Q. Every now and then I’ve heard speakers appealing to unbelievers to trust Christ because they’re lonely. Also I can think of a few songs that have that theme. Is it right to appeal to people concerning salvation just because they feel lonely?
A. I don’t believe it is right to appeal to unsaved people merely on the basis of loneliness. However, we must acknowledge that people often come to Christ for salvation in times of crises, whether the crisis be depression, loneliness, the death of a friend or loved one, a tragedy, or some physical hardship. The fact remains, though, that the human race needs the salvation we can find only in the finished work on the cross, accomplished by the Savior, Jesus Christ—regardless of how we feel, whether or not we are lonesome, or whether or not some other pressing need is tearing at us. Christ didn’t die on the cross simply because people are lonely. Of course, we know that salvation can bring joy into a person’s life and that a believer need not feel lonely any longer (Philippians 4:19).
What we must do for the unbeliever is point him or her to Scripture passages that reveal certain facts; the unbeliever must realize, first of all, that he or she is a sinner bound for Hell. Today many Christians are trying to win the lost to Christ by telling them that they can have a fabulous new life, that God loves them, and so forth, but without getting them to the place where they acknowledge they are sinners. Of course, some already realize they are sinners. But that understanding must be the starting point (Romans 3:23). Without the Holy Spirit’s convicting the person of his or her sinfulness, that person will not truly see his or her need of a Savior. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. We have to be especially careful in this matter when talking with children. They will respond favorably to almost any appeal. A while back I heard a speaker trying to win children to the Lord. The crowd was large. Most of the kids came forward at the invitation, but there had been no mention of sin, Christ’s work on the cross, and the need for a Savior. The appeal was the question, Do you want to be happy? What kid wouldn’t favorably respond to that query? But it didn’t get to the true heart of the issue. And I firmly believe that kids are capable of understanding the issue of sin and salvation if it is presented from Scripture properly. I remember how convicted I was at five years of age before I trusted Christ, trying to change the subject when anyone dealt with me about my need.
Next, the unbeliever needs to understand that he or she is helpless to do anything about being lost and in sin. Romans 5:6 says, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Then we go to the fact that our one and only Savior is Jesus Christ: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8).
There are, of course, many more passages of Scripture and many other things that can be said, tailoring one’s witnessing to various people and needs. I am just summarizing to make the point that certain “musts” exist when it comes to explaining salvation, and we dare not omit these.