In Mark 10:17-27 we see the story of the Rich Young Ruler which is instructive as to the proper way to reach out to the lost. We must make it clear that a person has to accept God on his terms. Also, once the terms are presented, in this case the demand to sell all worldly goods to demonstrate total submission to Jesus as his Lord and Savior, they must be accepted without negotiation. Even though the Rich Young Ruler was sincere and Jesus had compassion on him, Jesus did not chase after him when he walked away and propose a talk to see if terms could be worked out that were more acceptable to him. This is so different from what I see in many churches today who fear to present certain “controversial” subjects from the Bible less it turn persons away and in some cases they are even open to discussions of the relevance of clear Biblical teaching.
In one mainline Baptist Church I attended recently the pastor ignored the teaching on homosexuality when presenting Romans 1 – the primary subject of that chapter. When my wife called to find out why – since this was such a relevant issue in our culture today – she was informed that the subject was intentionally ignored until the church leadership could decide on the proper way to present it so people would not be offended. This approach rather than just proclaiming the unadulterated Word of God.
Secondly, it is important to make sure a lost person is truly ready to repent of their sins and otherwise accept God on his terms. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the late pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, told of a night when he was preaching as a young pastor in Wales. He noticed that a man well-known in town for his hard-drinking and carousing was in attendance that night. Lloyd-Jones could see the man sobbing throughout the message. As the man left the church that night, Lloyd-Jones shook his hand and wished him farewell, without pressing him for a Christian decision. The next night, Lloyd-Jones encountered the man in town and the two discussed the prior night’s events: “You know, doctor, if you had asked me to stay behind last night I would have done so.” “Well,” I said, “I am asking you now, come with me now.” “Oh no,” he replied, “but if you had asked me last night I would have done so.” “My dear friend,” I said, “if what happened to you last night does not last for twenty-four hours I am not interested in it. If you are not as ready to come with me now as you were last night you have not got the right, the true thing. Whatever affected you last night was only temporary and passing, you still do not see your real need of Christ.”
It is important to make sure a lost person understands the terms they are accepting for their salvation and not just influenced by a one-time emotional experience that will shortly fade away and the lost person go back to his (her) old way of life having never truly repented.