Posts Tagged 'evangelism'

Are You Swinging Your Crutch?

crutch free

James Stephenson tells this story:

When the German army, during the Franco-Prussian War, was proceeding towards Paris, they passed through many villages. At one of these villages the inhabitants went out to resist their progress armed with crude weapons of various descriptions. It is said that an old woman came out with a crutch, which she swung in the air. “Go back! They will think you mad,” her fellow villagers exclaimed. “I don’t care what they think,” said she, “as long as they know whose side I am on!”

No, that old woman wasn’t mad, she was fearless and full of conviction. Christians would do well to take a lesson from her. Here’s a question each one of us should be asking ourselves: Do our friends, relatives, co-workers, neighbors, and acquaintances know whose side we’re on?

That’s not an unimportant question. In the midst of our so-busy lives, we’re engaging in so-important endeavors, yet the most important thing is whether or not the people in our lives know we belong to Christ. Because in the end, C.T. Studd will be proven right:

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Our duty: Share the Word

Sharing Christ isn’t an option for the believer, it’s his solemn duty. It can be terrifying. A lot of us aren’t really confident sharing our faith. Part of that fear might be our temperaments. Let’s face it, some of us are shy, we’re not used to being personal with other people. We’re afraid of what they might say or think of us. And our culture has really screwed up our heads, too. At least a couple of generations have been taught that our faith in Jesus is a “personal thing.” But the Bible teaches the exact opposite; giving your faith away is an essential part of the Christian life.  Witnessing is such a vital part of your Christian experience, the apostle Paul wrote about a two-fold emphasis in Romans 10 –

But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:6 – 10 NIV)

Witnessing to the lost involves both your heart and your mind. But what does that mean? If you can understand what Paul is getting at, you’ll have more confidence than you’ll know what to do with. You’ll be a witnessing machine.

Non-believers are always needing to see before they’ll believe. In other words, unbelief in the Gospel message is made manifest when a person demands to have firsthand empirical proof of the Incarnation (“bring Christ down”) and the Resurrection (“bring Christ up from the dead”). The stubborn, unsaved heart needs to see the proof before they’ll believe.  But faith doesn’t work that way. Faith works with the divine Word of God – the witness of God Himself proclaimed in the message (the Gospel) of Jesus Christ. Therefore – and here’s the kicker – the faith to believe, which isn’t native to man, is immediately generated when a lost soul hears the Gospel! What that means is simply this: When a sinner hears the Gospel – when he just hears the Good News – the Lord imparts to his heart the ability to believe the message. Of course, learning more about Jesus comes later. But that historical knowledge, as important as it may be, is purely secondary and nonsalvific. In the very simplest of terms, you’re not saved with your brain, you’re saved when God enables your heart to believe.  The Word of God, not your words, does all the work. All you have to do when you share Jesus with the lost is liberally salt your words with His. Your words might pique your unsaved friend’s interest, but God’s Word, when you speak it, will save him. That’s your duty. You speak the Word from your heart with your mouth.

Our witness: Our word

So then, it’s the Word of God that does the saving. But quoting Bible verses at a lost soul will probably yield pathetic results. Or maybe a black eye. When we share our faith with the lost, our witness is our word – it’s telling them our story. There are five components to every believer’s story:

I’m a sinner. The only thing that separates you, a believer, from that lost soul you’re witnessing to is the fact that you’ve been forgiven and he hasn’t been. He needs to know that. He needs to know that you’ve been saved in spite of yourself.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:8, 9 NIV)

And he needs to know that, too. You don’t confess your sins to him, you are saved because you confessed your sins to God, and that’s what he needs to do. Every Christian has had to do that. The sinner you’re witnessing to isn’t any worse than any other sinner; we all came to God the same way: Confessing our sins to Him!

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5 NIV)

I’m not perfect. You confess your sins to God, but to others, especially to that unsaved person you’re sharing your faith with, you own up to them. There’s nothing worse than a Christian who thinks they’re faultless. Unfortunately, much of the unbelieving world has been given that impression. It’s up to you to disabuse them of that falsehood! James 5:16 –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Of course, you don’t go crazy with that; you just let him know you’re not perfect.

