ÿTHE DIVINE ART OF SOUL-WINNING,
by J. Oswald Sanders–fifth file]
HOW TO DEAL WITH VARIOUS CLASSES
We now turn to the actual work of dealing with both the
professedly converted and the unconverted. Let us first
think of the former class.
I. CONVERTED PERSONS.
Those with whom you will come in contact who need
personal dealing, may be divided into two main classes:
those who are open backsliders, and those whose Christian
experience is unsatisfactory.
1. OPEN BACKSLIDERS. It is assumed that you have made
sure that the person with whom you are dealing was
genuinely converted, and are satisfied as to whether he is
a possessor or merely a professor.
If the person DOES NOT SEEM ANXIOUS TO RETURN to the
Lord, and shows no real sorrow, although at times he longs
for “the good old days,” use Jeremiah 2:5,13,17,19, showing
the ingratitude, bitterness, and folly of his longer
pursuing his godless way. Bring him face to face with the
inevitable issues of his conduct in the life to come. Use
also 1 Kings 11:9; Amos 4:11; Luke 11:24; 2 Peter 2:20-22.
If, however, the person manifests a GENUINE SORROW FOR
SIN AND DESIRE TO RETURN to the Lord, it is a great joy to
bring the healing balm of the Scriptures to his sad heart.
Note how gently the Lord dealt with penitent Peter: “Go and
tell my disciples AND PETER.” Let us, too, be gentle in
Our first task is to assure him of God’s willingness
to receive all who return to Him. Use Hosea 14:1-4 with
its joyous promise of restoration. Luke 15:11-24 has been
wonderfully used in encouraging wanderers to return from
the far country.
NEXT get him down on his knees and compel a full and
unvarnished confession and forsaking of sin (Jer. 3:13;
1 John 1:9). This is absolutely essential to restoration.
Then show that if he has done his part–confessing,
acknowledging, and forsaking his sin–God has done His
part, forgiving, cleansing, and restoring. Get him to
thank God for having received him back into His fellowship.
In some cases it may induce brokenness to go through
Psalm 51 with the inquirer.
2. THOSE WHOSE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN
UNSATISFACTORY. First ascertain the reason. The causes of
spiritual decline are much the same in most cases: neglect
of prayer, Bible reading, or witnessing, worldliness,
indulgence of sin or doubt, no assurance of salvation, no
victory over sin.
(a) NEGLECT OF PRAYER–a sadly common neglect among
Christians, and probably, along with neglect of the Bible,
the most fruitful cause of backsliding. Some time ago the
writer met a fine young man, truly converted and anxious to
go on for God, and yet who was making no progress. In
response to a question he admitted that he did not
regularly read and pray. On having the part which prayer
and Bible reading play in the Christian life explained to
him, he said: “I did not know, and no one ever told me that
this was necessary to growth in the Christian life.” It
was touching to hear him pray as though God had given him a
great revelation. Never take it for granted that the young
convert will automatically read and pray. Instruct him on
this point. Endeavor to find the reason for the lack of
prayer and suggest possible causes (James 4:2). Show the
value of a quiet time (Matt. 6:6). Quote Christ’s example
(Matt. 14:13,23; Mark 1:35), as well as that of other
saints (Ps. 55:17; Dan. 6:10; Matt. 26:41; Eph. 6:18).
(b) NEGLECT OF THE BIBLE. Show the place the Bible
must ever hold in the life of the happy Christian. Ask why
it is that it seems so difficult to find time for Bible
reading and prayer, and yet time is found for everything
else. Suggest that the reason is that the Devil knows if
he can prevent this he will paralyze the whole of the
believer’s life of service. Use 1 Peter 2:2; James
1:21,22; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; a passage which shows the part
the Bible plays in saving from error and equipping for
service; Psalm 119:9,130, one of the secrets of victory;
Psalm 1:1,2; John 5:38,39; Acts 17:11; John 8:31.
(c) NEGLECT IN WITNESSING. In many cases the real joy
of salvation is never experienced until open confession has
been made. Ascertain if the inquirer has ever done this,
and if he is still witnessing. If not, show that this is
the cause of the unsatisfactory experience. One who is
ashamed of Jesus cannot be happy. Use Romans 10:9,10;
Matthew 10:32,33. Witnessing is part of the believer’s
duty as well as his privilege. If the reason of nonwitness
is fear of ridicule or persecution, use John 12:42,43.
