Posts Tagged 'personal 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?

Do Miracles Happen?

miracles

Invariably, when you practice personal evangelism – when you actively and purposefully share your faith with the lost – you will encounter somebody who askes questions along these lines:

Do you really believe a whale swallowed Jonah?

How in the world could Jesus have fed all those people with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish? That’s just not possible.

People who don’t believe, and even many who do, have real problems with miracles. In our highly secularized age, there is no room for even the possibility of miracles. Our society has become not only a skeptical one, but also a cynical one. The fact that the Bible records miracles automatically delegitimizes it to many. You just can’t take the Bible seriously when it talks about crazy things, like seas that part and suns that don’t move, they say. And that’s really why miracles are so vehemently opposed these days. If an unbelieving society can get away with casting aspersions on the miraculous in Scripture, it won’t be long before it can do the same with the resurrection of our Lord. And , of course, that’s the really the ultimate goal of our modern liberal, secular society.

Before you go straining at a gnat, trying to explain how a blind man was healed in Mark’s Gospel, it’s important to understand that a person who obsesses over a miracle like that one probably has issues with the whole idea of the supernatural, not just that particular miracle. It’s not an exaggeration to say that a person who struggles with miracles struggles with the very idea of an all-powerful God. To them, God is either not real or weak. They likely have issues with prophecy or the inspiration of Scripture.

God and natural law

David Hume, Scottish historian, philosopher, economist, and diplomat was highly skeptical about miracles and the supernatural. Hume defined a miracle as “a transgression of a law of nature by a particular volition of the Deity, or by the interposition of some invisible agent.” I’m a big admirer of Hume, and of natural law, but he’s dead wrong on this point. God transgressing a law?  The much vaunted “natural law” isn’t God’s law and it’s the theology of a closed mind, truth be told. Christians believe in natural law, that is, the idea that things behave in a certain cause-and-effect way most of the time. But this doesn’t restrict the supernatural or God in any way because God exists outside of our natural law. Here is where faith comes into play: God has the right and power to intervene in our natural order of things when and how He chooses because He is not bound by our natural law.  Human beings came up with the notion of natural law, not God and He is not obligated to abide by it.  Natural law doesn’t cause anything, it is our way of describing something we observe. God, not natural law, causes things to happen.

What is a miracle?

This is an important question because, believe it or not, a lot of people get confused over what a miracle and what it isn’t. Our use of the word “miracle,” like so many other words in the English language, has changed over time. Today when you get out of church by 12:15, members call that a miracle. If you’re not handicapped but get a parking spot close to the entrance door at Wal-Mart, that’s a miracle. Today, a miracle is just about any good thing that happens unexpectedly or an unusual thing that happens for no reason. For most people, when those kinds of “miracles” happen, they don’t consider it God’s power at work.

But Biblical miracles are different. A Biblical miracle is an act of God breaking into, changing, or interrupting the ordinary course of things. (Paul Little) That’s a good working definition because it excludes things like what we would call “a bit of good luck.”

Different kinds of miracles

Another way to define a miracle is “an event that has no natural explanation.” To be fair to all the skeptics, the Bible does record miraculous events that in all probability have a natural explanation. For example, the famous parting of the Red Sea was made possible by some wildly crazy winds which literally moved the waters, allowing the Israelites to cross over. Something like that certainly could have happened without God’s intervention, but the miraculous bits are the timing; the winds came up at exactly the right time, and the fact that the sea floor was hard and that no Israelite sunk into the mud and mire up to his chest.

And then there’s Lazarus. It’s hard to come up with a natural explanation for the bringing back to life of a man who was known by everyone in town to be dead. When Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead, He was working far outside the bounds of our natural law.

Again the skeptics often talk about psychosomatic illnesses. This type of physical problem is caused by the mind. When the ill person starts to think differently, their illness disappears. Skeptics claim this explains a lot of Jesus’ physical healings. Jesus wasn’t a divine faith healer, they say, He was more like a mentalist, using nothing more than mental tricks to “heal” a person. Upwards of 80% of illnesses today may be attributed to problems in the mind, not the body.

It’s entirely possible that some of Jesus’ healings were not so much physical in nature but mental. However, Jesus healed many lepers or people with highly contagious skin diseases. These types of illnesses could not have originated in the mind. Our Lord also healed a man born blind. Congenital blindness has nothing to do with mental illness or positive thinking.

