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SOUL WINNING IS AS SERIOUS AS WAR

by Dr. Christopher L. Cagan

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, September 1, 2019

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal [not fleshly, not physical], but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds” (II Corinthians 10:4; p. 1237 Scofield).


The Christian life is like warfare. Our text says, “The weapons of our warfare.” Good Christians don’t go softly along in a quiet life. No, if you take the Bible seriously, you are in a war. The Bible says,

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12; p. 1255).

You’re in a wrestling match with the demons. That’s why the Bible tells you, “take unto you the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:13). You are at war! Again, the Bible says,

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8; p. 1315).

The Devil is your enemy. You are at war with him. Our text says that your war is like “the pulling down of strong holds.” Concerning those words, Ellicott’s Commentary says, “The phrase is essentially military, used... for the capture and destruction of fortresses.” Joseph Benson said, “The apostle [speaks of] the beating down of fortresses by [military machines].”

You ask, “What does this have to do with winning a soul?” Why, everything! Every lost person is a castle fortified by Satan to resist the Gospel. You can’t bring a person into the church – much less bring him to Christ – by an easy invitation and a phone call. He’s under the power of the Devil. The Bible says lost people are in “the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (II Timothy 2:26; p. 1280). Every lost person is a captive of the Devil. You won’t free him from Satan by an easy prayer or a casual invitation. It will take a war!

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The Devil is working in the person you would like to bring. The Bible calls him,

“the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2; p. 1251).

Every lost person is under the influence of the Devil. The Bible says he is under “the power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13; p. 1262). It will take a struggle to win him.

The person you would like to bring is spiritually blind. He cannot know spiritual things. The Bible says,

“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14; p. 1213).

Why doesn’t he understand spiritual things? Because he can’t! The Devil has blinded his mind. The Bible says,

“But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” (II Corinthians 4:3, 4; p. 1232).

Can you see that there is no point in arguing with him? That there is no point in arguing with him until he believes the Gospel? He won’t see it because he can’t.

Every lost person is a strong tower fortified against Christ. He’s not neutral. He’s not a good person. He’s not “in between.” The Bible says that his unconverted mind is “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7; p. 1201). It is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). You can’t teach a lost person to be a Christian. You can’t pay him to be a Christian by giving him things. You can’t persuade him into the Kingdom. It will take a war! A great hymn says,

Onward, Christian soldiers, Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus Going on before.
   (“Onward, Christian Soldiers” by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924).

To fight for Christ, you must have the same seriousness that people have in war. It’s a life or death struggle. It will take all you have and all you can pray for God to do.

Winning a soul is not an easy matter. It’s not a process, a few words, a prayer, a name and a number. Winning a soul is a major battle. Winning a soul is a war! An army must use military methods to break down a tower. Winning a single soul is a battle against the Devil and his demons. The lost person won’t be brought in smoothly. It’s a war! To bring in and win a person is like bringing down a tower – the spiritual fort of the Devil. This can’t happen by a mechanical process. It will take a major battle to do this, just like conquering a city.

Let that be your frame of mind. If you take the war of soul winning seriously it will change your approach. It will change your thinking. It will change you.

First, to win a soul, you must think. A general who is trying to bring down a tower thinks about how to do it. If you want to win a soul, think about how to do it.

The Bible says, “He that winneth souls is wise” (Proverbs 11:30; p. 680). This can be translated “He that is wise wins souls.” To win a soul requires wisdom. Remember that Jesus said, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16; p. 1009). That means something, doesn’t it? You have to be wise.

To win a soul – to bring down that stronghold – you must think about the battle, just like a general. You can’t just walk into the tower. How are you going to bring down that tower? How are you going to win that person?

Think about the person you are trying to win. First of all, he’s not a Christian. He doesn’t think like you. Second, he’s not used to going to church. Just making a phone call or two won’t bring him in. The apostate Chan would phone people once a week and ask them if they would come that weekend. It looked good – until it didn’t. They said “yes” until they said “no.” It looked good, but in the end he brought nobody in. It will take more than that – it will take a war – to bring in one person. You are trying to bring him into church – which is a revolution in his schedule and life style. You’re trying to get a conversion of his life! It’ll take a war!

If you want to win someone, know him. Learn as much about him as you can. Where does he live? Who does he live with? Where does he go to school? What is his religious background? Where do his parents live?

More important, what are the problems in his life? How does the Devil have a hold of him? Is it his friends? Is it his family? What about his schedule? Those fortresses will have to be overcome. You can’t do it yourself. You need God – so you need to pray. You need wisdom – so you need to listen to your pastors.

Just as important: What is his need? What does he not have? Is he hurting? How is he hurting? What is he looking for? Is he lonely? Those who are lonely are the best prospects. What is he looking for? What does he want? Is he looking for friends, or for a career? Does he even know what he’s looking for?

