TO LEAD OTHERS TO JESUS
[The following transcript is taken from
a four tape cassette sermon series titled "What is Evangelism?"
given by Pastor Greg Laurie. In this series he gives some
of the clearest instructions on personal evangelism I've ever
heard. Just consider this one sermon transcript a wonderful
foretaste of that series. This series and his companion book
"How to SHARE your FAITH" are available online at: http://www.harvest.org.
Click on it, then click on "Books" and scroll down the page
till you find "How to SHARE your FAITH". To find the four
cassette series "What is Evangelism?" click on "Tapes" instead
of "Books", and scroll down the page until you find that title.
Both the tape series and the book are worth every penny spent.
You might say the book brings together all the essential facts
in the four tape series in a concise, easy to understand manner--a
virtual How To on personal evangelism. From the back
flap of Greg's book we read "I WAS SWEATINHG, SHAKING, AND
THINKING, "THIIS ISN'T GOING TO WORK!" Is that how you feel
when it comes to witnessing? You're not alone. Statistics
tell us that: 95 PERCENT OF ALL CHRISTIANS HAVE NEVER LED
ANOTHER PERSON TO CHRIST. So how do you learn the skills of
helping a person pass from darkness to light? YOU'RE HOLDING
THE ANSWER RIGHT IN YOUR HANDS. Greg Laurie has not just written
a book. He's put down on paper what really works when you
share Christ. Not only that, but these brief, fast-moving
chapters are actually fun to read.
YOU'LL FIND THE PRACTICAL...
*How to build a bridge
*How to avoid arguments
*How to use Scripture properly
*How to present Jesus as the only way
ALONG WITH THE PROBLEMS...
*What if they say no?
*what if they say yes?!
No slick fixes here. Just a readable, enjoyable collection
of first-person stories that will fire you up and give you
firepower. STOP FEELING GUILTY ABOUT NOT SHARING YOUR FAITH.
Relax, take a deep breath--and take this book home. It really
works!" [To order by mail write Harvest Ministries, PO BOX
4000, Riverside CA 92514-4000. How to SHARE your FAITH ( BLLIV5)
is $8.00, made out to Harvest Ministries. A good companion
booklet is How To Live Forever, which is geared specifically
for the non-believer as a witnessing tool. (It is $5.00).
The WHAT IS EVANGELISM four cassette tape series can is also
available for $20.00 at this address.]
If you desire to order the book in bulk for your congregation
I suggest calling Harvest Christian Fellowship at: 1-800-821-3300
and speaking with them. Once you read it, you'll want to provide
copies of this book for your congregation, I guarantee you.]
"Let's turn in our Bibles now to Acts chapter 8. And we're
sort of in a series, in a series, in a series. Of course our
larger series is call A Foundation For Living. I apologize,
we didn't have the notes available for this week. And that
is because I didn't get to it in time. And I could give you
my excuse, and you might be impressed by it. My computer crashed.
Ever have that happen? No fun. Lost a whole bunch of sermons.
I wanted to take a gun to that thing, honestly. But I'll get
this weeks' and last weeks' next Sunday morning. Our series
is the Foundations For Living. We've been looking at the church
together. We've been looking at how the early church was an
evangelistic church, and we're in a little mini-series, in
a series, in a series, and the title of this message is "How
To Lead Others To Jesus." And our text is Acts chapter 8 that
we'll read in a moment. But in our last message we pointed
out that God wants to use us to share the gospel with others.
And you remember that to do this you do not necessarily have
to have great theological skills or even public speaking abilities.
Rather what is needed is a willingness, an openness, to put
it quite simply, an availability. Because you can learn theology
in time. We've been studying it, for all practical purposes,
together on Sunday morning on this series Foundation For Living.
In time you can become more effective in communicating your
faith. But that willingness is what it needs to start with,
where you would say, "Lord, I want to be a laborer in the
harvest." We looked in our last time together, in the story
of Philip, which we're going to look at once again, and noted
how God led him to go to a city of Samaria and preach the
gospel to them. And he was preaching to a great crowd of people.
Then the Lord redirected him to go and bring the gospel to
one empty searching man from Ethiopia, who had gone to Jerusalem
searching for God. [And this Ethiopian is credited with bringing
Christianity to Ethiopia!] And it just reminds us that you
never know when you get up in the morning what God has in
store. He may have you share the gospel with one person, or
he may have you share with a whole room full of people. You
never know. You just need to be open. Now for many people
the idea of speaking in public is a terrifying thought. I've
read a number of surveys that say that the fear of public
speaking is on the top of most people's list. I've read one
study that I found hard to believe that revealed that people
are more afraid to speak in public than they are to die. That's
hard to imagine. "Well, all right, we have a choice, we can
die or speak publicly." "Kill me." It's that fear of rejection
I suppose, fear that people aren't going to listen to you.
