And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace
Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.
The sinful hearts of men will never consent to leave their sin and follow Christ unless God convinces them of their need for salvation and gives them a desire for it. Mankind is by nature rebellious and at enmity with God, but God is able to make the unwilling willing, and cause the stiff-necked to bow their hearts before His goodness and authority. We can seek to entice people with all the blessings God offers, try to alarm them with warnings of the wrath He promises, or plead with them until our hearts break, our eyes fill with tears and our voice wears out, but without God’s convincing grace, they will remain uninterested, unalarmed and unconvinced. God commands, “Cry aloud, spare not; lift up your voice like a trumpet,” therefore, knowing the terror of the Lord we should seek to persuade men (Isaiah 58:1, 2 Corinthians 5:11). But we must never imagine that our appeals and exhortations have any power apart from the grace of God’s Spirit. We must place all of our hope for success in “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).
We live in an age of marketing. Everywhere we go people are selling something and vying for our business. This commercial spirit has even entered the church. Congregations try to mass market the Gospel and salvation. They go to great lengths to discover what the world wants so they can win their “business.” Some churches have drunk so deeply of this commercial spirit that they do community surveys in order to discover what the people of the world want. Once they determine what the God-rejecting society around them is craving they seek to woo these worldlings into their churches by offering them what their entertainment crazy and comfort loving hearts desire. Pastors even adulterate the word of God by illustrating their sermons with clips from godless Hollywood movies instead of the surplus of divinely inspired illustrations written down in Holy Scripture. Salvation has been reduced to submitting to church leaders, paying tithes and actively promoting the church. And evangelism has been reduced to a marketing technique aimed at bribing and manipulating people into congregations who claim to be representatives of the Body of Christ, all for the fleshly ambition of godless men and women who, like the commercial world, glory in numerical success.
Though many point to various “mega-churches” to validate this godless and worldly strategy, God rejects it as an abomination. Many people have entered church buildings because of these methods. Many have been manipulated into making a confession of faith by this empty farce. But not one soul has ever been brought to true salvation in Christ by such sacrilege. The only way people can be saved is through the clear and bold proclamation of the word of God. Why is this so? Because the only way a person can be saved is by the converting grace of the Holy Spirit. And God’s Spirit will never confirm anything but the word of God because He is the Spirit of truth, and God’s word is truth (John 17:17).
If we desire to see souls brought to Jesus Christ for His glory and their good, instead of bringing people to our church for our glory and our good, we must not imagine that people can be manipulated into the kingdom of God. Men are wicked through and through. There is no form of human persuasion that can cause them to renounce their wickedness. Only the Spirit of Christ can break the spell that sin has on their souls and draw them to salvation in Christ. We must use the sword of the Spirit to break the stronghold of Satan over men’s hearts. We must wield it with boldness, compassion and much prayer, trusting that the battle is the Lord’s and that He can deliver people out of darkness and translate them into the kingdom of His dear Son.