I have a confession to make. I didn’t expect it to happen. I hadn’t planned on doing it, but I did. It was last Saturday. Everything was fine, and then it happened. I . . . I . . . I bought a “secular” CD! I just couldn’t help myself. It seemed innocent enough. Hootie and the Blowfish are a relatively new “alternative rock” group. I had seen them on TV a couple of times, and I liked their sound. I was in the store, and I just couldn’t control myself. There it was, on the shelf just waiting for me to pick it up. I’m so ashamed!
Okay, I’m being silly. But, the truth is, this was the first secular CD I had purchased in nearly two years. In fact, I couldn’t tell you the last time I listened to secular radio in the car. It’s always Christian radio or Christian tapes. As I listened to the words of the various songs on this CD (which, by the way, I really like), I heard references to God, the devil, angels, walking on water, love, peace and harmony. I heard descriptions of broken relationships, racism, drinking problems and loneliness. I couldn’t help but notice the numerous expressions of pain, hurting and despair.
And in the midst of all this I heard God speaking to me. It wasn’t an audible voice like in the Ten Commandments movie. He didn’t tell me to take off my shoes. (My apartment isn’t exactly Holy ground.) And my hair didn’t turn white. But, nevertheless, I clearly heard Him speaking to me – through a secular music group called Hootie and the Blowfish! I guess, if He could use a donkey to speak to Balaam (Numbers 22), then He can use music to speak to me! What I really felt God was telling me was that, in this music, I was hearing evidence of one simple fact:
WITHOUT A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST, PEOPLE HAVE NO HOPE, AND THE EVIDENCE OF THAT IS ALL AROUND US!
Okay, I realize that’s not news to anybody, but here’s the part that really spoke to me personally. I believe God was challenging me and, consequently, I want to challenge you with this question:
IF YOU DON’T SHARE THE GOSPEL WITH THE LOST PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE, WHO WILL?
You see, over the last couple of years I have become somewhat of an isolationist, when it comes to “the world.” I don’t listen to secular radio. I almost exclusively listen to Christian music. I don’t spend time with co-workers outside of work. I don’t really have any non-Christian friends. Get the picture? I’ve been working so hard to keep myself sheltered from “the world,” that I’ve begun to lose my passion for the unsaved. And the less involved I am in the world, the harder it is for me to relate to them. We cannot shelter ourselves from the world so much that we forget about the many lost souls that don’t know Jesus in a personal way.
The typical seeker has to hear the Gospel seven to nine times before making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. I learned that only recently. So every time you share Jesus with someone you are adding to a number of events that may culminate in that person’s salvation. You are planting seeds, the fruit of which you may never see: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1 Cor. 3:6-7)
The Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus
Last week, I heard Chuck Swindoll on the radio talking about the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, found in Luke chapter 16. Jesus describes an extremely wealthy man who was “dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.” (Luke 16:19) This was a man who, no doubt, had everything, and enjoyed all that the world had to offer. In contrast, Jesus tells of another man: “At his gate, was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:20-21) Quite a difference between the two men, don’t you think? The story continues: “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’ “Abraham replied, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” (Luke 16:22-31)
Some story, huh? The rich man, in spite of all his wealth and possessions, found himself in hell. He had, no doubt, enjoyed his life on earth with all of his luxury and worldly excesses. But all of his “stuff” was useless when he stood before God. So he ended up in hell. For the first time, this parable really spoke to me.
Guess what. Every second of every day, people are dying and finding themselves in hell. We need to be reminded of that. Sometimes we forget that we are all eternal beings, both the saved and the unsaved. The only difference is where we spend our eternity – either with God or in hell.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating a “repent or go to hell” style of evangelism. But we must be realistic about the people in our lives who don’t know the Lord. WE MUST HAVE A PASSION FOR THE LOST! And that passion needs to be greater than the excuses, fears and discouragements that keep us from sharing the the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others.