I've had all those things happen to me, by the way. And it's
something that many of us don't want to do.
In fact, after I became a Christian, I had this fear
that God was going make me preach one
day. And I thought he was going to do it at a really inopportune
time. I envisioned him calling upon me, maybe in the supermarket
or something, and I'm waiting in line and the Spirit of God
would speak to me and say, "Preach the Gospel really loudly"
you know, and I'd have to turn around to the people behind
me and say "I see that some of you have bread that you're
buying today, but Jesus said, 'I am the bread of life'..."
I don't know what I'd say, you know. But I was afraid
it would happen to me. Well one day it did. And I was a young
Christian. I'd had that opportunity to lead that lady to the
Lord that I told you about in our last message. And I was
just going to church and studying the Bible. I was not teaching
in any capacity. In fact, basically I was doing graphic arts
to support myself, and just wanted to live the Christian life.
Well I went down to a baptism at Big Corona Beach one day
that was being sponsored by Calvary Chapel. As it turns out
I got the time wrong and I got there after it had ended. And
there was a group of Christians sitting out there meeting,
and singing songs. And I walked over and was looking for the
leader, the pastor. There was no one apparently in charge.
I just sat down, and after we sang a couple songs together
someone else would say, "Let's sing this" and we'd sort of
stumble through that song. And I thought, "We'll, who's this?"
There was no one, and then the Lord began to impress upon
my heart that I should share a little something from the Word
that he had shown me that morning. I was so
nervous. Then I finally said "----I----would----like------to----share-----something..."
"Yeah, go ahead." And so I said a few things and after I was
done I felt so good. I said, "Oh God it's so great to be used
by you. Lord, if you ever want to call upon me, I'm available,
it's so wonderful!"---because it was done, it was over with!
I was relieved. And, as I was sharing my little mini message,
a couple of girls had come up and approached the group and
saw me speaking and someone leaned over to me and said "These
girls want you to baptize them." "I'm not a pastor, I'm just
a Christian here at this meeting. I don't even know how to
baptize someone." "Oh please, would you baptize us." And others
went "Yeah, do it! Do it!" Then I think, 'How'd I get myself
into this thing?' And again, just sensing the Lord telling
me "Do it!" I said, "OK, well, let's go, come on." And we
all got up and were walking down Big Corona Beach making our
way over to this little side cove called Pirate's Cove that's
sort of a rocky area with a little beach down there. So we're
making our way along, we had about thirty people, I'm walking
in front of 'em with these two girls, and I thought "This
is insane!" So we got down to the beach and we got into the
water and I said, "OK, let's go out and I'll baptize you."
And I had no idea how to do this. I had never studied the
technique of baptism. You know, I'd watched Chuck Smith do
it, and I remember something with holding the nose, you know,
so I got 'em out in the water and kind of tilted them and
held their nose to the best of my ability and we were all
done and I said "Oh Lord, you're so good, it's so good to
be used by you. Lord if you ever want to call on me, I'm available."
I can hardly wait now to go and tell
my friends what the Lord did. And then as we were done I looked
up on the rocks there, (it formed sort of a natural amphitheater)
and they were watching, and as clear as day the Lord impressed
upon my heart to preach. This is the moment I dreaded. This
is what I had feared would come upon me, and there it was.
You know what happened? God gave me a boldness that was not
my own. And I began to speak to these people. And next thing
I knew, I was saying, "And if you want to accept Jesus, you
come down here!" And some people came down, and we prayed,
and they gave their lives to the Lord and I baptized them.
It was a crazy day, I'll tell you!
You never know what God has in store. I certainly didn't know
the Word that well. I was not a great theologian then. I don't
claim to be one now, either, but...I was really, really new
in the faith at that time, but I was available, and I sort
of limped through it. God can use us. And here's a story in
the Bible that tracks in a similar way, how one thing led
to another. We read it before, but let's read it again. It's
Acts chapter 8 and we'll start in verse 26. "Now an angel
of the Lord spoke to Philip saying 'Arise, and go toward the
south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza'"--this
is desert--"So he arose and went and behold a man of Ethiopia,
a eunuch of great authority under Candice the queen of the
Ethiopians, who had charge of all of her treasury, had come
to Jerusalem to worship. He was returning and sitting in his
chariot and reading Isaiah the prophet [ordinarily men didn't
own scrolls of the Bible, they were kept in synagogues--so
this man was wealthy.]. "Then the Spirit said to Philip, 'Go
near and overtake that chariot.' So Philip ran to him and
heard him reading the Prophet Isaiah and said, 'Do you understand
what you're reading?' And he said, 'How can I unless someone
guides me and shows me the way', and asked Philip to come
up and sit with him. The place in the Scripture which he read
was this, 'He was led as a sheep to the slaughter, and as
a lamb before a sheerer is silent, so he opened not his mouth,
and in his humiliation his justice was taken away. And who
shall declare his generation, for his life is taken from the
earth?' So the eunuch answered Philip and said, 'I ask you,
of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other
man?' Then Philip opened his mouth and beginning at this Scripture
preached Jesus to him. Now as they went down the road they
came to some water. The eunuch said, 'Hey, here's some water.