Encourage personal work with Daniel 12:3; Proverbs 11:30;
(d) COMPROMISE WITH THE WORLD. Since James 4:4 is
true and “friendship with the world is enmity with God,” it
naturally follows that the Christian who is on good terms
with the world is not on good terms with God, and VICE
VERSA. God has commanded us to be separate from the world
and not to love it (1 John 2:15-17; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Matt.
6:24; Luke 8:14). Bring the inquirer to the point where he
will make a definite and final break with the world (1 Cor.
6:19,20; 8:13; Col.3:17; 1Tim. 4:6; 1Cor.6:12).
(e) ENSLAVED BY SIN. A man in one of Moody’s meetings
said he would like to come, but he was chained and couldn’t
come. A Scotsman said to him: “Aye, man, why don’t you
come, chain and all?” He said: “I never thought of that.”
The One who saved from the guilt of sin is able to save
from its enslaving power (Rom.6:11; 1 Cor.15:57).
(f) NO ASSURANCE OF SALVATION. The cause of this may
ge ignorance. Many have no idea that a believer can,
before he dies, know with certainty that he is saved. With
this class of person, use 1 John 5:10-13, stressing the
last verse. Also John 1:12; 3:36; 5:24; and Acts 13:39.
Make clear what believing on Christ really means, and make
sure that this saving belief is present.
Sometimes, however, the lack of assurance is due to
tolerated sin. In such a case, find out what is hindering,
press for a confession, and assurance will generally
result. Use Isaiah 55:7; John 8:12; Psalm 32:1-5.
A very general cause of lack of assurance is a
dependence on feeling. Sometimes the inquirer feels saved,
but at other times he is sure he is not saved. The task of
the worker is to induce him to cease from looking at his
own inward feelings and to rest on the sure Word of God.
Tell him that God’s unchanging Word is far more trustworthy
than his fickle feelings. Use such a verse as John 3:36,
calling attention to the fact that “believing” is assuredly
followed by “having” eternal life. Romans 8:1 and John
5:24 assure that for the believer judgment is past.
Eternal life is given, and cannot be taken away. John
10:28,29 and Exodus 12:1-13 have been much used in this
connection. The sprinkled blood ensured safety while the
Word of the Lord believed assured of safety. An old lady,
full of joyous confidence, was asked: “But suppose Christ
should let you slip through His fingers?” She replied at
once: “But I AM one of His fingers.” There is no
possibility of the true believer being separated from the
love of Christ (Rom.8:38,39). Do not let the inquirer go
until he can say with absolute assurance: “I know that I
have eternal life.”
II. UNCONVERTED PERSONS
These may be considered under five headings:
1. ANXIOUS OR INTERESTED. What a joy it is to the
zealous personal worker to come across someone anxious to
be saved. Some time ago a man came to the door of the
Bible Training Institute, weeping so much that a minute
elapsed before he could tell us his errand. “Have you a
Bible here?” he inquired. “Certainly. Come in. What is
troubling you? Do you know the joy of having your sins
forgiven?” “No, but that’s what I’ve come about.” What a
joy it was to lead this man to Christ, to see the cloud
lift from his face, and to see his handkerchief, already
saturated with tears of repentance, doing service again,
but this time for tears of joy. The man, who lived
hundreds of miles away, had been under conviction of sin
for six months as a result of reading literature sent out
from the Institute, and had made his way to the Institute
to find Christ. Unfortunately such cases are all too rare.
There seem to be very few who are really concerned and
anxious about their souls.