Jesus is for all. Here’s another thing every sinner needs to know: Jesus died for them. He didn’t die just for certain people, He died for all sinners. Now, not every sinner benefits from Jesus’ work; only those who do this:

“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32 NIV)

The word Jesus used is “whoever,” not “some.” The lost soul you’re talking to is “whoever,” just as you were once. Nobody is so bad that they can’t come to Jesus or that He would turn them away. And nobody is too good for saving. Jesus makes a bad life good and good life better.

Jesus is God. This is obvious to you, but maybe not the person you’re witnessing to. This present generation is probably the most spiritually dull generation in American history. To many, “Jesus Christ” is just something you say when you’re angry or surprised. But He much more than that.

If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. (1 John 4:15 NIV)

To “acknowledge” that Jesus is the Son of God is more than just an intellectual exercise. It all goes back to “believing in your heart.” To “acknowledge” the divinity of Jesus is to believe by faith that Jesus is who He claims to be.

Jesus is Lord. Believing that Jesus is the Son of God is just be beginning; the foundation. Jesus Christ must also be Lord of your life.

And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:11 KJV)

When Jesus is Lord of your life, He’s the one in control. He’s the Sovereign, reigning on the throne in your heart. The lost soul needs to understand that. That means Jesus, the Savior, also wants a relationship – He wants to be the One to lead you through all the rough waters of your life. That’s what “Lordship” means.

Jesus is coming again. There’s a lot of talk about “the End of Days” being upon us, and the “Second Coming” may be close at hand. The truth is, we are living in the last days and Jesus is coming back, sooner rather than later. But something else is also true: we will all see Jesus face-to-face, either when He returns to earth as King of Kings or after we die and see Him in glory. There is no way to avoid seeing Jesus. It’s in the sinner’s best interest to see Jesus as Lord and Savior, not as Judge.

How to give your faith away

Here’s where the rubber meets the road: You know what to say, but when, where, and how do you say it? What’s the best way to share the Gospel with a lost soul? Volumes have been written about this thing called “personal evangelism,” but there are really five simple ways that have always worked.

Write or speak an encouraging word. Did you know most people are either discouraged, depressed, or frustrated? It’s true. We live in a negative world at a very negative time in history, and all that negativity rubs off on people. Nothing can lift a sagging heart like a note or email of encouragement or just a simple, sincere, “I’m praying for you” spoken in passing.  It can open the door to more later.

Carry your Bible. If you’re timid or shy, let the Bible open doors for you. Carry a small Bible in your car or in your back pocket, have one on your desk at work or in your locker. Read it at lunch time. It will open a door; somebody will say something, guaranteed. If you’re scared about approaching people, let them approach you.

Speak like a Christian. Christians are supposed to live differently. They should also speak differently. Sir Robert Peel, Conservative statesman who served two terms as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, was also a strong Christian. One time he was having dinner with some Members of Parliament and was irritated by some of what he referred to as “improper language.” In the midst of dinner, Sir Robert called for his carriage and explained to the other “gentlemen” around the table, saying, “Gentlemen, I must ask you to excuse me: I am still a Christian.”  That took guts, but it is a form witness. Being mindful of what you say and how you say it counts for something. How you react to “improper speech” you hear is also just as important.  Let people know you’re different.  It will make them curious.  Or furious.  But a door will be open.

Say grace. Believe it or not, just saying grace is like killing two birds with one stone. You’re thanking God for your food and you’re witnessing to onlookers at the same time. Never be ashamed to bow your heard and say grace, wherever you find yourself at lunchtime or dinnertime. It’s harmless and unobtrusive. And it makes the sinner think.

Be baptized. Being baptized in water isn’t just a ordinance of the church, it’s a form of witness. Being baptized in water is a way to share your faith with those who may be watching it. It’s a drama in miniature of what Jesus did for you; it’s a way to openly testify to your friends and neighbors of your new faith.

