Gaining a Burden for Souls


volume 16, number 21, May 25, 2017

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.” -Matthew 28:19a

Gaining a Burden for Souls

The command from Jesus is clear. As we are going, and it is assumed by Him that we will be going with the gospel into all the world, beginning right in our own backyards (see Luke 24:47), we are commanded to make disciples. The beginning of this process is evangelism, seeing people by God’s grace become Christians. Last week I wrote on the burden for souls of men and women like George Whitefield, David Brainerd, John Paton, Hudson Taylor, Mary Slessor, and Elisabeth Eliot. How do we gain or regain a burden for lost souls? After all, the world is decidedly against the foundational doctrine of Christianity, namely the exclusivity of Christ, that Jesus is the only way of salvation for all the people of the world. Jesus said it plainly Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:6). Most of us also lack a burden for souls because we really don’t think people are going to hell when they die. This just seems way over the top to many in the church. On top of that, we want to be nice, non-intrusive, respectful of other people. We want to give them their space. But there is one other reason we fail to gain or regain a burden for lost souls. We have forgotten our former condition or we never really understood how dire it was in the first place.  

Well, consider this. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the first African Bishop of the Anglican Church, was born in what is now western Nigeria in 1809, When he was thirteen years old he was captured, along with his brother, mother, and everyone in his village by Fulani Muslim slave raiders, who sold them into slavery to a Portuguese trader for transport across the Atlantic Ocean. Samuel and the others were rescued by a British naval ship and brought to Freetown in Sierra Leone, a safe haven established by British Christians, for freed slaves. Three years later, at the age of sixteen, Samuel was converted to Christ and was baptized, taking the name of Samuel Crowther, a pioneer missionary with the London Missionary Society. A few years after his conversion he said, “About the third year after my liberation from the slavery of man, I was convinced of another worse state of slavery, that of sin and Satan. I was admitted into the visible church of Christ here on earth as a soldier to fight manfully under His banner against spiritual enemies.” Samuel was ordained as a Church of England minister for service with the Church Mission Society. After years of service in the gospel, leading large numbers of Africans to Christ, including large numbers of Muslims, and discipling leaders in the church, training and equipping former slaves to take the gospel to the people of Nigeria, Crowther was appointed Bishop in 1864. Today there are over 20 million Anglican Christians in Nigeria.[1] 

Samuel Crowther, the former slave, delivered, as it were, out of the lion’s mouth, taken in and evangelized by British evangelicals, trained, discipled, and equipped, to reach his own people with the gospel, never forgot his roots. He remembered the stone from which he was hewn. His kidnapping, selling into, and consequent deliverance from slavery served as a lifelong, vivid image of the necessity of mankind to be delivered from slavery to sin, Satan, and death. 

My friends, if you are a new creation in Christ, if you have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of Christ, then you also are under obligation to proclaim to the world the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into the marvelous light of the gospel. For you once were not a people, but now you are a people. You had once not received mercy, but you now have received mercy.   

Until the Spirit’s regenerating work, taking out your wicked, rebellious, cobra heart which loved sin and hated God, you were enslaved to sin. Your deeds were always evil, continually (Genesis 6:5). The longer you lived, the more your daily sins were mounting up as a charge against you. The longer you lived, the longer you sinned, and the longer you sinned, the greater would be your judgment by the holy and righteous God who gives to every unregenerate man according to his deeds. God’s wrath was mounting up against you and you faced the certain, terrifying expectation of judgment. You were in tribulation and distress. God’s wrath and indignation was against you. You had no hope, no chance of escaping God’s holy wrath which was hanging over you like the Sword of Damocles. 

Not only that, but you were also enslaved to Satan himself. You were living according to the prince of the power of the air. You were blinded by him so that you could not see the glory of Christ’s person and work. He had convinced you that all was well with your soul, that hell only came to really wicked people like Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot. He sold you the prevailing American idea that we can all pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we can accomplish anything we desire, if we simply work hard enough. Or if you grew up in church and fell into grievous sin then the devil became your accuser, charging you with hypocrisy, suggesting that you should once and for all jettison your faith and claim something much more obtainable. 

But you were also a slave to death. You knew instinctively that you would die but that thought was far too horrifying to you so you convinced yourself that you would worry about that later when you had a little more settled life. At times you tried to talk yourself out of the whole notion of life after death, but you eventually came back to the reality that yes, there is a heaven and a hell. But you just preferred not to think about it, willingly “kicking the can down the road”. 

But God intervened, sweeping in with the gospel of free grace, emancipating your soul from sin, Satan, and death. He took your sins away, as far as the east is from the west. He covered your sin with the blood of His own Son, using His blood to remove the condemnation and wrath you knew you deserved. He delivered you from Satan’s stronghold of judgment, fear, and accusation, making you holy, blameless, and beyond reproach by the reconciling death of Jesus at Calvary. He gave you eternal life, which began the very moment He saved you. You have His presence daily. He promises never to leave you nor forsake you. 

The way, my friends, to regain a passion for souls is to dwell deeply, experientially, and frequently on just how wonderful, marvelous, and glorious is your eternal salvation. O the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments, and unfathomable His ways.  


1. Missionary to Yorubaland, Frontline Fellowship, Dr. Peter Hammond <

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