysis, about Yahweh.
Brief aside: you'll notice that this is what drives unbelievers absolutely nuts. All the specific carpings and whinings and scoffing and mocking and verbal pouts boil down to this: they just really hate God being God. It scares the stuffing out of them. Quite properly so.
What's sad is when professed Christians clearly hate God being all that much God, too.
Back on-topic. So then I think this way. If Moses was to go in with boldness and passion, knowing in advance that Pharaoh would blow him off—how much more should we? Because in fact we don't have direct revelation telling us whether or not this or that person is elect or not. We have no idea whatever whether this scroungy-looking, tattoo-covered boastful drunk may be gloriously converted, while that sweet, loving, lovable friend may despise the gospel of Christ. If we decide not to speak of Christ because of these impressions, we act from the folly of unbelief.
Because like Moses, we should not be primarily focused on succeeding in "winning souls." Nor is the be-all and end-all our neighbor's salvation. That is indeed a commandment to us, but it is the second. Not the first.
Our focus in evangelism (I preach to myself, nice of you to listen in) must be the glory of God. Lift up the Lord Jesus, lift up His gospel, lift up the Cross, and God will be glorified. He may be glorified by converting our hearer; or He may be glorified in judgment. But either way, He will be glorified.
God's glory—not redemption, nor any other concomitant good—is the center of history, the center of the Bible, the center of everything.
It should be the center and focus of our evangelism.