If you are a Christian, there is no more important activity you can engage in than sharing your faith with one who is lost. Nothing. Not getting work on time. Not paying your bills every month. Not raising your kids. Nothing is more important than witnessing for Jesus Christ. Paul wrote this:

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14, 15 TNIV)

Let’s look at that word “preach.” Normally, when we see that word we think of the Preacher, or the Pastor. We equate preaching the Gospel with preaching a sermon, and that’s something the Pastor does every Sunday. That’s not the idea Paul is trying to convey. “Preach” comes from the Greek word kerusso, a verb. It means to “publish,” or to “proclaim” or “to make known.” The call to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ has been given to everyone who trusts Him. From God’s point of view, there is no division between clergy and laymen in this. All believers are alike in the sight of God and all are on the same level. It is true that God has declared that some members of the church should be set aside as elders to preserve order within His church, but no elder – no pastor – has special access to God, and most of all, no elder or pastor stands as a mediator between man and God.

The simple truth of the matter is this: All Christians have been called to take the Gospel to an unbelieving world. Like the old Parisian lady who swung her crutch over head to show the invading army whose side she was one, we need to ask ourselves: Do the people around us know whose side we are one? Are we swinging our crutches high enough?

A Whole New Take on Communion

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I rarely discuss topical issues at Mike’s Place.  I have other forums for that.  Here, I try to stick Bible studies and issues of a theological/doctrinal nature.  However, those who are fortunate enough to know me well know that I am an opinionated news junkie.  Having stumbled across this story, I had to comment.   In addition to being a news junkie, I am also big on the free market.  There is no doubt God does use the free market to bless His people with good jobs and opportunities.  Our country itself  (and the lifestyle we enjoy) was built on a combination of Biblical ideas and (relatively) free markets.  So why is it a bad idea to physically wed the two?  What’s wrong with putting a McDonalds inside a church?

Well, on the surface, an idea like this should be appealing to me.  People have to eat, Christians should be in church, therefore putting a McDonalds in a church should draw people into the church.  The only problem with this way of thinking is something I wrote about in a previous study:

[Music] feeds a genuine need man has. Christians want to get to close to God and in our modern thinking, music is seen a means to that end. What Christians aren’t aware of is that’s a completely pagan thought – using means that appeal to the flesh to reach heaven. As Christians, of course we’d never use LSD or alcohol, but we think nothing of using music to help us touch the Divine.

In this case, though, it’s not music being used to satiate a fleshly desire or need, it’s a Big Mac, fies and a Coke.  Just like there may be nothing wrong with music, there is nothing wrong with a Big Mac, fries and a Coke.  But when you use those things as ways to lure people into your church, you are engaging in seriously deranged form of “evangelism.”  And it’s also disingenuous.  It’s a kind of bait-and-switch you’re playing on your “customer.”  They’re wanting a cheap lunch but you’re trolling for new church members.

While it is true that the early church had what they referred to as a “love feast” every week, that early pot-luck dinner was not used to draw sinners or non-members into the church, but rather as a way for church members to fellowship together and as a way to feed the poor members.  The early church understood something the modern church seems to have forgotten:  the church is a place for Christians to gather together; it is not a place you fill up with sinners.  That sounds counter intuitive.  We all want to win the lost, but that’s not the primary job of the church.  It is the job of the church to train its members to go out and engage in acts of evangelism, not necessarily to drag those sinners back to the church to let the church save them.  The church is the Body of Christ.  Why would a sinner want to be part of the it?  If church members are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they will go out, share their faith, lead sinners to Christ, then bring them to church as new converts.  Once there, these new believers will grow and mature in their faith through the preaching and teaching of the Gospel and through fellowship with other believers.

In case you think I’m wrong on this, check this out:

It was [Jesus] who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.  (Ephesians 4:11 – 13  NET)

The phrase, “the work of ministry” is important.  It refers to, as Paul wrote, building up the Body of Christ – making new Christians.  We don’t do that by tricking sinners into coming into the church with McDonalds meals or movies or hip worship bands or whatever.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.  (John 12:32  NIV)

That’s Jesus talking there, and  He’s referring to His crucifixion.  The death of Jesus, and ultimately His Resurrection and Ascension, unleashed the incredible power of the Holy Spirit within all believers, making them veritable soul-winning machines.  Trouble is, most Christians just don’t know the same power that raised Christ from the dead resides within THEM.

No church needs a McDonalds in it to make it relevant.  All things being equal, a church will be full of soul winners, doing “the work of ministry.”

