Tuesday, 27 September 2011

What is an evangelistic lifestyle? (Part One)

At a recent prayer meeting we were praying about our local church’s activities. These included some new types of evangelistic endeavours for our fellowship. As I  listened to the prayers  I felt the need  to pray into this myself, especially as I am actively involved in the initiatives. When my opportunity came along I asked the Lord to open doors, to draw people to Him, to the events and used many of the phrases that we probably hear uttered at these types of meetings. The last part of my petition to the Lord was asking Him to help the people in our fellowship live evangelistic lifestyles.

On my drive home I asked myself, what exactly is an evangelistic lifestyle”? Having considered this and through studying scripture, I will share the answer that I arrived at. We will cover this subject in greater depth later, as there is much more to learn about it. The term ‘evangelistic lifestyle’ is used frequently these days and  it is important to have a clear understanding of what it actually means.

A Christian should:-

Be alert: Firstly, a lifestyle evangelist is always ready and prepared to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When an opportunity comes along, they will always take it, without hesitation. Paul in Athens is a very good example, when he came across the statue of the unknown God:

“Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”
Acts 17: 22-23

He was presented with an opportunity to share the good news and simply took it. When he had finished speaking, scripture records that some people sneered, others wanted to hear him speak again but straightaway many believed and responded to the message! It remains true today - people still react and respond in the same way whenever they hear the Good News.

I know some people who cannot resist sharing their faith, they never let an opportunity pass them by and literally every person they speak to gets to hear the Gospel. I remember a few years ago being in a Chinese takeaway in Glasgow with my cousin, who is  one of those people that speaks about God any time he can. We went up to the counter; the young lady took her pad and held her pen at the ready expecting an order. She waited a few seconds and then looked up to see my cousin’s beaming face. He introduced me saying, “Hello young lady, this is my cousin who is also my brother…….in Christ” as he pointed with his right hand towards heaven. The assistant, who was Chinese and spoke very broken English, looked horrified. I have to admit that at the time even I felt a little embarrassed for her and myself to be honest.

It may appear an extreme example, but amazingly God often moves through people in this way and opens doors for them to present the Gospel. We often don’t know what happens to the seed when we sow it.  It can stay there until one day it germinates and starts to speak to a person’s heart. I have seen it happen many times before. Though it isn’t the way I usually operate, we must all be ready to take the initiative when an opportunity comes along.

Key Point: Be ready to take the initiative when an opportunity comes along

Initially, most opportunities will arise with people that you know, friends, neighbours, family or work colleagues. From my experience, these are very good people to start with. We must be ready and prayed up. When we step out for God in faith and witness, the Holy Spirit is right there with us. What a comfort that is!

Our own contacts are important as we make the decision reach out. Ask the Lord to create opportunities, and He will do it. When they come along, we need to be ready to give a reason for the hope that we have.

Look at the figures below to see how most people have ended up coming to church. The figures are much the same worldwide and it was certainly true in my case  - I initially came to church through someone I knew.

·        A friend or relative 78%
·        Pastor 6%
·        Sunday school 5%
·        Church service or program 3%
·        Walk-in off the street 3%
·        Special need 2%
·        Personal visitation 2%
·        Evangelistic crusade or TV show 1/2%

Baptist church figures USA 1998

We shouldn’t become a pest so that people avoid us; we just need to be prepared to share the truth of the Gospel. When we pray and expect opportunities, they will come along.

That means being ready and prepared in season and out of season. In other words ….. anytime.

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:1

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Explaining why you can’t earn your way into heaven.

