Evangelism and Encouragement from the Gospel of John

Just yesterday at our church’s Christmas program, I had the privilege of sharing the gospel with those attending.  The opportunity brought to my mind once again the topic of evangelism and the sovereignty of God.  It’s a challenging one, indeed.  Thankfully, I’ve been reading through the gospel of John, and God was kind enough to remind me of some important truths the morning before the program.

Two passages stood out to me as I read John 3-4.  Allow me to start with chapter 4 first.  As many readers probably already know, John 4 records Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well.  As John notes, Jesus “had to pass through Samaria,” (V. 4) and when he came to a town called Sychar, he was sitting beside Jacob’s well when a woman approached to draw water.  The woman, a Samaritan, was stunned that Jesus would engage her in conversation.  Jesus proceeds to tell the woman, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (V. 10).

Puzzled, the woman responds by asking, “Where do you get this living water? (V. 11).  I love Jesus’ response: “. . . whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (V. 14).  In other words, Jesus is saying that he will satisfy the deepest longings of all our hearts.  The joy and satisfaction that we’re all so desperately seeking is found in Christ—and he satisfies eternally.  In John 5, Jesus says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (V. 27).

What does all this have to do with evangelism?  Simply this: As I pondered how I was feeling about sharing the gospel with the precious people that would attend our program, what came to mind was how much I wanted to convince them of Jesus’ words in John 4:14 and 5:27.  I wanted them to understand that life is futile without God (1 Pet. 1:18-19); I wanted them to know that only Jesus can fill the God-shaped hole inside all of our hearts.  I wanted them to know that only Jesus can satisfy all the deepest longings of our hearts.  I wanted them to know this.

But . . . I have no power to bring any of this about.  All of this is beyond my ability.  The truth of the matter is that it takes a work of God for anyone to believe in God.  And I don’t control God.  This is what John 3:6-8 brings to the fore.  Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit and 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.”  These words clearly stress the sovereignty of the Spirit.[1]  Thus, while I preach and share the gospel, the results are in God’s hands, not mine.  God’s sovereignty, however, does not mean that I should refrain from praying.  By no means![2]  Instead, we should pray all the more ardently, asking God to open the eyes of the blind, and to shine “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).  We should pray for God to sovereignly change peoples’ hearts and desires so that they would find Christ to be the all-satisfying treasure of their souls.

All in all, results are in God’s hands.  But we must pray, and preach the gospel freely to all, trusting God to open eyes and hearts.

[1] For more on this point, see Matthew M. Barrett, “The Scriptural Affirmation of Monergism,” in Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy, eds. Matthew Barrett and Thomas J. Nettles (Cape Coral: Founders Press, 2012), 120-187.  See esp. 156-157

[2] Unfortunately, many people think that Calvinistic theology would lead one not to pray.  However, Calvin himself counseled against such a view.  See his Institutes, 3. 10. 2.  As Joel Beeke writes, “Calvin focuses more on the practice of prayer than on its doctrine, which shows how practical his theology is.”  See his essay, “John Calvin on Prayer as Communion with God,” in Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer, eds. Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011), 27-42.  See esp. 27.


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