Who do you think is the greatest person in history? Napoleon, Shakespeare, Lincoln, Newton, Joan of Arc, or perhaps Alexander the Great? They were certainly great, but there was only one person who was so great that He split time in two, said that Heaven and earth would pass away but that His words would never pass away (Matthew 24:35).
Two thousand years later, millions read His words daily. And, every year, over a billion people stop work to celebrate His birthday. He was, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. His words were without precedent. He said that He was the only way to God (John 14:6), that He had power over death (Revelation 1:18), and that He had the authority on earth to forgive sin (Matthew 9:6).
Here is another significant figure in history. This man was strikingly handsome. Women swooned over him. He was arguably the most famous face in the world at the time. He was rich, very powerful, and hundreds of thousands lined the streets just to catch a glimpse of him. He is still so well known that he is often identified by his initials. Who was he? You should have guessed by now. He was JFK.
However, when one small bullet ended the life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and catapulted him into eternity, it didn’t matter how rich, famous, good-looking, powerful, and popular he was. Only one thing mattered at the very second of that terrifying impact: Were his sins forgiven?
The question as to whether or not people’s sins are forgiven should haunt us. It should plague us when we see our neighbors, when we pass strangers in the supermarket, or when we walk by them at a sporting event. When Jesus looked on the crowds that surrounded Him, He was filled with compassion (Matthew 9:36). Their salvation was His priority, and thank God that compassion was what drove Him to lay down His life for us.
Imagine how our lives would change if we could see the word “forgiven” or “unforgiven” on every forehead and consequently see someone’s eternal destination. Imagine how our churches would grow if every member saw sinners though the compassionate eyes of Jesus. Imitating Him in His passion for the lost should be our number one priority. But how do we make that happen when each of us has everyday hassles that jostle their way into the forefront of our priorities?
There is an answer to that question.
I was riding my wonderful electric bike toward a local college recently when a young lady on a horse called out, “Don’t go down that pathway! There is a man down there with a Doberman that is not on a leash. That dog attacked my horse and bit its leg!”
This woman didn’t even know me, yet she cared enough to warn a stranger of possible danger. I thanked her and told her that I would definitely steer clear of the vicious dog.
When I arrived at the college, a police officer also steered me in another direction. There was no dog, but there had been complaints of skateboarders almost hitting students. So, I rode away from my normal path to another part in the college, where I spotted two young men who were more than willing to be interviewed for YouTube.
One of them responded to my opening question about believing in God by saying, “Of course. God is good all the time!” Then he said he didn’t trust the Bible. So, I gently told him that even though he thought that God was good, there was great danger waiting for him on the path that he had chosen. Most snuggle up to God’s goodness as if it were some sort of teddy bear when in reality it is a deadly cactus.
If God is good, He must — like any good judge — see that justice is done. And that puts us in trouble. It’s His goodness that will condemn us. It will see that perfect justice is carried out on the Day of Judgment. That’s the reason we should be warning every man, that we may present every man perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28).
That annoying task
When it comes to challenging my fellow believers to reach out to the lost, I rarely use the word “evangelism.” This is because it has as much attraction as a root canal. Charles Spurgeon said of evangelism, “We must school and train ourselves to deal personally with the unconverted. We must not excuse ourselves but force ourselves to the irksome task until it becomes easy.” Evangelism is extremely irksome. There are some who don’t find it irksome, but I’m not one of them. My life would certainly be easier if I didn’t carry this daily burden. But it’s only a burden because I am selfish. One of the greatest indictments of human selfishness is the Great Commission.
Jesus commanded us to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). That’s like having to command a doctor to share a cure for cancer. He shouldn’t have to be commanded. And we should run to dying sinners — if we care about their eternal salvation.
I was recently reading one of the psalms when I broke down in tears. This was because I suddenly remembered being given a small Gideon Bible when I was just 13 years old. I began to read it each night, even though I wasn’t born again. It wasn’t until nine years later that I would come to saving faith. I also recalled a very strange experience I had a few months before my conversion. My wife and I had dinner with a local pastor. After the meal, I went to collect our jackets from a bedroom, and as I did, I sat on the bed and yearned for him to come and speak with me. But I had no idea what I wanted him to tell me. In retrospect, I was crying out for salvation — like a groping blind man longing to be shown the way.
The tears that I shed as I read that psalm were tears of gratitude. And it’s gratitude mingled with compassion that causes me to see the word “unforgiven” on sinners’ foreheads. I know that their death may not come with the terrifying speed of a bullet, but it will come. And in that moment the only thing that will matter will be whether or not their sin is forgiven.
May such a thought haunt us until the trumpet sounds.
Ray Comfort is the Founder and CEO of Living Waters and the bestselling author of more than 80 books, including God Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life, How to Know God Exists, and The Evidence Bible. He cohosts the award-winning television program "Way of the Master," seen in almost 200 countries, and is the Executive Producer of "180," "Evolution vs. God," "Audacity," and other films. He is married to Sue and has three grown children, and hasn't left the house without gospel tracts for decades. You can learn more about his ministry at LivingWaters.com.