Presenting the Invitation

The gospel is a comprehensive message. It explains mankind’s need for a relationship with God, how that relationship was ruined by sin, and how the death and resurrection of Christ restore that relationship. You need adequate time to explore these themes and ideas with an unbeliever. If the lost person has given you his full attention up to this point, then let him know how thankful you are for his courtesy. But there is one final appeal you should make. If you sense the lost person understands the truth about Jesus, and he is ready to believe on him for salvation, it is time to present him with the gospel decision.

Inviting people to trust Christ is a biblical concept. In his public ministry, Jesus often called on crowds and individuals to follow him, both for salvation and for discipleship (Matt 4:19; 8:22; 10:28-30; Mark 8:34-35). Taking his example, the apostles also gave invitations to crowds to repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (Acts 2:38-40; 3:19). The same was true of gospel conversations in individual and small group settings (Acts 8:36-37; 10:22-24; 16:29-31). It was normal for the early church to provide unsaved people with an opportunity to receive Jesus as Savior in public and private settings.

Responses to these invitations varied. On the Day of Pentecost, the audience was so convicted by the message that they asked Peter how they should respond before an invitation was given (Acts 2:37). On another occasion, the Jewish leaders stoned Stephen for preaching so vehemently against their unbelief and rebellion against the Holy Spirit’s conviction (Acts 7:57-60). These are extreme examples, and should not be expected every time you share the gospel. Paul’s experience in Athens provides a normative response: some will mock, others will show interest, and some will believe the message (Acts 17:32-34). You can depend on the Lord of the harvest to draw people to himself through your witness. The key in any situation is to gauge the readiness of the lost person to receive the gospel. You do not need to force a decision if you sense he is not ready, nor should you put off a decision if he is eager to trust Christ. Following the outline below may help you to determine this.

The Invitation Questions

The invitation in this outline consists of a series of questions. Each question is meant to challenge the lost person’s thinking and emphasize the seriousness of the decision before him. Present these questions to him with gentleness and respect. Give him confidence that God will answer his prayer if he calls upon him for salvation.

The gospel is an incredible message. It offers hope and forgiveness to sinful, broken people like you and me. You have heard the gospel as the Bible presents it. But now you must ask yourself, “What am I going to do with Jesus?” Since this is an important decision in your life, would you mind if I asked you a few questions about what you heard from the Bible today?

Do you believe that Jesus loves you and that he will save you from your sin and give you eternal life if you ask Him?

This direct question confronts the lost person with what he truly thinks about the gospel. Essentially, this question helps you know whether he has common faith (understanding and agreement). If he lacks understanding or disagrees with a point of the gospel, ask him about that area and answer any lingering questions or doubts he has. However, if he possesses common faith in the saving work of Christ on the cross, then he will answer “yes.” Remember, this is only the first step in the invitation. Common faith alone does not lead to salvation, but it does indicate that the lost person understands and agrees with what you have said.

Then, are you willing to trust in Jesus alone by asking him to save you right now?

The response you anticipate is “yes.” Emphasize the importance of asking “right now” because there is no guarantee of another opportunity to make this decision (Prov 27:1; 2 Cor 6:2b). If the lost person is ready to ask Jesus for salvation, then you can be assured he possesses saving faith (as best you know). The final step of transferring one’s dependence completely on Christ is typically demonstrated through prayer. As you will explain, the prayer does not save the lost person. Only his choice to trust Jesus alone for salvation can accomplish this. The prayer is an outward expression of this decision.

Lead in Prayer

Many gospel presentations and literature provide the lost person with a “sinner’s prayer.” This is given with the expectation that the unbeliever has a minimal understanding of prayer and lacks the words to say. Instead of this model, you will share some important thoughts about what his prayer should consist of. This will encourage the lost person to pray from his heart using his own words, as well as prevent him from depending on a rote prayer you gave him. In addition, you can ask him if he is comfortable praying out-loud. This can help you better assess from his prayer whether he truly understands and believes the gospel. If he is not comfortable, then you can encourage him to talk to the Lord in his heart.