What would hinder me from being baptized?' Philip said, 'Well,
if you believe with all of your heart, you may.' And he answered
and said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.'
So he commanded the chariot to stand still, and both Philip
and the eunuch went down into the water and he baptized him.
Now when they had come up out of the water, the Spirit of
the Lord caught Philip away so the eunuch saw him no more
and he went on his way rejoicing." We'll stop here.
You know, in our last two messages on evangelism, we pointed
out some essentials. You may remember them, but let me refresh
- We noted that any evangelism must come from a God-given
burden. And if you do not have a burden for the lost
people, a compassion for them, a care for them, then all
of the techniques, training, the rest of it, will be of
no avail. It must start with a God-given holy compassion
for the lost people.
- We must go to where people are. [Remember in Wilson's
"Principles of War: a strategy for group and personal evangelism"
this principle comes under the heading of "Mobility"? Go
back to the lead article in this section titled "What is
Evangelism?" on this web site and look up that principle.
This is what Pastor Greg is talking about.] You remember
that Philip went down to Samaria. And being a Jew he would
have had a natural prejudice against the Samaritan people
and they toward him. But yet God was telling him to overcome
his prejudice, his hang-ups, and go to these people and
bring the gospel to them. He went to where the
- Thirdly, he was open to the leading of the Spirit of
God. The Spirit said 'Go and overtake the chariot.'
He was open, his antenna was up, so to speak. As the Scripture
says, "Be instant in season and out of season", or 'Be on
duty at all times.'
- Having sensed that leading he was obedient. He
could have refused, like Jonah did and gone in the opposite
direction. But instead he obeyed. And it reminds us that
God will usually lead us in line, one step at a time. I've
rarely had the Lord give me a blueprint of what was ahead.
It's usually just one thing. And don't expect him to show
you what the next thing is until you've taken that step
to do the 1st thing. And as you're obedient at
one thing he tells you what to do after that, one step at
a time. Fifth--
- Philip was tactful and clear. "Do you understand
what you're reading?" he says to this man from Ethiopia.
And now the sixth principle--
- Philip adapted to the situation. He adapted to
the situation. Here was this visiting dignitary from Ethiopia
searching for God, reading aloud from the book of Isaiah.
Man, you talk about a Divine setup. You know what those
are--those are those moments that are just orchestrated
by God himself that you sort of just stumble into. And in
my life they always come when I least expect them. Usually
when I'm out doing normal day-to-day things, and something
will just open up. The Bible says the steps of a righteous
man are ordered by the Lord. So we just say in the morning,
"I commit my day to you." The other day this week actually
something like this happened to me. I was with my wife in
a department store, and we're walking around and she's looking
at dresses and this kind of thing and you know, that to
me, a fate worse than death, to stand there and look at
these things. I'm just being honest. So I was just wandering
off on my own, and I went through one section with men's
clothing. I'm just looking around, I'm not really stopping
and looking at anything. And I come around this one counter
and this girl says, "Are you Greg Laurie?" And I said, "Yes
I am." And she said, "I can't believe you're here!" And
she looked like she'd seen a ghost or something--"I can't
believe you're actually here!" "Well, yeah, I'm here." "Well,
you know, I can't believe it!" And I said "Why can't you
believe it?" and she said, "We were just talking about you
a few minutes ago, just a few minutes ago! Here you are!
My friend and I were talking! Come on over!" and she brings
over this other girl. This girl walks over and...but this
other girl didn't believe that I was me. "Awh, you're not
Greg Laurie." I said, "No, I am." She said, "No, you not!"
I said "It's right, I'm his stunt double." So I showed her
my drivers license and she believed it. I had to show her
that. And so we were talking and they said, "We were just
talking about you, you know, how she needs to get right
with the Lord, and then you come along and we were talking
with a friend over here, he works in another department,
he's living in an immoral lifestyle, and he was saying it's
OK to be a Christian and live like that, you know. If you
could just talk to him. We think he'd really listen to you."
And I said, "Well, OK,..." She said, "We're going to go
get him." I said, "OK, but tell him what he's gettin' himself
into, alright?" "Tell him that I'm a pastor and you know,
tell him what the Bible says, so he doesn't feel trapped."
