Most men, including myself, will not stop to ask for directions when we are driving somewhere and get lost – er, misplaced. As long as we think we can drive for a little bit, eventually get back on track, and get to our destination, we will not stop and ask for help. As long as we think we can still do it on our own, we think our way is still OK.
Lost people trying to earn their way to Heaven are the same. As long as they think they can get to Heaven on their own – going their own way, they will never repent and turn to God and God’s way.
It is our job to get the sinner hopelessly lost – to show them their way is not the right way – and then and only then will they realize they need help. When they see that they are lost, they will give their own invitation – their own altar call. When they realize that their attempts to get to Heaven are futile, they will cry out for help.
How do we get them to see they are hopelessly lost? They need to see that no matter how good they are or are trying to be, they can never be good enough in God’s eyes on their own. The most effective way for them to see this is to give them the Ten Commandments and show them how they are guilty of each and every one of them. The law will stop their mouths from justifying themselves (Romans 3). With the full weight of their sin upon them, they will see their own way is not the right way. Then and only then should we give them the grace of God. If we give them the good news of the gospel before they realize they need help, they will most likely not receive it with gladness. They will trample it under foot and continue on their own way.
Only when they see their need for help will they ask for the help you are offering.