A few days ago I began reading a book on evangelism called Marks of the Messenger. It is written by J. Mack Stiles and its description on its publisher’s website is as follows:
"Many think evangelism is rooted in a method. It is rooted in something much deeper. It is found in what makes us whole and healthy messengers of God's truth about Jesus.
Mack Stiles has lived the life of the healthy evangelist in homes and coffee shops, at universities and farms. He has lived out and spoken about the gospel to Kenyans, Koreans, Arabs and North Americans. What he has learned around the world and at home is summarized here in a few basic truths that can shape any of us into faithful people who bring good news to needy and hurting friends.
The whole gospel changes much more than our relationship with God. Stiles shows how it changes all of who we are and what we do. It means learning the whole gospel without shaping its message to meet our tastes. It means not just going through the motions of accepted behaviors. It means showing the unity of witness and justice. It means love. It means community.
Join Mack Stiles in a life-giving adventure of boldly knowing, living and speaking the gospel."
This, so far, has been an excellent book which is very accessible and very helpful. Most Christians I know would confess, sometimes sheepishly or even guiltily, that this is an area of their faith that needs some work. This is a book that will benefit those of us who see our own need for growth in this area.
The sixth chapter deals with the topic of true biblical conversion. Stiles argues that a solid and thorough understanding of biblical conversion will have a significant influence in shaping our personal practice, as well as a corporate habit, of evangelism. The author introduces five principles of biblical conversion which, he contends, must be understood. I present these principles, with clarifying quotes, for your consideration, meditation, and edification. Enjoy.
1) Conversion is required.
“So people aren’t Christians because they were baptized in a certain church or have a long lineage of Christians in the family or come from a certain part of the world. It is only the work of God in hearts that brings people to repent and believe the work of Christ on the cross. When we understand that conversion is required for all, we avoid the mistake of assuming people are Christian because they seem to be morally upright, a member of our denomination or from a strong Christian family.”
2) Conversion requires understanding.
“Many think a deeply moving spiritual experience is conversion. I’m regularly around Hindu people who have powerful spiritual encounters. I’ve been to Muslim Sufi religious gatherings where the spiritual experiences are mystical and deep. Spiritual experiences are a dime a dozen. But true converts to Christ understand that they are sinners. They know they must repent and place their heartfelt faith in Christ’s work on the cross. Converts understand what Jesus has done on the cross. They may not know the words justification or atonement, but they understand that our sins have been placed on Christ for the payment of sin to purchase us back into a right relationship and right standing with God (1 Corinthians 2:12).”
3) True conversion requires genuine faith.
“Understanding is not enough. There must be heartfelt, deep-seated faith and trust in Christ, his work and his call to us personally.”
4) A radically changed life attests to true conversion.
“On the deepest level you cannot be truly converted and avoid a radically changed life, for you have moved from death to life.”
5) Conversion results from God’s action.
“Think. It is the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts to make us aware of God. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin. God is the one who gives us the spiritual ability to cry out with saving faith. And, as we’ve seen in previous chapters, it is Jesus alone who has done the work of justification for us. After death we will stand before God and give him all glory for what he has done—not what we have done. God does the work, including calling us to himself. People don’t come to faith because of the excellence of our presentation or because we provided the perfect circumstance. People come to genuine faith because God draws them.”