Home > Brandenburg, Evangelism > How Did Jesus Evangelize? part one

How Did Jesus Evangelize? part one

September 17, 2008

The question from a man in Jesus’ audience in Luke 13:23 seems obvious.  I would have asked it.

Lord, are there few that be saved?

What do I mean?  Jesus’ ministry was almost at its end.  He essentially erased illness from the land of Israel north to south, cast out demons, raised the dead, and taught like no one ever.  He attracted massive crowds (Luke 12:1).   You have huge numbers of people listening to an unparalleled speaker who had performed jaw-dropping miracles, so there were also incalculable converts, right?  Wrong.  The numbers were still tiny, and hence this question from those following Him.  The believers were still only a small group, what Jesus called His little flock.  The nation’s leaders rejected Him and most everyone else bought into their lies.

Over 80% of Americans say they’re Christians, but only 9% of them say they have a biblical world view.  Could it be that today we have massive crowds, but only a relative few who are saved?   While U. S. churches exult in the size of their gatherings, Jesus tried to shrink His.  They try to lure as many unbelievers as possible into one place, but the Lord repulsed them.   Here’s the answer Jesus gives to the man’s question in Luke 13:

Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

With that statement, Jesus would have flunked most personal evangelism courses at the typical fundamentalist and evangelical Bible college.   Jesus said that we are not to be concerned about the quantity saved but the quality.  What Jesus said in answer to this man is consistent with what He does everywhere in the gospels.

“Strive” comes from the Greek, agonizomai.  That doesn’t sound easy, does it?  People won’t get into His kingdom who won’t agonize to get there.  In almost every way, for decades evangelical churches in this country have gone polar opposite of what Jesus did and said.  They have changed His methods to attract unbelievers and altered his message to make it easy on interested hearers.  Most often the very truths He taught that spurned the unsaved in His day are left out of today’s presentations.

What is most often missing that Jesus emphasized in His evangelism was “counting the cost.”  He not only wouldn’t leave the hard part out, but He stressed it more than any other.  You say, “Don’t we just believe in Jesus Christ?”  Yes, we do.  But you can’t believe both in Jesus and in your self.  You can’t believe in Jesus plus your idols, your materials things, or your family.  You can’t serve two Masters.  Jesus always challenged the allegiance of the one listening.  Listen to what He said in Luke 9:23-26:

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.  For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?  For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels.

To strive to enter the narrow gate is consistent with everything that Jesus told anyone about receiving Him.   If anyone would come after Jesus, he needed to understand that coming meant self-denial.  If he wouldn’t give up his life, he would lose his life.  The striving is an internal battle.  This is repentance.  We want to stay on the throne of our life and keep control.   That’s why the thorny ground, the worldly heart of Matthew 13, can’t bear fruit.  You can’t put Jesus on the shelf with all your other idols.

What is so missing in evangelistic presentations to children?  True repentance.  I think many children’s evangelists preach repentance, but they say “repentance of sin.”  If you look up “repent of sin” or “repentance from sin,” you won’t find it once in the New Testament.  No doubt we need to give up our sin, but that’s because sin doesn’t please God.  It really is our relationship with God that changes.  When we repent, we’re no longer in rebellion against Him and His authority.  And that is where the battle rages, where we strive.  Children often turn from sin but not from self.  They still love their own way best and still continue living self-centered lives.  They haven’t “denied self” or “lost life.”

Denying self and losing life doesn’t fit in with an agenda that attracts an unbeliever to an assembly with a temporal or self-gratifying item, no matter how small it is.  They love their life.  That’s often why they came to church in the first place.  Most unbelievers would never come without the lure of something temporal.  What makes us think that once they arrive, they’re going to want to give up something more valuable than the thing they came to get?  Heaven is often just another goodie to put in their basket along with whatever else they were given.

