We Persuade Men
R. L. Wyser
II Corinthians 5:11 – “Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”
A number of times, and always with striking significance, is the word, persuade, and words derived therefrom, used in the Bible. Let’s first give the meaning of the word.
Meaning Of The Word
Persuade means to win to a purpose or a course by entreaty, eloquence, or reasoning, or by an appeal to passion or self-interest. It means also to induce to believe willingly, to lead to accept a fact or doctrine as a matter of faith. As to the soberly important matters that relate to the salvation of the soul, without which the gaining of the whole world is foolish, I would say that persuade means to win people to make decisions concerning the soul as to the past, the present, and the future, that will stand the test of a lightening-swift accident bringing sudden death, the test of a tediously torturous disease that closes the shutters of all of life’s windows, the test of the Jeshurun-like prosperity which causes a man to forsake God who made him and esteem lightly the rock of his salvation (Deuteronomy 32:15), the test of that solemn hour when every one of us shall give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12) when for every idle word that men shall speak they shall give an account thereof in the day of judgment (Matthew 12:36). At such a time, when we stand before God, to whom the darkness and the light are both alike. (Psalms 139:12) We cannot resist God who is almighty. We cannot evade the scrutiny of Him who knows all things.
In the Old Testament we read of the use of persuasion.
Think of God’s question. “And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade (him), and prevail also: go forth, and do so.” (I Kings 22:20-22)
Think of King Sennacherib’s question unto all of Judah that were at Jerusalem, at a time when this arrogant ruler of Assyria entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself. (II Chronicles 32:1) He asked, “Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The Lord our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?” (II Chronicles 32:11)
In Rabshakeh’s blasphemous speech to the Jews, he spoke against God and God’s prophet using the word persuade, saying, “Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you. (Beware) lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The Lord will deliver us.” (Isaiah 36:13-14, 18)
Ahab, who sold himself to work evil in the sight of the Lord (I Kings 21:20) used persuasion on King Jehoshaphat in Judah who had riches and honor in abundance. (II Chronicles 17:5) We read how “that after (certain) years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that (he had) with him, and persuaded him to go up (with him) to Ramothgilead.” (II Chronicles 18:2)
Solomon spoke of persuasion when he wrote, “By long forbearing is a prince persuaded, and a soft tongue breaketh the bone.”
In the New Testament we read of frequent usage of persuasion.
Pilate’s wife used persuasion in sending him a message. She “sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19) But stronger than her quiet persuasion was the clamorous persuasion of the multitude. We read, “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.” (Matthew 27:20)
Abraham used the word talking across the great gulf fixed to the rich man who was died and was buried, and who in hell lifted up his eyes, being in torments (Luke 16:22-23), and who wanted a missionary to go to his father’s house to persuade his brethren to believe lest they go to the place of torment. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:31)
The enemies of Jesus, when Jesus bested in verbal battle, when Jesus silenced when they questioned His authority, used the word persuade. And we read, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say, Why then believed ye him not? But and if we say, Of men; all the people will stone us: for they be persuaded that John was a prophet.” (Luke 20:4-6)
The chief priests, always venomous against virtue as it was manifested in the life of Jesus, used the word persuade in talking to the soldiers who had guarded the tomb, the weaponed men who saw the lightening-like countenance of the angel in snow-white raiment who descended from Heaven and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it after Jesus rose from the dead. Matthew 28:12-14 says, “And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you.”