Back to those skeptics for a moment. Sometimes they like to point out that ancient man was gullible and highly superstitious. What they regarded as a miracle in their day may not be in ours. A classic example of this is the flashlight. To ancient man, light shining out of a tube would be miraculous, perhaps of either angelic or demonic in origin. To us, we know the light comes from a filaments in a glass bulb and a battery. We know there’s nothing miraculous about a flashlight, except when we find one during a power failure that actually works!

Now this idea may have some merit for some miracles in the Bible, but most Biblical miracles cannot be explained this way. The man born blind, for example, was well-known in his community; everybody knew he was blind his whole life. Same thing with Lazarus. The whole town knew he was dead to the point of decay. And our Lord’s resurrection, with subsequent eye witness accounts of Him doing things a man in a physical body like ours cannot do is not easily explained away as the superstitious twaddle of ignorant people.

We have deified science and technology today to such an extent that those who think anything can happen outside the realm of our natural law must be exaggerations, misinterpretations, or outright lies. Modern man is always seeking to find a “rational explanation” for supernatural, miraculous events. A single sentence written by J.N. Hawthorne in 1960 is very helpful to us today:

Miracles are unusual events caused by God. The laws of nature are generalizations about ordinary events caused by Him.

Yes, modern man sees the works of God all around him yet often refuses to give God credit for what he sees. Or, to put it another way:

You see, but you do not observe. (Sherlock Holmes)

Miracles everywhere?

Every “holy book” of every religion of every culture all over the world is full of miracles. But Biblical miracles are different. The so-called miracles we read about in pagan literature and myths were often very capricious in nature. Biblical miracles, however, were miraculous though not outrageous or fantastic; they served a purpose. In fact, Biblical miracles can be found during three periods of Biblical history: the Exodus, the times of the prophets who led Israel, and the time of Christ and the early church. The overriding purpose of all the miracles during these three epochs was to confirm faith by authenticating the message of God and the messenger from God or to demonstrate God’s love by relieving some kind of suffering.

Miracles in the Bible never had anything to do with money, personal gain or personal prestige. Jesus Himself was tempted by the Devil to perform miracles for all those reasons yet He steadfastly refused. Jesus’ miracles helped people in need, no doubt, but then there’s this:

I have already told you, and you don’t believe me,” Jesus replied. “The proof is in the miracles I do in the name of my Father.” (John 20:25 TLB)

As far as Jesus was concerned, His miracles served to prove who He was and Who had sent Him. In fact, in John 14:11, Jesus went so far as to say this:

Just believe it—that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or else believe it because of the mighty miracles you have seen me do. (John 14:11 TLB)

But are miracles enough for people to believe? Sometimes you’ll hear somebody say something like this: “If God would just [fill in the blank with a miracle], then I would believe!” Would a miracle convince that unbeliever? Maybe not.

“But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t listen even though someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 14:31 TLB)

That was true in Jesus’ day and it’s true today. Some people will never believe.

The verdict is in

All courts count on reliable testimony in word or by writing. Bernard Ramm made this very pertinent observation:

If the arising of Lazarus was actually witnessed by John and recorded faithfully by him when still in soundness of faculties and memory, for purposes of evidence it is the same as if we were there and saw it.

There are five valid reasons to believe that the miracles we read of in the Bible were real and valid:

Many of the miracles in the Bible were done in public in front of many witnesses. They were not performed in secret, witnessed only by one or two people who later recounted with they saw. Often in the case of Jesus’ miracles, all kinds of people saw them and had ample opportunity to investigate them. Sometimes people even went so far as to attribute Jesus’ miracles to the work of the Devil, but they never denied that something supernatural had taken place.

A lot of non-believers witnessed our Lord’s miracles. They didn’t like what He did, but they never disputed what He did.

Jesus’ miracles took place over several years and were diverse. Some involved healing. Others involved workings of knowledge, wisdom, and discernment. Still others involved the very elements of nature itself.

Then there were the people who were directly touched by Jesus’ miraculous power. They went around talking about how Jesus had healed them or cast demons out of them. Their testimony was heard by family members and whole communities.

