An Important 2018 Prayer Goal

FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS

volume 17, number 2, January 11, 2018

. . . to be cast into the eternal fire.” -Matthew 18:8 

An Important 2018 Prayer Goal

The Bible clearly states, repeatedly, that many people go to hell when they die. Why?

First of all, since the Bible is God’s inspired, infallible, and inerrant word, it has all authority and must be read, studied, and obeyed. To refuse this is to live in disobedience to God. Jesus said that those who hear but refuse to obey His word are like the man who builds his house on sand. The rains fell, the floods came, the winds blew and slammed against the house, and the house fell; and when it fell, great was the fall (Matthew 7:26-27). Though the Hebrew Scriptures speak of hell, calling it Sheol, Jesus in the New Testament is the one who most thoroughly develops the doctrine of hell. In the Sermon on the Mount He says, “If your eye causes you to stumble, then pluck it out and throw it far from you, for it is better to enter into heaven with one eye, than to go into hell with your whole body.” The Greek word here ballo means to cast, to be thrown. It is used many times in the New Testament, including in Matthew 18:8. He tells us not to fear man for he can only kill the body. Rather we are to fear God who can destroy both body and soul in hell (Matthew 10:28). He says hell is a place where the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:48). In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus He says hell is a place of conscious, endless, torment (Luke 16:9-31). The apostles speak of hell as well. Paul says all unbelievers will suffer torment away from the presence of God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). John calls it the lake of fire which burns with brimstone (Revelation 20:13-15).

So hell is a real place and people go there and suffer for eternity. But why do they go there? Isn’t God gracious? Isn’t He in the forgiveness business? Isn’t His number one job to save people from hell fire? 

God repeatedly gives people light to apprehend Him through nature. Those who embrace the light are given more light. God will make it possible, somehow, some way, for these people to hear the good news of Jesus. Why then do people go to hell? Keep in mind the adage—the punishment must fit the crime. If a poor woman in the hood who was abandoned by the father of her children, who cannot find a job or provide for her family, holds up a convenience store clerk at gunpoint for money to buy food for her starving children, then surely we can be somewhat sympathetic toward her action. Yes, she has broken the law and must be held accountable; but surely we can agree this is far different from a rich twenty something in fashionable Mountain Brook who steals money from the same convenience store to support his drug habit. We understand the well-to-do young man from Mountain Brook is far more culpable than the poor mother from the hood. Likewise, to sin against another human being is a serious matter, but to sin against the pure, perfect, and holy God, the One who has given us all things richly to enjoy, is the height of arrogance and sedition. Most take God and His offer of eternal salvation lightly because they take their sin and God’s holiness far too lightly. To continue in rejection of God’s mercy and grace in the gospel is the zenith of folly. 

With this in mind, can we not, as we begin a new year, renew our zeal and passion for the salvation of sinners? Should we not ask God to stir up our hunger for souls? Do you believe in the doctrine of hell? Do you believe that Jesus is the only remedy for sinners? If you do, and you certainly should, then what will do you differently this year? 

None of us are long for this world. I am now sixty-five years old, and I cannot believe it. Where has the time gone? Indeed, our lives, as James the apostle says, are like a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away quickly. I could die this year, and you could as well. I am in very good health, as far as I know; but realistically I have no more than fifteen good years of ministry left. Fifteen years is nothing. It seems like yesterday that we left St. Simons Island, Georgia to plant Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut. That was fifteen years ago. The time has flown by. I have not much time left. Neither do you, even if you are in your twenties. We must hurry, my friends. 

What is the most important thing the world needs to know? Years ago I was reading an interview in Christianity Today magazine where the writer was interviewing the great Welsh preacher Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, just prior to Lloyd-Jones’ death from cancer. At the end of the interview Lloyd-Jones was asked if there was anything else he wished to say. To this Lloyd-Jones replied, “Yes, flee from the wrath of God which is to come and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Really now, is there anything more important than this? What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? Two people die every 1.8 seconds, 108 per minute, 6,480 per hour, 155,520 per day. Many of them enter hell. Jesus is the only remedy for sinners. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Jesus Himself proclaimed that He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. 

So, what will you do differently this year to renew or to grow your hunger for souls? Here’s my plan. In the past I have set numerical goals for converts. I am fully aware that God is the author of salvation, but I also know that He has His elect for whom Christ died, and when the time comes for the Holy Spirit to draw the blood bought elect of the Father, He works in and through people who will  share Jesus with those whom He is about to save. Have you ever noticed how some people seem to be at “the right place at the right time.” This is no coincidence. God has led them there, and why? Because they are faithful to share Jesus. 

I am also aware that evangelists are sometimes guilty of “wrenching decisions” from people and later claiming, “I saw ten people saved last week.” That is not Biblical and should be resisted. However, we have not because we ask not. Furthermore, in personal evangelism and open air preaching we should be calling people daily to repent and believe the gospel. We should pray for it and expect it. We should urge people to close with Christ. And when they do call on the name of the Lord, we should then say to them, “You are now a hopeful convert. I do not know if you are truly in Christ. Only time will tell. A true Christian has new life and he will hunger for God and experience a changed life. If this does not happen to you, then you have no reason to call yourself a Christian. Your job now is to seek God by finding a good, gospel preaching church and become a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

So here’s my plan for 2018, I am asking you to pray with me, asking God to give me at least 1000 people who call on the name of the Lord in 2018. I find that when I set such a specific, numerical goal that I am far more motivated daily to evangelize. Some of my evangelist brethren need no such goal or motivation. They are diligently and daily proclaiming Jesus. I need lots of help in this regard. Will you pray for me? I promise to keep you updated on what God is doing.  

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