Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 8 of 11

At JPBC we try to take seriously the church membership covenant by reading and affirming it when we gather for church conferences and when new members join our body. Paragraph eight reads:

We will pray for the salvation of our unsaved relatives, friends, and acquaintances, and of all who are lost.

In an earlier part of this covenant we committed ourselves to "pray to God both privately and together" (part four). In this new part we commit ourselves to evangelistic prayer in particular. More generally we commit ourselves to the work of evangelism, sharing the good news of the gospel.

The covenant reminds us that our evangelism is dependent on the work of God Himself. This is why prayer to God precedes effective evangelism. In John 6:44 Jesus said: "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him." In 1 Corinthians 2:14 Paul wrote: "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." In 2 Corinthians 4 Paul notes that the truth of the gospel is "veiled to those who are perishing" (v. 3), because their "minds the god of this age has blinded" (v. 4). Our eyes are opened to the truth only as God commands "light to shine out of darkness" (v. 6). The Biblical story of the conversion of Lydia in Acts 16 is exemplary of Biblical evangelism: "The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul" (v. 14).

Some years back it was not uncommon for Christians to keep lists of unsaved relatives and friends and to pray constantly for them. Many times these names were written on the pages of a believer’s personal Bible as a constant reminder. Tears would fall over the names on those pages. Too often today, our prayer life focuses on our personal needs and illnesses and not on the salvation of those who are lost for eternity apart from Christ.

If salvation is God’s work alone, the skeptic might ask, why do we need to pray or evangelize at all? We have at least three answers to this. First, we evangelize because Jesus told us to do so and we want to obey him. In the Great Commission he told us to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach (Matthew 28:19-20). Second, we are not God, and we do not know who will respond to the gospel, so we make it our aim to boldly preach to all men. We are to be faithful in ministry and trust God for the results. Third, Scripture tells us that God is pleased when his people pray for the evangelization of the lost. Mark well the account of Jesus in Matthew 9:36-38:

36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.
37 Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few."
38 "Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Let us obey his word as a church body and pray to the Lord of the harvest for the saving of many.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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