And lastly, the miracles of Christianity occurred before the Christian faith was established or even founded. The miracles of Jesus served to authenticate His message and the miracles that occurred during the days of the early church served to authenticate the Word of God being preached and taught by the apostles and early church leaders.

The question that many people also have is this: Do miracles happen today? The short answer to this question is: Why not? Has God changed since the days of the Bible? Are you the one who wants to limit His power by saying He can’t work miracles today but He did thousands of years ago? God can do what He wants, to whomever He wants. Why bother praying if miracles aren’t possible today? For that matter, would you even know a miracle if it happened to you?

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17 NIV)

Does Faith Make Sense?

child-problem-solving

What is faith? Do you know? You should, especially if you are a Christian trying to share his faith with another. This is a foundational question you cannot afford to get wrong. In Sunday School, a young boy answer it like this:

Faith is believing in something that isn’t true.

That’s a child’s perspective, yet it’s the same, naïve perspective a lot of adults have. It’s almost impossible to reason with a person who holds that totally subjective opinion of faith because to them, becoming a Christian means a person stops thinking for themselves; that they must now believe other ideas, and blindly accept those ideas without question or doubt. It always surprises people like that when they learn becoming a Christian does not mean turning their brain off.

For those of us who take the Great Commission seriously, we need to take something else seriously, too. It’s not enough for us to know what we believe, we must also know why we believe what we believe. And people today are far more educated, sophisticated, and cynical than they were a generation or two ago. The Christian faith can more than meet anybody’s needs, but before it can do that, it must be accepted in faith, and before that can happen, the Christian faith must be presented to the individual in a way that makes sense to them.

The anti-intellectual approach

Christians often make two huge mistakes as they approach the issue of faith. The first approach is common in pentecostal and fundamentalist churches: the anti-intellectual approach. At this point, it needs to be pointed out that these kinds of churches are not evil or nefarious or populated by dumb people. In fact, they are often more Biblically sound that their mainline denominational counterparts. These kinds of churches were formed as a “push-back” against the undo emphasis on education among the clergy. This was, and still is, a valid concern, and we’ll deal with it later on.

I recall that when I went off to Bible College, some members of my church (from the blue-haired contingent) were concerned that “the Holy Spirit would be educated right out of me.” These old-timers viewed an educated clergy as a spiritually dead one. Sometimes that’s the case, but certainly not always. These precious saints take verses like this one and completely misunderstand them.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NIV)

For them, faith is all about not thinking too hard about what you’re asked to believe; it’s about the heart not the mind. Often this brand of Christianity is non-rational, and very often, irrational. What these folks miss is that an unbeliever deserves a rational, clear presentation of the Gospel in a way they understand. It’s not that logic or rationalism functions as a substitute for faith, it’s that those things are the grounds for faith. When the objective Word of God is made clear people will pay attention to it.  It is, after all, the vehicle of the Holy Spirit, who works through it.

Educated into heaven

The second approach to the Christian faith is the exact opposite to the first one. You often find this approach in the old (usually dying) denominations and it goes like this: teach a child in Sunday School the things they are supposed to believe, quiz them, and if they pass, they become part of the church, which they equate as becoming a Christian.

The fact is, there is an intellectual component to becoming a Christian, but there is also a moral component. Consider:

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17 NIV)

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

Verses like these – and there are others – make it clear that only a mind that has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit can believe. This being the case, you can’t teach an unbeliever the Christian faith with the end-goal of making them a Christian because it is not possible for their minds to grasp Christian teachings. However, one of the things the Holy Spirit uses is your presentation of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit will work through your words, provided they make sense to the one hearing them. Paul’s advice to young Timothy bears this out:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (1 Timothy 4:2 NIV)

And Peter gave this piece advice:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

The idea both Paul and Peter set forth is that it is essential for any believer sharing their faith to do so in a careful manner, using carefully considered and chosen words. In other words, using the “slapdash method” of evangelism just won’t work.  The Word of God is no mere collection of stories of fiction or philosophy. It’s literally God’s Word to man, containing thoughts and ideas from His mind, and it should be handled with care and respect. So when you’re sharing your faith and using Scripture, you should take care to choose your words carefully.