God Doesn’t Need Michael Jordan
There is something else I learned from this parable. If people don’t believe the Gospel as it is presented in the Bible, then no miracle or “super testimony” is going to make a difference. I used to think “You know, if Michael Jordan or Michael Jackson or someone famous like that would become a Christian, what a great testimony that would make.” But now I know: God doesn’t need Michael Jackson or Madonna or any famous person to get the job done. He can use you and me to do His work. Were the apostles famous or important? No, in fact, they were quite ordinary. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” (1 Cor. 1:26) God takes great delight in doing extraordinary things with ordinary people. The Bible is full of stories about God using “regular folks” to do great things. That is a real encouragement to me, and it should be to you too.
The “Good Person Myth”
I believe one of Satan’s greatest tricks with unbelievers is the “good person” myth. You know: “I’m a good person so I’ll go to heaven.” But God tells us that just isn’t so. “. . . there is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:12) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) Another of Satan’s lies is that there is no hell at all. Many people don’t believe in hell, and many more can’t imagine God would let them go there. They think it’s for murderers and only the really bad people.
The “Don’t Know Enough Myth”
“But,” you say, “I don’t know the Bible that well; and I wouldn’t know what to say, or what verses to refer to.” How about simply telling them what God has done in your life? Your own testimony is powerful because it is personal, and irrefutable.
Here are three key points to make (from Luis Palau):
- What my life was like before I met Jesus.
- How I gave my life to Christ.
- My life since I trusted Christ.
Here are some tips from Luis Palau on writing and presenting your personal testimony:
- Keep your testimony simple.
- Point people to Jesus Christ.
- Identify why you need Jesus Christ.
- Clearly explain the Gospel message.
- Share several key Scripture verses.
- Avoid using abstract Christian terms.
For men, the Promise Keepers New Testament is an excellent witnessing tool. In the front, it has a clear presentation of the Gospel in an easily understandable story form.
Here are some key verses for evangelism:
- Romans 3:10, 12, 23, 6:23
- Revelation 3:20
- John 1:12-13, 3:3, 3:16-17
- Romans 10:9,13
- Acts 16:31
- Ephesians 2:8-9
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Phillipians 1:6
You don’t have to memorize all these verses, just write them out, or at least have a list of the references so you can find them. Read through these verses and see if you can come up with an order in which you would present them to a seeker.
The “They’ll Never Believe Myth”
I’m often guilty of this one. I look at a person and think that because of their success or lifestyle, they won’t see the need for a personal relationship with Jesus. Hogwash! Everyone has the same God-shaped void in their heart that needs to be filled. Harrison Ford, one of the most successful actors of all time, was quoted as saying “I just want some peace.” Here is a man who, by the world’s standards, is extremely successful, yet he has no peace. Nothing can truly fill the emptiness in our hearts, except knowing God in a personal way, through his Son. We cannot fall into the trap of thinking a person would not accept Christ for this or that reason. Let God worry about that. Just keep ” telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36) And remember Jesus’ promise: “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” (John 12:32)
The “Too Sinful Myth”
I struggle here as well. Satan says “Jim, you’re too sinful, how can you talk about Jesus?” If we fall for this lie, then we grossly underestimate God’s grace. All of us are sinful. Paul, the greatest Christian of all time, struggled with sin. But it didn’t stop him from proclaiming Jesus.“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin” (Romans 7:24:25) Remember: Satan hates evangelism. He will do anything and everything he can to prevent us from sharing the Gospel with the lost. Never forget that we are in a battle “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12)
I don’t expect anyone will go out, after reading this, and become the next Billy Graham. (But with God all things are possible!) Evangelism is something we are all called to do, but very few of us are good at it. You can read books, memorize verses, and observe others to learn more. But, ultimately, you must get out there and spread the Word. Only then will you begin to develop your skills as an evangelist. The Gospel is Good News! Don’t be afraid to share it!
Here are some Action Steps:
- Pray for the unsaved people in your life. (Who are you praying for?) Pray that God will open their hearts.
- Ask God for opportunities to share the Gospel.
- Pray for wisdom, and the right words to say.
- Remember: It’s not about how good you are; it’s about how great God is. Trust Him, not yourself.
- Don’t forget you are planting seeds. Rejection and discouragement will come, but God doesn’t fail.
- Spend time regularly in prayer and in The Word.
- GIVE `EM HEAVEN!