I’m not against McDonalds.  I’m not even against churches investing in businesses as a way to be good stewards of what they have.  But I am against churches using worldly methods to “promote” themselves in the community.  If a church has to do that, it’s doing it wrong.

 

Giving Your Faith Away

 

Shaking-hands  

When we talk about “giving your faith away,” we’re talking about witnessing, which is another way of describing the act of evangelism.  The idea of talking about Jesus in public scares the daylights out of some Christians.  A lot those Christians are of the opinion that one’s faith is a “personal thing.”  That sounds reasonable, except it goes against what the Bible teaches!  The least personal thing in a believer’s life is his faith.

Still, sharing your faith can be a tricky thing.  Who wants to offend somebody else?  Who wants their views slammed by another?  Being an effective witness for Jesus Christ can be a tremendously rewarding endeavor, but it isn’t always easy.  Learning to rely on the Holy Spirit takes time, but it is He who leads a believer in the right direction, to the right people, and the Holy Spirit helps us to be an effective witness for Christ by our words and by our example.

Let’s consider an example in Scripture of some men who bore witness of their faith.

The Adventure of the Four Lepers, 2 Kings 7:3—9

Finally they said to each other, “This isn’t right. This is wonderful news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! Even if we wait until morning, some terrible calamity will certainly fall upon us; come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”  (2 Kings 7:9  TLB)

This was a bad time in the history of God’s people.  The Assyrians were on the cusp of taking Samaria (capital of Israel) and Israel’s king would have nothing to do with Elisha or even with God Himself.

Later on, however, King Ben-hadad of Syria mustered his entire army and besieged Samaria.  As a result there was a great famine in the city, and after a long while even a donkey’s head sold for fifty dollars and a pint of dove’s dung brought three dollars!  (2 Kings 6:24, 25  TLB)

This siege occurred around 845 BC, and it was an all-out assault on the northern kingdom of Israel.  Samaria, its capital, was able for a time to withstand this prolonged siege, thanks to the efforts of a previous king, King Omri, who had the foresight to build Israel’s capital in a good location and to fortify it against attack.

Just how bad had things gotten in Israel?  They couldn’t have gotten much worse:

One day as the king of Israel was walking along the wall of the city, a woman called to him, “Help, my lord the king!”

“If the Lord doesn’t help you, what can I do?” he retorted. “I have neither food nor wine to give you. However, what’s the matter?”

She replied, “This woman proposed that we eat my son one day and her son the next. So we boiled my son and ate him, but the next day when I said, ‘Kill your son so we can eat him,’ she hid him.”  (2 Kings 6:26—30  TLB)

King Jehoram, in the throws of anger and distress, blamed God’s prophet Elisha for this whole mess, ordered him beheaded.

“May God kill me if I don’t execute Elisha this very day,” the king vowed.  (2 Kings 6:31  TLB)

But Elisha actually had good news for the king:

“The Lord says that by this time tomorrow two gallons of flour or four gallons of barley grain will be sold in the markets of Samaria for a dollar!”  (2 Kings 7:1  TLB)

Somehow, God was going to bless the people of Israel even though they didn’t deserve it.  The king’s aide mocked and ridiculed this Word from the Lord, and Elisha’s news to him was worse than bad:

“You will see it happen, but you won’t be able to buy any of it!”  (2 Kings 7:2b  TLB)

This man’s faithless incredulity would cause him to miss out on God’s blessings.

God moves in mysterious ways!

How God accomplished this unmerited deliverance was surprising and reminds us of this New Testament passage:

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;  and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are…  (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28  NKJV)

God fulfilled the prophecy He gave to Elisha the very next day, in a most unusual way, using a very odd group of men.

Now there were four lepers sitting outside the city gates.  (2 Kings 7:3a  TLB)

These four lepers were cut off from the rest of society.  They had no means of support, save from family members who would bring them food from time to time.  But, remember, there was no food in Samaria now; the siege had taken care of that!  In effect, the healthy citizens of Samaria were now no better off than these four lepers.  These sorry men, knowing they had nothing to lose, decided to go to the enemy camp, throw themselves on their mercy, and maybe get some food.   What they found there is stuff miracles are made of!

