Those of us who have been through Evangelism Explosion training are familiar with the two diagnostic questions to give an indication of someone’s assurance of eternal life and basis of faith for salvation:
- “Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you were to die today, you would go to heaven?”
- “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God and he were to say to you, ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?’, what would you say?’”
These questions can be potent beginnings of evangelistic conversations and impel people to the most serious soul searching that they have ever done. Moreover, these questions are good to use even if a person sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ doesn’t have time to go through the whole Evangelism Explosion presentation. I’ve used them as an introduction to briefer evangelistic outlines, such as a one verse presentation based on John 3:16 and a modified Four Spiritual Laws presentation. I’ve also used them in the conclusion to sermons to ask everyone in the congregation these questions. It’s a good idea regularly to share these kinds of questions as part of a preaching and teaching ministry, since showing up at a church service is not a scriptural evidence of eternal life nor a basis of scriptural assurance.
That these are ultimately the most serious questions anyone could ask someone else and questions for which someone had better be in possession of the correct answers, not in correct words, but in correct words and lifestyle, should go without discussion for anyone familiar with the gospel. In fact, Tom Stebbins, past Executive Vice President of Evangelism explosion, shared an experience of someone at an Evangelism Explosion training seminar who had gone through a near death experience. This man shared that he did appear before God, and God did ask him that exact question, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” The primary goal of each and every church, pastor, teacher and believer should be that to guide others into a scriptural basis and assurance of salvation. “And this is the testimony, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the So of God does not have life” (I John 5:11-12).
In personal one on one ministry, though, some people never know what to do if someone gives the correct answers. If someone is part of a team that is focused primarily on finding people with whom to share the gospel, then some sort of brief prayer and parting may be in order, to make the best use of the time together and find someone else who may need the gospel and be open to the gospel. In disciplemaking and pastoral one on one ministry, though, there are three others which may be appropriate to discern and assist real spiritual needs in someone who may have a Biblical answer for these questions.
The third diagnostic question is this: “Again, supposing that you were to die tonight, and you have stood before God and told him that you have put your trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life, suppose God were to go on and say, ‘Tell me what changes have occurred since you received eternal life by trusting in Christ?’” This kind of question would be helpful to find out how deeply into Christ and the Word that person has gone. It may unmask a spurious conversion, or someone who has remained in a state of spiritual immaturity for a long time, or someone who made a profession of Christ at one time but who has since become enslaved to a life-dominating sin.
Depending on the answers to the third diagnostic question, a person could be invited to a disciplemaking small group, or some other form of spiritual growth opportunity, with the sharing of scriptures as Colossians 2:6-7, II Peter 3:18, John 14:21, 23 and II Timothy 3:16-17. Or such scriptures as John 8:31-32, 34, 36 and II Corinthians 5:10 could be shared with those who are complacent in life dominating sins such as in Galatians 5:19-21. The basic idea is to work with someone who may be immature in the faith, who has never been discipled in the Word of God, or who may be complacent in life dominating disobedience to begin to address the spiritual need of that person. In these cases, there are two scriptures that actually do command one on one ministry:
“My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone else turns that person around [literal meaning: sometimes translated as ‘convert’], let that person know that the person who turns around a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a boatload [literally, multitude] of sins” (James 5:19-20).
“And have mercy on some who may be lingering in doubts, but others rescue as if you were snatching them from a fire, and have mercy on others in [godly] fear, as you hate even the garment which is stained by the flesh [metaphor for the attending behavior marked by sinful practices]” (Jude 22-23).
The fourth diagnostic question is one which many long time churchgoers may never have faced: “Do you know the gospel of Jesus Christ well enough to be able to explain it to another person and lead that person to eternal life?” There is also a variation of the fourth diagnostic question for believing parents: “Do you know the gospel of Jesus Christ well enough to be able to share it with your children yourselves and lead them to eternal life in Christ?”
The fifth diagnostic question is also one which follows on the fourth: “Are you sufficiently well grounded in your relationship with Jesus Christ and in the knowledge of his Word to be able to guide a new believer in Christ through the first year or so of his or her Christian life?” And there is likewise a variation for parents: “Are you sufficiently grounded and growing in your own relationship with Jesus Christ and in the knowledge of his Word to be able to guide your children to spiritual maturity as they grow up physically?”