The Word is truth

While the unredeemed mind cannot grasp the eternal truths contained in the Word of God, the redeemed mind, aided by the Holy Spirit, can. When we are witnessing to the lost, were not alone. The Holy Spirit is witnessing to them, too. In fact, long before we began sharing our faith with them, the Holy Spirit had His sights set on them. The process of enlightenment may have already begun. So even though they may not be saved, their minds and hearts have been prepared to receive the truths of Scripture.

The Gospel – the Word of God – is the truth; it not only contains it, but it is the revealed truth of God to man. There is no other truth. God’s truth is the most powerful force of nature that exists. Addressing the power of Scripture, God speaking through His prophet Isaiah said:

It [the Word of God] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 NIV)

Think about that verse. When God’s Word is presented to the lost in faith, using a presentation that honors it and the person being witnessed to, it must yield the result God wants it to. There’s no way it can’t.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. (1 Timothy 2:3 – 7 NIV)

Paul believed it was his divine calling to deliver the Gospel truth to the Gentiles. That was true for him, and it’s true for you, too. If you are a Christian, you have a duty to deliver the truth of the Gospel to the unsaved. And there is only one truth when it comes to God and salvation. God’s Word is powerful, but so is free will. Not everybody who hears the Word will accept it.

But he will terribly punish those who fight against the truth of God and walk in evil ways—God’s anger will be poured out upon them. (Romans 2:8 TLB)

An unsaved person may live a good life, he may be a good neighbor, husband, and citizen, and he may practice his brand of faith sincerely, but unless the faith he is practicing is the faith revealed in Scripture, then he’s sincerely wrong, is pursuing evil, and remains forever lost, his good life notwithstanding.

The truth really is out there

If you get frustrated in your attempts at personal evangelism, you’re in good company. Think about God! He’s gone to incredible lengths to show all men that He really does exist.

Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day. (Romans 1:20 TLB)

So why do the unsaved remain unsaved? According to the truth of God’s Word, it’s because they choose to – they choose to rebel against the truth of God revealed to them.

You search the Scriptures, for you believe they give you eternal life. And the Scriptures point to me! Yet you won’t come to me so that I can give you this life eternal! (John 5:39, 40 TLB)

So it’s not that the unsaved can’t believe, it’s that they refuse to. Jesus understood that simple truth; so should you. Yes, it takes faith to sign onto Christianity. But when an unsaved person takes that step of faith, a most remarkable will happen:

If any of you really determines to do God’s will, then you will certainly know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. (John 7:17 TLB)

Did you catch that? The “doing” will lead to “knowing.” The “moral” decision to follow Jesus will solve any “intellectual” problems a person may have. Any intellectual issues a person may have with Christianity will eventually vanish.

So why don’t really smart people believe?  A lot of people wonder about that. Why don’t highly educated people believe? Actually, many do, but we always hear about brainiacs like Stephen Hawking who do not. As to why so-called geniuses don’t believe, the answer is simple: they don’t want to.  For whatever reason seems good to them, they just don’t want to make the kind of commitment to Christ He demands.

Becoming a Christian – placing your life in God’s hands – is an act of will power, not brain power! Nobody thinks themselves into Heaven! All men choose to believe – they choose to follow Jesus. Let’s go back to Paul:

For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.

Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for all his daily care. And after a while they began to think up silly ideas of what God was like and what he wanted them to do. The result was that their foolish minds became dark and confused. Claiming themselves to be wise without God, they became utter fools instead. (Romans 1:19 – 22 TLB)

So, back to eggheads like Stephen Hawking. Are people like him smart? Not according to Scripture:

That man is a fool who says to himself, “There is no God!” Anyone who talks like that is warped and evil and cannot really be a good person at all. (Psalm 14:1 TLB)

So have confidence as you share God’s truth! That lost person you’re talking to is the fool; you aren’t.

Secret things

Christianity does make sense because it’s the truth. There is nothing wrong with honest doubts and questioning. The essence of the Christian faith is that it tells the story of the one who is Truth. Therefore it will always – always – stand up to close examination. Careful study will never harm the Word of God.

In the end, however, we all have to accept another truth. From the unbeliever on the fence, to the believer who has the occasional doubt, to the theologian who thinks he knows it all, we must all accept the fact that some questions a person may have about Christianity will never be answered because God hasn’t revealed everything to us. There are parts of His infinite mind that cannot be understood by creatures with finite minds.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV)

But much of God’s plan – His will – has been revealed to us. We have more than enough information to make a solid case for Christ to the unbeliever. Christianity does make sense. It is a reasonable faith that it goes far, far beyond mere reason, though never against it.