So that evening they went out to the camp of the Syrians, but there was no one there!  (2 Kings 7:5  TLB)

What happened to all those soldiers?  There were, perhaps, upwards of 100,000 soldiers in that camp, yet these four hapless lepers found the camp abandoned.  What the lepers didn’t know, and what no one could have known, was that the Lord was working silently in the background.

For the Lord had made the whole Syrian army hear the clatter of speeding chariots and a loud galloping of horses and the sounds of a great army approaching. “The king of Israel has hired the Hittites and Egyptians to attack us,” they cried out. So they panicked and fled into the night, abandoning their tents, horses, donkeys, and everything else.  (2 Kings 7:6, 7  TLB)

The Lord, as we might say today, messed with their heads!  The Lord “spooked” these hardened military men, frightening them into fleeing their camp in an absolute panic. They left everything behind…even their supplies.   This is significant because in that day, an army carried with it all the supplies they would need for whatever military campaign they were engaged in carrying out.  This was a long siege; therefore this huge army had tons and tons of supplies on hand.  And they left it all behind.

Who would have predicted this turn of events?  Nobody would have guessed what the Lord was doing in the background.  It was William Cowper in 1774 who coined the oft-cited phrase, which was part a longer hymn, actually:

God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.

That’s not actually a Biblical statement.  That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, but it certainly isn’t a Bible verse.  What Cowper wrote, and what becomes obvious when reading the Bible, is that while God may be known by man, and while He is revealed in His Word and in the Living Word, Jesus Christ, God sometimes does things in ways that just boggle the human mind.  To our limited, finite minds, God does seem to move in mysterious ways.  Now, what God does isn’t mysterious to Him because He is in possession of all the details while we aren’t.  So, from the faulty, human perspective, God “moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform.”

Oh, what a wonderful God we have! How great are his wisdom and knowledge and riches! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his methods!  For who among us can know the mind of the Lord? Who knows enough to be his counselor and guide?  And who could ever offer to the Lord enough to induce him to act?  For everything comes from God alone. Everything lives by his power, and everything is for his glory. To him be glory evermore.  (Romans 11:33—36  TLB)

These four lepers suddenly and without explanation, found themselves literally in the middle of the lap of luxury!  And they did what any hungry, needy person would do.

When the lepers arrived at the edge of the camp they went into one tent after another, eating, drinking wine, and carrying out silver and gold and clothing and hiding it.  (2 Kings 7:8  TLB)

Now, we should remember that these lepers weren’t privy to Elisha’s prophecy and they certainly had no clue that God’s had was behind this turn of evens.  Still, when the exhilaration of the moment cooled off, they came to their senses and realized they owed it to their countrymen to give them this awesome news.

Finally they said to each other, “This isn’t right. This is wonderful news, and we aren’t sharing it with anyone! Even if we wait until morning, some terrible calamity will certainly fall upon us; come on, let’s go back and tell the people at the palace.”  (2 Kings 7:9  TLB)

Without regard to their superstitious attitude, they were compelled to give this good news to others who were also in desperate need.  They got to town and nothing stopped them from shouting the good news, which eventually reached the ears of the king.

This was truly a night of “good news” for the people of Samaria!  It was an unexpected victory; the people did NOTHING to merit what the Lord did for them.  The king was skeptical, but eventually, the four lepers were proved to be have been right.  It wasn’t long before the starving, beleaguered people of Samaria ventured out of the city to plunder the enemy’s camp.  Thanks to the work of the Lord, every word of Elisha’s prophecy came to pass.

An application for Christians

This is a remarkable story on so many levels; one of many amazing incidents in the life of Elisha.  There is a tremendous message for the church today.  We Christians enjoy abundant fellowship with God and are able to learn from His Word any time we feel like it.  We pray together, we worship together, and we enjoy the things of the Lord together.  But what about those who aren’t “part of the group?”  What about all those lost people who don’t have a relationship with God and don’t know what the Bible really says?  What are we doing to get the “good news” out to them?  There are people—some may be your neighbors—who are literally starving to death spiritually.  We who know the truth owe it to them; it’s the debt we owe all non-believers.  The four lepers felt compelled to “share the wealth” with the rest of the people in Samaria.  May we, like them, feel compelled to share the good news with those who don’t know it.  You never  know what God is doing in their hearts before you say the first word.


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