This weekend is the church holiday of Pentecost. It marks a shift of mode of operation for the Kingdom of God. With Jesus’ death and resurrection completing the atonement for sins, it was now time to connect people with Jesus and give them eternal life with God.
On the surface having a person become a Christian seems simple. Tell them the story of Jesus, explain his promises and they believe it. Unfortunately, people are much more guarded than that. By “guarded” I don’t just mean that they are wary of worldviews and religious stories that are not familiar from childhood, though there is that too. I mean that every human being is born incapable of knowing and connecting with the living God. God didn’t make them that way. This resistance is the inherited product of sinful nature. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” So faith is much more than an intellectual acceptance.
On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people all came to faith. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit wasn’t working on this set of people for some time beforehand. What the Spirit has to do to a person to enable them to believe is not really known. It certainly can be experienced by the individual as intellectual arguments against Jesus being disarmed. I think there is more to it that that. For lack of better terms, there may be spiritual things that must change if not physical. Since sinful nature seems to be genetic, I wonder if our inability to “accept the things that come from the Spirit” is actually connected to brain structure.
In the end the main point is simple: people don’t make believers, the Holy Spirit does. Peter preached a message on Pentecost. It was short, factual, quoted scripture and performed a function in God’s work; but without the Holy Spirit it would have converted no one.
So what are we to do? Sit back and do nothing? Aggressively evangelize and hope the Spirit goes with us? The problem is discerning the Holy Spirit’s lead and finding out what is my part versus what is the Holy Spirit’s role alone. For this I have no better advice or information than to be actively praying for opportunity and direction in bringing others to Christ. Outreach programs, evangelism training and the like could be tools that God will use. They can also be failures if we get ahead of God’s lead.
It may be frustrating to you to wait for the Spirit’s lead. Remember who is the boss and who does the heavy lifting in this process. Rejoice when the Spirit opens a door of opportunity for you and gladly serve, because the Spirit will bring results.