If your answer is yes, then tell that to Jesus in prayer. Your prayer does not have to be fancy, and you don’t have to “say the right words.” It’s not your prayer that saves you anyway. It is simply your choice to depend on Jesus, and not anything else. You can talk to Jesus just like you are talking to me right now. Tell him what you learned today about the gospel and his gift of salvation. Tell him you know that you are a sinner, and you know you deserve hell. But now you choose to believe on him and what he did on the cross. Ask him to forgive your sin and give you eternal life, and he will. If you like, you can pray out-loud. But if you are not comfortable, then you can talk to Jesus in your heart and ask him to save you from sin. When you are done praying, just say “Amen” so I know that you are done.

The Follow-Up Questions

When the lost person concludes his prayer, you will ask another series of questions that examine whether he truly understood. You may be tempted to think the process of evaluating the individual is overdone. However, consider the importance of an accurate and thorough gospel presentation. The lost person is not helped if you leave him with a false assurance of salvation, when he never actually made a decision to trust Christ. Ask these questions in a conversational manner. His responses will speak volumes about the genuineness of his decision.

As best as you know, did you just now place your full dependence on Jesus alone to save you from sin and hell?

This question is asked immediately after the individual has prayed. Your question should reaffirm in his mind that his prayer did not save him. Only his dependence on Jesus is required for salvation. Notice how the question emphasizes the exclusivity of Jesus; if the individual includes other sources of dependence in his prayer, then you should go over the truth that Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). If he has prayed quietly, ask him to share with you the content of his prayer. This should help you determine whether he has saving faith.

In this situation, some people will repeat rote prayers they already know. This is what you will often hear from young people who are unfamiliar with prayer. These prayers often include certain phrases that have little to do with asking for salvation (“bless this day”; “protect my family”; “forgive me for my sins today”; “I give my life to you”; etc.). In this case, gently go over the prayer prompts you told him before and have him talk to the Lord once more. Emphasize that prayer is a conversation with God, not repetition of religious phrases to him. In his prayer, the lost person should ask Christ to forgive all his sins and give him eternal life. Once he has prayed the second time, ask him the same question seen above.

Since you have done this, what is now your relationship with God?

You want the person to realize that his choice to depend on Jesus has given him a full relationship with God. His sins are forgiven, he has the righteousness of Christ, and he possesses eternal life. He may not know how to answer immediately, but feel free to help by reminding him what he just asked Jesus to do for him. That should spark a response.

Since that is true, if you were to die right now, where would you go?

While the prospect of heaven is not your focus, it is important that the convert understands that eternal life means heaven is his eternal destiny. If he has made this decision to trust Christ, then the question of eternity with God is a foregone conclusion.

If you died five years from now, where would you go?

This question emphasizes the eternal aspect of eternal life. Salvation is not a temporary fix to a problem. It is the eternal solution for mankind’s sin and coming judgment. If the convert knows that heaven will be his home, then he can also be assured that time will never change that fact. You can even change the timeframe to twenty or fifty years just to make the point; he will never lose his future hope of eternity with God.

If you had died yesterday, before you made this decision, where would you have gone?

The concluding question brings the convert back to the problem of sin and its consequences. Prior to making this choice to trust in Jesus alone, he was destined for hell, and rightly so because of his sinful choices. If you have explained the gospel thoroughly, then the convert should be able to answer this question. Emphasize that his condition has changed forever. No longer is he under God’s judgment with hell awaiting him in the next life. Now he is a child of God and he will dwell with him forever.

Assignment

  1. Memorize Acts 16:30b-31
  2. Memorize the following outline of the section “Presenting the Invitation.” This will be tested orally with another student in the class.
The Invitation Questions
  • Do you believe that Jesus loves you, and he will save you from your sin and give you eternal life if you ask Him?
  • Then, are you willing to trust in Jesus alone by asking him to save you right now?
  • Lead in Prayer
The Follow-Up Questions
  • As best as you know, did you just now place your full dependence on Jesus alone to save you from sin and hell?
  • Since you have done this, what is now your relationship with God?
  • Since that is true, if you were to die right now, where would you go?
  • If you died five years from now, where would you go?
  • If you had died yesterday, before you made this decision, where would you have gone?

 

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