Q: Should You Give Up on an Unrepentant Sinner? Does Jesus Give Up on Us?

By Adam Lloyd Johnson, Ph.D.

Where in scripture does it say that Jesus promised to never leave us alone? And how much time should you give a sinner to repent if they know the truth but ignore it on purpose?

Jesus promised to never leave us alone in Matthew 28:20. He gave this promise to His disciples as part of His farewell to them, but it also applies to us today since we are His followers. This section, Matthew 28:16-20, is known as the Great Commission because Jesus commanded them (and us by extension) to take the Gospel to all the nations. So this promise is in the context of our responsibility to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with the world. This is a great comfort because telling people they need a Savior can be very hard sometimes. Most people don’t like to hear that they are a sinner that deserves punishment. It can be intimidating to share this message with others, but to know that Jesus is with me gives me a boost of confidence.

I once heard Pastor Adrian Rogers talk about one of his first experiences with evangelism. He talked about how, as a boy, he was supposed to go door to door to take a religion survey and share Jesus through that. He said that he started out on the corner of the street and felt so inadequate and afraid of what people would do, say, and think about him. He was just a kid; why should anyone listen to him? But then he remembered this promise and thought to himself, “It’s not just me; Jesus is here with me. Jesus and I are going to share God’s love with these people. What could they really do to me anyway if Jesus is with me? There isn’t anything I can do or say that will make these people believe, but Jesus and the Holy Spirit can convict their heart of sin and need for a Savior as I share His Word with them.” I thought that was a good perspective.

As far as when to give up on an unrepentant sinner, that answer is easy: never! My Sunday School teacher recently told me that, as much as he’s shared the gospel and taught the Bible for 30+ years, he’s only led three people to the Lord himself, and two of them were his parents at his father’s deathbed! George Müller, an evangelist who lived in England in the 1800s, prayed and prayed for the salvation of some of his friends and family every day for years. Some of them never came to faith during Müller’s lifetime, but many of them were saved after he passed away. We should never give up. God is patient, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Don’t lose heart; with God, all things are possible. It might take until their deathbed before they turn to God. Pray without ceasing. Share God’s Word with them in love. It doesn’t have to be every time you talk to them, but pray for open doors and natural opportunities to talk about Jesus. Try to bring up religion or Christianity when you can, but you don’t have to force it or cram it down their throat. It may seem to you like they are just ignoring it, but God may be using the message slowly overtime to convict their hearts and draw them to Himself.

Now there is a time when, because of someone’s willful, obstinate rejection of Jesus Christ and of the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, God will give a person over to his own desires once and for all. As C. S. Lewis said, instead of that person saying to God “Thy will be done,” God will in effect say to that person “Thy will be done.” In other words, “If you want to reject Me, fine; I will give you want you want.” We know this is true because the Bible teaches it (Romans 1:18-32, Hebrews 6:4-8, 2 Thess. 2:8-12). When a person actually reaches this point, we have no way of knowing. In fact, we should never claim to know or speculate when or if this ever takes place in a person’s heart. We should always continue to pray for their salvation and continue to show God’s love by treating them with kindness, no matter how they react to us.

I will pray for your ministry to these people in your life. I’m sure you love them and desire for them to have a relationship with the Lord.

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