"OK, we'll tell him, we'll tell him." And so they go over
and get this guy and they bring him back and they said,
"This is Greg Laurie, he's a preacher!" "Oh, ok, nice to
meet you." And they said, "Tell him, tell him! Oh, by the
way, he's a homosexual!" This guy's standing there going
Oh--. And he says, "I don't really think this is appropriate
to talk about this here." He was obviously not happy that
these girls brought him over to me, and "I don't want to
discuss this--" and I just stood there and waited, and then
he said, "Let me just say this really quickly. I believe
that I can live this way and still be a Christian." And,
well, this was a Divine setup. Now I'm not going to tell
you what happened after that until a little later in the
message. It's kind of a cliff-hanger. Because I know some
of you nod out sometimes, so when I see it happen I'm going
to throw it out there--Back to that store! We'll
get back to it in a moment. I just wanted to sort of share
it to point out it was a Divine setup, OK? Now let's come
back to this [Philip in Acts 8] and we'll see what happened.
So Philip adapted to the situation. He took time to assess
the situation. Here's this guy, reading from Isaiah 53.
And Philip did what every believer should do. He became
all things to all men. 'OK, here's what I need you to do.'
He built on what was already taking place. This is where
we need to be sensitive in sharing the gospel. Sometimes
I see people and the way they speak, they come up like they're
anomatronic figures. They get this sort of glazed look over
them and say "The Bible says this and the Bible says that..."
Wait! Snap out of it here. It's OK to talk with a person,
to converse with them, to get to know them a little bit,
find out what they think, and see the best way to bring
the gospel to them. Because as I'll talk with a person and
they'll identify certain things, I'll see little bridges
that can be built, little doors of opportunity that I could
walk through--"You mentioned this, and here's what the Bible
says." So that's what Philip was doing. He was adapting
to the situation. And we need to realize that though everyone
is essentially the same, and as we pointed out in our last
message--everyone is empty, they're lonely, they're guilty,
they're afraid to die, yet we all may be at a different
state in life. So I like to try to adapt to the situation.
Paul said this in 1 Corinthians 9, verses 19 to 23 from
the New Living Translation, "I have become a servant to
everyone so I can bring them to Christ. When I'm with the
Gentiles, who do not have the Jewish Law, I fit in with
them as much as I can. In this way I gain their confidence
and bring them to Christ. But I do not discard the Law of
God, I kept the Law of Christ. And when I'm with those who
are oppressed I share their oppression so that I might bring
them to Christ." Listen, "Yes I try to find common ground
with everyone, so I might bring them to Christ. I do all
of this to spread the Good News, and in doing so I enjoy
its blessings." I especially like that one statement when
he says "I try to find common ground with everyone, so I
might bring them to Christ." You see, Jesus said, "Follow
me and I'll make you a fisher of men." And when we go out
fishing, we use different kinds of bate, right? Now some
of you may be great anglers out there, and seasoned fishermen.
I'm not in your ranks, I've fished a few times, but you
know, of course, you use different kinds of bait for different
kinds of situations. You can use live worms, you can use
insect larvae, fish eggs, frogs, even leeches. I'd hate
to hook a leech up--ooh--but different things you use to
catch fish. And then you have these guys who are into fly-fishing,
going up for the trout in fresh water lakes. And I'm told
there's a real art form to doing that--where you have fly
and various types of flies for various types of situations,
little hooks with feathers and things on them. And they'll
sort of flick the wrist and you got to get that lure right
in front of that fish and just sort of snag him at the right
moment. It takes a lot of patience and it's a great payoff
when you pull one in, and so forth. But you use different
kinds of bait for different kinds of fish. Now in the same
way, as we share the gospel, we might bring out different
aspects of it to speak to a person's situation. To someone,
perhaps, who is filled with anguish, you might speak to
them of the peace God can bring. But then if you're speaking
to someone on their deathbed, you would address the subject
of death and the certainty of heaven for the one who puts
their faith in Christ [or dwelling as immortals in the kingdom
of heaven, with Jesus, wherever that ends up being headquartered.
Cf. Revelation 21] Another person may be plagued with personal
guilt and you may speak to them along the lines of God's
complete forgiveness. These are the various types of
bait to hook us [or those we're talking to] into eternal
life. And we can look at Jesus, who was the master
communicator who never dealt with any two people in exactly
the same way. There was that woman at the well and she had
spent a lifetime trying to fill a void in her life with
relationships with men. And to her Jesus spoke of her deep
spiritual thirst. Then there was a man who was an expert
in theology and had a great intellect. And yet with him
Jesus spoke in almost childlike terms as he told Nicodemus
"You must be born again." But then there was a lonely outcast
named Zacheus who had no friend to speak of, and to him
Jesus offered personal friendship, and said, "Let's have
a meal together." To a woman caught in the act of adultery
Jesus offered her complete pardon. My point is, he didn't
deal with them in the same way. He adapted to their situation
and appropriately applied the truth of the Word of God.
