Sound Words: Let Him Go

Christ’s dealings with the rich young ruler in Matthew19:16–26 provide an interesting example of the centrality of repentance in the gospel message. A young man came to Christ with questions about eternal life (v. 16). Apparently, he knew that he lacked peace with God (v. 20). He appeared to be “ripe for the picking.” Chalk up another decision! Yet, when Christ put his finger on the man’s idol (v. 21) he refused to relinquish it (v. 22; cp. I Thessalonians 1:9). It seems that while he desired eternal life (and who doesn’t?), he was unwilling to turn from his own way and thoughts (Isaiah 55:7). The result? Christ let him go away unsaved and unhappy.

How many such men have been led in a sinner’s prayer that salved their consciences but didn’t save their souls? How many have thus been unwittingly inoculated against the truth? How many have left churches lost and relieved rather than lost and sorrowful?

We, of course, lack Christ’s omniscience; we cannot see a sinner’s heart. However, that fact should make us more careful in our dealings with men, not less. Rather than promising life to an unrepentant sinner, we must trust the Holy Spirit to do a miraculous work in his heart and bring him to repentance and faith (v. 26). In short, we must let him go. He may be sad, but at least he will know that his soul is not yet right with God.


The column entitled “Let Him Go” originally appeared in the September 2006 edition of the OBF Visitor. I am privileged to write a brief devotional entitled “Sound Words” as a monthly column for the Visitor.

Each publication of the Visitor also contains a feature article which typically focuses on Scripture’s command to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Details regarding individual and mass subscriptions (often used as bulletin inserts) may be found here.

5 Responses

  1. […] Chris Anderson makes an excellent point to remember in telling people about Christ. So often Christians are prone to “press for a decision” which may be a false decision, just a going through the motions, if the person isn’t really ready to repent. […]

  2. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve got a coworker that I’ve been talking with who, at first was quite receptive to the Gospel, and it seemed like soon she would be at the point of understanding in her head and her heart, but now, I’m not so sure. My concern for her has not ended, even though the past couple of weeks have seen rough times.

  3. […] a number of times (I’ve always hoped that that man came back to the Lord at another time). Chris Anderson makes the point that in our day, there is a rush to get such a person to the “sinner’s […]

  4. […] 3. We try to force results. For instance, we can feel that small groups would be good for the congregation to get to know one another better, and they work best if everyone participates. So we “make” the quiet person participate by putting undue pressure on them to say something, calling them out and putting them on the spot. Then we feel self-satisfied that the group went quite well today because everyone spoke, when we left the quiet person miserable and determined not to come back. Or, as happened to us once in a new church, whatever the pastor was talking about (I’ve forgotten now), at the end he asked everyone to break into family groups and discuss and pray right then and there about how to implement what he preached on. That seemed to my husband and me like forcing the issue or “making” people respond instead of letting God use His Word to convict and change. Another example: we want people to “go deep” in their conversations and relationships, so we have “turn to your neighbor and bare your heart on command” sessions instead of letting those opportunities arise in a more natural way. We’ve known people who made a profession of faith after a zealous Christian buttonholed them and would not back off until the person responded, yet there was no life change, no interest in the Lord afterward. By contrast, Jesus let people walk away sometimes. […]

  5. […] point a number of times (I’ve always hoped that that man came back to the Lord at another time). Chris Anderson makes the point that in our day, there is a rush to get such a person to the “sinner’s […]

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