The first thing to do with one in this condition is to
assure him of God’s willingness and ability to save (Luke
19:10). Next show that God requires repentance, or a
sorrow for sin real enough to make him willing to forsake
it (Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3; Isa.55:7). Repentance involves
confession, for God cannot forgive sin until it is
confessed to Him (1 John 1:9). Then show what Christ had
to suffer before God’s love could have full sway, and He
could righteously forgive men. It is often very effective
to have the seeker read Isaiah 53:3-6, using the first
person singular instead of plural, e.g., “Surely he hath
borne by griefs. … He was wounded for my transgressions
and bruised for my iniquities,” etc. This will accomplish
the dual purpose of convicting of sin and awakening faith
in Christ. Endeavor to make the picture as graphic as
possible. Having got the inquirer to repent and confess
his need, and explained the cost at which the gift of
eternal life was bought, the next step is to show that
before he can be saved he must not only repent but believe
the Gospel (Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31). But what is it to
WHAT IT IS TO BELIEVE
It is of the utmost importance that the personal
worker be able to show clearly the nature of saving faith,
or what is meant in Scripture by “believe on the Lord Jesus
Christ.” The sin for which men are condemned is–“Because
they believe not on me” (John 16:9).
In a letter received recently, an inquirer said: “I
believe in Christ, but the devils also believe and tremble,
and they are not saved.” Here is the worker’s problem in a
nutshell. There are obviously two kinds of belief–one
purely mental, the other involving the whole of the moral
nature. The purely mental opinion that it is true that
Christ lived and died for men, works no saving change in
the heart or life. What, then, is it to believe to the
salvation of your soul? It is so to put your confidence in
Christ as being what He claimed to be–your Savior and
Sin-bearer–that you put yourself absolutely in His hands
for salvation. If I am suffering from a dread disease for
which a certain surgeon says he has an unfailing remedy, it
is not sufficient that I believe that he can cure me. That
is merely an opinion. I do not really believe until I put
my case in his hands. I do not believe in my banker until
I place my money in his keeping. Believing without
trusting is not faith. Perhaps no illustration is more
effective than that of Blondin, the tight-rope walker who,
having walked the tight-rope across Niagara Falls, first
alone, and then pushing a wheelbarrow, asked a little
fellow who had been watching him breathlessly, whether he
believed that he could wheel him across the rope in the
barrow. “Of course I do, sir,” replied the lad, “I saw you
do it.” “All right, jump in.” “Oh, no, sir, you don’t
catch me,” was the honest reply. He believed (mentally),
but he did not trust.
Another way of presenting this truth is by showing
from John 1:12 that believing and receiving are synonymous.
“As many as received him”–as personal Savior and
Sin-bearer–thereby received “power to become the sons of
The final step is to lead the inquirer definitely to
believe in Christ and receive Him as Savior. Use John
1:11,12 again, somewhat as follows: “You have now confessed
your sin and need. You believe that when Jesus died He
bore the punishment for your sins and that He longs to be
your Savior and Master. Will you now take Him to be such?”
“Yes, I will.” “Well, what does this verse say you are
now?” “A child of God.” “And you are really a child of
God already?” If the inquirer is not clear on this point,
go over the ground again. Do not leave him until the last
doubt has been removed.
Another verse which the writer frequently uses is John
5:24: “Have you heard God’s Word about Christ tonight?”
“Yes.” “Well, what does God say you have?” “Everlasting
life.” “And have you everlasting life?” If hesitancy is
shown, take him back over the ground until he can give an
unequivocal “Yes.” “And will you ever be brought into
judgment for your sins?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because Jesus
bore the judgment for me.” The worker may have to supply
this answer. “And what other change has taken place?” “I
have passed from death unto life.” “Then let us get down
on our knees and thank Him for His gift.”
It is well to emphasize the divine order–the fact,
faith, and then feeling.
Jesus did it–on the cross.
God says it–in His Word.
I believe it–in my heart.
Feeling that you are saved cannot come before you ARE
saved, any more than feeling you are well after an illness
can come before you are well. And as you cannot be saved
without believing, faith must precede feeling. As faith
must have a fact to rest on, the fact must precede faith.
Many inquirers want to feel saved before they believe in
Christ, and they make their feelings the test as to whether
or not they have believed, thus reversing the divine order.
I believe it, not because I feel it, but because God says
it and Jesus did it. Make sure that the anxious one is
resting not on his own feelings but on God’s Word.
Go and find them ere they perish,
Tell them of the Savior’s love;
How He came to guide them safely
To the Father’s home above.
Go and find them in their darkness,
Bound by chains of slavery;
Tell abroad the proclamation,
Jesus Christ can set them free.
Go and find them, hasten! hasten!
Time is fleeting fast away;
They are dying, lost and hopeless
While you linger day by day.
–Oswald J. Smith
[end of the fifth file]