The Pharisees came out into the wilderness to see John the Baptist (Luke 3:7).  They were looking for one more keepsake they could get.  When they arrived, he proclaimed:

O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

John knew why the religious leaders had come out to visit.  They were afraid of the fire of God’s judgment just like everyone else.  They were less concerned that Satan was their father as they were about participation in another ritual, baptism, that would protect them from God’s future punishment.   John preached down by the Jordan River.  People from that area knew that during a brush fire in the arid wilderness, the snakes would slither down to the river to save their lives.  Baptism for these sons of Satan was just another ceremony, so John declared to them (Luke 3:8):

Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance.

Then in the next several verses, they ask him what those fruits might be and he explains to them.  They knew that repentance meant giving up what they wanted to do for what God wanted them to do.  Even the motive of escaping God’s judgment wasn’t enough.

In Luke 9:57, “a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.”  “Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”   In Luke 18:18, “a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus finally said to Him in v. 22, “[S]ell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.”  Wealth was still of greater value than Jesus to the rich young ruler.  Jesus goes so far in Luke 14:26 to preach, “Hate yourself.”  This is the cost that must be counted (Luke 14:28) to follow Christ.  So the battle, the striving, the agonizing that everyone must do to enter the narrow gate to life eternal is to let go of self and receive a new Sovereign.

For someone to be prepared to give up himself, to turn from his idols, he must understand the living and true God.  As Jesus said, there is no profit to gain from the whole world, if it means losing one’s own soul.  The sinner must see what he is leaving behind–less than nothing.  He must see what he’s getting—the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  For that, Paul said in Philippians 3 that what things were gain to him, he counted loss, even as dung, that he might win Christ.

HDJE.  How did Jesus evangelize?  Does it matter?  I think for some fundamentalists and evangelicals it really doesn’t.  Their standard is this:  if the Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong, then it’s permitted.  Is it possible that we aren’t living by faith when we don’t follow the Scriptural example, so we aren’t pleasing Him (Hebrews 11:2-6)?   Jesus was so concerrned about hardening hearts that He began speaking in parables in Matthew 13, so that those hearing couldn’t understand and in so doing have their hard hearts hardened even more.  Is it possible that with our methods or our watered down message that we ourselves have become the primary agents for ruining the soil in America?

Categories: Brandenburg, Evangelism
  1. Don Heinz
    September 18, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Great stuff. Did Jesus or the Apostles ever lead anyone in a prayer to be saved? We definitely have a shorted connection with the Bible in this area. This has always bothered me as an evangelist. Am I really preaching like Jesus? Am I really giving the invitation that Jesus gave? Is it enough that I simply invite people to repent and believe? Or, do I need to cajole and connive to get people to an altar to sign a card? Personally, I am content to invite them to let the Spirit of God deal with them. I don’t want to get in the way. If they are being dealt with by Him, they will know how to respond. When they are born again, they will want to let the church know, and they’ll want to get baptized and discipled.

  2. September 18, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    agonizomai – pray this prayer, agonizomai – pray this prayer, agonizomai – pray this prayer. Nope, I’m not seeing it. They do seem to be a tad bit different.

    Great post.

  3. Don Heinz
    September 19, 2008 at 7:13 am

    Gordy, in all honesty, I did not understand whether you are being sarcastic or agreeing. Perhaps I’m a little slow. Can you elaborate?

    The Greek words for prayer are distinct to agonizomai. If our Lord wanted to teach that it is through a prayer that we are saved, he could easily have said ??????????? ????????? ??? ??? ?????? ?????. But he said, ??????????, which refers to wrestling. In application this is used in reference to prayer. And, I believe prayer is involved in salvation. However, the Lord’s point in Luke 13:24 is that there is more to salvation than just asking, there is a soul struggle with self and sin in favor of the Savior.

  4. Don Heinz
    September 19, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Well, the Greek font looked fine before I sent it. Sorry about that.

    Transliteration: …could easily have said “proseuchesthe eiselthein dia ths stenhs pulhs.” But he said, agonizesthe.

  5. September 19, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Don, I was being sarcastic in agreement. 😉 As Kent pointed out, the Bible says agonizomai, but many teach all it takes is praying a prayer.

  6. Don Heinz
    September 19, 2008 at 9:27 am

    Thanks. Got it.