I would rather take the time to effectively communicate
with one person then to briefly communicate with a bunch
of people in passing. I've seen people do this, you'll walk
along with them, and they'll say something to everyone.
"Hey God bless you." "Hey, Jesus loves you." "You're going
to hell!" [That one's a winner for turning people off!]--you
know, these quick little quips. And they think that's so
effective. "Oh man, I'm always witnessing, I'll tell you
what, it's great, isn't it?" You know, I don't know how
great it is. I think God wants sharp-shooters, not machine
gunners. It's not how many notches we can put on our Bible,
how many people I spoke to in a given day. A sharp-shooter,
meaning I took the time to speak to, to communicate with.
And that's what we see Jesus doing. He had time for the
multitudes, but isn't it always amazing how he would seek
out a woman at the well or take time for a Nicodemus or
a Zacheus? And we should take time as well.
- ) Now the seventh principle we see in Philip's life
in his effective communication of the gospel--and this is
a really important one--he knew Scripture. Verse
35, "Beginning at the Scripture" the Bible says. This, of
course, is an essential of any person who wants to lead
others to Jesus Christ. What if Philip had not been a student
of the Bible when this question was asked? "'Of who was
the Prophet speaking?' the Ethiopian asked, 'Of himself
or another?'" If Philip wasn't a student of Scripture he'd
say, "I don't know." "It's a good question though." "Can
I get back to you?" But fortunately Philip was well versed
in what the Bible taught. And that is why we're told in
2 Timothy 2, "Study" or "Exert yourself to be approved to
God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the Word of truth." When we don't have the answers
it can be embarrassing. Now I'm not saying we need to have
the answer to every question. But I am saying that we need
to study and prepare ourselves as effectively as possible.
And if we don't have the answer, let that propel you back
into the pages of Scripture to find it for the next time
that question arises. And in our next study together, we're
going to grapple with some of those big questions that are
often fired our way as Christians--such as--"How can God
allow suffering?" [To order Pastor Greg Laurie's complete
4 cassette tape series CLICK ON http://www.harvest.org
and then on "Harvest Store", scroll down and click on "Search".
On the left title bar click on TAPES, then scroll down to
"What is Evangelism?". Also be sure to order Greg Laurie's
new book "How to SHARE your FAITH." Instead of clicking
on tapes, click on BOOKS and scroll down until you find
that title.] Or "How can you Christians say Jesus Christ
is the only way to God? That's narrow." Or "What about the
person that's never heard the gospel, will God send them
to hell? [And this is a subject that some denominations
differ on their Biblical interpretation on, making it somewhat
of a secondary doctrine, but hotly contested by some as
being primary gospel knowledge. I'm sure of this, Jesus
will reveal the ultimate answer to this question when he
returns.] These are questions we've all heard many times,
and we'll look at the Biblical answers to them.
But Philip knew the Scripture, and he was about to bring
out the truth of the Word of God, reminding us of the importance
of what we're told in 1 Peter 3:15 that says, "Set Christ
apart as Lord and always be prepared to give an answer to
everyone who asks you, with gentleness and respect." And
why is it important to share the Scripture? Because the
Word of God will not return void. God says in Isaiah 55,
verses 10 to 11, "The rain comes down and the snow from
heaven and they do not return there but water the earth
and make it bring forth fruit and bud that it may give seed
to the sewer and bread to the eater. So shall my Word be
that goes forth out of my mouth, it shall not return unto
me void, God says, but it shall accomplish what I please,
and it shall prosper in the thing which I sent it." Now,
I think it's obvious that it needs to be an appropriate
passage for an appropriate situation. We're told in Proverbs
25:11 "A word that is fitly spoken is like apples of gold
and frames of silver." I have no idea what that means, but
I like the sound of it, don't you? I think the emphasis
is on the appropriateness of a word that is spoken fitly,
that is relevant to the situation. But listen, God's Word
will not return void. And anyone who shares the gospel needs
to use the Word of God. But you might ask the question,
"What if the person doesn't believe
in the Bible?" What if they say, "I don't believe the Bible's
inspired by God." Should we say, "Oh well, then OK, forget
it, I won't mention the Bible again."? Well, that would
be like you were in a battle with someone and you pulled
out your sword and they pulled out theirs and as you prepared
to engage they said, "Oh, by the way, I don't believe you
have a real sword, OK?" "You know, your sword is like your
truth and I don't accept your truth, so I don't think your
sword is real." OK, you know, whatever. Poke 'em with it
and see what happens. The point is that your truth, so to
speak, is sharp. So someone might say, "I don't believe
in the Bible." Well that isn't going to stop me from quoting
it because I know that God's Word has a way of penetrating
and sticking with a person. Billy Graham once said "Time
and time again in my ministry I have quoted a Bible verse
in a sermon, sometimes without planning to do so in advance,
and to have someone tell me afterward it was that
verse which the Holy Spirit used to bring
conviction of faith to him." And then he concludes by quoting
the passage, "Is not my Word like a fire, and like a hammer
that shatters a rock?" God will use his Word, so study it,
know it, and listen, memorize it--so you can pull it up
out of memory and the Holy Spirit will quicken it to your
And what is this message that we are to deliver? Jesus tells
us to go and preach the gospel. What is the gospel message?
