John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.
My transformation into a follower of Christ was a double-edged sword of sorts. Recognizing who and what I used to be gave me great appreciation for God’s mercy and the hope He has made available to us. It certainly was a time of thanksgiving because I understood that He had saved me from death and sin. Learning this was a joy. I remember enjoying fellowship with my new brothers and sisters and just thinking about how fortunate and blessed we were to have found a savior in Jesus Christ. I just wanted to tell everyone about my experience and the change that God effected in me. The hard part was realizing what all of this meant for those who would reject the good news I had to tell them, and that continues to break my heart.
Evangelism is both hopeful and heartbreaking. In order for us to speak the truth, we must address not only what it means to follow Jesus Christ but also what it means to reject him. We cannot speak of life without also speaking of death. Some might think that delivering the good news means focusing only on the positive. They will speak of God’s grace and the perfect eternity He has awaiting those who believe in him, but they shy away from accurately discussing what awaits those who do not believe in him. They may think that is a fear tactic and the wrong approach. The truth of scripture, however, is that we are to fear the one who has the power to give life and exact judgment. We should fear being separated from him because it is a real consequence for those who do not repent.
The complete Gospel message touches on both the hope of those who have been found and the hopelessness of those who remain lost. The complete Gospel message addresses the freedom God offers as well as the bondage which confines those who reject him. The complete Gospel message tells people that this is a serious issue, and there are only two decisions we can make. It will not help to sugarcoat the truth. When we explain why someone should choose Jesus Christ, part of that explanation must be the consequence of not choosing him. Father, give us the words and the tact to deliver the complete Gospel message when we evangelize, that we would not shy away from speaking this very necessary warning.