Paul and Barnabas used persuasion at Antioch. We read in Acts 13:42, “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”
Paul’s enemies used persuasion. “And there came thither (certain) Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew (him) out of the city, supposing he had been dead.” (Acts 14:19)
In Corinth, Paul used persuasion, “And he reasoned in the synagogue, every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks.” (Acts 18:4) And Paul was complimented, though his foes meant no compliment, when in Ephesus he was accused of far-reaching persuasion. “Moreover ye see and hear, that not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no gods, which are made with hands.” (Acts 19:26)
In Jerusalem, persuasion was used on Paul when his friends besought him not to go to Jerusalem. “Then Paul answered, What mean ye to weep and to break mine heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus. And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.” (Acts 21:13-14) Speaking for himself (Acts 26:24) before King Agrippa, Paul was accused by Festus of being mad or crazy because of much learning. Paul said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner.” (Acts 26:25-26) And we read, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” (Acts 26:27-28)
Paul, writing to the Romans, mentions persuasion, speaking of how Abraham, being not weak in faith, was fully persuaded that, what God had promised, he was able also to perform. (Romans 4:21) Again to those same people he wrote, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Note other times when Paul spoke of persuasion. “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” (Romans 14:5) “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus.” (Romans 14:14) “And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.” (Romans 15:14)
Writing a high evaluation of Timothy, Paul wrote, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (II Timothy 1:5) Again to Timothy, he wrote, “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (II Timothy 1:12)
Paul asked the Galatians a question, “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) He also wrote, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion (cometh) not of him that calleth you.” (Galatians: 5:7-8)
About Paul in the synagogue in Corinth, we read, “And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months, disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8) About Paul in jail in Rome, we read, “And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into (his) lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and (out of) the prophets, from morning till evening.” (Acts 28:23)
The writer of the Hebrew epistle wrote, “But, beloved, we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak.” (Hebrews 6:9)
Now, let us think of this verse as we remember that it is our business to persuade men to believe and to persuade men to receive and to live for him. “Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (II Corinthians 5:11) Think also:
An Unemphasized Truth
That oft unmentioned and undeclared truth is the truth of the terror of the Lord, the wrath of God. Know ye not that every man must see his guilt before he will cry out for mercy and pardon? Sinai must strike with its lightening before Calvary will glow with Calvary’s light. The sharp needle of the law must pierce the soul before it will receive the silken thread of the gospel. And we all know that if a man looks lightly upon his disease, calling small pox a slight rash, and tuberculosis a transient discomfort, and cancer a mere irritation, he will not hasten to the physician. If a man thinks a whirling cyclone is a light whirlwind, he will not run to the storm shelter. If a man thinks the poison he swallows is peppermint, he will have no concern. Is there anything in God or about God to be afraid of? The wrath of God is a phrase that should chill the blood of every individual. The wrath of God is a terrible expression; and it remains terrible after we have modified it by every thought which has been revealed concerning God. It is the wrath of the Lamb, and a more terrific wrath was never known. It is the wrath of virtue against vice, of chastity against unchastity, of meekness against brutality, of gentleness against cruelty, of righteousness against sin, of love against hatred. All who refuse the life of God must suffer the wrath of God. An eternal death is that state of the future in which the wrath of God abideth. The wicked shall be cast into hell. The fact of law and God’s eternal presence stands up and looms large. I know that the breaking of the law of God (1) drove men from the Garden, (2) baptized the Earth with the horror of the flood, (3) turn Israel back from Canaan, and (4) drenched the world in the blood of millions twice in just the last fifty or sixty years.
The mightiest heresy of this age is lifting the love of God out of its setting, out of its proper relationship to the justice of God, the wrath of God, and the vengeance of God. God has become a kind-of eternal slave, an infinite sponge that absorbs human rebellion, a mighty heart into which humanity empties its sewage and whatnot. Liberalism with its broadmindedness has made the love of God to cover like a blanket all of the filth and vileness of the human heart, and this without any demand for a repentant tear or one broken word of contrition.
Knowing the terror of the Lord, we should persuade men. Persuade them as a singer singing to reach the soul. Persuade them as a lover wooing to win the hand and heart. Persuade them as a lawyer arguing for a verdict. Persuade them as a mother begs her son to turn from evil. Persuade them as a statesman pleading for his country. Persuade them as a preacher with tongue of fire espousing the calls of righteousness. We must persuade men with recognition of the truth. Lyman Beecher once spoke, “The greatest thing a human being can do is to bring another human being to Jesus Christ.” The hour when we persuade men is greater than the hour when a surgeon holds a knife at the end of which is life or death for the patient, greater than the hour when a lawyer faces a jury with the conviction that if he makes a mistake an innocent man will hang, and a family will be disgraced forever.
We must persuade men with something of the spirit of Audubon, the ornithologist. He counted his physical comforts as nothing compared with the success of his work. He would rise at midnight, night after night, and go out into the swamps to study the habits of certain nighthawks. He would crouch motionless for hours in the dark and fog, feeling himself well rewarded if after weeks of waiting he secured one additional fact about a single bird. During one summer, he went day after day to the bayous near New Orleans to observe a shy water fowl. He would have to stand almost to his neck in the nearly stagnant water, scarcely breathing while countless poisonous moccasin snakes swam past his face and great alligators passed and re-passed his silent watch. “It was not pleasant,” he said, as his face glowed with enthusiasm. “But what of that? I have the picture of the bird.” And he would do that for the picture of a bird. What are we doing to persuade men already condemned (John 3:18) to accept a pardon that is to last for eternity. Let us consider:
By What Truths Shall We Persuade Men?