Well first of all it's powerful. And that is why we don't
want to do anything to hinder what it is. We don't want
to candy-coat it. We don't need to gloss over it. We don't
need to soften it or harden it. We don't need to take away
from it and we don't need to add to it. We need to proclaim
it in its simplicity and in its power, and stand back and
watch what God will do. Paul said "I am not ashamed of the
gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation
to everyone that believes." Now, what is the gospel message?
Well, the very word "Gospel" means Good News. And before
I can fully appreciate the Good News I have to first know
the bad news. You've all heard that expression "I have some
good news and I have some bad news"? I hate it when people
say that to me. Because the first thing I'll say is, "Alright,
what's the bad news? Come on, give it to me." You probably
heard about a doctor who called a patient in and said "I
have some good news and some bad news." The patient said,
"Oh, what's the good news?" The doctor said "You have only
three weeks to live." "That's the good news!? What's the
bad news!" "I should have told you two weeks ago, I'm so
sorry." How can people appreciate the Good News about God's
love and forgiveness in Jesus Christ if they don't understand
the bad news about sin and judgment? And this is where I
take issue with the way some people present the gospel.
They offer Jesus as though he were some kind of a wonderful
additive in your life. "Hey, accept Jesus Christ, your teeth
will be whiter and your clothes will be cleaner and your
life will be better and everything will be great." Now,
there is some truth to that. I don't know if your teeth
will be whiter, but certainly your life will be better.
We'll say, "Jesus will make you a happy person, he'll fill
the void in your life and you'll go to heaven when you die--all
you have to do is ask him in." Well, that's very appealing.
"And he'll make you successful too" some will say. Now,
here's the problem. It is true that Jesus will do all of
those things, but what about the person that says, "Well
you know what, I can see that you used to be a miserable
person. I can see that it has made you a happier person,
and I am glad you've found God. But
you see, I'm not a substance abuser, I'm not living in some
horrible life. I live a pretty good life, and I'm pretty
happy with the way things are going." "Oh, really? Hey,
that's OK, you know, we all have to find our own path."
Hey ding dong, snap out of it! We all don't find our own
path. There's only one way to know God. It is through Jesus
Christ, and in our next message together I'll tell you why
that is important to believe. But you see it's not just
about being happier. It's not about just being a little
more fulfilled. It's about not going to hell [no matter
what your eschatological belief about hell is--ever-burning
fire that is in existence now, or the Biblical teaching
of gehenna fire that is ignited at the end of the Great
White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:12-15.] We forget
about that! And it's also about, if you reject this offer
of God you will face a certain judgment. We don't want to
say that to a person, now do we? "Well, it might offend
them." Yes it might. And it just might offend them enough
to give 'em a chance to start thinking about life. And if
I don't deliver the whole truth of the gospel I'm not proclaiming
the gospel. It's Good News and it's bad news. And before
I can appreciate the Good News of forgiveness, I need to
know the bad news about judgment.
Back to the story in the department store. We're all standing
there. And this fella who's living in this immoral lifestyle
says, "Listen, I, you know, I believe in Jesus Christ."