If Christianity is so great, why can’t I talk about it?

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At some point in the life of every Christian, they come to the stark realization that they’re supposed to be telling other people about their Christian faith. But how do they do that? Witnessing, the non-technical word for “personal evangelism,” terrifies many believers. They find out early in their evangelistic efforts that a lot of people aren’t nearly as excited about the Christian faith as they are. The witness, they face rejection, they feel deflated, and they decide to “live their faith” rather than talk about it. Sound familiar?

Fortunately for Christians like us – I say “us” because it’s happened to me, too – there is hope for recovery. We’re not failures. We’re not bad or lazy Christians. Witnessing doesn’t come easy for most of us. It’s really kind of funny when you think about it. We Christians have the cure for death, yet we have trouble sharing that cure with people who are dying. Imagine if you had the cure for cancer how easy it would be to share it!

Confidence

Like most endeavors in life, you need confidence to succeed in witnessing. If you aren’t sure you if you can play hockey, you’ll be falling down all over the ice. If you aren’t sure about what you believe, you’ll be tongue-tied, and even if you manage somehow to get the facts of your faith out, you’ll sound unsure and disingenuous. You need confidence that Christianity is what that person you’re talking to needs the most. You need to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that no matter what that person is going through, what you know is what they need to know; that your faith is what will help them.

But, how do you get that confidence? Where does it come from? Can you learn it? Can you practice enough to “gin it up?” The short answer NO, you can’t learn it; NO you can’t “gin it up.” That confidence is already inside you, all you have to do is tap into it.

While we’re asking questions, how about answering this one: Are you a confident breather? Seriously, do you think about each breath you take before you take it? Do you practice breathing to make sure you get it right? Of course not! You just do it. Sharing your faith should be like breathing. Your faith is simply part of who you are, like your lungs. Your faith – your beliefs – should animate you; they should be behind the way you talk, the way you work, the places you go, and so on. At any moment of any day, your beliefs should be so real to you; so much a part of who you are and what you are doing, that if somebody comes along and asks you about them, the words should just come naturally. This is what Peter was getting at when he wrote this:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

Maybe one simple reason why some of you find witnessing so difficult is that there isn’t enough revering go on. Maybe you just don’t think Christ is that big a deal, and therefore it’s not your faith or beliefs that animate you. Something else is. If this is the case, you have a much bigger problem than not being able to share your faith!

All things being equal, however, and if you are a true believer grappling with how to make the “Great Commission” part of your everyday life, reverence for Christ will motivate you to share Him with others. He is a big deal, and what He did when He saved you is a big deal. It’s a big story worth telling. But in order to do that, we need to know what we believe, why we believe it, and we need to be able to communicate it to people in a way that makes sense to them.

Essentially, we need to know why Christianity is so great.

What we think versus what is true

Here’s what a lot American Christians think: Christianity is on the decline; that nobody wants to hear about Jesus and the Bible. Christians think this way for a number of reasons. First, they think Christianity is on the decline because they attend churches that are, on a good Sunday, half full. Or half empty, depending on the church. A lot of these churches are old, with sanctuaries built to seat two or three hundred people, with names on a sign that include: Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran; words that to modern ears mean nothing. And herein lies the problem, which I’ll deal with shortly. While it certainly looks like Christianity is in decline, the facts tell a different story.

The overriding fact is Christianity is on the rise all over the world. Christianity is growing faster than any other religion. Generations ago, Nietzsche famously declared, “God is dead.” Well, today you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who believes that. In behind the growth of Christianity in places like China, India, and other Eastern countries, is the shocking growth of religion in general. People are very interested in God – or god – and the spiritual life. Even in materialistic America, and to a greater extent the materialistic West, more and more people are searching for spiritual answers to the problems of their lives. Two or three decades ago, secularism was seen as the “new religion,” but today secularism has largely fallen by the wayside as secularists have discovered it holds no answers. Secularism is nihilistic. What people want is some kind of hope; they want a belief system that helps them to make sense of their world. Even the rise of the so-called “new atheism” is marked by faith. Believe it or not, there are “churches” for atheists. What these people have discovered is that faith in something, even in atheism, is better than having no faith at all.