By the truth that man needs salvation.
Paul tells us that we were dead in trespasses and sins and that we were, by nature, the children of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1,3) He also asserts, “They which are the children of the flesh, these (are) not the children of God.” (Romans 9:8) He also says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26) And John writes, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil.” (I John 3:10)
Since men are not by nature children of God, they must be born again to become the children of God. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, (even) to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12) God speaking through His prophet says, “For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Romans 5:12 says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
God teaches that through the offense of one, many be dead, and that the judgment was by one to condemnation, and that by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation. (Romans 5:18) We read, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” (Romans 8:3) Men are born with a sinful nature. We all, with David, must say, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5) This makes us ask, “Who can bring a clean (thing) out of an unclean? not one.” (Job 14:4) Ezekiel, moved by the spirit, wrote, “Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
We need to persuade men really to believe that they are sinners, doomed and damned, and that all righteousness of all humanity is before God as filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean (thing), and all our righteousnesses (are) as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Psalms 14:3 says, “They are all gone aside, they are (all) together become filthy: (there is) none that doeth good, no, not one.” We are charged with being vain in our imaginations and deceitful in our hearts. Romans 1:21, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified [him] not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.”
Four young adults were killed near Moses Lake, Washington, when they tried to beat an approaching freight train to a crossing. Said one observer, “It was a foolish gamble. They had so little to gain, and so much to lose.” It was true. If they had won, they would have gained only a few moments. Losing, they lost everything. These four people symbolize millions of others who gambled and lost an eternity in Heaven for the momentary pleasures of sin.
And we are to persuade men that they can be saved, not by character or anything else, not by merely joining a church, but in the way Paul sets forth in these words. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: (it is) the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) And everyone should repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remissions of sins, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which does, indeed, come by grace. (Acts 2:39) The hymn writer expressed that same truth in these words:
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
All for sin, could not atone,
God must save, and God alone.
Other refuge have I none.
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.
We need to persuade men to come out of their bondage, sorrow, and night, out of sickness and into Christ’s health.
By emphasis on the brevity of life.
We read in the Bible that “Man (that is) born of a woman (is) of few days, and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” (Job 14:1-2) “(As for) man, his days (are) as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” (Psalms 103:15-16) “The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh [is] grass, and all the goodliness thereof [is] as the flower of the field.” (Isaiah 40:6) “For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” (Psalms 37:2) “Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are [as] a sleep: in the morning (they are) like grass (which) groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale (that is told).” (Psalms 90:5-6, 9) “My days (are) like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass.” (Psalm 102:11) “But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong (his) days, (which are) as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.” (Ecclesiastes 8:13)
We know from the many times we have walked the well-beaten path to the grave, that life on this earth, that the longest, is just one lightening-swift swing of the pendulum of the clock of time. Just like the glimpse of a passing ship, just like the snowflake on the river, a moment seen and then gone forever. Just like the sparks that fly upward. Just like the thin footprint upon a sea-lashed shore. Just like the stay of the postman at the door. Just like the shadow of an eagle that hastens to its prey.
All American watched in horror Tuesday, January 28, 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded seventy-three seconds into its launch. All seven astronauts were lost, but will never be forgotten. Their deaths are a national tragedy, and we grieved with their families. Many thoughts came to mind as we reflected on the loss. One thought that overwhelmed all of us is the frailty of life and the urgency of salvation. Each man’s life is but a breath.
Yes, life at its longest and happiest is just a burst of music down a busy street. Life at its longest and saddest on this Earth is like a quick sob in the night. There is so little distance between our cradles and our coffins, between our sun ups and our sun downs. We need to persuade men to come to God and to be saved.
By reminding them of death and the judgment.