And he said, "My God is a God of love, and I believe that
my God would not send someone to hell for doing what I'm
doing." He says, "Now I think if you're an ax murderer,
that's wrong. I think if you steal, that's wrong. But I
don't believe if two consenting adults agree to do something,
that that can be wrong. How can you say that's sin?" Well,
my response to him was, "Because God says it's sin." I know
it sounds simplistic, but that really is the bottom line
answer--"Because God says it, OK?--first of all." And then
I said, "And, you say that, you know, you believe in a God
of love. Well, I believe in a God of love too. But when
you say My God, you're implying that you can
sort of remake him in your image. You can't throw out the
things about God that bother you and keep in the ones you
like. There's only one God. And if you make up your own
god, he won't be able to save you in that final day." And
I said, "You say being an ax murderer is wrong. Why is that
wrong? What if I say being an ax murderer is right? Why
is your truth more significant than my truth?" "And what
if this person over here says something is right that we
both disagree with? Why is she wrong and we're right? Who
determines that? Do we reach it by consensus?" I said. "No,
we need a higher authority, and it's the Bible. That Bible
tells us what's right and it tells us what's wrong." And
I went on to say some of the things that the Bible said,
"Well I don't believe that, that God would say I can't do
this one thing, I'm gonna keep doing it, and I don't care
what happens." And I said, "Well, I have to put it to you
bluntly," this is hard to say this to someone, cause you
want to share that loving happy message, you know. I said,
"Listen, you continue living that way, and you'll face judgment
for it. Are you ready to give all eternity up to live that
way?" I said, "I can make a logical case of why you shouldn't
do it. I could mention AIDS, and you know people that have
died from AIDS." I'm sure he said "Yes, and I'm really afraid
of that." I said, "God wants you to live your life out knowing
him, but you're going to throw it away. But the most important
thing is not just the fear of AIDS. God says "Don't do it"
cause he has a better plan for you." And I spoke to him
of God's plan and purpose. He didn't make a decision for
Christ, but he said he was going to come to church, and
so we need to remember him in prayer. There's a lot of people
like that out there. They need to know they've broken the
commandments of God. Well they say, "Well, you know, I don't
think I'm a sinner," Well "What do the 10 Commandments say?
Thou shalt not kill" "I haven't done that." "Thou shalt
not commit adultery." "I haven't done that." "Thou shalt
not bear false witness, you ever done that?" "Do not take
the Lord's name in vain. You ever done that? You shall not
covet. You ever done that?" "Well of course." Well the Bible
says if you offend in one point of the law, you're guilty
of all of it." But then, here we were separated from God
in our sinfulness, unable to reach him with morality. Unable
to reach him with good works or even religion. And God seeing
our retched condition did the ultimate for us. In Romans
5:6 it says, "When we were still without strength in due
time Christ died for the ungodly. Scarcely for a righteous
man one will die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would
die. But God demonstrated his love toward us that yet when
we were yet sinners Christ died for us" because there is
no other way to reach or satisfy the righteous demands of
God. Only in Christ, and here's what it comes down to, the
cross. Any accurate presentation of the gospel comes to
the cross. You can talk about loneliness, you can talk about
hope and life beyond the grave. Those are all true. But
it comes to the cross. Listen Jesus died on the cross
for you. That's where the power is.
I once was over at Billy Graham's home, and we were having
a conversation, and I said "Billy, if you had it all over
to do again, are there any things that you would emphasize
as a younger preacher that maybe you're emphasizing now?"
And his response surprised me. First of all he said, "Number
one, why are you calling me Billy? And number two, why are
you even in my house..." That's the end of that story. Actually,
before I even finished the question, he said with such confidence
"The cross of Christ, and the blood, that's where the power
is" he said. And I remember that. I made a note as a preacher.
"The cross of Christ and the blood", that's what he would
emphasize more. He said, "That's where the power is." We
need to remember that as Christians. You can tell that story.
You see, you may not be the greatest intellect of all time
or some great theologian but you can tell the story of what
Jesus did on the cross, and of how he died for that person,
and shed his blood for them. There's power in that message,
I'm telling you. I've watched it time and time again transform
people, because God anoints, he blesses it, he uses it to
penetrate the defenses that people put up.
So what is the gospel? A good summation is given
to us by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, where he says in verse
1, "Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel
I preached to you, which you have received and which you
have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved." Here
it is. "That Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the
third day according to the Scriptures." There it is.
Imbed that deeply in your mind. The gospel in a nutshell
is "Christ died for our sins and was buried and raised
on the third day." That's the cornerstone. Someone once
asked the great British preacher C.H. Spurgeon if he could
put in a few words his Christian faith. He said, "Yes, I
can give it to you in four words, Jesus died for me."
And that's what it comes down to. And remind that person
you're speaking to, "Jesus died for them. He shed his blood
for them." The apostle Paul was a brilliant person. He was
known for his great skills of oratory. He was known for
his grasp of culture and languages. And if anybody could
have intellectually convinced a person of the validity of
something it was certainly the apostle Paul, formerly known
as Saul of Tarsus. But yet here is what Paul said when it
came to preaching the gospel. He said--1 Corinthians 2:1--"When
I came to you brothers I didn't come with eloquence or superior
wisdom, as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.
For I resolved to know nothing else among you except Jesus
Christ and him crucified." Then Paul also said--1 Corinthians
1:17, "God did not send me to baptize, but to preach the
gospel, not with wisdom of human words, lest the cross be
deprived of its power." I can actually hinder the message
of the gospel by complicating it. It's that simple, powerful
yet profound message that can change lives, that changed
your life, changed mine.
