I wanted to post these verses which God has brought to my mind concerning God's role in salvation vs. my role as a Christian praying for lost people, witnessing in a full time evangelistic ministry. And what about the poor spiritually dead person for whom I am praying? (Ephesians 2:1). If he or she is "dead" that means he or she has absolutely no power in salvation–they will remain dead if God does not wake them up.
We can pray for our lost loved ones, realizing that God wants us to pray for them and witness to them, but these verses are comforting as we see that salvation is 100% the work of God. Someone may reply, “Yes, but man chooses God.” Yes, man chooses God, but it is God that makes someone want to choose Him. That willingness is by His mercy. In our ministries, we sit at the tables and let God bring a person over. We don’t yell at people as they pass by or ask them to stop. We realize that when someone stops and is seeking, he or she could never be seeking without God being at work to seek after them. If God is at work, someone will be hungry and searching and asking questions–that hunger is a sign of the Holy Spirit drawing the person. We are simply used by Him as part of His work, but we don’t do the work. The person being drawn is not doing the work—the work is done by God's choosing through the Holy Spirit.
“…no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” John 6:65
“All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me.” John 6: 37
Salvation of a person has been predestined before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5), and God does not need us to save His elect—He will use me, or He will get another Christian to witness to the person—I am privileged to be used by God, but God does not need me in the work of salvation.
Furthermore, no one will end up in hell because of a lack of witnessing on my part. It would be arrogant of me to think that I had that much to do with anyone's salvation! Jesus said, "ALL that the Father gives Me will come to Me," and He is sure to get all of them (who have been predestined), with or without me. But, we are commanded to tell, and we are doing God's work when we evangelize. There is nothing closer to God's heart. However, it is still His work and not our own.
When someone is asking questions about God and wanting to find out more about Him, that is the Lord at work drawing the sinner. I cannot tell you just how many people I have met in Manhattan who have told me, “I am trying to figure out how to have a relationship with God.” New Yorkers are inquisitive, and they like learning and appreciate answers, and I have no doubt that God will use our ministry to give people answers based on His Word. Then, we can expect the person to be taken aback at the unique Gospel of Jesus (not based on works), offended at first perhaps because they realize they are sinners and cannot save themselves…but as we pray for them and show them a pure life and the love of Jesus and continue to give them answers based on the Bible, we can rest assured that the living Word of God will not return void and that the person is seeking (Romans 3:11), and we can rejoice in that when they keep coming back asking more questions. (I smile as I write it).
It is comforting to know that salvation of people is not up to me and is in no way my work. I am only part of God’s work. It is not by works that we are saved—that means it does not come from prayer and fasting, because prayer and fasting is a “work”. Does this mean that God does not want us to pray and fast for our lost loved ones? Of course not. He burdens us to pray for them, and He delights in having a close relationship with us where we share with Him our struggles, burdens, and present our requests to Him in humility. But, our faith is not omnipotent. God is. Our fasting and prayers are not omnipotent. God is.
We cannot take Him by surprise. If we could take God by surprise He would not be omniscient. He is “all knowing.” You cannot have a God who is all knowing and have a God who is surprised by anything we do. He knows what we are going to do before we do it. Greg Boyd is an author that teaches that we can take God by surprise, but this is not supported by Scripture.
“And the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind, for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29
“I act and who can reverse it?” Isaiah 43:13
God declares the end from the beginning. “…For I am God and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done…” Isaiah 46:9-10
Romans 9:15–16: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.”
Earlier in that chapter, starting with verse 7, God explains the difference to an extent in the “children of the promise” and the “children of the flesh.” He explains that before the twins of Rebekah and Isaac were born and “had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose, according to His choice might stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written, ‘Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.’”
“And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:23
“Behold I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:33
But, to believe in Him—our saving faith—comes by His mercy alone. That is why it is so futile to waste time with “new approaches” or “new seeker friendly ways of reaching people”, as if salvation is man’s work. It is done by God through the power of His Word. To attempt to "market" Christianity is a foray into humanism. At best, it is a waste of time. At worst, it deceives people into believing they are saved when they are not. “Changing” His Word or giving the Bible “new, updated interpretations” (a common demonic tactic used by Satan) only produces another gospel…another Jesus…and another re-packaging of the same old lie “ye shall be as god.” Humanism says that we can convince someone to be saved based on the intellect. The Bible says that we can give someone all of the answers, done with a charming demeanor, and unless the Holy Spirit is at work the PERSON WILL NEVER BE SAVED. TRUE SALVATION IN JESUS CHRIST AS LORD ONLY COMES FROM GOD.
If the sinner asks, “Well, how do I know if I am chosen?” The answer is if you want Him and want to give your life to Him you are! It is the willingness to come to the true God and die to self that is the gift (given the fact that the Bible says there is no salvation apart from the road of the cross). If you want to come to God apart from giving your life to Him, then most likely you are just deceived and stand a very good chance of saying, “Lord, Lord…” and hearing Him say, “Depart from Me…” (Caveat: Giving your life to Him is a condition and direction of the heart more so than a physical direction; it is not necessary to be in full time ministry, of course, to be in "full time ministry" looking at every day as God's and not our own to be used by Him for His glory and not our own, testing everything asking, "How does God feel about this?", and making decisions to please Him instead of just living to please ourselves. It can certainly be done in any line of work and will always be costly).
Notice the Bible does not say, “Jacob I loved and Esau I loved, but he just would not come to Me.” No, it says, “Jacob I loved, and Esau I hated.” Those are God’s words and not mine. The doctrine of election humbles me to tears, because it drives me to my knees in thanksgiving asking, “WHY God, did you ever choose me?” It is nothing to boast in, because it is not by works.
When we fully realize our own depravity and our total inability to save ourselves that is when we truly see how indebted we are to God and are willing to lay down our lives for Him. Reputations mean nothing. Praise of men is nothing, nothing compared to giving our all to the One who bought us with His blood and purchased our lives for all of eternity.