The writer of the epistles to the Hebrews mentions this in these verses. “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28) Men today must die once, not twice or three times, but only once if Jesus delays His coming to Earth again. To Jonathan, David said what we can say to all others, and to ourselves, “(There is) but a step between me and death.” (I Samuel 20:3) And the zigzag lightening quickly snuffing out the life declares the same thing. Ships that leave one harbor and never reach another, speedy trains that become in a minute a mass of wreckage where human beings are crushed to death, airplanes that fall like soaring eagles pierced with arrows, earthquakes that shake cities to ruin in one quick hour of horror, cyclones that whirl like brooms of destruction sweeping many out of this life, diseases and plagues that write death sentences for many, failing eyes and feeble limbs and fluttering hearts, all of these make known to us the truth that David spoke to Jonathan.
A few years ago a news photographer won an award for a picture of death that he had taken. A young woman was found dead in a sports car where she had died from an overdose of narcotics. Using a wide-angled lens, the cameraman had produced a picture showing not only the body pitifully sprawled across the front seat of the car, but also the parking meter which read, “Time expired.” It is appointed unto man once to die, but after that there is the judgment. And what about the judgment?
1. The day has been fixed. We don’t know when that day will be; but God has marked it on the calendar of eternity, and all of His plans are working toward that awful time. “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by (that) man whom he hath ordained; (whereof) he hath given assurance unto all (men), in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31)
2. A great crowd will be there. Every lost person who ever lived will be there, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the good and the bad. The graves will give up their dead. The sea will give up its dead. The desert sands will give up their dead. The kings of the Earth and the mighty men of all of the ages will be there. Those who won the world’s acclaim but left the Lord out will be there. The great and the small will be there. No matter who you are, if you leave the Lord out of your life, you will stand before the great white throne. It is easy to think of yourself as standing on the edge of that great throng and watching the proceedings; but it won’t be that way. You will stand there to receive the sentence that will be pronounced upon you.
3. Some will try to escape this judgment. “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Revelation 6:15-17) They will call for the rocks and the mountains to hide them; but it is not going to happen. The rocks and the mountains cannot hide sinners from the eyes of the one who shall see all things. But if they could, God would uproot every rock and overturn every mountain to bring men to judgment. When the atomic bombs fell on the Japanese city, many were killed; but some escaped. But no sinner can escape the judgment of the great white throne.
4. The judge has already been appointed. The Bible tells us that He will be the one whom God raised from the dead, Jesus Christ. We think of Him today as a tender and loving Savior; but in that day, His great love will be turned into a mighty wrath that will be poured out upon rejecting sinners.
A minister told about a woman who came to his office and set across the desk from him. She told him how much she had loved the man she had married, and how she did everything to make him happy, but in time he turned his back upon her and gave his heart to another woman. As she related her story, her anger rose until finally she doubled up both of her fists and said, “If I had him here now, I would like to take my two hands and crush him to death. I would take keen delight in cutting out his heart and holding it up before him.” Her mighty love had turned to mighty wrath. And this is what is going to happen on that day.
By urging them to believe the Bible doctrine of hell.
Hell is not the wild nightmare of a distorted brain. Hell is not an unauthorized deviation from the true doctrine, something repugnant to reason, something inconsistent with the goodness of God, something that is a riot of imaginative genius. A minister said, “Hell and heaven are, of course, the same place.” Would this comforter of infidels and torturer of Christians have us pray, “Our Father who art in hell?” Would he have us say, “The wicked shall be turned into heaven with all the nations that forget God?” All terms describing hell are not allegorical, or metaphorical, or poetical, or fantastical, as some say. Hell is not a sort-of spiritual fire which purifies the soul. To take away hell from the belief of the people is to reject the physician and leave the plague, to overthrow the lighthouse and leave the hidden rock, to wipe out the rainbow and leave the storm, to take away the bread and leave the pang, to meet the tragic blackness of sin with a candle gospel, to make a mild twilight out of eternal night of retribution. Disbelief and unbelief do not alter facts. Denial of truth does not annihilate truth.
In making their last great bid to hold on to transatlantic steamship passenger traffic, the Canard Line used an advertising slogan, “Getting there is half of the fun.” An atheist asked a Salvation Army lass, “Suppose you discover one second after death that there is no such place as heaven, what would you do and what would you say?” Smiling, the salvationist replied, “I have had a grand and glorious time getting there.” Then she asked, “Suppose you discover a second after death that hell is a reality, what would you say?” Silently the unbeliever walked away.
Jesus tells us of hell with all of its horror; and no one will accuse Jesus of drawing a picture of terrifying people about something that did not exist. A minister said, “When men rail at God’s preachers as cruel, malignant, ignorant dolts delighting in human suffering because they repeat the words of Jesus, we feel the accusation not as against preachers, but as well-suited to dishonor and vilify the character of Jesus.”