These “searchers” are looking for God – your God – whether they realize it or not. Of course, what they find in their search is more often than not something other than the God of the Bible. They find some wacky new age religion, some “family-friendly” cult, or even Allah, the god of Islam. Islam is growing fast; it’s second behind Christianity in much of the world. What people find so attractive about Islam, a dreadfully false religion, is that its teachings permeate every area of life. This is what people want – they want a faith that speaks to every area of their lives. The challenge before Christians is to tell people why Christianity, not Islam, is the only belief system that truly makes sense.

Another reason why so many of us see Christianity in decline is that we don’t see it anywhere. Think about what’s happening in America today. You’re not allowed to talk about God on government property. Crosses and symbols of Christianity are forbidden – you can’t wear them and you can’t display them because you might offend somebody. When you watch TV, do those TV families you see ever go to church? Fifty years ago, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Aunt Bea, Opie, Helen his girlfriend, and Barney his deputy all went to church together. They were seen singing in the choir and working in and around their church. Rarely, if ever, do you see characters on TV portrayed as sane Christians these days. When Christians are portrayed on TV, they are likely portrayed as wacky cult leaders or fundamentalists who have a stockpile of semi-automatic guns, making plans to shoot up an abortion clinic. Churches, if they are portrayed in a positive light at all, are seen as homeless shelters, food banks, or bingo halls, not as houses of worship where members praise God and fellowship together. Pastors, if they aren’t seen sleeping with secretaries or pilfering the collection box might be seen lobbying the government to clean up a local landfill or heading up a recycling project in their neighborhood. But he’s certainly never seen doing what pastors do: leading people to Christ or shepherding his flock.

These negative and false images take their toll on Christians, who often spend more time in front of the TV being brainwashed than they do reading their Bibles or going to church. We come to believe we are truly in the minority; that there really is no interest in Christ. But that’s not true. That’s a fantasy created by Hollywood and the entertainment world.

This leads us to another reason why it seems as though Christianity is decline. Because Christians are in retreat, they think Christianity is too. Nowadays, serious Christians have all but abandoned the non-Christian world. We have our own theme parks. We have our own TV stations and radio stations. We have our own schools. We associate almost exclusively with other Christians. None of those things are bad, by the way, but it’s very difficult to be “salt and light,” as Jesus said we were to be, when we never venture into the dark world.

In spite of all of the above, there is a resurgence of spiritualism and faith all over the world. If you don’t see it, you’re looking in the wrong places.

Religion versus Faith

So, if there is this resurgence is spiritualism and faith, why aren’t churches full? People have finally figured out what some Christians haven’t – churches are not synonymous with faith. Put another way, people think they can find God and faith without a church. They’re not all together wrong about that. A generation ago it was very common for a Christian to identify himself as a “Presbyterian” or a “Methodist.” Today those religious labels mean nothing. What people really want is the faith component, not the religious. They want God, not religion. That’s why we see without exception mainline denominations dying as the independent, non-denominational churches growing and thriving. Churches are not dying. Denominationalism is.

What that means is that when you go out to share your faith, you’d better share your faith, not your church. Don’t invite people to church, invite people to have faith in Christ. Before you freak out and stop reading, you really do need to get this person you’re witnessing to into your church eventually. But people are more sophisticated than they used to be. They can tell if you’re only interested in adding them to your church roll. They don’t want to just be a number; they want a new life. Only Jesus can give them that, not your church. Your church may be good at teaching people how to live their new life, but they have to have that new life first. So don’t put the cart before the horse. Care about that lost soul first, then care about your church. We Christians should be leading the lost to faith, not to religion.

The time is ripe

Given that people are trending toward the supernatural these days, there has never been a better time to share your faith with them. You as a Christian have the truth, and while there are many, many false religions for people to chose from, and while many lies are being told about the nature of faith and Christianity, the truth is powerful. God’s truth cannot be held back or covered up. It’s a force of nature that cannot be stopped or silenced. All you have to do, as a sincere Christian wanting to share your faith, is tell God’s truth. The lost need to know who Jesus is and what He has done for you.  Be confident. Christianity is winning. The church of Jesus Christ is not dying. Have confidence in your faith.


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