Sometimes when we get into conversations when we witness for Christ we will come across wrong perceptions about, Jesus, heaven, and eternal life. On other occasions, we will be asked tough questions. The way that we deal with these issues and questions is very important. The more you witness, the more experienced you will become at dealing with wrong perceptions, objections or questions with regards to the Gospel.
No doubt you have heard some people say that in effect they believe it’s possible to earn their way into heaven, through beliefs such attending church once a year at Christmas, to being part of a church choir or any other church activities. In other words, through doing works.
I am going to use a different way of using a simple technique that is well used known as, “DO versus Done” to explain what Jesus accomplished at the cross. Using what I am going to go through is proven in its effectiveness. Try it. It works!
Over the years, I have never been slow to let work colleagues know that I am a Christian. Some years ago I was talking to a new colleague who had joined our financial advice office. Whilst chatting one day he very soon discovered that I was a Bible believing church goer. “He said , “I go to church” in a very definite way. I replied, “Hey that’s brilliant, where do you go”? His reply was, “Well……I go with my wife to the Christmas eve service where we live every year”. I thought about his answer for a moment and asked him, “Tell me, why do you only go then”? He said, “I think that’s enough, to be honest. It means I believe in God, and He knows I’m there, so I will end up in heaven.”
When you witness to people about Jesus you will find that they come up with all kinds of theories and beliefs about God and Heaven. They mistakenly believe that they will receive eternal life by giving answers like “I’m in the church choir”, “I am a member of the chapel” and “I give money to charity”. When a person does that, they are saying that they know more than God and are basically putting Him under their feet.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” Ephesians 2: 8-9
There is nothing we can do to merit our own righteousness, earning our way into heaven. Salvation is a gift from God that we must willingly receive. There is no other way. So here is a simple example of how you can explain the answer. There are many others, but I like this one because it is quick to share and more importantly, it is easy for a person to understand.
“Things I do” vs. “It’s been done”
Things I do: I will often say, “When people talk about doing things like you have suggested, you could probably call it religion, which is simply doing things, hoping that you have done enough to get into heaven. Very often that could be through church attendance, helping in the church or doing other types of good works. My question to you is really very important, ‘How will you ever know that you have done enough to get there?”
The different approach: It is very effective if you keep silent and resist the temptation to speak until the person has answered. Even if it means waiting for thirty seconds, which can often seem like an eternity. Be patient and wait. Keeping silent gives the person time to consider their answer. Very often during the thinking time, the person will realise that the belief that they have built up has no foundation. The result of this means that very often that seeds of doubt will have been sown in the person’s mind regarding their beliefs. This will give you more opportunity to share.
I will often explain religion in this way: It’s rather like a salesman who has to make sales justify their salary. But the simple fact is that they never really know whether they have sold enough to reach their target. If they end up missing their sales quota, it will mean that they will be out of a job.
The truth is that we will always fall short of hitting the target through doing things to earn our way to heaven because scripture says:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3: 23
No matter how hard we try will never be able to hit the mark. Doing things, will never mean that a person can earn forgiveness and favour from God”.
It’s been done: I will say something like, “I have got some great news for you. Real Christianity means that the work has already been done for us. When Jesus came to earth, He lived a perfect life which we could never live, and then He willingly died on the cross to pay the penalty we owed for the wrongs we have done. To become a real Christian means that we should ask the Lord to forgive us for our sins (Things that we know are wrong). When we do that He adopts us into His family and begins to change us from the inside out. You can know without a doubt and you can be sure that you will go to heaven once you have accepted Jesus as Lord.”
Scripture says, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5: 13
Another way of explaining it is using the idea of spelling the word religion as “D – O ” and the word Christianity as “D – O – N – E”. Doing this can often help the listeners understanding.
Key Point: There is nothing wrong with preparing answers to questions that people may want to ask
It is very important to remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a few answers that you have spent some time preparing. People go to Bible school to study apologetics to be able to answer questions like this. They do it so that the can defend the Gospel as well as being able to explain it.
At the very least, having answers prepared means that you will be a more effective witness for Jesus. The more you do something the better you will become. Without a doubt, preparation increases effectiveness.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

What isn't the Gospel?

Consider this for a moment:- What is not the Gospel?

There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel; but too often this wonderful truth is massively distorted or over simplified. Many preachers and people who witness for Christ talk only about the benefits of the Gospel, saying, “Jesus can give you a purpose to your life”, or “Jesus can give you real meaning to your life”.

Both of the above statements and others like them are absolutely true, but they are not the Gospel message. True statements like, “Jesus, wants to bless you” or, “God has a plan for your life” are not the Gospel either, though of course I believe that the Lord does have a fantastic plan for our lives and that He wants to bless us.

I can only conclude that people speak like this because they presume that it sounds more attractive than talking about atonement for sin. Sadly - dare I say it - it would seem that a few prominent preachers believe that we have even out grown the Gospel and preach instead about being blessed, having a new focus, health and wealth. It sound more like a psychology lecture sometimes based around improving our lives through what we can get from God.

They are missing the point. Let’s consider a very important foundational scripture regarding this:

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: 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!”  1 Corinthians 15: 1-4

Simply put, the Gospel is the good news about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; how His sacrifice provides us with full and free deliverance from the power and penalty of sin. That is according to the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s Him and only Him, no other god, no other person or belief system. Fact! It’s wonderful news!