When Jesus spoke about hell, the particular word He used was Gehenna. That is the name of a place, the valley of Hinnom, outside the city of Jerusalem. In that valley, strange gods had been worshipped and human sacrifices had been offered. The Jews felt that the valley was cursed, and as a result Hinnom became the city dump. People threw their garbage there and fires fed on that garbage day and night. When Jesus referred to hell as Gehenna, He used a terrifying picture. What does Gehenna tell us about hell? It tells us that it is a place of wasted lives. Hell is the garbage dump of the universe. The city dump of any town is filled with waste, things once useful thrown away because they are now useless. Jesus warns us that this is eternally true of some lives. Have you not met people who have gained their world but have thrown away their lives to get it? Life was spent but never invested. That is the hell of it; eternal regret that mourns a wasted life. Gehenna tells us something else about hell. It is the place where life has no meaningful relationship to others. Gehenna was a bleak valley filled with the things that people no longer wanted. As far as the citizens of Jerusalem were concerned, the refuse had no value and no one cared about it. According to the Jews, the valley of Hinnom was one place on Earth that could not be redeemed from idolatry, that God Himself could not change.
Jesus called hell outer darkness. Many years ago, our family visited a cave in the state of Kentucky. The guide led us through many beautiful and winding subterranean passageways. Suddenly he turned off all of the lights and said, “I am the only one who knows how to get back to the entrance. If I left you here, you would probably never find your way out. Anyone lost in this cave would no doubt become insane within a week from the oppressive loneliness. Be quiet for a moment and feel the darkness.” After about thirty seconds, someone in the party could endure it no longer and cried out, “Turn on the lights. I’m going crazy now.” The guide laughed, but all would not soon forget that frightful experience. And I thought of the outer darkness of hell and shuttered.
God in heaven still invites men to the wedding feast of salvation. Through the Savior’s atonement, He has provided the perfect garment of righteousness that every sinner needs. You can avoid the horror of blackness that each doomed soul will experience in hell. Without delay, receive Him who is the eternal light.
Hell is not figurative fire. Who care about figurative fire? If a man were to threaten to give me a figurative blow on the head, I would care very little about it. He would be welcome to give me as many figurative blows as he wants. There is a real fire in hell, as truly as you know you have a real body. I believe there is a hell. I think if I had not been afraid of hell, I don’t know if I would have ever started for heaven. The preaching that ignores a doctrine of hell lowers the holiness of God, and degrades the work of the Lord. Hell is a matter of divine revelation. Nothing is more plainly revealed in the pages of history, than that awful fact.
Then, too, we should persuade men to come from sin’s death into God’s light.
By urging them to make sure of heaven.
Heaven is a reality, not a myth. Heaven is a place, not a state of mind. Heaven is not an allegorical assumption. Heaven is not a sick sentimentality. Heaven is not a vain apostrophe. Heaven is not an air castle. Heaven is the most beautiful place that the wisdom of God could conceive and His power could prepare. Heaven is not a ghostly, unreal, indefinite state, but a place as literal and real as your house and your city in which you live.
Abraham went out not knowing where he went. (Hebrews 11:8) But all of the years, he looked for a city which had foundations whose builder and maker was God. (Hebrews 11:10) And we read these words, “But now they desire a better (country), that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:16) “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.” (Hebrews 12:22) “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Hebrews 13:14) And Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
To ask if heaven is a real place is no wiser than the following question. Is there heat in fire? Is there fact in fiction? Is there fiction in literature? Is there color in a rainbow? Is there mind in metaphysics? My heaven is a solid heaven. After the resurrection has come, you will have a resurrection foot and something to tread on, a resurrection eye and colors and substance to see with it, a resurrection ear and voices and music to hear, a resurrection heart and a love to satisfy it. I have no patience with a transcendental, Jello-like, gaseous heaven.
I believe many can be persuaded to accept the Lord, fairer than ten thousand, altogether lovely, by getting them to listen to you in public and in private as you speak of the place concerning which this is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Corinthians 2:9)
A little boy was offered the opportunity to select a dog for his birthday present. At the pet store, he was shown a number of puppies and from them he picked one whose tail was wagging furiously. When he was asked why he selected that particular dog, he said, “I wanted the one with the happy ending.” If we want to reach out for a life with a happy ending, we have no choice but to be filled with the spirit of the living God, take on His name in baptism, follow Him daily, and rejoice in the eternal life that awaits us.
