Whose job is it to convert the lost? That is a good question. One that is worth answering for reasons we will get to in a minute. But before we do, let’s deal with the question at hand:
Whose job is it to convert the lost?
Scripture is clear. It is the work of the Holy Spirit who does the converting.
“he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,”
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.””
2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:1-2
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”
The common thread running through each of these verses is that the Holy Spirit converts the lost to Christ. He is the One who works on their heart, changes their desires, breaks their will, and turns them to Christ. He is the One who raises the dead to life. He is the One who breaks the bondage of sin. He is the One who closes the deal, not us.
Nevertheless, the Holy Spirit’s work in conversion does not mean we don’t proclaim the gospel, we do. We are not off the hook for evangelizing the lost. God has always used His people to bring the gospel to others. He just doesn’t require us to close the deal. He does that Himself.
2 Important Reasons for Knowing the Holy Spirit Converts
(1) Emotional manipulation is not God’s way
There are many books and classes you can take on evangelism that will provide you with techniques to win someone to Christ. These techniques often involve emotional manipulation. However, emotional manipulation is not God’s way of converting the lost, so it should not be our way either.
Emotional manipulation does not usually result in long-term conversion. We all know, or have experienced ourselves, the junior high student who goes off to youth camp, has an emotional experience, commits their life to Christ, vowing to live differently when they return. But the effect doesn’t last more than a few weeks or a month at best. What happened? Emotional manipulation or peer pressure happened, but real heart change didn’t.
Instead of numbers to throw out at our worship services, we should be after real conversions that are the product of real heart change. If we want this to occur, we have to faithfully present the gospel and allow the Holy Spirit to work on the person’s heart instead of using emotional manipulation.
In what ways does knowing that the Holy Spirit does the converting give us freedom?
- We are free to make a mistake when we are talking with others about the gospel.
- We are free to say we don’t know the answer to their question.
- We are free to share as much of the gospel as we can at any given time and rest in the fact that God will use our efforts.
- We are free knowing we are not the one who has to close the deal.
Prior to pastoring, I was in sales. Before each client meeting, I would learn as much about my client as possible, rehearse my sales pitch, and pray I did not mess things up, since closing the deal relied solely on my abilities. If I did not make a good impression, couldn’t answer their questions, or did not present a plausible case for why they should use my product, the deal would not be closed and my bonus would suffer.
It is not like that with evangelism. The Holy Spirit works despite our inadequacies. He works even though we couldn’t answer all the objections. He works even if our gospel presentation was poor. He works because He is the One who does the converting. And knowing the Holy Spirit is the One who closes the deal gives us great freedom.
Questions for Reflection
- What techniques do those who believe they have to close the deal in conversion often employ? Are these techniques biblical? Do they produce lasting effect?
- How does knowing that the Holy Spirit closes the deal change your approach to evangelism?
- Have you personally witnessed the Holy Spirit using your inadequate gospel proclamation to bring others to Christ? Would you share that story with the rest of us?