Saturday, September 3, 2011

Every Unbeliever You Meet

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. ~ Ephesians 4:18

A fear many Christians have is the fear of running into something unexpected while sharing the gospel with someone--whether preaching in the open-air or quietly conversing with an individual. What if they ask me a question I cannot answer? What if they are mean and nasty to me? What if they mock me and my God? And so on.

Can any or all of the above happen on any given day, during any given encounter? Certainly. If you dare to share the gospel with lost people, one thing is certain. You will never see it all. And just when you think you've seen or heard what has to be the most ridiculous, incredulous, or blasphemous actions or words of mankind; something will happen that will leave you scratching and shaking your head--maybe even muttering under your breath, "Now I've seen everything!" And tomorrow, you might find yourself saying it again when something new tops them all.

However, Christian, there is something else you must keep in mind. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Every unbeliever you meet will have not one, but several things in common. And the verse for today's devotion identifies four character traits that is consistent with every unbeliever you meet--a darkened understanding, alienation, ignorance, and hardness of heart.

A darkened understanding. Every unbeliever you meet, regardless of their level of education or station in life is spiritually blind. The Greek word translated "darkened" literally means "to make blind." And the verb tense in the Greek indicates that the spiritual blindness afflicting every unbeliever is a result of action completed in the past, with ongoing results. Every unbeliever is born spiritually blind. Their hearts are darkened from birth, due to the sin nature they inherited from Adam--the first man.

When you meet an unbeliever and they are antagonistic toward the things of God, making spurious irreverent claims with no basis in fact; do not let it rattle you. They are simply acting out what is the spiritual blindness that plagues them.

Alienation. The unbeliever, lost in their depraved state, is utterly alienated from God. No matter how much they may insist they are a child of God, apart from genuine faith in Jesus Christ they are a child of wrath and of their father, the devil (John 3:36; 1 John 3:8).

In a continual act of willful disobedience, the lost sinner alienates himself from not only the God who created Him, but also the only God who can save him. The sinner thinks that in doing so, by alienating himself from the life of God, he makes himself free. However, the truth is that by alienating himself from God, the lost sinner makes himself a slave to his sin (John 8:34-36). Such a person is not most to be feared, but rather most to be pitied.

Ignorance. Can you imagine a person blind since birth, given the opportunity to receive sight for the first time, angrily responding to such an offer with these words? "No! I want to stay blind. I like my life in total darkness!" Yet that is exactly what the unbeliever does every day of his or her life. They are ignorant of the things of God. The Greek word translated as "ignorance" also carries with it the idea of willful blindness.

Evangelist, are you beginning to see who it is you are dealing with, day in and day out, as you proclaim the gospel? Those who jeer the loudest, disagree most vehemently when they hear the gospel are the darkened, alienated, ignorant of this world.

A hardness of heart. Figuratively, the Greek word translated as "hardness" carries with it the idea of one having thick callouses over their eyes, rendering the person blind. Their hearts are calloused--more calloused than the hands of a laborer who breaks his back working, never thinking to protect his hands with gloves. And what is it that callouses the heart of the unbeliever? While not completely without merit, the hypocritical Christian is little more than a scapegoat the unbeliever uses to shield himself from what he already knows in his heart. That which builds up rock-hard callouses on the heart of the unbeliever is their sin--not only their sin, but their love of sin. They drink it up like water on a hot, dry, and dusty day (Job 15:16). And the more they sin, the more they drink it in, the thirstier they get, and the thicker the callouses covering the heart become.

Christian, do not fear the unbeliever. Pity them. Love them. Every unbeliever you meet has the before-mentioned characteristics in common. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from God, ignorant, and hardhearted. They are lost and bound for hell. Their only hope is to hear the gospel faithfully proclaimed, with the hope that God would use that proclamation to draw the unrepentant sinner to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The unbeliever who hates you and your God, needs to hear the gospel from you and needs your God to save them from His just and holy wrath. Come to a right understanding of your opponent! You are up against men and women armed with the wisdom of the world. In other words, in the spiritual battle for the soul the Christian is wrestling not against flesh and blood (2 Corinthians 10:3-6), but rather against the spiritually blind, the spiritually ignorant, the spiritually unarmed.

You have every unbeliever you meet at a distinct disadvantage. You have Christ. They are blind. Don't quit!