The world of consumerism is in a constant state of restlessness. Manufacturers and marketers relentlessly search for improved results. Those who achieve the greatest success become the latest benchmark for results-driven methodology. And there’s no shortage of people who flock to these self-proclaimed gurus, buying their books and attending their seminars, desperate to unlock the secrets of success.
Unfortunately, many modern evangelicals presume those principles for growth in the business world will directly transfer to gospel outreach. Their desire to see more converts, along with their lack of confidence in God’s Word, causes them to seek secular wisdom and solutions.
But as John MacArthur points out, their quest ignores God’s sovereignty. It is destined for compromise and doomed to fail. In his sermon, “The Theology of Sleep,” he argues that market-driven evangelism is, in reality,
the sort of Neo-Finneyist Pelagianism that motivates so many people in evangelicalism who think that the success of the gospel is dependent on their persuasive powers and ingenuity. That kind of thinking inevitably ends up adjusting the gospel. I promise you that if I felt for one minute that anybody was going to go to hell because I failed to make the necessary adjustments in the message to persuade them to believe I would have a very hard time sleeping.
The destiny of lost souls is a very heavy burden to carry for Christians—if they think their job is to persuade sinners into God’s kingdom. Who could sleep well under the weight of such a hefty responsibility? But “The Theology of Sleep” is a soothing reminder that it is God who is sovereign over the conversion of sinners and that our job is to remain faithful to the timeless message of the gospel. John reminds us that the biblical evangelist can and should sleep well at night.
John’s sermon takes us to Mark 4, a passage he refers to as the “Magna Carta of evangelism.” One of the central characters in that chapter is a farmer who diligently sows seed and then goes to sleep—secure in the knowledge that the growth and fruitfulness of the seed is beyond his control (Mark 4:26–27).
Christians should likewise approach evangelism in the same way—be faithful planting the gospel seed in the hearts of those who hear, and rest in the knowledge that it is God who sovereignly regenerates sinners (Ezekiel 36:25–27).
Furthermore, the parables of Mark 4 combine to form a timeless pattern for how we should evangelize. This biblical approach is the only one that rightly understands the dual realities of divine sovereignty and human depravity. If we fail to take either of those eternal truths into account, our evangelism will be disobedient, burdensome, and bear only superficial fruit.
“The Theology of Sleep” is a timely reminder of how we should reach out, and how we should rest, as God’s divinely chosen messengers.
Click the play icon below to watch "The Theology of Sleep."