Evangelism in a culturally Christian area is difficult. One can go door to door and simply ask the members of each household if they are saved and the answer is a resounding yes. This morning I woke up to read Desiring God for the third time in my life. I once read it in college when John Piper seemed to step into the public eye for the first time. I read it for a worship class in seminary the second. This time though, as I read it, I understand much of Piper’s presuppositions serving as a pastor in the Bible belt. One paragraph particularly hit me this morning:
Someone may ask, “If your aim is conversion, why don’t you just use the straight forward, biblical command ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved’? Why bring in the new terminology Christian Hedonism?”
My answer has two parts. First we are surrounded by unconverted people who think they do believe in Jesus. Drunks on the street say they believe. Unmarried couples sleeping together say they believe. Elderly people who haven’t sought worship or fellowship for forty years say they believe. All kinds of lukewarm, world loving church attendees say they believe. The world abounds with millions of unconverted people who say they believe in Jesus.
It does no good to tell those people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat the cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth.
Could it not be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, “Believe in the Lord,” but, delight yourself in the Lord”?
The great work of evangelism in a Christian culture is not getting people to pray a prayer, most already have. It is not getting people into church, many attend and know nothing of God. The great work of evangelism in the Christian culture is leading people to a conversion where the things of God become the treasures of their hearts.
Let me illustrate: I love my wife and children. I can say that and it be void if my life and affections did not reflect this truth. Perhaps I say I love my wife, but if I give my work all of my time, what do I really love? I could say that I love my kids, but if I ignore them in order to watch TV, where are my affections truly set? I might say that I love my wife, but if I never darkened the door of my house, choosing instead to fill my life with affairs, bars and buddies, are my words actually true?
We often treat conversion as a magic trick. If you say the magic words, abra cadabra, you’re saved. The affections of one’s heart are the true tell of the Genuine conversion. If you are truly saved, then your desires are changed and the things of God become far greater than anything else.
What does your heart long for?