  7. September 19, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Gordy, I got the point. You were making the point that the 1-2-3 method doesn’t fit with agonizomai. You’re right. I understood why Don didn’t get it too. He’s fired up and tightly wound sometimes. It happens. And it wasn’t Gordon who made the point, the but lighthearted Gordy.

  8. Don Heinz
    September 20, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    It shows that bad, huh? 😦

  9. covington boy
    September 21, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    strive? Sounds like we are “working” a little bit at this? I understand total surrender, faith, allegience, as the gospel says come as a little child.

  10. September 21, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    Hi Covington Boy!

    What do you think Jesus meant then when he said “Strive”?

    He’s not talking about people already saved entering into the gate, even as the question is essentially “why aren’t more saved?”

    We’re not saved by works, but repentance itself isn’t a work. Acts 11:18: “Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.”

    Coming as a little child would be that surrender of allegiance that you talk about. It isn’t a work, but it is volitional, that is, human will is involved. When you read the parable of the prodigal son, you see an example of the agonizing, I believe that Jesus is talking about in Luke.

    Thanks for commenting.

  11. Jack
    September 22, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I’m glad to see this post. I have taught our church a gospel outline that I have been using for some time. It was adapted from multiple sources over several years. There are six basic points. I won’t elaborate on them here – just a simple list with the key verses:
    -We begin with God as the Creator & Lord of all – Rev. 4:11
    -Mankind has rejected God’s rule – Rom. 3:10-12
    -God will hold man accountable – Heb. 9:27
    -Jesus dies for the rebels (us) – 1 Pet. 3:18
    -Christ arose and will judge the world – Phil. 2:9-11
    -Finally, which way do you want to live? John 3:36

    The goal is to ensure that people preach a complete gospel message with an emphasis on man’s need to turn from rebellion against God to receive the mercy extended through Christ’s work on our behalf.

  12. September 22, 2008 at 10:28 pm


    Good outline. People actually do forget about God in the gospel and it centers on man’s problem and how he can get that problem solved with little to nothing about God. Man can essentially retain his allegiance to himself but as long as he gets his problem, sin, solved, he’s set. Not true. What you’ve outlined above is good.

  13. Jack
    September 23, 2008 at 10:14 pm

    Amen! If evangelism is not God-focused, then our methods will always be erroneous.

  14. September 27, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    I just blogged about the gospel outline referenced earlier: http://www.rediscovergodsword.com/2008/09/27/a-simple-gospel-presentation/

  15. August 14, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Is there a part 2 yet? keen to read more:)
    Have subscribed so I don’t miss anything further on this topic.
    It’s so hard when a church has only one ” acceptable” way to evangelise- when each of us develops a style that suits our gifting and personality.

  16. Bro Joseph
    October 13, 2012 at 7:56 am

    I love this site so much

  17. Evangelical Joseph
    October 13, 2012 at 8:41 am

    Dear brethren I personal want to use this opportunity to tell every one that visits this site that the Lord God almighty has used this site to blessed my life but listen to this testimony about the Lord’s coming’I went to see a very friend of mine one day at Ajah Ilaje in the city of Lagos,this my friend was telling what his church member witnessed when he was coming back from Badagiri to Lagos,he took public vehicle,as he was coming by the road side a man stood,weaving to the bus to stopped but the driver couldn’t as they had ran to a very far distance that same man appeared in the bus and was telling to tell every body that master Jesus would ‘ve come but said to wait so that more sinners repents from their sins. DO YOU KNOW THAT MASTER JESUS IS CRYING?Yes he’s,because many ‘ve gone astray and many ‘ve been misled by an un unrepentant preachers. DO YOU WANT TO GIVE YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST,THEN MAKE CONFESSION SAY’LORD JESUS I BELIEVE THAT U DIED FOR ME I ALSO KNOW THAT I AM A SINNER BUT PLEASE FORGIVE ME,I ACCEPT YOU AS MY LORD AND PERSONAL SAVIOR THANK YOU JESUS FOR SAVING MY SOUL’CONGRATULATION

  1. September 26, 2008 at 10:31 am
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