In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus teaches that those who do not believingly receive the Word of God experience a fearful reality: “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). The other Gospels add that Satan does so “immediately” (Mark 5:15) in the heart of a person when he hears” the word of the kingdom” and does not understand it (Matt. 13:19). Through these statements, Jesus teaches us that the devil is always actively at work in removing the Word of God in some unexplained manner out of the hearts of people who do not understand what they hear about the kingdom of God.
How should this sobering truth affect our evangelistic practice? It seems that we should conclude from this teaching by Jesus that we should treat a lost person who has received even much previous testimony but has not understood what he has been given as if he has never heard those truths at all. If this understanding is correct, we should be all the more diligent to testify central truths as clearly as possible to lost people each time we witness to them and not take for granted that they understand any of them in the manner that they should to be saved.
Our focus, therefore, in evangelism must be on bringing lost people to understand and accept what they hear and not just on a quick witness followed by an immediate decision. We should take pains to do what we can to be reasonably certain that they understand central truths properly.
As a specific application of this line of reasoning, we should not assume that unsaved people who have grown up in Christian homes or attended church even for many years have a proper understanding of any key truth. Even if they protest that they already know something or have heard it many times before, we should not allow their protesting to deter us from thoroughly explaining key truths to them prior to leading them to make a decision.
For example, multitudes of unsaved people have some familiarity with the Resurrection of Jesus. Their simply knowing and even assenting to the bare fact that Jesus rose does not constitute a biblical understanding of its full evangelistic significance. God has revealed to us that He has proven a specific truth to all men by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31) and that He mandates a specific response to that truth from all men everywhere (17:30). We, therefore, would do well to probe all people to whom we witness about their understanding and acceptance of that truth and their willingness to act properly on it before leading any of them into a profession of faith.
Although there will be situations in which we encounter people who already have the necessary understanding of key truths and willingness to act upon them, we will not know that such is the case apart from carefully trying to discern that readiness properly. Taking steps to ensure proper understanding in the people that we evangelize should help us at least to some degree to overcome the supernatural opposition that we face and to reduce the number of false professions that we see.
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