- You know another interesting thing I point out about
Paul when he did preach the gospel--is how he uses his personal
testimony. As you read through the book of Acts and you
would see Paul addressing a group of people, or speaking
before great leaders in Rome, so often he would tell
his own story, how he used to persecute Christians, and
he was there on the Damascus Road and the Lord appeared
to him and so forth... And you know, everybody has a
personal testimony who is a Christian. And the great thing
about a testimony is it is bridge that you can build to
a person. You see, you can essentially let them know that
you weren't always the way you are. You know, they look
at you and say "What are they? Where do they come up with
you people? Where do you come from?" "Well, listen I wasn't
always this way. There was a moment when Christ came into
my life. In fact, let me tell you the way I used to be."
And you tell them, and they say "No way! You were that?
You did that?!" "Oh yeah, but here's what Jesus did for
me." And often when I share my testimony I'll say things
like, "You know, this is the way I used to view Christians"
and I'll describe how I viewed them, which was not in a
very favorable light. And the person I'm speaking with will
say, "Yeah," That's how they probably view me at that moment.
"And this is the way I used to think." "Yeah" Because that's
probably the way they may be thinking at that very moment.
"But here's what happened to me." You see, you can show
them what's taken place, and it's a great bridge.
But here's an important thing, when you share your testimony,
never glorify or exaggerate the past. And I do see this
done sometimes. You know, you'll have someone come and give
a testimony in church and "the gorier the better!" "The
more dramatic the better." And I've heard people get up
and talk about their life before the Lord and all the horrible
things they used to do, and as they're describing it, it
almost seems to me like they had more fun before they were
Christians than they're having now. "And we did this, and
we went over and did that!" And they get all worked up,
and I'm thinking, "Something's not right here." Or you'll
see those people that will say, "Let me tell you that I
gave all of these things up, and I had it all, I had the
success and the fame and the fortune, but I gave it up to
follow JAYSUS!" "I've MAYDE such sacrifices for heem!
I've given up so much to take his old rugged cross, hallelujah!"
And you listen to that and I think to myself "Shut up!"
That's wrong. Why? Because, don't tell me what you've given
up for God. Tell me what God gave up for you. If you see
your past as some glorious thing, you haven't seen it for
what it was. You were an empty, guilty person headed for
judgment and all you gave up was eternity separated from
God. That was no sacrifice. It's what God did for you, what
he gave to you. So when I share my story I say, this is
the way I used to be, but here's what it was like on the
inside. But here's what Christ has done for me. You want
to emphasize that. And tell them what Christ can do
for them. And everyone has a testimony. You have one. Now
granted, some have dramatic testimonies, they were delivered
from a life of crime, or drug abuse or alcohol abuse or
this or that. You may say, "Well, the problem is I never
did any of those things. You know, I actually never rebelled
against my parents and I went to church every Sunday. I
did have this struggle with hostess Ding Dongs for about
two weeks, kind of got strung out on them, you know, maybe
I could share that. You know, I was down there on the streets
with a brown paper bag wrapped around those things..." You
know what? That's your testimony. Not your hostess addiction,
but your life was changed by God too. You see, for the person
who came from the lowest of the lower, the person that lived
a relatively moral life, the effect is the same. We're all
sinners, separated from God, going to hell [or eternal death,
the 2nd death. Cf. Revelation 20:14-15], Christ
died for us, we put our faith in him, and we were forgiven.
And just as there are people out there that come from the
lowest rungs of the ladder of life, there are those that
are coming from a different place altogether. And so some
cultured person who was living a relatively good life would
listen to someone who maybe came out of a life of crime
and say, "Well, I'm glad they found religion. That's one
less person I'll have to worry about." "Now it seems like
it's improved their life. But I don't live that way, I'm
a good person." [I have actually had a person I work with
say almost those exact words!] But you say, "Listen, that's
what I used to think too. But here's what Christ did for
me." See, they need to hear your testimony.
Everyone has a story to tell.
But whatever it is, we always make a bee-line to the cross.
Christ died for us. He paid for our sins, he rose again
from the dead. God can use you to do that. You know enough
of this message to share it with others. There is no reason
that you cannot be used by God. The question is, will you
be available? The Bible says, "He that wins souls is wise."
God wants to use you. Let's make ourselves available to
him today, and throughout this week, that we might be instruments
that he would work through. Let's pray."
"Lord, we thank you for your Word, we thank
you for this challenge to preach your gospel. Again, burn
into our hearts this burden. Help us to go where people are
and be open to the leading of your Spirit and obey him. Help
us to be tactful and clear. And Lord, help us to adapt to
the situation, and help us to know your Word, and seize the
moment. Lord, we feel inadequate, we feel that we don't have
what it takes. But yet, there's power in your message. So
give us a new boldness to share the truth of what you say.
And use us to lead others to you, we would pray, in Jesus
name we ask, Amen."
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