Is he happy with his life? Those who are not happy with their lives are the best prospects. People who are satisfied with their life as it is are not good prospects. They may visit out of curiosity but they will not change their lives. Why should they? They will not come into the church. Why should they?

If you want to win a soul, you must think about the person. “He that winneth souls is wise.” “He that is wise wins souls.”

Second, to win a soul, you must pray. True prayer is a wrestling match. That’s the way the Bible describes it. The Apostle Paul said,

“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers” (Colossians 4:12; p. 1265).

What does “labouring fervently” mean? The original Greek can be translated, “wrestling for you in prayer.” That’s what strong prayer is. You are wrestling for a soul.

Who are you wrestling against? Why, the Devil and his demons! The Bible says,

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12; p. 1255).

The Devil isn’t going to let go of a soul easily. You’ll have to wrestle him for it. Satan won’t give up easily. He’ll fight you all the way. And he’ll win if you don’t pray. The Devil is far stronger than you. He was a great archangel before he rebelled against God. The Devil is smarter than you. You have no hope fighting against him by yourself. That’s why you’ve got to pray.

You need the help of Someone who is stronger than the Devil. You need God. That’s why you’ve got to pray. You’ve got to pray seriously or the Devil will overwhelm you. As an old hymn says,

Stand up, stand up for Jesus, Stand in His strength alone;
   The arm of flesh will fail you, Ye dare not trust your own;
Put on the Gospel armor, Each piece put on with prayer.
   Where duty calls, or danger, Be never wanting there.
(“Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus” by George Duffield, 1818-1888).

Third, to win a soul, you must love. That’s how God won us. The Bible says,

“But God commendeth [shows] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; p. 1197).

Again, the Bible says,

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16; p. 1117).

And the Bible says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us” (I John 4:10; p. 1324).

People know when someone else cares about them. I knew it. For many years I was cold and selfish, not interested in religion. But I knew it when people were nice to me. I didn’t know they were Christians at the beginning. But I knew that people were nice to me when they didn’t have to be. Everyone knows that. They feel it. They can tell if they’re getting a mechanical process treatment. You can tell when someone is giving you plastic words with a plastic face. They can tell it too. And they know it when someone cares. Truly caring for someone is so rare today that it’s remarkable. People know it when they get it. If you don’t care, don’t expect to win a soul. If you do care, you may well win a soul.

Fourth, to win a soul, you must persevere. What is perseverance? It means to keep on fighting the battle of soul winning until it’s over!

In American culture we expect everything to be over easily and quickly. That comes from movies and television. A movie lasts about two hours. A TV show takes only one hour, and then it’s all over. Everything is fixed in the last two minutes or so. Something happens at the end. The bad guy loses and the good guy wins.

But it’s not that way in war! No general goes to war expecting it to be over in an hour, or a day. If he thought that way, he’d lose! If you go to war, plan to fight until it’s over. We didn’t win World War II in a day. Britain fought for almost six years. America fought for almost four years. It took a great effort. Many people died. But we kept fighting until we won.

It’s the same way in the struggle to win a soul. As the hymn said, “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war.” It’s the same! It’s the same in prayer. Jesus taught “that men ought always to pray, and not to faint [give up]” (Luke 18:1; p. 1100). It’s the same way in soul winning. The battle will not be over in a day.

It won’t be over when he first comes to church. It won’t be over when he comes back a second time. It won’t be over when he decides to come regularly. It won’t be over when he makes friends in the church. It won’t be over when he prays a sinner’s prayer. It won’t be over until he is “right soundly converted.” Then he will join you in winning others!

You can see that winning a soul isn’t over in a minute when he prays a sinner’s prayer. It’s a battle. It’s a war. That’s why it takes wisdom, prayer, love and perseverance. I hope some of you will take the winning of one soul seriously. If you take soul winning lightly, you can process many – you can run many people through plastic words and plastic deeds – but you won’t win anybody. Look at Chan the Apostate. That’s what he did.

If you do take soul winning seriously, you may win a soul, and that will make you an outstanding Christian indeed. The great majority of Christians – true Christians – never win a soul. One reason is that they don’t put in the effort and prayer and care that’s needed. They don’t treat it like a war. They don’t treat it like fighting to bring down a tower. And so they don’t bring down any towers. They don’t win anyone.

I challenge you to take the battle for a single soul seriously. Treat it as seriously as a war. If you don’t, then don’t expect to win anyone. If you do win a soul, your blessing is tremendous and you will have a shining crown in Christ’s Kingdom.

Some of you here have not trusted Jesus. He went through a battle for you. What agony He suffered on the Cross – for you! What bloodshed! What a painful death! It was all for you. Do you treat your soul seriously? If you don’t, you will not be saved. If you do, you may trust Jesus. If you trust Jesus, your sin is forgiven, washed away forever. If you would like to speak with us about trusting Jesus, please come and stand at the front of the room now. Amen.