We need to persuade men.
By prayer for them.
Think of the man called Praying Hyde, a missionary to India. The revival period there extended from 1904 to 1910, six wonderful, soul-saving years. To him, fellow missionaries attributed one hundred thousand souls resulting from revivals for which he prayed. He died after a few years of some prayer, his heart having been forced to the right side of his body through agonizing, earnestness of his praying. In his praying, he urged public confession of sin. Note that Jonathan Edwards said, “There never has been an outpouring of the divine spirit from God without a previous outpouring of the human spirit toward God.” Andrew Murray said, “In relation to His people, God works only in answer to their prayers.” Courtland Myers who said, “God’s greatest agency in winning men back to Himself is the prayer of other men. How few enter into the positive, practical power of prayer!” And A. C. Dixon, “When we depend on prayer, we get what God can do.” And Jesus said, “Pray ye.”
We are told that in Oswego, New York in 1828, one hundred and fifty souls came to the Lord and then joined a church out in the country places; and it was mainly because two elderly men, who lived a mile apart, walked to a wooded place halfway between their houses, and prayed each day for weeks. What truth wrote James in these words, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” (James 5:16)
We also need to persuade men to come to the Lord.
By personal witnessing.
Jesus said, “Ye shall be my witnesses.” “Now as he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:16-17) Second century philosopher, Celsus, said of the early Christians, “Fullers, and weavers, and teachers are constantly talking about Jesus.” The Bible says of them that they were all scattered abroad, except the apostles, and “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1,4)
Are we guilty of lying when we lustfully sing, “I love to tell the story,” when we are as silent as a sphinx about the Savior and His mightiness to transform lives?
It was reported that a minister was apprehended by a state patrolman for breaking the speed law. He was taken before the judge and was allowed to answer for himself. When the judge asked him why it was necessary for him to drive faster than the law allowed, he replied that in those days of wickedness, a preacher had to go some to get people converted. The judge’s only reply was, “Fifty dollars in cost. These people that you are passing up need to be converted also.”
Years ago there lived in New York City a scrub woman widely known in Christian circles as Sophie, the scrub woman. She truly loved the Lord and never missed an opportunity to speak for Him. One day she was seen witnessing to a wooden Indian standing in the front of a store which sold cigars. A nominal Christian standing nearby joshed her and said, “Sophie, don’t you know you’re talking to a wooden Indian?” She replied, “No, I didn’t know I was talking to a wooden Indian about the Lord. My eyesight is very bad. But talking to a wooden Indian about the Lord is not as bad as being a wooden Christian and never talking to anyone about the Lord.” And she was right.
You talk about the weather and crops of corn and wheat.
You speak with friends and neighbors that pass along the street.
You call yourself a Christian and like the gospel plan.
Then why no speak for Jesus and witness where you can?
By living the Christ-like life.
The early followers of Christ were called Christians, or literally little Christs. The apostle Paul said, “For to me to live (is) Christ.” (Philippians 1:21) Exaltingly, he exclaimed, “Christ liveth in me.” (Galatians 2:20) Christians should be Christ-like in word and deed. There is a great difference between being a nominal Christian and a Christ-like Christian. Our undeviating desire should be to let others see the beauty of Jesus in us. When that happens, the words said of Peter and John may be said of us, “They took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All of His wonder, passion, and purity.
Oh, thou spirit divine,
All my nature refine,
‘Til the beauty of Jesus be seen in me.
Keith Miller in his book, A Second Touch, tells of a businessman who one night gave himself to the Lord, after struggling along on his own strength. The next morning he was late for his train. In his hurry, he bumped into a small boy with a puzzle in his hands, scattering the puzzle pieces across the sidewalk. Instead of rushing on, he stopped, stooped down, and helped pick up the puzzle while the train moved out of the station. After he had finished, the little lad looked up into his face and asked, “Mister, are you Jesus?” “Then,” said the man, “I realized that at least some small way the Lord truly, truly had come into my life.” What witness of the Lord shows through in your life?
This article “We Persuade Men” written by R. L. Wyser is excerpted from Bible Preaching Resource written by R. L. Wyser April/June 2001.
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