It’s all about what Christ did when He was crucified for us at Calvary! This is what we need to communicate effectively. Let’s not fear talking about the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ, but ask the Lord to give us boldness to preach the message!

Key Point: Ask God to give you a boldness to share the good news

Speak boldly, using the name of Jesus – many just talk about God, declaring “God loves you”, or “God wants the best for you”, or “You are the apple of God’s eye!” It’s great to hear this, but the Gospel is about JESUS and what He did for us.

·         He is the one that was tortured and died.
·         He was the one that was put in the tomb.
·         He is the one that rose again after three days.
·         He is the soon coming King.
·         It is through His atoning death alone that we are redeemed.

It’s all about Jesus and what He has done

Jesus commanded us to go and preach the Gospel to all creation. We must be clear about what it is. We are not trying to sell it, or make God more attractive, appealing or acceptable. Jesus died to save sinners like you and me. I am grateful for the cross; what happened there is so important.

When Paul and Silas were miraculously freed from the jail by the earthquake that the Lord sent, even the keeper of the prison fell to his knees and cried:

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Acts 16: 30 

He had no thought of asking “What can God do for me?” or asking whether God wanted to bless Him, give him money, give him a better life. He saw his sinful state before God, that was all that mattered in those moments. He knew that he needed a saviour. His focus was on nothing else.

Each of the first four books of the New Testament are named “The Gospel”. The obvious question is ‘who are they about’?

We have good news to share about what Jesus did for us at Calvary. All of the other benefits that come with it are fantastic. But they only come after accepting the Lord Jesus as Saviour, don’t they? Salvation is the most important thing, not health, wealth, material possessions or success.

“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst.” 1Timothy 1:15

Jesus Christ died to save sinners. That is you and me, everyone. That is the point. We need to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’ as the saying goes.

Monday, 5 September 2011

What do I say when I get a tough question?

Have you ever been enthusiastically witnessing of Gods goodness, when all seems to be going well until your listener asks you one of those questions? You know what I mean when I say that. I am sure that you often get asked questions like, “Why did God create the Devil”? or perhaps, “Why does God allow so much evil and suffering in the world”? Quite possibly the most common question is, “Why would a loving God send people to Hell”?

It is true to say that the thought of having to deal with questions like these means that some people shy away from what Jesus commanded them to do, which is to share the good news. But in answer to that, we have some great promises from Jesus that we should remember when we take the all important step to witness for Him.

“But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” John 14:26

 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict”. Luke 21: 15

The scripture above like all others is true. I can assure you that the Holy Spirit always turns up when you share the Gospel. It is amazing how it happens. He really will give you the words to say, as well as bringing scriptures to your memory. You will often finish talking and ask yourself, “Where did that all come from”? God always keeps His promises. He isn’t like you or me thankfully.

When dealing with any kind of objection there are a few very important points that you need to remember:

·        Whatever you are asked, make sure that you don’t look fazed or surprised. You will get asked some strange questions sometimes.
·        Always handle objections with the love of Jesus in your heart. Don’t be confrontational. Your listener must see the love of Jesus in you.
·        Reply with something like “Thank you, I am really glad you asked that question”, or perhaps “Thanks, that’s a really good question to ask”.
·        If you don’t know the answer, admit it and say that you will find out.
·        When getting the “Hell” question the answer I always give is simple and to the point. My reply would be: “Thanks, that’s a good question to ask me, because God didn’t create hell for you or for me”.

This answer usually means that the person you are talking to ends up with a surprised look on their face. You will discover that most questions asked are from a lack of knowledge. If the person asking had read the scriptures, there would be no need to ask the question because they would already know the answer.

If a person denies it, or doesn’t like your answer, it doesn't mean it isn't real

You could say something like this:  “Hell was originally created for Satan and his angels. In the future it will only contain those who join Satan in rejecting God. When a person believes that they don’t need forgiveness of their sin, they will end up joining the Devil who rejected God from the beginning.

“Let me ask, could you honestly believe in a God who would become a human being and then suffer at the hands of humans, and be killed by them, all so that His death could be the payment for their sins? That is an extremely loving thing to do.

“God saves people who deserve to go to a lost eternity - and to be honest, we all deserve that. Remember that the same God does this, also died for them. If they reject what God has provided, then what is God left to do”?

“Whether you believe in something or not does not change the fact of its existence. Jesus spoke often of hell and warned us so we would not go there”.

With all of this the best thing to do is to get out there and share Jesus. Have a look through my previous blogs and you will find lots to help you to be an effective witness.

God Bless.