Saturday, 26 April 2014

Witnessing to a God hater

I was speaking to pastor recently when the subject of ‘God-haters’ came up. You probably have met people like this, who are often vocal in their anti-God status and don’t want to hear the gospel. This situation is mentioned in Romans 1:  29 – 30, where the writer covers the subject of God’s wrath against sinful humanity. The passage gives some strong descriptions about a wide range of people: They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents”.

Recently I have thought long and hard about how we can reach these people with the truth of the Gospel. To begin with, it is vitally important to understand why some people are so against the Gospel. What causes them to take a stand that is so against Christianity and makes them full of hatred when it comes to the things of God?

From experience I believe that the reasons for this type of hatred are many and they range from things like family upbringing right through to those that are demonic. God-haters can come from areas that may be surprising.

A number of years ago I worked part time for an evangelistic newspaper called ‘New Life’. Part of my job involved meeting with groups of church leaders to encourage them to use this publication as an evangelistic tool. At one such meeting, I arrived early to meet the organiser, who was a Salvation Army Major.  Solemnly, he explained that he needed to give me a warning. “Oh, what is the warning?” I asked. “Two of the ministers in the meeting are vehemently again the gospel,” he replied. That meeting was a real battle from the start to the finish and it felt as if I was flogging a dead horse. Believe me, God-haters come in all shapes and sizes!

Key Point: He is able to break down the biggest barriers to people’s hearts. The exciting thing is that He chooses to use people like you and me to speak to them.

Having witnessed to many people like this over they years I have come to the conclusion that many are God-haters because they have either had a bad experience with Christians or a church. Other reasons are often that they have either been impacted by, or witnessed, Christian hypocrisy.

My wife attended a Catholic school and used to tell me how the students struggled to listen to the priest that took some of the classes, as he were often known to be drinking alcohol. This made the students in the school struggle to take him seriously which resulted in a lack of respect.

These types of things can cause immense damage and make it incredibly difficult to even engage somebody with the truth of God’s word. However, the good news is that God is able to do the impossible! He is able to break down the biggest barriers to people’s hearts. How exciting that He chooses to use people like you and me to speak to them!  

On a number of occasions, people that I have shared the gospel with point the finger at an individual saying “ I would never go to church if that person was there”. They give examples of hypocrisy in the person’s life examining the way the person behaves in work or how they treat their neighbours. This makes the job of witnessing more difficult. In this situation, I explain that a person shouldn’t base their decision to accept or reject Jesus based on someone else’s bad behaviour.

As Christians, our lifestyle must be one that gives a good witness of Jesus being in our hearts. He didn’t gossip, criticize people or get involved in factions at work. He demonstrated love and compassion and in order for us to have credibility with people when we share the gospel, we must show the same. 

What is the key to reaching hard-hearted people? Is it a well presented gospel or testimony or something else? Those things are very important, but we have clear instructions in the Bible - we must demonstrate love always and add to that much prayer.

When we are with people who hate God we must love them - even those who would persecute us – showing that we have the love of Jesus in our hearts. This must be backed up by prayer, calling on God to break down walls of rejection, fear, disappointments and those of hatred.

We need to use wisdom in the way that we witness to people because we will sometimes come up against the enemy who hates all things that involve the Gospel. This is why prayer is essential in personal witnessing. When we engage an unbeliever in the Gospel we are involved in spiritual warfare. That is one the reasons that we need to be prayed up. A mentor of mine always told me that prayer and evangelism go hand in hand. It is undoubtedly true. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5: 43 – 48

If we want to reach God Haters, we will need to get on our knees.

Friday, 11 April 2014

What happens in a person's heart to make them decide to follow Jesus?

What was your journey to find Christ like? My own took some time and along the way I battled with the very truth that I was searching for. The evangelist Steve Hill once said, “Some people come to Christ easily while others come violently!” My journey to find Jesus certainly wasn't easy for me. Understanding what Jesus did for me took some time.

Over the last couple of days I have been considering what happens in a person’s heart to cause them to want to accept Jesus as Lord. What is it that brings them to that point? What happens to keep them following after the Lord and not looking back?

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Matthew 13: 3-8

It is vitally important to remember about how we ‘sow’, if we want to reach people for Jesus so that they surrender their lives to the One who died for them. If we don’t understand this we will miss opportunities and even waste them.

People come to Jesus in many ways, some people in ways that are extraordinary, where they see Jesus in a dream, or experience a supernatural encounter. I know people who have found Christ in ways that are profound and almost unbelievable. The reality is revealed by seeing Jesus outworked in their lives. In other words, that the fruits of the Spirit (Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control) are visible for all to see. This is the case for our own lives too; for without these qualities being demonstrated in our lives our credibility will come into question.

What is it then that causes a change of heart? It is simply the Gospel. Nothing else!
I often share my testimony on a one to one basis as well as to groups and churches. I am very grateful to God for the many decisions to accept Christ through it. God gets all the Glory!

One thing is certain –no one would come to Christ if all my testimony contained was what happened to me, interesting as it might be for some. It is crucial to explain the Gospel, that Jesus lived a perfect life and was crucified for our sins on Calvary, was buried and rose from the dead on the third day. He is now in heaven, sitting at God’s right hand, interceding for us.

Sharing the Gospel is absolutely vital and incredibly powerful when explained using scripture - because it is the life changing WORD OF GOD!!

Key Point: It is the Gospel that saves and it the Holy Spirit who convicts hearts. Not you or me.

As a young Christian I was full of excitement, enthusiasm and passion, but I lacked depth in many ways. I wanted the world to know about Jesus and as a result I was a huge embarrassment to my then unsaved wife.

I would tell anyone and everyone what had happened to me. Somehow the Holy Spirit used me and my story of salvation to reach people. The few scriptures I knew at that time were vitally important and made the difference for the Holy Spirit to speak to their hearts.

I remember witnessing for a long time to a businessman who patiently listened to me. I told him about my church, what was happening there, how good the worship was, about the miracles I had witnessed and stories of people who had made decisions like me. I was enthusiastic, burning with passion and desperately wanted for this man, who was a close friend, to accept Jesus.

Sadly, nothing happened - because I didn’t share the Gospel. I didn’t bring it into the conversation nor link it in a relevant way to my testimony. Upon reflection, all I did was preach at him. Undoubtedly, this demonstrated my belief in Jesus even down to the point of adoration; but I wasted an opportunity to share the truth of the Gospel.

Your testimony, explaining about the church services, talking about the worship, miracles and countless other things, should do only one thing and that is to point people to Jesus. When we share the Gospel linked to stories and events, things will start to happen.

A pastor I know once made the point that some people can come into church service, get caught up in an atmosphere, experience a ‘God awareness’ and make an acknowledgement of Jesus, only to fall away when trials come along -  like the scripture quoted above. We shouldn’t be surprised about this because Jesus said it would happen. However, when the seed of the Gospel takes root in someone’s heart, a miracle occurs that is life changing!

I am so grateful to God that someone shared the whole truth with me in a way that was uncompromising. I needed to hear it because I was lost and headed for a terrible place.

Anyone who doesn’t know Christ needs to hear the truth of the Gospel because that is they only thing that will save them. If we have a heart for the lost, God will give us opportunities to reach them. Let’s make sure that we share the Gospel. All of the other things should point to Jesus. When we have someone in front of us who is willing to listen, let’s remember how to sow the Word – and the Holy Spirit will do His Work.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” Romans 1: 16